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by Peterr

A Few Religious Objections to Hobby Lobby, et al.

6:45 am in climate change, Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Health Care, Judiciary, LGBT, Military, Religion by Peterr

After reading through some of the recaps of the oral arguments at SCOTUS yesterday in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, it appears that some of the justices, and perhaps a majority, are willing to allow private religious objections to trump the laws, regulations, and ordinances enacted by local, state, and federal governments. Just so that no one is surprised later, I thought I’d lay out some of my strongly held religious beliefs now.

I have a strong religious objection to the death penalty, yet for the fifth time in five months, my state of Missouri has spent my tax dollars to carry it out. At the foundation of the Christian church — the Lutheran branch of which I am pleased to serve as a pastor — is the story of the execution of Jesus at the hands of the state and his resurrection three days later, through which God says “No” to the death-dealing forces of the world. My tax dollars are spent at the state and federal level to support exactly this system of vengeance, not justice, which all too often is administered in a way that is irregular at best and occasionally flat out wrong at worst.

I also have a strong religious objection to torture, yet my state and federal government continue to spend millions of tax dollars on that form of torture known as “solitary confinement,” and tens or hundreds or thousands of millions on “enhanced interrogations” and the hiding thereof from the oversight of the courts. Indeed, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to bring the perpetrators and enablers of torture to justice.

I have strong — very strong — religious objections to the unequal treatment of people before the law, yet the Department of Justice seems bent on spending my tax dollars and the tax dollars of similarly-minded folks by the millions to chase the poor and powerless into prison while giving the wealthy and powerful sternly worded letters and a good talking-to. In the financial fraud around the housing market, homeowners are hounded and unscrupulous mortgage dealers are allowed to roam free. During the recent Lesser Depression, homeowners pushed underwater by the practices of their banks have suffered greatly (“We’re sorry, but your equity has disappeared because the property values have fallen so much because we crashed the economy”), yet the SEC and DOJ use my tax dollars to go to great extremes to settle civil litigation with the the banks in such a toothless fashion that the board of JPMorgan Chase gave Jamie Dimon a 74% raise after guiding them through with only a slap on the corporate wrist. And you don’t want to know how strongly I object on religious grounds to the failure of the DOJ to pursue criminal rather than civil penalties . . .

I have viscerally strong religious objections to sexual abuse, yet the military paid for with my tax dollars continues to turn a blind eye to the climate in the military that leads thousands of those in the ranks to not report the harassment, abuse, and rapes they have suffered at the hands of their colleagues and commanders, and that allows far too many of those against whom reports of abuse were filed to avoid accountability. Similarly, I have strong religious objections to NOT spending my tax dollars to do this on every US military base and port and outpost.

I have extremely strong religious objections using my tax dollars to administer the public law in secret, with secret judicial proceedings, secret decisions, and secret sentences.

I have powerfully strong religious objections to using my tax dollars to carry out executive decisions made on the basis of secret evidence to violate the sovereign territory of other nations in order to remotely execute those with whom they disagree, without allowing the accused an opportunity to know the accusations against them, to state their case, to respond to the allegations, or even to publicly confront their accuser. I especially object when such executions are carried out against an anonymous targets based on undefined notions of “suspicion” and “association.”

I have seriously strong religious objections to using my local, state, and federal taxes to provide a public education to my child and the children of my neighbors that is incomplete (such as abstinence-only sex education), or based on disproven science, pseudo-conflicts, and unproven beliefs. The earth is round, old, and getting warmer by the day because of human activity. There is no serious scientific objection to these concepts, and I strongly object on religious grounds to using my tax dollars to teach otherwise.

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by Peterr

Benedict’s Resignation May be a Surprise, But It’s Not a Shock

5:52 am in Religion by Peterr

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement this morning (US time) that he is resigning effective February 28th burst upon the audience to which he was speaking, leaving them in stunned silence.

Pope BenedictThat silence has not lasted long.

On the one hand, there is the “OMG! This is unprecedented! No one could have seen this coming!!!1!1!” reaction, coming largely from folks who are so enamored with the office of the Pope that they can’t conceive of a papal resignation. Well, no. Canon law explicitly makes provision for a papal resignation, and John Paul II certainly contemplated it, going so far as to draft letters of resignation on two separate occasions as his health fluctuated. Yes, there hasn’t been a resignation in centuries, but that doesn’t mean this is as incredible as some are making it out to be. Indeed, bishops are required to submit their letters of resignation at age 75 (though the pope is not obligated to immediately accept them). This rule was set in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, so the notion of staying on the job until death has been less and less the rule in the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

As a practical matter, it has been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention that Benedict’s health has been declining. Major liturgical events like Christmas Eve at St. Peters have been adjusted, so that the pope’s strength would not be overly taxed by standing too long or holding heavy objects. I’ve seen old men fall asleep on Easter morning during worship, even as the trumpets are sounding from the choir loft, and I can imagine Benedict looking ahead to Holy Week and Easter and saying “Enough. I don’t have the strength for this.” If popes have nightmares, one of Benedict’s must be falling asleep during high Easter mass and having that image flashed around the world.

And very specific to Benedict, he himself has spoken about this in the past. Last April, National Catholic Reporter talked about this as Benedict turned 85, noting:

Talk of possible resignation has been swirling around the pope ever since his 2010 book, ‘Light of the World,’ in which he said that if a pope felt ‘no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of carrying out the duties of his office,’ he would have ‘the right, and in some circumstances the obligation, to resign.’

So enough already with the shock. It only shows that you haven’t been paying attention.

As for Benedict announcing his resignation, I say “Good for him.”

For all the talk of infallibility and power and lifelong tenure of the pope, the pope is as replaceable as anyone else — and an honest pope knows this. If Benedict were to get hit by a truck this afternoon, the cardinals would gather and elect a successor, and the church would go on. For Benedict to voluntarily step down, rather than linger on with weakened strength and declining health, is a statement of trust that he knows he is not irreplaceable.

So now we enter the silly season, as rumors fly and speculation of successors runs rampant. Myopic conservative Americans will breathlessly talk about Timothy Dolan as a leading candidate because of his media savvy, or arch-conservative Raymond Burke (former archbishop of St. Louis and now ensconced in a powerful Vatican post) because of his arch-conservative credentials, but IMHO, these are both pipe dreams. I can’t see the college of cardinals elevating an American to the papacy at a time when Americans are viewed around the world as increasingly arrogant on the international scene, and I’m not alone in this.

So enjoy the retrospectives, but keep some perspective as well. Enjoy the rumors and speculation as well, and take them with a very large grain of salt.

Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Snow for the Northeast, Dust for the Great Plains

3:10 pm in Energy, Environment, Religion by Peterr

While the Northeast is being buried under a blizzard, the Great Plains has its own storms to deal with. Dust storms, that is.

The image to the right was taken on January 11, 2013, and shows a huge cloud of dust blowing across eastern Colorado and western Kansas. The latest Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin from the USDA (Feb 5, 2013) captions this image like this:

Despite sporadic January precipitation on the Plains, drought remained entrenched across the nation’s mid-section. By month’s end, at least half of the winter wheat was rated very poor to poor in Oklahoma (69%), South Dakota (66%), and Nebraska (50%). In Kansas, 39% of the winter wheat and 85% of the rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor by January 27. In addition, 19% of the Kansas wheat crop was reported by USDA/NASS to have been harmed by wind, with a damage breakdown of 13% light, 5% moderate, and 1% severe. Some of January’s highest winds occurred on the 11th, when dust rolled across portions of eastern Colorado and western Kansas. On that date, wind gusts were clocked to 62 mph in Pueblo, CO, and 60 mph in Garden City, KS.

This time of year, that area is supposed to be snow-covered, not dust-covered. It’s supposed to be damp, not dry. For that to happen, however, requires precipitation — and that hasn’t been coming. The latest map from the US Drought Monitor looks much like their drought maps over the last several months, with extreme and exceptional drought covering much of the Great Plains, and other parts of the US suffering as well. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center’s latest forecast calls for the drought across the midsection of the US to persist or worsen in the next three months, with above average temperatures and below average precipitation across the southern plains and southwest.

No snow means winter wheat is uncovered and thus exposed to killing temperatures. No snow means no moisture to nourish the prairie grasses for grazing animals. No snow means not only bad winter crops, but any spring planting is likely to be done in poor soil conditions. No snow means dust storms.

Enjoy your snow, Northeasterners. God knows we wish we had some out here in the Plains. And if things don’t change, you Northeasterners are going to wish we had snow out here too, because food prices will climb when wheat and corn yields fall.

We’re in this together, people.

Is this climate change? I’ll leave that to the climatologists — but it does look exactly like what would be happening if the climate is changing.

In the 1930s, the Dust Bowl storms were exacerbated by plowing techniques that damaged the soil. Farmers learned a lot — the hard way — and farming practices changed for the better. Farmers changed the way they worked the land, to encourage it to hold moisture better. Today, as that image at the top shows, those changes are not enough.

We’re in this together, people.

As I talk with pastors and others around the country, I see more and more efforts to try to change our energy habits. Bethany Lutheran Church in Lindsborg, Kansas was faced with replacing an aging heating and air conditioning system, and decided to install a geothermal system. It required more up-front money, but is saving both monthly expenses and reducing the use of energy from non-renewable, pollution-causing sources. St. John’s University, a Roman Catholic school in Collegeville, MN, has installed a large-scale solar array as the first step toward becoming a carbon-neutral institution. Down the road in Northfield MN, St. Olaf College, put up a 1.65 megawatt wind turbine, matching the one put up across town at Carleton College two years earlier.

Small steps, but they’re steps in the right direction.

We just need more of us taking these steps, and all of us looking ahead to the next steps after that.

Because we’re in this together, people.

_____

h/t to the USDA and US Drought Monitor for the public domain images above

by Peterr

A Little Fundraising Advice for LA Archbishop Gomez

6:30 pm in accountability, child abuse, Religion by Peterr

The chair of the archbishop, Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels

According to the Los Angeles Times, Roman Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez is worried about money. Says the paper, “The archdiocese has hired a New York company, Guidance In Giving Inc., to study the feasibility of a large-scale fundraiser that would shore up a bottom line hit hard by costly abuse litigation.” How large is large-scale? The Times puts the size of the proposed campaign at $200 million.

A couple of thoughts: First, if you pay a consultant to help you decide whether you should engage in a bigger project that would bring the consultant even more money . . . well, the words “conflict of interest” come to mind. But that’s a minor point. They know they need to raise the money, so the question they really are asking is how.

Which brings me to the second point: In my experience, there are two — and only two — times when a church organization undertakes a capital campaign like this.

One is when there is such excitement and energy that the time is right to take a bold step forward around a particular well-agreed-upon program. “We’re bursting at the seams, and we need to build a new building,” a parish might say, or “many of our parishes are growing dramatically, and we have to divide them, build new sanctuaries, and bring in new clergy to minister to them” says a bishop.

The other is when there is such a dire crisis that the energy of the community needs to be harnessed to address the crisis. “The creek behind the church overflowed its banks, flooded the basement, and caused a fire — and because it was all traced back to a flood, it is not covered by insurance because we don’t have flood insurance.”

Sadly, Archbishop Gomez and his archdiocese are not looking at the first set of circumstances here. Even more sadly, they are simultaneously trying not to admit it is a terrible crisis. According to NBC News, the archdiocese “is exploring a campaign to raise $200 million for the diocese to meet ‘a variety of needs,’ including ‘priests’ retirement, seminarian education, Catholic schools, Catholic Charities and parish needs.’”

Sorry, but exploring a capital campaign with such a diffuse set of goals and needs is an exercise of dubious worth. It makes it look like the archdiocese is still trying to downplay the horrendous abuse scandal that has unfolded in their midst. Potential donors will see this, shake their heads, and ask “why should be trust what you are saying about why you are asking for money, when you try so hard not to say what is driving all this?” Only if the campaign is honestly and clearly focused does it have a hope of success.

So let me offer a little advice to Archbishop Gomez. It’s free, from one pastor to another, and maybe it will help.

The campaign starts with a simple letter that goes something like this: Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Better Late Than Never for Archbishop Gomez on Handling Cardinal Mahony

7:22 am in accountability, child abuse, Religion, Uncategorized by Peterr

Roman Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez shook the Catholic world yesterday by imposing unheard-of sanctions against his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony for Mahony’s actions to shield predatory priests from accountability during his years as the head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In most of the coverage, this was rightly hailed as a strong action to advance the cause of justice, and to provided at least a measure of accountability even though criminal liability is probably not possible because the statute of limitations has probably expired.  The coverage misses one very negative aspect of Gomez’ actions, however. Before we get to that, let me provide a little background.

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (then headed by Mahony) settled a group of over 500 civil suits over clerical child abuse, and since then has been fighting the release of their files related those cases. When they lost the battle to keep the files themselves secret, they tried to argue that the names of not just victims but church officials should be redacted. Some records were released last week, and last Monday, they lost their redaction argument, and yesterday, rather than appeal the ruling, they released the rest of the files.

What emerged was not pretty. Not pretty at all:

Fifteen years before the clergy sex abuse scandal came to light, Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution, according to internal Catholic church records released Monday.

The archdiocese’s failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation’s largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders’ own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.

Ugly. The memos show Mahony and his staff shuttling some priests out of the country, and cherrypicking therapists for others, all in an effort to avoid accountability.

Mahony retired in 2011, and Archbishop José H. Gomez took over the archdiocese on March 1, 2011. Yesterday, in his letter accompanying the release of the unredacted files, Gomez described reading through them:

I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed.

We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church. And we need to continue to support the long and painful process of healing their wounds and restoring the trust that was broken.

I cannot undo the failings of the past that we find in these pages. Reading these files, reflecting on the wounds that were caused, has been the saddest experience I’ve had since becoming your Archbishop in 2011.

Then came the bombshell:

Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

God Laughs at Prop 8 and DOMA

4:08 pm in LGBT, Religion by Peterr

SCOTUS made one of their periodic announcements of the schedule of arguments for upcoming cases for which they had granted a hearing, and I could not help but hear God laughing in the background. Let me draw your attention to this portion of the announcement, via SCOTUSblog:

Tuesday, March 26:

12-144 Hollingsworth v. Perry – constitutionality of California’s “Proposition 8″ ban on same-sex marriage; also, question of standing to appeal

Wednesday, March 27:

12-307 — United States v. Windsor – constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s benefits limited to married opposite-sex couples; also, question of standing for U.S. government and for House GOP leaders to appeal the case

The laughter I hear comes from looking at the calendar.

On March 26th, Ginsberg, Breyer, and Kagan (the three Jewish members of SCOTUS) will be hearing about the injustices levied by the state against gays and lesbians on the first day of Passover — an eight day commemoration in the Jewish calendar of the liberation of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt. For Jews, the repetition of Moses’ cry “let my people go!” figures prominently in the Passover story, as God’s spokesman went to Pharaoh again and again to demand freedom from slavery and oppression.

Given what LGBTs have endured at the hands of the modern state, “Let my people wed!” has a nice contemporary ring to it.

And then there are the Catholics . . .

For Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Kennedy, and Sotomayor — the six Roman Catholics — these two days of arguments take place between Palm Sunday and Easter. It’s Holy Week, when Western Christians recall Jesus and his entry into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd, his betrayal and arrest on trumped up charges, his show-trial and execution at the hands of the state with the blessing of the religious authorities, and his resurrection. For Christians, Holy Week is the commemoration of a perversion of justice, set right by a divine veto.

Given how justice has been denied to LGBTs in ways great and small by the enactment of DOMA, it strikes me as divinely ironic that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives will be defending injustice during a week when Catholics and other Christians are in the midst of remembering the injustices perpetrated by Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas as they tried — unsuccessfully — to preserve their own power.

I fully expect to hear more from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on this, in the same illogical vein as Chicago’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Francis George’s recent missive. (The best reply I’ve seen to it is from Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times.) But using this style of argument during Holy Week will make Cardinal George sound like Caiaphas, not Christ, and I don’t think BLAG will have any more success than did Pilate or Herod.

Back in 2008, five sad days after Prop 8 was approved by California voters, I had the pleasure of hosting an FDL Book Salon chat with Mitchell Gold, discussing his book Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America. As I wrote in the set-up piece, these are stories of pain, power, struggles, partnership, and surprises (both nasty and wonderful). But discussing this book just after Prop 8 was enacted really altered the discussion:

In my head, I actually had two posts ready for this Book Salon, depending upon the results of the Proposition 8 vote in California. If “No on 8″ had prevailed, we could talk about how wonderful it is that the largest state in the US had taken a stand in favor of civil rights and fuller acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. We could talk about the positive message that this would send to anyone who is GLBT or who loves someone who is. That post, sadly, will have to wait for another day.

But that day is coming — make no mistake about that — just not as soon as we’d like.

Ultimately, these are stories of hope. In reading this book, I was reminded again and again of SF Supervisor Harvey Milk‘s famous “Hope” speech (YouTube excerpt here) :

And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant in television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.

Hope. By the end of the book, that this what these stories are finally about. Hope that life can be better for all of us, and that pain and trauma are not the last words for any of us, regardless of our own sexual orientations or the orientations of those we love.

I truly believe that day of justice and hope is getting closer.

Some might call the connection between the SCOTUS calendar and the Jewish and Christian religious calendars a mere coincidence, but being a pastor, I can’t help but see a little divine humor at work. As BLAG will soon find out, trying to make arguments in defense of injustice during two powerful religious commemorations of justice is hard to do.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and let all the courts say “Amen!”

_____

No, I’m not suggesting religious appeals have any place in the secular legal discussions at the heart of this case. But that doesn’t keep folks like the USCCB or the evangelical fundamentalists from making them, and I’d like to give these religious appeals a little theological attention before they really start cranking up. Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

I’m Really, Really Tired of Certain Preachers

2:05 pm in Guns, Religion by Peterr

MiKe Huckabee - Caricature

MiKe Huckabee - Caricature

After my post earlier today, I discovered that one more thing needed to be said. Instead of updating the earlier post, or putting it into the comments there, it deserves a new post all its own. Those uninterested in theology can skip this post and go on to something else.

That one more thing? Theologically speaking, Mike Huckabee is off his rocker.

On Fox News yesterday, he offered this gem of pastoral wisdom and insight (h/t TPM for the video):

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.

Let me see if I’m following this right . . . If only we’d had more prayer in school, this wouldn’t have happened? If only teachers would preach fire and brimstone, this wouldn’t have happened? If schools make God scary enough, then people would be too frightened to kill one another?

<head meets pulpit>

If this is what certain preachers are saying, God help the church.

Folks, right here you see the Big Difference between the fundamentalist politically conservative churches like Huckabee’s and the more mainstream churches like mine. Huckabee preaches of a threatening God who inspires by fear and threats — behave, or else! I and my more moderate to liberal colleagues, on the other hand, preach of a God who looks to inspire humanity by offering forgiveness and love.

Perhaps the Reverend Governor’s Bible is missing Luke 22 and the story of Jesus’ arrest:

While [Jesus] was still speaking [to his disciples], suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’

What? No smiting of Judas? No calling down thunder and lightning on the temple police and the priests? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the concern for responsibility? What kind of wimpy, squishy, feel-good Jesus is this, that says “put away your damn weapons” to his followers and his foes alike?

I’ll tell you what kind: my kind. He’s certainly not Mike Huckabee’s.

And it pisses me off when people confuse his God with mine.
Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Bishops Will Be Bishops

3:11 pm in child abuse, Religion by Peterr

Bishop Finn "Boys will be boys."

[UPDATED -- See below]

Cardinal Bernard Law presided over the archdiocese of Boston, and protected abusive priests like John Geoghan and Paul Shanley from secular authorities. When the story came out in court in 2002, the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer prize for their coverage, collected here in a special webpage. As the archdiocese melted down, Pope John Paul II accepted Law’s resignation and transferred Law to Rome, giving him a prestigious post at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and retained him as a member of various important positions on Vatican boards and commissions.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua presided over the archdiocese of Philadelphia, and put his own power and reputation ahead of the protection of children. After two major grand jury investigations, Beviliacqua’s Secretary for Clergy, Monsignor William Lynn was indicted for covering things up. As I wrote a year ago,

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua escaped being hauled before a grand jury only because his doctor says he is near death and has bad memory issues. In their report, the grand jury basically said “we took mercy on him and didn’t name him in the indictment, but boy did he screw up here.” Either he knew what his assistant was doing and is culpable for the later abuse, or he didn’t know and should have. The grand jury report [pdf] is devastating, and the trial will be as well.

It was. Last June, I wrote this about the trial when the verdict of “guilty” came down:

Lynn’s lawyers tried to cast him as a mere functionary, who had no authority to challenge what the archbishop wanted done — and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Archbishop Bevilacqua wanted things hushed up and buried. . . .

At the trial, Bevilacqua’s actions were scrutinized. Father Thomas P. Doyle, the canon lawyer who tried to warn the USCCB about the dangers of covering up for child abusers back in the 1980s. In thanks for his work, the hierarchy of the church derailed his career and sidelined him from offering them any additional advice. The prosecution, however, put his advice front and center in the trial:

A priest who is an expert on canon law testified Thursday that in his opinion, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was guilty of obstructing justice when he ordered the shredding of a confidential memo in 1994 that listed 35 archdiocese priests accused of sex abuse.

Father Thomas P. Doyle, an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse, was asked on cross-examination what advice he would have given Bevilacqua.

“He’s got a list of 35 men who are sexually abusing children, and he’s going to shred it?” Doyle asked incredulously. “No way,” Father Doyle told the jury. “That’s like obstruction of justice.”

That sole “guilty” spoken in Philadelphia is the one that ought to send shivers up the spines of every bishop and cardinal of the Catholic church. In Philadelphia, the story is not over, as there are other trials waiting to be held on this. Similarly, if I were retired Cardinal Rigali [Bevilacqua's successor], I’d be consulting with my attorneys rather closely. From the grand jury’s report, there certainly appear to be things that Rigali either knew or should have known about but upon which he did not act. Do they rise to the level of a criminal coverup? I don’t know, but there’s certainly enough there for a prosecutor to want to dig in a bit deeper.

Here in Kansas City, it certainly worries Bishop Robert Finn, whose trial for failure to report suspicions of child abuse by one of his priests is slated to begin later this summer.

Which brings us to Bishop Finn and Kansas City, where lawyers for the victims of former priest Shawn Ratigan have filed a civil suit against Finn and the diocese for failing to promptly report the child pornography found on Ratigan’s computer by the diocese’s director of management and information services, Julie Creech. Creech’s deposition was part of the court filings, which included this bombshell [KC Star story updated; see below]:

The civil motion filed Thursday quotes Creech as having been concerned when she heard that some at the diocese were saying that she had not found “lewd” photographs on the computer. In a partial deposition transcript included with the civil filings, Creech said she approached Finn about the diocese’s response to the Ratigan discoveries.

Finn, she noted, was not specific as to what actions the diocese would take.

“He did indicate that, you know, sometimes priests do things that they shouldn’t, and he said, you know, he said, ‘Sometimes boys will be boys,’ ” Creech said in the deposition.

And you know, sometimes bishops will be bishops, even when women like Julie Creech and Sister Joan Scary try to warn them.

I suppose it’s like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women who told the male disciples of Jesus about the resurrection. According to Luke, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

One of these days, the leaders of the church might learn that they ought to listen to the women.

UPDATE –

From the KC Star this morning [same link as above, but now changed], Creech appears to be walking her testimony back:

John Gromowsky, an attorney representing Julie Creech, the computer systems manager for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said that she had “misspoken” in deposition testimony taken in a civil case and hoped to correct it.

In the Aug. 17 deposition, Creech said that Finn had said, “Sometimes boys will be boys,” when she raised concerns about how the diocese was handling the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, on whose laptop computer she had seen lewd photos of young girls.

“The statement Julie Creech attributed to Bishop Finn during her deposition that ‘boys will be boys’ is not consistent with her recollection of any conversations she had with the bishop concerning the Shawn Ratigan matter,” a statement released by Gromowsky said. “Following the deposition, Julie realized she had misspoken.”

The statement gave no explanation for why Creech’s testimony differed from her recollections.

by Peterr

Why Todd Akin Stayed, and Why it Troubles Paul Ryan

4:14 am in Conservatism, Elections, Religion by Peterr

Mitt Romney doesn’t get Todd Akin. “Don’t you see what you’re doing to the Party? Don’t you see what you’re doing to The Cause? Get out of the race, so we can get a winning candidate in place!”

And Akin said, “No.”

Roy Blunt, Missouri’s junior senator, doesn’t get Todd Akin, and neither do Kit Bond, Jim Talent, Jack Danforth, or even John Ashcroft, former GOP senators from Missouri all. “Please, Todd, for the sake of our state and our party, get out of the race.”

And Akin said, “No.”

Karl Rove and the others behind the SuperPACS that have been pouring money into Missouri don’t get it, and neither does John Cornyn or the people at the NRC. “We’ll pull our funding and tell your donors not to give to your campaign. We’ll univite you to the Republican National Convention. Get. Out. Of. The. Race. NOW.”

And Akin said “No.”

Maybe Iowa’s favorite son, Rep. Steve King, can explain it to them. He gets Akin, as his (pre-rape comments) endorsement of Akin makes clear:

Congressman Todd Akin is my friend, he is running for the United States Senate and he is the man that will always stand on the principles that we believe in.  Too many people bend or sway in the wind or they get drawn into the mesmerizing idea that somehow someone can guide you up through a leadership channel if you just go along to get along.  He is not going to put up a vote for the sake of going along to get along and neither will I.  We have a sacred obligation to all of you, that’s to keep our oath of office.  That’s to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

That’s Todd Akin, as local politician and reporters from around St. Louis know all too well, like Kevin Horrigan:

For nearly a quarter of a century, we had him mostly to ourselves. He was that little barbecue joint that nobody else had discovered. He was a secret fishing hole we didn’t have to share. We never knew what he would say next, but whatever it was, we knew that there was a good chance it would be ridiculous.

There was never anything as outrageous as the magical women-don’t-often-get pregnant during “legitimate rape” claim that now has him in hot water. But if he started talking about Sunday blue laws or the evils of sex education or the dangers of the state licenses for day-care centers or any of the other social issues that came before the Missouri Legislature in the 1990s, Todd would safely go off the deep end and only the Akinmaniacs would notice.

He was kept pretty well bottled-up during his 12 years in the Missouri House. In those days, Democrats still controlled the House and moderation wasn’t yet a sin within the GOP. Todd’s views were so extreme that most mainstream Republicans rolled their eyes when he got up to talk.

He didn’t care. He was a man on a mission.

A man that will always stand on principle. A man on a mission. That’s what Romney and the GOP senators from Missouri and the PTB in the RNC and the political operatives in the GOP don’t get. Or perhaps they get it, but were hoping they could get him, just once, to back off and tone it down.

Good luck with that.

From Akin’s perspective, he can end up in one of three ways. First, he could become a hypocrite. He could give up his principles, give up his mission, and give up his candidacy, which to him would be tantamount to giving up his faith. “When things got tough for God’s prophets in the Old Testament, or the early Christians under Roman persecution, some of them bailed on God. I’m not going to do that.” To leave the race like this would set the stage (in Akin’s mind) for years of nightmares: “how many abortions could I have prevented, if I had just remained firm, remained faithful, and remained strong?”

His second possible outcome is to become a martyr. “I held firm to my convictions, I remained faithful, and whatever happens in the election happens. If I lose, I lose — but I didn’t lose my faith.” In becoming a martyr, he will be a hero to the Fundy Faithful, and they will tell stories about him for generations to come. “When faced with choosing between his faith and what is ‘prudent’ and politically popular, Akin didn’t flinch. Sure, he went down in flames at the polls, but that didn’t matter to him. What mattered to him most was keeping the faith. And he kept it.”

His third possible outcome is to become a senator. By remaining faithful, Akin will proclaim to the Fundy Faithful in Missouri that he is putting this race in God’s hands. His prayer is that they will rally around him in numbers that will amaze the pundits, astound the GOP establishment, and send God-fearing people across the country into a religious frenzy of delight.

A hypocrite, a martyr, or a senator. Akin refuses to accept the first mantle, and will be perfectly happy with either of the other two.

And that probably makes Paul Ryan very sad.

It’s not because Akin might lose to McCaskill, costing the GOP control of the Senate. It’s not because the focus on Akin might derail the careful planning for next week’s Republican National Convention. It’s not because the focus on Akin might spill over into the presidential race, forcing Romney and Ryan to talk more about social issues than the deficit, the budget, and the economy, and perhaps costing them the White House.

It’s because Akin chose what Ryan did not.

Robin Marty of RH Reality Check lays out quite clearly who Ryan is, as she wades through years of his statements and votes:

Rep. Paul Ryan is against abortion, no exceptions. Paul Ryan would allow an exception for rape. Ryan doesn’t believe in birth control. Ryan only has three children, he must believe in birth control. Ryan is pro-life “from conception to natural death.” . . .

[snip]

We may not be entirely sure where Ryan stands at this moment, but anti-choice activists have absolutely no doubt that Ryan is in fact their “pro-life” hero. CatholicVotes announced their endorsement of the Romney/Ryan ticket, saying, “Paul Ryan will be the first pro-life Catholic to appear on a Republican presidential ticket since Roe v. Wade. Paul Ryan understands his faith. He understands Catholic social teaching, and prays and works to apply his faith to the practice of politics, including his economic and budget proposals.”

Exactly what are those social teachings?  Well, it comes as no surprise that CatholicVote does not believe in abortion in any instance, including for victims of rape.  “The rapist… is forever guilty of rape. The child conceived as a result of the rape was not guilty of the crime. The child did no wrong. The child ought not get the death penalty for his father’s rape.” but once again, Ryan is endorsed by supporters who claim he feels the same way, but avoids saying as much himself.

Winks. Dog whistles. Carefully nuanced statements to preserve an image. Playing coy with the press to present two faces to the world. In that respect, Ryan is the anti-Akin.

Which makes this information from Politico about Ryan’s phone call yesterday to Akin very, very interesting:

The call, first reported by NBC, did not entail Ryan asking Akin to drop out, the source said.

But he echoed the comments Mitt Romney made condemning the comments, as well as those from Senate officials who have said Akin needs to think about the impact of his remarks on the party and other candidates, the source said.

It was “not a brief call,” the source said.

Something tells me Ryan didn’t ask Akin to drop out because he knew it would never happen. Given a choice between being a hypocrite on the one hand or a martyr or senator on the other, he knew that there was no way that Akin would choose to be a hypocrite.

But for Ryan, it likely got worse. The more Akin talked, the more it probably bothered Paul Ryan, because while Akin was remaining firm and sticking to his principles, the more Akin talked about publicly witnessing to his faith, the more it hit home with Paul Ryan that he was hiding his own principles and downplaying his faith.

That had to hurt. And it will hurt all the way to November.

by Peterr

Ann Romney Rejects Her Own Very Sensible Idea

8:54 am in 2012 election, Religion, Wall Street by Peterr

Robin Roberts of ABC News has a new interview of Ann Romney that begins (around the 1:00 mark of the video) with the topic of Mitt’s refusal to release more of his tax returns, in keeping with the practices of many presidential candidates of both parties. Ann’s response included a very interesting suggestion. “You know, you should really look at where Mitt has led his life, where he’s been financially. He’s a very generous person . . .” said Ann (with emphasis in the original).

You know, Ann, that’s a good idea.

A really good idea.

I’d really, really love to look at where Mitt has led his life, and where he’s been financially.

But where to start? Oh, I could read biographies of Mitt or listen to his speeches, or listen to his friends or family talk about him, but those are words. Instead of just words, let’s try a little applied moral theology, as I explained it last October:

Read the rest of this entry →