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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for May, 2014

São Paulo Archdiocese Commission Issues Supportive Statement for Pride

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2014

A BTB reader in Brazil passes along this fascinating tidbit: the Justice and Peace Commission of the São Paulo Archdiocese has issued a surprisingly supportive statement in advance of the city’s Pride celebration that’s taking place this week. The statement, which was released on April 30 and citing the Second Vatican Council, states, in part:

…[W]e can not remain silent in the face of the reality that is lived by this population: they are the target of prejudice and victims of the systematic violation of their Fundamental Rights, such as those to health, education, work, housing and culture, among others. Besides all this, they face every day an unbearable level of physical and verbal violence, building up to murders which are true crimes of hatred.

Given this, we invite all people of good will, and in particular, all Christians, to reflect on this profoundly unjust reality as lived by LGBT people, and, guided by the supreme principle of Human Dignity, to dedicate themselves actively to overcoming it.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s director told Estadão (via Google Translate, with some cleanups):

The director of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese, Geraldo Magela Tardelli, said this is the first time that the commission wrote “formally” in favor of homosexuals. “The committee has a mission, according to Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Ars: ‘we have to give voice to those who have no voice.’ Right now, what we are finding is that there is an increase of violence against homosexuals, so we can not overlook. regarding this violation of human rights,” said the director.

According to him, the realization of the Gay Parade ordered the disclosure of the note.”We think this was the right time to put this note in circulation. We, the Church, are engaged in defending human rights and are not siding with its violation, regardless of color and sexual orientation of people,” said Tardelli.

The full statement is here:

Note from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of São Paulo

Faithful to its mission of announcing and defending the Gospel and civilizing values of Human Rights, the Justice and Peace Commission of São Paulo (CJPSP) wishes to make a public statement on the occasion of the 18th LGBT Pride Parade which is to take place on the Avenida Paulista next Sunday, 4th May 2014.

We base ourselves on the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, approved at the 2nd Vatican Council which says “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”

Therefore the defense of the dignity, the citizenship and the safety of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite and Transgender) people is indispensable in the building of a fraternal and just society. For this reason we can not remain silent in the face of the reality that is lived by this population: they are the target of prejudice and victims of the systematic violation of their Fundamental Rights, such as those to health, education, work, housing and culture, among others. Besides all this, they face every day an unbearable level of physical and verbal violence, building up to murders which are true crimes of hatred.

Given this, we invite all people of good will, and in particular, all Christians, to reflect on this profoundly unjust reality as lived by LGBT people, and, guided by the supreme principle of Human Dignity, to dedicate themselves actively to overcoming it.

São Paulo, 30th April 2014
Human Rights Commission of São Paulo

[Special thanks to BTB reader James]

Vatican Cardinal Criticizes Criminalization of Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

March 5th, 2014

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana has called on Uganda to repeal its Anti-Homosexuality Act:

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Tuesday that “homosexuals are not criminals” and shouldn’t be sentenced for up to life in prison. Speaking to reporters in Bratislava where he attended a conference on the Catholic Church and human rights, Turkson said the Vatican also calls on the international community to keep providing aid.

Cardinal Turkson’s comments are considered significant in Catholic circles for two reasons: he’s a member of the Roman Curia, and he’s sometimes mentioned as being among the “papabile” or potential candidates to be elected pope in a future conclave.

Pope warns against rejecting children of gay parents

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2014

One of the more stupid anti-gay positions taken by American Catholics in the past few years was the decision by some dioceses to disallow children of gay couples to attend parochial schools. It’s hard to fathom what that was supposed to accomplish.

But now Pope Francis has called for a reassessment of how the Church responds to children of gay or divorced parents.

“On an educational level, gay unions raise challenges for us today which for us are sometimes difficult to understand,” Francis said in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November, extracts of which were published on Italian media websites on Saturday.

The pontiff said educational leaders should ask themselves “how can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?”

“We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them,” the 77-year-old added.

The Catholic Church and Pope Francis hold and espouse views that are damaging to our community. But unlike his predecessor, Pope Benedict the Malevolent, Francis seems to be aware that the future looks dim for any organization who’s approach to expansion is, “Not you, nor you, nor you, nor you, nor you!”

Cardinal Dolan: Church has been out-marketed

Timothy Kincaid

November 30th, 2013


Advocate

“Well, I think maybe we’ve been outmarketed sometimes,” he said on Meet the Press, according to a preview of the Sunday interview reported by the Associated Press. “We’ve been caricatured as being antigay.”

This is the explanation Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, gives for the reason that the United States is marching firmly in the direction of marriage equality. (The interview can be seen Sunday night on NBC’s Meet the Press.)

“When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it’s a tough battle,” he said.

The Cardinal is correct that public image and social pressure were the factors that swept away the argument of the American Catholic Bishops and which will result in equality not only in the United States but in most of the Christian and Catholic World. But Hollywood and politicians only deserve part of the credit.

The real credit lies elsewhere.

America has come to know who Catholic Cardinals are. Media stopped giving the Church a pass and over the past decade or so the real lives of Catholic priests have been exposed.

The public has discovered that all that they feared and despised about gay people – irresponsible sexuality, a threat to their children, flaunters of law and social order – had been blamed on the wrong party. It was not Hairdresser Joe that their sons needed to be warned about, but Father Joe.

And through it all, the Bishops – in their arrogance – failed miserably in maintaining their image. They fought futile public battles to keep their crimes a secret, they threw nuns out of convents in order to raise money to pay their settlements, they put forward spokesmen who demanded that the public obey their will without question, all while parading their own wealth and power and political connections. And, in the process, the Church lost its credibility on matters of morality and social good.

And, most foolish of all, they failed to address the very real, very identifiable needs of same-sex couples. While the public was looking at a problem and seeking a solution, the Church could have endorsed civil unions as a means to address the economic and political inequalities, while holding marriage as sacred and separate.

But instead they adopted absolutism and offered nothing. And did so in very nasty terms.

The Church could have easily won the battle over the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, but they were caricatured as anti-gay and they were terribly out-marketed. By themselves.

Stolam mea est pulchellus

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2013


While the marriage bill was being signed, those who oppose equality as being contrary to the procreative purpose of marriage met in Springfield at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to join celibate Bishop Thomas Paprocki for a rather unusual response: an exorcism.

Speaking in a language that has for 1,000 years been spoken only by those who vow not to marry, Paprocki commanded that “every unclean sprit, every power of darkness, every incursion of the infernal enemy, every diabolical legion, cohort and faction” be gone.

But evidence suggests that the command may not have been effective as he himself did not immediately disappear in a puff of purple smoke

Vatican Surveys Parishes on Gays, Divorce, Contraception

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2013

In preparation for the Vatican Synod on “Pastoral Challenges of the family in the context of evangelization” called by Pope Francis for next October, the Vatican is asking bishops around the world to conduct a wide-ranging poll asking Catholics their opinions on a number of church teachings, including same-sex marriage, contraception and divorce. The independent National Catholic Reporter has the details:

Among topics bishops’ conferences are asked in the Vatican document to question their Catholic populations about:

  • How the church’s teaching on “the value of the family” is understood today. “In those cases where the Church’s teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice?” the document asks. “If so, what are they?”
  • Whether cohabitation, the problem of divorce and remarriage, and same-sex marriages are a “pastoral reality” in their church. “Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases?” the document asks. “How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?”
  • How persons in same-sex marriages are treated and how children they may adopt are cared for. “What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of union?” it asks. “In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?”
  • Whether married couples have “openness” to becoming parents and whether they accept Humanae Vitae, an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI that prohibited artificial contraception use by Catholics. “Is this moral teaching accepted?” it asks. “What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?”

The documents accompanying the survey reveal a tension within the Church. Since his election just seven months ago, Pope Francis has signaled a willingness to open the church up and change its approach to LGBT Catholics. And on the one hand, this unprecedented survey represents a huge change to the way the Vatican has traditionally done business. On the other hand, some of the documents deploy  some of the more traditional cultural-warfare talking points:

Concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago have arisen today as a result of different situations, from the widespread practice of cohabitation, which does not lead to marriage, and sometimes even excludes the idea of it, to same-sex unions between persons, who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children. The many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care include: …relativist pluralism in the conception of marriage; the influence of the media on popular culture in its understanding of marriage and family life; underlying trends of thought in legislative proposals which devalue the idea of permanence and faithfulness in the marriage covenant; an increase in the practice of surrogate motherhood (wombs for hire); and new interpretations of what is considered a human right. Within the Church, faith in the sacramentality of marriage and the healing power of the Sacrament of Penance show signs of weakness or total abandonment.

Degrading rhetoric aside — wombs for hire? — the document does illustrate the crisis that the Church faces, particularly in the West and especially among young people:

Consequently, we can well understand the urgency with which the worldwide episcopate is called upon to gather cum et sub Petro to address these challenges. For example, by simply calling to mind the fact that, as a result of the current situation, many children and young people will never see their parents receive the sacraments, then we understand just how urgent are the challenges to evangelization arising from the current situation, which can be seen in almost every part of the “global village”. Corresponding in a particular manner to this reality today is the wide acceptance of the teaching on divine mercy and concern towards people who suffer on the periphery of societies, globally and in existential situations. Consequently, vast expectations exist concerning the decisions which are to be made pastorally regarding the family.

It’s not clear exactly how widespread the questionnaire will be distributed. A letter accompanying the US version of the survey simply asks the bishops “to share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local source can be received.” The survey period ends December 31, with reports due to the Vatican by the end of January. A spokesperson for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops told NCR, “It will be up to each bishop to determine what would be the most useful way of gathering information to provide to Rome.” Meanwhile, NCR reports that Bishops in England and Wales have posted a survey online. That survey is in essay form rather than multiple choice, asking participants such questions as:

  • Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?
  • How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?
  • Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?
  • Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?
  • What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
  • What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
  • In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
  • What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?
  • How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?
  • How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?

That last question can be a tricky one in the U.S., where there have been several cases of children being barred from Catholic schools because their same-sex parents have decided to live together as a couple or marry.

So After Pope Francis’s Opening, These Things Happened

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2013

After the Jesuit magazine America published an interview with Pope Francis last week in which the pontiff chastised the church for “insist(ing) only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” a couple of events took place which, in my view, reinforced my caution that while we can be greatly encouraged by Francis’s comments, its important not to get too carried away. Specifically, I pointed out that nothing in church doctrine had changed. Further, I cautioned that just as under Benedict XVI, the entire Church was not the Pope and hierarchy, but the laity as well; so, too, today the entire Church is not the Pope and laity, but the hierarchy as well. A couple of events since last week bring all of that back into sharp focus.

First, there’s the excommunication of the former Father Greg Reynolds, of Melbourne, Australia. Fr. Reynolds says that he was excommunicated over his support for women’s ordination and gay Catholics. That excommunication took place last May, before the Pope’s more recent comments and before his comment last July responding to a question about gay priests with another question: “Who am I to judge?” Chronology may or may not explain the church’s inconsistency in its approach to Reynolds. Another explanation may be found in this report by the independent and often critical National Catholic Reporter:

The letter, a copy of which NCR obtained and translated, accuses Reynolds of heresy (Canon 751) and determined he incurred latae sententiae excommunication for throwing away the consecrated host or retaining it “for a sacrilegious purpose” (Canon 1367). It also referenced Canon 1369 (speaking publicly against church teaching) in its review of the case.

I have no idea as to the circumstances or veracity of that middle accusation. It may be real, or it may be a red herring. Of the three accusations, that one by far would be the most serious, and its inclusion here greatly clouds the issue. Reynolds has addressed the first and third accusation, but so far I’ve found no comments from anyone on the second one, except for Reynold’s broader comments saying he doesn’t know why he was excommunicated. As I said, there may be nothing to it, or there may be more than Fr. Reynolds is disclosing. Until that is sorted out, the question of Reynolds’s excommunication remains not so cut-and-dried in my mind.

Much less murky is the decision by Providence College, a Catholic institution in Rhode Island, to rescind its invitation to John Corvino, chair of Wayne State University’s philosophy department, to discuss the ethics (and not the theology) of gay marriage in a debate with a Providence theologian. Corvino’s invitation, which was co-sponsored by nine departments and programs, was cancelled in an announcement last Saturday by college provost and senior vice president Hugh F. Lena, who cited a church document that says that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.” This, of course, wasn’t an “honor,” but a debate and discussion, which, last I checked, was supposed to be one of the hallmarks of higher education. Corvino responded:

The reference to “awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions” applies, for example, to allowing such politicians to present commencement addresses or to receive honorary degrees. By contrast, I am an academic speaker. Both the person introducing me and I would state clearly that my views were not those of the Catholic Church; moreover, a respondent from the Providence College theology department, Dr. Dana Dillon, would follow immediately to explain the Church’s position on marriage. Far from suggesting “support” for my views, the College would have ample opportunity to express precisely the opposite.

The silver lining however is a pretty big one. It exposes Providence College to suspicions that it is not confident in its ability to defend church doctrine when it comes to marriage equality. That’s a pretty pathetic patch of ground for a supposedly prestigious Catholic college to stand on, if you ask me. Also, the timing of the cancellation’s announcement — on the Saturday after Pope Francis’s interview went online — couldn’t have been better to guarantee the most favorable publicity. For Corvino:

So, Providence College has done wonders for my media exposure. In the last 24 hours I’ve talked to The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Huffington Post, the Providence Journal, the Detroit Free Press, a half dozen radio producers (I’m about to go on WPRO with former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci), and MSBNC (which may have me on “Last Word” tomorrow or Thursday night).

Pope Francis’s Remarks About Gay People Are Bigger Than You Think

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2013

The Jesuit magazine America, in a joint project with its Italian counterpart La Civiltà Cattolica, published an interview yesterday with Pope Francis which has the potential of representing a new starting point with regards to the Church’s fractured relationship with gay Catholics in particular and with social issues in general.

The entire interview reveals a humble man who takes his time to think before speaking, and to just simply jump to the particular paragraphs which we care about as LGBT people, I think, would miss the broader mark. So I’m not going to do that, not just yet. I strongly encourage you to read the entire interview.

He begins by discussing how he identifies as Matthew in Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Saint Matthew,” which is essential to understand how he sees himself first, before all other identities and roles that he has taken on. I don’t think it’s possible to understand him without seeing how he sees himself. I also think it’s important to read the interview as it progresses to where Pope Francis describes his leadership style when he first became a superior in the Jesuits:

“In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest, I have not always behaved in that way—that is, I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person. But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism.

It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems. My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

I’m tempted to perhaps read more than is warranted into the fact that the only predecessor he mentions (aside from his immediate predecessor while discussing some of the church’s current problems) is Pope John XXIII and the only Vatican document he cites is one from the Second Vatican Council. But this line, in particular, leapt out:

“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.

“The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. …”

Let me interrupt here, because it’s impossible not to read what he has said so far without recalling the many, many ways in which the “people of God” are in tension (at the very least) with many of the teachings that have emanated from the Church’s hierarchy over the past several decades. This tension has been most visible in the laity’s overwhelming rejection of the Church’s teaching on birth control, masturbation, and other social and sexual issues, including marriage equality. This Public Religion Research Poll from just two years ago found that nearly three quarters of American Catholics support civil recognition of marriage or civil unions, an opinion that is endorsed by nearly two-thirds of Catholics who attend Mass weekly. Keep that in mind as Francis continues the paragraph that I so rudely interrupted:

“…. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief, and the people display this infallibilitas in credendo, this infallibility in believing, through a supernatural sense of the faith of all the people walking together. This is what I understand today as the ‘thinking with the church’ of which St. Ignatius speaks. When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit. So this thinking with the church does not concern theologians only.”

This idea then ties pretty directly to what follows, the section that has us all excited:

“The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”

I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

“…We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. … e have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

It’s important not to get too carried away. Just as under Benedict XVI, the entire Church was not the Pope and hierarchy, but the laity as well; so, too, today the entire Church is not the Pope and laity, but the hierarchy as well. Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George will continue to call same-sex marriage “irrational,” Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt will not backtrack from his comments saying that Satan is behind gay marriage, and Cardinal Dolan will continue his fight against civil marriage equality — although he is fervorously trying to find his footing in the shifting ground underneath him. And if it’s hard to see how the Pope’s opinions will quickly filter down through the American hierarchy, imagine the difficult road those ideas will have to take in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and other more socially-conservative parts of the world.

And, more critically, nothing in Church doctrine has changed. The Catechism still refers to natural law arguments to describe our relationships as “objectively disordered.” I still don’t see any moves to suggest that paragraphs 2357 through 2359 will substantially change in my lifetime.

But what is clear is that this pope pointedly rebuked those Cardinals, Bishops, priests, and laity (I’m thinking here of Maggie Gallagher and others at National Organization for Marriage) who have abused the church’s teachings to further their own narrow political agendas. Not only that, but he accuses them rather specifically of “lock[ing] (themselves) up in small things, in small-minded rules.”

But what’s most encouraging to me is that if you were to see this only in political terms, you would miss most of the story. This is not just a potentially momentous shift in politics (it will only become truly momentous if Bishops take heed), but is is also a landmark shift in the spiritual life of the Church. It took the Second Vatican Council three years, two thousand bishops and nearly a thousand constituting sessions to bring the church out of its legalistic middle ages. Much of that work was threatened under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who served as JBII’s right hand man and chief enforcer at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But Francis, in one bold move, has once again called for throwing open the windows of the church, as John XXIII did fifty-one years ago next month. While it’s important not to get too carried away, I think getting rather excited about this is certainly in order.

Breaking: The Vatican Blows Smoke (UPDATED)

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2013

We’ll habemus a Papam soon, although I hear Karl Rove is throwing a fit because the votes from Cincinnati’s suburbs still haven’t come in.

His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.

Update: The new head of the Roman Catholic Church is His Holiness, Pope Francis, the former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. This sets several precedents: He’s the first non-European Pope in many centuries (some early popes were north African), he’s the first Jesuit pope, and he’s the first to be named Francis. The regnal name is chosen with care, and is intended to signal the kind of papacy the pope intends to pursue. In this case, it’s unclear whether this one intends to follow the path of St. Francis of Assisi, or perhaps, St. Francis Xavier, a co-founder of the Jesuits.

Nevertheless, the speed with which two-thirds of the 115 Cardinals settled on Bergolgio can only be seen as a stunning rebuke of the back-stabbing, infighting, scandal-plagued Roman Curia, which is badly in need of a complete reboot. While Bergolgio is a theological conservative, he can be somewhat more “left” leaning on economic and (non-sexual) social issues, for whatever meanings those labels may carry within Catholicism. (He’s no Paul Ryan, at any rate.)  The National Catholic Reporter has a very good rundown on his background here

Bergoglio has supported the social justice ethos of Latin American Catholicism, including a robust defense of the poor.

“We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least,” Bergoglio said during a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007. “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

At the same time, he has generally tended to accent growth in personal holiness over efforts for structural reform.

…Bergoglio may be basically conservative on many issues, but he’s no defender of clerical privilege, or insensitive to pastoral realities. In September 2012, he delivered a blistering attack on priests who refuse to baptize children born out of wedlock, calling it a form of “rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism.”

Among the issues that Bergolgio was “basically conservative” on was homosexuality. He first crossed our radar in 2010, as he was campaigning against a proposal to bring marriage equality to Argentina’s same-sex couples:

“Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,” writes Bergoglio in a letter sent to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, where he is archbishop. “We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

According to Wikipedia:

He has affirmed church teaching on homosexuality, though he teaches the importance of respecting individuals who are gay. He strongly opposed legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine Government to allow same-sex marriage. In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote: “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” He has also insisted that adoption by gays and lesbians is a form of discrimination against children. This position received a rebuke from Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said the church’s tone was reminiscent of “medieval times and the Inquisition”  [By the way, the page was changed moments ago to replace every instance of "gay" to "homosexual"]

For another day the world remains popeless

Timothy Kincaid

March 12th, 2013

It seems that discernment is not a straightforward thing and that God is working in very very mysterious ways today. (Times)

The cardinals of the Catholic Church held their first ballot on Tuesday to elect a pope, with black smoke signaling no winner on the first day of their conclave inside the Sistine Chapel.

Cardinal O’Brien: Been There, Tapped That

Jim Burroway

March 3rd, 2013

Britain’s most senior Archbishop, Keith Cardinal O’Brien of Scotland, resigned last week when three priests and one former priest came forward with allegations of sexual harassment over a period spanning thirty years. He denied the allegations, and pinned his resignation on his approaching mandatory retirement when he turns 75 in March and said that he did not  “wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me.” Well, now that the Cardinals are preparing for a conclave to select the next Pope, O’Brien is doing a fantastic job of returning media attention back to him, with this statement in which he cops to those feels:

“In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness.

To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.

I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

Oh yeah, he says. Now I remember…  And by the way, the way things are going these days, his sexual conduct was actually better than expected. I mean c’mon. They were grown-ups.

U.K.’s Top Cardinal Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Complaints From Priests

Jim Burroway

February 25th, 2013

On Saturday, the U.K.’s Observer reported that three priests and one former priest came forward to accuse Britain’s most senior Archbishop, Keith Cardinal O’Brien of Scotland, of “inappropriate behavior” spanning thirty years. O’Brien denied the allegations, but then the church released a statement this morning saying that O’Brien resigned a week ago on February 18.

Yeah right. How much you wanna bet that resignation was back-dated?

On Saturday, the Observer reported:

It is understood that the first allegation against the cardinal dates back to 1980. The complainant, who is now married, was then a 20-year-old seminarian at St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, where O’Brien was his “spiritual director”. The Observer understands that the statement claims O’Brien made an inappropriate approach after night prayers.

The seminarian says he was too frightened to report the incident, but says his personality changed afterwards, and his teachers regularly noted that he seemed depressed. He was ordained, but he told the nuncio in his statement that he resigned when O’Brien was promoted to bishop. “I knew then he would always have power over me. It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity.”

In a second statement, “Priest A” describes being happily settled in a parish when he claims he was visited by O’Brien and inappropriate contact between the two took place.

In a third statement, “Priest B” claims that he was starting his ministry in the 1980s when he was invited to spend a week “getting to know” O’Brien at the archbishop’s residence. His statement alleges that he found himself dealing with what he describes as unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.

“Priest C” was a young priest the cardinal was counselling over personal problems. Priest C’s statement claims that O’Brien used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.

The cardinal maintained contact with Priest C over a period of time, and the statement to the nuncio’s office alleges that he engineered at least one other intimate situation. O’Brien is, says Priest C, very charismatic, and being sought out by the superior who was supposed to be guiding him was both troubling and flattering.

The four submitted their complaints to the papal nuncio in Britain, Antonio Mennini, a week before Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. As Cardinal, O’Brien was preparing to fly to Rome to participate in the conclave to elect a new pope. Observers note that he skipped the celebration of mass at  St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday.

Last year, Cardinal O’Brien stirred controversy over an op-ed published in The Telegraph in which he described the proposal to implement marriage equality a “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and compared same-sex marriage to slavery:

Disingenuously, the Government has suggested that same-sex marriage wouldn’t be compulsory and churches could choose to opt out. This is staggeringly arrogant.

No Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage.

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.

Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?

Soon after, in an interview with BBC Radio 4, O’Brien defended those remarks, saying “I think it’s a very, very good example of what might happen on our own country in the present time.” In November, U.K.’s gay rights group Stonewall awarded O’Brien with the Bigot of the Year Award.

Pope Benedict much too criminal to travel

Timothy Kincaid

February 19th, 2013

When Pope Benendict resigned, Cardinal O’Malley lamented that “the demands of extensive international travel, played a central role in his decision”.

And he’s undoubtedly right. Though the “demands” are perhaps a bit different from what the Church would have us believe. His fear is likely less about falling and breaking a hip than it is facing increasing international condemnation.

The internet got a moment of excitement yesterday when something calling itself “the International Tribunal into Crimes Against Church and State” declared that it has issued a summons for Joseph Ratziger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, to appear before it and answer for his crimes against humanity. But they have roughly the same authority that I have, so that’s worth little more than histrionic denouncements from a soap box. What they did say, however, that was of interest was this:

On Friday, February 1, 2013, on the basis of evidence supplied by our affiliated Common Law Court of Justice (itccs.org), our Office concluded an agreement with representatives of a European nation and its courts to secure an arrest warrant against Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict, for crimes against humanity and ordering a criminal conspiracy.

I highly doubt that they have an agreement with any nation for Ratzinger to be arrested and brought to them for judgment. They also declare that “Common Law peace officers [aka people without any legal authority] working for our de jure Court and Tribunal will apprehend [aka kidnap]” the Pope and drag him there in chains and that this Easter they will seize the assets of the Church. Cue the circus music.

But what I do think is possible is that some nation soon will, under their own laws, issue an arrest warrant for Ratzinger based on his involvement in the global cover-up of child molestation by Catholic Priests. As more documents are being demanded – and produced – it is becoming increasingly clear that before ascending to the Papal See, Ratzinger was individually responsible for keeping authorities unaware of abuse and for using international law to hide and protect priests who engaged in the most horrific abuse of trust. And even more likely is that a nation will refuse entry to a known criminal.

As head of state of the Vatican, Benedict would have diplomatic immunity. But the embarrassment would be seriously detrimental to the Church’s continued influence. And even if the Pope were to have continued in his position, he would have been forced to limit his travels to the extent that he would be a virtual prisoner in the Vatican. Reuters suggests that this is probably his fate in any case.

Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is absolutely necessary” that he stays in the Vatican, said the source, adding that Benedict should have a “dignified existence” in his remaining years.

And, indeed, if he does leave the compound, his life will increasingly be less dignified. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever be arrested for his crimes, fewer political leaders will wish to be gracious to a man whom they know chose with full knowledge to turn the young children entrusted to his Church’s care over to pedophile rapists.

Yes, his criminal past has made it impossible for him to meet the demands of extensive international travel.

Prop 8 supporters running out of funds

Timothy Kincaid

January 29th, 2013

Reuters:

ProtectMarriage.com, the advocacy group defending a California gay marriage ban now under review by the high court, showed a $2 million deficit in its legal fund at the end of 2011 – the third year in a row that expenses exceeded donations, federal tax records show.

The 2012 accounts are not yet available. ProtectMarriage.com says it has since covered the 2011 shortfall. However, it is still $700,000 short in fundraising for its Supreme Court costs, according to a ProtectMarriage.com attorney, Andrew Pugno. That message has gone out to donors, with some urgency, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in March in its first thorough review of same-sex marriage.

Andrew Pugno, the nominal attorney for the proponents attributes it to donor fatigue. I see a bigger issue, donor disinterest. By now pretty much everyone knows equality is coming and no one – not even the cardinals – really cares.

It’s not as though Prop 8′s supporters couldn’t easily toss down some serious cash. If the Vatican really and truly believed that gay marriage would lead to the end of civilization, they could pull out their checkbook. Because surely there’s no higher priority than the end of civilization.

And if times are tough and cash is short, it would be easy to liquidate an asset or two. After all, I’m sure that the Getty would happily drop some major dough to get their hands on Michelangelo’s David.

Identifying your (dwindling) opposition

Timothy Kincaid

January 4th, 2013

On NomBlog, the National Organization for Marriage describes a letter issued in opposition to equality as “An extraordinary show of support for true marriage by a wide spectrum of faith communities in Illinois”. But that letter illustrates just how narrow that spectrum has become.

There are a variety of signatories on the bottom, but the logos atop the letter tell the story.

Our denominational opposition in Illinois consists of:

* Catholic Conference of Illinois
* Anglican Church in North America
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
* The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
* The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod

That may seem like a “wide spectrum” at first glance, and quite diverse, but when you look closer it reveals how few denominations have signed on to oppose civil marriage in the state. Our opponents are the Catholic hierarchy (lay Catholics support equality), Mormons, Muslims, and two Protestant denominations: the churches that left the Episcopal Church when she became pro-gay, and the smaller of the two major Lutheran churches (the other blesses same-sex unions).

It can no longer be said that the battle over civil marriage is between the gay community and people of faith. Far too many in the religious community have either disengaged or defected to our side.

- TK

O Holy Night, the Gays are Ruining Christmas

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2012

On Christmas Eve every year a friend and I go to the same steakhouse for dinner, an old studio hangout with huge steaks and perfect cosmopolitans. A Christmas tree holds place of honor, the pictures on the walls are wrapped like presents, and tables are packed with three or four generations celebrating the holiday.

Sometimes it’s just us and one or two others, sometimes it’s a dozen or more. But one Christmas our crowd was large and one invitee was a rather loud and obnoxious person who we later realized was best not included.

Things like slashed tires and sugar in the gas tank tended to happen to those with whom he disagreed or who he thought had slighted him. But this Christmas Eve we were blissfully unaware. Until he started making comments that were inappropriate in public.

Anywhere. But especially in a family restaurant where there were kids.

Also there, was an equally loud and colorful friend who wasn’t having it. He decided to inform our boisterous friend that he was being inappropriate and should watch what he was saying. They bickered back and forth until the obnoxious one got in the other one’s face, shoved him in the chest, and screamed, “YOU RUIN EVERYTHING!!” before storming out of the restaurant.

It was this event that came to my mind when I read about the Pope’s message of hope and peace this Christmas. In a ceremony for lighting the Vatican Christmas tree as part of the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, His Holiness’ thoughts turned to gays. Of course. (FoxNews)

In comments to a delegation from Italy’s south-central Molise region, which donated the Vatican’s main Christmas tree this year, Benedict said the tree lights that were being turned on at a ceremony early Friday evening represented “divine light.”

“And when in the past they tried to stamp out the light of God to instead turn on illusory and misleading glows, there were seasons of tragic violence against man,” he said.

The Vatican on Friday released the pope’s peace message, in which he called for policymakers to think of themselves as peacemakers in economic and social policy. He warned that abortion and gay marriage were threats to peace.

Laws granting legal status for gay unions, he said, “actually harm and help destabilize marriage” by obscuring its specific nature as a union between man and woman that forms the basis of society.

Now I’m not suggesting that the Pope would put sugar in your gas tank. But he would deny you love in your life. He would take away your rights to civil equality.

And at this time when mankind is reminded of the goals of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, the Pope cannot help but think of you. Because, to the Pope, “YOU RUIN EVERYTHING!!”

……
(and, if you’re wondering, this year we will be just six – none of whom are loud)

Catholic Bishops give grants to Uganda

Timothy Kincaid

November 28th, 2012

And meanwhile, in an entirely 100% coincidental move that has nothing at all whatsoever to do with US concern over the Ugandan Kill the Gays Bill, the Us Catholic Bishops have chosen today to announce new piles of cash being sent to Uganda and her neighbors. (Albany Tribune)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Africa approved 49 grants to 16 episcopal conferences and 4 regional associations of the Church in Africa for a total of $1,226,500. The subcommittee approved the grants during the USCCB’s General Assembly meeting in Baltimore.

Grant to Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania will help implement the Year of Faith and the new evangelization. With the addition of these most recent awards, the subcommittee has given out 109 grants for a total of $2,805,442 in aid this year.

Vatican: we are not losing the marriage battle

Timothy Kincaid

November 9th, 2012

Forget all those election results you saw on Tuesday. Ignore what the legislature is doing in France. And as for Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and South Africa, they are inconsequential. And the Catholic countries of Portugal, Spain, Argentina and Mexico… oh, please, that’s just silly posturing.

Because none of that matters. The Vatican has declared that it is not losing the marriage battle. (WaPo)

On the contrary, according to an article in L’Osservatore Romano by historian Lucetta Scaraffia, the church has emerged in recent years as the only institution on the global stage that’s capable of resisting the forces that threaten to “break up … human society.”

According to the historian, the church’s fight on moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion has drawn support and “admiration” from many non-Catholics.

Well there you have it. The Vatican is winning. And if you try to argue, we’ll just stick our fingers in our ears and say, “la la la la la, I can’t hear you”!!

The French symbol of anti-equality

Timothy Kincaid

November 7th, 2012

The National Organization for Marriage is joyously reporting that France’s faithful Catholics are in opposition to marriage. And accompanying that article is this rather perplexing photograph:

I have no idea what this guy is doing, but it does raise an interesting question: Why wear neck-to-knee underwear under your skin tight body suit if your junk is going to show anyway?

The Bishop of Peoria offers spiritual guidance during the election season

Timothy Kincaid

November 1st, 2012

The decisions that go into whom to vote for can be difficult and emotional. Often conflicting priorities and perspectives can leave one distraught and troubled. So the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, has penned a letter to his flock seeking to provide spiritual guidance at this time of civic duty. Or something like that.

First the Bishop appeals to his pastors to share his guidance

By virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4. [emphasis in the original]

And then he begins his letter to those who come to share the ancient and sacred sacrament

Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present.

And a bit later he provides the congregation with a gentle biblical reminder

Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: Behold your King. The mob roared back: We have no king but Caesar. Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord.

Now I’m sure many Catholics are troubled by the decisions of the HHS that require Catholic organizations to provide contraception and/or other medical procedures which they believe to be contrary to their moral beliefs. But there are many considerations when one votes and some Catholics may consider other matters to be of more importance.

Does that really mean that they are rejecting Jesus as their Lord? Is there no gray area?

They are objectively guilty of grave sin.

It’s objectively grave sin, you see, just like scourging Jesus.

For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God’s perfect judgment in eternity.

Ah, yes. The good old “vote as I tell you or burn in Hell forever” doctrine.

I think the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky might have missed his calling. Perhaps a drill sergeant might have been a more fitting career choice.

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