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A Subversive Guide to Pope Francis’ US Visit: Washington DC

Given the magnitude of the media coverage the next week, this is the BIG EVENT for this pontificate. Ever since popes crowned the Holy Roman emperors, with few exceptions they have sought geopolitical influence and power.

Pope Francis “is due to meet President Obama and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. [He] will be going with a particularly dense international agenda: the Holy See, after all, is playing a frontline role in many of the planet’s most burning issues.”

“The Pope’s grip on the world stage means his pastoral actions will have widespread political implications. This prediction … appears in the White House and State Department’s documents.”

“The first time a pontiff will be addressing Congress rivals a presidential inauguration and State of the Union wrapped into one.”

“The improbability of a pope standing before a joint meeting of Congress comes in an era of wider acceptance of the Catholic faith as it intersects with public life and US politics, and indicates a comfort level between the two that wouldn’t have been imaginable several decades ago.”

“Some Jesuits say quietly that Bergoglio, despite being a Jesuit, is closer ideologically to Opus Dei … Bergoglio’s ‘personal, undisputed, austerity has always lived with a determined and sustained pursuit of power, first in his congregation, then in Argentina and now the universal Church. Bergoglio is a strategist and a politician,’” noted Oscar Chamber, professor at the Salesian Center for Studies in Buenos Aires and Franciscan Theological Institute. (Opus Dei is a secret society of multinational financiers)

Pope Francis’ favorable rating among liberals has fallen 14 percentage points from 82 to 68 percent according to a recent poll. I would like to think that the other third still believes in “the collapse of the American media into utter and complete substanceless” as regards its reporting on the pope and/or remembers that two and half years ago most Americans understood that Catholic prelates carried water for the Republican Party and other plutocrats around the world, and that these same prelates elected Bergoglio as pope.

This guide is meant to provide the information omitted by that media.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22 (WASHINGTON DC)
4:00 p.m. Arrival from Cuba at Joint Base Andrews

Missing from the papal plane is a longtime Vatican correspondent for the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. He was banished purportedly because his publication leaked the pope’s encyclical on the environment. More probable, it was because La Repubblica prints articles such as “The Francis of the Media and the Real Francis”: [The pope has been] “hammering on the controversial themes of abortion, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, without swerving a millimeter from the strict teaching of his predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. From October until now [May 2015], Francis has spoken out on these questions no fewer than forty times, hitting hard above all against ‘gender’ ideology.”

Espresso.repubblica.it reported that an official who met with the pope – touted for his “gift for improvisation” – admitted that “he discussed the idea of the embrace with the pope” before appearing in front of the cameras. “There are numerous testimonies from longtime acquaintances of Bergoglio who have described him as a ‘chess player,’ a refined strategist, whose every day is perfectly organized and every move carefully studied.”

That the number of people attending the pope’s weekly public appearance fell by half from 2013 to 2014 and half again from 2014 to 2015 according to figures released by the Vatican was reported on Aug. 27.

The above articles were written by Sandro Magister who was banned from the Vatican press room.

Pope Francis was in Cuba the preceding three days celebrating the opening to development and commerce by American business and urging that the US trade embargo be lifted entirely. As the quid pro quo for their support of the Castro regime and turning their backs to dissidents, the Church was granted a monopoly for training the first generation of future Cuban plutocrats.

In preparation for the pope’s visit:
• Raul Castro ordered more than 3,500 prisoners released – but no political prisoners – just as he and his brother had done in advance of visits by the previous two popes.
• “Cuban police detained about 50 people … Such detentions have become common following regular Sunday marches by the Ladies in White, a group that has criticized the Roman Catholic Church and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega for failing to advocate on its behalf with the Cuban government. In August, Cuban police detained 768 dissidents of all stripes for political activity, the highest monthly total so far this year.

Since the pope’s disapproval rating is likely higher among women, he will talk about women’s equality in the workplace and women will be photographed with the pope on every occasion possible. Within days of his arrival, Pope Francis said, “Women have a special God-given role in protecting each generation against the evils of its time,” and referred to himself as “a bit feminist” in praising women religious.

“The pope has made it a custom on foreign trips to invite into his entourage a lay Vatican employee.” On his recent trip to South America, he was accompanied by Opus Dei Guzman Carriquiry, acting vice-president of his Commission for Latin America and “one of Cardinal Bergoglio’s few friends in the Curia before his election, now said to be an influential broker and sounding-board for Francis.” Valentina Ambrosi, an artist from the Vatican mosaic studio, will be with the pope in the US.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 (WASHINGTON, DC)
9:15 a.m. Welcome ceremony and meeting with President Obama at the White House

When he visited Francis early last year, Obama contradicted the official Vatican account of their meeting by saying they hadn’t discussed social issues in any detail. Papal aides insisted the two leaders indeed discussed religious freedom, life and conscientious objection – buzzwords for abortion, birth control and parts of Obama’s health care law.

“The Vatican has taken offense at the Obama administration’s decision to invite to the pope’s welcome ceremony transgender activists and the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, [Bishop V. Gene Robinson]. According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.”

“The White House also invited the LGBT activist group GLAAD to the reception. GLAAD’s Sept. 16 announcement of the invitation asked its allies to ‘Help send a message to Pope Francis” by taking part in an advocacy campaign.’” Frank DeBernardo, executive director of the New Ways Ministry, “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics,” and Sister Jeannine Gramick, the organization’s co-founder who was barred by the Vatican from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons, will be there, too. “Mateo Williamson, a past transgender caucus co-chair with the group Dignity USA will also attend.”

When the pope leaves the White House, “more than 50,000 Hispanic-Americans … will be present to greet the Holy Father as he passes the streets of the nation’s capital.” “Events” for the out-of-towners are “being organized by 40 parishes in the area.”

11:30 a.m. Midday Prayer with the Bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral

“Vatican officials say the abuse issue will not be a major focus of the pope’s U.S. visit but that he will address it, either at his meeting with US bishops in Washington on Sept. 23 or at vespers with priests and nuns the next day, or both.”

Statutes of limitations (SOLs) forbid prosecutors or plaintiffs from taking legal action after a certain number of years. Because it often takes decades for victims of child sex abuse to come to terms with what was done to them and how this affected the rest of their lives, SOLs allow child sexual predators to avoid apprehension and prosecution. “It is the bishops who have blocked any kind of meaningful reform,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York who studies statutes of limitations. “The bishops and the pope have a lot of explaining to do as to why it would be in their mission to keep all [American] victims from seeking justice.”

Something else to remember as you watch the pope kiss children – as the Argentine cardinal primate, “there is evidence that Bergoglio knowingly or unwittingly slowed victims in their fight to expose and prosecute their [clerical] assailants … Victims say that they sought the cardinal’s help. None of them received it, even those who were poor, struggling on the periphery of society – the people whom Pope Francis has championed … Fr. Julio César Grassi was convicted in 2009 of molesting a boy who had lived in a home for street children that Grassi founded. After Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio commissioned a secret study to persuade Supreme Court judges of Grassi’s innocence. Bergoglio’s intervention is believed to be at least part of the reason that Grassi remained free for more than four years following his conviction. He finally was sent to jail in September 2013.”

Showing continued contempt for his Church’s victims, 30 days after his election, Pope Francis chose two members for his Council of Cardinals – George Pell and Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa – who had been making national headlines for years for their maltreatment of clerical sex abuse victims.

As pope, Bergoglio has not “exposed a single child molesting cleric or really punished a single complicit Church official. He’s made lots of reassuring talk but taken little meaningful action. [The pope should] Turn over every document about clerics who commit and conceal child sex crimes to law enforcement. Insist that bishops lobby for, not against, secular legislative reforms to protect kids. And quickly, publicly and harshly fire dozens of complicit bishops,” wrote David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Joelle Casteix, an adult survivor of child sex abuse and one of the Church’s most outspoken critics, hopes to counter what she calls “the Francis effect.” She and others from such groups as Bishop Accountability and SNAP plan protests and media outreach intended to keep pressure on the pope. What they would like to see from Pope Francis is a direct order to release the names of priests – numbering thousands in the US alone – deacons, religious brothers and nuns, and all other employees of the Catholic Church who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of children, along with publicly revealing the manner in which Church officials handled those accusations.

4:15 p.m. Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra

The 18th century Spanish Franciscan friar founded the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California. In a rare display of criticism for this pope, Native Americans and others protested his honoring a man who participated in the brutalization of indigenous people. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, descendants of local native peoples taken to Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz, wrote the pope “to voice our disbelief and objection to your intent to canonize Fr. Serra … The Amah Mutsun find, in Fr. Serra’s own writings, how … the violence, intimidation and terror which was sponsored and ordered by Fr. Serra clearly set the policy and foundation for all future brutal acts at the missions.” They strongly believe Serra has a large degree of responsibility “… for the death of approximately 100,000 California Indians and the complete extermination of many Native tribes, cultures and languages.”

Pope Francis called Serra “one of the founding fathers of the United States.” He said “he would bypass the usual requirement of a second authenticated miracle attributed to Blessed Serra’s intervention” in order to canonize him during his US visit. It will be a “national event,” the pope stated.

Opus Dei Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the US: “The first Hispanic pope is coming to America to give us the first Hispanic saint … The pope would be calling on Hispanics across the country to reflect on their history, identity and ‘our legacy as immigrants.’”

The bilingual Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife will be at this Mass. In July, “Bush vowed to launch comprehensive immigration reform, including stronger borders and finding a way for the 11 million undocumented people in the country to make their status legal.” “I like Jeb Bush a lot,” the prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, said. “I especially appreciate the priority he gives to education and immigration.”

“In 2012, Mitt Romney narrowly lost Florida, costing him 29 electoral votes. Seven other states with sizable Hispanic populations also saw razor-thin victories.”

“LIBRE, a group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has started offering Latinos tax preparation help, wellness checkups, scholarships and food giveaways in Texas, Colorado, Florida and other states. It has bought ads touting the ‘free market,’ smaller government and school choice, and its officials are a growing presence on Spanish-language news stations talking about the virtues of ‘self-reliance.’”

The pontiff will talk about immigration several times and “will make Latino Catholicism a centerpiece of this US visit.” “A large number of Latino Catholics in the US will help him out.” A “significant portion” of the tickets to papal events are reserved for Latinos. Donations from American Catholics are funding Latin American families to attend the papal events in Philadelphia. “The pope’s address in front of Independence Hall on immigration [will be to] an audience expected to be made up mainly of American Latinos.”

Given the decades-long alliance between the Church and the GOP, the pope’s addresses will be used to Jeb Bush’s advantage.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 (WASHINGTON, DC)
9:20 a.m. Address to Joint Session of the United States Congress

The pope will “strongly defend the right of believers to bring their faith to bear on the social, economic and political issues of the day,” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This will encourage the pope’s men and supporters to continue to obstruct healthcare and equal rights for women and equal rights for the gay and transgender communities.

Pope Francis talks about the “culture of life” and our “throwaway culture,” but he considers females to be disposable like the 11-year-old girl in Paraguay, “denied an abortion after allegedly being raped by her stepfather in the mostly Catholic country,” and Savita Halappanavar, whose requests for an abortion were refused in Ireland because “this is a Catholic country.” The woman died from septicemia.

Also expendable are the “8.5 million women who annually experience complications from unsafe abortion that require medical attention, and three million do not receive the care they need.” If every woman who wanted birth control had access to it, annually there would be 150,000 fewer maternal deaths, 640,000 fewer newborn deaths, 600,000 fewer children becoming motherless

The pope will tout his encyclical on the environment which contains one clear denunciation of abortion (# 120) and another one concerning birth control (#50).

Poverty

Pope Francis (chosen for St. Francis of Assisi who founded an order of paupers) will address Congress about poverty but not for his Church. The pope has never asked his Vatican, bishops or superiors of religious orders to divest their assets to help the poor.

A recent article showed the archdioceses of Boston – $190.9 million in investments; Chicago – $1.65 billion portfolio; Baltimore – $110 million portfolio; Minnesota dioceses – investments totaling $260.2 million. “Many other dioceses, including those of New York and Los Angeles – America’s largest – did not provide detailed information on their holdings.” The Christian Brothers Investment Services, which invests for Catholic dioceses, religious institutes, educational institutions and health care organizations – $6 billion under management.

One buyer offered $15.5 million for just one of the thousands of convents, monasteries, etc., in the US. “The real-estate assets of the Catholic Church worldwide have been estimated at two trillion dollars, a sum comparable to the G.D.P. of Russia, India, or Brazil.”

The pope will also speak about income inequality for the “least among us.” In 2015:

Rep. Paul Ryan “quickly started convincing the Beltway media that he’s now committed to ‘fighting poverty,’ en route to inner-city tours, multiple speeches, and a sloppy report on the efficacy of domestic anti-poverty programs.”

Charles Koch offered programs to help “the have nots,” “the least fortunate” and provide “opportunity for all Americans.”

Jeb Bush talked about “helping the least among us.” He “railed against ‘elites’ who have stifled economic growth and innovation” and “lamented that ‘while the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top-earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.’”

Bush is “just the latest GOP White House hopeful to put the plight of the poor at the center of his candidacy.” Mitt Romney said he was “a man interested in running for president because of his desire to address poverty and income inequality” and “described working ‘with people who are very poor to help them get help.’”

Talk is cheap.

With the 2016 campaign already underway, expect fewer emotive phrases from the pope such as the “tyranny of capitalism,” the “idolatry of money,” or the pursuit of money as “the dung of the devil.”

As Magister noted, “Pope Francis has put himself at the head of the anti-capitalist ‘popular movements.’ On the one hand he flogs them relentlessly, as he did in the encyclical ‘Laudato Si,’ although always in generic form so that one is never able to tell whether his ax also falls on Mario Draghi and the European Bank, Christine Lagarde and the Monetary Fund, Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve. On the other hand he has called in none other than the upper crust of the global technocracy to bring order to the Vatican’s disastrous finances. ” In fact, the pope has packed the Vatican with vulture capitalists and those who support them.

“Despite Pope Francis’s critique of an inequitable economy and the primacy of profit, finance executives are embracing his arrival in New York.” Ken Langone, “a billionaire investor who co-founded Home Depot Inc.” and trustee of St. Patrick’s Cathedral; “Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan and First Data Corp. CEO Frank Bisignano, both of whom contributed to the $175 million restoration of the landmark church,” will be in the pope’s audience in the cathedral.

“His criticisms haven’t deterred Wall Street executives from praising the pope’s leadership, humility and intellectual rigor ahead of the Argentine’s first trip to the US. Some said top financiers share many of his ideals, as well as his management style [such as] John Studzinski, a vice chairman at private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP who’s on the board of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Landmark Foundation.

“Peter Forlenza, Jefferies Group LLC’s global head of equities, is returning to his alma mater in Washington to see Francis at Catholic University of America.” David Komansky, “the former Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO, who got to know church leaders because the Vatican worked with his firm, said he may attend the pope’s mass at Madison Square Garden after receiving an invitation from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.”

The “Humble” Pope

House Speaker John Boehner announced the pontiff “expressed an interest in making a brief appearance on the West Front of the Capitol” in what has been reported as an “inauguration-like setting.” Two events in Philadelphia featuring the pope will be in front of the iconic “Rocky” movie steps. The pope will give his speech at Independence Hall using the same lectern on which Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The media has gushed about how the pope is so “humble” for not living in the Vatican palace. They don’t report that the papal quarters in the palace are Spartan and the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse, where Pope Francis lives, was built in 1996 to be “more comfortable and less strenuous for elderly cardinals.” The cardinals had suffered from the summer heat in the palace which would explain why this pope doesn’t have to use his predecessors’ summer retreat, Castel Gandolfo, described as “too luxurious” for him.

Pope Francis has two valets and two personal secretaries to assist him, which no one would begrudge anyone as busy as a pope. Nor does anyone mind that he rides in custom-built autos. (His German predecessor was gifted by Mercedes-Benz.) But I am going to take a wild guess he is not doing his own laundry.

Adoration of the news media isn’t sufficient. After he leaves the US, the pope plans to hold a “summit of sorts” with American superstars like Oprah Winfrey and Mark Damon to discuss “how the Church is perceived by Western media influencers and ways to improve its portrayal in entertainment.”

11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington

The pope will meet with 100 plus recipients of Catholic Charity.

The archdiocese lists $123 million in net assets on its financial report for 2014 and total revenues of $95.6 million. Of that, Cardinal Donald Wuerl gave $254,000 to Catholic Charities in 2014 while US taxpayers provided $32 million. This is usual. The Economist estimated that of the total expenditures by “the US Church and entities” just 2.7% goes to charity and 62% of the income of its charitable activities “came from local, state and federal government agencies.”

More important than the bishops taking credit for tax-payer funding, they act contrary to tax-payers. According to a Bush administration Office of Legal Counsel memo on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), faith-based organizations can discriminate in hiring. “This means that a faith-based organization that receives government funds to provide secular social services can exclude qualified candidates from jobs that their tax money subsidizes simply because they are not the ‘right’ religion’ … Some recipients argue that they should be able to discriminate against LGBT workers and their families even though it is plainly forbidden.”

The USCCB Catholic Relief Services is “the largest national refugee resettlement agency in terms of persons served” receiving government funding. The USCCB contend they do not have to comply with federal regulations to “provide unaccompanied children who are victims of sexual abuse with “timely, unimpeded access to … emergency contraception;” or “if pregnancy results from an instance of sexual abuse” they do not have to “ensure that the victim receives timely and comprehensive information about all lawful pregnancy-related medical services” because “all” lawful pregnancy-related procedures apparently includes abortion.”

(Please see “A Subversive Guide to Pope Francis’ US Visit: New York and Philadelphia“)

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))

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