Friday, December 23, 2011

Petition Asking Cardinal George to resign after defaming LGBT people.

After almost a quarter of a century hearing confessions and counseling individuals and families, I know that sexual orientation is not merely a political, sociological or psychological issue. At core, what this is truly about is discrimination and its hurtful and harmful impact on simple human dignity and the lives of real people.

Bullying, employment discrimination, denial of service in the armed-forces under the recently repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, denial of adoption rights, denial of Civil Marriage rights, all attempt to force LGBT people into lives of secrecy, shame, denial, fear and foster self-hatred. The Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Study of 1999 found that 33% of gay adolescents attempt suicide. A statistic that we were tragically reminded of last year when several young LGBT students took their own lives. That is the true cost of bigotry in the lives of countless LGBT people, their families and loved ones.

Cardinal George’s comparison of LGBT people who are simply seeking full Federal equality as American citizens with the KKK, a notorious hate group that seeks to deny full Federal equality to minorities, is both an inversion and a denial of the truth. George’s words constitute both a grave injustice and a moral outrage. By vilifying members of a minority group he targets them for prejudice and hate crimes.

A simple apology is insufficient, since an apology is merely a public announcement of one’s personal feelings. I believe that cardinal George is morally required to ask for forgiveness of the LGBT people, their families and loved ones, who he has vilified. His immediate resignation, upon asking for forgiveness, would manifest his sincerity and serve as a reproach to bigotry in our society.

I invite you to sign a petition from asking Cardinal George to resign as Archbishop of Chicago due to his defamation of LGBT people.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cardinal George attempts to raise fears about LGBT people.

Cardinal George of Chicago objected to an LGBT parade in that city. Claiming that it would force the cancellation of Mass at a church along the parade route. The Huffington Post reported

"I go with the pastor," George told Fox. "He's telling us that he won't be able to have services on Sunday if that's the case. You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

The preceding quote makes it appear that this “poor pastor” desperately called the “good” cardinal for help. Fear that his services might be interrupted, or that Catholics might be targeted for harassment by rioting LGBT parade attendees.

Don’t believe it for a moment. Having lived as a pastor for decades I can tell you how the system works. The pastor in question most probably got a phone call from the Archdiocese “asking” him to write to the cardinal about the LGBT parade routed pass his church. Failure to express what the cardinal wanted to hear in that letter would impact unfavorably on the pastor’s future career.

The pastor lives and works in that community, many of the folks in the parade are either his parishioners, or family members/relatives of his parishioners, he does not want to alienate these people. Furthermore, Chicago is a large city, there are countless parades held there every year and most of them on weekends. Odds are that, like most Catholic priests, the pastor (as well as the cardinal) is gay.

Sadly, I am not surprised by cardinal George’s absurd assertion comparing the LGBT communities struggle for full Federal Equality, with the KKK. My former bishop, the late John Steinbock, compared the LGBT community with, “Stalinist Russia and Maoist China.” The disturbing fact is that it is the Catholic bishops who are using strong-arm tactics against LGBT people who simply seek equality.

It is the bishops who have consistently orchestrated political campaigns against LGBT people and their families. This despite the fact that the majority of U.S. Catholics are supportive of equality legislation for LGBT people, but then again the only opinion on LGBT rights that concerns George is that of the out-going pope.

In the middle of what some have called the Second Great Depression and the Sexual Abuse Cover-Up Scandals that have rocked the Catholic church both in the USA and internationally, implicating even the current pope himself, cardinal George’s chief pastoral concern is not helping the jobless, the homeless or addressing the Cover-Up scandal. It is lobbying, in a vain attempt, to keep LGBT people in the closet socially and second-class citizens legally.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mass Deception

You may say, “Why should I care about the new English translation of the Mass, I’m not a Catholic!” Regardless of your personal beliefs the spiritual and social significance of this translation cannot be brushed aside. Regardless of how you “feel” about this translation, the Mass, Catholicism, or religion in general, 25% of the U.S. population is Catholic.

Those numbers are augmented by the numbers of Catholics in other English speaking countries worldwide (e.g. Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, etc). Prayers that people recite every week seep into the depths of their psyche. They affect how they think, how they act, and how they vote; therefore, this new translation will affect you personally and our society as well.

“Out of the mouths of babes” is an old adage that aptly describes the insights of a young Latinist and his comments on the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Erik Baker is a sixteen-year-old child prodigy who, having taken every Latin course offered at the high school level, is currently doing course work at Northwestern University. Erik also happens to be Catholic and so, when the new translation of the Roman Missal, that is much more faithful to the original Latin, became public he was eager to read it.

Erik’s astutely captures the “Why” of these uniform changes throughout the English-speaking world. Here are some of his insights in a nutshell; the new translation will slowly and subtly effectively reprograms churchgoers in the following ways:

• It destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the Mass.
• Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoer relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoer relates to "experts" in Rome.
• The notion that only “moral” (as defined by those experts in Rome) or Christian people deserve peace and our prayers.
• Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual, for the individual -- ironically, a very Protestant idea. Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness.
• It might aim to promote humility, but inevitably it fosters guilt instead. It promotes a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful-- a vision more in line with the heretical Janesenist doctrine of centuries past than Catholic dogma.

Here is a full reprint from an article by Erik in the National Catholic Reporter

On the revised Roman missal

By Erik Baker

It's definitely a better translation. That's probably the biggest misconception that critics of the recent revision of the General Roman Missal have. They perceive the new translation as some sort of conservative formalization of the text that is only ostensibly more faithful to the Latin. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Though there are some changes that really are no better, and certainly tend towards archaic jargon, the vast majority of the dramatic shifts -- especially to the Confiteor, the Gloria, and the Nicene Creed -- are certainly far more accurate.

In fact, looking over the Latin, it’s quite clear that the former translation didn't even attempt to be literal. So the question clearly isn't "is it a better translation," if "better" is defined in terms of accuracy vis-à-vis the Latin. The question is "is a more accurate translation desirable?" For many that question will seem like a no-brainer. Of course we want to stay as close to the Latin as possible. And yet, I think it's valuable to use these changes as an opportunity to examine the value of the Latin Mass and ultimately the nature of the Mass itself. I think that the conclusions might be startling.

Let's start at the beginning. The first major change is to the Confiteor, the prayer used in most forms of the Penitential Rite. The new translation translates the adverb "nimis" as "greatly", so that it now reads "I have greatly sinned." It's certainly a dramatic change, but one that's grounded in the Latin. In fact, the word "nimis" means something more than "greatly"; it actually connotes the idea of "excessiveness". The other change is that the Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" is now translated "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." This is pretty much a literal translation. So the Latin is solid.

The problem, though, is that the Latin itself seems to be hyperbolically critical of humanity. It might aim to promote humility, but inevitably it fosters guilt instead. It promotes a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful-- a vision more in line with the heretical Janesenist doctrine of centuries past than Catholic dogma.

An apologist of the translation reminds us that "the guiding principle of the new translation is a closer adherence to the Latin--not a sharper critique of our virtue." But this makes absolutely no sense. Who cares what the "guiding principle" was? The end result is that the Latin is more condemnatory for no discernible reason. And there is no scriptural grounding for this “sharper critique” either-- the first appearance of the prayer is in 1100 AD, over a millennium after Christ.

The next major change is to the Gloria. Most of the changes are innocuous enough, but there's one at the beginning of the prayer that seems bizarre to me. The familiar "and peace to his people on earth" is changed to "on earth peace to people of good will." Not only is the latter far more awkward in English, but there's also a problematic sentiment implicit in the new phrase. Why are we only praying that people "of good will" receive peace? This seems to say that people who are without "good will" are not deserving of peace.
But what is "good will"? It seems to me that it could either mean "good" in the virtuous sense of the word, or, more specifically, Catholic. In either case, it expresses a profoundly anti-Christian sentiment. The notion that only moral or Christian people deserve peace and our prayers is anathema to everything Jesus ever taught. There is simply no sound reason for abandoning "love your enemies" simply because it’s closer to the Latin. The original Greek text recognizes this, and expresses "goodwill to all people." Ironically, the Latin is then actually a mistranslation of the Greek. This just highlights the fact that the possibility of human error doesn’t disappear when writing church texts. It’s hard to see what inherent reason we have for respecting this highly fallible process.

Finally, I think the changes to the Nicene Creed merit some discussion. As before, all of them have good grounding in the Latin, but it's the Latin that's problematic. The first is the fact that all of the "believe"s are in the first person. This destroys the sense of communal vision found in the "we believe" of the previous translation. Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual, for the individual -- ironically, a very Protestant idea. Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness.

Furthermore, there are two bizarre translations of particular words in the Latin that sound awkward and even obscure: "consubstantial" and "was incarnate." The former is a translation of the word "consubstantialem" in the Latin, so it certainly resembles the Latin the most. But does that make it a better translation? Surely not. The first rule that every Latin translator learns is that often Latin words may look like certain long, rare English words -- but comprehensibility matters more. The same applies to "was incarnate." The whole reason why an English translation is used in the first place is so people can actually understand the Mass. For the average churchgoer "consubstantial" is no more comprehensible than "consubstantialem.” Ridiculous words defeat the point of a translation in the first place.

Ultimately, the whole affair just begs the question of why the Latin Mass has any particular spiritual significance. It's certainly not Scripture, and it's often just an amalgamation of various communal prayers used throughout Europe for several centuries. In fact, many early bishops would write their own Masses or translations to best fit their community's needs. And that's the essence of Mass. The reason why we come to Mass in the first place rather than just praying by ourselves is the interaction with others that has spiritual importance. In the Mass the people become the Body of Christ, conceived as the organic whole Paul writes about in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians: “for the body is not one member, but many.”

The problem with the new translation and indeed the notion of a codified Latin Mass at all is that it destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the act. Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoer relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoer relates to "experts" in Rome. It sets certain people above others in terms of their knowledge of a dead language and of dogma -- concerns that clearly distract from the message of God. If the Mass has any meaning, it must be grounded in communal concerns and vision-- not an effort to include as many four-syllable words as possible.

Some of my own observations:

The two things that I find most striking about this article are the brilliance and passion of Erik. Beyond his technical knowledge of Latin, his theological insights are both profound and exceptional for someone of his young age and experience.

Let me say that many years ago I heard about the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Frankly, I thought it was long overdue. Every Sunday I celebrated Mass in both English and Spanish language. The Spanish translation of the Mass is far more poetic, natural and beautiful than the English translation that has just been discarded. No one, at least from a literary point of view, will mourn the passing of the previous translation. However, while what replaces it may be more polished it reminds me of a quip from a poisoner, “You put the arsenic in the cake, not in the brussel sprouts, after all it doesn’t work if the victim doesn’t eat it.”

Having come from Cuba I had relatives who lived and died under a totalitarian regime, I grew up very attuned to the impact of ideology in people’s daily lives. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Stalinist era movies, for example, is that the protagonists all tend to die. What remains is “The State, The Revolution.” Stalin couldn’t have done a better job re-writing the Mass than Benedict XVI. The re-written Mass makes the churchgoer feel that he/she is part of something greater than him/herself, something to which he/she should be completely submissive and that will be here, long after he/she is gone and forgotten. Utopias, atheist or theist, are bigger than lives. Apparently that the Gospel is lost in the translation is a small price to pay for all that power and glory.