Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nuns Weigh Response to Scathing Vatican Rebuke

The Pope sees differing beliefs as the work of "the enemy." Would that enemy be Satan? Has Satan flourished as democracy has grown in the world? No, obviously not. Democracy creates far more good than evil. I think the Pope and his close associates are a bit too fond of having arbitrary power.

I doubt that the Vatican will start respecting women any time soon.

I think the nuns should start a separate organization that does not answer to the Vatican.

Nuns Weigh Response to Scathing Vatican Rebuke
The New York Times
July 28, 2012

American nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting at which they will try to decide how to respond to a scathing critique of their doctrinal loyalty issued this spring by the Vatican — a report that has prompted Roman Catholics across the country to rally to the nuns’ defense.

The nuns will be weighing whether to cooperate with the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to supervise the overhaul of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of women’s Catholic religious orders in the United States.

The Leadership Conference says it is considering at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.

What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church’s hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.

Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference, said in an interview that the Vatican seems to regard questioning as defiance, while the sisters see it as a form of faithfulness.

“We have a differing perspective on obedience,” Sister Farrell said. “Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.”

These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large. Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the “signs of the times,” the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals.

The sisters have been caught in the riptide. Most of them have spent their lives serving the sick, the poor, children and immigrants — and not engaged in battles over theology. But when some sisters after Vatican II began to question church prohibitions on women serving as priests, artificial birth control or the acceptance of same-sex relationships, their religious orders did not shut down such discussion or treat it as apostasy. In fact, they have continued to insist on their right to debate and challenge church teaching, which has resulted in the Vatican’s reproof.

The former head of the church’s doctrinal office, Cardinal William J. Levada, said after his last meeting with the nuns’ leaders in June, just before he retired, that they should regard his office’s harsh assessment as “an invitation to obedience.”

“I admire religious men and women,” Cardinal Levada said in an interview with The National Catholic Reporter. “But if they aren’t people who believe and express the faith of the church, the doctrines of the church, then I think they’re misrepresenting who they are and who they ought to be.”

The sisters say they see no contradiction in embracing the Catholic faith while also being open to questioning certain church teachings based on new information or new experiences. The Leadership Conference has not taken a stand in favor of the ordination of women or the acceptance of gay relationships, but it has discussed such topics at its meetings. Members insist that open discussion of church doctrine is not only their right but is also healthy for the church.

They say their approach is no different from that of many Catholic priests and laypeople, not just those in the United States. As evidence, they cite messages of support they have received from Catholic religious orders of men and women all over Europe, Asia and Latin America — as well as in the United States.

“We make our vows, but our obedience isn’t blind,” said one mother superior, who, like others, did not want to be identified while the future of the Leadership Conference is in limbo. “Obedience comes from listening.”

Vatican II led to dramatic changes now taken for granted by many Catholics: allowing worship in local languages instead of only Latin, encouraging the participation of laypeople, and cooperating with other churches and faiths.

The council also approved a document, “Perfectae Caritatis” (“Perfect Love”), that instructed men and women in religious orders to study their orders’ founders and original sources, and use that inspiration to re-evaluate and renew their mission. The sisters say they took the instruction to heart.

“We were the ones who probably took Vatican II and ran the fastest and the farthest with it,” said Sister Janice Farnham, a retired professor of church history at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. “Sometimes our church leaders forget, we were tasked to do these things by the church. The church said jump, and we said, how high?

“The church said update, renew, go back to your sources, and we did it as best we could. We did it with a passion, and we paid dearly.”

The sisters after Vatican II had access as never before to higher education, and they went on to become scholars and theologians, chief executives of hospitals, legal aid lawyers, social workers and martyrs in countries like El Salvador. They took on issues including economic injustice, racism, women’s rights, immigration, interfaith relations and environmentalism — which for many years put them in collegial working relationships with bishops who were also engaged in those causes.

But the two popes who reigned for the last 34 years — first John Paul II and now Benedict XVI — appointed bishops who are far more theologically and politically conservative than their predecessors. Drawing on these popes’ teachings, this new generation of American bishops has steered the church’s social priorities toward opposition to abortion, gay marriage and secularism.

The Leadership Conference was a thorn in the Vatican’s side even before 1979, the year its president at the time, Sister Theresa Kane, welcomed John Paul to Washington with a public plea to ordain women in the priesthood. The group has remained unified despite pressure from the Vatican by making decisions only after consulting its membership. It is hardly the small splinter group that some conservative critics have recently tried to portray.

The disciplinary action against the nuns comes just as American bishops are struggling to reassert their authority with a wayward flock. The bishops are in the midst of a campaign to defend against what they see as serious threats to religious liberty — especially a government mandate to provide employees of Catholic institutions with health insurance that covers contraception. But the prelates are well aware of polls showing that about 95 percent of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives, and 52 percent support same-sex marriage — little different from the public at large.

The dissonance is of great concern to American bishops and the Vatican.

“The church must speak with one voice,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio to the United States, said in an address in June to American bishops at their meeting in Atlanta. “We all know that the fundamental tactic of the enemy is to show a church divided.”...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why Mitt screws up

Why Mitt screws up
Let's put Romney on the shrink's couch: His disastrous London gaffes reveal a deep-seated anxiety
July 28, 2012

People are asking, “What’s with Mitt Romney’s trip to the London Olympics?” He has made so many gaffes that the Daily Mail’s political editor asked, “Do we have a new Dubya on our hands?”

That question is most important for the American voter. What drove Dubya were anxiety and fear, much of which he masked with his tough-guy swagger and rhetoric – and with his disarming sense of humor. When asked direct questions by the press, however, Bush would often freeze like a deer in the headlights. His slips of the tongue became the stuff of talk-show hosts, magazine articles and even books.

Now we have Mitt Romney, the putative Republican candidate for president in the 2012 election. His gaffes are different from the 43rd president’s; they don’t involve mispronouncing words or frequently issuing nonsensical sentences. They are more social gaffes, ones that seem to be made without much thought – if any. Bush was trying to say things he couldn’t say. Romney is not trying to say anything in particular, other than answer questions or make comments when called upon to do so. In fact he is too casual, and what comes out is often carelessly hostile.

When Brian Williams asked him what he thought about the London games, Romney first tried to answer the question directly – something most politicians usually don’t do. He said, “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out.” He then began to talk about his own work running the 2002 SLC winter Olympics in what seemed like a canned response. What strikes me is the confidence with which he spoke and the remarkable lack of thought he exhibited. This has become a pattern for him, and not just on this trip. But it is more noticeable than before because he is largely left to his own devices, without prepared remarks that he could use in informal conversation.

That he was mocked and even rebuked by British leaders is less important to me than what lay beneath their criticism. Both the Mayor of London and the British Prime Minister commented separately about what they felt to be Romney’s insults regarding how Great Britain was running the games.

Psychoanalysts look for patterns of behavior and the meaning behind those patterns. But we also — especially in the case of public figures — look at the pressures brought to bear on the individual, both internally (what I do in my consulting room) and externally (social pressures that affect behavior). In Romney’s case, he is competing in his own Olympics against President Obama, who also happens to be the most internationally popular American leader in generations. So the pressure is on for him to prove himself.

Part of that pressure is self-generated, since a central component of Romney’s claim to greatness is that he ran the winter Olympics in 2002. Thus, he is under pressure to let people know that he can do it better – and he gave that impression in London. He has to prove to himself and others that he is indeed a superstar – especially since he knows he can’t touch Obama in a British popularity contest.

Salon’s Joan Walsh has remarked over the months about Romney’s seeming indifference to answering questions. His casualness led her to use the psychiatric term “dissociated” when describing his style. I think her observations are most trenchant, though it is hard for me to move into the territory of diagnosis.

But what is not hard to do is to think about what most likely motivates this behavior that puzzles so many in the media – including supporters who are frustrated with Romney’s unwillingness to disclose more of his tax returns. I think the force behind this behavior is massive anxiety, pure and simple. He is anxious about revealing who he is and about interacting with people he doesn’t know. He appears to have much less experience than Obama in interacting with people from all walks of life. Basically, he is uncomfortable except within his own family and in the presence of those who share his wealthy background and Mormon faith. There are many ways to defend against overwhelming anxiety, one of which is to act certain about every answer given.

What comes out besides this sense of smiling certainty are signs of anxious contempt toward others – whether it is how the British run their Games or saying that kids who can’t afford college should borrow money from their parents. Put together, these and many similar statements – his pleasure at firing people or his belief that corporations are people (is that why he can comfortably bankrupt some?) – are all evidence of a hostility not dissimilar to stories about his bullying of others during his prep school days. At this stage, I suspect Mitt Romney is too anxious to be an effective president.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An interesting ad from Ireland: you can take it either way

The text on the cup is pure, old-fashioned Orange, but the subtext is a bit subversive, since there has been surrender, and Rome is not in charge in Eire. This ad seems to have something for everyone. It also seems to be converting a partisan holiday into a celebration for natives as well as colonists--expropriating the day to some extent. Happy 12th of July!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arlington Diocese parishioners question need for fidelity oath

The Catholic Church got rid of purgatory about twenty-five years ago or so, but the hierarchy clearly still believes that hell is real. I would expect the reverse, considering the way Jesus looked at things. It would make sense for people to spend just the right amount of time paying for their sins, then go to heaven. But what do I know?

Also, when the article says Kathleen Riley is a fifth-generation Catholic, I think it is referring only to her family's time in America. With a name like Kathleen Riley, her family was most likely Catholic since the 5th century.

Arlington Diocese parishioners question need for fidelity oath
By Michelle Boorstein
July 11, 2012

Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.

A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.

Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.

Although the St. Ann’s teachers represent a tiny fraction of the diocese’s 5,000 Sunday and parochial school teachers, the letter went out to parishes just as classes were finishing for the summer and diocese officials says they do not know how many teachers have received it.

The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths. The oaths reflect a churchwide push in recent years to revive orthodoxy that has sharply divided Catholics.

Such oaths are not new for priests or nuns but extend now in some places to people like volunteer Sunday school teachers as well as workers at Catholic hospitals and parish offices.

One in Baker, Ore., reiterates the sinfulness of abortion and says, “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter.” One in Oakland, Calif., requires leaders of a group doing outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics to say they “affirm and believe” official church teaching on marriage, hell and chastity.

The Arlington “profession of faith” asks teachers to commit to “believe everything” the bishops characterize as divinely revealed, and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage. Critics consider the mandate a violation of religious freedom.

The Arlington Diocese is considered among the most conservative in the country and was the next to last in the nation to say girls could serve at the altar. Teachers must give the new oath in front of a priest.

“The church is foremost a communion, not a building,” said the Rev. Paul deLadurantaye, Arlington’s head of education and liturgy. “And the church’s teaching is meant to be a service, not to coerce or oppress. . . . This is just to say the church is a reliable guide, more reliable in these matters than what I read elsewhere. There’s something more transcendent than just my own judgment.”

Diocesan spokesman Michael Donohue said the letter was sent to parishes this spring in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s direction that churches worldwide celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II in various ways, including those that “profess our faith in the risen Lord.”...

The Scots-Irish of Appalachia love coal and poultry factories, prefer Texas inmate to Obama

What’s eating Appalachia?
Many Democrats in the region seem to hate their president
The Economist
Jul 7th 2012

A.J. WADE, a lifelong Democrat and one of three elected commissioners who run Hardy County in West Virginia, fiddles with his bolo tie as he tries to explain the results of his party’s presidential primary, back in May. “People here”, he says, “would have voted for Mickey Mouse if he’d been on the ballot.” The fictional rodent was not running, however, so they ended up supporting a much less appealing candidate: Keith Judd, a convict serving a 17-year sentence for extortion in a Texan jail. Mr Judd won 58% of the vote in Hardy County to Barack Obama’s 42%.

Mr Judd’s victory was not a freak result: Democrats in a further nine counties in West Virginia judged a resident of the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana a better standard-bearer for their party than the current occupant of the White House. Mr Obama did win the state overall, but not exactly resoundingly: Mr Judd took 41% of the vote, enough to secure at least one delegate to the party’s national convention in September if any had registered on his behalf (none did).

Mr Obama suffered a similar rebuke in neighbouring Kentucky, where 41% of Democrats ticked a box labelled “uncommitted” rather than endorse the president’s re-election bid. He has never had much of a following in Appalachia: Hillary Clinton thumped him in the primaries in the region in 2008. At the general election that year, even as the rest of the country swung to the left, a crescent of counties astride the Appalachian range, from south-western Pennsylvania to north-eastern Mississippi, moved in the opposite direction. Late last year Gallup put Mr Obama’s approval rating in West Virginia, a state with almost twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, at 33%. The president is so unpopular that the two most senior Democrats in the state on the ballot this year, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Joe Manchin, both refuse to say they will vote for him.

Asked what has got West Virginia’s goat, Shelley Moore Capito, who represents Hardy County in Congress, mentions onerous regulation—a familiar refrain among her fellow Republicans. The county is a big poultry producer, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accused several chicken and turkey farmers in the area of polluting water that will eventually find its way into Chesapeake Bay. In the rest of the state, coal is king and the EPA is seen as committing regicide. It has withheld permits for coal mines, tightened pollution controls for power plants that use coal, and is in the process of drafting regulations on greenhouse gases. To distance himself from such policies when running for the Senate in 2010, Mr Manchin produced an ad in which he took a rifle to a proposed climate-change bill.

But West Virginia’s distaste for the president, Mrs Capito argues, is “more than just a policy disagreement—it’s at the core of who we are.” The meddling bureaucracy of the EPA, she says, suggests a worrying disrespect for property rights, while Mr Obama’s enthusiasm for issuing debt offends thrifty locals. Jim Webb, a senator from neighbouring Virginia, has noted that much of the population of Appalachia is of Scots-Irish descent. Such voters, he says, often feel snubbed by Democrats who set little store by their “guns and religion”, as Mr Obama once memorably put it. (This may help to explain the president’s poor showing in primaries in Arkansas and Oklahoma, which also have big Scots-Irish populations.)...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Nun On The Bus: Catholic Sisters Tour Concludes In Washington, D.C.

Nun On The Bus: Catholic Sisters Tour Concludes In Washington, D.C.
Religion News Service
By Chris Lisee

WASHINGTON (RNS) A group of Catholic nuns ended its nine-state bus tour here Monday (July 2), speaking out against a Republican federal budget proposal they say favors wealthy Americans at the expense of poor families.

Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the "Nuns on the Bus" rejected the budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which it called "immoral" and "unpatriotic."

Ryan's budget "rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That's wrong," said Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.

Nuns on the Bus claims that the Ryan budget would raise taxes on low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and corporations, push families into poverty, and kick 8 million people off of food stamps.

Ryan previously defended his budget cuts by saying they were informed by his Catholic faith.

"Many politicians offer deeply flawed theological justifications for the federal budget. They ought to get some theological help," Campbell said.

She rejected the argument that aid programs create dependence. "Food stamps create not complacency, but opportunity," she said.

The two-week, 2,700-mile tour concluded with a prayer service and press conference on Capitol Hill.

The nuns have been compared by some to rock stars, greeted by screaming fans holding signs and wearing commemorative T-shirts. That was also the scene outside the United Methodist Building on Monday as scores of attendees cheered the arriving bus.

"Nuns on the bus speak for not just Catholics, not for Christians only, not for Jews. They speak for all of us," said Sayyid Sayeed, national interfaith director of the Islamic Society of North America.

With the Capitol building in view, speakers at the event argued that they have a plan that offers a moral alternative to partisan gridlock.

Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, a lobbyist for Network, said a proposal crafted by an interfaith group, the "Faithful Budget," is a moral alternative informed by religious ideas.

"Religion is your core, and we worked with our core ideas for the common good," Lacy said. "It was hard, but we worked it out. All we're saying is that's what we want Congress to do."

Network and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious were subject to recent disciplinary action by the Vatican over doctrinal issues, including support of President Obama's health care reform...