Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Brief Hiatus

Dear Friends,

I apologize to you for being slow to acknowledge your many valuable comments on postings here of late. I've fallen considerably behind, and have taken a brief break — which will probably put me even more behind in replying to your comments. I'm not sure if I will be posting much here in the next few days, and that may be just as well, since I have begun to feel considerably stale, and, as my mother might have said, worn to a frazzle. All of which may well mean you will welcome having a little break from me, too! Wishing all of you a very good week . . . .

The graphic: a landscape sketch for Thomas Eakins's famous painting "The Swimming Hole," from Wikimedia Commons (scanned from Doreen Bolger and Sarah Cash, Thomas Eakins and the Swimming Picture; original in Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Richard Rodriguez, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography: "It Is Because the Church Needs Women That I Depend Upon Women to Protect the Church from Its Impulse to Cleanse Itself of Me"

Last week, I noted that in his new book Darling: A Spiritual Autibiography (NY: Viking, 2013), Richard Rodriguez continues a theme that appears in his previous work: this is the insistence that it will be women who call/force/cajole/threaten/whatever the all-male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church to cease with and desist from their attacks on their gay brothers and sisters. Rodriguez remarks on the strange and unhealthy fixation of the all-male Roman Catholic hierarchy (a fixation borrowed from the desert roots of Christianity and Judaism) on male seed.

In the News: Sixth Mass Extinction of Species Now Underway

In her review of Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction (NY: Henry Holt, 2014), Louise Rubacky notes that Kolbert's thesis — that humankind has precipitated the sixth planet-wide mass extinction of species, and this has already begun — warns of dire consequences when we "break evolutionary chains." Every species now disappearing had its niche in the complex, interwoven, delicate ecology that sustains the whole planet. And the loss of even a single species threatens to unbalance a web of relationships necessary to sustain life as we have come to know it on this planet.

Now the Star Tribune: Top Minneapolis Paper Calls on Nienstedt to Resign

Friday, July 25, 2014

Members of Theology Faculty of St. Thomas University, St. Paul: We Need "New Leadership at the Archdiocesan Level, Leadership That Includes Individuals Who Are Neither Perpetrators Nor Enablers of Abuse"

Brian Roewe reports today that five members of the theology faculty of St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota — Cara Anthony, Corrine Carvalho, Sherry Jordon, Sue Myers and Kimberly Vrudny — have issued a call for "new leadership at the archdiocesan level, leadership that includes individuals who are neither perpetrators nor enablers of abuse." The letter does not name specific persons in its call for new leadership, but obviously addresses the crisis of leadership in the archdiocese under its current archbishop, John Nienstedt.

Tom Reese on Catholic Bishops' Opposition to Executive Order Forbidding Anti-Gay Discrimination: "It Is Time for the Bishops to Sideline Their Lawyers and Consult with Moral Theologians"

Father Thomas Reese, SJ, on the U.S. Catholic bishops' bitter and mean-spirited (my words, not his) opposition to President Obama's executive order forbidding discrimination against LGBTI employees in federally contracted programs:

In the News at Week's End: Pastoral (?) Leadership (?) in Catholic Church, Faith-Based Anti-Gay Discrimination, Gaza, Immigrant Children, Healthcare, and Theocracies and Women

Michael Bayly, The Wild Reed:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Richard Rodriguez, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography: "Until the Desert Religions See the Woman as Father, the Father as Woman, Indistinguishable in Authority and Creative Potence," They Will Continue Opposing Homosexuality

I'm reading Richard Rodriguez's book Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography (NY: Viking, 2013) right now. A theme running through the book is the distinctiveness of the monotheistic "desert religions" — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — all of which were born in the same desert crucible, are closely genetically related to each other, and focus on God's self-revelation in scripture (and there's significant interplay between the sacred books of all three desert religions). As a gay (and practicing) Catholic, Rodriguez is interested, in particular, in the jealous, vengeful maleness of the deity of the desert religions, and their seeming imperviousness to gay people (which is, he argues, intrinsically connected to their obvious allocation of second-class status to women).

Frank Cocozzelli on Opus Dei Ties of Supreme Catholic Men: "I Am Concerned about the Strong Influence of an Ultra-Traditionalist Catholic Mindset on the U.S. Supreme Court"

In light of the recent Hobby Lobby ruling of the five Supreme Catholic men, Talk to Action has chosen to republish an outstanding series of articles Frank Cocozzelli posted at that site in 2007, about the close ties of most of these five Supreme Catholic men to the ultra-secretive, wealthy, and very influential right-wing Catholic movement Opus Dei. Here are some excerpts from each of the three articles in the series:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rod Dreher on Nienstedt Story and Jennifer Haselberger Affidavit: "In the Present and Future War on Religious Liberty . . . the US Catholic Hierarchy All Too Often Behaves Like a Fifth Column"

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, who left the Catholic church due to the disclosures about the abuse situation when the crisis broke wide open in 2002 and afterwards, weighs in on the Nienstedt story and Jennifer Haselberger's affidavit. Dreher stands with the bishops in their attacks on gay folks and women, and he agrees with them in their claim that religious freedom is under attack in the U.S. today. He reads the presidential executive order defending gay folks from discrimination in federal programs as an attack on religious liberty, as the U.S. Catholic bishops do, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: John Corvino on Real Agenda of Social Conservatives — Dismantling the "Very Vocabulary by Which We Express and Realize Our Inchoate Longings for Intimacy"

At Commonweal, John Corvino responds to Michael Hannon's essay "Against Heterosexuality" in First Things. As he notes, it employs (a little bit of) queer theory to try to dismantle the entire enterprise of gay rights (my words and summary of Corvino's premise, not his), as it argues that the concept of sexual orientation is a social construct — and there's therefore no such thing as a "gay" person (or a straight one, either, for that matter, though the latter definition continues to stick as the default definition in this deconstructive argument, which is all about reiterating the normativity of heterosexuality in new, "queer" terms).

Gays, Churches, and Religious Exemptions to Practice Discrimination: Centrist Argument Revisited as Third Way Calls for Common Ground

The meme that just won't die in American political life: that there's some kind of "center" in which the conflicting (in many cases, irreconcilable) claims of this side and that side can meet in some sweet harmony that permits all of us to prescind from weighing those conflicting claims and determining if some of them are right and others wrong. This is a meme developed always to give cover to those who want to keep alive William F. Buckley's classic definition of conservatism as standing athwart history and yelling Stop.

Michael Sean Winters on U.S. Catholic Bishops' Response to Executive Order Forbidding Anti-LGBT Discrimination: "Bishops As Litigants Is Just Not the Image of an Apostle Set Before Us in the Scriptures"

Yesterday, with a nod to Mark Silk, I wrote that you'd expect the U.S. Catholic bishops to be reeling right now from what Jennifer Haselberger's recent affidavit in Minnesota plainly suggests: namely, that the procedures the American hierarchy have set into place from Dallas (2002) forward to deal with the abuse of children by Catholic priests are largely ineffective, since those procedures rest on the assumption that no more diligent guard can be found for the fox-harried henhouse than the fox himself. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

New Minnesota NPR Report on Cover-up in St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese: "Nienstedt Chose Not to Reveal the Cover-Up. Instead, He Contributed to It"

Not to be missed: Madeleine Baran's stellar four-part series "Betrayed by Silence" published today at the website of Minnesota NPR. Baran does an outstanding job of showing how deep-seated the cover-up of clerical crimes against children is in the Catholic archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, despite repeated assertions of one archbishop after another that the archdiocese was exemplary in its handling of cases of molestation of minors by priests. Here's an excerpt from the final chapter of the four-part series, speaking of the arrival of John Nienstedt in 2007 as archbishop:

Robert Blair Kaiser's Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church and the World — Jesuit DNA and the Papacy

Some weeks back, Rowman & Littlefield kindly sent me for review a copy of Robert Blair Kaiser's book Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church and the World (Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2014). The book has now, I believe, appeared in print, but the copy I received was an advance reading copy, a point I mention as I start this brief review because the page numbers I'm citing are from the page proofs, and both they and the text itself may have altered somewhat when the book was published.

Alliance Defending Freedom on "Right" to Anti-Gay Discrimination: "Objections Based on Race Are a Lot Different from Objections Based on Sexual Behavior and Morality"

Attorney Jeremy Tedesco of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin as she claimed the right to refuse to photograph a same-sex wedding because it violated her faith, tells Greg Stohr of Bloomberg

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Damon Linker on Nienstedt Story: A "Potentially Church-Destroying Trend"

Damon Linker takes a look at the Nienstedt story — in particular, at the fact that "he's been accused of conducting numerous sexual affairs with men while also leading his archdiocese's fight against same-sex marriage and regularly denouncing homosexuality in the most uncompromising terms possible" — and concludes that this story points to a "potentially church-destroying trend" about which conservative Christians need to be very concerned.

St. Paul Pioneer Press on Nienstedt: "If He Were the CEO of a Corporation, He Would Have Been Canned Already"

Yesterday, in one of the more conservative newspapers of the Twin Cities, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Rubén Rosario adds his voice to the chorus of those calling for Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis to step down: noting that Jennifer Haselberger's recent affidavit should be entitled "The Archdiocese That Forgot Christ" and that the affidavit is "the best argument yet" for Nienstedt to resign, Rosario adds, 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Phyllis Zagano on Hobby Lobby Decision: Plan B, Ella, and IUDs Are "Abortifacient Methods" (and Why Did Lisa Fullam's Response to Zagano Disappear from NCR Thread?)

Did anybody other than I notice that Lisa Fullam left a comment yesterday responding to Phyllis Zagano's statement at National Catholic Reporter about the Hobby Lobby decision of the five Supreme Catholic men, and that the comment subsequently disappeared? (Zagano on the five Supreme Catholic men's Hobby Lobby ruling: pro. Zagano on emergency contraception: con — a position she has consistently taken in various NRC articles.)

Quote for Day: Horrible World Events are Not "Happening to Us"; "We, the Human Race, Are Doing This to Ourselves"

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush asks how we deal with the news right now: a commercial airliner shot down in Ukraine, followed in no time at all by Israel's bombing of Gaza — while some Americans mass at the southern border of the country to scream invective at displaced children seeking refuge in our affluent country, and while a group of girls abducted by religio-political terrorists in Nigeria remains missing. His reminder to us as we ponder the dismal news flashing across our computer and television screens now:

Calls for Archbishop John Nienstedt to Resign Grow Louder

The New York Times editorializes:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Haselberger Affidavit: Attempt to Have Father Tegeder Declared Disabled for Opposing Archbishop's Campaign Against Marriage Equality, While Known Threat to Minors, Father Wehmeyer, Remained in Ministry

There's a significant detail tucked away in Jennifer Haselberger's lengthy affidavit (significant to me, if to no one else) that I'd like to bring to readers' attention: a section of the affidavit (§ 72) directly counters a claim made by Archbishop Nienstedt's attorney in Nienstedt's deposition that the archbishop does not have the power to declare a priest disabled. Haselberger notes that, after his attorney made this claim, Nienstedt himself added that he didn't understand questions directed to him about his prerogative as archbishop to declare a priest disabled.

Jerry Slevin on Jennifer Haselberger's Affidavit: "Underscores That Francis' Calculated and Ineffective Approach to Facing the Catholic Church's Greatest Challenge in Centuries Will Likely Be a Failure"

In response to Brian Roewe's report today at National Catholic Reporter about Jennifer Haselberger's affidavit in the sexual abuse lawsuit involving the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Harvard-trained international lawyer Jerry Slevin writes

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Affidavit of Jennifer Haselberger in St. Paul-Minneapolis Abuse Case: "To See an Archbishop . . . Holding His Crosier, Lie to the Faithful in Such a Boldfaced Manner, Was Heartbreaking to Me"

Earlier today, I pointed readers to what I called a chilling documentary just produced by Minnesota NPR about the bold lying of three archbishops covering up abuse in the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. This documentary painstakingly demonstrates that three archbishops of the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis — John Roach, Harry Flynn, and John Nienstedt — lied boldly to the people of God as they covered up sexual abuse of minors by their priests and "participated in a cover-up that pitted the finances and power of the church against the victims who dared to come forward and tell their stories."

Patricia Miller's Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church — Concluding Excerpts and Reflections

A concluding set of excerpts from Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014):

Church of England's Choice to Accept Female Bishops: What Will Be the Effect on the Roman Catholic Church? Some Musings

As the Church of England votes at long last to accept women bishops, Catholic News Service, the USCCB's Pravda, is already (and predictably) complaining that this decision will impede ecumenical relations between the Roman and the Anglican churches. Interestingly, the New York Times today carries both an article by Stephen Castle noting that the step the Church of England is now taking will help move society in the direction of gender equity, and a lament by Cadence Woodland noting that the decision of the top men in the LDS church to crack down on open conversation about women's issues has led to the closing of what had been called "the Mormon moment," a moment of seeming openness to free discussion of women's and gay issues.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

More from Patricia Miller's Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church — U.S. Catholic Bishops and Extension of Conscience Rights to Corporate Persons

Another set of excerpts this morning from Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014):

More Lipstick, Same Pig: Commonweal Regulars on Emergency Contraceptives as Abortifacients — The Bishops Say It, I Believe It, That Settles It

It's interesting to see how Crystal Watson's contributions to this conversation at Commonweal have been treated by several of the Commonweal regulars.* To get a sense of what I mean by the following observations, you'll have to read the thread carefully.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More from Patricia Miller's Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church — How U.S. Catholic Bishops Laid Groundwork for Hobby Lobby Decision

Here are some more noteworthy passages from Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014), all having to do with the U.S. Catholic bishops's decision to conflate abortion and contraception in the late 1990s, as they sharpened their partisan political crusade against women's rights and healthcare needs in collusion with the religious and political right:

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: U.S. Catholic Bishops's "Religious Freedom" Crusade Against Women as Fundamental Betrayal of Catholicity

One of the most fateful (and evil) decisions made by the Catholic hierarchy in the 20th and 21st century has been to treat the movement of women around the world to claim full personhood and a full range of human rights for women as illegitimate, and as a threat to the Catholic faith. The top pastoral leaders of the Catholic church have done (and continue to do) incalculable damage to the Catholic "brand" by treating this movement as a threat to Catholic belief and values.

Hobby Lobby Commentary: "Wonderful Thing about Being Religious Is You Can Believe All Sorts of Irrational Things," Says Affordable Care Act Supporter Sara Rosenbaum

People are still talking about the five Supreme Catholic men's Hobby Lobby decision, and so I'm still reading. Here's a series of brief excerpts from articles I've found especially interesting in the past week (in no particular order other than rough chronological order from more recent to less recent):

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Patricia Miller, Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church — Excerpts

I'm now reading Patricia Miller's book Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church (Berkeley: Univ. of CA Press, 2014). Here are several snippets from it that have caught my attention as I've read (all of which seem to me clearly pertinent to major stories still unfolding in American Catholicism):

Another Hobby Lobby Reprise: Hobby Lobby's Retirement Plan Heavily Invested in Manufacture of Contraceptive Pills, IUDs, and Abortifacients

Another in my series of reprisals of postings I have made in the past, anticipating the ruling that the five Supreme Catholic have now handed down in the Hobby Lobby case: this one is from April 2, and it predicts the way into which many of the leading commentators of the U.S. Catholic center would, I anticipated, buy into the "logic" of the five Supreme Catholic men in their Hobby Lobby ruling, no matter how preposterous and how tortuous.

Quote for Day: "Discrimination in Any Way, Shape or Form Is Not Religious"

Maureen Fiedler on the clamor of some (but far from all) U.S. religious leaders (including Archbishops Salvatore Cordileone, Thomas Wenski, William Lori, and John Nienstedt) for a special "right" for religious institutions to discriminate against LGBT human beings in federally contracted programs:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why I Anticipated That Hobby Lobby and the Koch Brothers Would Likely Prevail with the Supremes: It's About Men Who Own Things (A Reprise from March 28)

Today, another in the series of reprises of postings I have made in the past, anticipating the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the five Supreme Catholic men: this one is from March 28. Note that in this posting, I anticipated that the Supreme Catholic men who would prevail in the Hobby Lobby ruling would hinge everything on the personhood of corporations, as they had already done in Citizens United.

Parting Reflections on Norbert Krapf's Catholic Boy Blues: Letting It Rip (for the Good of the Whole Church)

Now that I've finished reading Norbert Krapf's Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing (Nashville: Greystone, 2014), I thought I'd share some parting thoughts about the book with you. I've blogged about it previously here and here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chris Crass on What Patriarchy Has Taught Him (and How Rare It Is That Gender-Privileged Men Talk Together about Such Issues)

In an essay on going to places that scare him, activist Chris Crass reflects on what he has learned as he and others have challenged him to come to terms with the power and privilege he enjoys as a white, heterosexual, middle-class man. Truthout has published Crass's essay, from his book Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2013). An excerpt:

Another Reprise: Margaret Farley's Challenge to Make Love of Gay Persons Just in Christian Churches, and the Vatican Synod on the Family

Here's a reprise of another sort today: I published the excerpt below (from Margaret Farley's book Just Love) on November 2, 2012. Here's why I'm republishing it now:

Hobby Lobby Case: Questions about Waning Credibility of Catholic Moral Discourse, or Ignoring Real People to Talk about Hypothetical Ones (A Reprise from March 27)

Now that the five Supreme Catholic men have handed down their Hobby Lobby decision, I thought it might be worth revisiting a series of postings I wrote back in late March and early April, discussing the ruling I anticipated, and the "logic" I expected to underly it. I posted this one on March 27.

Friday, July 4, 2014

On This Independence Day: The Supreme Court's Doctrine of Corporate Personhood and the Betrayal of Revolutionary Ideals of United States

On this day celebrating American independence, I think of two of my direct ancestors who gave their lives for the revolutionary cause — Robert Leonard, who came to America as a British soldier during the French and Indian War, where he helped secure the western Maryland frontier for the British, and who then remained in the colonies following his discharge from the British Army. He was killed as an American soldier at the battle of Camden in South Carolina on 16 August 1780.

Serene Jones on Appeal of Religious Leaders for "Right" to Discriminate Against Gay Folks: "It's Simply Theologically Indefensible"

Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, speaks for me as she responds to the appeal of various faith leaders, including key Catholic ones, for a special religious "right" to discriminate against LGBT human beings in federal programs:

Short Takes on Demand of Religious Leaders for Continued Right to Discriminate Against Gays: Continued Moral Failure of Catholic Centrism

Some of my short takes on several pieces of news commentary in the past few days:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "The Vast Majority of the Great Artistic and Literary Figures of the Past Have Left Copious Testimony of Their Profound Attractions to Women"

Suppose someone gave you the following excerpt from an online discussion thread, and asked you to guess what kind of journal or blog would foster discussion of this sort re: gay people and their contributions over the course of history:

The Vatican Document on the Pastoral Challenges of Family: "Gospel of the Family" and the Bible (but Where's the Good News?!)

When I first wrote about the document recently prepared by the Vatican as a foundation for discussion of family life at the upcoming synod on the family — the so-called instrumentum laboris that will guide the synod's discussion and which reports on the responses submitted by lay Catholics and bishops to a Vatican questionnaire on the family — I noted that one of the document's significant shortcomings is that it reads like a laundry list in which every affirmation it makes is equal to every other affirmation. The document is, in key respects, a replication (though obviously a highly select one) of what lay Catholics and bishops told the Vatican as they responded to its questionnaire on the family, but it lacks a clearly discernible theological center in which to put its lengthy list of concerns into a meaningful, coherent scheme that would provide a helpful snapshot of precisely what the people of God believe about family matters at present.

"By Pushing Religion into the Public Sphere, the Religious and Political Right Is Unintentionally Pushing Religion out of People’s Private Hearts and Minds"

Rebecca Sager on how the religious right appears to be "winning" with the Hobby Lobby decision, but is actually losing, as increasing numbers of millennials fed up with the gay-bashing and denial of women's rights walk away from the churches when they flex their muscles by beating up on gays and women:

Rachel Maddow on Post-Hobby Lobby: "It's Already Started. Justice Ginsburg's Dissent . . . Is Already Coming True"

While the centrists who are always predictably infatuated with the rulings of powerful men continue to find all kinds of ways (and here) to parse the recent Hobby Lobby ruling by five Catholic Supreme men as, well, not so bad a thing, because freedom, after all, Rachel Maddow tells it like it is:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One Day After Hobby Lobby, Faith Leaders Send Letter Asking for Religious Exemptions from Executive Order Barring Anti-Gay Discrimination

Breaking news from Michelle Boorstein of Washington Post — one day after the Hobby Lobby decision, this happens:

Supremes' Hobby Lobby Ruling Sparks New Hashtag Memes, #DrHobbyLobby and #BoycottHobbyLobby

In case you're not thoroughly sick of the Hobby Lobby discussion (in which case, you may be glad — or appalled — to hear I'll soon return to that other dead horse, the recent Vatican document on the family), there's this: as David Badash reports for The New Civil Rights Movement today, the Supremes' Hobby Lobby ruling has sparked the creation of two new satirical hashtags at Twitter — #DrHobbyLobby and #BoycottHobbyLobby.

Quote for Day: "Concern about Abortion Is a Legitimate Religious Scruple Because, Well, It’s Catholic. Just Like Sam Alito."

Fred Clark, on why it seems the five Catholic Supreme men ruled that, if the sincerely held religious belief of the Green family of Hobby Lobby wishes to turn contraceptives into abortifacients, we must bow to that sincerely held religious belief no matter what scientific evidence tells us to the contrary. Because. Because Catholic:

Contraception, Five Catholic Supreme Men, and the U.S. As One Big Piggie Park

When the issue was the sincerely held belief that slavery was ordained by God and that racial segregation is the divine will, the Supreme Court was clear about the fact that it's unconstitutional to use religion to discriminate. When the issue was the sincerely held belief that God has placed men over women and the workplaces should favor men economically and in provision of healthcare, the Supreme Court was clear about the fact that religion can't be used to discriminate.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Supremes' Hobby Lobby Decision — Celebrating: Catholic Bishops, Right-Wing Evangelicals, Corporate Leaders, Men and More Men; Not Celebrating: Most of the Rest of Us

In the highest court in the land, five Catholic men issue a judicial ruling that hands a victory to the Catholic bishops of the U.S. (and the Vatican), as well as to the right-wing evangelicals with whom these bishops have made common cause in their battles against the rights of women and LGBT people. Naturally, Catholics who stand with their bishops in these battles are now rejoicing, as are right-wing evangelicals.