Archive for September 2007

War, silence and the Church

September 28, 2007

Many years ago a religious order priest and I got into a conversation at an anti- war rally. For many years he had been engaged in a ministry of solidarity with the poor in a Latin American country. He was shocked at the absence of the clergy in this country and in particular in this pro life ally against the invasion of Iraq.

I ventured the though that this was the very reason the Church was losing voice in the West,There is absolutely no leadership coming from the Church and in particular Canada’s largest faith community, the Roman Catholic Church.

What would attract idealistic youth to such a moribund organization? One which has placed itself and not God’s reign at the centre of its life. What would impel youth on fire to link arms with such a group?

A priest friend in another city asked me what I thought of the incessant moaning among his sacerdotal confreres about the absence of youth in their parishes. ”They blame the culture.” he said and never themselves.”

Exactly. what are they offering?Eucharists which do not connect the broken bodies of the world with the broken bread on the altar are simply evasions of serious discipleship.
These were recurrent thoughts as I watched the Buddhist monks challenge the dictatorship in Burma.

In the USA what a witness it would be if the Roman collars organized against the death dealing policies of GW Bush. Apparently a million deaths in Iraq and a horrendous refugee problem are not sufficient cause to take a prophetic stand.

In Canada even as our iterim government has radically defined the meaning of the military away from peacekeeping and nation building Catholic bishops have refused to sign a joint letter from Canada’s Churches urging the Government to change the country’s strategy on the war in Afghanistan.

The CCCB always seems to be totally out of step with other Canadian churches on war and peace and the cause of the nonviolent Jesus. Apparently the deaths of 69 soldiers and one diplomat since conflict broke out at the end of 2001 has not been enough to dissuade them of these wrongheaded policies.

GW Bush: the ultimate war wimp

September 27, 2007

These are the facts according to Sidney Blumenthal, formerly of the Clinton administration:

Upon graduation from Yale in 1968, George W. Bush was accepted into the Texas Air National Guard, known as the “Champagne Unit” for serving as a haven for the privileged sons of the Texas elite seeking to escape duty in Vietnam. Through carefully placed calls made by Bush family friends, Bush was edged ahead of a 500-man waiting list. Then, after failing to complete his required hours of flight, he requested transfer to a unit in Montgomery, Ala. But there is no proof that he ever performed any of his service there; he refused to take a physical and was grounded. Ordered to return to his Houston base, he simply disappeared. Yet he was honorably discharged in 1973, though there is no proof that he had fulfilled his obligation.

During the 2000 campaign, the Boston Globe reported a number of discrepancies in Bush’s National Guard record. However, the rest of the national press corps virtually ignored the Globe’s stories, instead preferring to swarm around fictions about Al Gore helpfully stoked by the Bush campaign. Bush refused to make public his military records, in contrast to his principal primary opponent, Sen. John McCain, who had released his. But the press collectively let the matter pass. Nonetheless, the gaps in Bush’s service as reported by the Globe had not been answered and hung in the air, if anyone cared to pursue them.

It is common knowlwdge that naby in the Bush camp, fled service in the Vietnam years, most notably Cheney who had 5 deferments and who had in his own words “better things to do.”

KArl Rove the cynical puppet master behind Bush organizaed the demonization of John kerry , a decorated Vietnam vet wh later turned afagianst the war. Why Kerry never openly attacked Bush’s non-service in that war is still a mystery.

The Commander in Chief however loved posing in military gear (“Mission accomplished”) and acting as a war time president like Roosevelt. It would all be laughable except for the hundreds of thousand deaths he and his neocons have caused.

J K Galbraith’s aphorism applies here: There is nothing as sure as those who call for sacrifice but who are unwilling to pay the cost.

It will come out in the wash probably in Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS. Rather was made a laughing stock after his piece on Bush’s “absence” in the National Guard. His facts were true and what will come out id the meddling of the Republican CBS brass in his damning piece.

No class prez of Colombia

September 26, 2007

Why no outcry at the disgusting greeting the President of Iran got from the boor who is president of Colombia, Lee Bollinger?

Ahmadinejad,no matter what his politics or reputed statements usually out of context in the US press, is president of a sovereign nation. Lee Bollinger crossed the line of common decency by insulting Iran’s president in his introduction. Imagine a guest at any university being treated in such a boorish manner. Ahmadinejad may be a flake but he was right when he said. “In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment”

Imagine if GW BUsh was given an introduction like that in Iran!

And Bush has created way more damage in the world than Mr.Ahmadinejad.As writer Pierre Tristam noted, “Ahmadinejad is all bluster where Bush is all bombs

Seven chancellors of Iranian universities took the higher road and asked Bollinger 10 questions. Their preamble is worth printing as was their second question

We, the professors and heads of universities and research institutions in
Tehran , hereby announce our displeasure and protest at your impolite
remarks prior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at
Columbia University.

We would like to inform you that President Ahmadinejad was elected directly
by the Iranian people through an enthusiastic two-round poll in which almost
all of the country’s political parties and groups participated. To assess
the quality and nature of these elections you may refer to US news reports
on the poll dated June 2005.

Your insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with a
population of 72 million and a recorded history of 7,000 years of
civilization and culture is deeply shameful.

Your comments, filled with hate and disgust, may well have been influenced
by extreme pressure from the media, but it is regrettable that media
policy-makers can determine the stance a university president adopts in his
speech.

Your remarks about our country included unsubstantiated accusations that
were the product of guesswork as well as media propaganda. Some of your
claims result from misunderstandings that can be clarified through dialogue
and further research.

The second question was this:

2- Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran’s national
government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah’s
dictatorship?

Joseph Ratzinger: Feel free to disagree with me

September 22, 2007

The former archbishop of Milan Martini (the former rector of the famous Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem) in his most diplomatic way inferred that Benedict’s book on Jesus was not to be taken too seriously. In his cryptic way Martini said that it is a nice work but then “Ratzinger is not a trained exegete.” That’s about as far as any Cardinal would ever go in dissing the present pope’s book.

Ratzinger of course is sanguine about all of this, saying that people are free to disagree with him.

Now I have not read the Pope’s book but have always considered him a vastly overrated theologian. Few serious scholars cite any work of his outside of his 1966 book Introduction to Christianity.

I was staggered however to read some of his statements in the book as quoted by Fr. Joe O’ Leary of Sophia University in Tokyo. His review ran in the NCR. O’Leary is even better at irony than Cardinal Martini.His comment is classic:

“If Benedict is right, a whole century of New Testament scholarship will have to be radically corrected and largely jettisoned. For most readers of Benedict’s book this will be received as an immense liberation, a recovery of the fullness of Christ in every page of scripture, but for critical exegetes and theologians it is more likely to induce gnashing of teeth and the sense of doors being locked.”

O’Leary writes that Ratzinger claims that the famous “Ego eimi” ( I am the Way,the Truth, the Vine etc.) statements of the 4th Gospel are historical utterances of Jesus. Few scholars would claim this. Also that Jesus was proclaiming God not the Reign of God, the kingdom of justice and peace which was inbreaking in him and in his activity—the deaf hearing, the lame walking etc –signs of the Reign or Commonwealth (a good non-sexist word). Further that the “Basileia” God’s holy commonwealth was strictly “not of this world.”

Most scholars reject the idea that Jesus proclaimed himself. But apparently Ratzinger who has always been way too esoteric and otherworldly for me claims this.

Maybe next we’ll hear that Jesus initiated the Roman Catholic Church.

Mulroney and Reisman challenged

September 18, 2007

The Montreal network of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid welcomed former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney during a launch of his autobiography at Indigo bookstore by unfurling a banner denouncing the apartheid situation under which Palestinians are living.

Bravo for them.

Mulroney did little for most Canadians in his term as PM and certainly enriched himself since but he did speak about and denounce apartheid.

Marcel Sévigny, a member of the Coalition, challenged Mulroney to speak out against the apartheid system now being used against the Palestinian people,. However, Sévigny was removed by security before he could do so.

Mulroney like Paul Martin before him has been absolutely mum on the issue.

Several other people who have been active in opposing Israeli apartheid in Montreal were identified by the many security agents and forcibly removedby police from the public event without any provocation.

Montrealers also used the event to denounce the role that Heather Reisman, major shareholder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc, plays in the Heseg Foundation for ‘lone soldiers’. ‘Lone soldiers’ are individuals who have no link to Israel, but join its army.

Ms. Reisman was asked, “How do you justify establishing the Heseg foundation, which, according to its website, was set up to ‘express gratitude and provide support’ to what most people would call mercenaries who fight in the Israeli army?”

At the same time, a “Boycott Indigo, Boycott Israeli Apartheid” banner was unfurled at the back of the room, facing Mulroney and Reisman. Those who were removed distributed information about Heseg and the Indigo boycott outside the bookstore.

The action was organized in the context of a boycott campaign targeting
Indigo-Chapters across Canada for almost a year because of Reisman and
Schwartz’s involvement in Heseg, which they established in 2005. Between
5000 and 6000 such « lone soldiers » can be found in the ranks of the
Israeli army, helping to uphold the apartheid system in Palestine.

The Coalition against Israeli Apartheid is calling on people to cease
buying from Indigo and Chapters bookstores until such time as Reisman and
Schwartz publicly cut their ties with the Heseg foundation.

According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 1496
Palestinians – mostly civilians – were killed by the Israeli army since
2004. Since 1967, more than 12,000 houses have been destroyed by the
Israeli army, leaving more than 70,000 Palestinians homeless. Israel
systematically oppresses the Palestinian population through legal
discrimination amounting to an apartheid system operating along the lines
of ethnicity and religion. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are
forced to live imprisoned in controlled zones, divided by walls,
militarized barricades and highways reserved for Israelis. It is extremely
difficult to travel between these zones and a permit from Israeli military
authorities is required.

During Israel’s six-week attack on Lebanon last summer, over 1100 Lebanese were killed as a result of the deliberate bombing of villages, roads and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of Lebanese were wounded and maimed during these attacks, homes, schools, power plants, hospitals, ports and roads were targeted and destroyed and up to one million cluster bomblets were dumped by Israel on Lebanon.

The action took place on the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Sabra and
Shatila. Sabra and Shatila are Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut,
Lebanon, where hundreds of civilians were brutally killed by Lebanese
Forces and other militia in a massacre orchestrated by Ariel Sharon and
the Israeli army.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is a response to an appeal
launched by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005.

Bill Clinton unmasked

September 17, 2007

For some reason Bill Clinton has always mesmerized much of the US, particularly blacks . Supremely gifted, overly ambitious and terribly flawed, Clinton parlayed his abundant gifts into the top job and sold his class down the river. Finally somebody of sterling credentials has shredded the former president.Chris Hedges in Truthdig has brilliantly critiqued Clinton’s puff piece of a book called Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.

Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with a Divinity degree from Harvard, lampoons Clinton’s “feelgood stories” and calls for charity as an equivalent “of well-scrubbed prep school students spending a day in a soup kitchen.” And then this: “ it is a balm to the conscience of the oligarchic class that profits handsomely from the impoverishment of the working class, globalization and our anti-democratic corporate state.”

And nobody did this better than Clinton.

It was Clinton which broke the Democratic Party’s alliance and concern for labour and the poor and the FDR consensus of the welfare state. In their quest for power the Clintons cozied up to the rich, abandoned the poor and destroyed the social safety net. Read Hedges whole article where he outlines the whole megillah.

Many Clinton watchers did not wait for Clinton’s eight years in the White House. They knew he would do anything to grab the brass ring. Sexual peccadilloes aside, Clinton was the classic case of the poor kid who could not wait to get to the trough. When he got there, like his Canadian counterpoint, Mulroney, he sold out all the working class values he ever learned.

Remember the name Ricky Rector.

He was the black man on death row whose brain was so addled he could not tell you what day it was. No matter. Clinton on the campaign trail returned to Little Rock and pulled the switch on Rector. You want a “tough on crime” president? Watch this.

Now he goes around making $100 grand a speech and writing pathetic books like Giving.

The old maxim Corruptio optimi pessima est (the corruption of the best is the worst) fits Clinton to a T

Harper refuses to release the Khan Report

September 14, 2007

WAjid Khan the former Liberal turned Tory’s vaunted report on the Middle East was deep sixed by interim PM Stephen Harper.

Hoping to pick up Muslim votes for accepting the opportunist Khan into the Tory Party, Stephen Harper wisely decide not to release Khan’s devastating report of his taxpayer tour of Middle East countries.

Why?

It is obvious and this had been discerned through freedom of Information reports that Khan was unceremoniously told by all Arab countries that Canada’s craven turn to Israel, its virtual blank cheque on Israel’s overkill during the War on Lebanon, has hurt Canada as a former honest broker in the Middle East. The much respected middle approach cobbled over decades was much appreciated there until the cave-in began under Paul Martin. Influenced by the potent Israeli Lobby (in this case Martin’s friendship with mogul Gerry Schwartz of Onyx Corp) Canada sadly began to succumb to the lobby and cease criticizing Israel’s failures to adhere to Resolution 242 of the UN. This resolution has consistently condemned Israel’s failure to return land taken in war and grant Arabs the right of return from the ethnic cleansing of 1948.

Khan was told in no uncertain terms that Canada under Martin and Harper has lost virtually all credibility in the Middle East.

And so taxpayers will be spared the brutal honesty which Khan brought back.

Female religious: “Impeach Bush.”

September 11, 2007

“The National Coalition of American Nuns is impelled by conscience to call you to act promptly to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for … high crimes and misdemeanors,” the female religious wrote in a letter written on behalf of its board members.

Meanwhile the United states Conference of Bishops stands mute as the carnage continues in Iraq.

At one time the American bishops had a whiff of prophecy but the John Paul ll brigade quenched that small voice of protest as the hierarchs virtually assured the victory of GW Bush by their pandering to the pelvic issues like homosexuality and abortion.

The nuns’ letter says that impeachment is warranted for their “deceiving the public under the false pretense that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction” and “destroying” the reputation of the United States and the good will of other nations.

“The time for impeachment is now — before the example of George W. Bush’s regime is set in stone,” they wrote. “Future generations will thank you for preserving the freedom of our nation and its relation to the entire human community.”

The coalition was founded in 1969 for individual nuns dedicated to issues of social justice and human rights. In other words, the politics of the kingdom, utterly at odds with the imperial misadventures and “option for the rich” of the Bush admin.

The board unanimously adopted statements opposing all war and affirming peacemaking efforts. “Rather than continuing support of a just-war theory, a more compassionate church would oppose all war and teach peacemaking skills for all levels of government and interpersonal conflict resolution,” the statement reads.

Why is it that the female religious, so close to God’s people, reflect the authentic voice of Jesus today in the Catholic Church? Surely one of the reasons is that they have experienced their own marginalization in the Church and this has made them even more sensitive to the poor who suffer so egregiously under the bloated war budgets of Bush and his cronies.

Bravo for these women who give the institution a whiff of credibility.

Pavarotti’s 5 star funeral

September 9, 2007

The mighty Pavaortti went to his eternal reward with a magnificent funeral in Modena’s cathedral. Front and centre of course was the city’s Archbishop, Benito Cocchi. When celebrities shuffle off it is always a cleric of institutional stature. No parish priest for Luciano.

This brings up the small hypocrisies which always attend occasions like this. And it did not go without comment in Italty. A Modena priest broke ranks and told the paper Corriere della Sera that giving the international star, a divorced man who had fathered a child out of wedlock, a 5 star RC funeral was a bit much . The Star reported that the parish priest as saying that this was “ a profanation of the temple.” Other critics pointed out that last year in Rome the Catholic Church refused a funeral to a paralyzed man who who had a doctor disconnect his respirator.

In the past we’ve seen the late cardinal of Paris, Lustiger preside over a Catholic funeral for French PM Mitterand—a man with a mistress and who never attended church. A few years ago the present pope gave communion to a non-Catholic, the much revered ecumenist of Taize, Roger Schutz. Yet many Catholics legitimately bristle when at a funeral priests admonish non-Catholics not to come up and receive the host. In Canada right wing Catholics went ballistic when Ottawa Archbisop Marcel Gervais gave communion to the Anglican Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson.

Hypocrisy? Yes but in a Church of sinners it is understandable. Most of us just chuckle when it happens.

Many however do get bent out of shape on occasions like this because an increasingly legalistic Church, quick to judgment of others and obsessed about Catholic identity, often turns a blind eye on issues like the above and for whatever reasons (some of them logical and pastoral) opts for the human.

Giving brother Pavarotti such a lavish funeral should not bother us. From what I saw the last rites honoured the Catholic principle of sacramentality…all that gorgeous music had to have put a smile on God’s face.

Maybe if you see the Church as a museum for saints you get exercised. Most of us are happy to live in a hospice for sinners and let God do the judging.

Benny goes green;O’Murchu sees the Spirit

September 7, 2007

Benny Green is a helluva young jazz pianist who years ago won the Oscar Peterson award as the up and comer to watch.

But Benny Green—the pope?

One Sept 2 the present pope Benedict XVl who has throughout his career ignored social justice as the heart of the gospel (the reign of God), suddenly sprouted green.

At the Marian shrine of Loreto,Italy Josef Ratzinger used rather strong language in urging youth to protect the environment and help reverse ecological destruction.

“Before it is too late, courageous choices must be adopted that are capable of recreating a strong alliance between humans and the Earth,” the Pope said on Sunday to a vast outdoor crowd. “There needs to be a decisive ‘yes’ in defence of creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk creating situations of irreparable degradation,”.

Good for Benny. Obviously aware that the Church has done virtually nothing adopting a significant pastoral plan world wide to deal with the ecological crisis, this was a small start. Most North American bishops are positively autistic when it comes to this grave issue, preferring to obsess about “Catholic identity” and drawing rigid lines between those other faiths which after all are “gravely deficient.”

In Toronto the Knights of Columbus have put out a scary pamphlet supporting the Serra Club which is still fishing for “men only” candidates for sacerdotal ministry. They pour millions into this failed venture and don’t even know about the Sierra Club! They are one letter short.

Meanwhile the brilliant theologian who really has his pulse on God’s reign in history, Diarmuid O’Murchu recently told a gathering in California some really good news. Asked where he saw hope he replied that he had recently heard Green activist Paul Hawken describe the present convergence of the environmental and social justice movements as the largest social movement in history, comprising over 1 million organizations in every country in the world.

“Hawken documents the efforts of these groups. In the church, I notice that 60 percent of all theologians now are laypeople. This lay generation is solidly grounded in environmental and human rights.”

As always,the Spirit blows where it wills.

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