Friday, October 5, 2018

"Church Manual to Prevent Sex Abuse Sets Off Outrage of Its Own" By Pascale Bonnefoy

  • SANTIAGO, Chile — "The manual, published by the Archbishop’s office of Santiago, Chile, said that it was inappropriate to “pat the buttocks or touch the genital area or chest” of minors.

It recommended that members of the clergy refrain from a host of actions, ranging from “laying next to or sleeping with children or adolescents” to giving massages, wrestling and “hugging from behind.” Also on the list of prohibited activities: “kissing on the mouth.”
The guidelines, detailed in a document posted to the church’s website last week, were withdrawn two days later, on Sept. 29.
Chileans were outraged, in part because the guidelines never described the behavior as sexual abuse. They have watched the Catholic Church hierarchy struggle to atone and regain the trust of the faithful after decades of sexual abuse and concealment. The guidelines reflect “a brutal lack of understanding of the limits that a pastoral guide must have regarding children and adolescents,” she said.
Over the past few months, the Chilean Public Prosecutor’s Office has raided church offices in Santiago, the capital, and across the country, uncovering files with accusations of abuses that were never turned over to the authorities. This evidence has led to the opening of 119 cases involving 178 potential victims.
In the past two decades, 44 Chilean clergy members have been condemned for abuse by the Vatican or the courts. An additional investigation into clerical abuse was ordered by Pope Francis in January.
Earlier that month, he had visited Chile and mounted a spirited defense of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, whom abuse victims accused of protecting the country’s most notorious pedophile priest, Fernando Karadima. This set off a storm of recriminations.
In an about-face that was welcomed by his supporters, Francis issued an apology and then the following month sent the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigators to Chile to look into the accusations against Bishop Barros. The investigators probed more widely and found evidence of a decades-old “culture of abuse” and concealment within the Chilean church.
In April, Francis invited three of Mr. Karadima’s victims to the Vatican and a month later summoned the entire Bishops Conference to Rome, where they all offered to resign.
The timing of the publication of the guidelines against sexual abuse by the office of the Archbishop of Santiago could not have been worse. Signed by Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the document was posted online just a day before Pope Francis defrocked Mr. Karadima.
Cardinal Ezzati himself is being investigated on accusations of covering up abuses. This week, prosecutors in the city of Rancagua summoned him for questioning, but Cardinal Ezzati exercised his right to remain silent, on his lawyers’ recommendation. It is unclear what the next steps will be in his case.
In issuing a brief apology, the archbishop said that the nine-page manual was intended to prevent clerical abuse by detailing behavior that was unacceptable for lay or ordained members of the church toward children, teenagers or people with disabilities. The document also warned priests against offering money or gifts to children without parental consent, transporting minors in a vehicle without the presence of another adult and looking at or taking photos of children or teenagers when they are nude, taking a shower or getting dressed. 

“Any sexually explicit or pornographic material is absolutely inadmissible,” said the guidelines.
The manual also covered a variety of other matters, like the safety and supervision of minors, assistance to the vulnerable, the use of technology and spiritual guidance.
The archbishop’s office said in a statement that the guidelines, which were drafted by the church’s Council for Abuse Prevention, had followed international standards but it also acknowledged problems with the text.
“We will correct certain contents that were translated too literally and are inappropriate or may be misinterpreted,” the statement said. “We apologize and will publish a new version promptly.”


Around Synod of Bishops, Women Press for Greater Space by Claire Giangravè

Members of the women's ordination conference stage a 'singing' protest on the occasion of the opening of synod, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.)
ROME - Women meeting around the edges of an Oct. 3-28 summit of bishops in Rome trying to press the Church, seemingly sometimes against all odds, to open up greater space for female leadership had a consistent message: “We’re not giving up our dream.”
While getting more women to have a say in the Church may appear a Quixotic quest, speakers at the event insisted on making it a reality.
“One issue I would really like [the synod of bishops] to discuss is inequality and sexism, not just outside the Church but also within,” said Zuzanna Radzik, a Polish Catholic theologian advocating for greater inclusion in the Church.
“[Sexism] kills dreams, damages lives,” she said.
The event, called “Discerning Women, Voices outside the Synod,” took place Oct. 4 at Santa Maria alle Fornaci in Rome, not too far from the Vatican.
“While bishops continue the kind of closed-off clericalism that has brought the Church to its current state, Women’s Ordination Conference is showing that there is another, better way to dream a future for Catholics,” reads a flier for the event.
Participants and organizers at the conference also took part in a sit-in at the Vatican on Wednesday, where they called bishops and Pope Francis by name to “let women vote!” before being ushered away by Italian police.
“I would love to see them invite young women,” said Jaqueline Straub, a German millennial who felt called to the priesthood at the age of 15. Since then, Straub has been advocating and writing books on women’s vocation to the priesthood.
In her latest book, Kick the Church out of the Coma, Straub, who was born in 1990, addressed young people and called the inaccessibility of women to the priesthood a “violation of the fundamental equality of all faithful through baptism enshrined by the Second Vatican Council.”
“My greatest dream would come true if this possibility were given to me,” she said. “Without young people there is no future for the Church, and without women there is no future for the Church,” she said.
Many called the exclusion of women as voting members at the synod terribly one-sided.
“I can’t think of anything that would clash more with young adults today than the patriarchal system we have in the Church today,” said Jamie Manson a writer and editor at the National Catholic Reporter.
“The result of the synod will be insignificant for many young people,” she added.
Manson pointed to the wide variety of access and opportunities to speak out that social media and the internet offers young women today, asserting that the Church offers inadequate platforms for them to engage - resulting, she said, in an exodus of youth from the Catholic faith.
“Stop making obstacles between God and God’s beloved people,” Manson said she wished to tell bishops, adding that the Church’s approach to sexuality “is ultimately what needs to be dismantled.”
According to Manson, who received a master’s degree in divinity at Yale University, the Church today is in desperate need of great priests, capable of facing the massive challenges facing Catholicism, and that much of the human potential available to the Church is not being tapped because women are ineligible.
“We need the best among us, the most gifted, the most compassionate,” she said. “Seminaries and vocational schools are bursting with women. There is no lack of women desperate to serve the Church and there is no space for them.”
Their parishes don’t want them, there are no jobs for them,” she added.
To male and female Catholics alike who object to ordaining women because of the danger of clericalism, saying that access to power for women would only entrench them in the flawed structures that already trouble the Church, Manson said “women are fierce” and won’t be intimidated by power structures.
Further inclusion within the Church of dissonant voices is not just limited to women, said Paola Lazzarini, an Italian sociologist and author of the “Manifesto for Women in the Church.” Instead, she said, it includes other communities often left at the margins such as LGBT people. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “But the iceberg is really big.”

"Cultural Change: Married priests, female priests" by Charles Kelliher

"As an ordained Roman Catholic priest of more than 59 years — 12 years as a celibate priest and now 47 years as a married priest — I would like to share these observations about the sexual scandal found among some priests in the Catholic Church.
There is a real need for cultural change in the Roman Catholic Church. Leaders of the church cannot be serious about remedying this crisis unless they address the issue of the treatment of all women as equals in the Catholic Church. There are two main issues of the Roman Catholic culture that need to be changed.
The first issue is the need to return to the practice set up by our Lord of calling both married and single persons to ministry and priesthood in the church. For more than 1,100 years priests in the Catholic Church were able to marry or remain single if they so chose. It was after the imposition of the man-made rule of obligatory celibacy — remaining single — for all priests that there developed widespread sexual immorality and infidelity among priests in the Roman Catholic Church. This immorality contributed to the Protestant reformation a few centuries later.
God created the human species as male and female and they have bonded as husband and wife since creation. This bonding is natural, and, when you prohibit something that is natural, you are going to have problems. In the marriage relationship, lovemaking is both natural — designed by God — and blessed by God as a way of growing in the love of your spouse and of God. It also is the natural way, God’s way, of bringing new life into the world.
What often is overlooked and not mentioned is that lovemaking with your spouse also is a way designed by God to reduce or quiet passion. Passion also is a beautiful and God-given gift to every person to bring them to desire lovemaking with their spouse. The married priest or married minister of any faith has this beautiful gift of lovemaking with their spouse, growing in deeper love of their spouse, deeper love of their God and also receiving a quieting of their passions. The single priest or minster does not have this gift or blessing to quiet their passions when faced with the arousing of passion because of life experiences.
It is my conviction that this thwarting of nature is a contributing cause to the problem of sexual abuse among priests in the Roman Catholic Church. It is not the only reason, but it is one of the contributing factors. Men and women look naturally for closeness and intimacy as found in marriage. To frustrate this natural expression of love is to cause problems for the single individual.
In the United States at the current time it has been reported that more than 25,000 Roman Catholic priests have left the active ministry in order to marry. The number exceeds 125,000 worldwide. Most, like myself, would have stayed in and ministered in the active church ministry had we been able to follow our God-given vocation to marry and also minister in the active ministry.
The second area of cultural change that needs to take place in the Roman Catholic Church is the allowing of all women members to be ordained to all levels of priesthood and ministry. My reading of sacred Scripture and church history point out that women led liturgies in their homes during the first centuries.
Our Lord chose Mary Magdalene to proclaim the resurrection to the early church community. She was the apostle to the apostles. There are women in the Catholic Church who verbalize that they prayerfully discern that they have a vocation to be a priest minister in the Catholic Church. It is time to end this discrimination and unequal treatment and let them be ordained. I have attended, over the years, several church services led by women in other denominations. Women ministers bring an insight and empathy to such ministry that is commendable and different from men.
When women are not given the same opportunities as men, they are looked upon as not equal as their male counterparts. Women have told me that they feel this inequality to their fellow male human beings. When men feel and act superior to women, they often act out those feelings by taking advantage of or abusing women and others who are considered not equal to themselves.
Over the years I have known and still know many good and faithful Roman Catholic priests. Some never have felt a call to marriage as well as priesthood, while others struggle to this day with a call to marriage, family and also the vocation to priesthood.
It is time to return to the practice and example of Our Lord of allowing both married men and single persons to enter the priesthood and also to treat all women as equal in answering their call to serve in the ministry of priesthood.

Day 4 Superimposing Images; A Woman at the Center; Women Carry Out Their Own Synod, Report by: Deborah Rose-Milavec Executive Director of Future Church

At the first press briefing for the Synod, the optics were impressive -- a image selling the promise of the finer things to come. The Synod briefing process has historically been informed by prelates, seated on stage in their finery. 

But today, it included four lay persons, with one woman seated center stage, and one archbishop seated to the far right.  

Impressive indeed.

Giving their comments on the happenings of the Synod today were Joseph Cao Huu Ming Tri of Saigon, apparently the youngest participant at the Synod; Chiara Giaccardi, a professor of Media Sociology and Anthropology, who has been appointed as a council secretary; Paolo Ruffini, the first lay appointed prefect of a Vatican dicastery, the Dicastery for Communications; and, Archbishop Carlos Jose Tissera of Quilmes, Argentina. Greg Burke (to the far left), who is the lay director of the Holy See Press Office, was also on stage taking questions and directing traffic.

We learned that there were 27 presentations given with spaces for quiet reflection after every 5 or 6. There was only one presentation given by a young Catholic, and that looks to be the pattern for the next several weeks.

The press briefing presentations were pretty standard fare with the most passionate response coming from Chiara Giacarrdi, who spoke of the urgent need for reform in the Church and in the synodal process.

Professor Giacarrdi spoke of the "Copernican Revolution" that the church is undergoing. She noted the significance of a conversion of becoming a listening Church.

This Copernican revolution "starts by listening to real things", stated Giacarrdi. She was emphatic in her belief that it is "pointless to talk about ideals, but the real church." For Giacarrdi, the only authority is concrete realities. By talking about them the Church can avoid dualistic thinking that separates us from each other and from ourselves.

On that list of concrete experiences that should serve as the foundation for all synod discussions are

  • The points of views of migrants who "have to accept jobs that are humiliating."
  • Sexuality - not as an enemy of person - as a dimension of the human life that needs to be cultivated.
  • The training of priests
  • The diversifying of decision making authority within the Church

Giacarrdi finished with a call to let young people be the authors of their lives, to let our language betray the beauty of our love for each other, and to find concrete ways to incorporate the authority of young women and men in church decision making bodies.

For Giacarrdi, only when we infuse the Church with the fresh thinking and fresh faith of our younger adults will the Church be rejuvenated.

The question and answer period, usually the most interesting part of any press briefing, yielded a few really good questions.

Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked if clergy sex abuse was a major theme throughout the day.

Paolo Ruffini answered that it was one of the themes, but not the main theme. He said, the "theme of betrayal" came up, but it included, not only clergy sex abuse, but our failure to support and welcome migrants. Ruffini suggested that the most moving portraits were those given by migrants who face desperate conditions.

He said that many in leadership admitted that the Church "has not done enough" to overcome its failings in the clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal or in prioritizing the needs of migrants.

He emphasized, "We need for forgiveness for failing to understand."

He also emphasized that the synod should not be an attempt to "domesticate the young" but to let their voices and experiences inform every aspect of the final document. 


Discerning Women: Voices Outside the Synod

Kate McElwee, Executive Director of Women's Ordination Conference organized another synod panel -- this one with four women -- meant to show there is another, better way to "dream the future for Catholics."

The panelists included Jamie Manson, columnist for the National Catholic Reporter; Zuzanna Radzik, a Catholic theologian and journalist from Warsaw, Poland; Paola Lazzarini, Ph.d., a sociologist and journalist who wrote the "Manifesto for Women for the Church (Donne Per La Chiesa)"; and, Jacqueline Straub, journalist from Germany who spoke about her calling to be a priest.

The panel discussed some of the issues particular to their regions while taking up larger issues such as the inequality that serves as the foundation for the Church's teaching on complementarity. A common theme was the alienation of women from the Church and the efforts being made to overcome that alienation by creating new, safe places of refuge and nurture for all those who have been pushed out.

All four women are, "Staying in but speaking out", a social media campaign that has been gaining strength as women call for equal access to decision making bodies at the synod and elsewhere. It is good to know they are in the struggle for full equality in the Church.

There is wisdom at the margins. 

Let's face it, even if the optics at the press briefings are superimposed to make the synod look more legitimate, what matters is who decides and what is decided. 

And if Pope Francis and his allies are serious about the needs of our youth, they will tap into the wisdom of women, young and old, calling them back, even as they turn their backs on an institution that has too often betrayed them. 

Just as we have learned from our foremothers in faith, we will continue to shape our tradition with love and wisdom. And yes, we will carry on with with the determination of Mary of Magdala and Catherine of Siena, crying out the Good News that women can and do claim their call to share all their gifts with God's beloved people. 

Report by:
Deborah Rose-Milavec
Executive Director

The Parables of Jesus, with Amy-Jill Levine, Outstanding Scholarship, Highly Recommended

Brett Kavanaugh Hates Women - Natalie Shure (Jacobin) The Cruelty Is the Point - Adam Serwer (The Atlantic) Brett Kavanaugh Hates Women By Natalie Shure September 27, 2018 Jacobin

If the cultural script for pushing back against sexual assault allegations has become depressingly familiar, it makes for especially grim viewing when the swing vote of the US Supreme Court hangs in the balance.
The women who have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault have been subjected to degrading smears and outright dismissal. Christine Blasey Ford — who alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly attempted to rape her in high school — was forced to flee her home after receiving a barrage of threats. Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh nonconsensually thrust his genitals in her face while at Yale, was widely mocked for being drunk and having a spotty memory of the incident. After Julie Swetnick issued a sworn affidavit describing a series of prep school gang rapes, Kavanaugh himself dismissed the account as “ridiculous and from the twilight zone.” And while Ford is set to testify about the alleged incidents before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, the committee vote is still scheduled for tomorrow — hardly the behavior of a party that takes sexual assault seriously. (Uncomfortable with the optics of interrogating the women themselves, the all-male Republican contingent has tapped a female lawyer to handle the questioning.)
The seat Kavanaugh stands to inherit is widely regarded as the decisive vote on the Supreme Court. His confirmation would hand the Right control of the nation’s highest court for a generation. Given the stakes — and the looming midterm elections that could reverse Republicans’ slim majority — the GOP is clearly desperate to confirm Kavanaugh, no matter how painful or credible the testimonies of his accusers might be.
Even before allegations of sexual violence came to light, the battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation centered on gender justice. Much coverage rightfully focused on the fate of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion and whose reversal would almost certainly result in untold numbers of compulsory pregnancies. But the Right’s contempt for women goes far beyond indifference toward sexual assault and reproductive rights — it’s an inherent, defining characteristic of Kavanaugh’s ideology, and that of the political movement that groomed him.
The assumption that Kavanaugh would enthusiastically strike down Roe is based on the fact that he was plucked directly from a list furnished by the Federalist Society — an ultraconservative, billionaire-backed network of lawyers dedicated to shoving legal thought rightward and serving as a pipeline for clerkships and judicial appointments. Beyond the organization’s alignment with social conservative causes like the anti-choice movement, its chief goal is to entrench property rights as inviolable. As Michael Avery, author of The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals, put it in a radio interview, “[They] oppose anything that would interfere with rich people’s God-given right to do whatever they want with their property.”
One thing that interferes with rich people’s dominion over their wealth is women’s autonomy: for women to have freedom, the unpaid care roles they disproportionately perform (and which sustain society) must be equitably distributed across it. This means socializing basic needs and building rich social support systems in common — which requires redistributing large amounts of the property the Federalist Society was invented to protect. Without a robust welfare state, the burden of care and survival falls squarely on individuals and families, forcing anyone who isn’t wealthy to balance the simultaneous need to generate wages with the other necessary tasks of life.
In the Federalist Society’s ideal world, capitalists would have no obligation to chip in for healthcare or childbirth costs, maternity leave or childcare — constraining women’s life choices while at the same time making them poorer. Shouldering such challenges is clearly easier with a spouse or larger family network, but this can also force dependence on a romantic partner and facilitate abuse. In short, the Federalist Society’s ideology subordinates women by imposing staggering personal costs simply for being one — and even favors striking down the ruling that mandates pregnancy be voluntary.
The Federalist Society’s agenda has made inroads in recent years. Its judges were instrumental in blocking Medicaid expansion in Republican-controlled states, leaving millions of poor women without critical health care. Kavanaugh himself has ruled repeatedly in lower courts against workers rights, consumer protections, and government oversight — all of which empower business and the people who grow rich from it at the expense of everyone else. And whenever workers are structurally forced to incur more suffering for the benefit of their bosses, that trauma is thrust onto women, who disproportionately step up to mitigate the social consequences.
And so it happens that there are no good conservatives — and certainly no feminist ones. It is quite literally impossible to engineer a world where private property is sacrosanct — its spoils monopolized, the institutions that could protect everyone else’s livelihoods destroyed — without also generating mass pain. Conservative ideology handles this problem by individualizing its cause: if you’re struggling to pay for a tough-to-access abortion or take care of your kids, it’s your fault. And if pain happens to be unevenly distributed by class, race, or sex, it’s your fault too. Is it any wonder that Brett Kavanaugh and his ilk revile women as much as they do?
So as jarring and upsetting as it is to watch the GOP attempt to ram through the lifetime appointment of a probable sex criminal to the highest court, the things Kavanaugh stands accused of are hardly at odds with his judicial philosophy. Protecting ruling class interests amid widespread precarity requires an inverted semblance of justice. It’s victim-blaming, and it’s anti-feminist — no matter how many girls’ basketball teams you coach in your free time.
Natalie Shure is a TV producer and writer whose work has appeared in the Atlantic, Slate, Pacific Standard and elsewhere.
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By Adam Serwer
October 3, 2018
The Atlantic
Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and Me Too movement,   speaking to the crowd during a campaign rally at Freedom Hall in Johnson City, Tennessee. President Trump held the rally to support Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.
Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images  // Associated Press/WKRN
The Museum of African-American History and Culture is in part a catalog of cruelty. Amid all the stories of perseverance, tragedy, and unlikely triumph are the artifacts of inhumanity and barbarism: the child-size slave shackles, the bright red robes of the wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, the recordings of civil-rights protesters being brutalized by police.
The artifacts that persist in my memory, the way a bright flash does when you close your eyes, are the photographs of lynchings. But it’s not the burned, mutilated bodies that stick with me. It’s the faces of the white men in the crowd. There’s the photo of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana in 1930, in which a white man can be seen grinning at the camera as he tenderly holds the hand of his wife or girlfriend. There’s the undated photo from Duluth, Minnesota, in which grinning white men stand next to the mutilated, half-naked bodies of two men lashed to a post in the street—one of the white men is straining to get into the picture, his smile cutting from ear to ear. There’s the photo of a crowd of white men huddled behind the smoldering corpse of a man burned to death; one of them is wearing a smart suit, a fedora hat, and a bright smile.
Read Adam Serwer on why the Supreme Court is headed back to the 19th century
The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track. This week alone, the news broke that the Trump administration was seeking to ethnically cleanse more than 193,000 American children of immigrants whose temporary protected status had been revoked by the administration, that the Department of Homeland Security had lied about creating a database of children that would make it possible to unite them with the families the Trump administration had arbitrarily destroyed, that the White House was considering a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students, and that it would deny visas to the same-sex partners of foreign officials. At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.
Ford testified to the Senate, utilizing her professional expertise to describe the encounter, that one of the parts of the incident she remembered most was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge laughing at her as Kavanaugh fumbled at her clothing. “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Ford said, referring to the part of the brain that processes emotion and memory, “the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.” And then at Tuesday’s rally, the president made his supporters laugh at her.
Further reading: The most striking thing about Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford
Even those who believe that Ford fabricated her account, or was mistaken in its details, can see that the president’s mocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that she would not be believed, can now look to the president to see her fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty toward women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are smiling not merely because of what they have done, but because they have done it together.
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant childrenseparated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.
Read Adam Serwer on the realization of Trumpism
Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.
The laughter undergirds the daily spectacle of insincerity, as the president and his aides pledge fealty to bedrock democratic principles they have no intention of respecting. The president who demanded the execution of five black and Latino teenagers for a crime they didn’t commit decrying “false accusations,” when his Supreme Court nominee stands accused; his supporters who fancy themselves champions of free speech meet references to Hillary Clinton or a woman whose only crime was coming forward to offer her own story of abuse with screams of “Lock her up!” The political movement that elected a president who wanted to ban immigration by adherents of an entire religion, who encourages police to brutalize suspects, and who has destroyed thousands of immigrant families for violations of the law less serious than those of which he and his coterie stand accused, now laments the state of due process.
This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only the president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.
Further reading: The logical fallacy of Christine Blasey Ford’s “choice”
A blockbuster New York Times investigation on Tuesday reported that President Trump’s wealth was largely inherited through fraudulent schemes, that he became a millionaire while still a child, and that his fortune persists in spite of his fumbling entrepreneurship, not because of it. The stories are not unconnected. The president and his advisers have sought to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense; they have attempted to corrupt federal law-enforcement agencies to protect themselves and their cohorts, and they have exploited the nation’s darkest impulses in the pursuit of profit. But their ability to get away with this fraud is tied to cruelty.
Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.
Adam Serwer is a staff writer at The Atlantic, covering politics.

Call to Action: Contact information for Senators Who Will Decide the Judge Kavanaugh's Nomination to Supreme Court

  • Senator Susan Collins (Maine): 207-613-0787
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska): 866-719-5945
  • Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia): 304-244-2672
  • Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona): 928-295-6348

A Prayer for Integrity and Justice as the Senate Decides Judge Kavanaugh's Fitness for the Supreme Court, Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

I cry out in deep love in solidarity with Dr. Ford and all survivors of abuse. I affirm their courage in sharing their stories, and pledge action on their behalf going forward.  I pray for all abusers that they may stop inflicting pain on others. 
In this hour of darkness, I pray for wisdom and courage for our political leaders as they decide Judge Kavanaugh's fitness for the Supreme Court. 
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"A Saint for Our Times: A Woman RC Priest’s Reflections on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi" by Judy Lee RCWP

Humble St. Francis of Assisi whose Feast day is today is a Saint for our times. If there could be a Saint named to intercede for the Environment, for Sister Mother Earth, all of earth’s creatures, and for a rebuilt and renewed church, it would be Francis of Assisi. Probably Francis and all gentle saints both named and unnamed by the church are already praying for the preservation of God’s beautiful and boundless creation. Perhaps they are praying for each one of us to “do something” to save our planet and all residing in and on it, for action is needed now more than ever even as it was needed in Francis’ 12th Century world of Umbria and Assisi, and all around it. And, surely, they are praying for the conversion and return to God of a church where sexual abuse, inequity, and the abuse of money is becoming better known than the Gospel.
Francis, or Francesco as his well to do merchant father renamed him for his love of France, was a “highborn” and spoiled young man who won the favor of all he knew for his affable and party loving ways. He actively pursued dreams of being a warrior and nobility, not of being a holy saint.Yet, something happened to change Francesco. When he was 25 he had a dream in which he heard God’s voice telling him “it was all wrong” and asking him “Francis, repair my church”. church”. At first he thought God meant the dilapidated building where his village worshiped. So he did that only to learn that was not what the dream meant. This use of money angered his father and he had to pay it back and then he was disinherited. Francis was surprisingly relieved by this and, listening to his call from God,began a life of prayer and letting go of all material goods to share with the poor and infirm, and all of God’s creatures, whom he cared for with the same strong energy he used in dissipation in his former life. The hallmark of his actions was respect and love for all creatures great and small, for animals and birds, the infirm and beggars as well as the highborn and the pope. Equal love and respect. Wow! What a beautiful yet difficult lesson that is for us. Not all who follow the way of Francis will choose radical poverty as he did, but many can try to “give it all away”. And ,as for the conversion of the soul needed to live in simplicity and holiness as the poor and sick and all creatures are served, it can be a life long process. But to follow the Gospel in loving and showing respect to all, ALL- great and small- with equanimity is simply to live the Gospel as Jesus lived and preached it. It is that simple and that difficult. Most of all it is not an ascetic road, but one that demands actual action and hard work. Francis “got” what Jesus taught and lived: to love all of God’s creation and creatures, one must give one’s very self away. Francis ended his life chronically and terminally ill and blind and worn out from serving the poor, the sick and all of God’s creatures. He did not gain material comfort or ascend to nirvana or higher consciousness. He worked hard at serving his beloved God and all of creation until he died at 45. But for Francis, death was welcomed as freedom and unity with his beloved God and Christ.( For more about Francis one might see: ).
Francis wrote his famous Canticle of the Sun or Laudes Creaturarum- Canticle of Creatures when he was suffering his last illness and facing death. He says “Be praised, my Lord through….Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Fire, Sister Water, Sister Mother Earth and all of God’s creatures,and finally through Sister Death.” He praised God through all life and through its natural ending- called the first death, but advised that the the “second death”, or life cut off from God after death, can not harm God’s beloved who love and serve God and all of creation and will be united with God in dying here. His is an action and love filled spirituality. He also said” it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we live”. He urged us to “start by doing what is necessary;then do what is possible;and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. I think of Rev. Judy Beaumont who lived a life of service her entire life, serving and blessing others until the last few days of her life when she could do no more. Her life of selfless service and love was a Francis life although she served 35 of her years as a Benedictine Sister, and the last 6 years as a RC woman priest. And her surrendering finally to Sister Death into Life was what Francis was talking about.
And we need to do the “impossible” now, we are reminded that here and now our earth, our planet, is in peril; wars and conflict rage on; human poverty and senseless illness and death is on the increase; water and resources for life are destroyed; and there is cruelty and abuse to both children and animals that is on a scale that is hard to fathom. And,what should be a powerful vehicle for changing this, the church,is in crisis and shame in the realities of sexual abuse on such a wide scale while married men and women are still not able to “officially” be ordained priests to serve God’s precious people. We have a new Francis, our Pope, whose heart is in the right place to have an impact on all of this, but who is hampered by the realities of the Roman Church itself and its archaic structures and politics. But more than this, he is hampered by us. Each one of us needs to become aware of the threats to our planet and to God’s poor and all creatures, and we each need to “do something” about it, to have an impact on exercising the possible to do the impossible-change the directions tings are moving in. No one Francis , however powerful his or her role, can change anything. All of us need to become a Francis and assist.
Here is an example of a man, in fact a Jewish man, who made an important choice to live more like Francis. And I am not sure he would ever conceptualize it this way, but I was so impressed by him. He is my Doctor, Paul Yudelman and he has been a wise , compassionate and able Doctor who has saved my life in his discovery of a stomach cancer- now happily removed and giving no trouble for five years. He also ministered to our Judy Beaumont during her illness and passing with the greatest compassion and skill. His compassion made him different as a Doctor. He has reached retirement age and while I feel sad that he will no longer be my Doctor and we also had many great conversations, I am awed by his decision. He is giving up on making money in Medicine and says “he has enough”. He is moving to Washington State to be part of the Environmental Movement and will give his considerable energy, passion and compassion and wisdom to saving our earth. He challenges us and me in particular to do what I can here, where our water is full of red tide, dead fish and sea life and toxic blue green algae. Erin Brokovitch is now here to help local activists champion this cause. I can act politically with my vote and in other small ways to counter this.
I think too of those who serve the poor and homeless here as it seems an endless battle when there are no local or state taxes to assist with housing and finances. I think of the many churches, groups and individuals who share with the poor and help them attain what they need with dignity. I think of Tonya Van Scoy and her family and friends who continue their Saturday night feeding ministry in the park. They, like our Good Shepherd Ministry, have had to slow down some recently due to illness and many changes in their lives. But we have been doing what we could for eleven years. And we could do this because so many good Christ followers have helped us. I think of the faithfulness of Hank and Claire Tessandori and Judy Alves and Jim Pellstring and Rev. Judith McKloskey and Rvda Marina Sanchez and Pearl and Dr. Joe Cudjoe to our ministry and of many others. In our ministry Ellen and Jack McNally still make food for our community gatherings as does Kathy Roddy who knows what it is like to struggle, but more importantly to serve. And also many continue to give us material support that we share with the poorest although we have dissolved our tax exempt status. This is a pure act of love. And when we can no longer do this others replace us. I think of Joe and Cece Irvin and Boot straps Ministry. Fr. Joe is a married priest and we worked together in the Park from 2007-2010. Then we moved separate ways as our ministries evolved. Their Ministry is active now in North Fort Myers. And there are many others who serve, Grace Methodist Church downtown, and several small ministries like Pastor Mandy’s. And I think too of some of our formerly homeless and still poor folks like Brenda Cummings and Harry Gary who give their assistance and support to keep these street ministries alive for the poorest among us. And I think of Mercedes with HEAL who works tirelessly to help abandoned and abused pets to get a new lease on life and a home. I think of my friend Danielle Nisivoccia who cares for the feral cats near her home in Pennsylvania. She feeds them tasty mackerel and wet and dry food and builds them igloos and uses a renovated Green House for shelter for them in the hard winters. Another neighbor, Elaine, who is caring for her terminally ill mother also cares for many of the area’s feral cats. Danielle is also reaching time to retire from this hard work but can not envision selling that property because 2-3 old and weak cats still need her compassionate intervention. And with the help of Dr. Terry Sutton and her lovely Staff I still care for 19 cats here and several outside as does at least one other of her clients. It is hard work but her help makes the difference in so many ways.
And I think of our Roman Catholic women priests who give up the support of the church communities they loved to serve as priests and who serve the poorest and also animals. In this I think of Pastor Gabriela Velardi-Ward who has an Inclusive Catholic church in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and who also feeds and cares for feral cats in her home in Staten Island, and, an architect,she works full time as well. I think of Rev. Marni who cares for the poor and for countless cats and dogs in Arizona where she builds homes for their shelter and comfort even as she struggles with health issues. And I remember our Franciscan Third Order Priest, Adele Decker Jones for her wisdom and love,and Rev. Tish Rawles for her love of God’s little creatures and applaud Rev. Elena Garcia who has spent a life caring for the poor. And there are many more women( and a few men) who do so in our over 260 validly but illicitly ordained priests and deacons world-wide.
And I think of countless ministers to the poor, both clergy and laity and Religious Sisters and Brothers who, like Francis give their whole lives to the poor both in the USA and abroad. All of this makes me feel that it is possible to join St. Francis of Assisi in his dream of “repairing the church” and loving and serving all of God’s creatures and Creation, our planet,-in doing the impossible. May each one of us try a little harder with God’s help.


Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,Pastor
Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida