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The Papal Visit Brings Forth Ugliness From the Right

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

In a recent press release, Catholic League president Bill Donohue warned, “Pope Visits To U.S. Occasion Ugliness.” Donohue then went on to describe the activities of several Catholic and non-Catholic Progressive leaning organizations during the last two papal visits. As is his wont, Donohue recklessly tarred dissent (by the Women’s Ordination Conference, for example) as anti-Catholic behavior. Donohue demagogically conflates progressive and liberal dissent with hate. There are important differences between hate and dissent, regardless of the source.

But with the ascendancy of the more open-minded Pope Francis, the Catholic League president all-too-conveniently overlooked much of the ugliness aimed at the pontiff from the Right.

On his upcoming visit to the United States Pope Francis will be addressing Congress. A significant portion of his message is expected to focus on the need to take action against Global Warming. This is not sitting well with many conservatives including conservative Catholics who would prefer that Francis talk about culture war memes such as abortion and the supposed war on Christianity.

One of these is Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) — a Tea Partier and a vocal gun rights activist — who once described Native Americans as “wards of the federal government.” He has also signed a pledge to vote against any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes. It would be an understatement to say that he is at odds with Francis over economics and the environment.

So, to that end, on September 17, 2015 Representative Gosar published a piece on the conservative website Townhall.com entitled, “Why I Am Boycotting Pope Francis’ Address to Congress.” The statement is a long list of grievances against the successor to Saint Peter — and it is not short on hyperbole. Gosar complains, for example, that Francis may discuss climate change, but he…

…has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into “climate justice” and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies. If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly. But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.

It goes on like this.

If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous.

Gosar claims:

I have both a moral obligation and leadership responsibility to call out leaders, regardless of their titles, who ignore Christian persecution and fail to embrace opportunities to advocate for religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend. It is my hope that Pope Francis realizes his time is better spent focusing on matters like religious tolerance and the sanctity of all life. As the leader of the Catholic Church, and as a powerful voice for peace throughout the world, His Holiness has a real opportunity to change the climate of slaughter in the Middle East… not the fool’s errand of climate change.

“Socialist talking points?” “Leftist policies?” Really?

Gosar’s condescending screed is full of stuff like this: “…when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.” Such language is not civic in nature, but instead, full of hatred and hostility.

Unfortunately for Gosar, this partisan sniping reveals a breathtakingly bad understanding of Catholic social teaching (of which, both the “Option for the Poor” and “Stewardship of God’s Creation” are of great importance). He should know this since he boasts of his Jesuit education.

Then there is conservative writer Maureen Mullarkey who recently inked a poison pen piece entitled, “Francis and Political Illusion” in which she describes Francis as “an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist.” Mullarkey subsequently published a piece entitled, “Pope Francis Is A Leftist And Must Be Called Out”. In it, she complains that Francis is not being harsher on Islam “when innocents are slaughtered in Paris by the same forces that are shedding Christian blood in the Middle East… .”

Such ranting should be no surprise coming from Mullarkey who is a contributor to the journal First Things, the well-known outlet for Catholic and Evangelical neoconservatives.

None of this is new.

As I pointed out in 2013 when Rush Limbaugh, Jeb Bush and Bill Donohue himself engaged in some ugliness by mischaracterizing Pope Francis’s criticisms of libertarian economics as a call to Marxist revolution. This is far from the first or only time a Catholic has been called a Marxist or a Socialist for wanting to use the power of government to ensure that capitalism be fairer and less predatory.

While it is true that a lot of ugliness has been directed at Pope Francis: Bill Donohue just isn’t being straight with us about the direction from whence it mostly comes.

Bishop Robert Finn Resigns Leadership of St. Joseph-Kansas City Diocese.

Originally posted at Talk to Action

Bishop Robert W. Finn, the Opus Dei Bishop who was convicted by a Missouri court for failing to report suspected child abuse by a parish priest under his charge, has resigned his leadership of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri.

On April 21, 2015 Vatican Radio issued the following statement:

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Kansas City – St Joseph (USA), in conformity with canon 401, paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

The quoted section of Canon Law calls for the resignation of a diocesan bishop “… who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

Finn had been under Vatican investigation to determine if he should be forced to step down. He had also been on there much local pressure to resign. As the National Catholic Reporter observed, “ Local Catholics began calling for Finn’s resignation in May 2011. An online petition asking for the Vatican to remove Finn was opened in 2012 and gathered more than 260,000 signatures. ”

A replacement has not yet been named.

Archbishop Chaput Wins the 2014 Coughlin Award!

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

 photo franksgraphic_zpsbe286320.jpgIt’s time again for the presentation of the annual Coughlin Award. This year’s award goes to the cultural warrior’s cultural warrior, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

The Coughlin Award — affectionately known as “The Coughie” — recognizes the person who has best exemplified an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith in the preceding year. The award is named for Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious radio priest of the 1930s who is the role model for today’s Religious Right radio and television evangelists, and other conservative media personalities.

Best known for his diatribes against FDR, Judaism and open sympathy with the racist policies of Adolph Hitler, Coughlin’s advocacy was clearly antithetical to the very definition of the word “catholic,” which, according to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary means:

Catholic Cath”o*lic\ (k[a^]th”[-o]*[i^]k), a. [L. catholicus, Gr. kaqoliko`s, universal, general; kata` down, wholly + “o`los whole, probably akin to E. solid: cf. F. catholique.]

1. Universal or general; as, the catholic faith.

Men of other countries [came] to bear their part in so great and catholic a war. –Southey.

Note: This epithet, which is applicable to the whole Christian church, or its faith, is claimed by Roman Catholics to belong especially to their church, and in popular usage is so limited.

*Not narrow-minded, partial, or bigoted; liberal; as, catholic tastes.

*Of or pertaining to, or affecting the Roman Catholics; as, the Catholic emancipation act.

In order to win a Coughie, a candidate must complete three qualifying tasks: 1) Make the faith decisively less inclusive 2) Engage in incendiary behavior and 3) Ultimately embarrass the Church. This year’s winner — as usual — has risen to the challenge.

Chaput did not earn the 2014 “Coughie” because of any one specific action; instead, he earned his award through the sheer cumulative force his divisive career in the Church and in movement conservative politics. He is a role model for contemporary Coughlinesque Church leaders.

Archbishop Chaput has not only met requirements — he epitomizes them. So much so, that he is often able to meet more than one of the criteria in a single episode, and this year’s Coughie is in many ways a lifetime achievement award.

First; His career has been marked by stern pronouncements that meet the first Award requirement of making Catholicism less inclusive. From his time as the Archbishop of Denver when he uttered a harsh declaration of support for a Boulder, Colorado Catholic school’s denying re-enrollment of a lesbian couple’s two children; to his call for denying pro-choice Catholics Holy Communion; and finally to his open displeasure with Pope Francis’s most recent overtures to divorced and gay Catholics, Archbishop Chaput has made it clear that in his vision of the Church there is no room for greater tolerance, understanding, and dialog.

Second; Over the years he has engaged in incendiary behavior. For example, during the 2004 presidential election Archbishop Chaput declared that it was a sin for American Catholics to vote for the Democratic Party nominee John Kerry (Kerry is pro-choice and supports embryonic stem cell research). While serving as the archbishop of Denver, Colorado he opposed legislation that would expand the statute of limitations for prosecuting child abusers. He gives the appearance of one who is more interested in preserving the financial assets of the Church as an institution, and the privileges of an old boys club, than in securing the safety of the children in his care and holding to account people who abused their position to exploit the vulnerable.

Last Fall, he said: “I was very disturbed by what happened” at a Vatican sponsored Synod on the Family, where some 190 cardinals and bishops discussed such matters as how to treat LGBT people and divorced Catholics. “I think confusion is of the devil,” he declared, “and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.”

To suggest that a conversation convened by the Pope is ultimately “of the devil” is about as incendiary as it gets in Catholicism. But Chaput was not finished. He went so far as to suggest that in the wake of the court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage in most states, Catholic bishops might consider engaging in what he called “principled resistance” by opting out of certifying civil marriages.

Archbishop Chaput will be the host of the long planned World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next September. Pope Francis will be the featured speaker (replacing Pope Benedict who retired before he could make his planned appearance.) The Vatican Synod on the Family, which Chaput found to be “of the devil”, was a forerunner event to the World Meeting. So if past is prologue, Philadelphia may be shaping up as a showdown between the two leaders.

Third; All of this is an embarrassment to the Catholic Church.

So, for all that and so much more, Archbishop Chaput come on down and claim your 2014 Coughlin Award!.

Note to Bookmakers: It sure looks like Chaput is positioning himself to be an early front runner for the 2015 Coughie.

And Yet Finn Remains Bishop

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

It has been well over two years since Bishop Robert Finn and was convicted by a Missouri criminal court for failing to report child abuse by Fr. Shawn Ratigan, one of his parish priests. Within that same period of time Ratigan pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and is now serving a 50-year sentence in prison. Finn was warned about Ratigan’s behavior but inexplicably waited six months before notifying authorities.

Enter Pope Francis. On a myriad of issues the new pontiff has been a breath of fresh air. But when it comes to removing Bishop Finn as head of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Missouri the air has gotten quite stale. Finn has yet to be removed.

Just last month Cardinal Sean O’Malley was interviewed by the CBS program 60 Minutes. O’Malley is not just any Cardinal but named by his close friend Pope Francis to lead the Vatican’s new sexual abuse commission aimed at strengthening rules to protect children. When the conversation turned to Bishop Finn, Cardinal O’Malley did not mince his words:

Norah O’Donnell: I want to ask you about Robert Finn, who is the bishop of Kansas City/St. Joseph and, as you know, he pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor for not reporting one of his priests to authorities. Bishop Finn wouldn’t be able to teach Sunday school in Boston.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley: That’s right.
Norah O’Donnell: How is that zero tolerance…
Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Well…
Norah O’Donnell: …that he’s still in place? What does it say to Catholics?
Cardinal Seán O’Malley: Well, it’s a question that the Holy See needs to address urgently.
Norah O’Donnell: And there’s a recognition?
Cardinal Seán O’Malley: There’s a recognition of that.
Norah O’Donnell: From Pope Francis?
Cardinal Seán O’Malley: From Pope Francis.
If anything sounded as if Bishop Finn I was on his way out the door, it was that exchange. The 60 Minutes statement struck me as two minute warning that Finn would be sacked within the week. But it was not to be.

It has now been more than a month since that interview. Bishop Finn still remains in charge of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Why is he still there?

Bishop Robert Finn is very antithesis Pope Francis. Where the Pontiff is tolerate and more open-minded, Finn is a shrill cultural warrior. More importantly, Finn – a member of Opus Dei – apparently sees the Catholic Church in terms of being an institution whereas Pope Francis – a Jesuit – often talks about the Church and its relationship with helping the marginalized, such as the poor. The differences in styles and agendas could fill the Grand Canyon. This only makes the Pope’s inaction even more puzzling.

But more than anything else, inaction in this matter only hurts Pope Francis. It undermines his credibility by casting him as a leader who says the right thing but does nothing. As long as Finn remains a bishop in control of a diocese there is a black stain on this papacy.

In stating the obvious, it is time to remove this stain in Missouri.


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