Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dolan to Tampa: Frank Cocozzelli and SNAP Offer Comments

Two more valuable reflections on the message the top leader of the Catholic church in the U.S., Timothy Dolan, is sending to the American public and to American Catholics by his choice to play a leading role at the upcoming GOP convention through his final blessing of the convention and its actions:

At Open Tabernacle (and Talk to Action) Frank Cocozzelli reminds us of something that Mitt Romney and His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan want us forget as Dolan blesses Romney and the GOP: "Thirty years ago Mitt Romney sought the financial backing of those who bankrolled the murder of priests, nuns and an archbishop."

As Frank notes, when Romney began Bain Capital, he actively solicited start-up funds from powerful Central American oligarchs, some of whom were connected to the "death squads" that raped and murdered a group of American nuns in El Salvador, and which assassinated a group of Jesuit priests working with the poor as well as their housekeeper, and the archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero. Frank cites the research of Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler, which concludes that roughly $9 million, some 40%, of Bain's start-up funding came from this group of Central American oligarchs.

Mitchell Zuckoff and Ben Bradlee, Jr., of the Boston Globe and Joseph Tanfani, Melanie Mason, and Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times have also reported on the significant influence of the Central American funders in the development of Romney's Bain empire, as Frank notes.  Among the circle of Central American funders helping Bain get onto its feet was the Salaverria family, whose connections to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), founded by death-squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, were swell-known.

Also speaking out about Dolan's impending performance at the GOP convention is the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).  SNAP leader Mary Caplan placed a statement on the SNAP website yesterday.  Caplan surveys Dolan's response to a series of abuse cases in which he has pastoral authority, and concludes that "Dolan has an awful – but carefully hidden - track record on child safety and is not making children safer now."

And she's absolutely right.  Repeatedly, a commenter here, Bronx Irish Catholic, has pointed to the taunting, mean-spirited statement of Bill Donohue that Dolan published on his blog in August 2011, in which Donohue sought to lay blame on a 16-year old Bronx girl from a disadvantaged background when she reported sexual advances made to her by a local priest, Fr. Duenas.

Once I had read that statement, and after I began to note Dolan's thick ties to the maleficent Dr. Donohue, I also began to find it simply baffling--I began to find it highly offensive--that the media and many centrist Catholics continue to try to spin Cardinal Dolan as a nice guy.  Dolan's awful track record in dealing with abuse cases is carefully hidden because the media collude in keeping it hidden, and because powerful centrist Catholic commentators, including the NCR contributor to whose statements about this I linked yesterday and who will soon receive an award from VOTF, heap praise on Dolan for being an avuncular, affable, smiling, good guy.

He's nothing of the sort.

And as Frank Cocozzelli suggests, when we see him beaming from the GOP convention stage, perhaps we should hold in our minds' eyes the faces of Jean Donovan, Oscar Romero, and the nuns raped and murdered in El Salvador--while the presidential candidate whom the chief pastoral leader of U.S. Catholics will be blessing reaped ample financial rewards from those whose hands were covered in blood from those atrocious acts.  My fantasy for this convention is to see long lines of American  Catholics standing outside the convention center as Dolan and Romney prance inside, silently holding up photographs of these Catholic martyrs.

And of the many gay teens who have committed suicide in recent years due to school bullying--as Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times reports today that Republicans are confident they can garner Catholic votes this election cycle because the Democrats support same-sex marriage.  And of the abuse victims to whom Dolan has given no assistance and accorded no justice, while he allows those attacking victims of childhood clerical sexual abuse like Bill Donohue to represent him and the American Catholic church in the media.

Readers here have asked of late why some Catholics like me want to holler about Dolan's choice to bless the GOP convention and its candidates.  My response to that question: I holler because if I don't, I'll be making myself complicit in acts being done in my name as a Catholic which I regard as downright evil. I'd be making myself complicit in the blessing of evil, which is being enacted in my name as an American Catholic by the top leader of my national church.

What might have happened in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, I wonder, if more Catholics and Lutherans had done more hollering as Hitler rose to power?  German Christians now live with a tremendous load of well-merited historic guilt due to their silence during that crucial period of German history, when the top leaders of their churches blessed the Nazis and when the voices of German Christians pulling against the blessing of evil were altogether muted.

I do not want to find myself down the road bearing such a load of guilt because I refused to holler as  the top leaders of my own church made unprecedented public gestures in my name to bless political agendas and political leaders that I regard as morally unacceptable.  And please, those of you accusing me and others of hollering indecently as the top American leader of my church heads to Tampa, don't try that tired old ploy of accusing those raising critical questions about how our church leader represents us of being self-righteous.

I doubt very seriously that a single Catholic protesting Dolan's blessing of the GOP convention and its candidates imagines himself or herself to be a saint.  I surely know that I am far from sainthood.

But that recognition does not let me off the hook.  Imperfect human beings have every bit as much of a moral obligation to holler as saints do.  This recognition does not excuse me from making my moral views and conscientious judgments known when historical circumstances require me to speak out--or to find myself complicit in evil I ought to be resisting.  To repeat: as the top leader of my church in the U.S., Timothy Cardinal Dolan, is representing me at the GOP convention.

And I strenuously object to having my church's top leader bless, on my behalf, candidates and an agenda that I do not endorse.  The silly justification for Dolan's behavior--that he's just a mere priest doing what priests have always done, blessing political parties and political agendas--is embarrassingly shallow and embarrassingly dishonest.

This is the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops going to a national political convention in a highly publicized, media-saturated symbolic act of political theater to give the final, the ultimate, blessing to the decisions of that convention, as the convention ends and after it has nominated its candidates.  It's the leader of a bishops' conference that has declared open war with the current administration, and which has bent over backwards to aid and abet Paul Ryan, a Catholic with shaky credentials at best to represent Catholic social teaching, heading to the political convention of the other party to deliver a blessing on the choices that party is making.  And on the candidates it has nominated.

This is not business as usual.  It is cynical, politically driven, open, unvarnished partisanship.  It betrays core teachings and core values of my Catholic faith.  It reduces my church to the level of a political machine that serves the interests of one political party exclusively.  And that serves the interests of the economic elite which controls this party.

Hollering?  You betcha.  And I intend to keep right on doing it.  Because I assume that's what God gave me a mouth for.

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