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    • Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand September 15, 2014
      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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      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
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    • Journey to the Southern Highlands & Tablelands August 18, 2017
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    • Quote of the Day August 17, 2017
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    • Not Our President November 16, 2016
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Catholic “Charity”

The Vatican and U.S. episcopate are of one mind that “charity” is to be used to advance their political agenda. While seeming to have unlimited resources to lobby against extensions of statutes of limitations for clerical sex abuse victims, health care reform, same-sex marriage and the wellbeing of women, U.S. bishops cut back on their aid to local dioceses to help the poor.  Most readers will recall the sorry spectacle in November 2009 of Archbishop (now Cardinal) Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. threatening to discontinue all archdiocesan social services programs operated for the city if a same-sex marriage law was passed. (With estimates that 25-50 percent of clergy and hierarchs are homosexual, can their opposition to same-sex marriage be anything but political?)

The law passed and Washington D.C.’s Catholic Charities eliminated health care benefits to the spouses of some employees rather than provide coverage to same-sex partners.  In addition the city ended its contract with the agency to provide foster care and adoption services because the organization would not place children with same-sex couples. Similarly, Catholic Charities of Boston ended their adoption services rather than comply with state law.

We also remember last year’s vicious attacks made by Catholics closest to the episcopate against the Catholic Campaign for Human Development because 5 of the 270 groups receiving grants had on occasion partnered with other groups advocating for women’s health. “No amount of house-cleaning is going to make this arm of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops worthy of our donations,” wrote political operative and Bush advisor, Deal Hudson.    As a result, at least 10 bishops refused to fund the CCHD and many Catholics in other dioceses stopped contributing.  

The threat that any funds may be used for abortion or other reproductive health issues has been used to deny aid to women for decades and around the world. According to an article dated March 19, 2011, by the Catholic News Agency, supported at least in part by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, Catholic groups are voicing objections to possible U.S. government grants to Mexican organizations dedicated to improving women’s health, safety and human rights. Two of the three possible recipients are committed to ending violence against women and helping victims of domestic violence, but the principle objections were overtly political and directed against the Consorcio para el Dialogo Parlamentario y la Equidad (Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equality)

which organizes alliances related not only to women’s political and social rights, but also their “sexual and reproductive rights.” The proposal aimed to fund the consortium to “promote the arrival and permanence of women in elected positions” by encouraging compliance with mandatory gender quotas for Mexican political parties’ lists of candidates.

Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute vice president Terrence McKeegan stated that “U.S. funding for these groups could create a ‘powerful lobby’ to change foreign countries’ laws and to make ‘substantial’ cultural changes.” As regards aid to the Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equality, McKeegan charged “that the quotas empowered ‘radical feminists’ who ‘can’t win a fair election on their own.’”

Joseph Meaney, director of international coordination at Human Life International, accused feminist organizations of  “frequently using the issue of violence against women to obscure their programs of birth control and abortion.” Meaney concluded that, “U.S. support for gender quotas could affect Mexican politics, even though there are many conservative women who run for office and win. ‘They could benefit from these quotas, but typically only those who are quite liberal get foreign support,’ he commented. ‘Socially radical political parties tend to promote women as candidates more than conservative parties do.’”

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The Vatican also uses charity for political purposes. Leslie-Anne Knight, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organization for 165 worldwide aid and relief groups with a combined budget of over $5 billion, was fired this month by Vatican secretary of state and the pope’s right-hand man, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Knight has been “showered with praise for her dedication, professionalism and vision, and the Caritas board, including its president, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez, endorsed her for re-election” and “Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the pontifical council Cor Unum, the Vatican office that overseas charitable activity, also praised the job that Knight had done in making the Caritas confederation ‘more agile and professional.”

Her offense? Bertone said he wanted “a new leader who would strengthen the Catholic identity of Caritas Internationalis.” Apparently, helping the poor and sick isn’t sufficiently Catholic for the pope.

Phyllis Zagano, senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books in Catholic Studies, writing about Knight’s dismissal referenced “the elephant in Caritas’ living room, specifically the rumors that Caritas member groups in Africa were giving out condoms, presumably to battle AIDS.” Zagano also noted:

Then there is the Australia speech. At a September 2009 speech at the Australian National Press Club in Canberra, Knight endorsed the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), calling them “a focal point for global development efforts and a benchmark by which we can measure our progress.”

All well and good, except the Holy See is at odds with some of the MDGs, especially the goal to achieve universal access to reproductive health care by 2015, including increasing access to contraception.

The UN reports 60 percent of married women under 49 used contraception in 2007. It wants to teach more about family planning and drastically cut pregnancies, particularly in the poorest nations.

The further politicization of another Vatican group was evidenced in an article  dated March 17, 2011. I would have presumed that a “papal charity” titled “Aid to the Church in Need” was helping impoverished areas such as sub-Saharan Africa or Haiti. Not necessarily. Anne Widdecombe, a former British Conservative Party politician who, when prisons minister told the House of Commons that pregnant prisoners needed to be shackled with chains during delivery to prevent their escape, was just named special envoy for religious freedom to the group.

She discussed the importance of her new advisory post in a March 17 statement, saying she had “become increasingly alarmed by reports of violence and acts of intimidation against Christians,” particularly in a number of countries where Christianity is illegal or severely restricted.

“Religious freedom” is Catholic code for Islamophobia. In a speech delivered March 1, 2011, on the topic, Archbishop Chaput made sure he included the boogeyman/straw man by concluding that, “Shari’a law is not a solution.”  The top American Vatacanista, John L. Allen Jr., placed attacks against Christians in the Middle East within the context of the German Holocaust,  asking “why don’t attacks against Christians in places such as Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, India and Pakistan, to cite just a few recent examples, generate the same outrage among Christians in the West that similar oppression directed against followers of other faiths elicits among their coreligionists?….why isn’t there a budding genre of Christian analogs to Night by Elie Wiesel, or Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”?

I’m not defending violence in any shape or form, but no Catholic prelate or author loyal to the Vatican has yet to note that Western colonialists, occupiers and supporters of the occupation of their lands are the Christian enemies of Muslim fundamentalists just as all Muslims are considered to be enemies by Christian fundamentalists.

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This last item tells us that the Vatican not only has no problem using charity for political gains but also to make a profit. Daily Finance  reported on March 7, 2011, that the Vatican has invested $1 million from its charitable foundation, STOQ International (how many Vatican “charities” are there?), in NeoStem, “a biopharmaceutical company developing proprietary cellular therapies. NeoStem is aiming to become a single source for the collection, storage and manufacture of adult stem cells – rather than embryonic stem cells – for cell-based medicine and regenerative science.”

Every time a Catholic official condemns embryonic stem cell research he can hope that the price of NeoStem stock rises. 

The article also noted, “One of the highlights of the Vatican-NeoStem partnership will be a three-day international conference, to be held at the Vatican in November, on adult stem cell research, including NeoStem’s VSEL [very small embryonic-like] stem cell technology.” Bush’s ambassador to the Holy See, Archbishop Chaput’s friend, fellow Denverite and former GOP national chairman, James Nicholson, headed a 2003 Vatican international conference  pushing the proliferation of genetically modified foods (or organisms – GMOs). Makes you wonder how much Vatican “charities” had invested in Monsanto?

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