Benedict Wasn’t My Pope…

From “No matter what, I’m still Catholic,” Mary Elizabeth Williams:

“Benedict wasn’t my pope any more than George Bush was my president. I don’t vote for either of those goobers. I didn’t like the things they said and did, or their records as leaders or decent humans. So in case you’re wondering, I am consistently outraged by the corruption and abuse of power that has gone on within the church, and heartbroken over the lives that have been callously shattered because of it. I am appalled when an institution that should be a force for peace and progress instead focuses on promoting intolerance. I’m furious when rigid dogma leads to senseless death. That’s why I tackle these issues regularly in my writing. My religious upbringing trained me to speak out against injustice and exploitation, and hey, if that means making a stink about the way the church conducts itself, I guess I can thank Catholicism for showing me how to do it. Because if your whole enterprise was founded by a troublemaking, authority-questioning outsider, you shouldn’t be surprised if that’s what you get from his followers.

“You might likewise get people like the Nuns on the Bus, the movement of American Catholic Sisters who told that nice Catholic boy Paul Ryan that his budget plan was a hateful slam against the poor. You might, relatedly, get the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who work closely with the needy and were condemned last year by the Vatican for not being sufficiently vocal enough about birth control and homosexuality. They, meanwhile, continue to espouse ‘open discussion of church doctrine.’  You might get my small, multi-ethnic parish that’s run by Capuchin friars, an order ‘dedicated to the service of real human needs and the proclamation of God’s love.’ They do clothing drives and hurricane relief, and I’ve yet to hear our pastor say anything intolerant or exclusionary, ever.

“Last Halloween, after Hurricane Sandy shut down our traditional neighborhood celebration in our park, the pastor offered families the use of the Catholic school’s gym for the festivities instead. There was no request for a fee, no implicit indoctrination. That’s why what ultimately drove me in disgust off our local Yahoo parenting group were the responses from people I’d considered friends who were so open in their contempt and distrust of the offer, and who said flatly they wouldn’t bring their children into ‘a church.’ Aside from the fact that it was a school, at the same location where they’d have to do their voting a few days later, the saddest thing about it was the bigotry it revealed. I take a whole lot of guff on a consistent basis from the so-called faithful who like to tell me I can’t be a Catholic and believe the things I believe. But frankly I have been just as condescended to, judged and ultimately bored by mean-spirited, know-it-all Catholic bashers in my life as I have my fellow Christians.

“It’s an often lonely place here in the quiet land of LGBT-loving, pro-choice, liberal Catholics. Some days I like to imagine it’s a little party just for Stephen Colbert, Joe Biden and me. But it’s not: 60 percent of American Catholics say they don’t strongly adhere to the church’s stance on abortion, and even more don’t subscribe to its position on same-sex marriage. Nearly 80 percent think you can practice birth control and not attend Mass regularly and still be a good Catholic, while only 20 percent believe in the necessity of an all-male, celibate clergy. You can call us Cafeteria Catholics if you like, but it doesn’t change our principles or our hopes for reform. And you can say the church is unchangeable, but it’s revised itself plenty over 2,000 years. This is a body that once decided slavery didn’t contradict natural law, so don’t rule out the possibility of further enlightenment.”  Emphasis added.

Amen To This

From “Farewell to an Uninspiring Pope,” John Patrick Shanley, NYT:

“Pope Benedict XVI quit. Good. He was utterly bereft of charm, tone-deaf and a protector of priests who abused children. He’d been a member of the Hitler Youth. In addition to this woeful résumé, he had no use for women.

“Benedict has not been idle. He has put in place a lot of other old guys who have no interest in sharing power with anyone outside the club. The last pope we had who showed signs of spiritual vision was John XXIII. That was a long time ago. He had humility and a good heart. These more recent appointments have been disheartening in the extreme.

“When I was a kid at St. Anthony’s in the Bronx (one of the schools that the archdiocese of New York is now closing), there were boxes for the poor. The people of the East Bronx worked hard and made little. Everybody put money in those boxes. I put money in those boxes. As far as I’m concerned, that money was stolen.

“I have watched the wealth of the Catholic Church turned into a subsidy for wrongdoing and a prop for the continuing campaign against women’s rights and homosexuality. Neighborhood churches, built with the hard-earned money of working-class people, are being sold off. The sacrifices that were made to build these churches were significant and local. The decision to close them has been made antiseptically, by remote control. The men who make these decisions are at a remove, very much involved in protecting their power and comfort.

“I have little reason to hope that the Church of Rome will suddenly realize that without women, the Catholic Church is doomed, and should be doomed. I think of those good nuns who educated me, of their lifelong devotion and sacrifice. They have been treated like cattle by a crowd of domineering fools. In Benedict, the Catholic Church got the pope it deserved. I can only hope, for the sake of my parents, who loved the church so much, that a miracle of divine grace alters the writing on the wall. If not, the Catholic Church will suffer the fate it deserves.”


This Isn’t About Freedom of Religion

As regular readers know, I am a practicing Catholic.

The lawsuit the Catholic Church has filed against President Obama on coverage for contraception isn’t about freedom of religion.  It isn’t even really about contraception.  It’s much more about abortion and defeating President Obama.

Back in 2004, Catholics voted for Bush over Kerry, 52 to 47%.  In 2008, despite being harangued by their priests not to vote for someone who is pro-choice, Catholics voted for Obama over McCain, 54 to 45%.  The Church is determined to reverse that result in 2012.  They want Mitt to win.

Having failed to get their flocks sufficiently “wee wee’d up” about abortion in 2008, the Church is now trying to convince them that freedom of religion is under assault.

But if that’s the case, why hasn’t the Church made a big fuss about contraception coverage at the state level, where it’s been in place for years.  Many states have coverage rules that are stricter than the Obama compromise.  The Obama rule makes things easier for the Church in those states.  This mandated contraception coverage exists in the vast majority of states, including big states like California and New York, and red states like Arkansas.

Back in 2005, then Gov. Huckabee of Arkansas signed a contraception coverage law that was like Obama’s original proposal that drew such outrage.  So Obama’s compromise puts him to the right of Mike Huckabee!

I feel as if some of the money I put in the collection basket at my parish church is in effect a political contribution to Mitt Romney because it will be used for this ridiculous lawsuit and attendant publicity to try to hurt Obama.  That’s a donation I have no interest in making.  Then as a taxpayer, I am paying to defend the lawsuit.  I would rather that both my church money and my tax money help feed and care for the people who are struggling right now.  I think that’s what Jesus would prefer as well.



Obama Changes Birth Control Rule

In an effort to placate the Catholic Church (good luck with that), President Obama said today that institutions like Catholic-affiliated hospitals and universities won’t have to provide birth control directly to their employees.  Where an institution objects, the burden will be on the insurance company to reach out to women to offer the coverage without co-pays.

So the contraception coverage transaction will be between women and the health insurance provider, with the Church cut out of the deal.  This is similar to how the issue is handled in Hawaii, the state that the right confuses with Kenya.

Two thoughts on this:

First, it just highlights the absurdity of having “employer-based” health care in the first place.  This system is an anachronism, left over from the days of World War II, when employers trying to attract scarce workers offered them free health care to get around wage and price controls.

We’ve been stuck with this system ever since, which means that when people lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance too.  We should choose and own our health insurance, as we do our car and home insurance.  And we should be able to choose that insurance across state lines to allow more competition on price and coverage.

Second, we’ve seen how well it works when President Obama tries to appease congressional Republicans.  It will be the same with the Catholic Church.  They won’t take a fair solution and be satisfied, they’ll just demand more.

Obama Isn’t a Kenyan Muslim Socialist, He’s Robespierre!

Rick Savonarola Santorum accusing President Obama of “overt hostility to faith” because he’s taking the health coverage for contraception that 28 states currently provide and applying it nation-wide:

“They are taking faith and crushing it.  Why?  Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution.  … What’s left in France became the guillotine.”

Rick Santorum is making Newt Gingrich look sane.

Does the GOP really want to see this guillotine madness as an Obama ad in the general?

Catholic Hypocrisy on Contraception

From “We are the 98 percent,” by Joan Walsh,

“I knew the president’s decision would be controversial, but I underestimated the firestorm he would face.  Since 98 percent of Catholics practice forms of contraception forbidden by the church at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control, I assumed many of them would speak out in favor of the new regulations.  How could they expect the president to follow church teachings if they did not?

“I was wrong.  Too many Catholics are insisting that while they may personally disagree with the church on contraception, they defend the bishops’ opposition to the HHS moves as a matter of ‘religious liberty.’  Others are silent.  But silence lets the most right-wing forces of reaction prevail.  It’s time for the 98 percent to speak up.

“This is indeed a matter of religious liberty — the liberty of non-Catholic women who work for Catholic employers to have the full spectrum of healthcare coverage, regardless of what the church believes.

“Twenty-eight states already require church-run agencies to cover contraception in the health insurance they provide employees.  Catholic Charities sued to oppose the regulation in New York, and lost.  The world didn’t end; Catholic agencies in New York and those 27 other states now cover contraception.”

Addicted to Social Issues

We kept being assured that this election would be about the economy, not social issues.  But social issues won’t go away.

The Susan G. Komen fight against Planned Parenthood got the GOP presidential candidates involved, siding with Komen’s initial decision to cut off Planned Parenthood and decrying Komen’s reversal.

The Catholic Church’s reaction to contraception coverage under Obamacare also got the GOP candidates siding with the Church as if this were a Catholic country.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision against California’s Proposition 8 opposing gay marriage will keep this issue going for the rest of the election cycle, as the GOP candidates scramble to out-gay bash each other.

Griswold v. Connecticut, which upheld married couples’ right to contraception, has been the law since 1965.  Roe v. Wade, which provided limited abortion rights, has been the law since 1973.

But Rick Santorum wants to undo almost 50 years of settled law to let states have the right to ban birth control.

More and more, the fight over abortion has become a fight over the right to contraception, a fight to force Catholic doctrine that even Catholics don’t follow, onto the entire country.  We see this in the far-right “Personhood” amendments that would ban many forms of birth control, amendments so extreme that one was defeated in Mississippi last year.  Mississippi, that liberal hot bed.

Nothing less than the hard-won rights of women are at stake here, rights too many young women take for granted because they don’t remember what things were like before.  We’re so busy fighting the Taliban abroad that we’re ignoring our own version here at home.

I see a table of Catholic bishops lashing out at President Obama, and it looks to me like a group of Ayatollahs.  Why didn’t these bishops make such a fuss about priests who were molesting children?  They are emperors with no clothes, bereft of moral authority.

We are repelled by Muslim women being forced to wear burkas.  But insidious forces in this country are trying to wrap American women in invisible burkas that are just as demeaning and confining.

Meanwhile, while we fight about this stuff that should have been resolved decades ago, too many Americans are sending out too many resumes and never getting an interview, too many homes are still being foreclosed on, too many parents are struggling to feed their kids and keep them warm this winter.

Meanwhile, the centrifuges continue to spin in Iran, and Ahmadinejad is laughing at us.