Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Catholic Church’

Pope Francis – the future of the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis
Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/163k4lm

These are amazing times for the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI resigned due to his advanced age and declining health, making him the first pope to relinquish the papacy on his own accord since 1294.  He left the Church reeling in scandal, with pedophile priests molesting young parishioners, money laundering through the Vatican Bank, and a widening gap between the Church’s teachings and its parishioners’ beliefs on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and a female’s place in the hierarchy of the church. Benedict apparently believed that another Pope could better lead the Church through these scandalous and difficult times. Benedict was right.

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires and first Pope hailing from the Americas, was elected Supreme Pontiff. See, http://bit.ly/16VIYIs. His election was a bold move toward a new perspective as evidenced by the Pope’s extraordinary actions taken during his young papacy.

To combat the long-standing accusations that the Vatican bank engaged in tax evasion and money laundering, Pope Francis created a commission of inquiry to reform the bank, better harmonize the bank with the Church’s calling and eradicate the appearance of favor. The commission, which includes a female Harvard Law professor, reports directly to Pope Francis and has the power to obtain information without regard to the secrecy of the offices from which the information comes. See, http://bit.ly/18jrmqW.

In an attempt to align Church policy with international legal standards, Pope Francis dramatically changed Vatican law by issuing a decree making sexual violence against minors, including child molestation by priests and child pornography, a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison.  Importantly, the Pope extended the reach of the new law outside the Vatican, making it possible for both the Vatican and the country in which the crime occurred to indict the alleged child abuser. See, http://bit.ly/10P09HS; and  http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/11/19420382-pope-francis-targets-child-abuse-leaks-in-vatican-legal-reform?lite.

The Pope’s recognition that the Church was “obsessed” with homosexuality, abortion and contraception, that it “marginalized” gays, and that it needed “to find a new balance [or] the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” was also extraordinary. Http://nyti.ms/18dJO0s.  It was not necessarily a change in theology, but rather an unprecedented transformation of the discourse. We understood that a new day of inclusion and mercy had dawned when the Pope asked, “if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Http://news.yahoo.com/pope-says-gays-must-not-judged-marginalized-110838664.html and http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/455215/who-am-i-to-judge-pope-says-of-gay-priests.

We now have a Pope who will criticize his Church for putting dogma before love, who believes that his “Church …should be…the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” and who believes his Church has a mandate to serve the poor and oppressed. Pope Francis has washed the feet of prisoners, hugged disabled pilgrims and visited a refugee center. It is this Pope’s vision of the Catholic Church as a church of tolerance that is truly profound.  See, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/pope-bluntly-faults-churchs-focus-on-gays-and-abortion.html?pagewanted=all.

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The Two Faces of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has been beleaguered for a very long time, most recently in Milwaukee. For decades, victims of sexual abuse have claimed that the Church,

  • continued the employment of pedophile priests;
  • shielded them through reassignment;
  • permitted them to continue their sexually abusive behavior by failing to warn their new parishioners; and
  • protected the Church’s assets through various schemes, including, as alleged in Milwaukee, bankruptcy fraud, to prevent redress to the child victims.

Assuming the Church hierarchy is composed of holy and moral men rather than criminal co-conspirators, the Church’s response to its pedophile priests is bewildering to say the least, unless the hierarchy’s compassion is limitless. If the Church could find compassion for these “men of God” although they committed some of the more heinous crimes known to man, then surely the Church could find compassion for virtually every other situation. Unfortunately, the Church could not. See, http://nbcnews.to/12DEn67, http://bit.ly/15JPnVi, http://bit.ly/10Y0ZSM, and http://huff.to/17z205m.

The Church’s compassion was conspicuously absent from its decision to place Carie Charlesworth, a second-grade teacher at San Diego’s Holy Trinity School, and her four children, students at Holy Trinity, on “indefinite leave”. In light of the Church’s history of failing to fire sexual deviants, Ms. Charlesworth must have committed unspeakable acts to merit her and her children’s expulsion. Not so.

Ms. Charlesworth is the victim of her abusive husband’s domestic violence. Although the school stated, “at no time were the students or staff threatened or did Mr. Charlesworth gain access to [the] school grounds,” when Mr. Charlesworth appeared at the school parking lot, Ms. Charlesworth, apparently unlike the pedophile priests, became a danger to the Church’s children. As a result, the school felt compelled to fire her, as explained in the school’s termination letter.

 “In the interest of the safety of the students, faculty and parents at Holy Trinity School, we simply cannot allow you to return to work here, or, unfortunately, at any other school in the Diocese.”

Seehttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/13/carie-charlesworth-teacher-fired_n_3436716.html, http://bit.ly/148FeCr, http://bit.ly/16eFAFR, and http://bit.ly/123754y.

In firing Ms. Charlesworth and expelling her children, Holy Trinity School and the Catholic Church evidenced a callous disregard for the well-being of its teacher/parishioner and her family. At the least, a compassionate employer would understand that the loss of an abused and innocent woman’s livelihood because of her husband’s criminal behavior merely compounds her and her children’s victimization. They are victimized first by the abuse itself at the hands of her husband, and then by the firing at the hands of her employer.  At the least, a compassionate employer would also understand that the loss of a job could sever the lifeline needed to end the abuse. In the case of Carie Charlesworth, the Church was not such an employer.

In protecting its children, the Church has exhibited a two-faced approach – over-zealous compassion for its pedophile priests and cold-stone lack of compassion for the innocent, though abused, teacher and her children. The Church acted wrongly through both of its faces.

Cardinal of New York, then Archbishop of Milwaukee, Timothy Dolan
Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/12OIlKF

Haven’t the Jews been hated enough?

 

Martin Luther, who spent a lifetime reforming the Roman Catholic Church from what he perceived as its “false doctrines” and “ecclesiastic malpractice”, is the same man who said that “so thoroughly hopeless, mean, poisonous, and bedeviled a thing are the Jews that for 1400 years they have been, and continue to be, our plague, pestilence, and all that is our misfortune.” Luther’s words, though uttered in 16th century Germany, could have been expressed by Anti-Semites, both before and after him, around the world and throughout the millennia.

Jewish hatred and scapegoating, like blaming the Jews for the Black Death’s devastation of Europe in the mid-14th century, has led many societies to attempt to eradicate the Jewish people from their populations. There was the:

  • violence against the Jews of Ancient Greece and expulsion of the Jews from Ancient Rome;
  • 11th century Muslim pogroms against the Jews on the Iberian Peninsula;
  • Crusades starting in 1096 and continuing for centuries;
  • expulsion of Jews from England in 1290;
  • Spanish Inquisition;
  • massacres of Ukrainian Jews and the Russian pogroms;
  • Holocaust; and
  • exodus of the Jews from Muslim countries,

to name but a few examples.

See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism and http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Judaism-Western-Tradition-David-Nirenberg/dp/0393058247.

Some thought that the Nazi’s extinction of nearly entire Jewish populations was so repugnant that it would end Anti-Semitism once and for all. They were wrong. Twenty-first century Anti-Semitism is alive, well and occurring throughout the world, including in some of the least likeliest of places, such as: Malmo, Sweden; Toulouse, Paris and Marseilles France; Brussels, Belgium; Auckland, New Zealand; and Montreal, Canada. See, http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/23446/Default.aspx.

Notwithstanding their small numbers, the reality is that the Jews are and have been the likely targets to shoulder blame. The poor hate the Jews for being wealthy capitalists, and the rich hate the Jews for being communists. The Jews who maintain their own culture are hated for insulting the culture of the country in which they live, and the Jews who assimilate are hated for appropriating that culture. A Jew who is attacked and turns the other cheek is a coward, and a Jew who fights back is overreacting. See, Little Nemo, http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=404068.

The scapegoating of Jews has been particularly devastating to the Muslim population of the Middle East. Israel, accounting for one-sixth of one percent of the Middle East land with its 6 million Jews, is routinely blamed for the problems, both political and social, of the 300 million Muslims living there.   Http://www.masada2000.org/geography.html. Until recently, blaming the Jews was the easy answer that hid the root causes for many of the Muslim population’s significant problems, making it impossible to find meaningful solutions.

Today’s Anti-Semitism also includes the intellectually specious Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that attempt either to minimize the horrendous effects of the Holocaust on the Jewish population or to exclude Anti-Semitism as a causal factor in the Holocaust. Some, like Greta Berlin, the American director of the Free Gaza Movement, blame the genocide squarely on the Zionists who “operated the [Nazi] concentration camps” Others, like Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, charge that the Jews willingly murdered millions of their own to win world sympathy for the establishment of Israel. At the extreme, some will deny the very happening of the Holocaust itself. Http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/23446/Default.aspx.

Though satire, the Tom Lehrer song “National Brotherhood Week”, is disturbingly on point.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

The song would be laughable, if it wasn’t so true. See, http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Judaism-Western-Tradition-David-Nirenberg/dp/0393058247.

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

Yellow badge Star of David called “Judenstern”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Religious Intolerance – Deja Vous Again and Again

Intolerance in the name of God has been around for centuries. For example, between 1095 and 1291 and then to a lesser extent for the next three centuries, intensely pious and fanatical Roman Catholics, led by their Popes and with the cross as their standard, fought “Just” and “Holy” wars throughout Europe and the Middle East.  While forcefully converting whole nations to the Roman Catholic church, they killed, looted, tortured and raped Muslims, Jews, believers in the Eastern Orthodox religions and other “heretics” and pagans (believers in pre-Christian religions), throwing a significant portion of the world into the Dark Ages.  Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades and http://wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christian_thought_on_persecution_and_tolerance.

Today, from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania, Muslim fanatics emulate their crusading forebears. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has described their murder and torture as a “bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.” Http://thebea.st/11KT9YQ. We see the violence born of intolerance  in the vigilantism of radical Muslims attempting to establish Sharia in Nigeria. As a result, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has warned that “some of the greatest dangers to [Nigeria’s] democracy and freedom are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity and religious intolerance.” http://bit.ly/17VgzkK.  We see the violence born of intolerance in the Sunni Muslim government’s decades-long persecution of Sudanese Christians, culminating in the genocide at Darfur.

Although violent religious intolerance occurs for a variety of historical, political and cultural reasons, monotheistic teachings seem to play a role. The concept of the all-powerful, omniscient and omnipresent One True God means, for the fundamentalists, that all gods other than their god are false, that all holy books other than their holy book are bogus, and that all believers in religions other than their religion are damned for eternity. For the fanatical fundamentalists, it is one short step to the principle that only they, who follow the One True God, are moral, good, righteous and holy enough to inflict His vengeance on all believers in the “other”.  Seehttp://bit.ly/17KsGOw,   http://www.humanreligions.info/fundamentalism.html and http://www.humanreligions.info/violence_and_crime.html.

It is impossible to know with any certainty what Allah would think about the death and mayhem being committed in His name. From just two of the lessons of Muhammad, we can, however, make an educated guess. He taught that “the greatest crimes are to … murder your own species” and  “if people do you good, you will do good to them; and if they oppress you, you will not oppress them.” Fanatical believers have yet to learn some of the most basic lessons of the Prophet.

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Photo Courtesy of: http://www.mitchellteachers.org/WorldHistory/RiseofIslam/Crusades.html

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