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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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      . . . A picture, photograph, or piece of writing that you make of or about yourself.And deeper . . .Self Portrait By David WhyteIt doesn't interest me if there is one Godor many gods.I want to know if you belong or feelabandoned.If you know despair or can see it in others.I want to knowif you are prepared to live in the worldwith its harsh needto change […]
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U.S. Bishops Will ‘Stay the Course’ Against Children, Women and LGBTQ Persons

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) held their semi-annual meeting June 14-15 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Child Sex Abuse

They began with a Mass “held in response to a call from Pope Francis for all episcopal conferences across the world to have a Day of Prayer and Penance for victims of sexual abuse within the Church.”

In an excellent work of investigative journalism, Nicole Sotelo researched the location of 33 Chicago Archdiocese former priests accused of child sex abuse who are still alive. She was able to locate the whereabouts of 29. “At least 16 – approximately half – of the abusive former priests currently reside or have recently resided within close proximity of a school or child services facility, ranging from less than 500 feet to under 1,500 feet….Two are currently in state or federal mental health facilities. [O]nly one former priest is part of a sex offender registry.”  None are being monitored by the archdiocese.

“Church officials covered up crimes for so long that in many cases the statute of limitations for criminal charges expired. [I]t is a sobering reminder that if Church officials had not shielded these men from the law or fought to keep the statute of limitations, some of these men would be registered sex offenders and, thus, identifiable to concerned parents and teachers,” Sotelo noted.

Shortly before their meeting, the bishops released their 2016 Annual Report on clerical sex abuse in the U.S. For the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined, 1333 victims made “new credible allegations” against 799 clerics. Even a conservative extrapolation from Sotelo’s findings would be horrific.

In their report, the bishops do not give us the names of the credibly alleged predators, nor which ones are free men and where are they located, nor which ones – if any – they reported to the police. They do not act because Pope Francis protects sexual predators and so, will never hold them accountable for following his lead.

During the Mass, Archbishop Wilton Gregory said the U.S. bishops “can never say that we are sorry enough for the share that we have had in this tragedy of broken fidelity and trust – the clergy sex abuse crisis.” But he failed to commit to the above measures nor did he pledge that the bishops would stop obstructing statute of limitations reform for all American victims of sex abuse. Continue reading

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Pope Involved in New Sex Abuse and Dirty War Cases per Argentine Press

Recent Argentine articles reported the pope’s personal involvement in the sexual torture of children (one of the two UN committees the Pope Francis obstructed and ignored “found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”) and his role in the aftermath of the Dirty War.

His envoy heaped insult on top of injury after Pope Francis, informed of horrible sex abuse, did nothing and children suffered. 

On May 19, the priest sent by the pope to investigate the horrific sexual assaults in the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Argentina, dismissed some cases because, he said, children can be “spiteful. For example, [when] a girl or a boy falls in love with a priest, and he doesn’t respond back.” On the same day, the pope’s representative stated he was refusing to cooperate with the civil court prosecuting the atrocities. Continue reading

Putin, Russia, The Religious Right – And The Trump Base

One of the less well-reported stories of Russia’s role in American public life is the relationship between Moscow and key players of movement conservatism – particularly among those of the Religious Right. Indeed, it may very well explain how the president may be maintaining his popularity among one of his core constituencies.

As recent as a decade ago if any objective political observer were to have warned about an admiration of Russian political motives by anyone on the American Right, the commentary would have been met with highly audible guffaws. Not anymore. This is not your father’s Russia.

Indeed, Russia is clearly on the path to becoming an authoritarian state tinged with Mussolini-style fascism.

President Putin has displayed a particular disdain for Western liberal democracy, evidenced by the way he has surrounded himself with, vehemently anti-liberal thinkers. Alexander Dugin immediately comes to mind. It is in Dugin’s writings and pronouncements that we begin to understand why many fringe conservatives; especially those of the Religious Right would admire Putin’s increasingly authoritarian agenda.

To understand the severity of Dugin’s teachings – and their possible allure to the most strident of the Religious Right — just consider this passage to be found on Dugin’s website:

We need to return to the Being, to the Logos, to the foundamental- ontology (of Heidegger), to the Sacred, to the New Middle Ages – and thus to the Empire, religion, and the institutions of traditional society (hierarchy, cult, domination of spirit over matter and so on). All content of Modernity – is Satanism and degeneration. Nothing is worth, everything is to be cleansed off. The Modernity is absolutely wrong — science, values, philosophy, art, society, modes, patterns, “truths”, understanding of Being, time and space. All is dead with Modernity. So it should end. We are going to end it.

In the December 13, 2016 edition of New York magazine, Ed Kilgore identified some of Putin’s American Religious Right’s admirers as “Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown and American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer.” Continuing directly, Kilgore further observed, “In almost every case it has been his distinctive combination of homophobia and Islamophobia that has made Putin one of the Christian right’s favorite international figures.”

Paleo-conservative icon (and über-traditionalist Catholic) Patrick Buchanan went as far as to declare, “In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”

A decade ago I began to write about Opus Dei Catholics. Many of the subjects I have written about were embedded within the neo-conservative movement. A constant theme among this group of political activists was a disdain for modernity. They opined about what they viewed was the breakdown of traditional marriage and increasing rights for those in the LGBT community. Their pronouncements often seem exclusionary and harsh. Still, there were no calls for violence. But what others and myself wrote about back then is pale in comparison to the poison that now emanates from Moscow. It is a crusade against modernity now jacked-up on steroids.

Consider this passage from a recent piece in Politico by Casey Michel:

Before 2014 Russia was largely seen as an importer for Christian fundamentalists, most especially from the U.S. But as the Kremlin dissolved diplomatic norms in 2014, Moscow began forging a new role for itself at the helm of the global Christian right.

And Moscow’s grip at the tiller of a globally resurgent right has only tightened since. Not only have Russian banks funded groups like France’s National Front, but Moscow has hosted international conferences on everything from neo-Nazi networking to domestic secessionists attempting to rupture the U.S. Meanwhile, American fundamentalists bent on unwinding minority protections in the U.S. have increasingly leaned on Russia for support—and for a model they’d bring to bear back home, from targeting LGBT communities to undoing abortion rights throughout the country.

As well as:

“In the same sense that Russia’s [anti-LGBT] laws came about in 2013, we’ve seen similar sorts of laws proposed in Tennessee, for example,” Cole Parke, an LGBT researcher with Political Research Associates, told me. “It’s difficult to say in a chicken-and-egg sort of way who’s inspiring whom, but there’s definitely a correlation between the two movements.”

Many pundits and ordinary folk are still amazed that Trump’s base has stood by him despite mounting evidence that his campaign may have colluded with Moscow during the 2016 presidential election. And that is to say nothing of the president’s refusal to criticize Putin for almost any transgression.

Or perhaps no one should be surprised.

First among the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid’s five general axioms is this: Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. If equals are added to equals, the wholes (sums) are equal. If equals are subtracted from equals, the remainders (differences) are equal. This applies as well to politics.

When we consider the admiration that many Religious Right leaders have for the Russian president it may not be that difficult to understand a good portion of Trump’s continued support from his base — especially those of the Conservative Christian rank-and-file. For these folks any collusion between Trump and Putin that may be eventually proven could very well not be a reason to impeach but to re-elect.

Pope Francis’ and Trump’s Common Ground

“There’s an expectation that the relationship between President Trump and Pope Francis will be difficult to establish [but] that is not the case at all,” Louis Bono, temporary charge d’affaires in the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, said. When the pope and Trump meet on May 24, “They’ll have the opportunity to speak frankly if there are any areas of differences, but more so, to focus on those areas where we do have common ground and to identify how we can work together further,” Bono said.

In a White House Rose Garden ceremony on May 4, Trump decried the “attacks against the Little Sisters of the Poor” before signing his executive order on “religious freedom.” He invited the sisters present to stand beside him and shook the hands of two of them.  Trump congratulated them and told the sisters that they “sort of just won a lawsuit.” He added, “I want you to know, your long ordeal will soon be over,” referring to  their lawsuit against Obamacare that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Continue reading

The Un-Reformed Vatican

Every pope “possesses supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely” according to the Code of Canon Law.

Members of the Roman Curia are appointed and granted authority by the pope.

Pope Francis has also changed the Curia administration. First he created a Secretariat for the Economy and a Council for the Economy. Next, he created a Secretariat for Communications. He replaced the management of the Vatican Bank and the Vatican’s financial “watchdog,” the Financial Information Authority. In the past year, he created new departments for Integral Human Development and another for the Laity, Family and Life replacing five previous councils. Also, the pope appointed 27 new members to the Congregation for Divine Worship, changing the department through its personnel.

Yet the anglophone media has declared in scores of reports that Pope Francis’ struggles to “clean-up” the Vatican but is thwarted by his subordinates, often characterized as “conservatives.” (e.g. herehere, here, here) Continue reading

Pope Francis Granting Anti-Semitic Group Same Status as Opus Dei

In a March 3 homily, Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, confirmed that negotiations to reunite the SSPX with the Catholic Church were ongoing. “Full communion” would be “within a few months,” Vatican reporter, Andrea Tornielli, wrote the same day. Fellay “needs time to explain and to gain broad acceptance for the agreement among the Society,” he noted.

French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founded the traditionalist order of priests in 1970. He named them after Pope Pius X who, in 1907, described Modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies.”

The SSPX was declared “schismatic” in 1988 when Lefebvre ordained his own bishops without the approval of Pope John Paul II. All four of the new bishops incurred an “automatic” excommunication.

Anti-Semitism

The Simon Wiesenthal Center “condemned” Bishop Fellay for calling Jews “enemies of the Church” and asked the SSPX to renounce their anti-Semitic theology in January 2013.

Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013.

The Southern Poverty Law Center stated the SSPX “remains a font of anti-Semitic propaganda” in 2015. The SPLC had placed the SSPX on their “Hatewatch” list in 2009 because of the virulent anti-Semitism of its leaders.

Some of the Society’s members are “accused of anti-Semitism,” Germany’s international news, Deutsche Welle, noted in January 2016. Continue reading

List of Sexual Predators Protected by Pope Francis Grows and Grows

The Catholic Church has long been known for gut-wrenching sex abuse scandals. But this personal involvement by a pope is unprecedented.

____

Fr. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second Vatican trial after new evidence emerged against him as reported on Feb. 25.

The Vatican found the Italian priest guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing young boys and he was defrocked. But Inzoli is friends with Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio who “intervened on behalf of Inzoli and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to ‘a life of humility and prayer.’” Inzoli was later seen at a conference on the family.

In June 2016, a civil court convicted Inzoli of eight incidents of sexual violence between 2004 and 2008 against five children aged 12-16. Fifteen more crimes were barred by the statute of limitations. (Two out of three sexual assaults in the U.S. go unreported. An Australian report found a 33 year gap on average between the sexual abuse and the date reported.)

Inzoli was sentenced to four years and nine months. The Vatican had withheld information from their canonical trial from the civil prosecutors. “Of course, the pope could have allowed the Vatican to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired,” noted Michael Brendan Dougherty, senior correspondent at TheWeek.com.

The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be laicized (defrocked). Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry. At the same time, Francis also ordered three longtime staffers at the CDF dismissed, two of whom worked for the discipline section that handles sex abuse cases.

Dougherty wrote:

Pope Francis and his cardinal allies have been known to interfere with CDF’s judgments on abuse cases. This intervention has become so endemic to the system that cases of priestly abuse in Rome are now known to have two sets of distinctions. The first is guilty or innocent. The second is “with cardinal friends” or “without cardinal friends.”

____ Continue reading