Apr 30, 2010

Retired Chaplains Reveal Hypocrisy Over DADT

At the risk of becoming repetitive, I must point out that the obsession of some Christians with homosexuality is absurd and hypocritical. Case in point:

More than 40 retired military chaplains warned President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that allowing gays to serve openly in the military will force current chaplains to choose between obeying God or men.

"This forced choice must be faced, since orthodox Christianity -- which represents a significant percentage of religious belief in the armed forces -- does not affirm homosexual behavior," the chaplains wrote in their Wednesday (April 28) letter.

The retired chaplains -- affiliated with denominations including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention -- said the change could force chaplains to water down their teachings, or force them to preach or counsel views that conflict with official military policies.

Until these retired chaplains -- retired being the operative word -- start sending sharply worded letters warning the Commander in Chief to put a stop to the serving of seafood and pork products to all service members, and terminating the use of all synthetic blends in uniforms, I really can't take their Biblical scholarship seriously.  I have addressed the disingenuousness of cherry-picking obscure scripture before -- notably here and here. I can add little to the pithy genius of the famous "Letter to Dr. Laura" which I include in those writings.

Such hypocrisy breeds hypocrisy. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule is one of built in hypocrisy. It doesn't prevent gay people from serving their country. It simply requires them to lie about it. This sad compromise is dying the ignominious death it deserves. As a military spouse, I know what the majority of service members know: It's over. Repeal of DADT is imminent... Thank God.

The disproportionate focus on homosexuality underscores one of the trickier puzzles of religion as part of greater culture. It is very hard to make a Biblical case against same sex relationships. That so many Christians (and some Jews) do so, is based far more in cultural biases than scripture, where the issue is barely mentioned and is of a piece with many antiquated admonitions to which few people pay any mind at all.

Culture and religion are enmeshed in many ways. As I learned many years ago, during my brief flirtation with fundamentalism, a kind of cognitive dissonance is required to convince yourself that your lifestyle is consistent with that of some ancient, desert Jews. On my way to a pentecostal church with some friends, I asked them how that church justified its female pastor. I had been reading my Bible, like any good, born-again teenager. The problem was that I kept getting derailed by passages like this one.

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law." ~ 1 Corinthians 14:34

My devout Christian friends informed me that some parts of the Bible were appropriate to a certain time but weren't anymore. But how do you decide which ones? No one could answer me on that one... or look me in the eye after that. (As a fun exercise, turn on any fundamentalist Christian broadcast and count the number of women who aren't keeping silent in the church.)

Not surprisingly, as a new generation of born-again religion matures, some of the stupider scriptural obsessions are falling by the wayside. The death knell Christian homophobia can be heard clearly in the recent announcement of Christian music star Jennifer Knapp that she is in love with a woman.

I'm in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I'm just a normal human being who's dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I'm doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we're all hopelessly deceived if we don't think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It's a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I've been through—and I don't know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I've made to choose to love who I choose to love.

. . .

The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the "clobber verses" to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they're eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I'm not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn't allow homosexuals within our church. There's a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I've been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

Yep. The shellfish again. How many Bible toting bigots have proved themselves to be total hypocrites over a lovely shrimp cocktail appetizer?

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Apr 29, 2010

Religulous and Other Intellectual Dishonesty

I finally got around to watching Bill Maher's "Religulous" a couple of weeks ago. It's on Showtime so what the hey. It was pretty much what I was expecting. Quite amusing in some parts. The unintentionally funny cartoons are the best part. Adam stroking the rib bone in an unmistakeably pornographic manner caused my husband to hit the pause button so we could just stare at each other in utter disbelief for several minutes.

That said, the movie in sum is a cheap shot. Maher does that thing that so many in the New Atheist movement can be counted on to do. He focuses almost exclusively on the outer reaches of religiosity and inductively reasons the lunacy of all religious people everywhere. He interviews a lot of fundamentalists and dogmatists and then draws broad conclusions about religion and it's implications for our future, reaching absurdly hyperbolic conclusions.

"Religulous" is what came to mind when I read this piece on The Huffington Post. John Thatamanil takes on the intellectual dishonesty of using the worst examples of religious thought (or lack there of) instead of taking on theologians and other religious thinkers of substantial mental wattage.

It should go without saying that tremendous expertise in biology does not entitle one to claims of expertise on religion. Dawkins is a fine biologist, but he knows precious little about religion. Terry Eagleton has made this point brilliantly: "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." To Eagelton's quip, I can only say Amen.

In interreligious dialogue circles, participants operate under a fundamental ethical constraint: never compare the best in your tradition with the worst in another's. A Christian who compares liberation theology with caste in Hinduism is making an invidious comparison. A similar constraint should apply in conversations between atheists and the religious. Atheists who tar the whole of religion by contrasting the insight of Einstein with the fulminations of fundamentalists are engaged in egregious dialogical malpractice.

But most atheists are ill equipped to abide by this rule because they know nothing about Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, medieval women mystics like Julian of Norwich or major thinkers from other traditions like Śaṅkara or Nāgārjuna. Absent such knowledge, caricature becomes inevitable.

Cartoons aside, "Religulous" is indeed a caricature of religion. And after a while, it starts to feel a little mean-spirited. Laughing at the ignorant for an hour and half just seems cruel and unfair. It wears thin the way People of WalMart does. I just end up feeling really badly for some of these people.

But mostly I feel a certain sadness for Maher. He not only appears to be incapable of understanding that many people of faith are well aware that they are participating in myth and metaphor. He seems cut off from the richness of that experience.

As a side note, I once again find myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to point out that Jesus is hot. (see above) Why are our artistic depictions of Jesus always hot? What's up with that?

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Apr 27, 2010

Pope Benedict: Reformer?

We've been hearing for weeks now that criticism of Pope Benedict is unfair because he's done more than anyone to address the problem of clerical abuse. As more details of his work both before and after becoming pope have surfaced, it's becoming clear that he has, indeed, been far more proactive on this issue than other church officials. The problem for the Vatican is that that's not saying much.

Throughout the most recent round of media coverage, there's been a serious mismatch between Pope Benedict's actual record on sex abuse -- as the senior Vatican official who took the crisis most seriously since 2001, and who led the charge for reform -- and outsider images of the pope as part of the problem.

While there are many reasons for that, a core factor is that the Vatican had the last ten years to tell the story of "Ratzinger the Reformer" to the world, and they essentially dropped the ball. That failure left a PR vacuum in which a handful of cases from the pope's past, where his own role was actually marginal, have come to define his profile.

One has to ask, why didn't the Vatican tell Ratzinger's story?

At least part of the answer, I suspect, is because to make Ratzinger look good, they'd have to make others look bad -- including, of course, Castrillón, as well as other top Vatican officials. Lurking behind that concern is a deeper one, which is that to salvage the reputation of Benedict XVI it might be necessary to tarnish that of Pope John Paul II.

As discussed Castrillon Hoyos has directly implicated the former pope in efforts to protect sexually abusive priests from legal and other consequences. More and more it looks like Cardinal Ratzinger maneuvered carefully and deftly to buck a system intent on ignoring the problem when possible and concealing it when not.

Today's New York Times examines the case of Cardianl Hans Hermann Groër. Cardinal Ratzinger had been instrumental in maneuvering him into his position as archbishop, favoring him over a more popular candidate, only to turn against him when abuse allegations came to light.

Defenders of Benedict cite his role in dealing with Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna as evidence that he moved assertively, if quietly, against abusers. They point to the fact that Cardinal Groër left office six months after accusations against him of molesting boys first appeared in the Austrian news media in 1995. The future pope, they say, favored a full canonical investigation, only to be blocked by other ranking officials in the Vatican.

Says the Times:

There are indications that Benedict had a lower tolerance for sexual misconduct by elite clergy members than other top Vatican officials.

Am I alone in finding that statement shocking? These are priests who are supposed to be celibate; something on the which the Catholic Church remains unyielding. Yet there seems to be a lot of winking and nodding at such violations among even some of the highest placed officials. Worse, many of those indiscretions involve molesting children and other unwilling victims. But wink and nod they do.

One such startling example is that of Bishop Burt Krenn, the favorite whose appointment had been blocked in favor of Groër.

Father Krenn, who became a bishop in 1987, also had a reputation for being a loose cannon. In 2004, he had to retire early after dismissing the discovery at his seminary of a large cache of child pornography and images of young priests having sex as “boyish pranks.”

One wonders if he would have been prematurely retired for such comments before the change in political climate in the church; a change for which it would appear we have largely to thank Pope Benedict. I'm guessing not.

Such winking and nodding also went on in Groër's diocese before media coverage forced action.

The rumors surrounding Cardinal Groër’s transgressions went beyond the circle of those who suffered at his hands. Josef Votzi, the journalist who broke the scandal in 1995 in the magazine Profil, is another Hollabrunn alumnus and said that even among staff members of the Vienna Archdiocese he interviewed when Father Groër was named archbishop, his history was “an open secret.” 

It is against this backdrop that Cardinal Ratzinger became radicalized.

In retrospect, the Burresi and Maciel cases crystallized a remarkable metamorphosis in Joseph Ratzinger vis-à-vis the sexual abuse crisis. As late as November 2002, well into the eruption in the United States, he seemed just another Roman cardinal in denial. Yet as pope, Benedict XVI became a Catholic Elliot Ness -- disciplining Roman favorites long regarded as untouchable, meeting sex abuse victims in both the United States and Australia, embracing "zero tolerance" policies once viewed with disdain in Rome, and openly apologizing for the carnage caused by the crisis.

Yes, in that environment, the slow, cautious moves he's making on this issue are radical. Hard to believe but true.

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Apr 26, 2010

Sympathy for Catholic Bishops?

USA Today asks if the recent revelations about Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos give us reason to feel some sympathy for bishops who protected abusive priests. It's an interesting question because it's not just the common folk who have piled blame on bishops. As discussed here, so did Pope Benedict in his recent letter to the Irish church. He laid the blame on everyone and everything but the Vatican. But what the Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos scandal demonstrates is that the problem is directly traceable to the Vatican. Indeed, it is directly traceable to the late Pope John Paul II. The lack of discussion of that salient fact I can only attribute to a kind of cognitive dissonance. It seems no one is ready to even look at it.

It takes a lot to make people feel any sympathy for any Catholic bishops who knew about pedophile priests but failed to remove them. However, an investigation at National Catholic Reporter, looking at yet another case involving Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, might give people pause.

From the National Catholic Reporter we learn that not only did the now retired Cardinal make a proud example of Bishop Pican for shielding a pedophile priest, he directly pressured another bishop to protect a prolific, serial abuser.

Castrillon pressured Bishop Manuel Moreno, who was bishop of Tucson, Ariz., from 1982-2003, to allow a priest sex abuser to take a pension and work outside the diocese, despite allegations that would later jolt the diocese and cost millions to resolve. Fr Robert Trupia "sexually abused dozens of minor boys" before he was defrocked in 2004, according to documents in the civil case.

From letters between them, it looks like Bishop Moreno tried to remove a threat to the flock even though he was threatened with financial consequences by Castrillon Hoyos and widening scandal by the cagey Rev Trupia.

Calling himself a "loose cannon" in a letter to Moreno, [Trupia] threatened to reveal that he had had a sexual relationship with a bishop, now deceased, and that the two of them and a third priest had had sex with a drug addict who was, at the time, a teenager. In exchange for his silence, Trupia, then 42, proposed that he retire with a pension and preserve his priest status. On June 25, 1992, he wrote Moreno: "You have no right, either civilly or canonically or pastorally, to direct me … to seek [psychiatric] evaluation." Trupia filed an appeal with Congregation for Clergy, which in 1992 was headed by Cardinal Jose Sánchez as prefect. The congregation turned down the appeal but downgraded the bishop's order to an administrative leave, rather than suspension.

. . .

Castrillon succeeded Sánchez as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. Although the case was tied up in the Signatura. Castrillon asserted his own authority as prefect on Dec. 13, 1996, and wrote Moreno "to ask you to resolve this matter by means of a 'reasonable solution.'" Castrillon underlined a phrase for emphasis:

“We strongly urge Your Excellency to enter into meaningful dialogue with Monsignor Trupia regarding the terms of solution he has proposed. In so doing, Your Excellency would also be well advised … that the matter of damages is not outside of the purview of any subsequent decision which may be rendered." (Emphasis in the original.)

It is a sad, sordid tale of a bishop who tried to do the right thing only to be forced by a Vatican directive to continue supporting the career and lifestyle of a manipulative, sexual abuser. It is certainly hard not to feel sympathy for Bishop Moreno. I feel far worse, however, for the "dozens" of children Father Trupia molested.

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Apr 25, 2010

On Hating Women's Bodies -- Updated

As a personal trainer on "The Biggest Loser," Jillian Michaels prides herself on being able to get anyone into shape. Anyone, that is, except herself should she ever have a baby. Michaels has created a bit of stir by dissing pregnancy in an interview with Women's Health.

"I'm going to adopt. I can't handle doing that to my body," she told the magazine. "Also, when you rescue something, it's like rescuing a part of yourself."

Michaels, who is now 5'2" and 120 pounds of muscle, was overweight as a teen. She said she once weighed 175 pounds but lost the extra weight with martial arts, which she has practiced for 20 years. She is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over the efficacy of her diet pills.

Sure. Let some other gal wreck her figure so that Michaels can experience the joys of motherhood.

Apr 24, 2010

Bookends of Intolerance

"I think religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred and contempt, and I claim that right... If I said to a Protestant or Quaker or Muslim, 'Hey, at least I respect your belief,' I would be telling a lie." 
~ Christopher Hitchens

A priest who ran my youth group told me something that has always stuck with me. There was a growing evangelical movement within the Episcopal Church at the time. It made him very uncomfortable. I asked him what his problem was with these fundamentalist Christians. He said, "I've just never met a group of people who were so sure that they were right and everybody else was wrong." I have to wonder what he thinks of the growing atheist movement. As I wrote here, there is an equal dogmatism and aggression to be found in modern atheism. Evangelists and atheists: I've come to think of them as bookends of intolerance.

It seems I'm not the only one who's noticed this parallel. Skye Jethani on The Huffington Post writes:

Atheists and evangelicals often find themselves on opposite sides of the cultural battle line -- and those battles are becoming more frequent. The rise of "New Atheism" via best-selling books by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and the emergence of what I call "Constitutional Evangelicalism" comprised of Christians more likely to know the Second Amendment than the Second Commandment, has inflamed the tensions between the two groups.

But the new breed of atheists and evangelicals may have more in common than they'd like to admit.

For example, some within New Atheism are proselytizing their beliefs with the fervor, and in come cases anger, more often associated with evangelicals. From an international ad campaign on buses dismissing belief in God, to rallies at universities inviting students to exchange their Bibles for pornography, atheists are no longer content with a live-and-let-live approach to those adhering to religion. Instead, they are actively trying to convert (or is the word un-convert?) the masses.

What makes me very nervous about both of these camps is the certitude. Certainty is the enemy of learning and growth. So people who are certain there is no god make me as uncomfortable as those who are certain that their god is The God. It's judgmental and divisive. Most importantly, it seeks to deprive people of their own, individual process of discovery. There is always something dangerous about enacting the belief that you have the answers not just for yourself but for everybody. You can't do that without stealing power from other people; without crushing their spirits. Sadly, this is what some of the most prominent atheists are doing, apparently oblivious to the irony.

It appears some New Atheists are incorporating the very traits they've often condemned about evangelicals -- intolerance, dogmatism, and now even the church's penchant for schism. It seems anything can be turned into a religion, even anti-religion.

"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." 
~ Franklin Graham

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Apr 23, 2010

California Quake Warnings, Earth Changes, Etc.

The Time Monks have done several media appearances over the past month and I've been trying to figure out how to encapsulate this and other information into something cogent. I can't. So I'm just going to throw several of the better interviews up here for your consideration and babble in a stream of consciousness fashion. As ever, I endorse you, gentle reader, to try not to go into fear around some of the scarier predictions... like the economic stuff. It may even be irresponsible of me to say this but I just don't get that it's going to be as bad as they predict and that I see something really beautiful opening up behind the misery. We do, however, live in "interesting times" and some of this is can get very uncomfortable. It already has but it's going to get worse.

Earthquakes and California

That said, there is a lot of data here that I'm seeing cross-corroboration of; particularly on natural disasters. I have very real concerns about earthquakes. In late March I know I said to several people, privately, that I was feeling a build-up to another major natural disaster. A short time later this spate of quakes started. We're already way off the charts in terms of number and frequency which Clif High notes. I have very real concerns about California right now. A few days before the Mexico quake that was felt up through much of Southern California, I saw a fault line releasing a lot of light in a portion of California. (This came up in a private reading so I'm really not at liberty to say more than that.) Now here's what concerns me. Since that occurred I've been hearing information from numerous, diverse sources pointing to some very serious quake activity pending throughout much of California.

I'd like to think the Mexico quake -- which did mercifully little damage -- was the one that was predicted for the San Diego area. It's not looking like that. It looks more like it was a precursor to a much worse quake pending for that region. There are a number of psychics picking that up but it's also being validated by more empirical sources. Whitley Strieber did a brief segment with a geologist on Dreamland. (It's about the first 10 minutes of the 4/10 Starchild DNA interview which will go behind the pay wall shortly.) Here's the concerning part: This geologist says that while the Mexico quake released pressure on some fault lines, it actually increased pressure on a number of others around San Diego. And that what is pending is a 6-7 point quake for that area.

The picture gets worse if you look at some of the psychic and channeled information. Clif High and George Ure get into a very involved and concerning discussion of the possibility of serious, permanent damage to much of California. There is also some channeled information in a newsletter that was forwarded to me by a friend. It can be found here. Scroll down to the section heading "Epicenters for San Diego & LA." If Tom Moore is bringing through accurate info, this could get seriously ugly, particularly in the San Diego area.

I have a number of clients and friends in various parts of California so this information concerns me on a very personal level. (I also had my daughter when I was living in the San Diego area so that  emotionally ties me to the region.) I'm not trying to scare anyone but I would be remiss if I didn't at least pass along these concerns. I would say, at the very least, that it would be a good time to stock up on bottled water and canned goods. And please, dear ones, watch animal patterns. Take note if the number of missing pets goes up and take note if your own pets start to become unusually anxious. Also, if you're just feeling an inexplicable impulse to get out of the area, GO!

Iceland Volcanic Action

According to High, as bad and disruptive as the current volcanic eruption in Iceland is, it may just be the beginning. I read the other day that, in fact, there is significant geological concern about a second volcanic eruption.

Scientists fear tremors at the Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano could trigger an even more dangerous eruption at the nearby Katla volcano – creating a worst-case scenario for the airline industry and travelers around the globe.

A Katla eruption would be 10 times stronger and shoot higher and larger plumes of ash into the air than its smaller neighbor, which has already brought European air travel to a standstill for five days and promises severe travel delays for days more.

The two volcanos are side by side in southern Iceland, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) apart and thought to be connected by a network of magma channels.

Pole Shift

Yes, High is still talking about pole shift. He also says the Chilean quake was noticeably tied to some intriguing solar activity. So is the Iceland volcano. He posits that the Mayan Calendar seems to be charting a regular solar cycle and its effects on the earth's magnetosphere. I've already covered a good bit of this but his explanation in the Caost to Coast interview below is so good I wanted to underscore it. 

Timey-Wimey... Stuff

This is not a major component of the interviews. It's something Clif High touches upon sort of tangentially but it really jumped out at me. High theorizes that there is some manipulation of "time stuff" or what Doctor Who calls "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff." Okay... they're in very different contexts. I just like to say "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff." Try it. It's fun. What High references is the possibility that there is some technology in use that allows pinpoint control of time -- speeding it up and slowing it down -- which causes the "time stuff" to roll off into other areas and cause problems. Now, why do I care... This has actually come up in my awareness several times and kind of thrown me for a loop. My linear mind doesn't care for the idea that time can be manipulated in that way but I've seen it occur in glimpses, by... well... let's just say people I would not like to think possess such dangerous knowledge. I've found that I've been subconsciously picking up on "time distortion" from time to time. In a fairly recent journal entry, while I was jotting down a list of strange, but explicable occurrences, I had written the phrase "time distortions." Then I had no idea why I'd written it. In my journal it reads, "time distortions... (Whoa. Where did that come from?!)" I don't know where it came from or why. But it concerns me because it's part of a larger pattern of energy manipulation. If anyone else is getting anything along these lines, I'd love to compare notes.

Pyramids in the Antarctic

This is a really tantalizing tidbit. In his interview with OneRadio, High explains that he has photographs he has promised not to release yet which show what appear to be giant pyramid structures in the Antarctic. In Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock explores the theory that the remnants of a lost civilization, usually referred to as Atlantis, could be in the Antarctic hidden under the ice sheets. One possibility is that they wound up in this now uninhabitable location during a previous pole shift and crustal displacement as theorized by Charles Hapgood.

The second connection the Flem-Aths made followed logically from the first: if there was such a recurrent, cyclical geological phenomenon as earth-crust displacement, and if the last displacement had shifted the enourmous landmass we call Antarctica out of temperate latitudes and into the Antarctic Circle, it was possible that the substantial remains of a lost civilization of remote antiquity might today be lying under two miles of ice at the South Pole.

It was suddenly clear to me how a continent-sized landmass, which had been the home of a large and prosperous society for thousands of years, could indeed get lost almost without trace. As the Flem-Aths concluded: 'It is to icy Antarctica that we look to find answers to the very roots of civilization -- answers which may yet be preserved in the frozen depths of the forgotten island continent.'

The Interviews

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Apr 20, 2010

Pope John Paul II Approved Cover-Up

Cardinal Dario Castillo Hoyas, who honored a Bishop for protecting a pedophile priest from the authorities, has claimed he was authorized by the late Pope John Paul II.

“After consulting the pope … I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model of a father who does not hand over his sons,” the daily La Verdad quoted Cardinal Hoyos as saying.

“The Holy Father authorised me to send this letter to all bishops in the world and publish it on the internet,” he said.

. . .

Cardinal Hoyos’ letter  praised Bishop Pierre Pican for not denouncing a French priest who was later sentenced to 18 years in jail for the repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on 10 others.

If true, the culture of secrecy and protection of abusive priests, rather than children, went to the very top of the Catholic Church. This is a stunning revelation and I'm amazed it's gotten so little press.

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The Power of Penance

The Huffington Post has a very good piece by Rev. James Martin SJ on the importance of penance for the Catholic Church for its failure to protect children from abusive priests.
Every Catholic knows that forgiveness in the confessional demands penance. Reconciliation in the church requires the same thing.

This is why Pope Benedict XVI's remarks last week might be an important starting point. "[W]e Christians, even in recent times," he said, "have often avoided the word 'penance,' which seemed too harsh to us. Now [...] we see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how it is necessary to do penance, that is, to recognize what is mistaken in our life, to open oneself to forgiveness, to prepare oneself for forgiveness, to allow oneself to be transformed. The pain of penance, that is to say of purification and of transformation, this pain is grace, because it is renewal, and it is the work of Divine Mercy."

If the church hopes to heal, the turn to penance is, as the pope says, "necessary." And I mean real penance.

I'm not Catholic so confessions and penance aren't concepts I understand in any depth, but I was heartened to hear Pope Benedict invoke the idea. In short, because it was good to finally hear something from the Vatican that spoke of the church's culpability and responsibility. As the Rev. Martin explains, the Catholic Church has a codified process for rectification of wrong-doing. It is a process that the Church expects Catholics to follow for large sins and small. Yet it has not required this from bishops and other clergy who, through inaction or misguided action, enabled abusers to avoid justice and failed to prevent them from re-offending.

There have certainly been consequences for some church officials and for church coffers but as Rev. Martin points out, that is not the same thing as actively choosing penance.

More disturbing are penances directed to the wrong people. Occasionally bishops will invite all Catholics in their diocese to commit themselves to a general period of communal penance in "reparation" for the sins of sexual abuse by clergy. Pope Benedict's recent pastoral letter to the Irish church mentions this. In addition to proscribing penances for the clergy and members of religious orders, the pope exhorts "the faithful" to offer their "Friday penances" for one year.

On the one hand, the idea of the whole people acting together, as one, is theologically sound. One of the central images of the church is the "Body of Christ." The church, unified as a body, rejoices and suffers together. Thus the crime of sexual abuse tears at the body of the entire church. But this theological approach, when applied in this case, is misdirected, even offensive. Why should the Catholic "faithful" (the laity) repent for anything? They were not the guilty ones. It would be as if a penitent entered the confessional, confessed his sins, sought absolution, and said, "Could you give the penance to someone else?

It is offensive to involve church members who have no culpability for the reasons stated. But also because it reduces this penance to a kind of meaningless symbolic action. It disperses and diffuses any sense of genuine responsibility as if to say, All of us are guilty so none of us are guilty, so we don't need to get into who did what to whom. It's yet another indication that many church officials, as individuals, refuse to own up to their mistakes.

Rev. Martin explains something that I was taught in my own church as a youth; one of the few explanations of "sin" that made sense to me. That sin is that which comes between you and God. It severs. It separates and isolates. In some way we must atone, meaning to return to a state of one-ness.

[Atonement] is an early 16th century creation from at + one under the influence of Latin ad-una-mentum "unity". It was assisted by the prior existence of the verb, to one "to make one, unite". Onement was already used by the Bible translator John Wyclif in the 14th century. This noun was influenced by such frequent phrases as "set at one" and "put at one", so that atonement began to replace onement early in the 16th century.

The process of confession and penance is not terribly meaningful to me but it is to Catholics and would probably go a long way towards mending some of what has been broken by this scandal. Genuine contrition and compassion are powerful healers. Acknowledging the pain that you are in any way responsible for can be deeply transformative. Pope Benedict's recent meeting with abuse survivors was a good start.

[Lawrence] Grech, one of eight men who were molested by priests in a Maltese orphanage during the 1980s and '90s, said the meeting with the pope had restored his faith.

"For a long time I haven't gone to Mass, and I had lost the faith," he told the National Catholic Reporter. "Now I feel like a convinced Catholic again."

. . .

"I could see the pain in his eyes," [Joseph] Magro recalled. "He said he did not know. He said the priest had betrayed his vows before God."

"I have made my peace with the church," Magro said after the meeting.

Another probable reason the meeting with the Pope Benedict was successful is that it provided these survivors a sense of being heard. If the Catholic Church hopes to survive, becoming accessible to the people and taking themselves off a pedestal is crucial. That means bearing the same kind of penance they expect from parishioners who sin. It means dropping the defensiveness that has made them unable to recognize the pain of abuse survivors and disillusioned church members. It means admitting in a meaningful way that they are also sinners who have made some ghastly mistakes.

"The pontiff alluded to the sins of the church, recalling that it, a wounded sinner, felt all the more the consolation of God," L'Osservatore Romano wrote of the lunch gathering.

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Apr 19, 2010

Graham Hancock on Lost Things

This is a really compelling discussion of Graham Hancock's fascination with historical riddles and how it has evolved. He discusses how his research into the possibility of the Lost Ark of the Covenant being in Ethiopia opened the door to his discovery of other historical anomalies and anachronisms. I read The Sign and the Seal some years ago, less out of any interest in the Lost Ark than because I just really enjoy Hancock's writing. It's a great read. Here he discusses some of the most interesting elements of the book; the practices of the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia, the plausible historical record that points to the Ark moving to Ethiopia, and the evidence that the Ark itself was an advanced technological device  and probably radioactive. It is this last that segues Hancock into the study of these bizarre technological anomalies that point to an ancient, lost civilization; the vestiges of which we keep tripping over.

Hancock really lays out his thinking here on some of the larger possibilities of an earlier, advanced civilization that is referenced in myths from around the world. He also articulates something I think quite profound about how the "amnesia" to which he so often refers is part of a deep, psychic wound we have around this past cataclysm. I find this a very intriguing idea. There is much more in this fairly brief interview. Enjoy.

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Apr 17, 2010

Cardinal Praised Bishop for Shielding Pedophile

Cardinal Cstrillon Hoyos

A letter from 2001 has surfaced in the French media pertaining to a notorious case of clerical abuse and obstruction of justice. The letter, written by a Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, praised Bishop Pierre Pican for not turning a pedophile priest over to the authorities; a crime for which he received a suspended sentence.

At the time, Castrillon Hoyos was Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. The commission is responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to religious orders.

He was also a close collaborator of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is today Pope Benedict XVI. Castrillon Hoyos retired in July 2009.

. . .

Pican ultimately was handed a suspended sentence of three months in prison for protecting the priest, Rene Bissey, from arrest. Bissey was eventually sentenced to 18 years in prison for repeatedly raping one boy and sexually assaulting 10 others.

Once again we see that martyring oneself to protect pedophiles and the church's reputation was valued and endorsed by a highly placed Vatican official; protecting children, not so much.

"I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration," Castrillon Hoyos said. "You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest."

. . .

In it, the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had "very special links of spiritual paternity." Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against "a direct relative," he stated.

The letter cited Vatican documents and an epistle of Saint Paul to bolster its argument about special bishop-priest links.

"To encourage brothers in the episcopate in this delicate domain, this Congregation will send copies of this letter to all bishops' conferences," Castrillon Hoyos wrote. [emphasis added]

The authenticity of the letter has been validated by Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. He also attempted to spin it.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, in a statement late yesterday, said the letter showed the Holy See had made the right decision in May 2001 “to centralize treatment of cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The Vatican doctrinal office was headed at the time by future Pope Benedict XVI.

I would even call it clever spin... if it made a lick of sense. Here's the problem. Cardinal Ratzinger's famous directive came out in May of 2001. This newly discovered letter from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos was sent in September of 2001. On my calendar, September always follows May by some months.

Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was widely interpreted as a call for just this kind of secrecy. As discussed here, Vatican officials have claimed that Cardinal Ratzinger's letter did not preclude Bishops from turning these cases over to legal authorities. What this newly discovered letter from Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos shows is that a bit of that "confusion" can be traced directly to him, and he was a close associate of Cardinal Ratzinger at the time. So, whether Father Lombardi realizes it or not, he's actually saying that Cardinal Ratzinger's letter was a call for secrecy and that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Bishop Pican were following Vatican policy by extolling the virtues of obstructing justice.

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Apr 15, 2010

Pope Benedict Recognizes Need for Penance

This is a step in the right direction.

Pope Benedict said on Thursday the sexual abuse scandal shaking Roman Catholicism showed the Church needed to do penance for its sins, in a rare public reference by the pope to pedophilia in the priesthood.

"Now, under attack from the world which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognize what is wrong in our lives," the said pope at a mass in the Vatican.

This involved "opening oneself up to forgiveness, preparing oneself for forgiveness, allowing oneself to be transformed," said the pope, whose last public utterance on the scandal was his letter to the Irish people, made public on March 20.

But you have to wonder why it takes an "attack from the world" for his Holiness to recognize that the church needs to acknowledge its "sins." It implies an appalling lack of introspection.

BBC News has an analysis of the Vatican's poor media campaign. To sum up, the Church's communication has been entirely reactive, rather than proactive. Church officials have come off as defensive; shifting blame to the media, to gays, to Jews... to everyone but themselves. This is what I've been saying from the beginning. The lack of personal responsibility from Catholic leaders, including the Pope, has been sickening. Whom would Jesus blame? According to Christian teaching, Jesus took on the sin of the entire world and died for it; the whole world. The Catholic Church has been unable to take responsibility for rapists and torturers in their own employ. And they remain unable to even admit that they have enabled these abusers by concealing their crimes from the public and by shuffling them from diocese to diocese.

In an investigation spanning 21 countries across six continents, The Associated Press found 30 cases of priests accused of abuse who were transferred or moved abroad. Some escaped police investigations. Many had access to children in another country, and some abused again.

A priest who admitted to abuse in Los Angeles went to the Philippines, where U.S. church officials mailed him checks and advised him not to reveal their source. A priest in Canada was convicted of sexual abuse and then moved to France, where he was convicted of abuse again in 2005. Another priest was moved back and forth between Ireland and England, despite being diagnosed as a pederast, a man who commits sodomy with boys.

"The pattern is if a priest gets into trouble and it's close to becoming a scandal or if the law might get involved, they send them to the missions abroad," said Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk and critic of what he says is a practice of international transfers of accused and admitted priest child abusers. "Anything to avoid a scandal."

What we've heard from apologists is that the Church is now a model for how to handle abuse; that Pope Benedict has been vigilant in going after abusers and cleaning up the process by which these cases are handled. That may be true. I hope so. But it doesn't absolve the Catholic Church for past abuses. What we've all heard far too little of is full-throated apology. I sincerely hope this statement from the Pope marks a turning point in how the Vatican and other officials communicate on this issue.

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Graham Hancock on Reclaiming Our Consciousness

In the first chapter of Supernatural, Graham Hancock recounts his early experimentation with psychadelic plants, under the guidance of indigenous shamans. Of his use of the healing plant Iboga he writes:

Was it really a supernatural realm that the ibogaine took me into, or just a crazy hallucination? As I've emphasized, this was not something I was yet in a position to judge; nor was it easy to disentangle cause from effect. But what was miraculous nonetheless was the dramatic turnaround in my mood that I benefited from after my ibogaine session. For months beforehand I had been intensely depressed and irritable, filled with morbid thoughts and gloomy anxiety. My guilt at what I perceived as my dismal failure of my father, and my grief at his loss, had been compounded by feelings of worthlessness and anguish so deep that I frequently saw no point in taking any further initiatives in life. It was better by far, I had persuaded myself, to withdraw from the world, abandon research, and avoid all new intellectual challenges -- which, anyway, I would certainly fail.

I hadn't expected ibogaine to make a difference, but it did. From the moment I woke up with my strength recovered, I knew that it had flipped some sort of switch in me, because I was no longer able to see anything in the world in the same negative and nihilistic way as I had done before. From time to time a morbid thought would still stray across my mind and try to drag my mood down; previously I would have dwelt on it obsessively until it made me miserable; now I found it easy to dismiss it and move on. I didn't feel so bad about my father either. I'd not been at his bedside, and I couldn't change that. But somehow, now, I no longer ached so much.

Whether this healing was achieved through contact with the spirit world, or whether it was just a beneficial side-effect of shaking up my brain chemistry, I felt grateful to ibogaine. Regardless of the explanation, or the mechanism, it had put me through something I would never forget -- something very much like a religious experience. It had swept away the cobwebs of ingrained bad habits and moods. And it had most persuasively demonstrated the worth of a hitherto neglected line of research into the spiritual life of the ancients.

A recent New York Times article explains that  some researchers are taking another look at the use of psychotropic drugs for the treatment of depression. Early results are at least as promising as Hancock's healing from depression and grief.

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

After taking the hallucinogen, Dr. Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the universe.

“All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating,” he recalled. “Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

Today, more than a year later, Dr. Martin credits that six-hour experience with helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.

Hancock, no stranger to controversy, has become a vociferous advocate for the legalization of drugs that allow us to explore our own consciousness. In addition to healing from depression, Hancock has found tremendous value in the responsible use of sacred plants. As he explains in the interviews posted below, his reinvention as a fiction author was facilitated by the use of ayahuasca. The plot structure of his new novel Entangled was effectively dictated to him over the course of five ayahuasca journeys. (The book is currently only available in England and will pub in the US and elsewhere in October. Yes, I know. I'm frustrated and impatient over this, too.)

In a curious synchronicity, as I was compiling information for this post, my husband noticed a woodchuck running around our backyard. So I googled woodchuck (aka groundhog) medicine to see what that particular reflection could mean. As per the first page to come up... wait for it... altered states of consciousness.

A very difficult and powerful totem to have,Woodchuck Watches from the Safety of a Rock Pile

Groundhog is the symbol of opening fully to the dreamtime.
Of exploring altered states of consciousness more deeply and fully.
Dreams will have great significance.

Lessons associated with death, dying and revelations about its processes will begin to surface. Groundhog can teach its people metabolic control.
How to go into the great unconscious without harm.

. . .

This is often the totem of Shamans and Mystics.

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Apr 14, 2010

Mr. Deity Cliffhanger

Mr. Deity wraps this season with a cliffhanger. Jesse (aka Jesus) has been parsing the logical fallacies of "the script" and he's pissed. He's also hot. Have I mentioned that Jesus is hot? I did. I know I've mentioned this 1 or 10 times.

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Apr 13, 2010

Catholic Leaders Target Gays and Jews


Just when you thought the blundering stupidity from the Vatican couldn't get any worse, it does.

The Vatican's second-highest authority says the sex scandals haunting the Roman Catholic Church are linked to homosexuality and not celibacy among priests.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, made the comments during a news conference Monday in Chile, where one of the church's highest-profile pedophile cases involves a priest having sex with young girls.

"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true," said Bertone. "That is the problem."

I wonder what little bird "recently" told him this. Perhaps it was a carrier pigeon sent by ever-wrong Bill Donohue. It is, of course, fallacious. Many pedophiles don't even have a gender preference. They simply prefer children. The recently discussed Kiesle case comes to mind.

In another stunning turn of events, a firestorm has broken out over retired Bishop Giacomo Babini who may or may not have blamed Jews for Catholic woes.

A website quoted Giacomo Babini, the emeritus bishop of Grosseto, as saying he believed a "Zionist attack" was behind the criticism, considering how "powerful and refined" the criticism is.

The comments, which have been denied by the bishop, follow a series of statements from Catholic churchmen alleging the existence of plots to weaken the church and Pope Benedict XVI.

Allegedly speaking to the Catholic website Pontifex, Babini, 81, was quoted as saying: "They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers."

This could seriously damage all the bridge building with the Jewish community. There was real progress in healing wounds from things like the Inquisition and questionable ties to the Nazis during WWII. It could also damage all the bridge building with the gay community that has never happened ever.

Andrew Sullivan has an excellent write-up on the Vatican cover-up of prolific, serial abuser Marcial Maciel which implicates both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In addition to molesting many church youths, Maciel lived a double life. He took a false name and fathered children whom he then molested. The sickness is deep.

The New Yorker has just published a slick overview of “the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in Church history.”

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Apr 12, 2010

The Vatican: Always a Day Late and a Dollar Short

The Vatican announced today that it has made its peace with the Beatles and forgiven them for their "dissolute" lives and "Satanic" messages.

Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano paid tribute to the Fab Four in its weekend editions, with two articles and a front-page cartoon reproducing the crosswalk immortalized on the cover of the band's album "Abbey Road."

The tribute marked the 40th anniversary of the band's breakup.

"It's true, they took drugs; swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives," said the paper. "They even said they were more famous than Jesus," it said, recalling John Lennon's 1966 comment that outraged many Catholics and others.

"But, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless," L'Osservatore said. "Their beautiful melodies, which changed forever pop music and still give us emotions, live on like precious jewels."

Big of them... and only 40 years after the fact. I took them 350 years to forgive Galileo for that nasty business about his being right on the whole earth circling the sun thing. In an interesting synchronicity, today is also the anniversary of Galileo's trial before the Roman Inquisition.

And then there was Pope John Paul II's sweeping apology in 2000 for the church's entire history of persecution, torture, and warfare. So they're definitely getting better at being timely. Two of the Beatles are even still alive.

In another bold move, the Vatican has also posted guidelines on how to do deal with sex abuse charges on its website.

Official website www.vatican.va called it an "introductory guide which may be helpful to lay persons and non-canonists (referring to 'canon' or internal church law)" to rules for local churches on how to respond to sex abuse allegations. 

It made clear high up that bishops must report crimes to the police, saying "civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed." 

Bishops should probe every allegation, and any accusation with "a semblance of the truth" referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

So that should clear things up... and not a moment too soon. But it is heartening move in the direction of transparency and a departure from years of secrecy in the interest of protecting the church's reputation.

The Catholic Church's worry about the scandal sex abuse allegations will cause – often leading to their cover-up – reflects a deeply rooted legal principle that governs the church, a leading canon law expert says.

"The principal of scandal is very important in penal canon law," says Marco Ventura, a professor of religious law at the University of Siena, referring to the Vatican's legal code.

"Preventing scandals from taking place is crucial from all points of view. The bishop is in charge of determining how to fight against scandals which could affect the good image of the church," he added in an interview.

As a religion writer William Lobdell discovered early in the clergy abuse scandal in the US, some churches went to such great lengths to protect pedophile priests and the church's image that it meant throwing abused children under the bus.

While reporting the Harris story, I learned -- from court records and interviews -- the lengths to which the church went to protect the priest. When Harris took an abrupt leave of absence as principal at Santa Margarita in January 1994, he issued a statement saying it was because of "stress." He resigned a month later.

His superiors didn't tell parents or students the real reason for his absence: Harris had been accused of molesting a student while he was principal at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana from 1977 to 1979; church officials possessed a note from Harris that appeared to be a confession; and they were sending him to a treatment center.

. . .

By this time, church leaders possessed a psychological report in which Catholic psychiatrists diagnosed Harris as having an attraction to adolescents and concluded that he likely had molested multiple boys. (Harris, who has denied the allegations, now stands accused of molesting 12 boys, according to church records.) But they didn't step forward to set the record straight. Instead, a diocesan spokesman called Harris an "icon of the priesthood."

Harris' top defense attorney, John Barnett, lashed out at the priest's accusers in the media, calling them "sick individuals." Again, church leaders remained silent as the alleged victims were savaged. Some of the diocese's top priests -- including the cleric in charge of investigating the accusations -- threw a going-away party for Harris.

Nothing like being revictimized by your own church. But this has been the unfortunate pattern regarding clerical abuse. The victims seem to the be the last people they consider. Who knows. Maybe they'll forgive them 40 or 50 years from now for having gotten themselves molested.

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Apr 11, 2010

William Henry on Egypt, Stargates, and 2012

This brand new Coast to Coast interview with William Henry is an absolute mind-blower. It actually reduced me to tears at a couple of points because it evoked such a powerful sense of memory.  I don't know where the image used by the video maker came from but there's that concentric circle shape again. For added fun, it also contains the "funny looking mountain range" I referenced here.

In a delicious Jungian synchronicity, I learned something new this morning. I have a feed gadget on my iGoogle page for this very helpful nutrition site. The food of the week this week is onions.

The word onion comes from the Latin word unio for "single," or "one," because the onion plant produces a single bulb, unlike its cousin, the garlic, that produces many small bulbs. The name also describes the union (also from unio) of the many separate, concentrically arranged layers of the onion.

Apr 10, 2010

The Pied Piper of the Oakland Diocese

One of the darkest fairy tales of childhood memory, the Pied Piper tells of a flamboyantly dressed stranger who lured the children of Hamelin to their deaths. That the now defrocked Rev. Stephen Kiesle self-defined as a mythical mass murderer of children is telling.

"He admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he tried to molest every child that sat on his lap," said Lewis VanBlois, an attorney for six Kiesle victims who interviewed the former priest in prison. "When asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said 'tons.'"

The picture of Kiesle that emerges from numerous news reports is of an unrepentant sociopath who thought of children as an exploitable commodity. The handling of his case by the Vatican is the latest embarrassment for Pope Benedict. Like so many of these cases, it languished for years, and involved perfunctory communication, directives to think of the church's reputation, and a misplaced file. That then Cardinal Ratzinger's signature appears on some of that perfunctory communication opens new questions about his involvement in foot dragging by the Vatican that left countless children at risk.

In the letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of "grave significance" but adds that such actions required very careful review and more time. Any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the Universal Church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age of the petitioner." Kiesle was 38 at the time.

In his earliest letter to Ratzinger, Cummins warned that returning Kiesle to ministry would cause more of a scandal than stripping him of his priestly powers.
"It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and that as a matter of fact, given the nature of the case, there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry," Cummins wrote in 1982.

California church officials wrote to Ratzinger at least three times to check on the status of Kiesle's case. At one point, a Vatican official wrote to say the file might have been lost and suggested resubmitting materials. Diocese officials considered writing Ratzinger again after they received his 1985 response to impress upon him that leaving Kiesle in the ministry would harm the church, the Rev. George Mockel wrote in a memo to the Oakland bishop.

Worse, Ratzinger's letter calling for time and consideration was sent in 1985, nearly 4 and a half years after the defrocking request was filed in 1981. And what was there to consider? Kiesle had already been convicted of lewd conduct and had, himself, asked to be laicized. The details of his case make no one look good, including prosecutors who clearly plead him down to that lesser charge and, later, expunged his record. The crime itself was horrifying.

Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.

So the known facts were that a priest had terrorized and molested 2 children and still it took the Vatican 6 years and repeated badgering to decide to defrock him?! And the church apparently failed to keep him away from children in that time.

As Kiesle's fate was being weighed in Rome, the priest returned to suburban Pinole to volunteer as a youth minister at St. Joseph Church, where he had been associate pastor from 1972-75.

Since being defrocked Kiesle, unsurprisingly, has proved himself to be a serial predator. Following further convictions and jail time, he is currently living in a senior community, monitored with an ankle bracelet.

The Associated Press has put together a handy timeline of events pertaining to the Kiesle case.

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Apr 9, 2010

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Apr 6, 2010

More Vatican Deflection as the Abuse Cases Pile Up

Well this just gets more and more sickening. After a Holy Week of insulting Jews and sex abuse survivors and blaming the media for doing its job, the Vatican is upping the ante on its relentless self-pity.

The Vatican heatedly defended Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, claiming accusations that he helped cover up the actions of pedophile priests are part of an anti-Catholic "hate" campaign targeting the pope for his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Vatican Radio broadcast comments by two senior cardinals explaining "the motive for these attacks" on the pope and the Vatican newspaper chipped in with spirited comments from another top cardinal.

"The pope defends life and the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, in a world in which powerful lobbies would like to impose a completely different" agenda, Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the disciplinary commission for Holy See officials, said on the radio.

No. I'm pretty sure that criticism of both his Holiness and the church has to do with the avalanche of new reports of sexually abusive priests who were not properly dealt with. And am I the only one who sees some irony in claiming to be pro-family in the wake of a child abuse scandal?

Meanwhile the charges are piling up. Over Easter weekend we learned that the Vatican dragged its heels on defrocking 2 priests who were described by their own bishop as "satanic."

The abuse cases of two priests in Arizona have cast further doubt on the Catholic church's insistence that Pope Benedict XVI played no role in shielding pedophiles before he became pope.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that as a Vatican cardinal, the future pope took over the abuse case of the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., then let it languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from the bishop for the man to be removed from the priesthood.

In another Tucson case, that of Msgr. Robert Trupia, the bishop wrote to then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005. Bishop Manuel Moreno called Trupia "a major risk factor to the children, adolescents and adults that he many have contact with." There is no indication in the case files that Ratzinger responded.

The article notes that this case languished, in part, because the Vatican was revising its procedures, which resulted in the controversial 2001 letter from then Cardinal Ratzinger. Many interpreted this letter as calling for secrecy as the Vatican adjudicated these cases. Even after the changes implemented by Ratzinger, the process seemed unconscionably slow.

More alarming, the most recent case to come to light started in 2005, well after the new streamlined procedure was in place, and it has yet to be prosecuted.

A Catholic priest who fled Minnesota for India after being accused by two teenage girls of rape continues to serve as a priest in a Catholic school system five years after his case was brought to the attention of the Vatican, according to documents and testimony in a lawsuit against the Church.

The accused cleric, the Rev. Joseph Jeyapual, oversees the hiring of teachers for 40 Catholic schools in the diocese of Ootacamund, India, according to documents in the case.

. . .

In the first letter, Bishop Balke warned that to ignore the case "would be a shameful act of betrayal towards the women and girls in India to whom Fr. Jeyapaul could at present pose a risk."

In a response six months later, on behalf of Cardinal Levada, a deputy made no mention of disciplinary action against the accused priest but said he would "be monitored so that he does not constitute a risk to minors and does not create a scandal among the faithful."


The Vatican spokesman told the Associated Press the priest had been punished by being sent to a monastery for a year to pray.

So prayer and contemplation are punishment? For a priest?!! Isn't that what they do?

As with so many of these cases, Rev. Jeyapaul became a football, just punted from one diocese to another, and protected from law enforcement. In this case, he  returned to his native India, where the Bishop refused to follow a Vatican directive and defrock him. So let me get this straight: Only the Vatican can order a priest be defrocked, which has held up some of these cases for years, but a bishop can just refuse? Who's running this show? And how does this protect children? Meanwhile a second priest who was actually convicted and served time for molesting a 12 year old girl, remains in the priesthood in another Indian diocese.

If the Vatican can't see that cases such as these open the Catholic Church to fair criticism, there is something seriously wrong. It's always bad policy for leaders to refuse to take responsibility for failings in their institutions and blame everybody else. Where does the buck stop if not with the Pope?

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Apr 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

I have to wonder if the Times isn't editorializing with the placement of images in this article. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch has made headlines for apologizing profusely for the failings of the church in the handling of abuse cases. He seems to genuinely believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Juxtapose that with signals from the Vatican, including the most recent embarrassing display of self-pity from the Pope's preacher, and you get what is graphically depicted above; the emotional contrition of an archbishop and a pope with his back to the world.

Archbishop Zollitsch said that the Church had committed serious mistakes and done too little to help the victims of priestly abuse. “The caring responsibility towards the victims was insufficient in the past because of our own disappointment at the painful failure of the perpetrators, and out of a falsely understood concern for the standing of the church," he said.

It was as close as the Church in Germany has come to admitting that it covered up crimes committed by priests

That, he said, was the "painful reality that we have to face up to". The Archbishop's words were notably blunter than those used by the Pope the previous day. 

This is a real step in the right direction as are signals from numerous dioceses.

More than 20 out of 27 dioceses had agreed to integrate the prayers into the service. The formula — openly acknowledging the victimhood of the children molested by priests — had been worked out by Stephan Ackermann, Bishop of Trier, the Church's expert on abuse. Last week he introduced a hotline for victims and found that 20 of the callers claimed to have been abused in his own diocese.

Far less encouraging are statements from Pope Benedict's personal preacher. The Vatican is struggling to distance itself from the homily in the wake of a firestorm of outrage.

At a solemn Good Friday service, Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher likened the tide of allegations that the pontiff has covered up sex abuse cases to the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism." But within hours, facing a storm of criticism at the comparison, the Vatican felt it necessary to distance the pope from the preacher's remarks.

Both Jewish and victims' groups responded that it was inappropriate to compare the discomfort being experienced by the church leadership in the sex abuse scandal to the violence that culminated in the Holocaust. The Vatican has been on the defensive in recent days, saying the church has been singled out and collectively stereotyped for the problem of pedophilia, which it says is a society-wide issue.

Invoking any comparison with anti-Semitism was particularly sensitive on Good Friday, itself a delicate day in a decades-long effort by Jews and Catholics to overcome a legacy of mistrust. There was a long-held Catholic belief that Jews were collectively responsible for executing Christ, and a landmark achievement of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s was a declaration stating the Jews should not be blamed for the crucifixion.

Thoroughly offending two groups of actual victims on Good Friday... I think that may be a new personal best for the Vatican.

I am somewhat encouraged to read that Pope Benedict has given the nod to the German church's approach.

The Pope listened "with keen interest, great sadness, and deep emotion" as the German prelate related the steps that are being taken to respond to the revelations of abuse. "The Holy Father was very satisfied with our decisions," Archbishop Zollitsch told reporters after the meeting.

The German hierarchy has announced that it will report all claims of abuse to law-enforcement officials, unless the victims ask for privacy. The German bishops have commissioned an independent investigation of the more than 100 claims that have already been made, and vowed to cooperate with any government inquiries. "We want to uncover the truth," Archbishop Zollitsch said.

The bishops have applauded the German government's decision to convene a national roundtable on the abuse issue, which will bring together religious leaders, teachers, and abuse victims. Pope Benedict has also indicated his support for the roundtable initiative.

If Holy Week services so far, though, are any indication, the Vatican and much of the Catholic Church still don't get it. There is nothing more offensive than whining about how victimized you are because you're being criticized, when there are people whose lives have been damaged, and destroyed in some cases, by mistakes you made. It displays a narcissistic indifference to the suffering of others. Not the message I'd think the church would want to send as it celebrates Christ's martyrdom.

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