Archive for the ‘Church & Culture’ Category

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

Crazy like Jesus

February 26, 2014

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21

That crazy 84 year old nun Megan Rice is at it again.


Three years in the jug for breaking into a nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium in Oakridge, Tennessee.

In her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, even though sentencing guidelines called for about six years.

“Please have no leniency with me,” she said. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me.”

Megan is the best the Catholic church offers and as Pope francis, she has the smell of the sheep on her, a stench which few of the boys in purple can claim.

her story is illuminating.

Born to privilege in Manhattan, a doctor father and an amazing mother who did her PHd on Catholic views on slavery. They were “Catholic Worker” catholics who counted Dorothy Day among their friends.

At 18 Megan entered the sisters of the Holy Child and gained a Masters degree in cellular biology. She t taught in Ghana and Nigeria from 1962 to 2004. It is  here where I met Megan—well kind of. She told me that she was a big fan of our paper the Catholic New Times which reached the sisters in Africa. All this she related to me when my wife and I visited her in her humble office in Las Vegas located located on the Las Vegas Catholic Worker’s Bartlett Avenue property. There were no slot machines visible to our eyes.  For many years Megan has been part of the Nevada Desert Experience ( whose mandate is  “to stop testing, development and use of nuclear and other weapons systems through a campaign of prayer, education, dialogue, and nonviolent direct action.”

Each year the center leads a prayerful expedition into the heart of darkness at the infamous Nevada Test Site, the very spot the nuclear age was spawned.

Megan Rice has been arrested  over 35 times for her witness to the nonviolent Jesus. She  spoke an obvious truth to power:

“The U.S. government is spending too much money on weapons and the military.” What an understatement! She told the judge about the many letters of support she had received, including one from youth in Afghanistan.

“This is the next generation and it is for these people that we’re willing to give our lives,” she said.

Her deep belief is profoundly Catholic : “nuclear weapons are incompatible with the peace so desperately needed throughout the world and therefore cannot be justified.”

Sr. Mary Ann Buckley, head of the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus supported Sr. Rice.

“Our Society has a history of standing up for those in need,” Sr. Buckley added. “We are dedicated to helping women, children and families by providing educational, spiritual and social programs across four continents and throughout the United States. We intend to stand by Sister Megan and our Church’s clear teaching against nuclear proliferation as the current situation is resolved.

Maybe Rome and the American bishops could “stand by” such a witness.

Pete Seeger: the tall and the small

January 30, 2014


I looked at Pete, the first black president of the United States was seated to his right, and I thought of the incredible journey that Pete had taken. ..At some point, he decided he’d be a walking, singing reminder of all of America’s history. He’d be a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. It was like, “Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man! 

Bruce Springsteen  on Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday in 2009

Disagreement with the magisterium may render an important service to the Church, helping it to respond to the signs of the times in light of the Catholic faith…This may be a duty of conscience.” 

Gregory Baum

Pete Seeger died yesterday, a man beloved by most. He lived a long and principled life with music as his nonviolent weapon. I met Seeger about a decade ago when the film about his manager Harold Leventhal (Isn’t This a Time) was  shown at the old Downtown Loews. The remaining Weavers sang a few songs and there was a party later at the Royal York. I happened to be walking in with my friend Canadian jazz singer Don Francks when I literally bumped into the American legend. In retrospect I was shocked at how tall he was and  recalling that impression today about his physical size, I ruminated that he really did stand tall in his long commitment to justice and the common good. Pete  also paid a price he paid for his truth telling (The Weavers were blackballed in 50s  as part of the McCarthy scare). This set me thinking about all the “small” men in the last 35 years of Catholic reaction.

Here I am thinking of clergy and right wing bloviators who fit  the description  in W H Auden’s Unknown Citizen:

Our researchers into Public Opinion are content

That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;

When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.

No need to name them here but they were the ones who ascended in last 2 pontificates, who tailored their views to the forces of reaction. They were in vogue, on the telly and in the paper genuflecting to local bishops whose careers were rewarded for following the leader in Rome.

The last three decades were not a great time for the Catholic Church. The earth-shaking  Council created an equal reaction. It was simply Newton’s second law, pure physics. The reaction was led  by the Polish pope whose national church had been frozen in time next to the communist monolith. For historical reasons  Poland had not had its  Vatican ll spring.

As a great British theologian aptly said, “some people just show up at the wrong time.” John Paul ll was that man. A genuine justice man on the world stage, he was anything but inside the walls of the church. He literally imposed his ossified theology on the whole church and the Catholic Church lost a brilliant chance to modernize itself. Millions left in disgust as critical thinking was shut down. Power was totally centralized and the Church appeared more like a Politburo than a “discipleship of equals” and the People of God.

Pope Paul Vl, much maligned, was  a sophisticated Vatican insider who understood the necessity of ongoing renovation and he allowed our best theologians to exert peer review on the thousand flowers which were blooming. He silenced no theologians. He recognized them as loyal teachers in service to the universal church. Contrast that with the shocking intellectual abuse of Woytyla and his henchman Ratzinger. They both tried to shoe horn critical thought into one narrow channel. As Chicago theologian David Tracy said at the time, “It won’t work.” And it didn’t. Many careers however were ended and good men and women were sacrificed on the the narrow grounds of ideology. Uninspiring men, absolutely loyal to Rome,rock solid against birth control and  female ordination were placed in charge of major sees. It was if the clock stood still. All in all  It was a shameful period.

But like Pete Seeger, many stood tall, great principled resisters to the “ice age”(Rahner) we had to endure, There were many national theological conferences who refused to buckle under. Thse were professional theologians who loved the church but were cast into nether darkness by both Woytyla and Ratzinger. There were hundreds of such teachers who were denied positions in Catholic institutions. We know the names of the more famous ones but many felt the chill of non-promotion and marginalization. Theology in Catholic institutions particularly in the moral realm ground to a halt

”If the Pope does what does not belong to his office, he cannot demand obedience in the name of Catholicism,” some 163 theologians from West Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland stated in January of 1989.

Now known as the Cologne Declaration it said. ”In such a case, he must expect opposition.” Their objections were tripartite:

• John Paul’s appointment of bishops “without respecting the suggestions of the local churches and neglecting their established rights,” which runs counter to the Catholic tradition that the selection of bishops “is not some private choice of the pope’s”;

• The Vatican’s refusal to grant official license to theologians with whom it disagrees, part of its general campaign to silence dissent, representing “a dangerous intrusion into the freedom of research and teaching”;

• The pope’s “overstepping and enforcing in an inadmissible way” his proper doctrinal competence, insisting that every pronouncement of the magisterium be treated as ipso facto infallible. The declaration called special attention to the ban on birth control.

Complaining that the collegiality called for by Vatican II was “being smothered by a new Roman centralism,” the declaration predicted: “If the pope undertakes things that are not part of his role, then he cannot demand obedience in the name of Catholicism. He must expect dissent.”

From June 6-9 of 1990, the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) with Canadian Basilian Walter Principe as its president, affirmed “the right of theologians to freedom of research, their right to raise questions, their right to re-examine the meaning of dogmas, and even more to explore the import of past authoritative statements by the magisterium, and finally the right within a faithful unprejudiced presentation of the official teaching to disagree publicly with that teaching under certain circumstances.”

The statement “Do not Extinguish the Spirit” was critical of the growing chill within the Church and the increasing denigration of theologians who were now seen as “dissenters,” rather than loyalists who had a different opinion. Principe addressed the Vatican criticism about “harm being done to the faithful by theologians.” He countered with the harm being done by “the Vatican issuing of documents without prior discussion and consultation with bishops and theologians, their inhibiting legitimate discussion by premature decisions on complicated questions, their condemnation or silencing of theologians and their presentation of reformable teaching almost as if they were matters of faith.” Do not extinguish the Spirit was concerned about “excessive Roman centralization” that diminishes the role of local bishops and which impugned the authority of bishops’ conferences.

This brave statement well summarizes the general disenchantment with this papacy.

While the theologians raised objections, the best educated generation of Catholics were becoming restless at the attempted ecclesial coup and the overturning of Vatican ll.


And then 2002 happened, The explosion of the sex abuse scandal and church coverups, generally by the servile bishops promoted by JP ll and Ratzinger. 55 Boston priests told the imperious  Cardinal Law it was time to go. The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer prize for uncovering the rot  which a bloated church had allowed to fester for decades.

The laity was energized. The sensus fidelium was rediscovered, the fact that each baptized person has a sensus fidei,  the indwelling of the  Spirit which was not a preserve of  a celibate priesthood but was present in the whole Body. It was basic Vatican ll stuff we had forgotten:  “the whole body of the faithful have received an anointing” (Lumen Gentium #12,)

The Church i.e. the institution  cannot speak without listening to the sensus fidelium. Even the autocratic pope began to understand this shortly before his death. He was worn down by the fierce resistance to his dictatorial style and finally in 2004 said,  “Certainly this will involve a conscious effort on the part of each bishop to develop, within his particular Church, structures of communion and participation which make it possible, without prejudice to his personal responsibility for decisions he is called to make by virtue of his apostolic authority, to listen to the Spirit who lives and speaks in the faithful.”

This of course has yet to happen. Power historically concedes nothing and we have yet to be consulted on major issues.

And now a new pope has arrived, a Vatican ll man. The small men are in retreat. Meanwhile in the life of Pete Seeger we once again realize that “the Spirit blows where it wills” (John 3:8) and the Roman Church best realize that  a gale force may be coming.

New age market Catholicism

January 20, 2014


What happens to religion under capitalism and under uber-nationalism?

The answer is: It almost totally corrodes the religious impulse. It dries up the wells of compassion, central to the Abrahamic faiths. It breaks our solidarity with the weak.

Martin Buber was beginning to understand this as he aged. His Hebrew Humanism would lie in tatters as israel became a racist, settler state built on the occupation of another people. The Jews of the yishuv who had resided in Palestine side by side with Palestinians were appalled by the substitution of a  crude nationalism for the life of piety, Jewish ethics and mitzvahs (good deeds). As  one rabbi said, “The Torah is our land.”

Of course, this hollowing out of  true religion  is not germane only to Israel or to Judaism.

One only has to look at the awful blow dealt to evangelical Protestantism in the Bush years. War making in the name of the Prince of Peace.

The Serbian Orthodox bought the depredations of Milosevic. another failure and betrayal of Christ.

Catholics are as susceptible to this subversion as anybody else.

Many RCs have been suborned by “market Catholicism” where the  blandishments of the consumer society have subverted the call to the cross. This predictable hybrid bloomed in the post-war years with the explosion of affluence and the retreat to the suburbs. The God life was undermined by the good life or as Nietzsche would have it, “a life of pitiable comfort.”  Life was very good and the call to the cross was—well uncomfortable. Catholics who universally voted Democrat began to slide into the comfort zone of Reaganism. Their votes followed and they conveniently ignored  that the Gipper transferred more wealth to the rich than any president in history, made war all over Latin America and began the process of deregulating the banks which savaged the global economy in 2008. He was the perfect face for the new market Catholicism.

This is bad religion, all mysticism, therapeutic and non-prophetic. It is a sentimental betrayal of God’s call to the reign of God. Jesus was murdered at 33 but many new age Catholics, now economically privileged ran from this fact and retreated into an individualist  and consumerist religion  devoid of any social solidarity. John Paul ll though good on the social question , defended unions and the common good also promoted the ahistorical orders like Opus Dei and the Legions of Christ, neither of which in Pope Francis’ words had “the smell of the sheep on them.” They were run by twisted men and held up as models of the New evangelization. They were top down orders which placed the church not God’s reign of peace and justice at the heart of their calling. They courted the wealthy and were disengaged from the social question.

Market catholicism It is basically ahistorical,all consciousness and little conscience, all resurrection but no cross in sight. It is hyper individualistic. It disconnects the individual from the broader culture and allows him/her a zone of spiritual comfort. This abstracted faith leaves the realm of tears and suffering and settles on the self and personal fulfillment. The best example  is  Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand loving Republican who  was on the last GOP ticket. Read his extraordinary confession:

It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.”

“But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

Mmm, Ayn Rand, the high priestess of individualism  but not Isaiah, Amos or Jesus?

New  age market Catholicism.


Pope Francis and clericalism

January 7, 2014


The chief occupational scandal of our time is not the disunity of the Christian church but institutional preoccupation of the church in the face of the suffering of the world.

Anglican Primate George Carey   1992

Pope Francis is beginning to give the JP ll bishops migraines. They don’t know what to make about a pope who actually puts the reign of God first—instead of the church.

On November 29 addressing 120 major superiors  about  would-be priests who merely “grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told `Good, you have finished formation. This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils.

“We must form their hearts,”the pontiff said,” otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps,”.

Well it’s been giving lay people a royal pain in the culo for decades.

Any Catholic can relate stories of some newly ordained cleric,  a “young fogey” as Andrew Greeley called them, who moves into a parish  and thinks his Roman collar is a sign of omniscience and gives him the right to dynamite a parish organized on the people of God model mandated by Vatican ll.

Andrew Greeley wrote about such types in 2004:

Today’s young priests tend to want to restore the power that the clergy held not only before Vatican II but also before a large educated Catholic laity emerged as a powerful force in the Church after World War II. Older priests today often complain that their younger colleagues are arrogant, pompous, and rigid, and that they love to parade around in clerical dress. The image that comes to mind is young versions of the old ethnic monsignors of the Depression era. 

A friend of mine, a great pastor, laughed when I told him I heard that his parish was getting a steady influx of new parishioners.

He knew exactly what I meant.

The young fogey in the adjoining parish  moved in an brought back the Latin mass, re-clericalized the whole apparatus (altar rails separating the holy from the non-ordained) and acted like a little medieval  pope in his parish.

This also happened to a feisty friend of mine who watched the Polish priest come in and give his marching orders to the lay people.

My friend who had only been in the parish for 60 years basically asked him who the hell he thought he was.

Francis knows— “a little monster.”

Vatican ll’s roots, despite the re-clericalization under JP ll and Benedict are simply too deep. The catholic people are slowly standing on their baptized legs and assuming their full identity. Clericalism is on its last legs.


The sadness of Martin Buber

December 31, 2013

“We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” – David Ben-Gurion


In 1938 the distinguished Jewish philosopher and theologian of dialogue, Professor Martin Buber (1878-1965) came from Germany to live in Palestine at the age of sixty. While a lifelong Zionist Buber was becoming increasingly disenchanted by the growing xenophobic brand in Israel.

In 1942 Buber reiterated his deep belief that crass nationalism would never be enough. His simple stance as a believer was that  ”Israel was and is a people and a religious community in one…he who severs this bond severs the life of Israel.”

It was obvious that due to the extraordinary energy released by the kibbutz movement and civic fire unleashed  by the founding of the state, the “nation was on the rise.” Sadly, he lamented, “religion is on a steep downward fall, for it is no longer a power which determines all of life; it has been confined  to the special sphere of ritual or sermons.” For Buber the separation of religion and national life “was a fatal error.”

Buber  called  the power which emanated from Torah and which was meant to infuse state politics, “Hebrew humanism.” The compassion which all the Abrahamic religions hold absolutely central, in its Israeli incarnation was “in opposition to that Jewish nationalism which regards Israel as a nation like unto other nations and recognizes no task for Israel save that of preserving and asserting itself.”

“Hebrew humanism” must prevail over “a nationalism which is nothing but empty self-assertion. The Zionist movement must decide either for national egoism or national humanism.”

Six years later  in 1958 Buber uttered an almost heretical statement which many Jews of conscience  came to agree with: “The majority of Jews preferred to learn from Hitler than from us ( prophetic Torah inspired humanists)…Hitler showed that history does not follow the path of the mind, but that of power, and that when a people is quite strong, it can kill with impunity.”

In its Declaration of Independence in 1949 Israel had promised “full and equal citizenship to Israeli Arabs. This was a ploy to placate the Western world still in the afterglow of the human rights movement which emerged from World War ll. The 1948 UN Declaration stated that,”Everyone has  a right of freedom of movement and residence  within the borders of each state,” and “Everyone has  the right to leave any country, including his own and to return to that country. Boh of these  rigts would in time be denied to the original inhabitants of the land they called Filastin. The somewhat innocent Martin Buber never realized the hidden machinations of the Zionist leadership whose intention was always  to expel the Arab population and claim the whole of the land.

In an 1962 protest  letter to Prime Minister Ben Gurion the theologian noted that Israel “has committed acts which have engendered in the Arab inhabitants of the State a feeling that they are but second-class citizens.”

Today he would be stunned at the staggering oppression and abuse of the Palestinian people. He could not help but see what the brilliant Palestinian intellectual Edward Said said  in 1980 about his own people,”an anti-imperialist and anticolonialist  Third World people whose basis for action includes  their own dispossession as a people as well as their opposition to racial discrimination, territorial expropriation, and military occupation.” Not to mention one of the sorest wounds to the Palestinian psyche contained in the UN  Commission  on Human rights that “No one shall be deprived of his nationality or forced to renounce his nationality as a means of divesting the right to return to his country.” The Law of Return today in Israel means  any Jew born anywhere is entitled to claim immediate Israeli citizenship and residence but no Arab can.


Buber  would have to conclude that the virulent nationalism of men like Ben Gurion had almost totally destroyed the Hebrew humanism he had championed.

While Buber was dreaming his beautiful dream so central to the heart of Judaism, men like Ben Gurion were plotting otherwise

In a famous letter to his son Amos (October 5, 1937) the cynical first Prime Minister laid out the Zionist plan:

My assumption (which is why I am a fervent proponent of a state, even though it is now linked to partition) is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning.

When we acquire one thousand or 10,000 dunams, we feel elated. It does not hurt  our feelings that by this acquisition we are not in possession of the whole land. This is because this increase in possession is of consequence not only in itself, but because through it we increase our strength, and every increase in strength helps in the possession of the land as a whole. The establishment of a state, even if only on a portion of the land, is the maximal reinforcement of our strength at the present time and a powerful boost to our historical endeavors to liberate the entire country.

We shall admit into the state all the Jews we can. We firmly believe that we can admit more than two million Jews. We shall build a multi-faceted Jewish economy– agricultural, industrial, and maritime. We shall organize an advanced defense force—a superior army which I have no doubt will be one of the best  armies in the world. At that point I am confident that we would not fail in settling in the remaining parts of the country, through agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbors, or through some other means.

Ben Gurion was the apotheosis of the blind nationalism divorced from Torah compassion.

The covetous heart: Pope Francis

November 28, 2013



The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. 

So begins the present pope’s welcome encyclical.

It has been a constant theme of mine that turbocapitalism, a capitalism run amok, one which has been overwhelmed by manipulation, advertising and the power of money, one which does not allow markets to work has almost permanently crippled the evangelical life.

It is  for this reason we hold to the wisdom of the gospels. The world of 2000 years ago was certainly radically different than ours but the human heart and the power of wealth have not changed. One of six of Jesus’s words as written in the synoptics (the first 3 gospels) are warning against what wealth will do to you.

Luke probably phrases it the best.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 16:13

Many prescient commentators, religious and secular, have pointed out the corrosion of values under this turbocapitalism. It simply breaks our solidarity with the poor, deflects our moral passion and we end up in Augustine’s words curvatus in se (bent in on ourselves)

It is an object of wonderment to me how those who most espouse the free market are blind to the depredations of consumer religion. Those in advanced capitalist countries who embrace Christianity and adore the market do not seem to understand that the Friedmanite principles they so vigorously champion in the end serve the purpose of “deregulating” the faith they say they love. In a commodified world where the advertising budgets advance seven times as fast the economy, the great hallowing out is occurring. Everything can be exchanged and consumed-even religion.

In the US the amount corporations spent marketing to children under twelve increased by five times between 1980 and 1990 and ten times more during the 1990s. In 2004 around $15 billion was being spent marketing to children. Conferences on the best ways to market to children are held all over the world. There are also awards for the best advertisements and marketing campaigns with hundreds of entries.The consumer virus is injected early and deep.

The economic juggernaut of the post war years (“The last man standing”) witnessed an explosion of consumption. 6% of the world consumes 30% of its resources. This stunning material advance however had its dark side. It turned a biblical faith into a “bland common civil religion.” With little prophetic power to analyze its own weakness or arrogance, the United States  ground zero of consumerism gradually emerged as an empire with a dis-graced culture, subverting foreign governments while ignoring the poor at home. Dogs had better diets than one quarter of the world’s poor. While critical education floundered, the majority were pacified by mass entertainment. Organized religion of all stripes  followed the people to a suburban captivity where the tribal flag had pride of place on the altar.

Catholics were not immune here. Post war abundance saw Catholics leave their immigrant status and join the economically privileged. Our  votes mirrored our location in the economic steeplechase. US Catholics  ended up voting for Reagan, the president who continuously robbed the poor and advanced the rich for whom he was a great spokesperson. Almost half the Catholic populace voted for another defender of wealth and privilege,George W Bush. And so it has gone.

The pope is on the right track here.Neoliberal RCs are about to pounce.

Climate Justice? MIA

November 19, 2013



Poland, the U.N. climate summit, known as COP 19, has entered its second week. Does anybody in Canada know about this? Has the Ford saga taken the oxygen out of our serious world?

Why s it that Democracy Now http://// and 9.5 in Toronto is  the only global daily TV-radio news hour to be broadcasting from the summit for the week. Where is CNN? Oh yeah, interviewing the Ford brothers!

And where are the Canadian  bishops? Organizing a collection  for r the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  All well and good and necessary—but nothing on the causes of climate disasters! Not good enough.

For those wishing to donate

And where is Canada, the do-nothing country with a hapless leader and pathetic environmental minister whom no journalist has access to?

On Saturday, thousands of protesters marched calling for climate justice,, the most serious moral issue confronting the human community.

Speakers from all over the world addressed the crowd, urging world leaders to take action on global warming, including climate activists from the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and organizers of a chartered train that brought more than 700 people from Belgium, Britain and France to join the demonstration. Polish activists also spoke, including residents of the village of Zurawlow, where resistance to fracking is growing despite massive shale gas concessions.

Thank Gd for Greenpeace the conscience of the climate world.It raised a banner to the point  “Who rules the world? The fossil fuel industry or the people?”

Meanwhile the Polish government has convened a conference to greenwash the use of coal!

One of the most moving speeches came from the Philipine rep Gerry Arances:

I speak in behalf of my organization, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, and in behalf of my brothers and sisters who have lost their relatives, their sons, their daughters, and those that will be orphaned and have been orphaned, and for the next generation of Filipinos whose lives will be at stake every year, every month, every day.

Today, now is the time. It’s the most painful time in our history in our country. Lives have been lost, thousands. My friends, their families are still missing. Food is lacking, water, shelter. This is the most painful year for the last 10 years in the Philippines. But this is not the only typhoon or supertyphoon that we have faced. For the past five years, we have been facing every year supertyphoons. Thousands of lives have been lost, and this is the most painful, the most powerful supertyphoon that have hit us.

The problem is, we are suffering, and my brothers and sisters are suffering, not because of their own doing, not because of our own doing. We have very small emissions. My country and the rest of the developing countries, most of us, especially from the—our brothers in Africa, have very small emissions. And yet, those that have caused this climate crisis are still pushing for more dirty and harmful energies all over the globe.

Spinoza and Spong

October 15, 2013



Baruch Spinoza, the scion of Portuguese Jews expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, was raised in that most progressive country of the 17th century Holland. A brilliant thinker  born in 1632, he outgrew the strictures of his Orthodox Jewish community and inspired by the atmosphere of freedom in Holland began to write about the Bible. Like John Spong he was way ahead of his contemporaries and paid the price for his brilliance. By the time was 23  a cherem (a writ of excommunication) was presented to him by synagogue leaders.

What Spinoza wrote of course is common coin today and accepted by all exegetes. in his Tractatus Theoloigico-Politicus (or simply the Tractatus 1670) he pointed out that the Bible is full of contradictions, that the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) did not come from the pen of God, Moses or any single author. These  books were  written over a period of time by several authors, that the Jews were not God’s chosen people, the miracles were suspect, the prophets had no ability to see into the future.

An early  child of the Enlightenment threw a powerful challenge to the established churches which he maintained kept people in darkness and intellectual bondage. He went after all concepts of theocracy. The  state was not the  representative of a divine order. he insisted on the freedom of conscience and was naive enough, even in the relatively enlightened Holland that this would protect him from the ferocious attacks which quickly came. His biblical criticism of course veered into political theory. Citizens not theocrats must own the political authority.

The firestorm which erupted was unprecedented. It can only be compared to the reaction to Darwin’s Origin of species,(1859) which still enrages fundamentalists..

Spinoza published his work anonymously and  placed its release in a foreign city Hamburg.

Dutch theologians were first off the mark with outrage—.In July 1670 one synod described the Tractatus as “a most vile and  sacrilegious book the world has ever seen”. Others  wanted “to extirpate this corrosive gangrene.” Word leaked out that Spinoza indeed was the author. all over Europe  critics vaulted over each other condemning the book. The book went through several printings and was widely distributed albeit under the counter.

It is important to note that Spinoza was no atheist. ”There is a Supreme Being who loves justice and charity and whom all must obey in order to be saved.” Sounds pretty traditional.

He barely escaped with his life. Baruch Spinoza died at age 44 probably from silicosis, the result of small glass  particles lodging in his lungs. You see Spinoza to earn his living was a master lenscrafter.

Compared to John Spong ,Spinoza was a revolutionary, an innocent who believed that truth would triumph. In biblical studies it ultimately did, yet Bishop Spong must travel with a bodyguard.


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