Good Friday: the power of the state

April 18, 2014


Jesus the Palestinian Jew lived under occupation, a rather brutal one at that. The Romans pauperized the local population under heavy taxation and legal theft of foodstuffs which found their way back to Rome.
Ironically the descendants of Palestinians still live under occupation in modern day Israel.


The STATE was and is an agent of crucifixion. Jesus along with thousands of others paid the ultimate price—one usually paid by those considered a threat to the state and its imperial power. Jesus’ promotion of God’s reign (malkuth Yahweh) was the ultimate threat to Roman anti- reign. The state murdered him, another victim of capital punishment.
The State still crucifies people,either directly like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or other homicidal maniacs.
Most often the State becomes a proxy for larger states like the American empire and their compliant thugs like the Shah, Pinochet, Rios Montt in Guatemala,Somoza in Nicaragua, the puppet regimes under Russia.
Unfair trade practices, powerful monopolies such as Monsanto, protection policies keep the poor on the cross throughout the world.
The State also is an agent of crucifixion of the earth,an almost autistic promoter of climate change. we are witness in our time to the ongoing active extinction of species.


On Good Friday the state continues to crucify.

The Mob and Good Friday

April 17, 2014



The Mob is an agent of crucifixion. We see the mob in Jerusalem screaming “Crucify him and give us Barabbas” The Mob is always with us today usually as an uninformed voice screaming for vengeance, personal gain over public good.No taxes, it screams in Rob Ford’s Toronto.It never links taxes with livable cities and social cohesion

These voices have grown exponentially with the rise of the internet,a notorious anarchic place for uninformed opinion. Often these voices are faceless and anonymous, silent in the wake of human suffering, voluble in the promotion of private goods over public squalor, often racist and sexist as well.

The Mob is the bystanders who do nothing to advance redemption. It sits out history’s great drama and brays just as it did in the time of Jesus. This is the mob today.


St. James

April 14, 2014



As we know (a known unknown) from the New Testament, Jesus reveals his true nature when he appears before 3 of his most beloved disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. This inner circle, composed of Peter, James and John, have been venerated for 2000 years as the most prominent of the sainted 12 apostles.


And now taking a cue from medieval Christian memory and typography, Canada has after 20 years at last perfected its own secular version of the canonization process. For years, the Liberals had exclusive celebration rights with the early sainthood of the sometimes difficult but much admired, St.Pierre. And then the NDP realized an opportunity to elevate their own much “beloved” St. Jack. This, of course, left the PC’s holding the halo, so to speak. But not to be outdone and with an untimely death of their man coming like a bolt out of the blue, the PC’s at last make their “santo subito” contribution to the Canadian  sainthood trifecta with the recent glorification of St. James.

How strangely embedded is the deep human need for cultic mythology! One wonders if this Is this the flip side of our newly minted medieval re-imaging of Canada’s soldiers as “warriors” after our participation in Bush’s “crusade?”



Next up…St. Stephen?

Go figure…


The Venerable Bob is an esteemed member of CRAIC

The tin ear bishops

April 13, 2014



Wilton Gregory the Atlanta bishop was shamed into selling his mansion after Germany’s Bishop of Bling was outed in Germany “We are disturbed and disappointed to see our church leaders not setting the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for” a parishioner wrote. Gregory who seems like a decent guy ate humble pie. Decent, yes but totally out of touch

“As the shepherd of this local church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” he wrote in The Georgia Bulletin.

Now there’s an understatement..

You wonder just what guys like this are thinking—particularly given the still ghetto conditions in Georgia. And Gregory is a black man.

Well, privilege and isolation are no respecters of color. The celibate life too often isolates people from the harsh realities of this world. Too often there has been little accountability. Many never answer to the people they are sworn to serve.
One wonders if these people ever internalized the gospel. As one critic of Gregory sputtered, “Jesus was born in a stable.”



Now Pope Francis humble life style is starting to shame a whole class of bishops.
But New Jersey, Newark Archbishop John Myers still resists he is spending $500,000 to add a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his already spacious retirement home. The new wing will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator.

And this is Newark,an almost bombed out city.

Camden, New Jersey is worse,an almost wholly derelict city but that has not stopped Bishop Dennis Sullivan for spending $500,000 to buy a historic 7,000-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces, a library, a five-car garage and an in-ground pool. The diocese said Sullivan needs the space to entertain dignitaries and donors.Sorry, Sully it doesn’t wash.


Pope Francis  has set a high bar for “the princes.”

Money or democracy

April 10, 2014


American democracy has come to this.
Last weekend a bunch of Republican hopefuls appeared before the ultra Zionist billionaire Las Vegas gamer Sheldon Adelson and in cringe-inducing acts of self-abasement proved their bona fides to the pro-Israeli hawk.
Imagine the scene, grown men summoned to Adelson’s Venetian Hotel to plead their case to the Republican Jewish Coalition which is wholly owned by the casino magnate.
Why not? Adelson and his wife gave $93 million to Republican PAC’s last year.
The notorious union buster of Wisconsin, Scott Walker brought up his father’s trip to Israel and get this, he actually put a menorah next to his Christmas tree. Wow how ecumenical. Walker also told Adelson that his Matthew’s name actually comes from the Hebrew. Double wow.
The worst beggar however was governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. In a spectacular gaffe in the eyes of Adelson, Christie actually referred to the Occupied Territories, a stupendous blunder in the eyes of the uber-Zionists. Of course, Christie had to beg forgiveness for this piece of candor.
In a scathing piece in the New York Times David Firestone said what needed to be said:
The ability of one man and his money to engender so much bootlicking among serious candidates, which ought to be frightening, has now become commonplace. Why talk directly to voters when you can get a billionaire to help you manipulate them with a barrage of false television ads, as the Koch brothers are doing with Republican Senate candidates around the country.
These Republican hacks should heed a great Jewish American, Justice Louis Brandeis:
We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.


The testing sickness

April 4, 2014



The assault on the dignity of each child proceeds in the United States of Amnesia. The obsession on standardized testing as a central marker in public education is well funded—but the kick back has started all over the States—teachers, parents have risen up and said NO—not to testing itself but to the over reliance and malicious use of it.
The following reminds me of a line from a long-forgotten columnist in the Globe and mail, Richard Needham who once opined that “A school trustee isone who has had a child described to him—but has never actually met one.

A teacher-blogger in New York City wrote:
I have a grandson who just started second grade.

I look at this techno-trash and pray that his teachers are not required to pay attention to it.
If this is the kind of “work” that comes out of Tweed (the headquarters of New York City’s “Department of Education”), I have advice for the next Mayor:
Clean out the whole bunch of people who make up these charts, graphs, instructions, mumbo-jumbo statistical nonsense.
Clearly, none of them has ever been a teacher of first grade.
Probably, none of them has ever had a child.
Maybe, none of them ever was a child.
They see children as data.
They see teaching and learning as a statistical exercise.
They value metrics, not children.
Please, Mr. Mayor, send them all packing.
Let them go back to the corporate world where they belong.
Keep them far, far away from children and their teachers.


Africa and Israel

April 3, 2014


Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM refused to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The reasons given were laughable and were even mocked in the Israeli press. A deeper story however emerged: Israel’s unflagging support for the apartheid regime. Israel had long been a proxy for US arms sales to the scorned regime. Africans saw clearly that Israel was a branch of imperialist Europe. Israel openly supported Portugal’s domination of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. But it was in South Africa the increasingly isolated colonial oppressor that Israel showed her true colours.
Not only did Israel support the apartheid regime with Uzis and tanks but in 1962 she was on the receiving end of a ten ton shipment of uranium which fueled their still-denied nuclear program. Israel also trained the forces of reaction in Angola as she did later in Guatemala, Salvador and Nicaragua. No love lost in Central America either for Israel.
In 1976 South African PM Vorster a fierce segregationist signed a military pact with Israel which sold patrol boats, missiles, counterinsurgency weaponry and electronic surveillance which Israel now peddles around the world. They are experts in penning up and monitoring oppressed populations as the recent history in Palestine has proven.
In 1981 the fanatic Arab hater Ariel Sharon sold Kfir jets, howitzers etc to the apartheid regime. 30 years ago the aforementioned Vorster understood and stated that israel now had its own apartheid regime. Today’s popular description of contemporary israel has a long history.
The biggest thug and looter of his own people Joseph Mobutu in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) was an Israeli proxy who was trained there. Israel became Mobutu’s chief arms supplier. This is a man who probably stole more money than any African dictator in history. No matter as former Israeli PM , himself an ex-terrorist Yitzhak Shamir said, “We’ll sell to anybody.”
Netanyahu was wise to stay away from the funeral of Africa’s greatest symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela. Africans have long memories. Americans have none.

Bling bishop canned

March 28, 2014

On March 26 Pope Francis fired the “bling bishop’ Franz  Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his Limburg diocese in Germany. His $43 million dollar residence was the last straw for the new pontiff.

Francis has signaled that the era of “princes of the church” is over. Time to get back to Jesus.

The Irish priest Diarmuid Omuchu put it best:

We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure
Jesus of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life.

We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart
for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign.
The following of Jesus is not a respectable religion.

A decade ago in a magnificent rant,New York Irish Catholic Jimmy Breslin went after Bishop William Murphy who thought that he should have a residence commensurate with the size of his diocese, the 6th largest in the USA. that of Long Island entitled Rockville Centre, “where his efforts were devoted to his own comfort.”

Breslin, in a series of columns, made Murphy the laughing stock of New York by dubbing him “Mansion” Murphy for booting some elderly nuns out of a building “which he then turned into a grand residence.” Breslin skewered the pompous Murphy for his “marble bathroom, $120,000 sub-zero freezer and temperature controlled wine cellar, and let the hapless bishop hang himself with his own words: “It is fitting that the bishop of the sixth largest diocese in the nation should live like a bishop.”
Breslin’s righteous anger was premature. Both popes John Paul ll kept looking for dogmatists to run their dioceses like kommandants, guard dogs who wee sniffing out any whiff of a different opinion than that which reigned in Rome. They were not worried about “bling” or bishops’ palaces, though JP ll did go berserk when he visited Haiti and found the papal legate living like a king high above slums.
The Bling bishop was one of hundreds who were chosen as enforcers which ruled in the 30 year old “ice age” of Catholicism under JPll and Ratzinger.
Gone were the invitational precepts of the great Council —persuasion rather than threats, invitations rather commands, conscience rather than coercion, serving rather than ruling, horizontal rather than vertical.

In was the auto da fe, the burning at the stake, a new inquisition which sent a chill over the church and stopped creative theology in its tracks within Catholic institutions.
Now with a new pope a new message: Vatican ll is irreversible.


Happy Romero Day!

March 25, 2014



One of the  saddest gaffes in Pope John Paul ll’s papacy was his abysmal treatment of the saint of Americas. Seeing Romero’s priesthood through the eyes of the  wealthy he challenged and who used  that old hoary chestnut “Marxist” in describing Romero, JP ll bought the spurious charge and actually humiliated Romero when he came to Rome. Ah, well we all make mistakes.The polish pope was no exception. Labelling the lover of the poor a marxist was atonal music to his Polish background.

Here’s Sr. Joan Chittester’s take on Romero:


A church that does not unite itself to the poor…
is not truly the Church of Jesus Christ.
Oscar Romero,
Archbishop and Martyr of El Salvador,
murdered March 24, 1980


There was no doubt that Oscar Romero was a good man, a caring priest, and an upstanding bishop. He decried evil and did charity. But though Romero was a pastor indeed, he was definitely not a prophet. To Romero, the church was to transcend the world, to define its values, but never, ever to concern itself with its affairs. When he became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he was the comfort of a conservative episcopacy and the darling of a rich people’s government perhaps, but he was anything but the hope of the poor. Yet three years later, he was assassinated on their behalf. What happened? What does such a turn of events say to the rest of us?

No one knows exactly what changed Romero. No one knows if it was immediate or long in coming. Was it the accumulation of violence over the years that had finally reached a saturation point in him? Was it the sight at last of the body of a friend lying on the garbage heap of bodies that had become such a common sight in El Salvador that moved him? Was it the blinding grace of a genuinely new vision that made him see again what he had seen before but see it differently? Or perhaps it was the very values that had always driven him come together in one decisive moment that impelled him to change: the power of all those years of prayer, the futility of all those years of temporizing in the name of spirituality, the impact of all those years of poverty, the emptiness of all those words about the nature of the church and the meaning of the Gospel—lived until this moment in him almost exclusively as intellectual concepts? Whatever it was, he knew it now and there was no stopping him.

Oscar Romero became a light to the nations, a man on fire, a prophet’s prophet.

In the end he paid the consequence for saying the truth in the light. The church of privilege, his brother bishops, ignored him as many do to this day, in fact, and reported him to Rome for three straight apostolic visitations. This was the blow that hurt him most, he once told friends in tears. The rich waged million-dollar ad campaigns against him in hope of precipitating his mental breakdown. The government taunted him and threatened him and hounded him and ringed him round with violence till on March 24, 1980, they killed him, too. But the people took heart and found hope in a church for whom the Beatitudes were real.

Oscar Romero is a frightening figure if for no other reason than that he shows us to ourselves. The problem is that there is an Oscar Romero lurking in all of us docile, trusting, and obedient people. He teaches us that we too may someday have to change, not because we do not believe in the teaching of the church and the state, but precisely because we do, and they are not living up to it.

Indeed, Romero was a loyalist who became a voice of truth to the system he dearly wanted to serve. He was a pastor who discovered that binding wounds is no substitute for eliminating them. He was a Christian who discovered that the Gospel supersedes the church.

–from A Passion for Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis Books)

Roger Water’s story

March 23, 2014

Never againIn a piece for Roger Waters wrote a moving commentary why he has strongly supported the BDS Movement in Israel/Palestine.

The Pink Floyd front man wrote movingly of a pacifist father killed in Italy in 1944.His amazing mother Mary Duncan Waters continued to be politically active against any type of oppression. She was a “peace and justice” woman who colored his world. He wrote:


After visiting Israel in 2005 and the West Bank the following year, I was deeply moved and concerned by what I saw, and determined to add my voice to those searching for an equitable and lawful solution to the problem – for both Palestinians and Jews.

Given my upbringing, I really had no choice.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society appealed to people of conscience all over the world to act where governments had failed. They asked us to join their nonviolent movement – for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) – which aims to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, to secure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to uphold the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the cities and villages they were violently forced out of in 1948 and 1967.

After more than two decades of negotiations, the vulnerable Palestinian population still lives under occupation, while more land is taken, more illegal settlements built, and more Palestinians are imprisoned, injured or killed struggling for the right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till their land, to aspire to each and every human goal, just like the rest of us. The Palestinians’ prolonged statelessness has made them among the most vulnerable of all peoples, particularly in their diaspora where, as now in Syria, they are subject, as stateless, powerless refugees, to targeted violence, from all sides in that bloody conflict, subject to unimaginable hardship and  deprivation and, in many cases, particularly for the vulnerable young, to starvation.   Pretty straight forward, I think.


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