Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Governor Jan Brewer, invokes God for discrimination.

Arizona has a new immigration law to stop illegal immigration. If you seriously want to stop all illegal immigration immediately, simply have the IRS seize the financial assets of any employer/business that hires undocumented workers. Now stop and consider the other effects/consequences of doing that. The reality is that business and consumers profit from undocumented workers and they do not want their profits touched by a too tight boarder.

I lived and worked in the Central Valley of California for 23 years. In the summer months, the temperature soars into triple digits. You will find workers from Mexico and Central America hunched over in fields picking crops under a scorching sun. They work for a fraction of what American workers would be paid. Think about that the next time you go to the produce section of your supermarket. What do you think that head of lettuce, or a bunch of grapes would cost you if it were picked by people earning just wages? Is this work that you would be willing to do? Is it work that you would want your high school/college age children & grandchildren doing?

Until the United Farm Workers unionized the workers and fought for decent working conditions, there were no toilet facilities made available to field workers. Drinking water was also not provided. Do you think that such working conditions are fair and just? Would you be willing to work under such conditions? Would you be willing to work under those conditions and be paid what these “illegal” workers are paid?

I have served many of these workers for years. They work extremely hard, they love their families and many of them send funds back home to help support parents and children. They suffer discrimination, bigotry and are often deceived and taken advantage of by employers and “upright citizens.” To demonize human beings who are simply trying to provide for themselves and their family through honest work is morally wrong.

I worked on Skid Row in Los Angeles for a year. I still recall vividly the anguish of a family whose mother was arrested in a garment sweatshop. The woman was a seamstress, the shop that employed her was raided by the INS. The workers were arrested and deported that day. Her children came home that afternoon to an empty house. It took the woman 24 hours before she was able to contact her kids from Mexico. Pause for one moment and ask yourself how you would feel if that happened to your mom. How would you perceive America? Thousands of women like her work in LA’s garment district. They work for a fraction of what union workers would be paid and that is why you get such “bargains” at discount shops.

These “illegal” workers contribute directly to the quality of your life. They put the food on your table and the clothes on your back at a fraction of what you would have to pay if they were not here. They clean your hotel room, cook your meals at restaurants, cut your lawns, clean your homes and provide care for your children. They do all of this work for pennies on the dollar. Then, they are insulted, harassed and made to feel like they are parasites by racists in the name of “God and Country.”

Yes, if you want to end “illegal” immigration you can, just have the IRS seize the assets of the business that profit from these people’s “illegal” work. That will not happen, because business love profits and consumers love bargains. Yes, even more than “Country” and as for “God,” well our nation’s God has long been Mammon. Jesus is just one of the minor “household deities” who is invoked for victories at the Super bowl. The Bible is read literally by Evangelicals who wish to condemn homosexuals and then simply glossed over when it commands justice and mercy for the stranger in the land.

A law professor once told our class that if you wanted to know the values of a people, read their law codes. The new laws (Domestic Partnerships benefits were also repealed by the Gov.) in Arizona speaks volumes about the Governor and legislature of that state. How the rest of the nation reacts, will speak volumes about us.

The God who the Governor of Arizona so easily invokes says the following in the Book of Malachi, chapter 3, verse 5

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment…against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the stranger, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, and a psychoanalyst assessment of Catholic Hierarchy.

The following is an extremely well written piece by R. S. Hoffman. I have decided to reprint it here for you in its entirety. It is taken from another blog, View From My Windrow.

I am a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, and a psychoanalyst. It’s a peculiar life that I lead, listening to, thinking about, and trying to heal the maladies of mood, thought, character and self-regard (or lack thereof) that are brought to my office and to my couch. It was strange the first six months that I did it, and strange ten years later, and still strange twenty-plus years into it, as I am now. Not strange to me, just strange to most other people. I am enough of an introvert that most of the time I am content to sit with the muddle and the misery and keep them largely to myself, save for the conversations I have, usually at a somewhat abstract level, with other therapists and analysts who do what I do in their own offices. The epiphanies I share with individual patients have a way of sustaining a person like me, whose penchant for privacy and wealth of reserve is a good fit, and maybe even a necessary one, for the work that I do.

There’s something about the ongoing debacle of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, however, that leaves me feeling like the kid in the back of class raising his hand with something to say, and never called on. Years of listening to and thinking about the voices of the sexually abused, from every perspective, on and behind the couch, have led me to feel particularly endowed and particularly burdened with insight into these matters. The experience of growing up Catholic and spending time in “formation” at a Catholic seminary prior to medical school gives me a particular vantage from which to view the church. Yet my status as a gay man who is frequently singled out for particular censure by the Catholic hierarchy gives me pause when I think of commenting on their failings. Would anyone hear my voice and not think I am just peeved at my own excommunication from the fold? But it turns out I have a lot to say on the subject of pedophilia in the church. The dilemma seems only to be: Where do I start?

One of the observations made recently in the media that I found particularly trenchant came from Maureen Dowd, commenting on Father Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist for the Holy See, who said that the abuse scandal showed that Satan uses priests to try to destroy the church, “and so we should not be surprised if priests too ... fall into temptation. They also live in the world and can fall like men of the world.”

Dowd’s comment was “Actually, falling into temptation is eating cupcakes after you’ve given them up for Lent. Rape and molestation of children is far beyond what most of us think of as succumbing to worldly temptation.”

The failure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to contemplate that maybe there is something about the church and the priesthood itself that breeds the sickness of pedophilia is exasperating in the extreme. The easy answer they prefer, that it is cultural permissiveness about sexuality that fosters the sexual abuse of children, is so lacking in insight and rich in smug self-regard that it makes me nearly apopleptic. The idea that mastery of a sexual life might be what guards against the trends that end in sexual abuse of children is so far from their comprehension that I hold little hope of their arriving at a position of moral wisdom on this subject, at least in my lifetime. They are as bought-in as a group of people can be to their doctrine that sexuality is sinful unless it is subordinate to procreation, and it is precisely this equation of all other aspects of sexuality, however they might be viewed by the rest of “the secular world” as opposites, as optimal and healthy on one end of the scale and deranged and perverse at the other, that disables their moral reasoning on the subject of sex. I think it also attracts the pedophilic character structure to the priesthood. If you know, deep in your heart, that your sexual and interpersonal reality is one that successful, actualized adults view as twisted and insufferable, then the twin enticements of the priesthood are these: The elusive ideal of chastity is seen as superior to a sexually expressive relationship between adults, and the intention to fulfill or attain it, even if doomed to occasional or frequent or, as we have seen, compulsive lapses, provides a balm of superiority to the battered self-esteem of the emotionally-hobbled pedophile. And the doctrine that all non-procreative acts are equally or at least similarly in violation of natural law, the view that enables Father Gabriele Amorth to think of child seduction or rape as “giving into temptation” instead of acts of an entirely other order, likewise appeals to the fractured vanity of the pedophile, who can feel he’s no worse than all the fornicating, contraception-using, masturbating masses, and maybe even a step above them, as he has worn the cloak of priestly virtues in at least some traditional respects, comforting the bereaved, preaching charity, forgoing personal wealth, stifling the impulse to petty gossip, and the like.

Certainly the Catholic priesthood over the centuries has attracted exemplary men, men of exceptional ego strength, uncompromised virtue, and true sacrifice. But it has also attracted quite the opposite, and the church cannot pretend that its attraction of large numbers of pedophiles has nothing to do with the contours of the institution it has created. The longstanding and current assertion that it is permissiveness about homosexuality in the secular world with which the church must coexist, or perhaps on the formation staffs of its own seminaries, that accounts for the ghastly pervasiveness of sexual abuse by ordained priests, is not merely misguided and inaccurate. It is that (misguided and inaccurate), and it's a logical outgrowth of their superiority complex about the renunciation of sex for gratification’s sake, but it is also pathetic, dishonest, and selfish—-the scapegoating of yet another vulnerable population-—and it’s unworthy of anyone who would make claims to honesty, charity or moral authority.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy exists in a world of their own deliberate perpetuation that is pre-modern and basically ahistorical with respect to sexuality. The actual world in which we live, in which health and maturity are achieved, or in which they prove to be beyond the capacity of certain unfortunate or, yes, morally defective individuals, is not one in which moral wisdom exists only in the valuing of virginity and the observance of due gravity about procreative capacity. Almost any normal, moral, mature adult could tell you this. The hierarchy of the church, however, cannot or will not. While we know the large chasm, and many differences, between the activities of a pedophile with a child and the consensual, respectful, tender activities of two adults who are motivated by many things but not by any wish to conceive a child, the church hierarchy conflates them in an instant, and points to our tolerance for the supposed evils of the latter as breeding ground for the former. Psychologically, this happens to be the exact opposite of the truth, and in the twenty-first century we are not such victims of misinformation that we can’t come right out and say so. Pedophiles cannot manage the rigors that adults in functional, intimate, ongoing sexual relationships with other adults must rise to: We must let another whole, more-or-less equal person, whose interests we must consider mutually with our own, into the vulnerable and messy recesses of our lives, and not only survive it but come back to it another day and in fact come back to it on a string of other days stretching forward into an indefinite future. Pedophiles, on the other hand, are terrified of vulnerability. They either avoid it entirely, or keep an internal running score of acts of domination that compensate for what they feel are the accumulated humiliations of interpersonal relations, and so lead split lives of seeming normalcy alongside hidden perversity that, in their view of things, equalizes the psychic imbalance. It is the capacity to accept ourselves as imperfect and messy and perhaps at times ridiculous in our own eyes, and in the eyes of at least our chosen intimate partner, and the ability not to judge our imperfections too harshly, that makes us capable of sexual intimacy in its most moral form. It is the inability to tolerate any such thing that prompts the pedophile to do what he does. The teaching that sexual relations for purposes that are not procreative, or even masturbation, are evil in the eyes of God does not help any individual prepare for sexual or interpersonal maturity, or to direct their sexual energies into channels that are consistent with health instead of the tortured path of sickness and depravity.

A second subject, tangled up with the splitting of life into normalcy and perversity that so often attends to the existence of pedophilia, is the meaning of secret-keeping. Part of the domination of a child by a pedophile is coercion to accept that the reality of these events is authored only by the abuser; they have only the meaning he gives them or are in fact made magically unreal by his wish that they be so. Most any survivor of sexual abuse can tell you that secrecy about the events of their abuse protects the abuser and perpetuates the destruction of the victim. How is it that members of the hierarchy can unselfconsciously utter the assertion that they thought secrecy was in the best interests of the Universal Church? They are more than a bit like Michael Jackson telling Martin Brashear on network television that there was nothing wrong about an adult sharing his bed with children, in fact nothing more beautiful in the world, and not realizing that he had, by his own obliviousness, convicted himself in the court of public opinion. No one in their right moral mind could have said what he said, and most everyone but him knew it instantly. Exactly what is the moral derangement that allows some, many, in fact, in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to perceive a greater moral good in secret-keeping about priestly pedophilia than in bringing pedophilia into the light, and marshalling every force, religious and civil, that could bring it to an end? That greater moral good is not apparent to we mere lay people, and we do not suspect, as a matter of fact, than any exists. I for one suspect that the hierarchy’s different ordering of values has something to do with the very notion of hierarchy-—that the mutuality and equality that orders life for those of us who maintain intimate adult relationships is at odds with the hierarchical order of Roman Catholic clerical life, and the idea that one’s subordinates should accept bearing a cross for the good or the aggrandizement of someone or something greater seems more in keeping with moral order when everyone is one up or one down, and never straight across the breakfast table from you.

Few in the Roman Catholic hierarchy could care less what I think, except perhaps if there’s an advantage to be gained in tying an unwelcome message to a messenger as discredited as me. But I believe, nevertheless, that the reformation necessary to address what’s ailing their church is one in which the inequalities between clergy and laity, male and female, celibate and sexual, adult and child, gay and straight, all begin to bend to the sensibilities of the-—heaven forfend!—-modern world in which we find ourselves. Only then will the exploitation of the weak, and the cover-ups that perpetuate it, strike them in something like the way it strikes us—as an unmitigated injustice, with no veneer of godliness.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to get back to "business as usual?"

What to do to put out the fires on the Cover-Up Scandal that has engulfed the U.S.A., Europe and now Latin America? How can confidence be restored in the pope and he be permitted to continue to reign both serenely and as an absolute monarch? Here's part of the game plan:

The U.S. norms, which are being held up as a model for others, bar credibly accused priests from any public church work while claims against them are under investigation. Diocesan review boards, comprised mostly of lay people, help bishops oversee cases. Clergy found guilty are permanently barred from public ministry and, in some cases, ousted from the priesthood.
Victims advocates have demanded the Vatican take stronger action and remove the bishops who shielded known abusers, shuffling them from diocese to diocese rather than reporting them to police.

For the full story, read the jump. That second step of holding bishops accountable is the rub. The truth is that the pope does not have the moral authority to ask his brother bishops to resign for having participated in the Cover-Up Scandal, because the pope himself was guilty of such behavior when he was Archbishop of Munich and later head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This also posits an additional problem for the hierarchy. They see themselves as answerable only to God. To whom would bishops be held accountable? The pope? Well, yes but the pope cannot practically monitor each an every bishop. The Vatican Curia can and does do so, but to restore trust transparency would have to be incorporated into current practices. Transparency would have to include objective norms and prescribed consequences for the violation of those norms.

The pope and the Curia are resistant to make such accommodations, because they fear that it might be the proverbial “camel’s nose in the tent” if external pressure forces, or perceives to force; the pope to take action a dangerous precedent is set. Beyond that disturbing precedent, the thought of transparency (and accountability) totally violate the Vatican culture of secrecy and absolute autonomy.

In the meantime, the pope will make all sorts of promise of action. That action now will be aimed at the priests, who are pawns in the Vatican’s estimation. The hope here is that seeming to be “tough” on priests the public will be appeased. The news cycle will move on to some other topic and the pope & Vatican Curia can quietly continue business as usual.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Catholicism in its greatest crisis since the Protestant Reformation

Several days ago the internationally famous Catholic theologian, Hans Kung wrote a paper in which he stated that the Catholic Church is undergoing its greatest crisis since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. At the end of this paper, Kung lists various things that bishops and ordinary Catholics can do to make a difference.

In the video (contained in the next jump), Hans Kung explains his work of moving together with other world religions towards the establishment of a common world ethic. He also explains the great contribution of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council towards a renewal of Catholicism. Catholicism with a greater sensitivity towards women, science and theological freedom, that served and evangelized this age. He goes on to explain how the Roman Curia (the powerful centralized bureaucracy of the Vatican, which serves the pope as a sort of cabinet) has opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He further explains the role of the late Pope John Paul II and now, Benedict XVI in reversing and undermining the reforms of Vatican II.

The Vatican's response
(please view the video "Hans Kung" on the bottom of the jump) has been to cleverly focus on the tone or "charity" of Kung's statement. Frankly, if you read Kung's statement, you will find the tone both measured and polite. In doing this, they avoid addressing any of Kung's substantive charges and effectively attempt to side step all of the issues which Kung brings up for discussion. All of this as the Cover-Up/Pedophilia Scandal that has touched the pope himself, now spreads beyond the U.S.A. and Europe to engulf Latin America.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sisters 1, bishops 0

Bishop Lawrence Brandt has suppressed any vocation recruitment efforts by the sisters in his diocese, because the good sisters had the “presumption” to actually speak out as citizens on a piece of civil legislation. In effect, they had a different political opinion than His Excellency Lawrence Brandt.

If you want to understand why the sisters spoke out on behalf of Health Care Reform legislation you need to understand that the sisters operate Catholic Health Care, a vast network of hospitals. Unlike most bishops who live in immaculately manicured Episcopal Residences and work in equally impressive office complexes. The sisters actually work in hospitals. Unlike bishops, the sisters are not served by doting staffs and surrounded by cadres of sycophants. The sisters actually serve the sick and the poor. They teach children, they don’t cover-up sex abuse violations of children.

Get into your car and take a short drive to your nearest hospital. Walk into the Emergency Room, sit down and spend a few hours there. You will usually find the ER waiting room is full. People with wounds of varying severity. Something else you’ll notice is parents with children. These people are dressed in humble attire and often have to wait many hours before they, or their children are taken care of by the staff. They are there because they are poor and uninsured. They have no where else to turn.

When I worked at a Catholic hospital, patients who were being wheeled in were asked: Do you have health care insurance? If the answer was no, the patient was given necessary immediate care and promptly shipped off to County Hospital. Catholic hospitals are permitted only a specified number of “pro-bono” patients per year. The nursing staff referred to County as “the butcher shop.” One nurse told me, if you graduated bottom of your class in Medical School, you work at County.

The sisters know all of this. They know it first hand. The bishops know that most women will not go through the pains of childbirth to save $400.00 for an abortion. They know that the legislation in question did not authorize federal payments for abortions. The bishops almost succeeded in sacrificing laws which protect the poor. What stood in their way were the sisters. The sisters were a voice for the poor, the marginalized while the bishops were busy being choir boys for the Republican Party and for an insurance industry that racked up multi-billion dollars worth of profits.

The bishops lost this one. The fact that the sisters stood up for the poor and did not bow down to the bishops is too much for them to stomach. I suspect that the sisters will do well with recruitment. People will be inspired by their charity and want to imitate it. Sadly, the bishops will also do well recruiting new bishops, there have always been those who have seen “much profit” in religion.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gone Fishing.

This past week Cardinal Roger Mahony held a news conference along with Archbishop Jose Gomez to announce that Gomez will replace Mahony as the new Archbishop of Los Angeles within this next year.
There was a jovial tone expressed by both Mahony and Gomez at the transition. However, look more closely. The Devil is in the details as the old adage says. Now, let’s examine some of those details.

Timing is everything and certainly in this matter it holds true. Mahony turns 75 in the spring of 2011. Upon reaching his 75th birthday, as a bishop, he is required to submit a letter of resignation to the pope. The pope may accept the letter and replace him, or he may permit him to continue as head of his diocese. However, this process is being accelerated in Mahony’s case.

Another fact is that Gomez’s replacement for the Archbishop of San Antonio has not been decided, or announced. This underscores the acceleration of the process to replace Mahony by Rome. Why the rush? Could it possibly be because Mahony was recently deposed by a Federal Grand Jury investigating the Cover-Up scandal in the Los Angeles Archdiocese?

Another detail in this transition is that Mahony’s replacement is a member of Opus Dei. Catholic priests do not have children, but they do perpetuate themselves from one generation to the next by molding new priests in their own image and likeness. I once overheard a rector of a major seminary reviewing a new ordination class say, “Look at them, row upon row of priests and all of them just like me.”

Mahony, who likes to view himself as a progressive, would never voluntarily be replaced by a member of the ultra-reactionary group, Opus Dei. His replacement by someone from Opus Dei clearly communicates that Mahony has lost all practical influence in Rome and was not able to name his successor.

What does this mean for the future of the Catholic Church in Los Angeles and California? It means a sharp thrust to the right. The Archbishop of Los Angeles does not merely run the church in LA; he also has tremendous influence on naming the bishop in its associated sees (i.e. San Diego, Orange, Monterey, Fresno, and Riverside) and Region XI, which includes the rest of California. Many of these sees will soon require new bishops and Gomez will have tremendous influence in naming who those bishops will be. He will also reshape the education and formation of new priests for the whole region since St. John’s Seminary, where priests are trained and formed, is under his direct control.

Within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the first breezes of change are beginning to blow. As in any hierarchical organization, the person at the top of the pyramid sets the tone and the standards. The ranks of any structured organization are infested with sycophants and careerists. These individuals will do whatever it takes to advance themselves. They want to serve at the Chancery, also known as, the Pastoral Center. They want to serve on various Boards/Committees. They want to be tapped to be created an auxiliary (assistant) bishop. The most coveted position is a seat on the Personnel Board. That Board decides who will be assigned to various parishes. Members of the Board meet in quiet luncheons and dinners with each other before meetings and exchange favors. They decide who gets the more favorable, influential and prestigious assignments and who gets the worst.

Careerists will instantly zero in on all of Gomez’s likes and dislikes and take them on for themselves becoming little clones of Gomez. Gomez is an excellent choice from the perspective of Rome. He is a member of Opus Dei and therefore “orthodox” and more importantly subservient to Rome. He is a Latino who speaks broken English with a heavy Spanish accent and possesses a populist “easy going” demeanor. He will be a huge hit with Latinos in Southern California and politicians will think twice before confronting Gomez on any point.

Mahony joked that he has purchased a fishing license. Thereby, implying that he looks forward to a calm and leisurely retirement as lays down the burdens of power. I wonder if that is an Italian fishing license and if he will be in the same boat with retired Cardinal Bernard Law?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Un-Holy, Holy Week

Imagine for one moment that the Cover-Up scandal involving Catholic bishops was about superintendents of schools instead of bishops. What if it were grammar school teachers who were pedophiles? Imagine the offending teachers being transferred from one school to another and parents/guardians being given financial settlements with provisions that effectively prevented the victims from making public statements regarding the abuse. Can you imagine what would happen to the Superintendent of a school district who obstructed justice? How long would it take before the local District Attorney pressed criminal charges?

Here is where the analogy fails. Unlike the Public School System, Roman Catholic Diocese are corporations. Corporations enjoy all the legal rights of individuals without the legal responsibilities of individuals. Add to that the social/political clout of the bishops and their extensive financial power and you begin to understand why not one bishop has been prosecuted for obstruction of justice in criminal cases. These are not “white collar” (no pun intended) financial crimes, but crimes in which minors have been sexually abused.

This is why the Cover-Up is actually as bad as the pedophilia itself. The Cover-Up not only is an obstruction of justice in which victims and their families are marginalized and left to fend for themselves. The Cover-Up actually facilitates new case of abuse because bishops/superiors who knew of the abuse transferred the pedophile to new parishes. In several cases, the pedophile was moved across international boarders, thereby undermining any judicial action. All of this has been done to protect not the pedophile priest, but the institution and its reputation and wealth.

In a truly disgusting display during Holy Week, the Vatican has attempted to cast itself as the “victim” in all of this comparing itself with those who suffered the Holocaust. Cardinal Angelo Sodano then dismissed countless legal cases as “rumor.” As if the testimony of thousands of victims and the judicial proceedings of many countries are comparable to coffeehouse and locker room gossip.

The latest insult is an attempt by Cardinal Bertone of the Vatican to scapegoat gays for the pedophilia scandal. This despite psychological evidence to the contrary. However, the Vatican is not primarily interested in Science, or in the pursuit of the truth. They are; however, very desperately interested in pinning responsibility for their horrific crimes on anyone else. Hmmm, perhaps this last Holy Week was in fact the most honest commemoration of the original Holy Week in that sense.