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      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
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This Week’s News from the “Ministry of Truth”(6)

As I noted last week, there is evidence of a shift in “big money” to US Catholics because George Weigel started beating the tom-toms for American control of – at least at first – just the Vatican media. This week’s continued drum beat from the US rightwing/Opus Dei organizations emphasized the “breakdown” of communications  regarding the news reports quoting Pope Benedict’s position on the use of condoms in a newly-released book.

Charles Lewis in the National Post: “The Vatican simply continues to stink at public relations. Yes, stink….[Weigel] did what many other Catholic intellectuals did this past week: helped to try to clarify what the Pope “really” meant.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in First Things: “Ironically, the message of this good and brilliant Pope has been hobbled nearly as much by the baffling failures of some of his own aides as by unfriendly coverage from the world’s media. One might reasonably expect the Holy Father’s assistants to have an advance communications plan in place, and to involve bishops and Catholic media in a timely way to explain and defend the Holy Father’s remarks.”

Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World News: “Yet again, Pope Benedict has been badly served by his public-relations staff….Now that publicity -which might have offered an accurate and favorable portrayal of the Pope’s book – will be nearly lost in the deluge of misinformation currently sweeping across the world.”

The AP reported,

“It’s a mess,” said John Haas, president of the [Opus Dei] National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, which advises church leaders, hospitals and Vatican offices.

Jenn Giroux, executive director of Human Life International America: “I am watching very carefully, as everyone is right now, before making a final pronounce….As always, we look to church doctrine on statements like this.”….

Germain Grisez, a prominent moral theologian who advises bishops, said that promoting condoms as protection against disease would be “pernicious” because it assumes a person does not have the capacity to make good, moral choices. He lamented that the pope’s comments “can be – and are being – misused to sow doubt about Catholic teaching.” [emphasis added]

“I maintain that nothing new has happened, that the church’s teaching hasn’t changed,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press, the English publisher of the book.

Haas, also a moral theologian, said he fielded calls all day Tuesday from confused bishops confused…. Benedict’s comments come at a time when bishops in the United States are intensely focused on upholding Catholic orthodoxy on marriage and sexuality. [emphasis added]

“We’re in for a long period of confusion,” said [Opus Dei member] Russell Shaw, a writer for the Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor and former spokesman for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

This episode is becoming reminiscent of the period when Pope John Paul II was highly critical of the march towards war in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. As I noted in my book, The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America, the US rightwing/Opus Dei went into overdrive to dismiss and divert attention away from Wojtyla’s anti-war pronouncements.

By 2004, the ailing pope was sequestered and no longer available to the press. When Vice President Dick Cheney visited the Vatican the same year, the only press release by Opus Dei member/Vatican media czar, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, noted that the pope supported the Bush administration’s “pro-life”, “pro-family” and stem-cell research positions.

Large segments of the Church’s donor base never quite forgave Benedict for replacing  Navaro-Valls with his own man. Expect to have another head of Vatican communications in place soon so that Benedict’s pronouncements can be shaped to support the US oligarchy.


It was also  reported on Sunday Nov. 21  that the U.S. bishops reached another milestone in their quest for a mediocre and obsequious clergy, the pool of men from whom future bishops will be selected. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced they were closing their seminary, the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium, at the end this “formation year” in June 2011 which leaves the Pontifical North American College in Rome as the only overseas seminary for Americans. The seminary, part of the pluridisciplinary Catholic University of Leuven, a “renowned institution of higher learning” founded in 1425, was instituted in 1857 by American bishops with the dual purpose of training European men to serve as missionary priests in North America and of offering to American seminarians the philosophical and theological riches available at Europe’s oldest Catholic university.

Early alumni include the humanist, Desiderius Erasmus, and cartographer, Gerard Mercator. A few 20th century alumni are Georges Lemaitre, astronomer, priest and proposer of the Big Bang theory; Fulton J. Sheen, American archbishop and television personality; and Gustavo Gutierrez, Peruvian Dominican theologian and founder of Liberation Theology. (I have included the names of just a few more alumni below.)

Fearful that their future priests would be contaminated with excellence in intellectual inquiry and highest theological scholarship, the U.S. bishops withheld funding, stopped sending seminarians and either refused to hire enough professors or couldn’t find a sufficient number willing to abandon their academic integrity. Then, in typical “Ministry of Truth” fashion, they declared they were closing the school due to low enrollment, a shortage of faculty and lack of funding. As noted by emphasis in the previous section, the bishops want men who have to turn to Opus Dei for their opinions.


As a newly-prominent member of the “Ministry of Truth,” New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the world’s greatest critic of the New York Times in his words but by his action concurred that the Times is the most respected news outlet in the country. In the “only news interview he has granted since he spoke to a Catholic television station after last Tuesday’s election” Dolan talked with them from his palatial apartment on Madison Avenue.

Dolan, referencing a “‘sobering study’ showing that one-third of Americans born and baptized Catholic have left the church, said Monday that the bishops faced the urgent task of stopping the huge exodus of Roman Catholics from the church of their birth,” as these same bishops close hundreds of parishes, down-size their dioceses by firing “dissident” and gay and lesbian employees, and generally let it be known to all Catholics that its now a “my way or the highway” institution. “Archbishop Dolan leaned forward as he cited recent studies finding that only half of young Catholics marry in the church, and that weekly Mass attendance has dropped to about 35 percent of Catholics from a peak of 78 percent in the 1960s.”

“Between 25 percent and 30 percent of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation – roughly four times higher than in any previous generation,” according to Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell in their recent book, American Grace. “So, why this sudden jump in youthful disaffection from organized religion? The surprising answer, according to a mounting body of evidence, is politics….A majority of the Millennial generation was liberal on most social issues, and above all, on homosexuality….

Times: “Archbishop Dolan said the bishops ought to be ‘great cheerleaders’ for the expansion of health care coverage, and could possibly support a ‘refinement’ of the bill. He said he did not yet know whether the bishops would want to ‘overthrow’ the legislation completely.”

Meanwhile, the bishop-endorsed Thomas More Law Center is challenging the legislation on a state-by-state basis.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center commented, “Obama Care is one of the most oppressive measures in the history of our Nation. And it was passed by Congress despite overwhelming opposition of the American people. It was not about reforming health care, but government seizure of unprecedented power over our lives. It transfers control of one-sixth of our Nation’s economy to Washington bureaucrats, and it will add an estimated 16,000 to 20,000 additional IRS agents to monitor tax returns and records to determine compliance with the new regulations. We will continue to challenge it in the courts.” 

Times: “Archbishop Dolan said he hoped to reinvigorate Mass attendance by declaring 2011 the ‘Year of the Mass.'”

Many remaining Catholics who care about such things have been highly critical of the revised Roman missal which contains the texts to be used in the Mass beginning Advent 2011. “Probably written by a group of scholars who were involved in the 2008 translation by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL….the National Catholic Reporter obtained a copy of a scathingly critical report of what was to be the final Vatican-approved English translation of the Roman Missal.” One liturgical expert called the changes “gratuitous and clumsy,” “mistranslations” and “theologically erroneous.” Another, “a very tawdry piece of English prose.”

Times: “But Archbishop Dolan said he was happy with the new translation. ‘I think there’s a renewed awe, a sense of reverence, a greater fidelity to the ancient texts,’ he said.'”


Since we celebrated Thanksgivng this past week, this note should put us all in the holiday spirit.

“Pope gives local soup kitchen rare white truffle”: (CNS) — Thanks to Pope Benedict XVI, some of Rome’s poor will enjoy a gourmet meal flavored with shavings of a precious white truffle weighing more than two pounds, reported Caritas Rome, the diocesan Catholic charity. Pope Benedict received the truffle at his general audience Nov. 17 and re-gifted it to the John Paul II soup kitchen in Rome. Chefs at the soup kitchen have prepared special, sophisticated menu for their guests, said Caritas in a Nov. 20 statement. The donation was “a gesture of our bishop’s love and attention to the most disadvantaged” and emphasizes “his closeness to that part of the city that is suffering,” said Msgr. Enrico Feroci, director of Caritas. The chefs of Caritas will use the white truffle — which could sell for between $1,600 and $2,800 — in the rice, pasta and meat dishes to be served Nov. 30 at the John Paul II soup kitchen.

According to the Holy See’s last annual financial report for the 2009 fiscal year, the pope was given $82,529,417 for his personal works of charity for which there is no disclosure as to where the money goes.  It was also reported this past week that Benedict has earned 5 million euros in book royalties since becoming pope. Half would fund a new foundation for theological studies and the rest to support charity work – again with no disclosure or ability to verify if any of this is true.

Of the dozens of congregations, commissions, and councils listed on the Vatican website, I could find only two which gave money and not just advice to help the poor – Caritas Internationalis and Cor Unum. For 2009, Caritas Internationalis showed income (in euros) of 6,965,818 from membership fees and 2,045,990 from fundraising of which only 305,346 went for “humanitarian activities.” (The other expenses listed are general managment and administration, communications, advocacy, fundraising, regional structures, governance bodies and “financial expenditure.”)

The other, Cor Unum, is called the “Pope’s Charity,” because the money gets distributed “whenever the Supreme Pontiff considers that some special activities or initiatives should be undertaken in the charitable sphere,” not because the website shows he contributes to it. The Cor Unum website addresses donations in only general terms by sometimes noting the generosity of the U.S., German, or Italian bishops. In fiscal 2009, $1,869,000 was spent on “natural of man-made disasters” and $2,304,000 on “intergral human promotion,” a term for which I could find no definition or list of grant recipients. Cor Unum also includes two foundations, one for development of the African countries of Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia and Chad ($2,300,000 in grants in 2009), the other for development in Latin America ($2,128,500 in 2009).

When there were stories this past October about Vatican money-laundering, it was generally reported that the assets of the Vatican Bank were in the range of  5 billion euro, making the sums quoted above of a few million here and there seem miserly.

That is not to say that the administrators and employees of Caritas Internationalis and Cor Unum are not doing good works and that poor people aren’t genuinely assisted. However, the word “development” is used frequently by charities administered by Catholic prelates. Development means money spent on construction of buildings and infrastructure such as roads and bridges as well as schools and hospitals. Development means helping businesses start up new commercial ventures or expand their current enterprises. The intent may be that this will eventually help the poor but the immediate beneficiaries are contractors and business owners.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. News from of the heirarchy will probably cease during this and the  liturgical season of Christmas. Therefore, this will be my last weekly blog until the New Year.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_University_of_Leuven Alumni

Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536), humanist.

Gerard Mercator (1512–1594), cartographer

Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), father of modern anatomy

Father Patrick Francis Healy (1830–1910), 29th president of Georgetown University in the United States, first Jesuit priest of African American

ancestry, first person of acknowledged African-American ancestry to earn PhD

Charles Jean de la Vallée-Poussin (1866–1962), mathematician who proved the prime number theorem

Georges Lemaître (1894–1966), astronomer, priest and proposer of the Big Bang  theory.

Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia, (1900–1970), physician, social reformer, president of Costa Rica  1940–1944

Maurice Anthony Biot (1905–1985), Belgian-American physicist  and the founder of the theory of poroelasticity.

Christian de Duve (1917 – ), Nobel Prize in Medicine 1974, for his discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell

Geza Vermes (1924 – ), religious historian and translator into English of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Gustavo Gutiérrez (1928 – ), Peruvian Dominican theologian, founder of Liberation Theology

Herman Van Rompuy (1947 – ), Belgian statesman. Appointed President of the European Council

(The word oligarchy is from the Greek words “a few” and the verb “to rule, to govern, to command”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy

George Orwell’s novel, 1984, written in 1949 is about an oligarchical society – “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance and incessant public mind control….The Ministry of Truth is responsible for perpetuating the Party’s propaganda by revising records to render the Party omniscient and always correct.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

The term “doublespeak,” inspired by Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, was coined in the 1950s. Doublespeak “is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms – making the truth less unpleasant – intentional ambiguity or a reversal of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”). Doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak)


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