Sunday, July 18, 2010

Argentina joins growing list of nations to legalize same sex marriage.

England and Spain had radically differing attitude concerning their colonies. England viewed its colonies as a dumping ground for its social refuse. Prisoners condemned of capital crimes (death penalty) were given a choice between death or transport (to the colonies). Spain insisted on the religious orthodoxy of its colonists in the New World. England was happy to send fanatics who refused to accept the Church of England, to its colonies. In Spain you could purchase books that were considered too risqué or doctrinally questionable in Spain’s colonies. Essentially, Spain was attempting to create a “purified” version of Spain overseas.

Argentina, in particular, enjoyed a reputation for being a stalwart of Catholicism. It was not until the end of the last century that divorce was legalized in Argentina. One day after Bastille Day, 14 July when Louis XVI lost control of France, Benedict XVI lost control over Argentina. Argentina joined Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and many other nations in granting full civil rights to same sex couples.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

NEW and IMPROVED Canon (Church) Law

The former Soviet satellite Republics of Eastern Europe had some of the most enlightened and beautifully written Constitutions. However, the difficulty was that members of the Communist Party were considered the “Vanguard” of society that was leading the rest of the population forward towards Marx’s Communist utopia. Communist Party members therefore, enjoyed many special privileges in order to assist them in leading society. These ranged from better housing, medical care, to special treatment by the state legal establishment. Those wonderful Constitutions remained abstract ideals that were only selectively enforced at the discretion of the Party.

That pretty much sums up what “Canon law” is to the Catholic Church. When Cardinal Octaviani informed the late pontiff John XXIII that something the pope wanted to do was a violation of canon law, the pope quipped, “I am canon law.” The whole idea of a separate law code for the Church (clergy) distinct from the civil law goes back to a time when this was legally recognized by monarchical heads of state. There was the civil forum and the ecclesiastical forum in nations where Catholicism was the State Religion.

With the Protestant reformation, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, such notions became increasingly archaic. In the light of the international Cover-Up scandal that has swept over four continents, the term “archaic” becomes understatement. Consider the following article:

As part of the most significant overhaul of canon law in nine years, church officials increased the statute of limitations on abuse cases from 10 years to 20 beyond the victim's 18th birthday, with possible extensions for victims who come forward later in life.

In addition, the abuse of a "developmentally disabled" adult would be treated the same as the abuse of a minor, and the possession or distribution of child pornography was added as an official crime against church law.

"This gives a signal that we are very, very serious in our commitment to promote safe environments and to offer an adequate response to abuse," Scicluna said. "If more changes are needed, they will be made."
But David Clohessy, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, dismissed the rules as mere "window dressing" because they do not punish bishops who protected or transferred known abusers.

"Tweaking existing church policies won't have real impact on bishops' behavior and won't make the changes that kids need to be safe," he said. [FULL STORY]

As the director of SNAP accurately points out the new code of canon law fails to punish bishops who protected or transferred, know abusers. Sadly, there will always be pedophiles, murders and rapists in society despite the best efforts of legislators and law enforcement. What is particularly disturbing about pedophile priests is that their superiors acted to cover-up the incidences of pedophilia.

Imagine if a Superintendent of a school district acted like a bishop. Imagine if he/she transferred pedophile teachers from school to school. Imagine if the Superintendent came to legal settlements with parents/guardians that required silence on the part of the victim/parents. The real scandal here is the Cover-Up, wherein supervisors (bishops/religious superiors) had knowledge of these criminal acts and failed to protect the victims. Furthermore, by covering up the crimes, they facilitated future crimes and became de facto accomplices to those crimes.

On this critical point, the hierarchy is unwilling to change anything. They are happy to throw priests to the lions; however, bishops remain immune from all consequence for what is arguably the greater offense in this tragedy. This not only constitutes a miscarriage of justice for past abuse, but it quietly encourages future abuse. As those late night ads on television say, “But wait! There’s more!”

In the above-cited article from Reuters News Service is this little gem: “U.S. Catholic bishops on Thursday (July 15) defended the Vatican's decision to include the ordination of women with the sexual abuse of children in a long-awaited revision of the church's most serious crimes.” Holy non-sequitur Batman! What does ordination of women possibly have to do with pedophilia and the Cover-Up scandal? The answer is the hierarchy, their power and their privileged position.

Sadly, they have become more concerned with adoring Christ than living out the truths he taught. They have seen the Church as an institution to be governed and guided; rather than as the prophetic voice of liberation and instrument of charity which her founder intended.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Censorship 21st century style

On September 30th, 1452 Johann Gutenberg sparked a revolution when he invented the printing press. Up until that invention books were painstakingly copied by hand. In Europe this was done by monastic communities and it effectively gave the Catholic church the power of censorship. With Gutenberg’s invention of movable type printing, books could be reproduced quickly and cheaply. More importantly anyone with a printing press could publish books, or leaflets.

The Renaissance had replaced a theocentric understanding of society with a humanist understanding of the social order. The printing press gave a voice to philosophers and the newly emerging merchant class that would probably otherwise have been denied to them. The result was a changing social order in Europe. In a real sense both the American and French Revolution would probably never have occurred if it were not for Gutenberg’s invention.

The recent invention and proliferation of the internet has the potential to accomplish in our age what Gutenberg’s invention accomplished in his age. This is a lesson that has not been lost on the leadership of the People’s Republic of China, Islamic governments and even perhaps our own.

Efforts to combat the "defamation of religions" have been successful for over a decade in a campaign led by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries around the world. The "defamation of religions" concept empowers the state to decide what is and is not permissible religious speech.

The OIC is not alone in this battle. There is an ideological congruency between these defenders of civil religious canons and advocates of political correctness. Thanks to this partnership, a U.N. committee in Geneva will consider in November an international treaty proposal from Pakistan that would "prohibit insults to religion."

Advocates of political correctness at the U.N. claim to protect minorities via greater speech restrictions. Yet by advocating for government suppression of speech, they are actually facilitating the persecution of the same people they seek to protect. Take for example the egregious attack on two Ahmadiyya mosques last month in Pakistan. On May 28th, Islamist militants armed with guns, grenades, and suicide bombs attacked these mosques in central Pakistan, leaving over a hundred wounded with 94 dead. The attack was not an isolated event. The Ahmadiyya community has been subject to discrimination in Pakistan for decades, owing in part to the country's blasphemy laws, which forbids Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim, proselytizing their faith, "or in any manner whatsoever outrag[ing] the religious feelings of Muslims." Section 298C of the Penal Code punishes such offenses with a fine and up to three years imprisonment.

While in some cases blasphemy laws were originally enacted to control public disorder, as applied, they not only lead to such disorder, but also help justify and exacerbate it. Such laws affect customary law -- the so-called "law of the streets" -- and create a culture of impunity where private citizens are often left without state protection against extremists or other criminals manipulating broad blasphemy provisions.

Like Machiavelli, the countries applying his approach to religion rely on the end goal of absolute state power. What they fail to realize, however, is that restrictions on conscientious expression, like the internet censorship that is proliferating around the world, deny men and women their inalienable right to conscience and belief -- a problem in itself, but also contrary to the state's interests because it exacerbates public disorder and legitimizes violence. [FULL ARTICLE]

The West is not immune from this desire to control what people can read and think. A Jesuit priest, Father James Martin makes the following observations regarding the current reality within the Catholic Church:

Today in the Catholic Church almost any disagreement to almost any degree with almost any church leader on almost any topic is seen as dissent. And I'm not speaking about the essentials of the faith -- those elements contained in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed -- but about less essential topics. Even on those topics -- for example, the proper strategy for bishops to deal with Catholic politicians at odds with church teaching, the new translations of the Mass, the best way for priests to address complicated moral issues, and so on -- the slightest whiff of disagreement is confused with disloyalty.
Certainly disagreement with statements from Rome, even on non-dogmatic or non-doctrinal matters, is seen as close to heresy.

What does this engender? It engenders a fear-based church. It creates clergy and members of religious orders frightened of speaking out, terrified of reflecting on complicated questions, and nervous about proposing creative solutions to new problems. It leads to the laity, with boundless experience on almost every topic but who have a hard enough time getting their voice heard, giving up. It causes the diminution of a thoughtful theological community in Catholic colleges and universities. It muzzles what should be a vibrant, flourishing, provocative, innovative, challenging Catholic press. It empowers minuscule cadres of self-appointed watchdogs, whose malign voices are magnified by the blogosphere, and who, with little to no theological background, freely declare any sort of disagreement as tantamount to inciting schism -- and are listened to by those in authority. It creates fear.

Does this seem like what Jesus wanted to establish on earth? It doesn't to me. I thought he said "Fear not!" And I thought St. John said, "There is no fear in love." And "Perfect love casts out fear." But perfect fear casts out love. [FULL ARTICLE]

So what does all of this mean to you? It means that we stand at a crossroads and have to make a choice. Either we preserve freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, or we permit authoritarian leaders to take these away from us. Either you stand up for civil rights and human dignity, or you surrender these for the security and comforts of slavery. Winston Churchill famously quipped “Those who exchange freedom for security and peace deserve neither.