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      Quantitative Easing, to put it simply, no matter what form you do it in, is only marginally effective. Most of the money goes to the rich, you may or may not get a technical win in GDP, and in many cases the money may flow out of the country. If you want to improve the [...]
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Catholic hospital: fetuses are persons, er, unless we kill them accidentally

More evidence that God is getting a bad rap and needs a major rewrite. In this case, a Catholic hospital in Denver is claiming that twin fetuses who died in the emergency room were not persons and therefore, the hospital is not culpable for their wrongful deaths. Normally, Catholics insist that fetuses are persons before their own mothers are born but when lawsuits are involved, god is nowhere to be found. How conveeeeeenient.

More on the story:

Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins

Maybe this is new church doctrine, like the trinity. God is three! Three! Three persons in one! Like a perky triplet of girls smacking rolls of breath mints together. Or maybe this is an example of Schroedinger’s fetus. The fetus is both a person and not a person. You will never know until someone files a lawsuit.

Let’s see, where are we now? Contraceptives make you a slut, pedophilia is forgivable, abortion is strictly verboten and fetuses are not really persons even at seven months gestation. Wow, that’s amazing. I would have said at about 22 weeks they’re entitled to life saving measures and only medical reasons for the health of the mother or child should be acceptable for terminations but Catholic hospitals are willing to deny personhood all the way to the third trimester if there’s money involved.

And the Vatican thinks the nuns need thought control.

Can we stop listening to the guys in the red beanies now?

Catholic Bishop Responds to The Nuns’ Story

Terry Gross followed up her interview with Sister Pat Farrell of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious with the view of the church as presented by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio.  Bishop Blair lead the commission that investigated the nuns and wrote a report criticizing the sisters for not sticking to church teachings.  The Bishops are planning to take over the LCWR and impose conformity on it.  You can listen to Bishop Blair’s interview with Gross here.

I’m at a loss for words.  Wait, that’s not quite right.  What I mean to say is that the bishops seem to be undergoing a process of self-immolation on a public stage because if what I’m hearing is the “logic” of the church, it is incomprehensible.  I find the bishop’s response to Sister Pat’s interpretation of obedience to be particularly confounding.  Sister Pat says she interprets her vow of obedience as obedience to God and her conscience.  You would think that God’s word would be the ultimate authority.  Not so, says the bishop.  The sister isn’t allowed to get around the obedience to the church even if it is in contradiction to what the sister interprets as God’s will.  The church is a hierarchy and the sister is not in it.  She doesn’t have the right to discuss or question anything.  She only has the duty to do what she’s told, even if she thinks it’s wrong.

And you know, that’s probably ok.  I mean, if you’re going to be a believer of a certain religion and that religion says you must follow us unquestioningly and not rely on your own understanding, then you’d better do what they say or find another church.  The Catholic church is particular flavor of Christianity.  You need to accept that it’s always going to be lime and never fruit punch.

The bishop has more to say on the church sexual abuse scandal.  To me, he is saying that the church doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality and pedophilia (which don’t have to go together but these priests are not mature in their sexuality. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature of their teachings and training).  Bishop Blair attributes the sexual abuse cases to an evil that has gotten into the church.  And in some weird way he justifies the crackdown on the sisters as a response to that evil.  The priests and bishops need to refocus on church doctrine to keep themselves in line and so the first thing they do is make sure the sisters are conforming.

There’s more on human sexuality in marriage and contraception but with every issue, I feel like I’m hearing 2000 years of rationalizations layered into some bizarre accretion.  Somewhere back in the 4th century, the Roman empire co-opted early Christianity and Catholic dogma took a hard right turn forcing everything around it to twist itself into knots trying to keep up.  It’s like one of those old models of the solar system where the earth is the center and everything around it takes more and more complicated paths to explain observations of astronomical patterns, like retrograde orbits.  But hey, this is the Catholic church we’re talking about.  It only took them 400 years to forgive Galileo for being right.

This is what Sister Pat is up against.  And I have to say that if she stays in the church and complies with this assessment, she will need to lose her own conscience.  It will be substituted by some other entity’s conscience.  The loss is not just to herself though.  All of the people who depend on the assistance of her organization will be harmed by her compliance.  She’s going to have to make a choice.  She won’t be the first person to have to defy the church.  Martin Luther did it and that turned out alright, sort of.  But what Martin Luther did to church dogma, Sister Pat would be doing for women in general.

At some point, Catholic women are going to have to ask themselves what’s in it for them that can’t be provided by some other faith.  Is it true that God only speaks to one man in Rome and this holy representative made it to the top through piety and not politics?  And if there is a political element to his election to pope, doesn’t that undercut his authority in some respects?  He’s not the most holy or wise.  He’s just the most popular of the cardinals.  And if that’s true, then how do we know that they’re operating in the best interests of God?  And if they’re using their own judgement and not hearing from God directly, how is their conscience more reliable than Sister Pat’s?

I only ask but *she’s* not allowed to.  The Catholic hierarchy is telling her that this is what she signed up for, no matter how self-serving it is for the guys in charge.  If she wants to do things her own way, well, she’s not being a good Catholic.  It’s sort of like being a woman in the Democratic party.

It’s up to her.  Get in line and be silent and subservient forever or listen to God and her conscience, leave and  start her own order.  This might be the most courageous thing a Catholic woman has ever done.  It would be so significant that it would shake the hierarchy to the core.  Who knows, the Church might need to start asking some questions of itself.  Don’t wimp out, Sister Pat.

What the church is really worried about: MONEY

I saw this bit on Hullabaloo about Cardinal Dolan going on the O’Reilly factor and making a big to-do about the evils of secularism:

DOLAN: You’re a better historian than I am Bill, you know that every great movement in — in American history has been driven by people of religious conviction. And if we duct tape the churches — I’m just not talking about the Catholic Church — if we duct tape the role of religion and the churches and morally convince people in the marketplace that’s going to lead to a huge deficit a huge void.

And there are many people who want to fill it up, namely a new religion called secularism, ok, which — which would be as doctrinaire and would consider itself as infallible as they caricature the other religions doing.

So to — to see — to see that morally-driven religiously-convinced people want to exercise their political responsibility, I think that is not only at the heart of biblical religion, it is at the heart of American enterprise.

Alright, here it comes.  The Reason Rally seems to have gotten their attention since it was all about secularism.  So now they have to go on the O’Reilly Factor and scare the seniors shitless.  Fear always seems to work with them.  Before you know it, they will start accusing the secularists of granny sacrifices and burying WMDs in the backyard.

I’ve had to tussle with some of you readers about this topic and I just want to say, you guys need to relax.  Religion isn’t going to disappear.  And we secularists aren’t going to make you worship Richard Dawkins.  But evolution can happen to ideas as well as living organisms.  An idea that doesn’t have the right stuff to adapt to its environment will fade away.  I suspect the fading will be gradual but you never know.  There could be a large, precipitous decline followed by a more gentle slope.  I think that’s what going to happen here.  Why a religious person should worry about this is beyond me.  No one is going to tell you to stop going to church.  It’s just that younger people are going to see religion as unnecessary to their lives and morality and maybe even an obstacle to achieving a more equitable society.  Plus, some non-believers are starting to realize that the American secularists might need their own community gathering places.  Sort of like church without God.  That’s coming.  Freethought societies are popping up all over the place, especially in the bible belt.

The internet probably has a lot to do with this.  People can read and when they start to question their faith or think about the logistics of Noah’s Ark, there’s plenty of material out there that will shake them to their core.  More non-believers are made everyday and they are just as moral as any godly person.  Let’s just acknowledge that up front.

But for the church, this is going to be a BIG DEAL.  In Europe, churches already play just a ceremonial role.  People might get their kids baptised there or have their weddings there but they are not regular church goers.  There are also an awful lot of atheists in Europe.  I suspect that’s because if you live where there is a good social safety net, there’s less need to pray for relief.  Also, they’ve been through so many horrific experiences in the 20th century and probably realized that praying was not as effective as the local resistance groups in surviving the worst of them.  So, churches in Europe are getting to be superfluous.  They’re pretty and they’re good tourist attractions but it ain’t like it used to be.

In fact, I would go so far as to draw comparisons between pre-reviolutionary France and 21st century America.  Religious institutions benefit greatly from tax breaks and faith based initiatives.  In the latter case, that’s OUR tax money going into their pockets.  If you’re going to accept help from a church based institution, you’re going to get a sermon.  And some of those sermons have to do with homosexuality, female inferiority and birth control.  Why should we be paying the government to help these churches out?  The first estate has it pretty nice compared to some of the rest of us and they are determined to keep it that way.  The church would very much like to continue to sink its teeth into us.

Trinity Church owns some prime real estate in lower Manhattan worth zillions.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) owns a good chunk of Brooklyn.  And then there are all the Catholic institutions and hospitals and such.  They have a lot to lose if the country becomes more secular.  And what will happen when Americans finally start demanding that churches stop freeloading on the taxpayer’s largess?  What are their property taxes like?  Hmmmm….

Secularists!  Ooooo, boogie men.  Scary.  Even the ones that are believers.

Religious institutions don’t have a lot of time.  The young are turning away from the beta version of God and looking for a major upgrade.  That’s either going to be a more abstract version of god without all of the scriptural and institutional baggage that goes with it or it’s going to be no god at all.  Churches are going to crank up the fear factor on the O’Reilly Factor as much as they can.  They are preaching to an ever diminishing choir.

We are approaching a crisis.  It’s not about conservatism or liberalism.  It’s about money and a shrinking share of the market. If the Vatican loses the American market, that is a big deal.  If that means the churches have to crush the oppressed citizens of Paris America to maintain their status and privileges, they’ll do it.

Un-Reasonable

Because the president decided to interfere on the side of liberal Catholics in their internal struggle with their rigid, anachronistic, patriarchical church hierarchy, he has inserted the right wing focus group tested “religious liberty” meme into election year politics.  It *will* affect women who have to now go around their employer to get birth control, kind of like people who are forced to brown paper bag things that are naughty.

But, of course, this is not going to satisfy the red beanie boys of Vatican Inc.  They insist on making their 4th century code of conduct relevant.  And who can blame them?  Their own adherents don’t follow their teaching on birth control.  Overriding them makes them look irrelevant.  Religion based on a biblical worldview is already being supplanted by reason.  Oh sure, Mary Mother of God church is busy 24/7 but if birth control is any indication, those parishioners are going for something other than moral guidelines.  My feeling is that if the bishops push this hardline too hard, they’re going to accelerate their own demise.  There’s an envelope out there and they are pushing it.

If EJ Dionne and the other “liberal” Catholics had had the courage of their convictions, they would have told their church to back off.  But for them, it is easier on their consciences for women to take another bullet for the team.  And predictably, the beanie boys said that the compromise wasn’t good enough:

Reporting from Washington— Catholic bishops say they remain opposed to President Obama‘s plan to require insurers to provide free birth control, even if religiously affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities aren’t forced to pay for it.

“The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services] to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

The statement, issued late Friday, makes clear that the bishops’ opposition goes beyond the “religious freedom” dispute that had riled Washington in recent weeks. The government’s decision to guarantee women access to contraceptives “remains a grave moral concern,” they said.

A reasonable question would be, whose morals are we talking about?  Is the American population required to follow Catholic moral values?  Fundamentalist christian moral values?  Says who?  On what basis?  What if you don’t believe the God of their Bible exists and that their moral code doesn’t apply to you?  What if you believe in reason and commit to doing what is right instead of what is written?

Well, alright then.  Everybody is now clear where the lines are drawn.  The bishops are not going to be happy with anything less than a Plan B solution, ie complete capitulation to the Vatican.

Digby wrote a nice summary of Obama’s reasoning. Suffice it to say that he’s following the advice of political strategists who think it’s a bad idea to upset the religious.  Upsetting more than half your population?  That’s OK.  Just give in to the teensy, tiny slivver of a constituency that reports to Rome and everything will be fine.

Now is the time for Obama to treat women like adults capable of making their own decisions on matters of conscience.  Now is the time for him to protect their civil rights and to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex.  Now is the time for him to act like a leader.  I don’t really expect any of this, given his history.  But now would be the time to say, “Ok, you didn’t like my compromise so, no deal on any of it.”

Meanwhile, now is the time for the rest of us to get together and promote reason over religion.

There is strength in numbers.

One final thing: Amanda Marcotte does not speak for me, a feminist. I have zero patience with so-called feminists like Amanda Marcotte who is a reliable apologist for everything Obama.  She was wrong about John Edwards, she was wrong to support the DNC and Obama the first time around and I’ll be damned if I let her represent me to the rest of the country. I can’t trust her judgement or her motivations.  She is writing from a script.

This liberal, feminist Democrat in Exile is appalled and angered by the attitude this president has towards women and has no intention of cutting him a break because the Republicans will be so much worse.

Plus: Better a PUMA/emoprog than a Doormat Democrat.  (You’ve got no leverage, asshole.)

New Light on Vatican Cover-Up: Follow the Money

Marcial Maciel Degollado with Pope John Paul II

An important article was published this week in The National Catholic Reporter by journalist and author Jason Berry. This article sheds new light on possible motives for the Vatican to encourage Bishops to conceal sexual abuse by priests, as they did for many years in the U.S. and, as we are now learning, in other countries.

Berry has been covering the story of the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse by Catholic priests since the scandal first broke in New Orleans in the early 1980s. Berry is the author of the book Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II and director of a documentary based on the book.

Berry’s April 6 article in The National Catholic Reporter is the first of two parts dealing with the secretive “Legionaries of Christ” and its late founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. This organization is said to be even more influential and mysterious than Opus Dei.

Berry Describes Maciel as a “great fundraiser” who was successful in attracting young men to the priesthood, as well as “a notorious pedophile” who also had affairs with a number of women who bore him “several children.”

The charismatic Mexican, who founded the Legion of Christ in 1941, sent streams of money to Roman curia officials with a calculated end, according to many sources interviewed by NCR: Maciel was buying support for his group and defense for himself, should his astounding secret life become known.

This much is well established from previous reporting: Maciel was a morphine addict who sexually abused at least 20 Legion seminarians from the 1940s to the ’60s. Bishop John McGann of Rockville Centre, N.Y., sent a letter by a former Legion priest with detailed allegations to the Vatican in 1976, 1978 and 1989 through official channels. Nothing happened. Maciel began fathering children in the early 1980s — three of them by two Mexican women, with reports of a third family with three children in Switzerland, according to El Mundo in Madrid, Spain. Concealing his web of relations, Maciel raised a fortune from wealthy backers, and ingratiated himself with church officials in Rome.

Berry reports that Maciel arranged through generous gifts (paying for massive renovations on the Cardinal’s house) to get a powerful Cardinal named Eduardo Francisco Pironio, now deceased, to sign off on the Legion of Christ’s constitution, which included:

…the highly controversial Private Vows, by which each Legionary swore never to speak ill of Maciel, or the superiors, and to report to them anyone who uttered criticism. The vows basically rewarded spying as an expression of faith, and cemented the Legionaries’ lockstep obedience to the founder. The vows were Maciel’s way of deflecting scrutiny as a pedophile.

Pope Benedict XVI, who has been sharply criticized for aiding in the cover-up of the pedophilia scandal, opened an investigation into Maciel’s activities in 2004, and despite the favor in which Pope John Paul II held Maciel, Benedict was successful in having him replaced as head of the Legion of Christ and disciplined for his sexual activities with seminarians.

How did this man get away with his debauchery for so long? Berry explains that Maciel gave money–a lot of it, and in cash–to Cardinals.

In an NCR investigation that began last July, encompassing dozens of interviews in Rome, Mexico City and several U.S. cities, what emerges is the saga of a man who ingratiated himself with Vatican officials, including some of those in charge of offices that should have investigated him, as he dispensed thousands of dollars in cash and largesse.

Maciel built his base by cultivating wealthy patrons, particularly widows, starting in his native Mexico in the 1940s. Even as he was trailed by pedophilia accusations, Maciel attracted large numbers of seminarians in an era of dwindling vocations. In 1994 Pope John Paul II heralded him as “an efficacious guide to youth.” John Paul continued praising Maciel after a 1997 Hartford Courant investigation by Gerald Renner and this writer exposed Maciel’s drug habits and abuse of seminarians. In 1998, eight ex-Legionaries filed a canon law case to prosecute him in then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s tribunal. For the next six years, Maciel had the staunch support of three pivotal figures: Sodano; Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish secretary of John Paul. During those years, Sodano pressured Ratzinger not to prosecute Maciel, as NCR previously reported. Ratzinger told a Mexican bishop that the Maciel case was a “delicate” matter and questioned whether it would be “prudent” to prosecute at that time.

In 2004, John Paul — ignoring the canon law charges against Maciel — honored him in a Vatican ceremony in which he entrusted the Legion with the administration of Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Center, an education and conference facility. The following week, Ratzinger took it on himself to authorize an investigation of Maciel.

According to Berry, in 1997, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, firmly refused a cash gift offered by a Legionary after Ratzinger spoke at one of their meetings. That certainly speaks well of Ratzinger, judging by the amount of money the Legion was spreading around. Here is a little more from Berry’s piece:

Maciel traveled incessantly, drawing funds from Legion centers in Mexico, Rome and the United States. Certain ex-Legionaries with knowledge of the order’s finances believe that Maciel constantly drew from Legion coffers to subsidize his families.

For years Maciel had Legion priests dole out envelopes with cash and donate gifts to officials in the curia. In the days leading up to Christmas, Legion seminarians spent hours packaging the baskets with expensive bottles of wine, rare brandy, and cured Spanish hams that alone cost upward of $1,000 each. Priests involved in the gifts and larger cash exchanges say that in hindsight they view Maciel’s strategy as akin to an insurance policy, to protect himself should he be exposed and to position the Legion as an elite presence in the workings of the Vatican.

Yet Berry could find no evidence that the Legion’s “donations” have been reported or recorded in any systematic way. There does not even seem to be a method by which this could be done. So the Church has a situation in which a powerful organization run by a pedophile has used money to spread its influence far and wide during “five decades” of “Maciel’s strategy of buying influence.”

Based on Berry’s descriptions, the Legion of Christ is still extremely influential in the Vatican, in the Church as a whole, and in the secular world as well. Maciel’s followers are everywhere, even among the wealthy and powerful in the U.S. Some of Maciel’s famous followers/admirers who are mentioned in Berry’s article are actor Mel Gibson, Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, singer Placido Domingo, politicians Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum, and frequent cable commenters William Donohue and William Bennett.

Meanwhile, seminarians are still being taught that Maciel was a saint:

Two Legion priests told NCR in July that seminarians in Rome were still being taught about Maciel’s virtuous life. “They are being brainwashed, as if nothing happened,” said a Legionary, sitting on a bench near Rome’s Tiber River.

How do you go about cleaning up corruption that is this long-term and pervasive?

“These men…are devils and the wrath of God is upon them…”

Father Gerald Fitzgerald

Father Gerald Fitzgerald

Those words were written in 1957 in a letter from Father Gerald Fitzgerald to the Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Edwin V. Byrne. The National Catholic Reporter uncovered documents containing letters that Fitzgerald wrote to Bishops, Archbishops, and even the Pope, warning that priests who sexually abused children could not be rehabilitated.

Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paracletes, an order established in 1947 to deal with problem priests, wrote regularly to bishops in the United States and to Vatican officials, including the pope, of his opinion that many sexual abusers in the priesthood should be laicized immediately.

Fitzgerald was a prolific correspondent who wrote regularly of his frustration with and disdain for priests “who have seduced or attempted to seduce little boys or girls.” His views are contained in letters and other correspondence that had previously been under court seal and were made available to NCR by a California law firm in February.

The NCR has made the letters available here (warning, PDF file). Continue reading

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