Archive for April, 2010

Collapse of authority and the excesses of capitalism

30/04/2010

In an Irish Times article some time ago the hard left showed its cards. The article entitled “Primark row signals backlash against unsuitable marketing” shows just how far the loony left have bought into the idea of rights for children. Why did it not use a more obvious criticism and call a spade a spade?

The article opens with the fact that the “Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) started its confidential Childline service 21 years ago, it was getting regular calls from 17-year-olds under pressure to have sex. Today these calls are coming from 10- and 11-year-olds.” Despite the best attempts of the unhinged journalist to make the product, bikini swimsuits with padded tops for seven-year-olds, look perhaps as they would see it distasteful, luckily the “ISPCC’s director of services, Caroline O’Sullivan, does not think so.”

As the director says, “this product is a symptom of what is actually going on for children”.   The article continues saying, “It is not the first time adverse publicity has compelled a retailer to remove inappropriately sexualised products marketed at children. Tesco, for example, is not allowed to forget how it once had pole-dancing kits in its toy aisles.”

This also begs the question, who in their right mind thought that such a product would be appropriate for a child, when the world is, justly outraged at the child sexual abuse scandal sweeping the Catholic Church at the moment. Was it the unfettered desire for profit, or just the hope that they would just get away with it, even though, in their heart of hearts, they knew such a thing to be immoral?

The journalist thinks children pole dancing is “inappropriate”, I’d love to see what they call downright evil? Or maybe that word doesn’t exist in this journo vocabulary. Much of the problem is “not only that children’s desire for these things is fuelled by the media but also that parents do not know how to say no.”

Here we have a classic case of the disrepect of authority. However, it is not just in the home but in classrooms around the world and in our streets – it is everywhere. The French Revolution may have “freed” us from tyranny but it was only replaced by a new and even worse tryanny, that of the individual. Coupled with the belief that the individual knows best, regardless of age and that if anyone dare question someone’s actions, they would be impinging on thier “rights”

It is not that authority must go unquestioned it is that, we have gone to such extremes to get away from the 1750s/1950s, that we have only created a new tryanny that far outstrips the worst excesses of the previous tyranny, which, in some cases it undoubtedly was. When parents have lost the ability to say “no” then I fear that we on a path that can only lead to societal collapse.

Thought for the day

22/04/2010

After seeing the second UK prime ministeral debate one thing struck me that needs urgent change. Of the two “major” – whatever that means anymore – only Labour has promised a referendum on the future of the electoral system.

Chaos will ensure, more hung parliaments, more haggling and lack of leadership unless there is an acknoledgement that the UK is no longer a two party system. Therefore it should no longer have an electoral system made for only two parties. If the system remains as it is, instability will be rife.

Five years of Pope Benedict XVI

19/04/2010

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. The new pope was elected amid an outpouring of grief for the late Pope John Paul II. Indeed, at John Paul’s funeral, and the installation of Pope Benedict as the new pope, there were cries of Santo subito. Many point to his speech the day before the conclave began, in his capacity as dean of the College of Cardinals, in which he addressed his fellow electors to stem the “dictatorship of relativism”. It is not hard to believe that this assertion of doctrine was enough to convince his fellow electors that he was the man to guide the Church for a brief period until a more serious longer term successor could be elected. In choosing the name “Benedict”, Ratzinger asserted his goal to restore Christianity to Europe and end much of what he sees as the slide into moral chaos that has enveloped the continent. 

It has recently been revealed that the Legion of Christ, which claims almost 800 priests, 1,300 seminarians and a lay movement consisting of almost 70,000 members, was close to a number of John Paul’s keys aides, including Angelo Cardinal Sodano and Eduardo Cardinal Martínez Somalo. The Vatican has just finished an apostolic visistation of the Legion and the late Marcial Maciel Degllado, who is known to have fathered at least one child and is thought to have “used large sums of money in order to buy influence with senior Vatican officials”. The Legion constitution included the highly controversial Private Vows, by which each Legionary swore never to speak ill of Maciel, or the superiors, and to report to them anyone who uttered criticism.

Interestingly, “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was said to have refused an envelope of cash after giving a speech to the Legion”. It is this duality that is seen again and again during the papacy of Benedict. Many are calling on Cardinal Sodano to resign his, largely cermonial position, of dean of the College of Cardinals after the true extend of his close ties to the orgainisation have been revealed.

In 2006, as Benedict, he banished Maciel from ministry to a “life of prayer and penitence.” Maciel left Rome in disgrace, though the Legionaries mounted a defense of his innocence.

These contrasts continue as the Papacy of Benedict XVI continues. It seems a small point but after his election, his coat of arms was released and sadly it was drawn without the papal tiara that had been on all papal coats of arms until Benedict’s election. However, Benedict has restored much of the previously lapsed papal customs.

In January 2006 his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is love) was published. It was a masterstroke in PR, even though that might necessarily have been the aim at all. To go from “God’s rotweiller” to extolling the virtue of the love of God was quite a turnaround, and coupled with his more humble coat of arms the initial expectations were interesting, to say the least.

March 2006, led to Benedict’s first consistory in which he created 15 new cardinals, 12 of whom are electors, among them were his successor at the CDF, William Cardinal Levada, Carlo Cardinal Caffara, archbishop of Bologa and the youngest creation of his first consistory, the current prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, formerly archbishop of Toledo and primate of Spain, Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, both former CDF staffers. Also notable among the new cardinals was the archbishop of Kraków and former JPII confidente, Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz.

Then on 12 September 2006, Benedict delivered a lecture which made a passing reference to Islam at the University of Regensburg. The global media storm that ensued led to what comprised of the Vatican’s PR machine to go into overdrive in an attempt to limit the damage to inter-faith relations. This would not be the first time the the Pontiff would have to backtrack, if not apologise for his actions, indeed, to some, it would set in motion a pattern that would be repeated throughtout his papacy and would be one of the many differences between Benedict and John Paul.

After discussions which had been going on for months, on 7 July 2007, Benedict issued the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. This was perhaps his most important action up to this point in his papacy. On his own initiative he loosened the restrictions on the stunning Tridentine Mass that had been in place since the 1988 motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei and made it so that any priest could celebrate it without the permission of his ordinary. This would be another repeating thread in Benedict’s papacy, outreach to Traditionalist Catholics, as well as other like minded Christians. By loosening the restrictions on celebration of the Latin Mass, Benedict hoped to show that he desired union between Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X. Indeed, Benedict in August 2005, met the Superior General of the Society, Bernard Fellay to discuss the schism that has been in place since 1988. Just going on the number of curialists in Rome who now celebrate the Latin Mass, must surely give us a clue as to the direction Benedict wants to proceed.

Benedict held another consistory on 24 November 2007, where he created 38 cardinals, 33 of whom are electors. The list included, future papabile, Angelo Cardinal Comastri, archpriest of the Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vicar General of His Holiness for the State of Vatican City, and president of the Fabric of St. Peter’s, Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo, whom it is thought, Cardinal Sodano wished to see as his replacement as secretary of State, and perhaps most notably, Daniel Nicholas Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston. Benedict in a nod recognised the substantial growth of the Catholic population in the traditionally heavily Protestant, American south, which was recently followed up by appointing Jose Horacio Gomez as the coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles.

Pope Benedict’s second encyclical titled Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), about the virtue of hope, was released on 30 November 2007.

In only his second trip outside Europe to the United States in April 2008, Benedict met with victims of clerical abuse. It was not on the official programme of events and was done quietly without press attending but his willingness to meet abuse victims was admirable as it showed some admittance of guilt and acknolwedged the pain that has been caused by the Church to many people over the last fifty years. The trend would be repeated when he apologise to victims in Australia during World Youth Day celebrations in July of 2008. The trend was repeated most recently in April 2010 when he met abuse victims on his trip to Malta.

 On 22 December 2008 in his Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, Benedict spoke and yet again there was a media storm, this time however, it was largely invented. The media accused Benedict of asserting that to save the world heterosexuality was the only option available to man. In fact, homosexuality, or indeed, heterosexuality were never mentioned specifically in the speech and much of the crisis, was for once not in the fault of Rome. However, the fact that the media invented the story, and that it was so widely believed, shows how little credibility the Vatican has left.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere with very little warning, Benedict, on 21 January 2009, lifted the excommunications of the four “bishops” of the SSPX. The decree was published on 24 Janunary. By doing this, Benedict sparked off another media storm, sound familiar? This time however it was not entirely his fault. The event would have gone virtually unnoticed had Richard Williamson not denied the Holocaust days before on Swedish television. The Vatican expressed surprise at the views held  by Williamson but they were easily available on the internet. Again the Vatican press machine lumbered into the action. Eventually Williamson gave a half hearted apology and was dismissed from his position as rector of the SSPX seminary in Argentina by Fellay. Last know reports place him somewhere in London. At the heart of this was Benedict’s desire to unite this wing of the Church and so end the only major schism left in the Church.

The whole point of this however was so that Benedict could place the ball in the SSPX court as it were and see how willing they were willing to go in re-joining the Church. The upshot of this is talks which have been going on since October 2009. The fundamental points being raised is that of religious liberty, and crucially, the importance of Vatican II, both the liturgical reforms as well as how the Church engages with the world from everything to inter-religious dialogue to talking to atheists and Jews as well as other issues.

His third encyclical titled Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth” or “Charity in Truth”), was signed on 29 June 2009 and released on 7 July 2009. In it, the Pope continued the Church’s teachings on social justice. He condemned the economic system that almost lead to collapse of the economic as we know it. Benedict said that the system showed that “the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and called on people to rediscover ethics in business.

In Anglicanorum coetibus of 9 November 2009, (Groups of Anglicans) Benedict allowed for Anglicans who disagreed with what they saw as the drift in the Anglican Communion, to join the Latin Rite Catholic Church. This has been written about before but it is enough to say that this has caused much upset amongst those who feel that this is a dramatic retardation of the progress that was made under his predecessor. Whether this image is correct or not, however, is a different question. Yet, it is significant that such a document under be issued under Benedict, rather than JPII. Whether it will advance the long term cause of Christian unity is beyond the remit, or scale of this anyalsis in both knowledge, and time span. Some see the apostolic constitition as a pastoral solution to those who wished to leave the Anglican Communion and join the Catholic Church, while others see it as an ecumenical issue that will take years to recover from.

On a side note, with the impending retirement of Walter Cardinal Kasper as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, it will be interesting to see who Benedict chooses as Cardinal Kasper’s successor. Among the names are Bishop Kurt Kock of Basel, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mulller of Regensburg, or the more liberally orientented Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti – Vasto but my guess is that we’re in for a Teutonic PCPCU president.

Finally, there is the current issue of the abuse crisis, which Benedict has been personally implicated in, when a priest from incardidated in the diocese of Essen, came the the diocese of Munich to seek psychiatric therapy for sexually abusing minors. Fr. Gerhard Gruber, who at the time served as Ratzinger’s vicar general in the Munich diocese said that he and he alone was involved in the transfer of Hullermann into the diocese of Munich. However, it is extremely doubtful that such an action was possible without the local ordinary being at least aware of the basic details of the transfer. However when Hullermann resumed his pastoral care work among children to believe that Cardinal Ratzinger was not aware was laughable. Indeed, the New York Times reported on 24 March 2010 that Ratzinger had been copied on Gruber’s memo, and the archdiocese confirmed that Ratzinger’s office had received a copy. Worst of all in a lame attempt to correct what should have been done decades ago, Hullermann was suspended from active ministry on 14 March 2010. It was recently revealed that Gruber took the fall for Benedict, after he was “begged” by Church authorities. 

Not only that, but he seems to have, during his time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document, De delictis gravioribus which says that it “reserved to the CDF the processing of clerical sex abuse cases not in order to ‘cover up’ the accusations, but to ensure they were acted on — and, where guilt was proved, to speed the laicisation of abusing priests.”

How successful and why this has been is another matter.

In response to the Irish Ryan and Murphy reports, investigating clerical child sex abuse in both schools and the diocese of Dublin respectively, Benedict wrote a letter to Irish Catholics in which he attempted to blame secularisation and Vatican II, amongst other things for the reasons for the abuse of the Church. The letter is dealt with in detail in a separate entry. He had previously met with all of Ireland’s active bishops en bloc and despite much acticipation from the press, little was achieved. There was a sense that too little was being done too late in the process to countance any proper change. Interestingly, some of the bishops who have handed in their resigations over the abuse scandal in Ireland, including, James Moriarty, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, as well as two Dublin auxiliaries, Ray Field and Eamon Walsh have yet to have their resignations accepted by the Pope.

The fact that he thought it necessary to write a specific letter shows that things are not quite as bad as they may seem. Benedict, like most of us, seems to be split between an acknowledgement of the problem, though stopping short of fixing it, and sometimes at the same time as trying to solve it, burying his head in the sand.

Who knows what the next five years will bring. I can only feel sorry for a man who, at 83, must lead a Church when in reality it is a job for a man half his age. It seems however that things will get worse before it gets better both for Benedict and for the lay faithful.

The ultimate “hireling”?

18/04/2010

The collect for today, the Second Sunday after Easter point to the heart of the message of Christ:

” God, who, by the humility of Thy Son, didst lift up a fallen world, grant unending happiness to Thy faithful: that those whom Thou hast snatched from the perils of endless death, Thou mayest cause to rejoice in everlasting days.”

While the Gospel warns the people of God of hirelings when it says:

“Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth: and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good Shepherd: and I know Mine, and Mine know Me, as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father: and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”

Iesus ora pro nobis

Catholicism in crisis

17/04/2010

The remarks made by Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B. Secretary of State to His Holiness and Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church on 13 April leave me questioning, something must be in the air in the Vatican. On a recent trip to Chile he said “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

Now either he genuiely believes this, in which case he is a moron, or he is using it as an excuse to defend the current regime, but in doing so he only bolsters the argument of those who wish to see some reforms in the Church as what he is claiming is so patently false.

Even Benedict, who is directly implicted in the abuse cover up, both as archbishop of Munich in the early 1980s, and as his time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has dimissed the “link” between homosexuality and paedophilia, however if Benedict is trying to change the Church, which is doubtful, having people around him like this does not exactly help the Church at this time. 

Fintan O’Toole, in today’s Irish Times puts it aptly when he says that the Church “has now adopted a three-fold strategy: blame the victims; invoke anti-Catholic persecution; and identify modernity as the root of the problem.” While this blog is no friend of unfettered modernity to blame it for the cover up of the abuse of children shows how far the Church of Christ and the Church of Benedict have become seperated.

O’Toole continues saying that, “Redefining the Pope, his cardinals and his bishops as the “weakest” members of society would be peculiar in any context. But in the context of child abuse, it is grotesque.”

Hans Kung, bete noire of convervative Catholics, recently issued an open letter to the world’s Catholic bishops  in which he criticized the Pope’s handling of liturgical, collegial and inter-religious matters and called for a more honest dialouge with the modern world. He called on the Church’s four thousand odd, bishops to consider six proposals, ranging from speaking up and working on regional solutions, to calling for another Vatican council to deal with these issues and more in order to restore some credibility to the Church, and more importantly, its message.

Finally, on Andrew Sullivan’s blog there is some glimmer of hope. He quotes a Catholic convert who says that “How often do we get to be right smack in the middle of an opportunity for radical Christ-based, Holy Spirit-generated change – and know it?” The convert continues saying that “I tend to view each crisis du jour within a larger framework. From this perspective, I’m able to see the Roman church as a man-made social institution rotting under layers of historical grime; one that seems stuck in its self-perpetuating narrative.  This sociological perspective also allows me to realize that change is not only possible, it’s inevitable.”

Ireland’s lost decade

11/04/2010

In a piece written some time ago, Gary Joyce argues for a greater sense of cmmunity in Ireland, but the argument could be easily extended to the UK, America and much of Western Europe. She begins by commenting how proud she is to be Irish. However she then asks questions such as “Are we ashamed that our health and social services routinely fail those that they are charged to supports? Are we ashamed that the politicians we elect refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, yet we continue to reward them for doing it? Are we ashamed that our desire for easy riches has led to the near collapse of our banking system, the bankruptcy of our State and the indebtedness of our children, while we constantly seek to scapegoat and blame others?”

She quiet rightly asks “If how we used the money of the “boom years”  is an indication of what we truly value, then the desperate situation in which we find ourselves now is a wake-up call to recognise and question those values”
The money that was wasted by the Government, but also by some of the people of Ireland, shows the emptiness of these “values”, it also highlights the tremendous greed that many experienced and where told were good things. The greed was excused away and was in some cases seen as the reason behind Ireland’s wealth.

Where are these people now that the good times are over? They are getting away with their sinful greed and incompentence by bailouts and golden handshakes. These were the people that were saying that regulation is a bad thing and that it hinders the “creation” of wealth. They were the one’s calling for the “voodoo economics ” that still plauge America to this day. People were calling a halt to this madness but alas, they were ignored and told that they were pessimists and should see that things were going fine and would continue to go well and even, get better.

Money is a powerful drug, once people have it they need more and more to fuel thier lifestyle, however it was not all who gained from this hysteria. Joyce contiunes saying “we know from the UN Human Development Programme that Ireland, with the UK and the US, is one of the most unequal societies in the world: the income of the wealthiest 20 per cent of our population is six times greater than that of the poorest 20 per cent.” Only a small number of people gained vast wealth to the detriment of society as a whole and the common good.

Joyce carries on, justly lauding the Japanese and Nordic economies and at the suggesting a national maximum wage. Can you imagine it, interfering in the market like that, the market that for all its “invisible hand” self correction brought the world to the brink of collapse only a year ago. Market interference, market regulation – BRING IT ON!

She ends her piece, noting how “the appetite for strong leadership is palpable everywhere”. She rightly points out that the Church as well as the political parties, trade unions and indeed everyone in Ireland is to blame and is now experiencing a totally rudderless leaderless country where no one has trust in anyone else.

This begs the question how can any of the current political parties or indeed people lead the country out of this and drag ourselves, kicking and screaming if necessary into a better country where money is not the beginning and end, but merely a means to an end – good schools, hospitals, low crime and low poverty rates.

An Irish general election is not only needed, a whole new political class is needed.

Reception of Tiger Woods at the 2010 Masters

10/04/2010

Watching the US Masters and seeing the cheers the crowd gave Tiger Woods after the adulterous relationships he had with so many different women sickens me. What is happening when such re-enters society and is greeted as if he has done nothing wrong?

Where is the vital social opprobrium that he has sinned and acted against morality? Have we lost the ability to tell between right and wrong, or even worse can we tell the difference but just don’t care anymore?

Obama’s restrictions on the use of nuclear weapons

07/04/2010

In Stephen Walt’s post on the recent Obama plans on the use of nuclear force. Obama says: “the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations”

Walt says anyone who disagrees are “hawkish windbags and right-wing think-tankers”.

He then contradicts himself and says “from a purely strategic perspective, this new statement is largely meaningless. To the extent that it does matter, it may even be counter-productive.” So what’s the point in making the statement at all?

He continues saying, “No matter what the U.S. government says about its nuclear strategy, no potential adversary can confidently assume that the U.S. would stick to its declared policy in the event of a crisis or war. If you were a world leader thinking about launching a major conventional attack on an important U.S. ally or interest, or contemplating the use of chemical or biological weapons in a situation where the United States was involved, would you conclude that it was safe to do so simply because Barack Obama said back in 2010 that the U.S. wasn’t going to use nuclear weapons in that situation?”

He does make the vaild point however when he says “the decision to exclude nuclear weapons states, non-signatories of the NPT, or states we deem in violation of it (e.g., Iran) strikes me as both too clever by half and maybe counterproductive. The purpose seems to be to give these states an additional incentive to sign the NPT or to conform to it, but it’s hard to believe that this statement will have that effect on anyone.”

No leader of a country should put restrictions on the use of any of its weapons, regardless of whether he means to stand by it or not – it makes little sense in our anarchic world. No one should believe that the UN is going to come to the rescue if things go belly up for them.