Archive for July 2012

Corrupt religion and a brave cardinal

July 31, 2012

Carmen Aguirre has written a powerful memoir about her life as a Chilena in exile, The daughter of Chilean resisters who fled to Canada after the Pinochet coup in 1973. It is called Revolutionary Daughter: Something Fierce (Douglas and) Mcintyre).Reading the book which was given a boost as part of CBC’s Radio One Canada Reads series, one wonders how this young woman, dragged from pillar to post,from Canada to Latin America and back ended up sane. It is an amazing story of both principled resistance to an evil regime but our capacity to survive.

I thought I’d heard almost everything about corrupt religion until I read about the failed attempt on Pinochet’s life in 1987.

Here’s a new low in chutzpah.

The dictadura, the harshest of brutal murderers, the torturer and executioner, the destroyer of democracy in his native country actually had the cojones to state that the Virgin had saved him from assassination! Madre mio, what’s been done in that poor Palestinian peasant’s name!

Pinochet actually went on TV several times to show how the gunfire made the shape of the Virgin on the window of his “Bulletproof” car. Yes, the Virgin, seemingly unemployed at the time,came to him in the form of bullets which could never penetrate his flesh!

Yes, another “devout Catholic.” He actually bragged about this.

Well history finally caught up to this murderer and to the USA and Kissinger who helped plot Salvador Allende’s removal.

The lost story of course are how JP ll helped mitigate the blacklist of exiles and how the brave Santiago cardinal Raul  Silva resisted this dark period in Chile’s history. Silva was an amazing prelate.For his bravery in the time of silence he  was awarded the UN Human Right Prize in 1978 Five years later .he was asked to resign by John Paul ll.

Next to JP’s humiliation of Oscar Romero, this was one of the pope’s worst gaffes in Latin America.

When Silva died in 1997, the people remembered  his Vicariate of Solidarity and his constant opposition to Pinochet.  5 days of mourning were declared by the government. of Chile.

Irrelevant churches

July 30, 2012

In the basement or vestibule of churches you learn a lot.

Maybe even at the back of the church.

In the Catholic cathedral in Charleston I took one look at the literature at the back and concluded I was in another irrelevant church. The same old, same old blather about abortion as the only issue. Add to the mix the same in house navel gazing which focuses on the church and not God’s reign.

Jim Wallis’s comment rings true: You must ask yourself this question about every church meeting.Is this part of a movement? If not it is basically irrelevant. One must be radically linked to the struggle for the common good.

Yesterday i was cheered by the bulletin board in an old United Church where my grandson was having a birthday party..

There were items one would never see in a Catholic Church, namely an outreach to gay and lesbian teens, an invitation to go to the Holy Land and really see what is happening on the ground to the Palestinian people.None of this pious nonsense about “walking where Jesus walked”, basically an earth fetish which bypasses the present historical reality and substitutes sentimental escapism.Warm fuzzies  over a rock Jesus may have stood near but no solidarity with the besieged Palestinians where Jesus actually locates himself as he does with all the marginales.

I love walking by Toronto’s United Churches, many of which openly challenge the culture, inviting people “to do justice.” You’d never see basic prophetic utterances outside Catholic Churches.

And then you have writers like the Globe’s Margaret Wente ridiculing the United Church because of declining enrollment as if this were any indication of gospel fidelity or real Christianity. The decline of liberal Christianity is easy to understand. people shrink from the biblical prophetic.
Any real religion which places the Cross, the identification with history’s outcast at the heart of its mission is not going to be very popular, After all the prophets including Jesus never gave the people what they wanted, but what they needed. Following Jesus or living the alternative  biblical faith is no bed of’s much easier as Thomas Munzer said in the 16th century “to gorge yourself on the Honey-sweet Christ” than risk criticism much less crucifixion and unpopularity. Look at the pathetic state of organized Christianity in the USA where  the Cross and the flag are joined at the hip. The nonviolent Jesus is a stranger in these churches—the American societal violence is epidemic, the gap between the rich and poor the widest in the world, and it is the world leader in social pathologies. What  kind of Christianity lives here? A very pale imitation.

Long ago most Catholic churches ceased to be salt in the culture, risk takers of any kind. Slowly the institutional church has disengaged from any prophetic critique of the culture, gradually it has left the Vatican ll vision behind. Charity, yes, justice hardly ever.

The latest fiasco is the Catholic bishops inviting Tory Jason Kenney to be the keynote speaker at their annual convocation.Will they roast this  spokesman for the govenment’s shocling inattention to climate change? Its  stunning policies justifyong everything Israel does? Its truly awful failure to amend the tax code and make corporations pay their fair share. Don’t hold your breath

I got more hope in that United Church basement yesterday.Christians at least were engaging the culture.Oh yeah, there was a sign up sheet for the regular Saturday breakfast feeding.

Denial: not a river in Africa

July 26, 2012

Denial is not a river in Africa but the Clerics in the RC church are still obsessing on pelvic oerthodoxy

Bill McKibben ( writes in Rolling Stone:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.

Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.


Penn State and Sportsworld

July 25, 2012

The Star ran pictures of shock as students listened to the hard judgement of the NCAA over the Joe Paterno affair.$60 million dollar fine and kicked out of competition for four years, a cut in number of scholarships they could offer

Jerry Sandusky was a former member of Paterno’s coaching staff,who sexually abuses  was found guilty in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years sometimes on campus. The revelations were either concealed  or bypassed by officials.

Joe Paterno was a legendary coach who only retired in his mid 80s. But Joe Paterno was caught in Sportsworld, that parallel universe which exists in the USA.

To many Joe was a decent guy who demanded much from his athletes, but nobody remembers Joe challenging any of social ills of our age. Joe  had a sweet deal. He produced winning teams, made a huge salary—over $1 million a year with everything in. A football coach at a university. That salary plus the adulation put Joe to sleep as a moral agent. And he was one of the “good ones.”

That is Sportsworld where coaches make more than presidents of academic institutions, where alumni pony up millions to help recruit teen age gladiators and tell Joe Paterno how great he was.

And now Joe’s statue has been removed from the campus. Sic transit gloria mundi.

That is part of the sickness of America. People are supposed to care if Penn beats Ohio State.They may or may not vote but boy do they support  their football teams.

In OHIO there are over 50 universities. Can you imagine the education you get in these places And the role that sport plays?

And it filters down to high schools where thousands flock on Friday night to see the inherent cruelty of teen agers maiming others.

Sportsworld—part of the reason Americans are not in the streets  demanding the heads of the banksters.Trvial pursuits.

Sportsworld—the bible would call it idolatry.

Don’t expect Penn State to be a wake up call. The sickness is too deep

Tinker Creek

July 23, 2012

“I thought i would not need to breathe for days.’ So writes Annie Dillard in her classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

She writes about the epiphany she had in the simple act of watching the elusive muskrat near her home in Tinker Creek ,just outside Roanoke, Virginia.The book is a classic of patient  observation and deep appreciation, often with theological musings.

Imagine the joy of such a glorious experience.

For the next five pages Dillard who won the Pulitzer prize (1975) stuns us with the miraculous lives of the common muskrat. She tells us stunning things she has learned simply through her observations and study of nature.

Dillard is one of those rare birds like Thoreau and John Muir who call attention to the daily miracle of life in the biotic and animal realms.

While I was reading this stunning passage I was walking on the eastern boardwalk of the Beaches, part of my daily regimen.

I watch as people are constantly checking emails apparently unable to get through the day without incessantly looking at  these inconsequential flares and Facebook.

“Monkey mind” as the Buddhists call it is destroying  our appreciation of the  natural world and our place in it.Jumping from one piece of ephemera to the next, we are indeed like monkeys swinging wildly from branch to branch,”distracted from distraction by distraction” (Eliot).W#e are unable to  think, observe or savour the ordinary things of life.We are forever missing the many-splendoured thing as we admire our pictures on Faceook or flip to social websites mostly full of self-absorption or trivia.

We are in desperate need of resouling.

Canada’s social demolition

July 18, 2012

The Harper government continues to tear asunder the Canadian consensus, the longstanding idea that Canada was a different country than the USA, that we honoured the common good over the hyper-individualism of our neighbour to the south.

The mantra of the Harperites is plain: we can’t continue to fund the social programs which have defined our orientation as an interventionist government, one which was not afraid to challenge market mania as the arbiter of our values.

The bad news we now  see is that the formerly respected Canada ranks 22nd out 30 OECD countries in our social spending. A government has consciously decided to spend our collective wealth elsewhere—as in  the outrageous plan to purchase those jets.Who are we defending against? $25 billion for F-25 fighters? Harper so avidly wants to play with the big boys,aka the United States.

We have enough  money in this blessed land to reduce poverty, to create affordable day care etc.We choose not to.

The most shocking news is the federal corporate tax rate has been slashed from 28% in 2000 to 18% in 2010. Some of this of course  has been that of a  Liberal  government,Suffice to say Jim Flaherty,Harper’s economic acolyte has been positively evangelical about dropping the corporate rate. No jobs of course eventuated.

Read this and weep: This has cost us $745 billion in the past decade.

The Canadian dream is being eviscerated. Social needs are not being met.

On our local scene we have the man born with the silver spoon Rob Ford aiding in social demolition.

Bishops should promote freedom in the Church

July 10, 2012

While in Boston attending mass last week  at the Paulist Centre i picked up a copy of the truly mediocre Boston diocesan paper, the Pilot.I am glad I leafed through it after mass instead of before.It would have been an occasion of sin to read such nonsense, in particular the Boston cardinal O’Malley promoting the ill-advised Catholic bishops “heroic” fight against the use of condoms in catholic institutions.They called this a Fortnight of Freedom.

This sad campaign ranks up there with the Toronto cardinal’s attempt to halt gay/lesbian clubs in Catholic schools.As a friend asked, “Is this the hill we want to die on?”

When are these putative leaders  going to rally the troops around the gospel and the common good.They are thinking way too small and decidedly parochial.

No sooner did I gel home when I saw an editorial  from ARCC (Association for the Rights in the Catholic Church) on the above issue.It echoes my sentiments exactly.

Fortnight of Freedom

 Catholic Heroes of Religious Liberty


The American Catholic bishops, charging that religious liberty is under attack, have proposed that the two-week period from June 21 to July 4 be dedicated to a Fortnight of Freedom, emphasizing prayer, education and public action. 


Their summons seems hypocritical, however, when it is evident that they ignore the sensus fidei or sense of the faith professed by the People of God (Lumen Gentium 35) and trample on the rights of conscience of those who disagree with them. When they speak of religious liberty one may well ask: Religious liberty for whom? The bishops? Or all the Catholic people?

In observance of the Fortnight of Freedom Catholics may wish to dedicate each day to those Catholic theologians and leaders who have been bullied, threatened, silenced, or wrongfully excommunicated by the pope, the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF), and the bishops. The following are worthy of being so honored:

Exactly. When will these narrow minde  clerics pay attention  and honour the senus fidei of the Cathloic people.We want leadership on global warming, minimum wage, the gap between the rich and the poor.