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      To make peace either one side has to be unable to fight any more, or both sides must want to make peace. One problem in Ukraine is that both sides (and I don’t mean Ukraine and Russia, but Ukraine/NATO v. Russia) have put themselves into a trap where the leaders of various countries can’t afford to lose the war, because they will lose power. Support for Ukra […]
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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?

Sunday: You don’t need permission to be angry, ladies

This election season has brought out the worst in both parties.  It has pulled back the veil on the Democratic party, exposing a vicious sexism we used to vaguely sense but made valiant efforts to deny.  We found out just how much contempt the privileged had for the working class.  It’s a sneering, heartless anger that “those people” can’t get their $#%^ together, drive too much, got old and, dammit, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models with PhDs in Architecture are pissed.

It’s just as bad on the Republican side.  Many of them see a country full of Willie Hortons and welfare cheats and godless, commie heathens with no sense of patriotism and they’re mad as Hell and not going to take it anymore.

But women?  Well, we’re not supposed to be angry about any of this.  We’re supposed to be the better half.  We’re supposed to be content to play a secondary supporting role, to be fulfilled with our unique dignity and mystery or some other condescending treacle that sounds like it came out of a missive from the Pope.  Lanny Davis’ column in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Hillary Made Obama a Better Candidate, is a perfect example of the “let’s give women a round of applause for being such great sports, helpers and clean-up team mates” genre.

Lanny would have you believe that Hillary Clinton’s primary purpose, her divine purpose and the purpose for which she was uniquely created, was to be Barack Obama’s sparring partner.  Yes, Hillary honed him and made him the candidate we see today.  Forget your lying eyes that told you that Hillary was the better candidate and that adversity actually made her better as time went on.  Forget the notion that maybe Hillary wanted the job as much or even more than Obama did.  Forget that her ambition burned just as brightly.  As Lanny sees it, she was just Obama’s help mate.  I might add that this notion is one that Hillary herself is helping to perpetuate by her slavish devotion to a party that betrayed her.  As much as I admire her, she is not setting a very good example.

But there is one section of Lanny’s letter to to the ladies that is more irritating than the rest:

The second claim often repeated late in the primaries is that the Clintons wouldn’t really have their hearts in campaigning for Mr. Obama and that “Hillary Democrats” would become “Reagan Democrats” who would support Mr. McCain. There always was a danger that certain working-class/rural voters who strongly supported Mrs. Clinton in such state primaries as Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia would not easily transfer their support to Mr. Obama. The same worry was often repeated about Democratic women who were angry or simply grieving about Mrs. Clinton not being picked as the nominee.

Ladies, how many times have you heard a guy tell you that you have no reason to be angry or that your anger was cute or childish and that you’ll feel better later?  I don’t know how many people I read on the blogs yesterday who singled out the above passage and quickly distanced themselves from the anger.  I’ve even been guilty of doing it myself.  That is not to say that cold-blooded pragmatism is not necessary for clearing our heads and thinking logically.  But let us acknowledge the emotion that drives us to this point.  We’re bloody pissed off.  We’re full of righteous indignation.  We’re angry.

We just sat through eight of the most reactionary years in our nation’s history.  George Bush has dragged science back into the stone age.  He’s eroded whatever safety net this stingy ass country gives women.  There we were, thrilled with the prospect that one of OUR gender, who was the absolute best candidate hands down, was going to take over the White House and start putting it all back together again.  And she was done in by her own fricking party.  Hillary Clinton could survive the media attacks.  She rose above it.  She could withstand the attacks from the Republicans.  She eventually earned their grudging respect.  But she could not survive the backstabbing manipulations and betrayal of her own party in the service of a man who wasn’t even qualified to serve as her apprentice.

Damn straight we’re angry.  It is now being reported that white boomer women are the voting bloc to get this year.  Gee, now why would THAT be?  Anyone want to take some guesses?  Well, my resident expert, myself, having been born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, thinks that it’s because we don’t buy into Lanny Davis type messages.  We don’t see ourselves as “helpers” with a “unique dignity”.  We see ourselves as human beings with hopes and dreams of our own.  We put our gifts, talents and hardwork into our careers and family and succeeded.  And we don’t like being sidelined, perhaps for the remainder of our lifetimes, for some unprepared male who got a boost up because he has a penis and for no other discernable reason that anyone has been able to observe or explain.  I am challenging a superdelegate to come here and explain it to us.  Tell us WHY it had to be Obama and not Hillary.  Come and tell us what the F%^& were you thinking??!

If the Democrats lose this thing, it may very well be due to the anger of women.  Obama made over $100 million in September.  His ads are flooding every available slot.  He is in our faces.  The media is shoving him in our every orifice while it hammers on Sarah Palin’s inexperience.  He has every possible advantage *including* Hillary Clinton campaigning for him better than anyone else in the country.  She works harder for the candidate than he does for himself and he still has less than a 10 point lead in the polls.  He can’t close the deal because boomer women are on the fence.  They’ve been told they aren’t allowed to get angry with the fact that neither of the candidates are at all even the least little bit concerned with their interests.  They’re not supposed to fume at losing their chance to make a historic change and vote for their own lives instead of the petty power plays of a bunch of disconnected Washington white middle aged insider men.

Ladies, you don’t have to feel guilty about being angry.  Anger is a healthy response to being threatened.  It’s part of your survival tool kit.  It helps you fight back, defend yourself and take what is rightfully yours.  You wouldn’t be normal if you *weren’t* angry about being given no choice and treated like your whole political motivation has to do with the status of your uterus.  You have every reason to be angry that in the midst of the firestorm when you are being called a c*nt, the country is forgetting that you will be hit harder than your male counterparts in the upcoming recession and that neither candidate has addressed this reality.  You are justified in being angry that if Obama is elected, your dignity as a human being will be eroded by the unchecked misogynism and anger of his supporters directed at you, Sarah Palin and Hillary.

Our means of getting even may not be vocal or visible.  It may take cool logic and precision.  But if anyone wants to tell me that I have no right to be angry they shouldn’t be surprised if they get one right to the kisser.

Get used to it, Lanny.

NOTE:  I am serious about that offer to superdelegates.  I want to hear what your reasoning was for “picking” Obama over Clinton.  We know it wasn’t experience or qualifications.  We know it wasn’t seniority, unless we’re counting penis years.  So, come and tell us why you chose him over her.  Don’t tell us why we should vote for him over McCain.  We’re not voting for Obama.  We told you this back in May.  We aren’t changing our minds.  But we need to do a retrospective analysis so this NEVER happens again and your testimonial would be very helpful to determining where the party went completely off the rails.  You can reach us at theconfluence08 at yahoo dot com.  Don’t wait until after the election is over.  We want to know NOW.