May 30, 2010

Why We Feel So Tired



One of my Facebook friends posted this piece by Celia Fenn this morning. It's an older article but it seems very timely. I guess I'm not the only one experiencing a wave of profound fatigue right now.

Many people who are going through the Indigo to Crystal shift find that intense fatigue and tiredness are two of the predominant symptoms of their shift. They feel exhausted all the time, and just want to sleep. And when they do sleep, they sleep deeply and do not want to get up.

So, what is happening, and why do we feel this way.

Archangel Michael explains that there are three different processes that cause the fatigue. These are:
  • Emotional Body Clearing
  • De-toxification of the Physical and Subtle Bodies
  • Full Multi-Dimensional Consciousness

I think it's primarily that last one that's zonking me out right now. As tired as I feel physically, if I feel out into my aura I can tell that it's vibrating at an abnormally high rate. Higher than usual, even.

It occurred to me that in addition to the full moon and other energy disruptions last week, watching Drunvalo Melchizedek's lecture Wednesday night was the x factor I hadn't really considered... which is silly. I know this about Dru. He always makes me sleepy. I spent my Fower of Life training pouring coffee down my throat and struggling to keep my eyes open. A couple of years ago I tried to read one of the Flower of Life books and I had to stop because I was spending my days walking into things and nodding off in the middle of sentences. It's like narcolepsy. I know part of it is that the information itself triggers something; a sense of memory that's buried so deeply I can't access or comprehend it in a normal waking state. But it's also just the consciousness and presence he embodies. He is more aware than most people of his multidimensionality. As a result, he throws people into multidimensional awareness.

Here's how Fenn describes the effects of shifting into greater levels of multidimensional awareness:

Your multi-dimensional awarenss allows your consciousness to shift in this range, while you are awake!!! But this is what causes "fatigue". Your body has always recognised Theta as a state of deep relaxation prior to sleep, and so when your brain waves shift to Theta it sends you a message to say that you are tired and about to go to sleep! And so because we are conditioned to respond to that cue with tiredness and sleep, we feel that we need to go and sleep.

A sixth-dimensional being in training for full 9D Christ Consciousness will be learning to move through Delta to Gamma in the normal waking state!! Now your body definitely thinks it's asleep!! The trick is to learn to move with these states, without panicking or getting "lost" in a dream-like state. Those of us who are doing this work often feel like we are living in a slow-mo dream world, and this is in fact true. We are living in the dream state in our waking consciousness.

I realized many years ago that I barely experience a beta brainwave anymore. I'm primarily in a high to mid alpha all the time as if I were meditating. When I start to slide into a lower alpha or theta range I start to get sleepy. Certain types of spiritual study take me down to a low theta, possibly high delta, range, and I can't keep my eyes open. Whatever wire Drunvalo trips in my consciousness, it throws me deeply into that state.


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May 29, 2010

Graham Hancock: Setting History Free



I don't know if it's the full moon this week, or the Merc Retrograde that never seems to end even though it went direct ages ago, but I'm blitzed. Seriously. I can't seem to string two thoughts together in a row. So as much I'd like to say about this conversation between Graham Hancock and David Wilcock... I got nothin.' Except, I don't know, listen to it. It's very good. Enjoy!


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May 24, 2010

Drunvalo: Birth of a New Humanity



I'm feeling pulled to this video conference. I've been having intimations for weeks now that there is some information I need from Drunvalo. Then I was reminded that this event is happening this Wednesday. So I've registered for it. It's very reasonable at just under a tenner.

Now that we understand the immense changes we are about to undergo in the 2012 period which the Maya call THE END OF TIMES, I shall present some information that is known only to few,” says Drunvalo Melchizedek to his Hungarian fans. “We know from the last broadcast that the Maya, the Hopi, the Kogi and the Arjuaco all say that they are descendants of the lost continent of Atlantis.

Although 200 years ago Plato spoke about this continent, the world does not know what to think of it, since no material evidence of its existence has been found.

During the next broadcast we shall enter the ancient continent of Atlantis, because this is where our story starts. All our problems today originate from here. A long time, over 13 thousand years ago the grids of human consciousness started to collapse and humanity began to lose its higher consciousness. This is what the Bible calls “the Fall”. Something had to be done otherwise humanity would have sunk to the level of animals. As the axis of the Earth shifted and Atlantis sank into the ocean, the Maya, the Kogi and the Arjuaco set off in their ships to find new lands.

For more information on Drunvalo and why I keep coming back to his work see here. If you're interested in registering for this event, the form is here. If you include my referrer number (#53537), you can help me become a VIP. (Oooooh!) It's one of those I told 4 friends and they told 4 friends and they told 4 friends things. Just look at the form. It's all there. Anyhoo, I'm recommending this one sight unseen because I just love this guy. My work with him has been absolutely life changing.


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May 23, 2010

Do Nuns Work for the Vatican?



As discussed here, the Vatican is making the claim that bishops aren't employees. This, they claim, means they are not legally liable for the failure of some bishops to protect children from abusive priests.  It's a claim many find absurd on its face.

"The church isn't some loosely-knit hippie commune with diffuse authority," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "It's an ancient, rigid, crystal-clear hierarchy in which bishops ordain, transfer and supervise priests and in which the pope selects, transfers and supervises bishops."

The realities in terms of canon law may be more complex than such appearances imply and law and justice sometimes seem little more than distant cousins. It is by no means a given that the courts will decide in favor of abuse survivors attempting to sue the Vatican.

"The bishop exercises this authority in his own name, not as the vicar of the pope," writes the Rev. James A. Coriden in "An Introduction to Canon Law."

Yet Coriden admits that the pope is "much more than a first among equals" in the worldwide College of Bishops.

"(The doctrine of) primacy gives the pope the power to intervene in the life of the local church when exceptional circumstances make it necessary," Coriden writes. "In this sense it implies a `reserve power' to be used in emergency situations." As the Rev. Thomas J. Reese notes in his book "Inside the Vatican," canon law requires bishops to obtain the Vatican's permission before making certain decisions, such as selling or ceding diocesan property valued at $3 million or more.

The Vatican also seems to undercut its case when it gives direct guidance on the handling of abuse cases as it did in a recent posting of guidelines. On the one hand, the Vatican seems to want credit for Pope Benedict's relatively aggressive stand on clerical abuse and on the other, wants to disown criminally negligent bishops like so many bastard children. Worse, the failings of many of those bishops may owe directly to decades of, at best, mixed messages from the Vatican. In other words, the Vatican seems to be passing off as a lack of direct authority its total failure to lead on this critical problem.

And as I said before, it seems to come down to priorities. The Vatican pulls rank when it thinks it matters. It can intervene in "emergency situations" but apparently did not deem priests raping children an emergency. So what constitutes an emergency? Uppity nuns.

They've taught legions of Detroit-area Catholics. They've taken on major corporations. They are watchdog nuns who have urged U.S. companies to be socially responsible.

But to the Vatican, the Adrian Dominican congregation of 850 progressive nuns may be a problem, especially under the conservative papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

For five days this spring, a Vatican-backed team studied the Adrian Dominicans at their motherhouse in Lenawee County. They are among at least 19 sister congregations being investigated under a process called the Apostolic Visitation.

Tension between nuns and the masculine hierarchy of the Church is not new. These women who work directly with the poor and vulnerable have a tendency to wander off the farm and quietly support things like abortion. Coming face to face with poverty can make people a little more pragmatic than, say, living in the golden opulence of the Vatican might.

But the Vatican maintains the study will address the declining number of American nuns and confront concerns about some sisters straying from church teachings -- such as challenging the doctrine on female priests and homosexuality.

Its hard to miss the irony of the Vatican dispatching a team to check up on nuns over matters of doctrinal adherence after decades of almost completely ignoring the most vile of abuses. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Vatican totally dropped the ball on the biggest moral failing imaginable because its been so busy chasing after some specter of liberalism.


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May 21, 2010

Druids Hired to Reduce Car Accidents



I love this story. I just wish I could find better information on it. It's always a little weird to read about any metaphysical practice that comes through the filter of reporters who don't really understand what they're writing about. But it's fascinating to see the old ways surfacing in "old Europe."

Stone me! Motoroway bosses have hired a full-time team of druids to build a series of mini Stonehenge monuments to drain 'negative energy' from accident blackspots.

The team - which has secretly been working for Austrian authorities for two years - is said to have reduced fatal accidents at one notorious crash site to zero after restoring its "terrestrial radiation."

Chief engineer Harald Dirnbacher from Austria's motorway authority ASFINAG explained: ""We were really sceptical at first and certainly didn't want people to know what we were doing, so we kept it secret."

But now the trial results are so impressive officials are spreading the scheme nationwide.


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May 19, 2010

The Genie and James Arthur Ray



The other night I was watching an old X-Files episode; the one about the genie, or jinniyah, who makes all kinds of trouble by giving people exactly what they wish for. The problem, she finally explains to Mulder, is that people always wish for the wrong things: "Without fail. It's like giving a chimpanzee a revolver." So naturally, I thought of James Arthur Ray.

Remember this sterling bit of wisdom from Ray in The Secret?




As with so much of The Secret, I found the genie comparison disturbingly arrogant. The universe is not here to serve your ego. Your ego is what separates you from the awareness that you are the universe.

His choice of the Aladdin story makes sense, though. It is, after all, the tale of a feckless ne'er do well who stumbles into a get rich quick scheme. He has a few challenges with an evil sorcerer but things turn out in the end. Many genie stories don't end so well.

Sometimes playful, sometimes malicious, genies are usually depicted as tricksters. The genie (jinni, djinni) has its origins in pre-Islamic, Arab myth. They are sentient beings from a parallel dimension with a complex hierarchy. They also find their way into the Qur'an, where one becomes the ultimate trickster.

According to the Qur’ān, there are two creations that have free will: humans and jinn. We do not know many details about them; however, the Qur’an mentions that jinn are made of smokeless flame, and they form communities just like humans, and, just like humans, they can be good or evil.[1]

The jinn are mentioned frequently in the Qur’an, and there is a surah entitled Sūrat al-Jinn. While Christian tradition suggests that Lucifer was an angel that rebelled against God's orders, Islam maintains that Iblīs was a jinni who was granted special privilege to live amongst angels prior to his rebellion.[2] After the rebellion, he was granted a respite to lead humans astray until the Day of Judgment. However, Iblis has no power to mislead true believers in God.

In Western mythos, the genie is a more mundane magical being and genie lore has merged with other trickster themes.

The [Western interpretation of the genie is based on the Aladdin tale in the Western version of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which told of a genie that lived in an oil lamp and granted wishes to whoever freed him from the lamp by polishing it. The number and frequency of wishes varies, but typically it is limited to three wishes.

Many stories about genies tend to follow the same vein as the famous short story The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs, with the overriding theme of "be careful what you wish for"; in these stories, wishes can have disastrous, horrific and sometimes fatal consequences. Often, the genie causes harm to the loved ones or innocent people surrounding the wisher, making others pay for its master's greed or ignorance.

Exploiting loopholes or twisting interpretations of wishes is a classic trait amongst genies in Western fiction. For example, in one episode of wikipedia:The Twilight Zone, a poor shopkeeper who finds a genie wishes to become a leader of a great nation - and is transformed into Adolf Hitler at the very end of wikipedia:World War II. Often, these stories end with the genie's master wishing to have never found the genie, all his previous wishes never to have happened, or a similar wish to cancel all the fouled wishes that have come before.

To complete the aphorism: "Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it." The message in genie and other stories of the 3 wishes variety is not that the universe is here to serve your wishes to the letter so that you can live happily ever after. It's that when you seek after your desires, you may or may not get some version of them, but either way, there will be a period of painful readjustment. And there is always at least some manifestation of the trickster. In the Aladdin story, the trickster is the sorcerer, not the genie, but it's in there. Sometimes, like in The Handless Maiden, recounted so beautifully in Women Who Run With the Wolves, it's the devil.

I've learned some very personal lessons with trickster archetypes. Some years ago, coyote had a bit of fun with me. We were living in an area where wild packs of coyotes roamed and hunted every night. And every night we fell asleep to periodic eruptions of that strange, unearthly yip/howl of coyotes, knowing that they'd found a rabbit or a neighbor's unfortunate cat. Leave say, it was an interesting and challenging period in my life. There were many unanticipated changes; pregnancy, childbirth, 9/11, war... It was a rough few years... The lesson of tricksters like coyote is that we are not in control. Tricksters challenge us at the ego level. They remind us that whatever path we think we're on it may take strange turns or abruptly end leaving us lost in the wilderness. They remind us, to quote another aphorism, that "life is what happens when you're planning something else." And they remind us that there are much greater influences at work in our lives than our minds can comprehend, let alone, control. Far from flattering our egos, tricksters teach us humility... and a certain sense of wonder.

Another element of these classic stories, including Aladdin, is this simple theme: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Making extraordinary promises is the stuff of confidence tricksters, aka, con men. And it's the stuff of The Secret.

James Arthur Ray tells us that he "understands how the universe works," and that our wish is its command. How's that workin' out for him? Sure. He manifested some successful books and seminars, television appearances, multiple properties... Now four people are dead, he's under indictment, and he's apparently broke. Chimpanzee with a revolver, indeed.


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May 18, 2010

The Vatican and the Wages of Sin



In what was arguably the epicenter of the US Catholic sex abuse scandal -- where the Boston Globe broke the story wide in 2002 -- ten churches are officially slated to close.

The Vatican has rejected final appeals by 10 parishes closed by the Archdiocese of Boston in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal, leaving parishioners to consider fighting the closings in civilian courts, the leader of a parish advocacy group said Monday.

. . .

The archdiocese announced the closings of dozens of churches in 2004, citing falling attendance, a priest shortage and financial problems, but has denied the closings were a direct result of the clergy sex abuse scandal. The closings came a year after the archdiocese settled more than 500 claims for $85 million.

The financial costs of the sex abuse scandal are mounting and now threaten the Vatican itself. With law suits from sex abuse survivors escalating, the Vatican has outlined the following defense.

The Vatican on Monday will make its most detailed defense yet against claims that it is liable for U.S. bishops who allowed priests to molest children, saying bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet, The Associated Press has learned.

. . .

The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for the failure of bishops to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.

. . .

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Pope Benedict XVI can be questioned or documents subpoenaed.

Its motion is being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See, since the court's eventual decision could have implications for a lawsuit naming top Vatican officials that was recently filed in Wisconsin and another one in Oregon is pending before the Supreme Court.

So bishops aren't employed by the Vatican. Interesting tack. It makes me wonder what would happen if Catholic dioceses around the world went their own way on a variety of issues like abortion and homosexuality. For instance, if, say, some priest decided to marry two men, something tells me the Vatican might just pull rank.

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called abortion and same-sex marriage some of the most "insidious and dangerous" threats facing the world today, asserting key church teachings as he tried to move beyond the clerical abuse scandal.

This is the conundrum for the Vatican. It's been very aggressive on these "moral" issues on which the world has left them behind and awfully quiet about the immorality of sexual abuse of children and adolescents. It turns out the world really cares about the latter and it may be time to pay the piper. This is not to say that the Vatican can't make the legal case about what exactly qualifies as "employment." But it would be obvious, legal hair splitting. It seems a bit cynical but it's understandable. The wealth of the Vatican may be at stake and the church is may be far more financially vulnerable than their apparent opulence implies.

I also think the Vatican is going to be very hard pressed to prove that it did not maintain a culture of secrecy and strongly discourage bishops from turning abusive priests over to police. As discussed, Pope John Paul II approved just such a policy as recently as 2001.

If the "we don't actually employ clergy" legal maneuver fails, the Vatican may be on the hook for a whole lot of legal liability. I'm beginning to wonder how many of the church's moral pronouncements and policy decisions revolve around finances -- both in terms of how money comes in and how it could go out. For instance, it has been suggested by many that doing away with mandatory celibacy makes the church vulnerable to sex and sex abuse scandals. Remember that approximately half of the clergy are involved in illicit sexual relationships at any given time. That pretty strongly implies that the policy has failed and needs to be reevaluated. But there, too, the decision seems to come down to money.

Twenty-five years ago I had an engaging conversation with Cardinal Hume in which I asked if the Roman Catholic church would ordain married men or single women first. His reply was unequivocal: "Single women." When I expressed surprise, he pointed to the outstanding women in Roman Catholic religious orders and said: "And we can't afford a married priesthood. The Church of England pays you a stipend on which a family can live, we pay pocket money; it houses you, we would have to convert every presbytery into a family home – it would bankrupt us." He was commendably honest and pragmatic, avoiding indefensible doctrine.

Last year seven men were ordained priest in the Roman Catholic church in the UK: there were 574 ordained in the CofE (of whom 274 were women). There is a crisis looming for the Vatican and they just don't get it: the priesthood is ageing and diminishing, something must be done or the church will implode.[Emphasis added]


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May 17, 2010

Karen Bishop Says Goodbye... Again



I can tell by my stats that people are freaking out about Karen Bishop. Yes, my stats. Hit after hit on Karen Bishop oriented posts; especially this one. Because, once again, Bishop has pulled the plug. I was less surprised this time. Her previous post was rather ominous. But also, I'm right there with her. Something (???) has ended abruptly. I've been describing it as "hitting the wall." For example, I've been wanting to write about her farewell post for two days but I've been too tired. And by tired I don't mean I need some sleep. I mean I'm completely, totally, exhausted on every level, and sleep doesn't help. I mean that I don't have an erg of mental, emotional, or creative energy.

I've also had the sense that a lot of things are ending. I keep feeling like I'm moving but we have no plans to move right now. And that feeling of having the rug pulled out from under -- of having nothing solid to stand on -- is palpable right now. Bishop nailed if for me in her April 30 post.

The old world as we know it is coming down more rapidly now. We may find that it is more difficult than ever to interact and become involved with much of anything. Nothing may feel “right” or good, we may wonder where it is that we are meant to be, and in addition, may feel that we are lost in a space of no space, as touching the remnants of the old reality are like forced habits of survival that we must endure for a while longer.

As if we have been ousted into thin air, floating around in outer space with no anchor, and holding our own personal center within ourselves alone, we wait as the old world continues with its dismantling and demise of energies and creations that can never begin to fit in a new world reality.

The alignments of the new, the preparation of the earth for the new, and the shake-ups that will continue to unfold for many months to come, have created an instability around us that is forcing us to scramble for something to hold onto…something that we may hope and pray will feel remotely good and loving.

I got the sense in looking at her last three posts that she is just fed up with the constant delays and redirects that keep us in the "old world," so she's chosen to really retreat. But I may be reading into this. Maybe because I'm completely fed up with a world that has, as I said recently, NEVER made any sense to me. We live in a world where Murphy's and Sturgeon's laws predominate. And according to Bishop, we've chosen the slower and more difficult path to letting it go.


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May 14, 2010

Sarah Palin on the Ten Commandments



Spurred to bold rhetorical flourishes by the recent Federal Court decision against the National Day of Prayer, Sarah Palin took her "Christian nation" act to The O'Reilly Factor. The ensuing conversation is a study in wrong-headedness.

Palins's advice: "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the ten commandments.

"What in hell scares people about talking about America's foundation of faith?" Palin continued. "It is that world view that involves some people being afraid of being able to discuss our foundation, being able to discuss God in the public square, that's the only thing I can attribute it to."

I'm sure she meant to say "H E Double Hockeysticks," gosh darnit. Her outrage has clearly gotten the better of her.

Of course, what the founding fathers were "quite clear" about was the exact opposite. The very first amendment to the Constitution prohibits government establishment of religion; a fact O'Reilly at least gives lip service to in the interview. God is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. If the intent were truly to make this a Christian nation, that would have been quite the oversight. The private writings of a number of the founders make it even more clear that they did not want the government in the religion business. A good overview can be found here

One of the more absurd notions batted about by Palin and O'Reilly is that our laws are based on the ten commandments, with O'Reilly going so far as to claim that they can be found in the Supreme Court building. This is a distortion. There are depictions of Moses and his iconic tablets but they are placed in a context with other legendary lawgivers. One of the more prominent images places Moses with Confucius and Solon, neither of whom can be confused for Judeo-Christian thinkers. Our founding fathers also had nothing to do with the Supreme Court building. Construction didn't begin until 1932.

Whenever I hear anyone say that US law should be -- or is -- based on the ten commandments, I have to wonder if they've actually read them. Any attempt to legislate them in entirety would be, not just unconstitutional, but thoroughly impracticable.

The commandments appear in both Exodus and Deuteronomy with slight variations. What we think of as the ten commandments is actually a reduction of more complex scripture and the finished product varies in different religious traditions. Wikipedia does a decent job of showing the context and derivation. But I'll pick a list and take them one by one:

1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me."

Many iterations leave all the stuff about Egypt out for reasons that should be obvious. Most of us have never even been to Egypt, so at best, it would have to be interpreted as a metaphor. That creates a little problem for fundamentalists who advocate a literal interpretation of scripture. Sort of a conundrum.

But the larger issue, obviously, is that any pretense of religious freedom would go out the window if congress started passing laws mandating which god we must all worship. There's no way to argue that that isn't an "establishment" of a religion.

Legal issues aside, this commandment is a bit of sticky wicket. It implies rather strongly that there are other gods. It's an unusual monotheism that says not that there is only one god, but that we must worship only one god and ignore the others. It's more of a preferential polytheism, really. In most of the Judeo-Christian world, that implication is ignored as our concept of a god blurs with mystical awareness of oneness symbolized by a definable God... but not always. It slips out from time to time. A recent example can be found in the statement from Franklin Graham that created so much controversy.

The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.

Such "my tribe is better than your tribe" divisiveness really doesn't advance us spiritually or otherwise.

2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments."

Again, I can't think of any law prohibiting graven images anywhere in the US. Like the first commandment, it would be a blatant violation of the establishment clause. Not only would legislation based on this commandment interfere with the practice of many other religions, from Hindu to Wicca, it would also create problems for many Christians. Much of the Christian world seems to ignore this commandment entirely. Catholicism, in particular, is rife with images of God, angels, Jesus, the saints... Christians everywhere bow or genuflect before the cross, with or without the crucified Jesus on it. Not since the various iconoclast movements in time of yore has anyone in the Judeo-Christian tradition seriously tried to stop the use of religious idols.

The other part of this commandment that, shall we say, gives one pause is the revelation of God's jealousy. Not a becoming attribute in a god. It sounds petty. And it, once again, indicates that there are other gods to be jealous of.

3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."

Laws against profanity, in general, crop up here and there in local statutes; none God-specific, though. They raise free speech issues. We could try making them federal, I guess, but then Sarah Palin would have to watch her mouth and stop swearing like a sailor on national television. (See above.)

4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."

Other than Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, I can't think of anyone who even follows this practice anymore. Okay... Seventh Day Adventists... there may be others. But as a matter of law? Not so much. There are blue laws here and there that restrict retail or, more commonly, the sale of alcohol on Sundays but these, at most. follow the spirit, not the letter of the commandment. I also expect a strict adherence to Sabbath restrictions would be a hard sell in our current pro-business environment. And if we're to be really Judeo-Christian about it, we'd have to shut everything down for the entire weekend, starting on Friday night. I have a hard time envisioning that.

5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you."

Well, this would get into the complexities of family law but in the modern world, the "honor" is supposed to go both ways. There are laws against child abuse now and a strict reading of that commandment could negate them.

6. “You shall not murder."

This one absolutely makes it into law. Of course it's pretty universal. Murder is explicitly prohibited in non-Judeo-Christian countries and cultures around the world.

7. “You shall not commit adultery."

There are some states that have laws on the books making adultery illegal but they are relics of another time and are no longer prosecuted. The only legal ramifications currently have to do with damages in divorce cases, lawsuits, and the like. Article 134 of UCMJ prohibits adultery and can result in a dishonerable discharge and rarely, if ever, a year in jail.

The military -- where people live and work closely together and have access to weaponry -- is the only place you see any real punitive action against adulterers. Throughout most of American society, adultery is viewed as a private matter. I'm sure there are many politicians -- including legislators -- and numerous religious leaders who are glad that they won't face legal consequences for such indiscretions. (Bill O'Reilly, for instance, has found himself on the wrong side of that particular commandment.) For that reason alone, I doubt we'd ever see any great legal push for laws more consistent with the seventh commandment.

8. “You shall not steal."

See commandment six.

9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

There are civil, not criminal statutes, against libel and slander and the legal bar is quite high, in this country. The charge must not only be false, it must be proven that the defendant knew it was false and spread that falsehood with malice.

Perjury could qualify as false witness against a neighbor, in some cases, but it's much broader. That can result in criminal charges.

10. “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”

God really saved the best for last because this one's my favorite! I just love the way wives are equated with slaves, property, and livestock. Technically, this would be a thought-crime. It's hard to legislate against thought-crimes and it gets into all sorts of sticky First Amendment issues.

The purpose of laws is to allow people to live together harmoniously and there is a good bit of universality to some of those commandments. Moses was faced with some of the same issues that any community faces and some of those practical considerations are evident. He also had to deal with the whole worship of the golden calf thing so I suppose specifying which god to worship was important. They were, no doubt, the laws most likely to advance social cohesion at the time. But most of them just aren't applicable in a modern democracy. If they were and if, in fact, our system of jurisprudence was based on those commandments, you'd expect all ten of them to be class 1 felonies. Aside from 6 and 8, they're not and I think it's pretty unlikely that they ever will be... unless we turn into a Handmaid's Tale kind of dystopia. I doubt even Sarah Palin wants that... but I could be wrong.




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May 12, 2010

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee on Dangerous Love



This is a brief excerpt of a talk by Sufi scholar Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, whom I referenced recently here. Despite its brevity, it's a surprisingly rich and compelling explanation of the difference between mystical and romantic love and the misinterpretation of mystical poets like Rumi.


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May 11, 2010

Pope Benedict on Sin, Sex Abuse, and the Fatima Prophecy



The Pope is talking like someone who means it with his most forthright and startling statements to date. And he's finally putting responsibility where it belongs: Inside the Catholic Church. In a dramatic turn-about from his letter to the Irish Diocese and apparent rebuke of all the blame-throwing from top officials, Pope Benedict has finally called upon the Church to take full responsibility. This statement follows the resignation of numerous high profile Bishops so this may be the beginning of a serious house-cleaning.

In his most thorough admission of the church's guilt in the clerical sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday the greatest persecution of the institution "is born from the sins within the church," and not from a campaign by outsiders.

The pontiff said the Catholic church has always been tormented by problems of its own making — a tendency that is being witnessed today "in a truly terrifying way."

"The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice," he said.

"Forgiveness cannot substitute justice," he said.

Whatever changes the Pontiff's increasing assertiveness portends, it can't be fast or strong enough for abuse survivors.

But Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), dismissed the pope's statements as "pretty meaningless."

"There is no action," Blaine, who was herself abused by a priest when she was 13, told AFP.

"None of the words that he said today make children any safer than before he spoke the words," said the now 53-year-old Blaine.

The  frustration is understandable. Pope Benedict's comments should have come years ago and from his predecessor. Some dioceses have been more proactive than others in addressing the issue and while some have implemented a framework for dealing with abusers and better supervision of contact with children, those initiatives have not come from nor been well supported by the Vatican. And they have not been universal. As I've written previously, Pope Benedict has been one of the most aggressive on this issue but he's been far too cautious by any normal standard. I, for one, would like to think that his increasingly strong rhetoric will be backed up with more action and openness. Time will tell.

It is also possible that the Pontiff's new-found boldness is another indication that he is a shrewd politician. It is simply smart to do what was recommended at the recent communications conference; come clean and stop blaming everyone but the bishops and cardinals who've so completely failed to protect children from abuse. They've tried that approach. It failed. People, including many Catholics, are angry and want to see some accountability.

One possible clue to Pope Benedict's motivations lies in the timing. That he made these comments to reporters on his way to Portugal would appear to be no accident. His trip to Portugal coincides with the date of the 1917 vision of the Lady of Fatima and he will visit Fatima for the anniversary. (It is also the date of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.) It would appear that the seeds of his dramatic pronouncement are to be found in the prophetic statements issued from the famous apparition of the Virgin Mary.

He added that the Church was being 'persecuted for its sins' and he described how the sex abuse scandals were part of the so-called Third Mystery of Fatima.

The Mysteries of Fatima are a trio of secrets said to have been given to shepherd children in 1917 during a vision of the Virgin Mary in the Portuguese village of Fatima.

The First and Second concerned the two World Wars and the rise and fall of Communism while the Third, which was only disclosed in 2000 by the Vatican, was said to have foretold the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.

However there have long been suggestions that part of the Third secret was withheld and the Pope appeared to confirm this when he said that the 'suffering of the Church as a result of the sex abuse case' was also part of the secret.

He added: 'Besides the suffering of Pope John Paul II in the Third Message there was also indications as to the future of the Church.

'It is true that it speaks of the passion of the Church. That the Church will suffer.

'The Lord said that the Church would suffer until the end of the world. Today we are seeing this in a particular way.'

While this portion of the Pope's comments have gotten far less coverage than his statements about the Church's sin and need for penance, I think they are a far greater indicator of his seriousness.

The third secret of Fatima has been shrouded in secrecy and controversy for decades. Even after Pope John Paul II revealed it in 2000, there have been rumors that the declaration was partial and the most disturbing portions withheld. That the statement prophesied the apocalypse, complete with nuclear war, has long been denied by the Vatican. My lapsed Catholic husband informs me that one rumor involved Pope John Paul II visibly shaken, possibly crying, after reading it because it foretold the end of the Catholic Church. In many interpretations of such prophecy, the end of the Church equals the end of the world.

That Pope Benedict has indicated the suffering of the Church "until the end of the world" would seem to confirm that it did, in fact, pertain to eschatology. In 2000 he tried to assuage such concerns over the terror of the prophecy.

A careful reading of the text of the so-called third 'secret' of Fatima ... will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled.

He goes on to explain that because the Mysteries of Fatima come after the authoritative word of God in the book of Revelation, they pertain to a matter already closed. He defines Lucia Santos's text as "private revelation," which should not be confused with the Biblical text. Such private revelation serves the purpose of clarifying that which has already been fully prophesied in the Bible... which is the end of the world.

He also indicates that, while Biblical prophecy is definitive, such personal revelations can serve as instruction and warning about how to amend our actions and transform the future.

The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction... Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.

Speaking for myself, that's how I view all prophecy and psychic readings... including my own readings. The future is never fixed. Else there would be no point to precognition. The end of this world, or age, may be fairly inevitable, however. I look more to interpretations of the Mayan Calendar than the Book of Revelation, however. They make more sense.

It bears mentioning that many interpretations of St. Malachy's prophecy make Pope Benedict XVI the second to the last pope.

The Current Pope

111. Benedict XVI - The New Pope Joseph Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope on April 19, 2005 a few days after his 78th birthday.
(The glory of the olive)
The olive branch represents peace. Will he play a role in bringing the religions together and furthering tolerance during his office? Within 24 hours of his election, Islamic and Jewish religious leaders suggested just such a role for him. Hopefully, he can lead the religious world to recognize and focus upon the commonality of their belief in the same God rather than their differences

Perhaps through the implementation of tolerance we can look to a future where people stop justifying the killing of one another in the name of God. Let us see what the future will bring.

In the future

112. The LAST POPE!
(Peter the Roman) "In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge the people. The End."

For whatever reason, Pope Benedict seems genuinely frightened over the future of the Church and concerned enough over its direction to reverse course.


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May 10, 2010

What is Wrong with the World?


O Egypt, Egypt, of thy religion nothing will remain but an empty tale, which thine own children in time to come will not believe; nothing will be left but graven words, and only the stones will tell of thy piety. And in that day men will be weary of life, and they will cease to think the universe worthy of reverent wonder and of worship. And so religion, the greatest of all blessings, for there is nothing, nor has been, nor ever shall be, that can be deemed a greater boon, will be threatened with destruction; men will think it a burden, and will come to scorn it. They will no longer love this world around us, this incomparable work of God, this glorious structure which he has built, this sum of good made up of things of many diverse forms, this instrument whereby the will of God operates in that which be has made, ungrudgingly favouring man’s welfare, this combination and accumulation of all the manifold things that can call forth the veneration, praise, and love of the beholder.

Darkness will be preferred to light, and death will be thought more profitable than life; no one will raise his eyes to heaven ; the pious will be deemed insane, and the impious wise; the madman will be thought a brave man, and the wicked will be esteemed as good. As to the soul, and the belief that it is immortal by nature, or may hope to attain to immortality, as I have taught you, all this they will mock at, and will even persuade themselves that it is false. No word of reverence or piety, no utterance worthy of heaven and of the gods of heaven, will be heard or believed.

And so the gods will depart from mankind, a grievous thing!, and only evil angels will remain, who will mingle with men, and drive the poor wretches by main force into all manner of reckless crime, into wars, and robberies, and frauds, and all things hostile to the nature of the soul. Then will the earth no longer stand unshaken, and the sea will bear no ships; heaven will not support the stars in their orbits, nor will the stars pursue their constant course in heaven; all voices of the gods will of necessity be silenced and dumb; the fruits of the earth will rot; the soil will turn barren, and the very air will sicken in sullen stagnation. After this manner will old age come upon the world. Religion will be no more; all things will be disordered and awry; all good will disappear.


~ from The Prophecy of Hermes Trismegistus


Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for his link to this fascinating perspective on world religion. While Stephen Prothero thinks it a mistake to consider all religions as heading in the same basic direction, he defines a common root.

What the world’s religions share is not so much a finish line as a starting point. And where they begin is with this simple observation: Something is wrong with the world. In the Hopi language, the word “Koyaanisqatsi” tells us that life is out of balance. Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” tells us that there is something rotten not only in the state of Denmark but also in the state of human existence. Hindus say we are living in the “kali yuga,” the most degenerate age in cosmic history. Buddhists say that human existence is pockmarked by suffering. Jewish, Christian, and Islamic stories tell us that this life is not Eden; Zion, heaven, and paradise lie out ahead.

So religious folk agree that something has gone awry. They part company, however, when it comes to stating just what has gone wrong, and they diverge even more sharply when they move from diagnosing the human problem to prescribing how to solve it. Moreover, each offers its own distinctive diagnosis of the human problem and its own prescription for a cure. Each offers its own techniques for reaching its religious goal, and its own exemplars for emulation.

Christians see sin as the human problem, and salvation from sin as the religious goal. Buddhists see suffering (which, in their tradition, is not ennobling) as the problem, and liberation from suffering as the goal. Confucians see social disorder as the problem, and social harmony as the goal. And so it goes from tradition to tradition, with Hindus seeking release from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, Muslims seeking paradise via submission to Allah, and practitioners of the Yoruba religion seeking sacred connections — among humans, between humans and the persons of power they call the orishas, and between humans and the natural environment.

For myself, I have always felt that this world makes no sense at all. When I first began to pursue a life wholly focused on my psychic and spiritual development, the wrongness of it became more palpable and increasingly insufferable. So I have sought out explanations for that intuitive sense of wrongness. I had never looked at world religions through that prism, though, and Prothero makes and interesting point. He only scratches the surface, however, in terms of religious definitions of  this fundamental wrongness. The Hindu mysteries go further with beliefs that this world is caught in the grip of an illusion. The Sanskrit word is Maya. Graham Hancock explains briefly in Heaven's Mirror how the Rishis, or sages, see this world and how different iterations of similar beliefs occur in other traditions.

What we accept without question as 'reality' the Rishis describes as 'the world of form'. They claimed to have discovered that this world is not in fact real at all but rather a sinister sort of virtual reality game in which we are all players, a complex and cunning illusion capable of confusing even the most thorough empirical tests -- a mass hallucination of extraordinary depth and power designed to distract souls from the straight and narrow path of awakening which leads to immortal life. With a synchronicity that seems strange  to anyone who has studied the mysteries of Central America, they named the hallucination 'Maya' and taught techniques, amounting effectively to a 'science of realization', included the single-minded pursuit of spiritual knowledge, meditation, contemplation, concentration of mind through the study of mandalas and yantras, and the correct fulfillment of ritual.

The readers will remember that in Mexico, too, life was understood not to be real but only a dream from which the soul awakes on death. Likewise,in the supposedly unrelated Hermetic Texts, compiled in Alexandria in Egypt at round the second century AD, we read that 'all things on earth are unreal ... Illusion is a thing wrought by the workings of Reality.'

The Gnostics describe a world created by a Demiurge and under the control of Archons who are actually caught up in a delusion that they are our rulers. These forces somehow limit our consciousness and keep us trapped in this illusion of powerlessness.

In these more esoteric and mystical sects, the problem is much deeper than the human failing of sin or the Buddhist idea of suffering. Such things are merely symptoms of the greater problem with reality itself. The fundamental problem is the illusion that we are separate from "God," the "Godhead," or from what I as a mystical thinker would define as conscious oneness.

I think Prothero errs in his assessment of divergence between solutions offered by different religions. There is a common goal and it's of a piece with the assessment of the fundamental problem they address. Each of these seemingly divergent conceptions (heaven, nirvana, etc.) are descriptions of the return to what is "right." What all religions appear to me to be seeking as an endpoint is union, or reunion, with the numinous. Somehow we have lost our sense of connection to something greater, beyond this 3D reality, and we seek to regain it through spiritual practice.

On The Huffington Post, Rev. James Martin, S.J. writes that the longing for that sense of connection with God is the connection with God.

Many people today -- seekers, agnostics, atheists -- find it difficult to believe in God for many reasons. First is the suffering they see in the world. How could a good God let people suffer, especially, they say, children and victims of natural disasters? Second is the evil and mendacity that they see in religion, like the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church.

But the third reason is that they feel that they have had no real experience of God. Even many otherwise religious people feel that they've never had a "direct" experience of God.

I think many people have, but they're just not aware of it, or they dismiss it as "something else." Or they're not encouraged to talk about it in spiritual terms.

One of the most basic ways of experiencing God is experiencing a desire for God. Desire often gets a bad rap in spiritual circles, but it is an essential part of spirituality, because desire is a key way that God's voice is heard in our lives. Our deepest desire, planted within us, is our desire for God. And it's God who plants those desires within us, as one way of drawing us to the divine.

In other words, that longing stems from an innate awareness that there is something greater.

I have discussed before the resonance of Graham Hancock's suggestion that we are "a species with amnesia." Hancock's years of research point to an antediluvian civilization that has left perplexing remnants, many of them with evident spiritual significance. The Ancient Egyptians, for instance, spoke of Zep Tepi, or the "first time," when the gods walked the earth.

Walter Cruttenden, author of The Lost Star of Myth and Time and co-creator of The Great Year, has also pored through myths from all over the world and found that great numbers of them speak of a "Golden Age" in the deep past; a lost civilization that existed when the world was in balance and possibly not so "wrong." Cruttenden's astronomical research suggests that precession, the earth's "wobble" which is built into so many of these puzzling ancient monuments, is actually a result of our sun being part of a binary star system. As we move away from this other, mysterious heavenly body, our consciousness falls, and as we near it our consciousness expands. This offers a possible explanation for the sense of disconnection and "wrongness" reflected in all these religions. It could explain why our consciousness has been at a very low ebb throughout recorded history. Cruttenden was recently interviewed on Coast to Coast and Red Ice Radio. I've posted both.






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May 6, 2010

James Arthur Ray: The Check is Not in the Mail



Fresh from the front page of his website, James Arthur Ray wants to thank people for their patience over the "postponed events." What he has graciously avoided mentioning is that many people aren't feeling so patient. In fact, they filed suit over a month ago.

A lawsuit filed late Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court contends James Arthur Ray and his Carlsbad, Calif.-based company, James Ray International, misled plaintiffs during sales pitches for the events and haven't responded to calls or letters requesting refunds.

. . .

The lawsuit accuses Ray of breach of contract, consumer fraud and unjust enrichment. It names three plaintiffs but estimates up to 1,000 people are similarly situated.

Susan Smyser of Las Vegas, paid nearly $8,000 for two events; Patricia Franklin of Mesa paid almost $3,350 for two events; and Kim Wilson of Los Angeles paid more than $12,500 for four events, according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs contend Ray used prepaid fees to cover past events or fund his own wealth. They also say he lacked the assets or capital to conduct events or refund advanced fees without continued sales and collection of those fees.

So Ray's comments are less than timely. He is also conspicuously not promising recompense.  Nor has he ever. His refund policy does not even address the issue of cancellations by JRI. Common sense and decency would dictate that if James Arthur Ray canceled (or indefinitely postponed) events, the prepayments should be promptly refunded.

The larger problem for these plaintiffs is that Ray has made himself judgment proof. He's already proved in a court of law that he's broke enough to have his bail substantially reduced.

What sort of person takes money from people, spends it before the services are rendered, and tries to finesse his way out of repaying them when he fails to render those services? Legal ramifications aside, it's completely devoid of integrity. Is James Arthur Ray a spiritual teacher or a grifter? Sadly, the "new age" has given rise to its own iteration of the tent revival preacher, faith healer stereotype. Ray is charismatic, smooove, and can spin a vapid, spiritual platitude with the best of them. At the end of the day, he's a garden variety con man. He and Goldman Sachs have the same publicist. What does that tell you?



John Belushi as Ron Decline in
The Rutles - All You Need Is Cash


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May 4, 2010

The Incredible Creepiness in the Catholic Church


"I love the confession game. Tell me your sins."
~ V for Vendetta


After lengthy deliberation, the Vatican has announced that it will take over the scandal-ridden Legionaries of Christ, appointing a special envoy to run the global organization. The decision comes twelve years after decades of abuse were reported directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

In its statement Saturday, the Vatican said, "the conduct of P. Marcial Maciel Degollado has caused a series of consequences on the life and structure of the Legion, such to require a way of deep revision.

"The very serious and objectively immoral behaviour of P. Maciel, confirmed by incontrovertible accounts sometimes turned into true crimes. They show a life lacking scruples and authentic religious calling. Of this side of life, a great part of the Legionaries were in the dark -- especially given the system of relationship built by P. Maciel, who very skillfully knew how to create alibis, obtain loyalty, trust and silence from those around him and strengthened his own role as charismatic founder."

There is little doubt that the late Maciel was a sociopath and they can be very convincing liars. But it strains credulity to think that there was so little awareness of the comings and goings of a priest who maintained at least two households with mistresses and children, and about whom multiple allegations of sex abuse had been surfacing for years. A two-part profile of Maciel in the National Catholic Reporter covering his creation of the Legionaries, his gift for conning wealthy widows out of lavish contributions, his seduction of vulnerable women, and rape of children -- including his own -- can be found here and here. It's a fascinating read but it's not for the faint of heart.

Despite reprimands for drug abuse and a known predilection for young boys, Maciel not only maintained his cover, but won favor in the highest reaches of the Vatican. This cannot help but raise flags about a larger institutional problem. Says Andrew Sullivan:

This was John Paul II's favored darling of the church, the man feted by Bill Bennett and Mary Ann Glendon and the entire theocon machine. When a church has become so corrupt it not only allows but celebrates the rise of a pederastic cult within it, it needs not just reform but reformation.

Sullivan concludes that it's entirely about money. Maciel threw very large sums around the Vatican and gave lavish gifts of food and wine which, no doubt, greased a few wheels. But there is another variable in this equation; one that makes me increasingly queasy. As I wrote here, the greater part of Vatican culture appears to have been astonishingly cavalier about sexual indiscretions of both the legal and illegal, abusive variety. At the same time, there was an incredible amount of energy directed towards concealing licentious behavior within the clergy.

In a pattern now all to familiar to anyone following this crisis, the case of Rev Marcial Maciel Degollado was stalled for years in a kind of bureaucratic limbo. And once again it was Cardinal Ratzinger who sought to pursue the matter only to be foiled by an internal power struggle that the world beyond the Vatican can only try to imagine.

Cardinal Ratzinger sought out information on the growing list of allegations and met with two Mexican seminarians in 1998. This followed a startling expose in the Hartford Courant in 1997. The seminarians detailed sex abuse claims that spanned decades.

But in little more than a year, Ratzinger — the future Pope Benedict XVI — halted the inquiry. “It isn’t prudent,” he told a Mexican bishop, according to two people who later talked to the bishop.

For five years, the case remained stalled, possibly a hostage to Maciel’s powerful protectors in the Curia, the Vatican’s governing apparatus, and his own deep influence at the Holy See.

Let that sink in for a moment. It wasn't "prudent" to pursue a case that was already a matter of public record. Again, the picture that emerges is of a powerful Cardinal tiptoeing carefully through a web of intrigue and making careful judgment calls as to whether or not it's politic to proceed... against a child molester.

The Rev. Alberto Athie Gallo, a Mexican priest who in 1998 tried to bring allegations of sexual abuse by Maciel to the attention of Ratzinger, said the Vatican allowed Maciel, who died in 2008, to lead a double life for decades.

“This was tolerated by the Holy See for years,” Athie said. “In this sense, I think the Holy See cannot get to the bottom of this matter. It would have to criticize itself as an authority.”

It seems impossible that they didn't know at least a good deal about Maciel's machinations. They just didn't care; not enough to stop the gravy train. Was it just that Maciel was a remarkably talented con man? Or was it that there was so much taint extending to the highest reaches of the Church that they couldn't risk letting Pandora out of the box?

One possible explanation for the total unwillingness to acknowledge the elephant in the sanctuary is the extraordinary level of hypocrisy that has been forced by the policy of celibacy.

Responding to a visiting Margaret Warner's questions about the clergy sex abuse scandal, [Cardinal] Levada at one point said: "I think the causes we will see go back to changes in society that the church and priests were not prepared for, particularly changes involving how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution."

That is a stunning and extremely noteworthy admission, for several reasons. If we take Levada at his word and go the next step, it meant that as a result of the sexual revolution, there were Catholic priests who became involved in all kinds of sexual acting out, from pedophilia (though that is a psychiatric condition with its own etiology) to sex with minors to the sexual exploitation of young -- and not so young -- vulnerable adults.

. . .

That acting out was a major problem in itself, inflicting horrendous suffering on the victims of those sexual exploits -- girls and boys, men and women. But the real way that celibacy caused this crisis is that it led the hierarchy to go to outrageous lengths to hide the truth: its failure to maintain a pristine celibate priesthood.

Indeed, a celibate Catholic priesthood has long been a myth rather than a reality. In his research, psychotherapist and former Catholic monk Richard Sipe found that an estimated half of all priests were involved in some kind of sexual activity at any one time. Of those, 15 percent were involved with men, 30 percent with women, [Attention Bill Donohue: Still think the church's problem is homosexuality?] and six percent with minors.

Secrets and shame tend to compound over generations; in families and in institutions. The loftier the standard, the more impossible it is maintain it. The situation can only degrade to the point where it produces complete degenerates whom they can't expose without risking exposure of other secrets. The celibate priesthood also provides refuge for pedophiles because it gives a ready excuse for the lack of interest in adult sexual partners... and access to children.

Nearly half of these celibate priests are engaged in sexual activity. You have to wonder how many of those priests have reached high office within the Church? And how their failure to maintain their vows might be leveraged -- how it might buy silence or even advocacy. The Catholic Church is a very compromised organization and the gentle tweaking of the apparently well-intended Pope Benedict XVI can't possibly be enough. Sullivan is right. An entire reformation is what is called for.

"But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." ~ 1 Corinthians 7:9



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May 3, 2010

Rest in Peace, Lynn Redgrave



Tomorrow night they will dim the lights on Broadway to honor the passing of Lynn Redgrave.

I find myself deeply saddened and somewhat startled at my own sadness. I did not know Lynn Redgrave well, but I spent a good bit of time with her when I handled publicity on her book "This is Living." She was a lovely, gracious, and unpretentious woman. It was that genuine, down-to-earth quality that so distinguished her work as an actress.

I was only a child when I first saw "Georgy Girl" on television. The warmth, vulnerability, and accessibility Redgrave brought to the character of Georgy made the film an instant classic. But that was Lynn Redgrave; sincere, open, and unabashedly honest. She brought that incredible presence and integrity to every project she undertook.

Shortly after wrapping the media tour for her book, I had the opportunity to see her perform in Henrik Ibsen's "The Master Builder" at Tony Randall's National Actor's Theater. It was a thrill to see her perform live and it was an honor to have known her.

You left us too soon, Lynn Redgrave, and you will be missed.




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May 2, 2010

Spinning Clerical Sex Abuse



I heard the legendary Howard Rubenstein speak many years ago at a Publishers Publicity Association luncheon. Rubenstein pretty much invented PR. He's brilliant, charming, and a compelling speaker in his own right. At that luncheon he mentioned that he had handled some of the PR for the Catholic Church. His agreement with them was that he wouldn't flack anything to do with the abortion issue because he was staunchly pro-choice. It just made me like him all the more. Something tells me Rubenstein was not retained by the Vatican to handle its response to this recent eruption of the sex abuse scandal. His fingerprints are definitely not all over this one. From a PR perspective, this has been a disaster.

When I asked John L Allen, the American Catholic commentator on the Vatican, why its media strategy was failing, he responded:

"As soon as I see that they have a strategy, I will answer you! The fact is, they don't have one, and that is where they are going wrong."

Indeed, the absence of a coherent media strategy is evident, as a variety of Vatican personalities take it upon themselves to respond publicly to the accusations.

They often do it in a defensive or denial mode, shooting the messenger, or denouncing a conspiracy against the Pope and the Catholic Church because of its moral stances on life, the family and bioethics.

Fr Federico Lombardi who heads up the Vatican's press and media has not been given a "mandate" to coordinate any sort of media strategy. So when various Vatican officials have taken it upon themselves to attack the messengers, blame gays and Jews, and cast the Pope as victim, it's not that they've wandered off script. They've been given no script. No coherent strategy means no coherent message... and frequent gaffes.

The cool remove of Pope Benedict has not helped. As I said here, we're just beginning to learn that he's been far more proactive on this issue than he's been given credit for. But his own lack of communicativeness -- he's never even met with Fr Lombardi to discuss the abuse crisis -- has contributed to this information gap. One hopes he won't be taking the advice he got recently from a colleague:

American rabbi, Shmuley Boteach had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday to encourage the Pontiff to encourage Catholic parents to eat dinner regularly with their children. A "Turn Friday Night into Family Night" as he called it would re-establish the Catholic pro-family image battered in the wake of recent priest sex abuse scandals, Boteach claimed.

"If the Church embraces an initiative like this, which is positive, it could put a lot of the scandal behind it,'" Boteach said. "People will see the Church doesn't just speak about opposition to gay marriage and abortion.'"

The phrase "putting lipstick on a pig" comes to mind. One expects that kind of cynical PR stunt from big corporations when their crimes against nature and humanity come to light. No doubt we'll start seeing ads from BP highlighting their newest environmental initiatives... as their massive oil spill overtakes wildlife in Florida and Louisiana. The Catholic Church announcing new pro-children initiatives in the wake of this scandal can't help but seem Orwellian.

A recent Catholic communications conference is somewhat encouraging.

With workshops such as "Benedict XVI, sexual abuse and The New York Times" on the program, it wasn't surprising that a conference of Catholic communicators in Rome provoked more interest than usual this year.

But those expecting a round of media-bashing were disappointed. Most of the April 26-28 discussion focused on how the church itself should be more transparent, more proactive in communicating and more journalist-friendly if it wants to get its message out on clerical sex abuse.

. . .

Pia de Solenni, a U.S. Catholic theologian and writer, said she was disturbed that some church officials seemed to exhibit "a sort of tone-deafness" in their defensive comments on sex abuse. She said it doesn't really help the church to describe itself as persecuted, or to say that because only a small percentage of priests commit abuse, "we're just about the same as others."

She said the church's message should focus on several key elements: asking forgiveness from the victims, accountability for those who have made mistakes and transparency in how cases have been handled. There are good models for this, including in the United States, but they need to be implemented in every diocese around the world, she said.

In other words a good PR strategy would involve much of what the Church has been unwilling to do.  It would have to come clean and confess its failings before the world. So a good PR strategy, as articulated at the communications conference, is also a strategy for what Vatican officials should be doing in the wake of seemingly endless revelations of abuse cases and their wretched mishandling.

There is talk that Pope Benedict will be doing just that.

Pope Benedict XVI may issue a mea culpa for the church's handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world's clergy in June, the Vatican official in charge of handling abuse cases said.

Cardinal William Levada also said he intended to hold up the U.S. policy dealing with abuse as a model for bishops around the word.

Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments in an interview broadcast late Tuesday on U.S. public broadcaster PBS, his first interview since the scandal erupted several weeks ago.

From a public relations standpoint, June is a long way off as dioceses around the world are hemorrhaging headlines. Which is no doubt why rumors of the apology were leaked well in advance. That's called spin. At least they're finally spinning in the right direction.


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