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This Week’s News from the “Ministry of Truth”(5)

Of course the big news this week from the Catholic Church’s “Ministry of Truth” was the election of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at the prelates’ semiannual meeting Nov. 15-17 in Baltimore, held as usual in an upscale hotel. (If the bishops gather at a luxury resort with fine golf courses and dining, it’s called a “retreat.”)
In the run-up to the meeting, two subjects took the lead. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is one of the token charities administered by the U.S. bishops. According to the USCCB website, the bishops themselves actually give no money to charity, only advice. The CCHD, a domestic charity, is funded by a special collection in U.S. parishes as is the bishops’ international charity, Catholic Relief. (See note below.)

The latest annual report for the CCHD on its website is from 2007. http://www.usccb.org/cchd/2007_annual_report.pdf Of $13,821,684 total income from the special collection, investment income and other donations combined, between $9-10 million was distributed in grants. Considering the money spent by U.S. bishops on seminaries, anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage campaigns, this is indeed a “token.”
 (Please excuse the URLs as the “link” function isn’t working right now.)(

Last March, Fox Cable News personality, Glenn Beck, told his daily radio and television audience that “social justice” – the phrase Catholics as well as others who help their neighbor use for addressing the issues of poverty and human rights – is a “code word” for communism and Nazism. “I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can….Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!” When the New York Times prints accurate facts about clerical sex abuse, Dolan and hierarchs in Rome go into tirades about the paper’s “anti-Catholicism,” but not a peep came from any Catholic official challenging Glenn Beck. Ten U.S. bishops have stopped the CCHD collection in their diocese.

Opus Dei Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph was one of the ten. “Bishop Finn’s diocese will only provide grants to groups promoting economic development.” http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/nov/10110201.html  As soon as U.S. Senate Democrats proposed immigration reform (securing the border, a path to citizenship for immigrants already here, guest worker programs) last April, the USCCB issued a statement that economic development of Latin American countries should be an integral part of any legislation in order to curtail further immigration. http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-084.shtml Sounds logical but the immediate beneficiaries of economic development are usually contractors and business interests, not the poor and the sick.

Even though the CCHD website states it is “an essential supporter of community and economic development projects across our nation,” it has still been under attack from rightwing Catholics for several years. “The groups [the CCHD] are dealing with, community organizing groups, are 100 percent committed members of the political left. That’s just a fact,” said Deal Hudson, one of Karl Rove’s and George W. Bush’s Catholic advisers. “Hudson strongly denied that politics play any role in his concern about CCHD, but said leftist groups nearly always conflict with Catholic doctrine on issues like gay rights and abortion.

He’s right. Anyone who is serious about helping the poor, the sick and marginalized will vote Democratic. Anyone engaged in caring for others will eventually be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a person who favors keeping abortion legal and human rights for everyone regardless of gender orientation. Frank Cocozzelli posted two excellent articles on this subject. http://www.talk2action.org/story/2010/11/3/72918/7103 and https://opentabernacle.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/the-meaning-of-wealth/ 

Although anticipated by the press,  no discussion about the CCHD was reported at the bishops’ meeting.  The only reference was to at an evening reception hosted by the CCHD during which Bishop Kevin Farrell, head of Bishops’ Committee on National Collections, praised the work of CCHD and urged his brother bisops to participate fully in the national collection.” http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/bishop-farrell-cchd.


The second subject widely reported before the meeting involved denouncing USCCB Vice President Archbishop Gerald Kicanas, the presumed-to-be next president since in every election since 1960, an active vice president has been elected to the top post. The Republican Catholic “noise machine,” which has consistently defended every prelate’s handling of child sex abuse, went into full attack mode over Kicanas’ approving for ordination the serial pedophile-in-waiting, Fr. Daniel McCormack, after accusations of homosexual misconduct with adults had been brought against the seminarian. The Catholic “ministry of truth,” meanwhile, ignored that Cardinal George was elected president in 2007, the same year McCormack, whom George had left in ministry after his criminal record became known, was convicted and sent to prison. They were also silent about Dolan’s abysmal record while he was hierarch of St. Louis and Milwaukee http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news5/2009_02_18_Isely_Dolan_Fact_Sheet.htm and the fact that Dolan “is sitting on a momentous sexual abuse case that he is trying to keep out of the news.” (See note below.)

The reason they successfully dumped Kicanas is because, compared to other U.S. bishops, Kicanas is a moderate and not as powerful as Dolan in supporting the U.S. oligarchy of wealth.

The bishops’ meeting opened with an address by the outgoing USCCB president, Cardinal Francis George, who “referenced challenges to ‘unity’ within the Church on its position in the health care debate, saying there are ‘those who want to remake the Church according to their own designs or discredit her as a voice in the public discussions that shape our society.'” http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholics-should-not-fear-political-isolation-says-cardinal-george/The newly-elected prelate of Wall Street “said in a news conference after the vote that he would carry on the forceful opposition of his predecessor, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, to the recent health care overhaul because the bishops believed it would permit expanded government financing for abortion.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/us/17bishops.html
As we have already noted, the U.S. bishops’ opposition to health care reform had nothing to do with abortion because even when additional anti-abortion restrictions were added as redundancies to the already-in-place prohibitions against using Federal funds for abortions, the bishops to this day are waging an on-going battle against the legislation.
Both George and Dolan were present at at least one “summit” that we know of with Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=100292

 “In 2009, during the height of the Health Care Reform push, almost half of the Chamber of Commerce’s contributions came in a single donation of $86.2 million from AHIP, the health insurance lobby. Virtually all of it appears to have been spent on Chamber commercials against the bill….The Chamber spent $45.5 million on their campaign against the bill in 2009, and kept spending tens of millions up until Congress enacted the legislation. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/11/chambers-anti-health-care-advocacy-financed-by-insurers-big-dollar-contributions.php?ref=fpi

Unlike the Chamber of Commerce, no bishop has to report the source of their funding. Evidently, sincere concern about the terrible record of health care in this country which is available to proportionately fewer Americans than even many third-world countries is nowhere to be found in the USCCB’s upcoming agenda.

 One would think that being head of one of the largest archdiocese’s in the U.S. would not leave much time for rank pettiness. But it was widely reported that Dolan was elected in part because his fellow hierarchs admired the archbishop’s willingness to take on the New York Times. In his regular column dated Oct. 19 appearing on the archdiocesan website, Dolan complained once again about “the common, casual way The New York Times offends Catholic sensitivity.” Dolan gets to tell whatever lies he can dream up because, unlike the Times, his income and influence depends on his ability to do so.
According to Dolan:

First there’s the insulting photograph of the nun on page C20, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/theater/15theater.html?scp=1&sq=the%20divine%20sister&st=cse this for yet another tiresome production making fun of Catholic consecrated women. This “gleeful” tale is described as “fresh and funny” in the caption beneath the quarter-page photo (not an advertisement). Granted, prurient curiosity about the lives of Catholic sisters has been part of the nativist, “know-nothing” agenda since mobs burned the Ursuline convent in Boston in the 1840’s, and since the huckster Rebecca Reed’s Awful Disclosures made the rounds in the 19th century. But still now cheap laughs at the expense of a bigoted view of the most noble women around?…..Nuns mocked and held-up for snickering in our city’s newspaper.

On a page titled “Theatre Listings,” the photo shows an actor dressed as a nun demonstrating to a child the proper stance for a batter at home plate. The caption under the photo reads, “Charles Busch, left, and Jennifer Van Dyck in ‘The Divine Sister,’ at the SoHo Playhouse.”
Giving the archbishop the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that he meant to comment about the listing of the play among the 78 others: This gleefully twisted tale of the secret lives of nuns is Charles Busch’s freshest, funniest work in years. Written by and starring Mr. Busch, “Divine,” which features a priceless Julie Halston and Alison Fraser, is paradise for those who imagine heaven as an endless swirl of beautifully bad old movies (1:33) SoHo Playhouse, 15 Van Dam Street, South Village”
A review http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/vow-parody in a Catholic publication by someone who actually did see the play states:

The Divine Sister is a spoof of so-called convent pictures. It is inspired most directly by The Trouble with Angels (1966) and Where Angels Go…Trouble Follows (1968), light comedies featuring Rosalind Russell as the wimpled head of a girls’ boarding school and Hayley Mills as her most headstrong charge….The sisters of The Trouble with Angels illustrate how nuns have generally been depicted in film: otherworldly and innocent, but also wisecracking and wise; simple, except when deeply mysterious; virginal and sexless, but somehow super-feminine.

“Prurient” is in the eye of the beholder.

Writing that a stage show which he hasn’t seen is comparable with burning down a convent is just part of the leadership skills which got Dolan elected.
Next, Dolan lies about, the http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/arts/artsspecial/15galleries-03.html?scp=1&sq=act-up&st=cse

glowingly reviewed not-to-be missed “art” exhibit which comes to us from Harvard, and is a display of posters from ACT UP. Remember them? They invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral to disrupt prayer, trampled on the Holy Eucharist, insulted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was here for a conference, and yelled four letter words while exposing themselves to families and children leaving Mass at the Cathedral. The man they most detested was Cardinal John O’Connor, who, by the way, spent many evenings caring quietly for AIDS patients, and, when everyone else ran from them, opened units for them at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center and St. Clare’s Hospital. Too bad for him. One of the posters in this “must see” exhibit is of Cardinal O’Connor, in the form of a condom, referred to as a “scumbag,” the “art” there in full view in the photograph above the gushing review in our city’s daily.

Dolan doesn’t provide a souce for his accusations. How does he know “the man they most detested was Cardinal John O’Connor” or that one of the posters is of O’Connor in the form of a condom? It’s not shown in the accompanying photo nor does the article mention O’Connor nor anything about the Catholic Church. Nor does the review contain the words “not-to-be-missed” or “must see,” although this “exhibition of material” of “effective public art made in response to very specific political circumstances” is highly recommended by the reviewer.
What the article does state is that, “In March 1987, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or Act Up, took shape in Manhattan, with people in various arts disciplines involved” because “by the late 1980s, AIDS had assumed catastrophic proportions in the United States” and “the use of federal money for AIDS education resources had been banned.” Due in part to Act Up “intervention-style activism,” the “exorbidant price of AZT came down; the approval time for drugs shrank; the government expanded its original narrow definition of AIDS, opening the way for many more people to qualify for help.”
If what Dolan said about St. Patrick’s Cathedral is true, blaming an entire organization for what some did fighting a life and death cause is also one of Dolan’s talents. Not being from New York, we’ll give Dolan the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t understand the deep-seated animosity of the LGBT community towards the Catholic Church’s inflammatory and flagrant hypocrisy.

One of Dolan’s predecessors, Cardinal Francis Spellman, was known as “Franny” to Broadway chorus boys and others. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/spellman.htm John Cooney, one of Spellman’s biographers, was convinced of the veracity of the claims. “I talked to many priests who worked for Spellman and they were incensed, dismayed and angered by his conduct.” According to journalist Michelangelo Signorile, the Church pressured Cooney’s publisher, Times Books, to reduce the four pages discussing Spellman’s homosexuality to a single paragraph http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Spellman
In 1987, Fr. James Lynch, a priest assigned by the Archdiocese of New York to counsel AIDS patients, said an undetermined number of Catholic clergymen had probably died from the disease without notice because they, like men in other professions, had been able to conceal the nature of their illness. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE3DC163FF931A35751C0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all There was also anecdotal evidence that members of the clergy concealed their illness from their sexual partners for fear of exposure, causing much bitterness in the gay community. While estimates of the number of priests who are homosexual range from 10% to 50% http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_rcc.htm, with thousands of priests in the metropolitan area, the problem had staggering proportions.
In 1995, Bishop Emerson J. Moore left the Archdiocese of New York and went to Minnesota, where he died in a hospice of an AIDS-related illness. His death certificate attributed his death to “unknown natural causes” and listed his occupation as “laborer” in the manufacturing industry. After a Minnesota AIDS activist filed a complaint, officials changed the cause of death to “HIV-related illness.” The occupation, however, has not been corrected. http://www.snapnetwork.org/priest_stories/priests_with_aids.htm
Being a world-class city for publishing, art, theatre, entertainment, fashion, amd music, New York’s gay community was the first to “come out” and fight for liberation. Dolan should have applauded Act Up’s successes and their trailblazing sacrifices for equal human rights for all of us, including Catholic clergy.
Faux hysteria over LGBT rights helped elect the USCCB’s new vice president. The day before his election, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, “compared the legal climate surrounding same-sex marriage today to the climate surrounding abortion on the eve of Roe v. Wade.”
There has been a seismic shift this week in world Catholicism and, as Frederick Carlson noted in his Street Prophet diary, “Catholic Church to Amp-Up the Culture Wars, “http://www.streetprophets.com/storyonly/2010/11/18/103918/65  it has grave implications for the “Religious Right’s ongoing war of aggression against democratic pluralism.” As one example, Clarkson noted that due to the Catholic bishops’ intervention, the health care reform bill “was the most draconian antiabortion legislation since Roe vs. Wade (making permanent the Hyde Amendment, which banned any federal funds from being used for abortion.)” He could also have cited the ongoing battle against human rights for the LGBT community and the never-ending assaults on the separation of church and state.
Clarkson was referring to Dolan’s election. This event, however, was an extension of what took place at the biannual Faith Angle Forum on Religion, Politics, and Public Life for journalists held in South Beach Nov. 14 – 16. (The Forum is sponsored by Washington D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. For those of you unfamiliar with this organization see the note below.)
George Weigel, a decades-long leader of the EPPC, and John L. Allen Jr., the only mainstream media reporter – through his oft-mentioned friendship with Weigel and others – with insider access to the USCCB, gave a seminar on Nov. 15 titled “Sex Abuse, the Catholic Church, and the Media.” Just as their rightwing associates used a paltry-by-comparison episode in the ecclesial career of the presumptive next president of the USCCB, Archbishop Gerald Kicanas, to sink his candidacy and have Dolan elected instead, Weigel and Allen used the sex abuse scandal as a jumping-off-point to present a startling agenda.
They began their critique of the Vatican by citing Rome’s dismal public relations failure in handling the topic. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/Religion/post/2010/11/pope-benedict-vatican-sex-abuse-/1

If you are waiting for the Vatican to make clear, immediate and transparent responses to the ongoing global sexual abuse crisis…well, don’t hold your breath, two Vatican experts said Monday at a media seminar.
Vatican officials, Weigel said, “can appear to be dissembling or disinterested when there is no well-formed intent to deceive, they just don’t know what’s going on,” said Weigel. And their default position – no story is a good story – “is completely dumb.”….
Weigel: “The Vatican communications debacle has to end”

Weigel and Allen used poor communications as an example to introduce their topic – the Vatican is mismanaged and Americans should be running the worldwide Catholic Church.

“[T]he Church must find away to dump bad bishops [ala the “moderate” Kicanas?], which Weigel called “the single biggest management problem in the church today…and the single biggest fix that can affect the life of the Church.”…..
Weigel: “People thought [Pope Benedict XVI] would dramatically reform the Roman curia and that turns out to be an inadequate expectation. I think he thought he would die soon, so he would focus on what he knew best and leave the institutional rebuilding to the next guy.”….
Allen: “Americans expect leaders to pounce on problems, ‘act and act now’ but the Vatican culture is one of ruminating, often for years, simmering and studying and, in some corners of the curia (the church government in Rome) fretting about conspiracies.”…..
Allen concluded, “The papacy is adrift and has been for a long time…(It is) a papacy defined by its train wrecks.”

Allen followed up by writing in his regular column which appeared in the National Catholic Reported dated Nov. 17. http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/three-keys-reading-dolan-win-usccb

Dolan will almost certainly become a cardinal in the next consistory, which could come before his term as USCCB president ends. That means that twice in a row, the American bishops have elected a cardinal (or obvious cardinal-to-be) as their president….[S]ome bishops historically didn’t vote for cardinals because they saw them as too conservative, or too much “Rome’s man.” Yet interestingly, the swing to leadership by cardinals and big-time archbishops can also be seen as an assertion of the autonomy of the U.S. conference vis-à-vis Rome. With Cardinal Francis George [the outgoing USCCB president], the American bishops knew they had a leader who could go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the Roman Curia as a full equal, and more or less the same point can be made of Dolan.
…American bishops these days…are less inclined to defer to Roman sensibilities on many non-doctrinal matters, such as finance and institutional management….
…Many American bishops are inclined to believe that the current Vatican regime means well but often can’t make the trains run on time. They want someone who can go to Rome and make American judgments stick, and Dolan is arguably better positioned to do so than Kicanas.

Wow! “Assertion of the autonomy” of U.S. bishops from Rome. U.S. bishops are “less inclined to defer” to the Vatican in finance. They want someone “who can go to Rome and make American judgments stick.”
There’s only one thing I know which can provide a national group of bishops with that much confidence – money. And I can’t think of anything which could explain this funding into U.S. Catholic coffers other than the recent U.S. electoral victory for plutocrats.
Note: The USCCB administers Migration and Refugee Services – a remnant of a pre-John Paul II episcopate – which, it would appear, receives the lions share of the $58,327,207 in 2009 grant money given to the USCCB from the Federal government. Under government contracts, this department provides long-term foster care for unaccompanied alien children in federal custody, resettlement services for newly arriving refugees, resettlement of Cuban and Haitian entrants paroled by Department of Homeland Security and provides basic services to individuals identified as victims of human trafficking. A few local dioceses provide some additional funding.) http://www.usccb.org/finance/financial_statements.pdf 

 Note: According to BishopAccoutability.org: “So far, Msgr. Wallace A. Harris of New York has been accused of sexually abusing 10 or 11 boys. Dolan has quietly accepted Harris’s resignation and has sent the case to the Vatican – a sure sign that the allegations are serious and are deemed credible. Yet Dolan is deceiving the people of the archdiocese, and particularly the people of Harlem. In their letters to parishioners, neither Dolan nor Harris mention sexual abuse.
The parishioners in Harlem and Catholics throughout the archdiocese deserve to know what these credible accusations are. So do the graduates of Cathedral Prep, once the archdiocese’s high school seminary. Harris lived at the seminary in the mid- to late 1980s, and was a teacher and vice-rector there. He is accused of sexually abusing some of the seminary boys in his care.
Dolan has not addressed those allegations publicly. His letter went only to Harris’s most recent parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo, not to parishioners of St. Joseph of the Holy Family or alumni of Cathedral Prep. Dolan didn’t send out a news release or even post a notice on his archdiocesan website about Harris. Until Dolan publicly confirms that the allegations are credible, parishioners will continue to support Harris, causing further pain in the parish, to victims who have come forward, and to those who are still silent.
If Dolan is dealing secretively and harmfully with serious sexual abuse allegations in his own back yard, what can we expect of him on the national stage? If his brother bishops know that Dolan is covering-up abuse in New York, why should they act any differently?”
Note: The EPPC according to www.sourcewatch.org “is one of several [organizations] devoted to improving public appreciation of the role of business in what it terms a ‘moral society.'” Sourcewatch quotes author Tom Barry: “Created in 1976, EPPC was the first neocon institute to break ground in the frontal attack on the secular humanists. For nearly three decades, EPPC has functioned as the cutting edge of the neoconservative-driven culture war against progressive theology and secularism, and the associated effort to ensure right-wing control of the Republican Party. It explicitly sought to unify the Christian right with the neoconservative religious right, which was mostly made up of agnostics back then. A central part of its political project was to “clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy.”
The EPPC have been financed all these decades by the usual neocon foundations: Castle Rock, Earhart, Kock Family, John M. Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Scaife and Smith Richardson.
George Weigel has been a fellow at the EPPC and a leader in shaping the Religious Right since it’s founding in the late 1970s. He is probably most famous for providing a “moral” justification for the invasion of Irag and the use of preemptive military force by reinterpreting (incorrectly of course) the Catholic just-war tradition. http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Weigel_George)


3 Responses

  1. Thank you Betty. This may be the best yet in your “Ministry of Truth” series.

    That Kicanis was dumped over his abuse record is particulary absurd and vicious given George’s record with the same priest, and Dolan’s abysmal record in St. Louis and now in New York.

    John Allen, like Austen Ivereigh and George Weigel are shills for the Opus Dei wing of the Church–it could be the other way around I guess— so I am hardly surprised that they are working in lock step to usurp the Vatican for control by international financial interests. Benedict is certainly not singing the right tune for these groups and for that I give him a great deal of credit.

    • Thanks, Colleen. As a great admirer of your work, I appreciate the praise.

      I agree, Now that Benedict and his curia are being attacked by the US Catholic establishment, I feel much more sympathy for him.

      I’m still waiting to see if the European regulators are going to back off from further investigation of Vatican bank accounts. That will tell us which way the global financiers are leaning.


  2. OK Betty. You have written extensively on your dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church and your wish for reform, but you have not specified exactly what you are dissatisfied with and what changes you want to see in the Church. Do you oppose the teachings of the Church or are you upset with some of the individuals in the Church? To me you sound like any of the anti-Catholic agitators who just want to see the demise of the Catholic Church as it now exists and have it evolve into something that totally agrees with your interpretation of a religion you can be comfortable with, never mind that it was Jesus who founded the Church upon Peter and now guides it with the personal that he has chosen. Please be specific as to the changes that you recommend and lets see just what it is that you oppose.

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