May 30, 2013

Warren Jeffs Prophesies Destruction of Salt Lake City

Warren Jeffs Revelation photo WarrenJeffsRevelation_zpsc1b2fb97.png

The most startling reveal in Warren Jeffs's latest revelation is that Jesus has terrible grammar. His punctuation is somewhat capricious and he has little patience for articles like an and the.

That Salt Lake City will be destroyed by a falling Mount Olympus is kind of exciting, too.

For the first time in a long time, we're hearing from jailed pedophile and polygamist prophet, Warren Jeffs.

. . .

In it, Jeffs attacks the "Mormon Church" and says Mount Olympus will fall on Salt Lake. He writes, "Mount Olympus falling across valley in world land pressure explosion." He then adds, "That city is my enemy now."

As per Jeffs, Jesus has been upset with the Mormon Church since Wilford Woodruff signed an "agreement with hell," which is code for ending polygamy. That was in 1890, so Jesus has been showing remarkable restraint. Now he's really lost patience and the reason is that Warren Jeffs is in prison and state governments are seizing all his property.

74. Let my servant go. Let my people receive full order of my consecrated lands now under attack by governing state powers by influence of apostate lies.

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May 27, 2013

Cardinal Very Sorry for Everyone Else's Mistakes

Cardinal George Pell is "fully apologetic" for sex abuse in the Australian Catholic Church, but he's not responsible for any of it. Testifying in the Victorian Government Inquiry, Pell came clean on many of the offenses committed by clergy and even members of the hierarchy. He was unusually plainspoken, but he put a lot of distance between himself and any of the offenses committed.

Pell admitted, for instance, that abusive priests were shuffled around from parish to parish and that it enabled them to prey on new victims.

He admitted moving paedophile priests around parishes allowed more children to become victims and in some cases the church's actions allowed abuse to happen.

Cardinal Pell said he did not personally cover up any offending.

He admitted that false documents were created and that it was all part of a cover-up to protect the reputation of the Church.

Fear of scandal prompted the cover-up of child sex abuse allegations within the Catholic Church, Australia's top-ranking Cardinal George Pell admitted Monday.

. . .

"The primary motivation would have been to respect the reputation of the church," he told the inquiry into the abuse of children by religious and non-government bodies.

"There was a fear of scandal."

He even suggested that priestly celibacy "might have been a factor in some cases."

This would probably be the most full-throated mea culpa delivered by a high ranking Church official yet, if it were delivered by someone who actually took some personal responsibility. But Pell appears to be fully insulated from scandal and also took care to insulate much of the hierarchy, who he is sure were as much in the dark as he was. That's how carefully hidden these crimes were, according to Pell. Why? Church officials don't engage in gossip.

''If we'd been gossips, which we weren't ... we would have realised earlier just how widespread this business was,'' Cardinal Pell said.

If only they weren't all so moral, countless children might have avoided being molested.

Questioned about his own apparent support for a prolific abuser, Cardinal Pell again demurred.

In May 1993, Cardinal Pell accompanied Ridsdale to court in Melbourne, where he pleaded guilty to 30 charges of indecent assault, involving nine boys aged between 12 and 16. It was the first of three court appearances where Ridsdale faced a string of sexual abuse charges, many of them committed in south-west Victoria.

After being heavily criticised for supporting the former priest instead of his victims, Cardinal Pell said at the time Ridsdale “had made terrible mistakes”.

Inquiry chairwoman Georgie Crozier asked Cardinal Pell why he referred to Ridsdale’s crimes as “mistakes”. Cardinal Pell said the comment was “just a suggestion on my lips”.

“This was 20 years ago. I knew there was a very significant number of offences, I didn’t know the details of those offences. I knew that Ridsdale was pleading guilty. His lawyer asked me to appear in court before him.”

He didn't know the extent, he was asked by the lawyer, and calling the molestation of children a "mistake" was just an offhand comment. It's kind of amazing how blameless a man in the thick of an abuse scandal can be.

Pell is part of an eight member panel, handpicked to advise Pope Francis on making the Vatican more transparent. If he delivers on his promise to provide the commission with all the relevant documents and files, it might go a way to demonstrating a less secretive Vatican.

He said he has received assurance from an official in the Vatican that all documents and files relating to child abuse in Australia would be made available to the Royal Commission.

What Pell remains less than forthcoming about is the Church's willingness to pay for its mistakes. He doesn't see the need for a cap of $75,000 to be lifted and says Australia won't see the million dollar payouts that have bankrupted American dioceses. He doesn't see it as a "moral obligation" and insists that it's not what a lot of victims are really interested in. Some of those victims might just disagree. A suggestion that Vatican property could be liquidated to compensate victims was dismissed.

The cost of the Rome property could have been enough to provide $75,000 - the cap the church places on compensation - to 400 victims, she said.

Cardinal Pell said the Rome property was a hostel and an investment.

"We don't need to sell our investments to pay our damages," he said.

He was asked by Ms Coote where the morality was in paying victims of clerical sex abuse a "mere $75,000" when he had the opportunity to stay at a $30 million residence in Rome and the Catholic Church in Australia has millions of dollars in assets.

Cardinal Pell's tetchiness about substantial restitution to people whose innocence has been stolen and who, in many cases, have suffered ruinous emotional damage is telling. But even more disturbing is the reminder of just how finite the Church's resources are. Selling off the Vatican property would barely make a dent. Just how the Church can actually make this right is an open question.

Victims and victim advocates who heard Cardinal Pell's testimony were less than impressed.

Cardinal Pell's explanations did little to comfort child sex abuse victim and former deputy Mayor of Campbelltown John Hennessey.

Calling on Cardinal Pell to stand down until the inquiry was over, the Ingleburn man said he was sexually abused on three separate occasions and raped once by the same priest during his time at a WA orphanage in 1960s.

"There was not a tear in his eyes while he was talking about the abused children and people who committed suicide,'' he said of Cardinal Pell.

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May 25, 2013

The Buck Stops Where?

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, NJ, has penned a letter about yet another resignation tied to the Fugee scandal, previously discussed here and here. Sadly, it's still not his own.

The seriousness of the situation with Father Fugee required a thoughtful and effective response. Appointing a new vicar general will be just one step in a comprehensive plan to review and, where necessary, strengthen our internal protocols and ensure we are doing everything we can to safeguard the children of our community.

So, effective immediately, the vicar general, Monsignor John E. Doran, has resigned his post and will no longer hold a leadership position with the archdiocese. As a result of operational failures, both Monsignor Doran and I felt that the archdiocese would be best served by his stepping down as vicar general. This action clears the way for making more effective changes in our monitoring function. I am transferring that function to the Office of the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese.

What follows is a lot of we're not perfect and we want to do better. Our "very strict protocols" just weren't followed... in this case... for some reason. All of which ignores one very important point. It's not just that Fugee violated the memorandum of understanding that barred him from contact with minors. Under the rules of the Dallas Charter, he shouldn't have been in active ministry at all. But it was Myers and his spokesman Jim Goodness who repeatedly misrepresented the facts of the case.

In a Feb. 7 letter to his diocesan priests, made public by the Star-Ledger in April,  Myers defended the archdiocese’s implementation of the charter, after local media reported in February that Fugee had been appointed co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.

“These claims are baseless,” the archbishop said in reference to the criticism that the appointment indicated a lax application of the Dallas Charter.

. . .

In the May 26 letter to parishioners, Myers refrains from commenting on Fugee himself beyond referring to the “seriousness of the situation with Father Fugee.” He offered a stronger defense of the priest three months earlier in the letter to his priests, describing Fugee’s case status as both “acquittal and dismissal of charges.”

That description was not accurate, a spokeswoman for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office told NCR in early May.

“He [Fugee] wasn’t acquitted. ... The decision had been appealed, and it was reversed,” Maureen Parenta said. “They called for a retrial, so rather than going through another trial, our office had proposed the memo of understanding and that’s how this was resolved.”

That's a lot of apologia and rewriting of history for one little archbishop. I'm really starting to think some of these bishops are allergic to taking responsibility for anything. You'd think that giant mitre would rest a little heavier on the head.

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May 24, 2013

From the Memory Hole: Dawkins/Sheldrake Face Off

Once upon a time Rupert Sheldrake and Richard Dawkins had a debate, however brief. Except that it wasn't so much a debate as it was a set-up, proffered on false pretenses, and designed to make Sheldrake look foolish. But Dawkins was unable to spring the trap, came off looking a bit foolish himself, and the whole thing disappeared down the memory hole.

I previously mentioned Dawkins's "Enemies of Reason" here. I recently stumbled on Sheldrake's account of his futile attempt to discuss evidence with Dawkins. His write-up can be found here. Most telling, I think, is Dawkins's statement on science and belief.

The Director asked us to stand facing each other; we were filmed with a hand-held camera. Richard began by saying that he thought we probably agreed about many things, “But what worries me about you is that you are prepared to believe almost anything. Science should be based on the minimum number of beliefs.”

I would humbly suggest that the number of beliefs a scientist holds is far less important than their willingness to suspend disbelief and follow the evidence wherever it may lead. And that is the problem with so called "skeptics" like Dawkins. However many beliefs they may have they're completely caught up in them and refuse to surrender them even when they're contradicted by evidence. So they go about asking for extraordinary proof, not for what are genuinely extraordinary claims, but for anything that defies their belief system. And not only is no amount of proof enough, they won't even look at the evidence before dismissing it out of hand. And these are the people who think they're defending the scientific method.

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May 23, 2013

Score One for Religious Tolerance

Hat-tip to George Takei for digging this gem out of Jezebel's archive. It all started when Reddit user european_douchebag tried to make a little hay out of the unusual appearance of a Sikh woman.

Writes Jezebel:

The mind of european_douchebag was SO INCREDIBLY BLOWN by the fact that women have hair on their bodies—and, yes, faces—and that some women are bold, self-assured, and pious enough not to cave to western beauty standards (and gender expectations), there was nothing for him to do but post her photo online and wait for the abuse to flood in.

When I was in beauty school -- yes I went to beauty school -- I read in my cosmetology textbook that 85% of women have "superfluous hair." (Subtext: There's big money in waxing and electrolysis.) Even at that tender, young age I thought, if 85% of women have it, how is it superfluous? Isn't it the other 15% of us who have a hair deficiency? But I digress.

The woman in the photo learned that she and her facial hair were being featured on Reddit, so she responded with such grace, humility, and self-possession, that it would be hard not to completely adore her.

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :) I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

And, indeed, even the photographer went from having his mind blown to having it expanded.

I know that this post ISN'T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you're making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

/r/Funny wasn't the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn't be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit's been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we've done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I'm sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn't 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It's fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I'm sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.
Balpreet, I'm sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am
Sikhs, I'm sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.
Balpreet's faith in what she believes is astounding.

'Nuff said.

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May 22, 2013

Frogmarching Father Fugee

Father Michael Fugee, previously discussed here, has been arrested. The priest, who confessed to molesting an adolescent boy on multiple occasions, has been operating in violation of legal agreement not to participate in any kind of youth ministry.

Jim Goodness, Newark director of communications, said the prosecutor’s office had been in contact with the archdiocese and cooperating with the investigation, which re-opened in late April after news reports revealed Fugee had been seen ministering to children on youth retreats and trips and had heard their confessions.

. . .

Though the archdiocese has stated in press releases Fugee was under continual supervision in his assignment, Goodness would not discuss how he was supervised or who was responsible for overseeing it. Instead, he referred to it as a personnel matter and part of ongoing conversations with the prosecutor’s office.

Not only was the Newark archdiocese not ensuring Fugee's compliance with the memorandum, there have been several instances in which they've denied his guilt and insisted that he was exonerated, which he was not.

Goodness defended their recommendation that Fugee could return to ministry under the conditions outlined by the memorandum, saying that they “looked at the matter completely,” including a review of court documents as well as its own interviews and other confidential information. He also referred multiple times to an apparent in-trial recantation by Fugee of his earlier confession, and suggested that “in a retrial, it is very likely that that original statement would not have been upheld.”

Like other statements they've made, they appear to be giving lip service to this legally binding agreement, and then ignoring it based on their own interpretation of the legal case against Fugee. Their internal review process lacks transparency and their public statements are contradictory. They can think what they like about Fugee's chances had the case gone back to court, but they can't just ignore the agreement that settled the matter. The end result is what matters and the end result is that Fugee violated the agreement, dragged other dioceses, apparently unknowingly, into that violation which forced several resignations in addition to his own.

The Archdiocese of Newark, though, has not only ignored the law, they may also have run afoul of Dallas Charter, which has even stricter rules regarding sex offenders than the NJ courts could impose on the Church.

“The charter says any priest, any cleric who has admitted or been convicted or found to have committed the offense … should have been removed from active ministry as soon as the charter was effective,” said Michael Merz, a federal judge in southern Ohio and chair of the national board from 2007-2009.

So the question still, for me, is who will hold the bishops accountable? Fugee should not have been working as a priest in any capacity, with or without access to children. And yet, the archdiocese put him in a high post overseeing education.

One group that wants to see Archbishop Myers called to account is a new group of Catholic Whistleblowers. This group of 12 Church insiders -- priests and nuns -- have taken it upon themselves to press for enforcement from within. Three are canon lawyers who have worked abuse cases and four are sex abuse survivors.

Several of the whistle-blowers have been vocal about that priest, the Rev. Michael Fugee. Along with some New Jersey politicians, they have called for the resignation of the archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers. They fault Archbishop Myers not only for failing to restrict Father Fugee, but also for appointing him to help direct the education of priests in the archdiocese. 

They also question the optimistic findings of the audits mandated by the Dallas Charter, like this one. Such audits, they say, rely on self-reporting and don't adequately represent ongoing problems in dioceses across America.

The Catholic Church in the United States put in place a zero-tolerance policy and a host of prevention programs after the abuse scandal peaked in 2002. Each year the bishops commission an audit of abuse cases, and this year’s survey, released May 9, found the fewest allegations and victims since the audits began in 2004.

. . .

The Newark case, as well as the release of personnel records on priests by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and convictions of church officials in Philadelphia and Kansas City, convinced the whistle-blowers’ group that they have work to do despite the optimistic picture in the bishops’ audits. They do not consider the bishops’ audits credible because they are based on self-reporting.

One hopes that someone can get bishops like Archbishop Myers to take this problem more seriously. Until then, we'll have to be satisfied with the fresh prosecution of Father Fugee.

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May 17, 2013

Russell Targ's exTEDx Talk

I really loved Russell Targ's talk during the Brother Can You Spare a Paradigm, exTEDx event. It was an excellent program overall, but some of those talks are must hear and his was one of them. Suzanne Taylor has apparently uploaded the talks to individual videos on a dedicated Vimeo channel to replace the livestream version I originally posted here. More background on the TED's abrupt revocation of the West Hollywood charter can be found here.

If you haven't listened to these talks, I highly recommend doing so. I also particularly loved Gary Bobroff and I thought Craig Weiler did a great job of explaining the paradigm shift that is leaving TED behind. But the whole thing is worth listening to and it can now be accomplished in easily digestible bites.

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May 15, 2013

Broken Things

Some years ago, I found myself living in an area that, let's say, would not have been my first choice. Dog owner. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. It wasn't a bad little place but I was never comfortable there. And I started to have health problems. Allergies that I thought were under control worsened dramatically. I was just uncomfortable. The place, the entire area, simply felt... wrong. One evening, as I was coming off the highway and driving into the neighborhood, I had the distinct sense of moving through a membrane into a much darker, heavier energy, and the thought that came to me unbidden was "Indian burial ground." Suddenly, I was certain of it. I had been living on top of an Indian burial ground and that was why it had always felt so dreary, so dissonant, so corrupted.

Several years later, after I'd long been out of there -- I'd only been able to stand it briefly -- I was doing readings in new age bookshop. One of my clients there, I learned, had lived in the same neighborhood. She had also found it to be an unhappy, uncomfortable time. I mentioned my theory to her -- that I was convinced it was on an Indian burial ground. A few weeks later I received a note from here in the mail. It contained a newspaper clipping. There was some new construction in that area and they'd turned up a number of artifacts that seemed to indicate that they were digging on an Indian burial ground.

Some things you just shouldn't do.

So I was very saddened to hear that it's open season on ancient Mayan pyramids in Belize.

A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities announced on Monday.

The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial center dates back at least 2,300 years and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico.

"It's a feeling of Incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity ... they were using this for road fill," Awe said. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."


Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they can do much to prevent this kind of desecration in Belize. Even though the law technically protects pre-Hispanic ruins like this one, they lack the funding and infrastructure for enforcement. This is not the first time a Belizean ruin has been desecrated and it probably won't be the last. Similar destruction is occurring in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.

I was reminded recently of the desecration of one of my most beloved sites: Teotihuacan. Many were sickened when Wal-Mart decided to build a store on an outer edge of the ancient complex. For me, it was particularly painful because of my time there -- a time when I experienced a kind of rebirth. Teotihuacan is magical, otherworldly. And Wal-Mart is evil.

In December, the New York Times revealed the massive bribery scheme that allowed Wal-Mart to build on protected land. In a recent blog post, archaeologist Dr. Donna Yates expounded on the damage allowed by Wal-Mart's alleged $24 million "investment."

We archaeologists often find our discipline difficult to explain to outsiders, specifically outsiders with an unyielding eye for unnuanced commercial development. Just because the core of Teotihuacán is massive and visible, doesn’t mean that the archaeology stops at the edge of the temple. Rather it extends, under the ground, in all directions, hidden from view but waiting to be exposed and studied. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it is not there.

. . .

It is this periphery, these outer zones of sites, that are most at risk for destruction from development. It is difficult to convince planning authorities to protect this kind of past simply because people cannot believe what they cannot directly see. Even worse, it is in these areas that the average people lived: the people who built the massive pyramids, not the people who lived in them. The archaeology of real life, of workers, of farmers, of craftspeople, of the everyday is the hardest to preserve. It gets paved over and destroyed.

. . .

I share in the outrage surrounding the allegations of corruption involved in this scandal, however I urge readers to not lose sight of what we may have lost. Luis Gálvez, a leader of the workers’ union of the state National Institute of Anthropology and History, has stated that the Walmart at Teotihuacan is an “offence against Mexico”. I would contend that it is more than that. It is an offence against our shared cultural heritage. Everyone who visits the site, everyone who climbs the Temple of the Sun to look out over the Valley of Mexico and imagine the vast ancient city, painted bright colours and sparkling in the Central American sun will either have to pretend not to see the Walmart or ask themselves why it is there.

Indeed a number of artifacts were turned up by Wal-Mart's construction crew.

They found the remains of a wall dating to approximately 1300 and enough clay pottery to fill several sacks. Then they found an altar, a plaza and nine graves. Once again, construction was temporarily halted so their findings could be cataloged, photographed and analyzed.

The ensuing firestorm resulting from that find was not enough to keep Wal-Mart from greasing the wheels of "progress."

Elsewhere in the complex, Teotihuacan is still slowly revealing its mysteries to more patient archaeologists.

Hundreds of mysterious spheres lie beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient six-level step pyramid just 30 miles from Mexico City.

The enigmatic spheres were found during an archaeological dig using a camera-equipped robot at one of the most important buildings in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan.

Clearly there is much still be discovered through the painstaking process of archaeological examination that doesn't destroy the integrity of such ancient marvels. Yet, I'm not convinced that even archaeologists approach these sites in the right spirit. I have more than once had the experience of walking through museums and encountering angry spirits around items that they don't seem to want displayed.

After having communed with the spirits at Teotihuacan -- spirits who demanded offerings and placed conditions before we could even step onto some of the structures -- I am left heartsick at the lack of respect paid by a retailer already well known for cannibalizing communities. And I can't help thinking there will be a price to pay for helping itself to to this one.

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May 11, 2013

Sheldrake's View From TED's "Naughty Corner"

In very pointed comments, Rupert Sheldrake takes aim at the New Atheist cabal that co-opts the authority of science to advance their cause. He explains that there is a lengthy history of New Atheists and so-called "skeptics" targeting media organizations that give any coverage to topics they don't like. Their organized assault on TED which resulted in the still unexplained removal of Hancock's and Sheldrake's talks was just another chapter in their attempt to control the organs of information so that their world view dominates discussions of anything even vaguely related to the sciences.

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May 9, 2013

HuffPo to Broadcast Eclipse

Next best thing to being there... Well, not really, but it'll have to do.

While some Aussies will be able to witness the annual "ring of fire" eclipse first-hand, the rest of the world won't be able to get a glimpse of the spectacular event -- at least, not in the sky.

So how can you watch the eclipse? We'll be running a live feed right here on HuffPost Science starting at 5:30 pm Eastern on Thursday, May 9.

SLOOH, a private company that controls robotic space cameras, often broadcasts such events through a real-time feed in true color -- we'll have their feed, along with a slideshow where readers can submit photos of the event and their setup for watching it.

Named for the ring shape created by the moon blocking part of the sun's light, the 'ring of fire' or 'annular' solar eclipse will be visible in certain parts of Australia and the Southern Pacific Ocean.

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May 8, 2013

Who Will Hold the Bishops Accountable?

It turns out that the disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony, who actively conspired to protect abusive priests from prosecution and then spent untold millions in an attempt to conceal that fact, also tried to scuttle the John Jay report.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, in a strongly worded letter to then-Bishop Wilton Gregory, at the time president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, complained at length about the forms that John Jay researchers produced. He described them as "designed by people who apparently have no understanding of the Roman Catholic Church, ecclesiastical culture, hierarchical structure, or the language of the Roman Catholic Church."

The previously unpublished letters that circulated among Mahony, Gregory, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, Justice Anne Burke and others provide a behind-the-scenes view of some of the tensions in the air the year after the U.S. bishops formulated their Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People during their June 2002 meeting in Dallas. Public outrage had forced the bishops to take a dramatic step to deal with the scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests and the cover-up of the abuse by scores of bishops across the United States.

The underlying reason, rather unsurprisingly, turns out to be concern that the data collected might be subject to legal discovery.

Mahony also expressed fear that the information being collected by John Jay researchers, though it went through an elaborate system to disguise the dioceses and keep accused perpetrators and victims anonymous, would be both leaked and subject to legal discovery.

Mahony gathered the unanimous support of the bishops in the California Catholic Conference, but was ultimately smacked down by Bishop Wilton Gregory of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Mahony's concerns were unwarranted. The John Jay study was a whitewash that blamed '60s counterculture for somehow causing priests to molest children. Far from being "designed to create a further media 'feeding frenzy,'" as Mahony feared, it repeatedly rebutted unspecified media reports for calling the priests pedophiles. It did so by misrepresenting sources and torturing statistics. The study was roundly criticized for taking the bishops' money and data and presenting a study that was "garbage in, garbage out," which was really one of the kinder things you could say about scholarship so terrible.

It's entirely possible that Bishop Gregory and the bishops he represented wanted to obtain an impartial review, yet somehow, they ended up with what was transparently advocacy research. And Bishop Mahony is not the only cleric to balk at research that looked like it might be a little too independent. A criminologist was fired by the German bishops who'd retained him so they could look for a new "partner" -- one who didn't have so many notions about reaching conclusions not sanctioned by the Church.

So just who will hold Church officials to account? Cardinal Mahony, after being relieved of his duties in the Los Angeles Diocese, hopped a plane to Rome to help elect a new pope. Many Catholics were outraged but the Vatican showed little concern over the impropriety.

Even the criminal justice system is showing, at best, mixed results. The landmark prosecution of Msgr. William Lynn in Philadelphia appears to be falling apart. Key witness, Billy Doe, has proved to be unreliable and apparently gave contradictory testimony. The priest convicted of molesting him may have given a false confession. The conviction is very vulnerable to appeal. This is despite the fact that it is inarguable that the diocese had a lenghty, documented record of protecting abusers. But the clearly prosecutable crime for which one of the key actors was convicted may never have occurred.

Two Philadelphia cardinals in succession, John Krol (head of the archdiocese from 1961 to 1988) and Anthony Bevilacqua (1988-2003), for decades knowingly protected priests who had sexually abused children, sometimes savagely, hiding their actions from civil authorities and from the Catholic community they were supposed to serve.

We are certain of those assertions because a grand jury in Philadelphia managed to subpoena thousands of pages of documentation and to accumulate hundreds of hours of testimony before issuing, in 2005, a stunning report detailing years of sexual abuse of children by priests and cover-up of the abuse by cardinal archbishops.

. . .

The Philadelphia archdiocese was one of the worst examples of high clericalism in the United States and of what the clerical/hierarchical culture could breed in its single-minded determination to hide the crimes of sex abuse and protect itself. In the end, it did neither.

Like many others, we felt that a bit of justice had been done when a jury reached a guilty verdict in the case of Lynn and the court sentenced him to jail. Certainly, the other overseers of the cover-up -- the cardinals and other officials -- escaped prosecution, but Lynn stood as an example to others that determined prosecutors could find ways to reach into the hierarchical ranks and force accountability even as church authorities refused to do so.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a smoldering fire exploded last week when it was discovered that a known child molester has been assisting with youth events. The Archdiocese of Newark had already raised the ire of lay Catholics and victim's groups when it appointed Rev. Michael Fugee as co-director of the Office of Continuing Education and Ongoing Formation of Priests.

Fugee was convicted in 2003 for two separate incidents of groping a 14 year old boy. The conviction was overturned on appeal due to improper instructions that allowed jurors to consider his confession of homosexual feelings. Prosecutors and Fugee reached a deal at that time to avoid retrial with a binding agreement that would keep him away from anyone under the age of 18. Many felt that a known child abuser did not belong in a high profile position, let alone one that put him in charge of education. But further reporting turned up greater offenses that have led to massive fall-out and multiple resignations over the past week.

[Fugee] has attended weekend youth retreats in Marlboro and on the shores of Lake Hopatcong in Mount Arlington, parishioners say. Fugee also has traveled with members of the St. Mary’s youth group on an annual pilgrimage to Canada. At all three locations, he has heard confessions from minors behind closed doors.

What’s more, he has done so with the approval of New Jersey’s highest-ranking Catholic official, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.

In response to the furor, Fugee resigned from active ministry and given up his post at the Office of Continuing Education. Further resignations were submitted by Pastor Thomas Triggs and two lay ministers, Amy and Mike Lenehan, have also resigned from St. Mary's in Colts Neck, NJ, Diocese of Trenton. All three claim they were in the dark as to the restrictions Fugee was supposed to operating under. The Lenehans were personal friends of Fugee.

It seems likely that Fugee was misleading people about the scope of his legal history and the binding agreement that was supposed to keep him away from underage youth. And it looks like the Bergen County prosecutor will be investigating the violation. But what about the Church officials that should have been monitoring Fugee? They're taking no responsibility. And they can't get their story straight.

“The person who caused all this upset is Archbishop Myers, and he’s still in office,” Bambrick said. “It seems like the archbishop needs to take responsibility for his own actions, as everyone else has in this crisis.”

Myers has declined to directly comment on the issue. His spokesman, James Goodness, initially defended Fugee’s interactions with children, saying they did not violate the memorandum of understanding Fugee signed with prosecutors because the priest was always under the supervision of other clergymen or lay ministers.

Goodness later took a different stance, acknowledging that Fugee violated the court-sanctioned agreement and saying the priest had acted without the knowledge of the archdiocese. Fugee concurred with those statements in his letter seeking leave, stating it was “my fault alone.”

They have also, more than once, insisted that Fugee was acquitted, which is patently false. He was convicted. It was overturned on a technicality and without prejudice. Prosecutors reached this deal to avoid the costs of a new trial. Yet Myers's spokesperson further insists that the Church hierarchy is in agreement that Fugee was cleared and there was no sexual abuse.

Goodness reiterated the acquittal stance in an April 29 email response to Fr. Jim Connell of the Milwaukee archdiocese, a canon lawyer and abuse victims’ advocate. A day after reading The Star-Ledger report, Connell wrote to Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, seeking clarity in the matter.

The email, also sent to Myers, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the U.S. bishops’ conference, and several media outlets, posed three questions: Did the memorandum and Fugee’s confession warrant enough evidence for the congregation to review the case? Did Myers report the case to them, as well as all pertinent documents, including the memorandum and Fugee’s 2001 deposition that included his confession to the abuse? And, if not, will Myers face a church penal process?

Responding on behalf of Myers, Goodness said the archbishop, after an investigation by the Archdiocesan Review Board, sent all information to the congregation, including all court documents and interviews and other materials gathered by the review board.

“The Congregation subsequently, after a complete review of the materials, concurred that there was no sexual abuse and that Fr. Fugee could return to ministry,” Goodness said in his reply to Connell.

It calls into question the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in curtailing clerical offenders, if Church officials are just going to dismiss legal findings and agreements designed to prevent sex offenders from re-offending.

For decades bishops actively protected sex offenders from prosecution and the Vatican apparently supported that stance. We've made great strides, at least in this country, in requiring bishops to comply with reporting laws. But if bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and other officials, face no serious consequences for these abject failures of leadership, can we really trust the process? It looks none to promising. If Myers is penalized, maybe I'll feel differently, but I'm not holding my breath.

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May 6, 2013

Graham Hanock on TED Censorship

Two of my favorite writers, Graham Hancock and William Henry, discuss TED and its censorship of talks that deal with non-local consciousness. I won't belabor this, because I have a nasty head cold and I'm headed back to bed, but it's a great interview and distills what Hancock learned from this experience and what it means for the status of the reductionist, materialist science that seems to be driving TED's choices.

On that subject, I also recommend this recent article discussing materialist science and how it fails to answer the experiences of those of us who have glimpsed what lies behind the veil. It's a sumptuous description of the writings of Walter de la Mare and his unique vision of the supernatural.

Materialism - the philosophy, not the perennial human tendency to pursue and accumulate material things - sees the universe as a physical system. Everything that exists in it must be some sort of matter, or something that emerges from matter. In a fully scientific view of the world, only material things are real. Everything else is just a phantom.

In this view, science is a project of exorcism, which aims to rid the mind of anything that can't be understood in terms of physical laws. But perhaps it's the dogma of materialism that should be exorcised from our minds. Science is a method of inquiry, whose results can't be known in advance. If scientific inquiry is the most powerful tool for increasing human knowledge, it's because science is continuously changing our view of the world. The prevailing creed of scientific materialism is actually a contradiction, for science isn't a fixed view of things, still less a dogmatic faith.
The belief that the world is composed only of physical things operating according to universal laws is metaphysical speculation, not a falsifiable theory.

For the complete rundown on TED's attempts to censor consciousness see here.

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