Southern Religion

Commonweal explains the hardline error of U.S. Roman Catholic bishops

The independent,lay Catholic journal Commonweal in an editorial, A Pattern of Missteps, writes:

Instead of addressing the legitimate concerns of those who oppose the church’s teaching on abortion—such as concerns for the health of women—American bishops too often seem to fear that any acknowledgment of the complexity of this issue would weaken their own position. And instead of speaking from the real strength of their position, and assessing their political situation rationally, too many bishops are in a hurry to warn of impending betrayals and persecutions, suggesting that their prochoice political opponents have more power and fewer scruples than they actually do.

Thus, American bishops spent a fortune on a campaign to defeat the illusory threat posed by the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which has almost no chance of becoming law. Rather than concede that they may have exaggerated the threat posed by FOCA, some bishops talk as if they themselves averted it by means of their furious warnings. Then there were the denunciations of the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to give its 2009 commencement address, an act some bishops seemed to equate with apostasy. More complicated and consequential was the role played by the USCCB during the congressional debate over the recently passed health-care-reform bill. The bishops ended up opposing the bill because of their dubious reading of its provisions to restrict abortion funding and protect existing conscience clauses (for more on this, see Timothy Stoltzfus Jost’s “Episcopal Oversight”).

Jost dissects the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continuous parade of false and misleading arguments about health reform. Arguments which tend to discredit the USCCB and confuse those who trust them:

Public polling repeatedly reveals that Americans are confused about what the health-reform legislation does. The legislation is long and complicated, and some misunderstanding of the bill is inevitable. It is unfortunate, however, that this confusion continues to be fed by mischaracterizations of the legislation by the USCCB.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Catholic | , | 1 Comment

Roman Catholic Church’s flawed team Ireland lineup

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston’s appointment to head the apostolic visitation to deal with the Roman Catholic child abuse catastrophe in Dublin was for good reason not universally cheered:, a Waltham-based organization that tracks abuse cases, was also critical, saying, “O’Malley’s career ascent has been fueled by his ability to walk into dioceses wracked by horrible revelations of child molestation and enshroud them again in silence.”

Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe wrote:

The assignment marks the fourth time that O’Malley, 65, has been asked to intervene in a diocese damaged by clergy sexual abuse. In 1992, he was named bishop of Fall River, a diocese roiled by the serial pedophilia of the Rev. James R. Porter; in 2002, he was named bishop of Palm Beach, where the two previous bishops had acknowledged sexually abusing minors; and in 2003 he was named archbishop of Boston, replacing Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who stepped aside over criticism of his failure to remove sexually abusive priests from ministry.

English Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who has been appointed apostolic visitor to Ireland’s Armagh archdiocese, was greeted with similar criticism by abuse victims for his mishandling of sexually predatory clerics in his own countries. Specifically, the Irish Independent wrote:

nstead of informing the police of allegations against “notorious paedophile” Fr Michael] Hill, [then Bishop of Arundel Murphy-O’Connor] moved the cleric to the chaplaincy at Gatwick Airport, where he believed the priest would no longer be a danger to children.

But in 1997, Hill was convicted of sex attacks against nine children. After serving three years, he was then given another sentence of five years for assaults on three more boys.

The then-Bishop Murphy O’Connor argued that at the time little was understood of the compulsive nature of paedophilia.

Dr. Margaret Kennedy, of the London-based Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, observed:

Many in the UK survivor movement would wonder why a bishop with a record of mishandling his own cases could independently look at another bishop’s handling of cases.

Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, also one of the nine apostolic visitors to Ireland, has a history of resisting appeals for constructive reform in the U.S.

Their records are chacteristic of the most able reformers the Roman Catholic Church can muster to this task?

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children | , , | Comments Off on Roman Catholic Church’s flawed team Ireland lineup

“Dozens of priests’ mistresses” call for abolition of celibacy

How did dozens of priests’ mistresseshappen to meet?” asked @ebertchicago [Roger Ebert].

Stefania Salomone, an Italian woman who signed the widely publicized open letter [English] [Italian] to Pope Benedict XVI calling for an end to the Roman Catholic Church’s priestly celibacy, is part of a Web discussion for women who are in relationships with priests. Yet she remains the only public signatory to the letter, which she says has been endorsed by more than 40 women.

Although it is oxymoronic to give presumptive credence to an unverified number of anonymous women, Salomone’s assertions apparently ring true to Cristina Odone. A Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, a former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman, she wrote:

But I think the women have a point when they speak out against the hypocrisy of the status quo. I came across, when editor of The Catholic Herald, hundreds of priests. Many of them had “housekeepers” who adored them and … well, who knows what goes on behind net curtains in the priest’s house? Tongues wagged, but only mildly: the priest looked happy, worked hard, and his parishioners looked away. This was so routine an arrangement, that for centuries canon law specified that the priest’s housekeeper should be past child-bearing age, so that the Church would not be embarrassed by the fruit of a carnal relationship.

. . .

For too many priests, loneliness is their lot. Once, they had parishioners vying with one another to see who could wine and dine him; now they are derided and worse. When this was a less secular society, priests always knew they held a certain status in our community; now they are in the habit of being treated like pariahs. One brilliant and witty priest I know is taking a year’s sabbatical. Free of his dog collar, he has found himself in many situations where strangers heap scorn upon the priesthood and talk of priests as synonymous with kiddie-fiddlers. “There is so much hostility out there,” he told me, sadly.

The British/Scottish group Sonflowers is an organization of who have affairs with Catholic priests. It was founded by Adrianna Alsworth. She has addressed the desire for anonymity and the need for mutual support:

I know of many older priests who have been in long-term relationships which are an open secret in their parishes.

Sadly, all the stress and responsibility is placed on the women and it’s a heavy burden to bear. If the relationship becomes public, it’s the woman, the Church’s silent mistresses, who get the blame.

She sees celibacy as doing harm to both the community and the priests. For example, she has observed:

Young men spend six years in a male environment at seminary then are thrust into parishes where they feel isolated. They are often sexually immature but have enormous power over people.

Salomone’s letter further argues that celibacy is not only destructive but also unscriptural:

We are trying to reaffirm — although many Christians already know it — that this discipline has nothing to do either with the Scriptures in general, or with the Gospels in particular, or with Jesus, who never spoke about it.

Quite the contrary. As far as we know, He liked to surround Himself with disciples, almost all married, and women. You would say to us that Jesus also lived as a bachelor and the priest is simply matching Him with his choice. A choice is good. But a rule can never be a choice, if not forcing its meaning. If, moreover, it is defined as a charism, it can not therefore be imposed or required, much less by the Lord, who wants us to be free, because love is freedom, always.

Her goals are simple and realistic. She told CNN she has not heard from and does not expect to hear from the Vatican:

I don’t really care, to be honest. The important thing is to call attention to this problem.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , | Comments Off on “Dozens of priests’ mistresses” call for abolition of celibacy

N.C. Catholic Bishops’ bad call on public school curricula

North Carolina’s Catholic bishops are overwrought about proposed new language for a nonexistent civics and economics textbook, CNA reports.

Bishop of Raleigh Michael F. Burbidge and Bishop of Charlotte Peter J. Jugis sent a Feb. 11 letter to the state’s Catholics referring to “draft text that is being proposed for a revised textbook on Civics and Economics,” although they are actually taking issue with the language of curriculum standards for Social Studies, Civics and Economics [.pdf]. Not a textbook.

Even so, the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh reports in its News section:

The proposed text asserts that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized abortion and struck down state and federal laws that regulated and limited access to abortion, is an example of how the Supreme Court has upheld rights against oppressive government. The implication of this proposed text is that opposition to Roe v. Wade is wrong.

The language over which they are hyperventilating, and over which North Carolina’s right-wing Civitas Review waxed righteous before them, is in fact a well-accepted example of U.S. Supreme Court actions upholding individual rights and overruling oppressive government. That general language is so frequently used to define that topic in text books, law review articles, Constitutional Law coursework descriptions and the like that Google search on it returns 4,700,000 (four million, seven hundred thousand) hits.

Specifically, the version we searched on is:

Using three Supreme Court Cases (e.g., Brown v Board, Roe v Wade, Korematsu v US) as support explain how the US Supreme Court has upheld rights against oppressive government?

The bishops’ letter also said comments are closed tomorrow (Feb. 15), and that is incorrect as well. The State Board of Education, Department of Public Instruction has announced via its Web site:

The deadline for feedback on 1.0 has been extended through March 2nd, 2010.

The bishops and Civitas are objecting to a curriculum standard which requires, as it should, honest and accurate student understanding of the law of the land, because they disagree with the law. Not because the curriculum actually errs.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Education | , , , , | Comments Off on N.C. Catholic Bishops’ bad call on public school curricula

‘Puzzled’ L.A. Cardinal gets 0 sympathy

“Mystified and puzzled” Cardinal Roger Mahony got no twitter love in his efforts to comprehend a federal grand jury investigation into the handling of alleged clergy child molestation cases by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was stunned but gladdened by the report.

The LATimes said the prosecutors are applying an honest services legal theory in an apparently novel way” by trying to determine whether church officials’ actions constituted a fraud against parishioners. The applicable federal statute bars conspiracies to deprive others of honest services, and in this case, the victims would be parishioners who entrusted the safety of their children to church leaders.

If the approach is “novel,” it’s an interesting novel. One wonders whether other denominations might yet find their own pages in it. Others whose conspiratorial silence contributes to the serial abuse of young parishioners.


Judgment Day for Cardinal Mahoney: Long-time observer and victims comment.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Law, Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

One inventor of the pill ‘confesses’

Carl Djerassi confessed regret in the Austrian newspaper Der Standard. The 85-year-old chemist, one of three whose formulation of synthetic progestogen Norethisterone was a key step towards the first oral contraceptive, bemoaned the decline in average family size. According to the British newspaper Guardian:

Djerassi outlined the “horror scenario” that occurred because of the population imbalance, for which his invention was partly to blame. He said that in most of Europe there was now “no connection at all between sexuality and reproduction”. He said: “This divide in Catholic Austria, a country which has on average 1.4 children per family, is now complete.”

He described families who had decided against reproduction as “wanting to enjoy their schnitzels while leaving the rest of the world to get on with it”.

The fall in the birth rate, he said, was an “epidemic” far worse – but given less attention – than obesity. Young Austrians, he said, were committing national suicide if they failed to procreate. And if it were not possible to reverse the population decline they would have to understand the necessity of an “intelligent immigration policy”.

Roman Catholic leaders called the statement a “confession” and manufactured from it a bit of what gynaecologist and member of the New York Academy of Science, professor Gian Benedetto Melis, called science fiction.

Roman Catholic doctors alleged the pill had brought “devastating ecological effects” by releasing into the environment “tons of hormones” that somehow impaired male fertility.

Sex, lies and schnitzel the blog Get Religion called the Vatican’s approach.

Yes, at best.

Using pseudoscience in an attempt to justify the ways of religion to man tends to drive the rational from the sanctuary.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | Religion, Science | , , , , | Comments Off on One inventor of the pill ‘confesses’