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Archive for the ‘Pope Francis’ Category

Religion notes. Francis on atheists, Christian Right formed over taxes, rightist Frenchman bloodies the altar

Posted by Charles II on May 22, 2013

The most interesting story is by Sarah Posner in the Guardian:

For anyone who knows the history of the religious right, the possible revocation of tax-exempt status for claimed religious belief is a potent flashpoint. In his book, Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament, religion historian Randall Balmer argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, which Balmar calls the “abortion myth”, evangelical voters were not propelled to political activism by the supreme court’s 1973 decision in Roe v Wade.

Instead, the issue that mobilized these voters was the IRS’s 1975 revocation of the tax-exempt status of the segregationist Bob Jones University. Rightwing religious architect Paul Weyrich told Balmer that it was “the federal government’s moves against Christian schools” that actually “enraged the Christian community”.

Give us our goodies or we’ll take over the government. [More at Daily Kos]

This is relevant because the right’s latest hissy fit comes from our…eh…friendCong. Aaron Schock, who is claiming the IRS targeted antabortion groups over their prayers. Posner notes:

Questioning anti-abortion groups – even the content of their prayers – could very likely have been aimed at determining whether these groups engaged in activities outside abortion clinics that ran afoul of the law. Because of the history of abortion clinic violence by those claiming a religious imperative, the IRS could have been attempting to determine whether the groups’ activities were in violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (Face), a 1994 law which prohibits the use of force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate or interfere with someone’s access to or provision of reproductive health services.

The coolest story is this one, from Reuters:

Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis has said in his latest urging that people of all religions, and none, work together.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics made his comments in the homily of his morning mass at his residence, a daily event at which he speaks without prepared comments.

He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus.

“Even them, everyone,” the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. “We all have the duty to do good,” he said.

I’m glad to hear this from a Pope. After all, who is doing what Jesus wants? A person who denies God but feeds the poor, or someone who spends all their time in church and never does a good deed?

Speaking of people who spend their time in church but don’t do good deeds, I have to wonder what God is thinking about this fellow (from Kim Wilsher, The Guardian):

Dominique Venner, 78, a far-right essayist and historian took his life in front of the altar at Notre Dame on Tuesday after writing a blog condemning France’s recently passed law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption.

The cathedral was evacuated after Venner walked into the building with tourists at about 4pm, placed a letter on the altar, then shot himself through the mouth. Hundreds of visitors were evacuated.

Afterwards, Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National, tweeted her “respect” for Venner and said his death was an “eminently political” gesture.

Before killing himself Venner sent a letter to friends saying he was in good health in body and in mind, was filled with love for his wife and children, and loved life.

He had written: “I expect nothing more from life except the continuation of my race and my spirit. However, at this, in the evening of that life and in the face of immense dangers for my French and European heritage, I feel the need to act, while I still have the force. I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that oppresses us. I offer what remains of my life in an act of protest.”

Venner said he chose Notre-Dame as a “symbolic place … which recalls our immortal origins”; the reason for his suicide would be evident from his recent writings.

The historian had described France’s same-sex marriage bill, known as the “marriage for all” law, as vile. It passed into the statute books on Saturday after months of furious and often ferocious debate, protest and violence.

Venner was a former member of the Secret Army Organisation, which opposed Algerian independence in the early 1960s and waged a terror campaign against Charles de Gaulle’s government.

I can imagine an awkward conversation, beginning with “Dominique, what was it about ‘Thou shalt not kill” that was so hard to understand?”
Added: An important primer on Opus Dei in Latin America I wanted to link, which describes the interference of Opus Dei, presumably in the form of Cardinal Maradiaga, in preventing emergency contraception.

Posted in abortion, Pope Francis, religion, rightwing moral cripples, taxes | 2 Comments »

An end to the Vatican Bank? Or just better mood music for the Church?

Posted by Charles II on April 7, 2013

One of our commenters, Jim, provided three links on the issue of Pope Francis. Two (here and here) have to do with Cardinal Bergoglio’s sincerity in confronting the abuses of the Argentine Dirty War. The third has to do with the source of these comments, Father Campbell-Johnston.

Meanwhile, in the centrist Catholic press, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter gives a much more complimentary view of Pope Francis. Among one of the more interesting points is this:

Bishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano of Gualeguaychú, Argentina, a close friend of Bergoglio who worked under him as an auxiliary in Buenos Aires for six years…

ticked off five such challenges:

“The use of money,” meaning not just balancing the Vatican’s budget, but making sure it’s clear where institutions such as the Vatican Bank get their money and what’s done with those funds.

(On that score, [“Federico Wals, a 32-year-old layman who served as Bergoglio’s spokesperson since 2007”] predicted Francis may actually close the Vatican Bank based on his history in Buenos Aires. When Bergoglio took over in the late 1990s, Wals said, the archdiocese was a part owner of several local banks. Bergoglio quickly sold those shares and put the church’s money into private banks as a normal client.)

I think this is really the key signal as to where Bergoglio is headed. The Vatican Bank is not only the source of repeated scandal, it is the proximate means by which the Vatican can meddle in politics in other countries. I had an extended discussion off the boards with someone knowledgeable about the Vatican banking history and pointed out that there are several ways by which the Vatican can privately shift funds into countries in which it wants to meddle. Owning one’s own bank, however, provides a definite advantage, assuming that one has the assent of the U.S. and can use electronic transfers on networks that the US controls.

Posted in Pope Francis, The Vatican | 8 Comments »

Papal roundup, 3/16/13

Posted by Charles II on March 16, 2013

In a previous thread, there has been fascinating discussion on Pope Francis, with our commenters bringing in terrific links. As I see it, there are five strands to the thread:

1. Did Father Bergoglio collaborate with the Argentine Junta during the Dirty War?
* Journalist Horacio Verbitzky has a document from the Argentine Foreign Ministry which states that Father Bergoglio accused one of the priests of subversion years after this priest and another were seized by the Junta, and tortured. Verbitzky obtained statements from the priests to the effect that they were denied the protection of the Church from the Junta by Father Bergoglio.
* Brother John in comments mentions the statement by human rights champion Adolfo Pérez Esquivel that Bergoglio had no connection at all to the dictatorship.

2. Did Bishop/Archbishop/Cardinal Bergoglio participate in the cover-up and stonewalling of the investigation of the crimes of the Dirty War?
* Verbitzky states that Cardinal Bergoglio lied in court about the forced surrender of children for adoption [In English, as noted by commenter Ji, here. This is presumably in regard to the child of Elena De La Cuadra.
* He also states that cardinal Bergoglio denied that the church archives contained any information about the disappeared/detained, whereas there was a document in which bishops Raúl Primatesta, Juan Aramburu y Vicente Zazpe talked frankly with the dictator (Videla) about whether to tell families whether their loved ones were alive or not.
* Via Jim, in comments, Fr. Christian von Wernich has not been defrocked despite having been convicted of being an accomplice in the murders of seven people, and additional cases of torture and false imprisonment. Commenter Rich Grabner of Mex Files says that it’s normal for prisoners to ply their trades, so as long as von Wernich hasn’t been defrocked, it’s not surprising he would say Mass.
* Cardinal Bergoglio refused to testify in court in two cases involving torture and murder. When he did testify, he was evasive.
* Commenter Jim points to two photos (one and two) which may indicate that Father Bergoglio gave communion to dictator Jorge Rafael Videla soon after Videla’s release from prison (the priest’s face is not shown, so it might be a misidentification).
* Bergoglio helped Verbitzky unravel a case involving the hiding of prisoners held by the Junta from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

3. Is there any connection between the corruption scandal that engulfed the Italian branch of Communion and Liberation and then-Cardinal Bergoglio?
* On this, there is no evidence whatsoever. What is known is that the Italian branch of Communion and Liberation is up to its eyeballs in a corruption scandal. Cardinal Angelo Scola has not been tied in, but the scandal probably cost him the papacy.

4. Since past money-laundering by the Church has involved CIA operations to overthrow left-wing governments, is Communion and Liberation part of such an effort to overthrow the Bolivarian governments of Central and South America?
* There is no direct evidence on this matter. For a review of Vatican financial scandals see Betty Clermont at DK
* Verbitzky states that he believes that the elevation of Bergoglio to Pope signals that the Church intends to undertake an operation similar to what it did in Poland with Solidarity in the 1980s: presumably meaning, to overthrow the Bolivarian governments.

5. More broadly, does Pope Francis intend to end financial and moral corruption in the Church and return it to its mission of spreading the gospel and helping the poor? Or will he lead the Church down the road of further politicization?
* Bergoglio has engaged in open politicking over the issue of marriage equality for gays, which he called a “Holy War.”
* Via Brother John,
liberation theologian Leonard Boff says that he believes that Pope Francis intends to create a “Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power.”

I’m neutral. I hope the Church straightens out and flies right. It is too important to too many people to get itself tangled up in overthrowing governments, domestic politics, and financial corruption. Those are moral diseases that breed when the Church gets too close to the rich. The cure is for the Church to get close to the poor. I wish Francis all success if that is his aim, and I wish him all due justice if he is using the poor as a screen for another aim.

Posted in Latin America, Pope Francis, poverty, religion | 11 Comments »

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss?/updated

Posted by Charles II on March 13, 2013

Update, 3/14 (posted also as a comment at DK): Jim, in comments below, mentioned Bergoglio/Francis’s human rights record, which I didn’t get into and, in particular, Christian Federico von Wernich, a police chaplain who participated in the torture sessions of the Dirty War. The Catholic Church, to say the least, has been uncooperative with unraveling the crimes committed by the Argentine Junta.

I have been hesitant to get into this, because Bergoglio was a priest until 1989. As such, he had little decision-making power in what happened during the dictatorship (1976-83). However, he was in a senior priestly position, becoming a provincial in 1973, then rector of a seminary in 1980. He only reached a position of real power, that of Bishop in 1992. Even that was not a full bishopric as I understand it (he was an auxiliary bishop and then a titular bishop).

In 1998, he was bumped up to Archbishop and, three years later, to Cardinal–a position of real power. He therefore does bear culpability for the failure of the Church to confess its crimes in Argentina.

But now, Democracy Now has done an extended interview (here and here) of one of the journalists who has covered the story, Horacio Verbitzky, and I don’t think this story is going to go away. In addition to providing detail on the human rights abuses, Verbitsky says that he believes that Bergoglio has been elevated to do to Latin America what John Paul II did to Eastern Europe: destroy governments that have brought the progressive change that has actually led to a decline in poverty.

This is a fascinating, panoramic take on the situation. It gets above the disputed (but serious) human rights allegations that may yet end in Bergoglio being forced to resign for the good of the Church and suggests a motive for the selection of a 76-year man with one lung and a dangerously close connection to serious human rights abuses.

Now, there are alternate explanations. One is that Bergoglio comes from outside the viper’s nest of internal Vatican politics, and will clean it up. Or perhaps it’s a belated recognition by the Church of the importance of the Americas. Maybe Bergoglio’s a compromise candidate, given the cloud of scandal around Angelo Scola.

This is one thing to look to. How will Bergoglio/Francis deal with the governments of Latin America? So far, he has placed himself in opposition, declaring a Holy War (guerra de Dios) against the law that grants marriage equality to Argentinians. He espouses the primacy of the poor, but doesn’t like the State to do anything to alleviate their situation. Is he really emulating Francis of Assisi? Or Francis of Spain (1892-1975), Francisco Franco?
From a Wikileaked cable from 2005:

Based on these initial showings, the cardinals in subsequent votes are expected to shift to other candidates who reflect the Ratzinger or Martini views, but who offer better hope of garnering support from other groups. Italian Cardinals Ruini or Scola, and Argentinian Cardinal Bergolio would be suitable to the Ratzinger camp, while Milan’s Archbishop Cardinal Tettamanzi or Brazilian Cardinal Hummes could pull the support of the anti-Ratzinger groups.
…BERGOGLIO, Jorge Mario: Born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, and ordained December 13, 1969 during his theological studies at the Theological Faculty of San Miguel. Bergoglio served as Jesuit Provincial (elected leader of the order) for Argentina (1973-79) and rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel (1980-86). After completing his doctoral dissertation in Germany, Bergoglio served as a confessor and spiritual director in Cordoba. In 1992, the Pope appointed him Assistant Bishop of Buenos Aires; then in 1997, he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop (deputy archbishop with right
of succession) of Buenos Aires; ultimately becoming Archbishop on February 28, 1998. Bergoglio is the vice-President of the Argentine Bishops Conference and serves on the Vatican’s committee for the worldwide synod of bishops (a grouping of all bishops conferences). He speaks Spanish, Italian and German. Bergoglio exemplifies the virtues of the wise pastor that many electors value. Observers have praised his humility: he has been reluctant to accept honors or hold high office and commutes to work on a bus. What could count against him is his membership in the Jesuit order. Some senior prelates,
especially conservatives, are suspicious of a liberal streak in the order, perhaps most pronounced in the U.S., but also present elsewhere. Bergoglio is said to prefer life in the local Church as opposed to a bureaucratic existence in Rome’s ecclesiastical structures, but at the same time he has been willing to serve on the Vatican’s various supervisory committees. This could indicate an ability to bridge the curia/local church divide that splits the College of Cardinal Electors, making him a good compromise candidate.

Acceptable to Ratzinger? Check.
Against Liberation Theology? Check, although he once supported it.
Strongly anti-gay? Check.
Associated with Communion and Liberation? Check.

But maybe not wholly without merit. Redneck Catholic:

The mass was celebrated by Jorge Cardinal Bergolio in Buenos Aries, for prostitutes, immigrants and slaves. In his homily he spoke of things that I have been disturbed by for several years. Most importantly he spoke of slavery.

Slavery is on the rise. has been for over two decades. It’s widespread, and it’s not confined to third world hell holes. It’s found in affluent, industrialized nations as well.

I guess his age made him a dark horse, which is why there’s been so little talk of him as a candidate. But he looks to me like another effort to kick the can down the road, rather than engage in real reform.

We shall see.

By the way, the correct spelling is apparently Bergoglio.

Posted in Pope Francis, The Vatican | 13 Comments »

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