Posts Tagged “roman catholic church”

Over the past 6 to 8 months or so the Roman Catholic Church has become increasingly interested in exercising political power. It’s something I’ve blogged about before, and in my home state of Connecticut, appears to be accelerating. This is in spite of the RC Church’s prior policy of non-involvement in secular affairs.

This time the Catholic Church in Connecticut demands — if you can believe it — a religious right to discriminate agains gays, specifically gays who marry, as the Hartford Courant reports:

Concerned that the state’s new same-sex marriage law would infringe on religious liberties, the Connecticut Catholic Conference today proposed some broad exemptions which it believes are necessary to protect those rights.

The law does not require Catholic priests — or any other clergy member — to preside over same-sex weddings.

However, the church is seeking additional exemptions. For instance, it wants to ensure that a florist opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds not be forced to sell flowers to a same-sex couple.

“Same-sex couples have their liberties protected fully. Religious people are wondering ‘how is this going to effect me?”‘ David Reynolds, lobbyist for the Catholic Church, told members of the legislature’s judiciary committee.

Their logic here is bizarre. They’re actually demanding the ability for businesses to discriminate against gays, as an expression of religious worship!

If the situation were different — say, a member of a white-supremacist church were a florist, would he have the “right” to refuse to wait on African-Americans?

The answer — according to federal civil-rights laws and court interpretations — is no. There is no “religious freedom” exception to racial discrimination.

Why then should there be a “religious freedom” exception allowing people to refuse to serve gays?

The assumption by Connecticut’s bishops that they are entitled to force the state to enact legislation which accords with Catholic doctrine, is disturbing. A long time ago — 1302, to be exact — there was a Pope, Boniface VIII, who decided he had the right to control all of Europe’s secular states and order them as he wished. Toward that end he issued the bull Unam sanctam, which declared the papacy to be the ultimate authority, even above the monarchs and sovereigns. While he believed it would settle matters in his favor and make him the “Lord High Emperor of all Christendom,” the results turned out to have been quite different. The monarchs could not let such a precedent stand, and one of them, Philip IV of France, did something about it; he had Boniface briefly imprisoned. The Pope was released but died shortly after, apparently of shock and outrage over having been captured.

Quite literally, Boniface could not handle being anything less than the Supreme Ruler of the World.

He has, since his demise, been viewed as having gone too far in his attempt to seize power over Europe. Even some of the most ardent proponents of Catholicism agree on this point. His papacy has been an object lesson in how not to conduct oneself as Pope.

The bishops of Connecticut, however, appear not to accept this any longer. They seem to believe they are entitled to control the state government, like puppetmasters — in just the way that Boniface VIII believed he had a right to control Europe’s monarchs.

How foolish and asinine! It’s not going to work. The bishops’ lobbying on behalf of ballot question number 1 in 2008 failed — miserably. I doubt that their standing up for the right to discriminate on religious grounds, will go very far; it certainly doesn’t make them look very Christian. They’re really just acting like children and ought to grow up.

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The Religious Right has gone into a frenzy over the nomination of of Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius to Obama’s cabinet, to head up Health and Human Services. As CNN reports, they have not yet forgiven her for having vetoed Republican-promoted legislation which would have made abortion difficult in Kansas:

“Sebelius’ support for abortion is so far off the charts that she has been publicly criticized by the last three archbishops of Kansas City,” [head of the Catholic League Bill] Donohue said in a statement. …

In May, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said that Sebelius’ stance on abortion had “grave spiritual and moral consequences.” He asked that Sebelius no longer receive Communion until she repudiated her stance and made a “worthy sacramental confession.”

Naumann was reacting to Sebelius’ veto of state Senate Bill 389 and the subsequent House version, titled the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act, either of which would have tightened abortion regulations in Kansas.

In shooting down SB 389 in April, Sebelius wrote that the bill was problematic because it included no exceptions for pregnancies that endanger a woman’s life and it allowed for individuals to seek court orders preventing a woman from obtaining an abortion, even if the procedure was necessary to save her life.

“I am concerned that the bill is likely unconstitutional, or even worse, endangers the lives of women,” Sebelius said in a statement.

She further said that Kansas had striven to lower its abortion rates through adoption incentives, extended health services for pregnant women, sex education and support services for families.

I’m not quite sure why these advocates of the Catholic Church believe that the secular government is required to operate only inside the borders of Roman Catholic doctrine. After all, we’re not living in the Middle Ages when the papal bull Unam sanctam was issued. The Catholic Church does not run the country, nor should it. Why Bill Donohue and a Catholic archbishop are assuming authority over the US government, I don’t know.

Donohue is a miserable creature in any event; he’s spouted off maliciously on any number of topics … have a look if you care to hear anything this creature has had to say. The other usual suspects, such as Focus on the Family and Operation Rescue, are also foaming at the mouth over Sebelius’s nomination to HHS.

But the CNN report goes on to say that some Catholic conservative politicians (e.g. former US Senator from Kansas, Sam Brownback) are not against this nomination. What’s more, some progressive Catholic groups are speaking out in opposition to Donohue, as US News & World Report explains:

[T]he first faith-based political outfit to respond to word of Sebelius’s nomination was the progressive Catholic organization Catholics United, which E-mailed reporters on Saturday explaining why “Catholics Applaud Nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary.” The group, founded after the 2004 election, also launched a new Catholics for Sebelius website.

I’ll be interested to see if these progressive advocates are able to put a drag on the Religious Right’s efforts to keep Sebelius out of the Cabinet.

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The Vatican is still smarting over its support for the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson and is still highly sensitive to any criticism over the matter. A parody on Israeli TV has sparked outrage from the Holy See, because like little children, they cannot take what their own minions dish out (as reported by the AP):

The Vatican said Friday it has formally complained to the Israeli government about a private Israeli TV show that ridiculed Jesus and Mary in an “offensive act of intolerance.”

In Israel, the television station assured the Israeli foreign ministry that the segment would not be shown again and that its host, well-known Israeli comedian Lior Shlein, had apologized.

In the program, Shlein sarcastically denied Christian traditions — that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water — saying he was doing so as a “lesson” to Christians who deny the Holocaust.

It was a reference to the Vatican’s recent lifting of the excommunication of a bishop who denied 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. The rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jews.

Now that it is willingly harboring a known Holocaust denier, the Vatican is hardly in any position to whine about anyone else’s “intolerance.” Of course, the Pope could have demonstrated that he took the matter of Williamson’s Holocaust-denial seriously, by firing or re-excommunicating him … but to date he has refused.

Note to Benedict XVI: Turnabout is fair play. Deal with it … or not. The choice is yours.

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Conservative columnist Rod Dreher wrote a piece for USA Today’s “On Religion” blog which is about as reprehensible a piece of journalism as I have ever seen. He actually believes that, because knowing the truth about a religious organization can break its followers’ faith, it is best for them to know nothing about that group’s corruption (in the piece, he speaks here of Father Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest who vociferously defended his Church over its cover-up of the priestly-pedophilia scandal some years ago):

The details of the Catholic sex abuse scandal nearly destroyed my Christian faith. In a painful spiritual epiphany, I learned that the whole truth does not always deliver a greater good. …

Are there things people don’t need to know? I do not believe Father Neuhaus was a cynic; he really did believe that there were certain things that ought to be concealed from the public for the greater good. And though it might be heresy for a journalist to say, as a matter of general principle, I agree with him.

Here is the comment I posted, in response, on that blog entry:

It is staggering that a journalist could actually argue that an active cover-up of definitely-immoral and possibly-illegal activity, within a large multinational organization — with complicity going on at all levels of said organization — is actually a good thing.

Sorry but I do not get it. Dreher needs to resign as a journalist and never work in that field again, if he truly believes this. Moreover, any religion that demands its believers never question it — as Dreher believes the Catholic Church requires, and which he believes to be a spiritual benefit to its followers — is not one to which any moral human being ought belong.

It’s absolutely pathetic the depths people will dive into, in order to maintain and rationalize their religious beliefs. If religiosity can overcome a journalist’s own desire to uncover the truth of human affairs, then it is something that humanity can and must reject and learn to do without. Immediately.

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The government of Argentina has looked into the raving lunatic Bishop Richard Williamson, and decided he no longer should be in their country, as CNN reports:

Bishop Richard Williamson, who last month denied the existence of the Holocaust in an interview with Swedish television, was ordered Thursday to leave Argentina within 10 days, the Ministry of Interior said.

“The bishop has repeatedly forged the true motive for his stay in the country, having declared that he is an employee of ‘La Tradicion’ Civil Society when, in reality, his true activity was as priest and seminary director of the Society of Saint Pius X in the neighborhood of Moreno,” Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said in a written statement. …

“Williamson has had public notoriety following his anti-Semitic statements to Swedish media in which he questioned whether Jewish people were victims of the Holocaust,” Randazzo continued.

“For these reasons, along with the strong condemnation from the Argentine government of how statements like these harm Argentine society, the Jewish community, and all of humanity by trying to deny a historic truth, the national government has decided to demand that the Bishop leave the country or be expelled.”

Please note the initial reason given for Williamson’s expulsion: that he had come to Argentina under false pretenses. How nice of a Catholic bishop — someone whose morals, ethics and conduct should be above reproach — to have defrauded a country in his immigration papers. I’m not quite sure why a Catholic cleric, even an excommunicated one, would have needed to conceal his affiliation in a Latin American country, since the Roman Catholic Church has a massive presence in that part of the world, and lots of controversial clerics live there. It might have made more sense, had he done so in a country hostile to the Catholic church or to religious folks generally, such as China.

Given no apparent reason for his dishonesty, one must again wonder what it is that the Vatican sees in Williamson.

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The Disney company is a worldwide corporation which is highly visible, and thus subject to condemnation … in the same way that other large, visible companies like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are also constantly attacked. So I suppose this latest hue and cry against Disney is not unexpected, but it did seem a bit odd to me:

A British Catholic cleric says the Walt Disney Co. is corrupting the minds of children by making its products irresistible.

Abbot of Worth Christopher Jamison said Disney has created a child pilgrimage site out of Disney World and used spirituality to market its various products, The [UK] Daily Telegraph reported. …

The cleric said by using a marketing campaign that alludes to some higher meaning to the Disney brand, the global company is misusing spirituality.

“This is basically the commercial exploitation of spirituality,” Jamison told the Telegraph.

Disney has been attacked on religious grounds before, but not usually because of its influence over kids. For example, 10 years ago, Marion “Pat” Robertson famously condemned Disney for having a gay-pride day at Disney World, and issued a stark warning to the people of Orlando Florida (the closest large city to Disney World) that God would assail them over it:

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those [gay-pride] flags in God’s face if I were you,” Robertson said Monday on his TV show, “The 700 Club.”

Robertson also said the widespread practice of homosexuality “will bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”

(Of course, I need not point out that none of Patty’s promised calamities ever materialized. Not one.)

Many Catholic clerics have become rather strident in the last few words, involving themselves in politics and becoming more and more outspoken on many issues (such as the pro-life movement) at the expense of others (the Iraq War, which the Vatican has consistently condemned, but which the American Catholic Church — curiously — refuses ever to mention). So I thought, perhaps this abbot is getting worked up because of this growing Catholic political activism.

But then I read on, to the end of the story, which revealed his true motive:

The newspaper said Jamison offers families advice on how to live a simpler life in his new book, “Finding Happiness.”

The abbot is selling a book, that’s what this is all about … he’s trying to get a little bit of PR and maybe some additional sales.

How utterly cheap of a Catholic cleric, to be shilling for his own book and grubbing for sales.

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I’m not sure when things changed. But for at least a couple of decades after II Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church had been less politically-involved. And this policy was world-wide. Priests, for example, were forbidden to hold political offices. Of course, in the US, the Catholic Church is under IRS regulations that forbid it to be politically-active, which adds another layer of suppression to its political meddling.

But things have changed recently. In the last few years American Catholic bishops and activist groups (such as the Catholic League) have been taking orders from the Religious Right; it’s been meddling in politics increasingly.

Here in Connecticut the state’s bishops actively lobbied in favor of question 1 on the state’s 2008 ballot (concerning a constitutional convention). I really am not sure of the legality of this. I suppose they had lawyers review and approve it, but let’s be honest, they purposely skated the edge of the law in order to do so. How ethical is that … especially in an organization that claims to be an arbiter of morals and ethics?

Now comes word that a South Carolina priest has declared Obama voters ineligible for communion unless they first do penance for their “sin”:

A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him “constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil.” …

“Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.”

Claiming that voting for a pro-choice candidate is “evil” and contrary to Catholic doctrine, is effectively the same thing as endorsing that candidate’s rival — something which is forbidden by federal law (unless the priest wants to forfeit his parish’s non-profit status, which is fine by me but probably not his superiors or parishioners).

The alliance between the Catholic Church and the Religious Right — which is overwhelmingly Protestant evangelical and therefore anti-Catholic — is disturbing. I don’t see how or why America’s bishops and other Catholic activists think it’s a good idea to ally with one’s doctrinal foes, but they do. Unfortunately by marching in lock-step with these folk, they’re granting political influence to dominionism, a movement which — if successful — would have no reservations about outlawing Catholicism. Not all of the Religious Right are dominionists, that’s true … but the dominionist faction within that movement is very influential as well as politically-connected, and any power which accrues generally to the R.R. enhances the dominionsts’ influence as well.

In short, the Catholic Church in the US could very well be engineering its own destruction.

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