Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The U.S. Catholic Bishops, Pro-Life Values, and the Public Square: Continuing the Discussion

And so if the Democrats have been anti-life all along, that means the Republicans have been pro-life.  Right?  Because our two-party system in the U.S. depends on (the illusion of) binary opposites.  So if one of the parties does not favor or promote or want life, the other obviously does favor, promote, and want life.

Apple's Siri: Viagra, No Problem; Birth Control, "I Didn't Find Any"

Mary Elizabeth Williams asks, Isn't it strange that Apple's new voice-activated Siri can hunt you up a hit of Viagra in a heartbeat, but is stumped when you ask her to assist you with scoring some contraceptives:

In the News: Updates to Ten Previous Stories

Follow-ups and/or updates to stories about which I've blogged here in the past:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

From Friends' Blogs: A Wealth of Advent Offerings

Catching up on friends' wonderful blogs:

Michael Bayly has a gorgeous must-read posting about the significance of Advent up right now at his Wild Reed blog.  An excerpt:

The USCCB, the Religious Right, and Political Lobbying: Effects of Increasing Critical Scrutiny

One of the reasons the U.S. Catholic bishops are going to find it increasingly hard to make the argument that they're the underdogs in a battle against ugly anti-Catholicism and secularism in American society is that the cat is now out of the bag about the clout the USCCB exercises in D.C. as it lobbies.  (I'm building here on what I just posted about the bishops' Catholics-as-victim religious freedom arguments.)

Amanda Marcotte on Links between U.S. Catholic Bishops' Religious Freedom Rhetoric and Civil Rights-Era Bigotry

At Alternet today, Amanda Marcotte takes a look at the claim of the U.S. Catholic bishops and their supporters that their "religious freedom" and their "rights" trump the rights of employees of Catholic institutions to health insurance coverage that includes access to contraceptives.  Marcotte notes that the tactic the Catholic hierarchy has been employing all year--turning the notions of religious freedom and human rights on their heads to claim their faith-based "right" to deny rights and freedom to others--is not new.  It was part and parcel, as she points out, of the response of bigots to the  Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Monday, November 28, 2011

VOTF Report on John Jay Study: Clericalism and Abuse Crisis (And Liturgical Reforms)

Before this month gets away from us, I want to take note of a report that the group* Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) released early in November.  The VOTF statement responds to the John Jay College report* about the causes and context of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the last half century published by the U.S. Catholic bishops this past May.  It's entitled "Voice of the Faithful’s Conclusions about the John Jay College Report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010."

The Faithful Receive New Instructions about Prayer: Back to the Future and the Abdication of Moral Leadership

I've been reading and thinking about the commentary of English-speaking Catholics who went to Mass yesterday and partook of the delights Rome is now offering the faithful through the new liturgical translation.  A smorgasbord of such commentary is on offer right now at the Commonweal blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cooking to Save the Planet: Pound Cake

And so from teacakes to pound cake: the two go together in my mind.  Both are old-fashioned and very traditional Southern pastries.  Both are, to my palate, rather plain unless they're dressed up in some way with icing, custard, or a topping like jam.  And both were the very template of all cookies and cakes for my grandmothers--in particular, for my mother's mother, who never faced a slice of iced cake without observing that she preferred her cakes plain, with custard as their adornment, and not a cloyingly sweet icing.

Cooking to Save the Planet: Teacakes

The fascinating (and mouth-watering) discussion that Pat Robertson's unfortunate Thanksgiving comments about macaroni and cheese have set off here the past few days has me thinking about food.  About dishes I liked and didn't like in childhood.  And about how the beloved dishes of childhood often become the despised orphans of our (pseudo-) sophisticated early adulthood, only to become cherished companions as we mature.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bill Scher Is Thankful Conservatives No Longer Pretending

Here's what Bill Scher is thankful for this Thanksgiving season: 

Give Thanks and Shop Till You Drop: Coleen Rowley on Culture of Spiritual Death Dominating American Life

Post-Thanksgiving Shoppers 2010

While the American right is furious that President Obama didn't mention God in his brief Thanksgiving address, many of us did our patriotic-religious duty à la George W. Bush yesterday and shopped till we dropped.  Or we shopped till we had pepper-sprayed our fellow shoppers into submission as we lunged for video games at Wal-Mart.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Times Editorializes about Obama and the Bishops: Don't Cave

The New York Times weighs in today on the kerfuffle regarding the powerful (and highly funded) U.S. Catholic bishops' lobby in D.C. and contraceptive coverage in health-care plans of Catholic institutions.  The Times's editorial advice to the president: do the right thing.  Don't cave in.

Pat Robertson on Macaroni and Cheese: Is That A Stupid Thing?

I'm perplexed by Pat Robertson's response to Condoleeza Rice's observation that her family always ate macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving dinner.  Robertson asked Rice if this mysterious dish is "a black thing."

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Edward Hicks, "Peaceable Kingdom"

For any American readers who may be logging in to read as you prepare to travel for today's holiday, or as you prepare for the family gathering (and I dearly hope holiday-makers aren't wasting time reading this), a pre-gathering reflection I find helpful from Patricia Volk's book Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family (NY: Vintage, 2001):

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving, the Occupy Movement, and Jesus's Practice of Open Commensality

As American Thanksgiving approaches and many people expect to gather tomorrow around family tables or tables of chosen families, I'm thinking of something John Dominic Crossan says in his book Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (NY: HarperCollins, 1994).  Crossan notes that Jesus's practice of open commensality--of inviting anyone and everyone to his table, and, above all, those considered outcasts in his religious and social world--forms the historical basis of the Christian eucharist.  

Bachmann Campaign Manager: Gay Marriage Will Lead to Women Wanting to Marry Eiffel Tower

Michelle Bachmann's Iowa campaign manager Tamara Scott opines that letting the gays marry will lead to women wanting to marry the Eiffel tower.
And isn't it interesting that her mind would go to that particular image?  As Freud observes, sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.  But sometimes it isn't.

I often wonder whether, interspersed among their bible-study classes, the religious right folks ever took any psychology courses in school.  I tend to think not.

The Catholic Bishops' Lobby and the Moral Center of Catholicism

Recently, I took note of a back-and-forth between Michael Sean Winters and Tom Roberts at National Catholic Reporter, in which Roberts calls into question a persistent meme of Winters' reporting on behalf of the U.S. Catholic bishops.  Roberts notes that Winters's defense of the bishops depends on asserting and re-asserting that Catholics are under "attack" today in secular culture, and that anti-Catholicism in American culture lingers on and feeds the "attacks" Catholics are experiencing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering: My Mother's Birthday

Finally this morning: today is my mother's 89th birthday.  She'd turn 89 today, if she were still living.  And, of course, she is much in my thoughts these days.  I don't want to let the occasion go unmarked, as I remember and pray for rest and grace for a mother to whom I owe my life, and for all those who labor along through the difficult passages of life and hope for safe harbor at the end of their lives.  

Catholic Contraception Controversy Continues, Centrist Power-Brokers Carry Water for Bishops

I have worked with myself to discern whether or not I ought to say anything further about the intra-Catholic discussion now going on re: how the Obama administration should respond to the proposed HHS guidelines that would require faith-based organizations to provide contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans.  More than a little hot ink has already been spilled about this controversy, and I'm definitely one of the spillers.

UC Davis Story Continues to Unfold, after Pepper-Spraying

A few updates on the story at UC Davis, following the pepper-spraying of student demonstrators last week: Chancellor Linda Katehi continues to hold her ground and is refusing to resign, stating that the university needs her.  But a petition at calling for Katehi's resignation is rapidly gaining numerous signatures, and students have reconstructed the encampment site that the university police had sought to disperse last week.  And through their Occupy UC Davis Facebook page, they continue to organize demonstrations, including (unless I'm misreading the page) an upcoming strike a week from yesterday.

Daniel Mendelsohn on Penn State Paterno-Sandusky Story: Heterosexual Clubs and Homosexual Anxiety

As I've noted several times here, I think Daniel Mendelsohn is a national treasure, one of the most insightful and gifted writers around.  His Lost is at the top of the list of books I've read in the last decade that, in my judgment, are world-transforming works of art.  And that's a very small list . . . . 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Benedict XVI as Liberation Theologian?: "We Catholics" Aren't Buying It

Thank you, William Horan, TomC, John Church, Karen52, and many other respondents who join me in objecting to John Allen's recent attempt to present Benedict XVI as an advocate of liberation theology--when, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger effectively dismantled the liberation theology movement.  Ratzinger punished and silenced one liberation theologian after another.  

James Carroll on USCCB Pro-Republican Political Game-Playing: Lose-Lose for Democrats and for Catholics

James Carroll finds the U.S. Catholic bishops' blatant anti-Obama politicking bad news for the Democrats, for Obama--but, above all, for American Catholics, many of whom are intensely pained to see our bishops fracturing the pillars of the common good on which a healthy society is built and around which our church's social teaching is constructed: 

Occupy Springfield, MA, Confronts Scott Lively's Hate Ministry

And if you want to see up-close and personal the confrontation of the spirituality represented by Occupy protesters with the mythomaniac religion that serves the interests of the greedy, take a look at the video above from the Occupy Springfield (MA) movement--thanks to Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Truthdig's Cartoon of the Day: Better Angels and Their Opposite

And, as if it's timed to accompany Henry Porter's essay at Common Dreams, Truthdig's cartoon of the day, "Wall Street Complacent," by Lou Jie from Cagle Post, reminds us of who represents the better angels of our nature in the struggle for a more humane world right now.

And who doesn't.

(Except, of course, that I suspect many police folks in the U.S. might stand with the 99%, if they weren't held in economic thrall by the 1% . . . .)

Henry Porter on Global Protest Movements: Shattering of Mythomaniac Religion Allied with Greed

At Common Dreams, Henry Porter offers an interesting take on the growing worldwide protests, which are, he thinks, uniting many younger citizens of the globe in shared aspiration for "freedom, self-determination, fairness, justice, access to education and jobs as well as [in critiquing] the corruption, mismanagement and greed of their elders."  At the heart of the global protest movement is, he maintains, a rejection of "mythomaniac religion" allied with greed, which has such fatal attraction for right-wing movements:

Cooking to Save the Planet: Fall and Winter Marinated Salad

Coolmom, a much-esteemed reader of Bilgrimage, asked me a number of days ago to keep the gay recipes coming.  (And I love the thought that someone cares about this dabbing around with cooking ideas--because I love writing about this topic.)  So here's a recipe for a fall-winter salad that Steve and I make over and over again after fresh salad items, especially tomatoes, are no longer seasonally available in our area.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quote for Day: Valerie Schultz on Revised Catholic Liturgy

Quote for the day: Valerie Schultz writing (inter alia) about the newly, newly revised old-new Catholic liturgy with its mouthsful of new-old cracker-jack words: 

UC Davis Chancellor Katehi Does the Perp Walk

Glenn Greenwald on UC Davis Pepper-Spraying: Contagious Acts of Defiance, Courage, and Conscience

Glenn Greenwald reflects on the pepper-spraying of peacefully demonstrating students at UC Davis two days ago.  As shocking as the sadistic image of a policeman blasting students in the face with pepper spray while they sat on the ground is, it is not an aberration, Greenwald maintains.
We now live in a police state "in its pure form," he argues.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In the News: Appalling Police Violence at UC Davis, More on Oklahoma City Pastor Tom Vineyard

Two newsworthy items catching my eye late this Saturday:

What police did to students staging a peaceful sit-in at UC Davis yesterday is beyond appalling.  The  video of a policeman casually strutting up to a group of students and then discharging pepper spray in their faces after he brandishes the can in the air (shaking it to distribute the pepper) is chilling.  This is what America has come to, under the rule of the super-rich.

Penn State's Catholic-Like Scandal: Christopher Brauchli Reports

At Common Dreams, Christopher Brauchli compares the Penn State scandal to the Catholic one in an article entitled "The Coach and the Pope."'  He finds similarities between the two sex-abuse scandals: "Happy Valley is a lot like the Vatican except that football is its religion."

Penn State Paterno-Sandusky Story: Continuing Attempts to Invert Moral Values and Engage in Gay-Bashing

At the start of this week, I wrote that a meme beginning to emerge among the political and religious right tries to tell the Paterno-Sandusky story in a way that turns that story on its head by inverting the moral message of the story.  To be specific, I noted that right-wing commentators are already seeking to make the Paterno-Sandusky story about the dangers gay folks supposedly pose to society at large, though both Paterno and Sandusky are Catholic married men who have long lived in heterosexual marriages.

Fears Grow That Obama Administration Will Cave in to USCCB Lobby re: Proposed HHS Guidelines

As I did several days ago, various commentators are asking whether President Obama will cave in to the U.S. Catholic bishops' lobby re: Health and Human Services guidelines, following his secret meeting with Mr. Dolan, USCCB president, right before the USCCB gathering. The point of controversy: suggested guidelines that would require employers' health care plans to cover contraceptives.

Friday, November 18, 2011

And about the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Religious Liberty Initiative

And about the recent USCCB meeting and the U.S. Catholic bishops' religious liberty initiative: at the Franciscan spirituality blog site Dating God, Bro. Daniel P. Horan takes apart the U.S. bishops' arguments undergirding this initiative, and finds them significantly lacking in cogency.  They contain "a host of contradictions and ill-fitting arguments."  

And about the Finn Situation in Kansas City . . .

And some important statements about what keeps coming to light re: Mr. Finn, the Catholic bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph: 

Penn State Paterno-Sandusky Discussion Continues: All about Powerful Old Boys' Clubs

A gathering of recent read-worthy articles continuing the Penn State discussion:

Update on Catholic Voices Discussion of Gay Marriage: Gays Not Welcome

And speaking of the common good (piggybacking here on what I just posted about Michael Sean Winters's USCCB report for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good): I said yesterday that the story of blogger Terry Weldon's exclusion from an upcoming meeting of the British group Catholic Voices bears watching.  Catholic Voices was formed to coordinate media coverage of the papal visit to Britain in September 2010.  Its organizing members include Jack Valero, press officer for Opus Dei in the U.K., and Austen Ivereigh and Kathleen Griffin, Catholic journalists.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Michael Sean Winters on USCCB Meeting: I Respond

Yesterday, I received an email from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, with a copy of Michael Sean Winters's "The Letter from Baltimore," summarizing Winters's reflections on the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  In this letter, Winters continues the soft-selling of the bishops' new religious liberty initiative that he began in his National Catholic Reporter blog postings about the USCCB meeting, on which I reported several days ago (here and here and here).  Winters's piece for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good defends the bishops for expressing concern about purported restrictions of Catholic religious liberty, and argues that though the bishops were totally silent about the issue of widespread economic suffering in American society today at their recent meeting, they are on record defending the poor in important statements.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Terry Weldon on Catholic Voices Group and "the" Catholic Position on Marriage Equality

As I write about the U.S. Catholic bishops' crusade to protect "religious freedom" (I'm referring to what I've just posted as I make this statement), I'd like to draw readers' attention to a valuable statement about this topic at Terry Weldon's Queering the Church blog.  Terry's perspective is important, because it's the perspective of a Catholic actively involved in the movement to defend LGBT rights in a cultural context other than the American context.  Terry lives in and blogs from England, and so he brings a valuable outsiders' perspective (and one of a Catholic actively involved in the struggle for gay rights) to the American discussion.

Sarah Posner and Peter Montgomery on U.S. Catholic Bishops' Religious Freedom Initiative

The U.S. Catholic bishops' new "religious freedom" initiative continues to attract the (critical) attention of many observers beyond the boundaries of the Catholic church--who have every right to be concerned about the disproportionate influence the leaders of one particular faith community demand the "right" to exercise in the public square, via secret meetings with presidents, intense back-room lobbying sessions with congressional leaders, and copious amounts of tax-free lobbying dollars at their disposal, for whose use they are not required to account to anyone.  

Today at Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner offers further analysis of what the bishops are all about right now.  And it's not a pretty picture.

Occupy Movement: Full Steam Ahead, with Citywide Demonstrations Planned for New York Today

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arkansas News: Priest Removed for Slapping Child

A little nugget of information about which I'm reporting today since it's from my own backyard. And, obviously, it connects to the much larger picture of abuse of children by religious (and other) authority figures emerging as our society pays more attention to such abuse:

Steve Kornacki's Coming-Out Story: Required Reading for Those Seeking Understanding

For inspiration, Steve Kornacki's painful, humorous, insightful coming-out story at Salon yesterday is a must-read.  And for understanding of the numerous concrete challenges most folks in the U.S. who come out of the closet still face as they do so.  Even in big urban centers commonly considered gay-friendly and gay-inclusive.

In Catholic News: Continued Discussion of Bishops' Religious Freedom Initiative, and Mr. Finn Cuts a Deal

And on the Catholic front, here's what the U.S. Catholic bishops hope to accomplish with their expensive and well-funded (by whom?) smoke-and-mirrors campaign making loud bogus claims that the "religious freedom" of "Catholics" is now under assault by the Obama administration: as Sarah Posner reports at Religion Dispatches today, just as the bishops convened their Baltimore meeting, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post screaming that the Obama administration is attacking Catholics!!!! (The word "scream" and the italics are mine; they're not in Posner's more measured analysis.)

Attempt to Repress Occupy Movement and Questions about Spirituality

When I read the news that the police were shutting down the Occupy camp in Salt Lake City this past Saturday, I immediately thought, "This is the beginning of the crackdown.  Look for this to happen in a wave now."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Catholic Hierarchy's Approach to Gays and Inversion of Moral Values: Serious Apologetic Challenge

One final observation about the exceptionally serious apologetic challenge facing the Catholic community as their leaders' statements and actions, which claim to be about love and promoting "rights" and "freedom," belie the moral claims these leaders are making:

The Catholic Bishops' Image Problem and Cordileone's Gays-and-Devil Rhetoric

Salvatore Cordileone

And here's why the U.S. Catholic bishops now face a problem that goes far beyond image management and concerns about credibility (I'm building on what I've just posted about Michael Sean Winters' USCCB reporting).  Here's why the bishops have a problem that drives to the very heart of the most fundamental claims the Catholic church makes about itself as a sacramental sign of God's all-embracing and healing love in the world:

Mr. Winters Continues USCCB Blogging: The Bishops and Their Credibility Problem

In his blog reports about the USCCB meeting, National Catholic Reporter writer Michael Sean Winters is seeking to downplay the notion that the U.S. bishops want to pick a fight with the Obama administration over issues like marriage equality or the provision of contraception by health insurance plans.  Winters' first-session report yesterday began that meme, as he noted that the bishops are concerned about asserting the libertas ecclesiae in a cultural and political context that, to their mind, increasingly threatens the freedom of the church.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How the USCCB Meeting Is Received Outside Catholic Power Circles: Igor Volsky at Think Progress

And while those who have the bishops' ear try to spin the current USCCB meeting as all about love and as having nothing to do with a political agenda, here's how the bishops and their agenda are being received among media spokespersons and bloggers outside the inner circles of the Catholic church: Igor Volsky has a report now up at the Think Progress site entitled "Catholic Bishops Unveil New Anti-Gay Marriage Website, Promise to Pray for Marriage Inequality Measures."

Updates from Michael Sean Winters on USCCB Meeting

Two updates in Michael Sean Winters' blog series for the USCCB meeting (updates to the two to which I linked in my initial posting about this series this morning): the first of the two reports is on the morning session, in which Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland and William Lori of Bridgeport figured largely.  As I've noted in many previous postings, Mr. Cordileone is leading the charge for the bishops in their battle against marriage equality for gay citizens, and Mr. Lori is spearheading the "religious liberty" initiative of the USCCB, which claims that the rights and religious freedom of the bishops are being curtailed as marriage equality is enacted in some states.

U.S. Catholic Bishops Meet, and Michael Sean Winters Blogs

And as I blog about the way in which the top leaders of the Catholic church appear to many of us to be betraying the fundamental message of their church through their attitudes and behavior, I should note that anyone interested in following the day-to-day doings of one group of top leaders--the U.S. bishops--can find a valuable resource this week in Michael Sean Winters' blog at National Catholic Reporter.