Saturday, October 15, 2011

The News That's Fit to Tell: End-of-Week List

From a week of news-reading in which I haven't felt sufficient energy to comment on these stories as carefully as I might have wished: here's a set of recent stories/commentary (about widely scattered matters) that have caught my attention, and may interest readers:

1. At the Center for Economic Policy and Research website, Dean Baker gets David Brooks exactly right: Baker dubs Brooks "the bard of the 1 percent."  As I've said in repeated assessments of Brooks (click the label with his name for links to those statements, if you wish to read more), his constant call for a return to good, old-fashioned Calvinist virtue among Americans is always aimed at the poor and middle classes, and never at the 1 percent.  Austerity, hard work, and sacrifice for everyone but the rich . . . .

2. And see Dennis Coday's valuable commentary about Baker's designation of Brooks as the bard of the 1 percent at National Catholic Reporter.

3. A related discussion: Jeffrey Sachs at Huffington Post offers a fine summary, with valuable historical context, of the moral demands driving the Occupy Wall Street movement--above all, of the demand for economic justice in a society that has lost its moral moorings in that moral area.

4. And at Alternet, former religious-right guru and current religious-right critic Frank Schaeffer explains how religious fundamentalism helped get us into the morally dangerous territory we now inhabit, with 1 percent controlling the huge majority of our wealth.  I like the fact that he refuses to let the Catholic church in the U.S. off the hook, and that he notes that its bishops have actively colluded with the evangelical religious right to get us into the morally outrageous situation in which we now find ourselves, in terms of economic justice, as both groups deflect our attention from the serious moral challenge presented by economic injustice, while trying to get us to focus on the bogus moral challenges posed by feminism, gay marriage, etc.

5. And speaking of the U.S. Catholic bishops and the damage that their right-wing theocratic aspirations have done not only to the church they lead but to the nation as a whole, Michelle Somerville at Huffington Post incisively critiques the bishops' national drive to ban same-sex marriage and to control the reproductive choices of women and limit access to contraception, and the politics that lie behind these efforts.

6. And then there's the death penalty, where recent polls indicate a revision of moral understanding among many Americans that may--as David Gibson notes at Commonweal--herald a new 1960s moment in American culture.  As Andrew Sullivan notes at his Daily Dish site, the Gallup poll showing a precipitous drop in support for capital punishment shows the death penalty still popular in the bible-belt South--that is, in the area of the country in which the "pro-life" conservative evangelicals with whom the U.S. Catholic bishops want to ally their church are concentrated.  Or, for that matter, the area of the country in which the solid, old-fashioned Calvinist values David Brooks admires for everyone except the rich remain dominant . . . .

7. Speaking of the Catholic right, the U.S. bishops and their blind infatuation with the "pro-life" American religious right, and the current campaign of the bishops to "protect" Catholic religious freedom from "assault" by godless secularists: I find the mantra of one of those responding to David Gibson's piece at the preceding Commonweal link grimly amusing.  Reader Kathy chants, "Freedom, freedom, freedom" in response to Gibson's commentary.

What Kathy means, of course, is the religious freedom meme that Mr. Dolan of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference is trying to place in the forefront of American Catholic consciousness now.  But since Kathy is on record at the Commonweal blog site repeatedly combating the freedom of her gay brothers and sisters to enjoy the right of civil marriage--as Mr. Dolan is, as well, in repeated statements--her mantra of freedom obviously means, Freedom for me and my kind.  Not for you.  Sort of like how David Brooks' mantra of Calvinist austerity is for everyone except the ultra-rich economic overlords his journalism serves.  So much in these discussions depends on whose ox is goring whom, doesn't it?  Freedom for me but not for you sounds like an astonishingly stinky moral principle.

8. And in light of that last observation: I must admit that I read Jim Wallis's fulsome encouragement of the Occupy Wall Street protesters with somewhat jaded ears, when I remember that a key principle of the OWS movement is the need for solidarity crossing boundaries of class, race, gender and sexual orientation.  But Sojourners, the movement Wallis heads, has never been able to make that leap to solidarity with those who are gay and lesbian.  And so I wonder if Wallis has any real understanding at all of the movement he's now praising, and what it dreams of accomplishing across the globe by way of human solidarity.  A 20th-century male-dominant liberal-heterosexist model of social change ill befits a 21st-century gender-transgressive progressive-gay inclusive notion of the world.

9. And two specifically religious (and specifically) Catholic items to make this list an even ten: first, Mary Valle's lively commentary at the Revealer re: the horrific incident (warning: nightmares may result from reading further) that happened at a Mass in Viareggio, Italy, recently.  A man suffering from mental illness gouged his eyes out during Mass.  And as Valle notes, the celebrant of the Mass, Fr. Lorenzo Tanganelli, went right on with the Mass after the paramedics arrived and took the man away (and, one hopes, after the gore was mopped up).  And I have absolutely no idea what to make of this choice on the part of the pastor.

10. Finally, a beautiful commemoration at America of the forgotten pope whose brief papal reign was sandwiched between that of the anguished man who brought Vatican II to a close, and the rock-star man who ruled the church with an iron will for decades as the 20th century wound down and the new millennium began: Mo Guernon reminds us of all the reasons we ought not to forget Pope John Paul I.  I've been told by people whose judgment I value that the tomb of JPI is stuck beside the far more imposing monuments to John XXIII and JPII in the papal grottoes of the Vatican, almost as if it were an afterthought.*  Rembert Weakland alludes to this fact in his autobiography, which I've just finished reading, suggesting that the modesty of the monument has much to do with the fact that JPI died so suddenly.  Some of us can't help wondering, though, if the powers that be want us to forget about a pope who, it's reported, welcomed gay and lesbian folks, who once observed that we can speak of God as mother with more justice than we can call God father, and who set out to reform the Vatican bank.  In fact, his sudden death occurred on the very evening before he was to hold an important meeting about that matter.

And that's the news that I see fit to tell at the end of this week in October A.D. 2011, when sparrows cavort over my head pecking at invisible insects on the skylight, as I sit trying to pray, think, and nurse an infirm but--Deo gratias--slowly mending Brother Body.

*I'm just now seeing a beautiful posting Jayden Cameron made yesterday at his Gay Mystic site, commemorating John Paul I, in which Jayden mentions this information about JPI's tomb.   Jayden is, in fact, one of the people I was thinking of, when I noted that people whose judgment I value had told me the tomb of John Paul I is overshadowed by that of his successor in the Vatican papal grottoes.  I didn't cite Jayden by name when I made the observation, since I wasn't sure he'd ever made this statement publicly on his blog when I posted about this earlier today.  And now I see he has talked about this only yesterday--and I'm very glad I can link to his posting for those who want further information about this.

No comments: