Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

Pope Francis with children on Friday in Luque, Paraguay, the final leg of his Latin America trip. Andres Stapff/Reuters, via New York TimesPope Francis continues making headlines by marching to what is largely his own personal drum. In addition to his recent encyclical calling for action on global warming, he keeps finding ways to poke his nose into things a lot of people would rather he didn’t. During his trip to Latin America, as the New York Times reports, he did precisely that, by condemning capitalism in strong terms (WebCite cached article):

His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church [cached] during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

His apology for Church atrocities in Latin American during the colonial age have been a long time coming. The missionaries who arrived with the conquistadores and acted as their enforcers sometimes were a savage bunch. Which is why it’s odd that he pressed to canonize one of the more controversial among them (cached) — but at the moment that’s beside the point.

At any rate, it’s not the first time the Pope has made noises in this direction, and because of that, he’s already aroused the ire of American conservatives, who worship at the altar of Capitalism right alongside their Jesus. The first among them to weigh in on the Pope’s latest denunciation of capitalism was Rush Limbaugh, who as Media Matters reports — and provides audio — threw a fit over it (cached). Note that he managed to wedge Obama into his tirade, even though Obama had no relation to it whatsoever. Poor little Rushie has made a multi-decade career out of being sanctimoniously enraged that there are actually people in the world insolent enough to dare disagree with him on shit. He seems actually to think that no one on the planet is permitted to say or even think anything other than what he approves of. Expect more fierce Rightists, probably many of them, to agree with crybaby Rushie and go on self-righteous tirades of their own.

Photo credit: Andres Stapff/Reuters, via New York Times.

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Pope Francis talks about egoism and money during a meeting with the youths, in Turin, Italy, Sunday. (Luca Bruno/AP via CSM)My readers will already have heard about Laudato Si’, the encyclical Pope Francis released this week addressing climate change and economics (WebCite cached version). Media coverage of it, including that it was leaked a few days early (cached), and that Rightists have gone berserk over the Pope having dared support both environmentalism and (they think, erroneously) communism, has been addressed thoroughly enough that I saw no point in mentioning it here.

But the Pope continued to push buttons even after that incendiary encyclical. The Christian Science Monitor reports on his assessment of how the Holocaust was handled while it was underway over 70 years ago (cached):

Pope Francis on Sunday denounced what he calls the “great powers” of the world for failing to act when there was intelligence indicating Jews, Christians, homosexuals, and others were being transported to death camps in Europe during World War II.

He also decried the deaths of Christians in gulags in Russia under the Stalin dictatorship, which followed the war.…

“The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody,” Francis said, citing the death camp in Poland, and asked: “Why didn’t they bomb” those railroad routes?…

Lamenting the cynicism of world players in the 1930s and 1940s, Francis said: “the great powers divided up Europe like a cake.”

He also cited what he called the “great tragedy of Armenia.”

“In the last century, so many, millions, [of Armenians] died. But where were the great powers then? They were looking the other way,” the pope said.

The CSM goes on to explain, as I noted at the time, that the Pope had referred to the Armenian Genocide using that word, “genocide,” thus pissing off Turkey (which rather childishly and petulantly refuses to acknowledge what happened).

I may not be Pope Francis’s biggest fan, but I definitely appreciate his candor in this regard. For too long we’ve done a dance of making excuses for why the world’s regimes made little to no effort to intervene in Germany during the Holocaust, in spite of an awareness of what was going on. The Pope is correct when he points out that the Allies could very well have bombed certain railroads, and taken other measures, to interfere with the diabolical infrastructure by which the Holocaust was carried out. It’s convenient to counter with the excuse that there was a war on and Germany was heavily militarized, and it wouldn’t have been possible to completely destroy the Holocaust machinery — but they might have done something, and doing something would have been far better than doing nothing.

Of course, something that would be even better than the Pope being honest about how the Holocaust was handled, would be for him to release the Vatican’s records from that era. There’s been chatter that he might do so, given that as a Cardinal he’d supported doing so. Hopefully this might actually come to pass in my lifetime.

Photo credit: Luca Bruno/AP, via CSM.

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Ted CruzA few days ago the Faith & Freedom Coalition held a conference, and most of the GOP presidential candidates showed up to promise this Christofascist collective that they’ll be dutifully Christofascist presidents, if elected. This is normal stuff, so it hardly merits much notice.

One of those Christofascist candidates, however, used this event to announce that the rest of the field isn’t sufficiently Christofascist. And he added a claim that’s so preposterous and idiotic that I just can’t avoid remarking on it. As the National Journal reports, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz actually thinks Democrats want to enact “mandatory gay marriage” (WebCite cached article):

“More than a few Republicans, sadly, even more than a few Republicans running for president in 2016, chose that moment somehow to go rearrange their sock drawer,” Cruz said. “I’ll tell you this, I will never, ever, ever shy from standing up and defending the religious liberty of every American.”…

He said religious liberty is no longer a priority for both Republicans and Democrats. “The modern Democratic Party has decided their commitment to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any willingness to defend the First Amendment,” Cruz said.

Yes, folks, you read that right. Teddy thinks Democrats want to force each American to marry a gay partner. I mean, what else could “mandatory gay marriage” be? Isn’t that what the word “mandatory” means? How can he say that’s what Democrats want? If he or anyone else can offer any evidence this is Democrats’ goal, I’d love to know about it. But I suspect nothing of the sort is going on, and Teddy fabricated this notion in order to terrify his audience.

It’ll help to understand the truth about Ted Cruz. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a popular and fanatical preacher, and has preached dominionism, a Christian theocratic movement. His son Teddy is not much less extreme. Also, no one who belongs to the Faith & Freedom Coalition actually wants anyone other than themselves — i.e. conservative fundamentalist Christian white men — to have any “freedom” at all.

At any rate, the whole idea that gay marriage might become “mandatory” is so childish and laughable, it’s unbelievable that a sitting U.S. Senator would claim it’s coming. But Teddy did just that. Be afraid, folks … be very, very afraid.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in April 2015 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Jennifer Simonson | MPR NewsHere’s a follow-up to my last blog entry. Archbishop John Nienstedt is out, Religion News Service reports, as the head of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican on Monday (June 15) launched a major housecleaning of the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accepting the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt along with that of a top Nienstedt aide, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche.

The moves come a little over a week after authorities charged the archdiocese for failing to protect children from an abusive priest and days after Pope Francis unveiled the first-ever system [cached] for disciplining bishops who do not act against predator clerics.

As noted in the article, not only has Nienstedt had trouble dealing with allegation of abuse by his priests, including the possibility that someone on his staff may have destroyed evidence in a criminal case, he’s engaged in some questionable behaviors of his own.

Nienstedt’s resignation, therefore, has been a long time coming … too long, as it turns out. Although some have praised Pope Francis for this and other similar moves, the cold fact is that it’s too little, too late. The Pope finally got around to closing the barn door only after nearly all the horses got out.

The time for the R.C. Church to have taken strong and decisive action against abusive clergy and their enablers in the hierarchy, was a dozen years ago or so when the abuse had been known and the worldwide scandal really began to snowball, with various countries’ investigations coming in and demonstrating just how extensive it was. The abuse happened for decades — if not centuries — and by virtue of the hierarchy’s (until-recently) successful cover-ups and resistance to doing anything, a lot of the perpetrators and their enablers managed to evade punishment. For every cover-up artist like Nienstedt who’s now forced to resign, a dozen predecessors had already managed never to be held accountable for what they did. It’s a travesty — especially in an institution that claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet. The truth about them is that they wouldn’t know morality if smashed them in the face and knocked them out.

Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson / Minnesota Public Radio.

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St Paul Cathedral 2012Note: There’s been some news today about this archdiocese; see my next blog post for information.

The worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal continues slowly to churn out news stories, because the R.C. Church’s hierarchs continue covering up for abusive priests — years after they’d said they’d do a better job of policing them. The latest such story, as reported by the New York Times, comes out of Minnesota and involves an archdiocese, not a person, criminally charged with complicity (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

The charges [cached] and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say they were underage when a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them from 2008 to 2010.

The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese.

This case involves a catastrophic, consistent refusal to monitor and discipline Fr Wehmeyer, over the course of about 15 years or so. The archdiocese was repeatedly told about Wehmeyer’s antics, yet the abuse continued unabated. Wehmeyer finally was convicted in 2013 — not that the archdiocese did much to help bring that about.

At any rate, as this story explains, Fr Wehmeyer continued abusing kids in his care many years after the US R.C. bishops supposedly established a new “zero tolerance” policy, back in 2002. I guess “zero tolerance” must not mean what most of us think it means.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Newport Patch / Stain Below Jesus Painting in Newport Church Seen as a Sign from GodYet another miracle has the Ocean State all agog. This time it’s inside a church in Newport. The Providence Journal, among a number of media outlets, reports uncritically on a stain on the wall beneath a painting of the crucified Jesus (WebCite cached article):

For years, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church didn’t say much about the rust-colored stain running beneath the 12th Station of the Cross painting of Jesus.

Some never noticed it.

Others, without knowing what was causing the mark, didn’t want the 140-year-old Episcopal church to become a roadside curiosity or tabloid headline.

But this spring the church has turned a spotlight on the odd little stain, which in the right light appears to have trickled like blood directly from a painting of Jesus’ crucified feet onto the plaster of the church wall.

On Sunday, the Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey’s sermon addressed the “mysterious red mark,” suggesting that, whether of earthly or divine origins, it was evidence of Jesus’ presence in the church.

So this thing’s been there for no-one-knows-how-long, but suddenly — because the church’s minister mentioned it in a sermon — it became news? Why? I have no idea. I guess Rhode Island must have had a slow news day or something.

For the record, it looks to me as though it’s a rust stain from plumbing in the wall behind the painting or from the frame itself. Parishioners shouldn’t have to keep cleaning it up; instead, they should take down the painting, fix whatever causes this stain, clean the stain that’s already there, and paint over it. But why do I doubt they’ll do that, when this is attracting interest in their church?

The idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with his/her/its time than plant a rust streak in the wall beneath this painting, is just flat-out fucking ridiculous. I mean, seriously. S/he/it has an entire universe to run, fercryinoutloud. It’s arrogance of the highest order for this Newport church to presume to have this much of the Almighty’s attention. Besides, there are a lot better ways for the Christian God to make himself evident to people, than this, if s/he/it actually wished to make him/her/itself evident.

Photo credit: Newport Patch.

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PZI 02In a bit of news I don’t find surprising coming out of Pakistan — teeming as it is with sanctimoniously-enraged Islamofascist idiots — the head of one of that country’s political parties called on his country’s military to attack a class of people he views as terrible enemies. As the New Indian Express reports, the enemy he wants wiped out, are — rather unbelievably — women wearing jeans (WebCite cached article):

During a press conference at a local hotel in Islamabad, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman asked the Pakistani armed forces to launch a military operation against women wearing jeans all over Pakistan.

According to him, the immodesty of women is the cause behind earthquakes, inflation and other kinds of disasters.

Fazlur Rehman went on to say that a woman who is not covered like a ‘sack of flour’ is a mobile weapon of mass destruction for her state and that Pakistan has multitude of such nuclear missiles in all its major cities.

Rehman then blamed ‘immodest women’ for the Baluchistan crisis, lack of energy supply and the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan.

Rehman’s misogyny here is just another example of what I call “disaster theology,” which here in the ‘States is a pastime of the Religious Right, as I’ve blogged any number of times. It’s really a childish way of making a point.

Photo credit: Jason Staten, via Flickr.

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