Monthly Archives: August 2003

Church Chat

While the Pope’s stand on same-sex marriage (which includes a call to active revolt against any government that would support it) couldn’t be clearer obfuscation is invariable the name of the game when the powerful seek to impose their will on all and sundry. The BBC may note of the Vatican directive that:

Catholic politicians have a “moral duty” to publicly oppose such legislation and to vote against it in parliament, it says.

“To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.”
Non-Catholics are also urged to join the campaign to “defend the common good of society”.

But this hasn’t got in the way of professional liars in clerical collars.

In an Op-Ed published in the “Chicago Tribune” “Are the media fair in their coverage of Catholicism?” Don Wycliff, the paper’s “public editor” makes mention of the fact that

“Last Sunday was not the first time Cardinal Francis George has challenged the news media.

Last year, during a homily at a church in Oak Park, George told a troop of accompanying journalists that they reminded him of the government spies who had followed him while he preached many years ago in communist Poland, and he asked the reporters to put away their notebooks and the photographers to leave. But that seemed more an admonition to the journalists to mind their manners than anything else. (“My father’s house is a house of prayer, but you have made it … a press room?”)

Needless to say the prelate was projecting. The minute George asked to speak to the press he created a press room. But it was a press room of a highly circumspect sort, in that he resquested notebooks be put away and banned photographs from being taken. At that point any writer with an ounce of self-respect would have raise vociferous objections. But Wycliff, being the dutiful Media Whore that he is, was only too happy to comply, the better to serve Papal mendacity.

“The impetus for George’s remarks was the main headline on Page 1 of Friday’s Chicago Sun-Times. It read: “Pope launches global campaign vs. gays.” A much smaller overline in red type said: “Same-sex marriage.” And a small subhead read: “Vatican: Catholic pols have `moral duty’ to oppose homosexual rights.”

But as the cardinal’s remarks indicated and as the Sun-Times no doubt intended, it was that big, black-lettered main headline–“Pope launches global campaign vs. gays”–that caught the reader’s eye.

“This,” the paper seemed to be saying, “is War!”

George cast his remarks as a defense of Pope John Paul II “against a false accusation,” and he went on to explain what the pope actually did.

“The Holy Father … approved a statement about the nature of marriage, a statement which repeats what every pope has taught for 2,000 years: Marriage is the life-long union of a man and a woman who enter into a total sharing of themselves for the sake of family.”

Neither church nor state has the authority to change that definition because it arises from nature itself, George said, adding, “A government that claims such authority becomes totalitarian.”

In other words, Papal totalitarianism is nothing more than a simple declaration of “nature,” and anyone who would deign to take issue with it is a . . .totalitarian.

“And a newspaper that prints ‘a false accusation’ against the pope?

“Divulging disinformation about the pope, engaging in anti-papal propaganda, attacks all Catholics and is usually, in history, a preparation for active persecution of the church …,” the cardinal said.

“Disdain for and hatred of the pope are sure signs of anti-Catholicism.”
In a statement the Sun-Times defended its headline and denied any anti-Catholicism.

Yes you can’t beat the Catholic Church when it comes to “playing the victim card” as any criticism is regarded as “persecution.” This is all especially striking in light of the fact that said Papal directive was delivered to Cardinal George via Cardinal Ratzinger — a Hitler Youth member.

That the Church’s “National Socialist Party” sympathies extend well beyond Ratzinger’s “youthful indiscretion” (as the Republicans would say) has long been a matter of public record. And equally long-standing is the fourth estate’s unwillingness to to do anything other that toady to the Church — even now in light of its manifest evil.

“Cardinal George, in a phone interview Tuesday, seemed both to soften and broaden his criticism. ‘I’m not saying that the media is anti-Catholic,’ he said. But he added, “This has not been a culture and a society friendly to the Catholic Church,’ and evidence of disdain is more abundant than one headline in one newspaper.

The church ‘deserve[s] all we’ve gotten’ as a result of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, he said, but one deplorable result is that ‘anything that’s now said against the church gets a hearing.’

Worse, allegations are often published or broadcast without the courtesy of a rebuttal..

A darkly hilarious remark in that any request for a rebuttal has been met with either stony silence or a request to speak with the lawyers for the Archdiocese in question (as there are so very many pedophile priests in so very many parishes) who are invariably unforthcoming.

“Asked about the cardinal’s speech and, in particular, his invoking of the term ‘anti-Catholicism,’ Paul Griffiths, a professor of Catholic studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said George had ‘put it more strongly than I would have.’

The cardinal was ‘completely right about the misrepresentation of what the church teaches,’ Griffiths said. But he attributes that less to anti-Catholicism than to ‘mutual incomprehension.’ “

Whereas I would attribute it to a public relations failure — the church’s inability to properly finesse its lies.

“The cardinal and those who disagree with him seem to share a vocabulary, but they start from different premises and describe very different realities with the same words.

Now what was I just saying?

“Rev. Thomas Nairn, a professor of Catholic ethics at the Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, said he does not see in contemporary America a ‘virulent anti-Catholicism’ such as existed during the nativist period of the 1800s.

Insert Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York

“In a statement that seemed to echo Griffiths, he said ‘the Catholic Church is still seen as intriguing, but it doesn’t fit many of our categories.’

Cardinal George said the clash of categories stems from the fact that the Catholic Church is ‘a teaching church’ that ‘calls people to conversion’ in an American society that has elevated personal freedom to the status of its highest value. The religion thus comes to be seen as ‘a threat to people’s freedom.’ “

And it was within the context of a “teaching church” that Martin Scorsese was raised. He has often spoken of the way in which he was encouraged to “question” literally everything that drew him so close to the church. Indeed he would have become a priest had it not been for the “celibacy” requirement — Marty being disinclined to lie and sexually disinterested in underage children. But his salutary experience, along with the good work done by countless worthy priests and nuns in individual parishes — especially during the Vietnam era — now begins to take the shape of the “exception that proves the rule. The rule being wholesale child-rape on the part of the world’s largest, best financed and most pwoerful pedophile cult.

“Obviously, this issue is much bigger than one foolish headline, bigger than the role of the news media. But by treating it wisely or foolishly, the news media have the power to ameliorate the issue or aggravate it.”

No, only the church has the power to do that.

The media can do its job.

And every so often, it does as this CBS News report testifies.

“CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales has uncovered a church document kept secret for 40 years.

The confidential Vatican document, obtained by CBS News, lays out a church policy that calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to sexual abuse by priests – anyone who speaks out could be thrown out of the church.

The policy was written in 1962 by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani.

The document, once ‘stored in the secret archives’ of the Vatican, focuses on crimes initiated as part of the confessional relationship and what it calls the ‘worst crime”: sexual assault committed by a priest’ or ‘attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals.’

Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases ‘in the most secretive way…restrained by a perpetual silence…and everyone {including the alleged victim) …is to observe the strictest secret, which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office…under the penalty of excommunication.’

Larry Drivon, a lawyer who represents alleged victims, said, ‘This document is significant because it’s a blueprint for deception.’

Drivon said the document proves what he has alleged on behalf of victims in priest-abuse lawsuits: that the church engaged in Mafia-style behavior — racketeering.

‘It’s an instruction manual on how to deceive and how to protect pedophiles,’ Drivon said. ‘And exactly how to avoid the truth coming out.’

‘The idea that this is some sort of blueprint to keep this secret is simply wrong,’ said Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, spokesman for the the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

The conference said the document is being taken out of context, that it’s a church law that deals only with religious crimes and sins. And that the secrecy is meant to protect the faithful from scandal.

‘This is a system of law which is complete in itself and is not telling the bishops in any way about how to handle these crimes when they are considered as civil crimes,’ Maniscalco said.

But Richard Sipe, a former priest who has written about sex abuse and secrecy in the church, said the document sends a chilling message.

‘This is the code for how you must deal with sex by priests. You keep it secret at all costs,’ Sipe said. ‘And that’s what’s happened. It’s happened in every diocese in this country.’

According to church records, the document was a bedrock of Catholic sex abuse policy until America’s bishops met last summer and drafted new policies to address the crisis in the church.”

In other words to set a new PR spin in motion with which the likes of Don Wycliff have been only too happy to comply.

Meanwhile in other Catholic news, Tim Rutten notes that famed biblical scholar Mel Gibson has been doing no end of PR spin by NOT screening his crucifixion drama The Passion to those parties who would be most interested in seeing it.

“Last March, interviews Gibson gave during the film’s production in Italy led officials of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to ask a group of nine leading scholars — five Catholics and four Jews — to read a copy of the movie’s script that had come into their possession. The organizations previously have cooperated to assist Europeans who wished to revise local Passion plays dating to the Middle Ages to eliminate anti-Semitic provocations.

What the Catholic scholars say they found when they read Gibson’s script was a repetition of the old deicide libel.

‘When we read the screenplay, our sense was that this wasn’t really something you could fix,’ Sister Mary C. Boys, a professor at Union Theological Seminary, told the New York Times last week. ‘All the way through, the Jews are portrayed as bloodthirsty. We’re really concerned that this could be one of the great crises in Christian-Jewish relations.’

Father John T. Pawlikowski, professor of social ethics and director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies program at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union, called the script ‘one of the worst things we have seen in describing responsibility for the death of Christ in many, many years.’

In an article for the current New Republic, another panelist — Paula Fredriksen, the Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University — wrote that the entire group was ‘shocked’ by the script’s recapitulation of calumnies from the worst of the medieval Passion Plays.

The scholars sent Gibson’s Icon productions a letter expressing their concern. When accounts of their reaction leaked into the press, Gibson threatened to sue the scholars and the Catholic bishops. When representatives of the ADL asked to see a cut of film, they were rebuffed.”

However. . .

“In the weeks since, Gibson has screened a cut of the film with subtitles — the dialogue is in Aramaic and Latin, though the Roman soldiers who crucified Christ spoke Greek — for carefully selected audiences whose members have signed confidentiality agreements. Among the elect have been right-wing commentators Peggy Noonan, Kate O’Beirne, Linda Chavez and Matt Drudge, Laura Ingram and Rush Limbaugh.

David Kuo, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, attended a screening, as did members of the National Assn. of Evangelicals. Afterward, its president, Ted Haggard, told the Guardian, ‘There is a great deal of pressure on Israel right now. For Jewish leaders to risk alienating 2 billion Christians over a movie seems short-sighted.’ ”

Oh my. Yasser Arafat move over.

But wait — there’s more

“than clever marketing behind Gibson’s coyness. What he and his co-workers need to avoid at all cost are discussions of the religious convictions he has said led him to make the film. The actor often is described as a ‘devout’ or ‘serious’ Catholic. He is not, in fact, a Roman Catholic. He and his family are members of one of the so-called traditionalist splinter group that broke with the Roman Catholic Church over the reforms made by the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s.

Among the conciliar declarations to which these groups most strenuously object was the church’s formal repudiation of any notion of collective Jewish responsibility for the death of Christ.

These objections are particularly strong among American traditionalists, many of whom continue to be infected by the notions of the rabidly anti-Semitic Boston Jesuit Leonard Feeney, who was excommunicated in 1953 by Pope Pius XII for preaching heresy.

Traditionalists, like Gibson, continue to maintain the old doctrine of supercessionism, that is, the belief that the New Testament supplanted the Old as the foundation of true faith. Here, for example, is a quote from one of the most popular Web sites among American traditionalists — one the author offers as proof of the Catholic Church’s apostasy since the council:

“The constant teaching of the church is that the New Covenant supercedes the Old, but Cardinal Walter Kasper, speaking as the papally appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Religious Relations with the Jews, declared ‘the old theory of substitution is gone since the Second Vatican Council. For us Christians today, the covenant with the Jewish people is a living heritage, a living reality Therefore, Judaism, i.e., the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant is salvic for them, because God is faithful to his promises.’ ”

Meanwhile, Gibson maintains an equally studied silence about the views of his father, Hutton, a well-known traditionalist “theologian,” who also happens to be a Holocaust denier and “sedevacantist,” (“the seat is empty” in Latin), who believes there has been no pope since the conclave that elected John XXIII was subverted by a Jewish/Masonic conspiracy.

You can’t make this sort of stuff up.”

Indeed you can’t.

But you can put a stop to it if you decline, as Rutten has admirably done, to toe the party line.

Then again all he’s dealing with is Mel Gibson.

The Pope is another steaming cauldron of fish entirely, requiring a journalist of considerably sterner stuff.