This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pope Francis in Albania | National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis in Albania | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: This is a good summary and shows that the Pope's remarks were not the condemnation of ISIL that seems to have been reported - more the whole use of war in the name of religion - something the Church itself has had much to atone for.  I would also apply that to some our culture warriors.

Climate March Draws 400k | National Catholic Reporter

Climate March Draws 400k | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I had the opportunity to go, but could not so I could show up for my minimum wage job. I am a member of DC DSA and we had access to buses to go to New York.  I think that happened a lot of places.  Good for us.  On the question of a candidate - its not quite that simple.  We need a coalition - maybe even a party - and I suspect that after the GOP implodes sometime in the next three years, we will get one.  By the way, the whole climate, while important, is also a proxy issue for egalitarianism v. capitalism.  The candidate and coalition who know that and can speak to those issues will go far.

More Thoughts on The Synod | National Catholic Reporter

More Thoughts on The Synod | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Taking points in order - consumerism is good - without it output would be down and workers would be much less comfortable - it is the one thing that keeps workers from a Marxian revolution.  Materialism is the opposite of spirituality and religiosity.  Materialism looks for all truth in this life, not in metaphysics.  This may or may not deny faith, but it assumes that the two reflect each other and that material evidence is sufficient - say in believing that life begins at gastrulation.  Spirituality relies on the beneficence of God - it is a personal philosophy, even for those who are spiritual but not religious (a reference to AA members who practice the 12th step but have not defined a higher power for themselves). Religious is finding truth in the group dynamics of the human organization and its processes in determining truth - often in a hierarchical setting.  It also has very good music.

Second, he talks about marriage and the reaction of a priest to his proposal to separate conversations on the civil and religious components.  I think that what is needed is a longer term analysis of how these two factors relate - including the fact that marriage was entirely civil and then followed by a blessing - and the ridiculous request that the marriage not be compensated until three days after the blessing.  In my view, not MSW's (his reflects current, albeit flawed, teaching in the Church) the Church is wrong now as well - because everything I was taught about the couple ministering the Sacrament to each other (not the priest, he is a witness) and that procreation is not a requirement, only functionality - applies equally to gays.  That some find the functionality sinful in all cases is simply bigotry based on the insane belief that gays are not compelled to be that way.  The spiritual answer to that is that all things are accomplished by God, including people being born gay.  The word for today is Epigenetics.  Its how it happens in the material reality.  There is nothing spiritual about ignoring that, only religious and that ignorance discredits religion.Because of that religiosity, the Church won't support ENDA or allow gay civil marriage (although the latter is a predictable strategy, because the way marriage works traditionally, civil society acts and the Church conforms.  The homophobes know this and don't want to conforms - as it will have the gay seminaries marry each other and the number of priests will seriously diminish (and families of gay marrieds will demand that blessing - and some priests will quietly grant it).  As I've said before, Catholic Hospitals ignoring long time companions as next of kin, deferring instead to families of origin, is why this issue came to the fore in the first place.

Third, the example of the out of town priest is an interesting one.  If he was also out of state, the marriage is illicit (and never invalid - the couple makes it valid) in both canon and civil law.  Fixing the root is OK for the Church, but unless he obtained local credentials, there may need to be a city hall redo.  As for the point about the procedure (whether the pastor can do it with paperwork or a tribunal must review) - its the wrong question.  The question is whether we should not be treating the spouses differently in divorce - with the victim of bad conduct having an easy time remarrying due to such things as adultery, abuse, unrecovered alcoholism or addiction or abandonment (why is it always the As), while the other party must be forgiven by the wronged party to marry again (confession alone just does not cut it without the Penance).  Jesus created an immorality exception, perhaps we should use it.  The problem is religiosity again.  We fought wars with the Anglicans over this issue and I expect that the wars with the Lutherans had marriage as part of it too. Hierarchies hate to admit wrong.

It also seems that a Jesuit named Father Joseph Fessio has gotten a number of Cardinals (probably their staffs) to write chapters countering Cardinal Kasper's book setting the stage for the Synod. Cardinal Pell wrote the introduction and validated what I said about materialism v. spirituality v. religiosity.  He sees these attempts to modernize as loosing the battle between Catholicism and some kind of neo-paganism, which he attributes the desire to change to come from.  Paganism is a loaded word - it is associated with the persecutions of the early Church - which desired offerings to the emperor as a god - which is more despotism than anything else.  Paganism is actually the practice of setting up divine arch-types to better understand human nature.  In essence, its materialism.  Outside of Hinduism and Astrology, there is little practice of arch-types, outside the cult of the Saints, which is new compared to the other two. Still, if you are writing about how to conform marriage to newer understandings of natural law, a little materialism (looking at what is actually happening) is essential.  I think the Jesus of the Gospel would agree and the bishops who do not think so would best hold their tongues.  The issue is not whether the Church can maintain control of old doctrine, but whether anyone will ever care to follow it.  God promised that people will - but only because the Church will do what it always - change and then deny that it has not always been the new way.

From what I understand from comments by folks from Spokane, Bishop Cupich is indeed a culture warrior, at least on gay marriage.  At least, that is the face he showed.  If he had not been, I suspect he would not be going to Chicago.  Still, defends Francis and the One who sent him (the last being most important), even if he does not do the last part perfectly.  He calls these and some others Churchman as if it is a good thing.  It can be, I suppose, if it is a reference to spirituality rather than religiosity.  They are so different.  Those who have religiosity feel that they must defend the Church.  The spiritual don't really feel they have to - that God will and that God can act through them - but in a way that will not stop listening to the promptings of  the Spirit.

Cupich to Chicago: What Does This Mean? | National Catholic Reporter

Cupich to Chicago: What Does This Mean? | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: When this story first broke, I posted my happiness with it.  I will now expand.  Bishop Cupich has been out there lately in the media defending Francis and a progressive view point - however he did so not to get noticed, but to say what needed to be said.  It is not that he is allergic to the culture warrior claptrap out of his right wing brothers - I suspect that he simply knows it is a fraud.  How fitting that he will take Bernardin's See, whom first coined the term Seamless Garment of Life (which, make no mistake, had the right wing coin the term Gospel of Life in a move that is entirely P.R.).  Equally refreshing is that this new Archbishop walks how he talks.  Chicago desperately needs that.  Maybe he will find himself a young community organizer to help him.  I know one thing, Catholic Social Services is about to become the largest Health Care Navigator in the USA.  It is good the the Papal Nuncio is paying attention - this pick shows it.  I am sure that has some bishops who indulge in culture war rethinking their options (indeed, they can't be that stupid to ignore this).  One only wonders if someone within the Church (either a bishop or politician) will call out the pro-life movement as an electoral arm of the GOP and a fundraising scam.  With Cupich in Chicago, one can believe that anything is possible.

Friday, September 19, 2014

'Maybe 'tis our brother.' | National Catholic Reporter

'Maybe 'tis our brother.' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I think if she had ceded Scotland to my uncle James (cousin?), the wars would have continued.  I believe God acted through her to stop the needless bloodshed, which had nothing to do with God and everything to do with the power of bishops.  As I stated in my commentary to MSW's main essay - the fact that the Monarchy and religion were left off the agenda in the separation debate probably robbed the movement of the symbol it needed, although it also stopped a divisive sideshow that would quickly have devolved into a fight over religion.  It is probably a good thing to have avoided.

Gerson on Euthanasia | National Catholic Reporter

Gerson on Euthanasia | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: The best line on suicide is that it is a permanent solution to temporary problem.  That mainly has to do with depression. Such depression is often not just a transitory thing - it is often a life-long affliction.  While one hopes that someone stays around to keep the sufferer feeling love, it is an alienating disease.

Depression is not the only reason to suicide.  Even St. Thomas More, in his Utopia, justified euthanasia for the terminally ill.  While there is a great dignity in facing death naturally, a more deliberate route may not be any less dignified.  Relatives supporting such a decision are not discarding their loved one, as can happen in depression, they are likely assisting in mercy.  Of course, depression is sometimes part of it and that is alienating.  In both cases, there is a failure of solidarity - but that is part of death, regardless of how we deny it.

In war, giving ones life - even in suicidal attacks - is considered heroic.  Durkheim, in his piece on suicide, shows that it is culturally bound.  No American soldier who has violated honor or refused to be dishonored by an unlawful order would dream of suicide as a political statement.  Monks in Viet Nam suiciding publicly helped get rid of U.S. backed President Diem (until  we sanctioned his murder).  Samurai are noted for suicide in the face of dishonor.  Suicide is often seen as a final protest at the bad treatment by loved ones.

Gay teens who feel their parents have put theologically based prejudice over love for them often suicide because of both despair and to express their disappointment and hate.  Indeed, it is a particularly nasty statement to make for relatives but it often comes from hurt and the desire to hurt back (and there is no value to the latter).  What was not mentioned is the standard Catholic reason - that God gave you life and only he can take it.  That is the God as Ogre theory and I am pretty sure I don't buy it as anything but a sophistry, however I would condemn it as a final act of hate. It does give one pause, however, that this king of hate may have a legitimate cause, especially for gay kids who should never be given up on by a theology of bigotry.

Sweet Face of Evil at SDSU | National Catholic Reporter

Sweet Face of Evil at SDSU | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: It is so extreme, it makes you wonder whether it was scripted.  David has gone form being everyone's consumer advocate to just another GOP talking head.  Sad either way.

The Scottish Vote & Us | National Catholic Reporter

The Scottish Vote & Us | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I am not sure subsidiarity and solidarity have anything to do with us - although oddly subsidiarity won the election, precisely because it sent a message that people wanted it (not because it is a good working principle - remember, Scotland is a mostly Presbyterian and Anglican nation).  It was an attempt at ethnic solidarity (with the exclusion of the English - I don't thing anyone ever considers the Welsh) that makes this a perennial issue - as there is quite a bit of history from before Union - indeed, it goes back to fighting off the Romans and continues to the Scottish wars resisting some of my English ancestors, from Longshanks on down.  When it becomes a matter of family history, it is about the heart and not the head.  The head did win, however - it saw the logic of Union - but no one's heart is in that.

Oddly missing from this discussion was talk of the monarchy, probably because the late Queen Mum was a Scot.  Indeed, had there been disunion, there is an argument to change the House of Windsor to the House of Balmoraugh and find an English king descended from an older line than the House of Orange.  Indeed, there are millions of us with the requisite DNA.  Of course, there is also a group who are matrilinielly descended from the Stuarts and Tudors who could claim that Scottish throne.  The fact that no one was put forward means that the yes forces were not willing to go all the way.  Nothing appeals to the heart like a king.

Does this have anything to do with America?  Not really.  High turnout comes from organization and, well, solidarity - which comes from more choices. In Puerto Rico, which has multi-party democracy and proportional representation, almost everyone votes.  Its not cultural, its structural - and the powers that be behind the parties don't want to share power with real socialists, nor to do they want to give voice to the far right sentiment that is hinted at in the Tea Party.  In many multi-party democracies in Europe and Israel, the ugly voices do get heard and sometimes heeded - although structure has not kept the Tea Party of the Congress or the old one party South segregationists out of control.  That control, however, comes from lower turnout due to voter suppression - even when it is not active the habits of non-voting are hard to break.  This is not a failure of subsidiarity, of course, but of solidarity - as conservatives are willing to do anything to keep power.  Only work will put those excluded into the main stream - only then will those who wish no solidarity with them will be forced to acknowledge through the head what they refuse to accept in their hearts, unlimited solidarity.

Back to Scotland, it is ultimately irrelevant what happened in this vote.  As Dante observed, the best government is a world government - and one that is entirely secular (no wonder they banned his books).  While we certainly can't enfranchise every Chinese voter just yet, or even Israel while it keeps a second class citizenry in their gun sights, we should unite all those nations with a similar commitments to individual economic and political freedom and justice.  Such a Union would make national (now regional) boundaries more fluid, drawing lines by shifting provinces from one region to another and back again.  In such a world, lower England and Wales may be one region and Ireland and Scotland and northern England might be another.  In the US, the same math gives us seven regions - of course the number changes depending on how large the United legislature is.

Tobin on Divorced/Remarried | National Catholic Reporter

Tobin on Divorced/Remarried | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Lets be clear that if they are Catholics, they are saved - especially after Confirmation - which is a choice to complete.  No one is forced to get in that line - and if they are to do so is sinful.  Regardless, Tobin is right about seeking change.  Of course, most divorced and remarried Catholic are already going to Communion someplace, whether in Catholic Church or not is the question.  I still think the problem with this issue is that both parties are seen as equally culpable for the failure of the marriage.  That is simply not true. Sometimes people leave because they are tired of being married and while the other spouse would say that, while things are not ideal, they are acceptable.  Other times, there is either violence or adultery involved.  The spouse who is the victim of these things (and it may be hard to sort out) should be entirely free to divorce (not annul) and remarry - while the person who is at fault should only be allowed to do so upon forgiveness of the spouse (not just the confessional).  Where I am going is this is more complicated than issues of sacramental grace, the debate over which sometimes looks like on on magic.  Its time to get real and take the Communion question off the table.  If someone is going to Communion and they should not be, they will figure it out.

Congress, Obama and ISIS | National Catholic Reporter

Congress, Obama and ISIS | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: While American public opinion is important, it is not vital to the boots on the ground decision.  What distinguishes good revolutions from bad ones (in terms of success) is whether the revolutionaries have put themselves on the line rather than depending on a colonial power (like America).  While we helped the Libyans, they did the work and may have a chance (it takes years to know).  We helped Iraq too much, and they folded in front of an advancing ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

On the should haves - should we have armed the revolutionaries two years ago?  No - as those who would be ISIS were in the coalition.  What really caused ISIL was Rumsfeld directing the deBaathification of Iraq and the continued disbanding of the Iraqi army.  Some of those folks now fight for ISIL - its why their winning.  Of course, there are enough non-Wahabi's in that sector of the world to revolt in the same way the Sunni tribes revolted just as we had at troop surge (the revolt mattered more).  It will happen again.  If we really want to kill ISIL, we need to get hard core with the Saudis and their funding of Wahabiism - I suspect it is the Saudi king who really wants to be named Caliph.  While we cannot establish the other King Abdullah - the one from Jordan - as Caliph, I would hope someone should.  If was seen to have the authority to clean up this mess, and a few clandestine arms from the DoD, we could quickly resolve this and put the Saudi throne in its place (or bomb it).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dolan Backs People's Climate March | National Catholic Reporter

Dolan Backs People's Climate March | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I suspect this is part of the New Evangelization.  Its a good idea, although I suspect that there have been angry phone calls from the usual suspects (Burke, Chaput, Lori, Rigali, etc).  Hopefully O'Malley gives him an attaboy.  Of course, O'Malley may have made it clear that such events are of interest to the Holy Father.  That kind of thing gets conservatives in line.  Of course, cynicism aside, he may just be a greeny. Benedict is.

Pope Francis and Labor | National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis and Labor | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: This Pope believes in the right to a job - and one that pays decently.  An example of where charity means love, not alms.  Treating workers like chattel for economic justification is just one stop above slavery.  Indeed, it is the kind of slavery contract you find in the Bible (only for Jews, captured soldiers could still be chattel).

Cardinal Burke, Sandro Magister & Me | National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal Burke, Sandro Magister & Me | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Whether or not it is nice to be noticed depends on who notices you.  I suspect that Sandro noticed MSW because a source mentioned him to her.  Was it Burke, who holds a grudge, or another bishop who reads NCR.  It could be John Allen's parting shot to a colleague.  I have a feeling that MSW's life will get a bit interesting depending on who leaked his name.  On the topic, sadly, Burke is being demoted, not retired. You can't have everything.

The Many Flavors of Political Corruption | National Catholic Reporter

The Many Flavors of Political Corruption | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Lets just not let the corruption in Virginia, where I live, slide by without mentioning that it stems from the worst kind of entitlement.  The same kind of entitlement is what we see at FoxNews in its ability to make up stories to stoke the fires of intolerance in its own base - as if that were needed at all - and of course to make money by doing so.  Interestingly enough, FoxNews news is partially owned by a Saudi Prince, whom I would guess is probably of the Wahabi branch of Islam that funds ISIS from the Saudi throne.  Talking about conflicts of interest!

The abortion funding issue is probably just sloppiness. In truth, most of the policies available with tax subsidies to employers before the ACA covered abortion as an included benefit.  Did the Bishops lie when they said that the status quo on abortion coverage was acceptable (until the GOP in the National Right to Life Committee had them get in line?).  There is corruption on this issue, but its not where you think.  In truth, abortions are cheap and so is the coverage.  Indeed, most with coverage keep them off the books because many find this procedure shameful - even as they use it.  Additionally, all coverage must include therapeutic abortions to clear a miscarriage - which some in the pro-life community mistake for a sin.  In truth, the percentage of funding of abortion by any single policy is so minute as to be morally inconsequential - so much so that we are not morally obligated to deny ourselves coverage because it is offered (reread Fagothy if you doubt this).  What is also true is that the bishops, and later the Susan B. Anthony Fund, so politicized this issue - joining opposing the bill and even making reprisals against consecrated sisters that many of us feel absolutely no obligation to help with the current non-problem at all - even though we like O'Malley.

'Immigrant Labor, Immigrant Rights' | National Catholic Reporter

'Immigrant Labor, Immigrant Rights' | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: The language of rights is not out of order in Catholic thought, unless you want a large Church hierarchy ruling on individual immigration and labor actions.  Without it, workers (domestic and immigrant alike) are victims of not only the unfree market for labor within global capitalism, but have no rights to counter those who would exploit them (think right to work).  If all workers have a right to be here, no immigration reform is necessary.  Sadly, they don't, but when they are here there should be certain rights and protections, including health care, a fair wage that does not consider their status, joining a union (there is your solidarity), a safe workplace and the right to avoid deportation through being advised that if they are smuggled in and sold to a factory or farm, they have been trafficked and have a right to stay.

Cardinal Pell rules out change on Communion for divorced, remarried | National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal Pell rules out change on Communion for divorced, remarried | National Catholic Reporter MGB: Since the Cardinal is not the Holy Father and is only one of many bishops present, he has exactly one opinion, professional or not, and contrary to his own opinion of himself, it is not controlling. Not only that, but all the faithful are equally qualified to have an opinion on these matters (the downside for the hierarchy of a Catholic university educated laity) and ultimately their opinion is closer to the voice of God.

'Crux' Launched with Panel on Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter

'Crux' Launched with Panel on Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB:  I would have liked to have seen Fr. Bryan Hehir on the panel, although I suspect that he may be helping the Cardinal with this and the Gang of Eight, so his actual presence may be redundant.  That, and you never appear publicly with the boss (the Church is still a hierarchy - if only it were a hehirarchy).  This should be the internet version of Theology on Tap. Let's hope it is replicated the same way - although giving Chaput such an platform sounds bad when you think about it - unless he has to deal with angry callers, then its justice. Its amazing how the best bishops, like Cardinal O'Malley and Cardinal Bernardin deal with the worst issues intelligently and justly - while the ideologues seem to muck it up.