Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Checking the rearview mirror before driving forward.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. As a professor of mine once observed: truisms are truism because they are true. Some employ this old adage dismissively as if it was a waste of time and effort to look back, especially at a failure. About one year ago, I was listening to an interview on the BBC, a journalist was speaking with a leading CEO and asking him about the question of failures in business. The CEO responded that in corporate culture, failures are either denied, they are blamed on some external cause or on someone else. He went on to say that this was a huge mistake. The truth is that we don't learn from our successes but rather, from our failures. If we deny that we made an error in judgement or, that we we acted on faulty information, we will never learn, we will never grow. As a Spanish philosopher noted, "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it." So, as we look back on this year, especially on the debacle of Proposition 8, what can we learn from our failures?

Perhaps the first and most important lesson is: Know who your friends are. Who helped us in our time of need? Who was there for us when our civil liberties were under attack? Who opened up their checkbooks and raised their voices on our behalf? Some of these companies and organizations are: Apple, PG&E, California Teachers Association, United Farm Workers and SEIU/United Healthcare Workers/West. We should remember and reward these companies and organizations with our support.

Equally important to review, is who worked against our civil rights. It is widely known that one of the largest contributors of funds for the "Yes on Prop 8" campaign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). But, what is less widely known is the fact that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco invited and encouraged the Mormons to become so involved in the Yes on 8 campaign. He had previously acted as the Bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah. Prior to this he served as a faculty member at St. John's Seminary and as a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This is particularly painful for me personally, not merely because I am a Catholic but, because Archbishop George Niederauer was my spiritual director for part of my years in the seminary. I have always thought highly of him and am very sadden by this revelation. I can only think that he acted out of blind loyalty to Benedict XVI. Having said this, it is important to distinguish between objective acts and subjective emotions. The act was damaging in the extreme and hurtful to the civil rights of Gay and Lesbian persons.

The brilliance of inviting the Mormons to become involved is twofold. First, they bankrolled a significant share of the costs for "yes on 8." Second, they take the PR body punch for having done so. The Catholic hierarchy of California donated only a small amount of the total funds, their proclamation on Prop. 8 was understated and almost apologetic. The Knights of Columbus anted up the lion's share of "Catholic" cash, thereby relieving the bishops of California financially and in PR fallout. In brief, it was brilliant. The Mormons shell out the cash, take the PR hit for having done so and the Catholic bishops sneak away whistling in the dark. After all, it was the Mormons and to a far lesser extent the Knights of Columbus who wrote the checks. Everything goes back to business as usual and the gays are kept down in their place. I think it is time to review the role of organized religious groups in political campaigns. It is one thing to express a view on various moral issues. It is quite something else to operate as a PAC (Political Action Committee).


Bill said...

Thank you for another revealing post. What do we need to do?

Fran said...

I am hollowed out with grief, rage and so much more.

I can't even say anything else right now.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding like an undereducated individual, I've decided to throw in my two cents this time after reading your blog for a very long time.

I absolutely agree with the final point in this post, Father. Granted, I know surprisingly little about the way the Catholic Church functions for someone who chose to attend a catholic college (since I'm not actually catholic). I am, however, a religion major who during this campaign became very...distraught over the role of religion in the campaign. Not to mention I am taking a "Religious Dimensions of Peace and Justice" class (which really ought to be renamed "Catholic dimensions of peace and justice" but that's another rant entirely...) and one of the things we read just before the election was Forming Consciences in Faithful Citizenship.

That document made me so angry that I wanted to throw it across the room. I decided to go to my teacher (an RSCJ) to discuss the issues I had with it (which were largely the two of the issues presented in the document itself) and all my teacher had to say was could I at least understand why the Catholic Church believed it had a right to publish something of that nature?

Given the issues with Prop 8, I really don't know why they do. It seems so hypocritical to me that human dignity and rights be at the forefront of everything the catholic bishops says in that document, and then to exclude some people (homosexuals) from having basic human rights and dignity. What gives?

As a bisexual, this is something really frightening to me. Are we less than human? Do we just not count when it comes to basic human rights and dignity? I just don't get it... How can they say that they believe everyone has the right equality and dignity and then take those rights away for a third of the population?

Sebastian said...

Don't forget that the USCCB directly contributed $200,000 in the waning days of the campaign.

I certainly agree with you on the PAC idea. When the bishops enter politics as political figures, they lose moral credibility. They also then should not be shocked that people respond to them as politicians, not as bishops. Let us not forget that bishop after bishop, in effect, campaigned for McCain. When they lost the Catholic vote despite this, they lost more than they can imagine in political clout and moral credibility. And even when they won the Proposition 8 vote, they lost more than they can imagine in moral credibility. In this sad tale, it is not the emperor who has no clothes, it is the bishops, ravenous politicians whose lamb's wool coverings they themselves ripped off.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Father Geoff for another great post. The Mormon church does play a huge role in all of this mess. Remember, this is the same group who was forced to renounce polygamy in 1896 in order to get Utah to join the Union.
I'm sorry--but a group who believes that a man named Joseph Smith woke up one morning to find 3 gold tablets buried under a tree in New York is indeed odd.
Did you know that another Mormon named James Jesse Strang declared himself a king and set up a colony on an island in Lake Michigan after a dispute with Joseph Smith. Check it out online.
Let's hope that they don't punish the football player Steve Young and his wife who put a NO on 8 sign in their yard.

IT said...

It is worth comparing the response of Abp Neiderauer here, who basically tells the gays shut up and get over it, with the sorrowful response of San Diego's Episcopal Bishop here.


Dusty in the San Joaquin said...

I agree totally. I personally think non profits should not be granted tax exemption if this practice continues.

SFbruiser said...

I was also surprised and saddened that Archbishop Niederaur sent the letter to the leadership of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Before that, he showed every sign of being a friend of GLBT Catholics.
Now I have learned that he sent the letter at the request of the California Catholic Conference, representing California bishops, and not of his own volition.
Nonetheless, he could have refused to sign the letter without harm to himself. Why he signed it anyway remains to answered.
So, as you say, be sure you know who your friends really are.

Mareczku said...

I am upset to learn that the Knights of Columbus donated over 1 million dollars for Proposition 8, why? With so much need, children in poverty, people losing jobs and houses, etc., is this the best use they could find for their money? It is hard for me too understand.

Mark from PA

James said...

You deserve and have the respect of millions of Americans. That is a great gift. The even greater gift is the one that you have given yourself; and that is Self Respect. Thank you so much for what you have done.

Jeff said...

Hi Father Geoff-

I really think this is your best post yet. The vote may be over, but it seems that your mission is just ramping up.

Thanks for all you do.

Anonymous said...

Father Geoff,
I read your blog from time to time, and I think that your story is fascinating, and heart-wrenching; and your words are sophisticated, intelligent, informative and well-spoken. Your stand is noble and inspiring. My comment isn't directly on point, but is triggered by your post.

I cannot help but be saddened every time I read about the "Catholics" and the "Mormons". I believe you are very careful with your phraseology, but what I continue to see 'out there' in there world is that people generalize everyone associated with these groups as being the 'bad guy' a 'supporter' etc. You posted a while back about ways that we could still contribute to our churches without necessarily contributing to Yes on 8 or the feelings/issues associated with it. I was so moved by that, that you were not lashing out against the entire church structure, but making a point to recognize that not all members of religious groups or any groups necessarily supported it, but people within them.

I am a firm believer that NO ONE knows the whole Truth, but Him! And I believe a lot of us are in for a rude awakening when He comes again.

It is my prayer that each of us stays strong in our stance to educate others in not only tolerance but acceptance of each as an individual and unique. (I am lacking in this in many areas.) Not all persons belonging to groups that support Yes on 8 are for it; just as not all people in the military are for the War. Please encourage others to understand and seek to understand.

a little out of place