Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mr. Dolan and His "Pro-Life" "Moral" Crusade: Shell Games, Moral Leadership, and $55.6 Million

As the U.S. Catholic bishops continue their "moral" crusade to protect "pro-life" values against ObamaCare, it might not be a bad idea for those trying to keep the conversation honest to hold the following observation I wrote earlier today in the forefront of their minds:

Kevin Clarke Comments at America on H.H.S. Guidelines and Politics

It goes without saying that as an editor of AmericaKevin Clarke argues that the Obama administration made a wrong decision about the HHS guidelines.  Even so, he frames his commentary about the HHS debate with the following telling observations:

Mr. Dolan and ObamaCare: An Historian of the Future Looks Back (2)

You're now at stage two of your research as an historian trying to unravel the conflicting arguments of the bishops-vs.-ObamaCare debate in the early 21st century: now that you've found out how downright confusing (and misleading: you're still baffled by Mr. Dolan's patently false assertion that the Obama administration's approval of guidelines for contraceptive coverage requires Catholic taxpayers to support abortion!) these arguments are, you've decided to turn for clarification and light to the intellectual and media arbiters of the American Catholic church of Dolan's day.

Mr. Dolan and ObamaCare: An Historian of the Future Looks Back

Suppose that, 100 years from now and removed from the artificially engineered hype of the U.S. Catholic bishops and their morally obtuse media mouthpieces of the early 21st century, you're an historian wanting to figure out what was really going on with the manufactured political controversy over the Obama administration's HHS guidelines.  To start your research, you take a look at the online Wall Street Journal article in which the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops, Mr. Dolan, has written that the Obama administration (you notice that the article's title uses the politically loaded term "ObamaCare") is trampling on Catholic religious freedom by mandating contraceptive coverage in health care plans, and

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Catholics" in Anti-Contraceptive Crusader Mode: An Addendum

A quick footnote to flesh out something I said in my first posting today: I stated that the U.S. Catholic bishops' current righteous crusade against the Obama administration vis-a-vis contraceptive coverage asks us--unbelievable!--to imagine that the U.S. Catholic bishops and their right-wing religious and political allies are trustworthy moral guides at this moment of history.  

Sally Denton on Romney as Mormon Candidate: The Presidency as Theological Office

Sally Denton is not much liked among Mormons--perhaps because, though she has long Mormon roots, she has written books, including her work on the Mountain Meadows massacre, that scrutinize key points of LDS history from a strongly critical viewpoint.  For my part, I've always found her work illuminating, since I tend to think that it's those shoved to the margins of a righteous tribe who often have the most accurate fix on the shortcomings of that tribe.  And on its history.

Katrina vanden Heuvel on the Occupy Effect: Resetting the Media Narrative

Katrina vanden Heuvel writing in The Nation about how the Occupy movement has, indeed, had a significant effect on American political discourse: 

"Catholics" Shift into Righteous Crusader Mode re: HHS Contraception Guidelines: None So Blind as Those Who See

I have news for American Catholic intellectuals of the center: every tribe can be spectacularly wrong.  And the more certain a tribe is that it and its leaders have the moral edge on every other tribe in the world, the more likely it is to be spectacularly wrong.  The more certain and set apart a tribe is, the more likely it is to be ignoring valuable information necessary to making well-rounded intellectual and moral judgments.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Reports on Bishops Cranking Up Republican Voting Machine over Contraceptive Guidelines

More and more bishops are piling on, as the USCCB cranks up its Republican voting machine to try to use the HHS guidelines for contraceptive coverage to drive Catholic voters to the polls to vote "right" in 2012.  Several Catholic journals have just published online pieces that provide updated information about bishops issuing statements to do their bit to get the Republican machine cranking.

Human Rights and Catholic Conscience: Discerning History's Moral Arc

It's illuminating for me to read Jay Michaelson at Religion Dispatches today on the international struggle for LGBT human rights side by side with Christopher Brauchli at Common Dreams on how the U.S. Catholic bishops (and their defenders) persistently subordinate human rights to doctrinal purity when it comes to enforcing official Catholic sexual teaching.

Catholics Good, Jehovah's Witnesses Bad: Telling Admissions re: "Conscience Exemptions" Argument

Though Vincent Miller opposes the recent decision by the Obama administration to accept guidelines to make contraceptives accessible through health care plans, he recognizes that what he, the Catholic bishops, and their supporters are demanding vis-a-vis "conscience exemptions" is precisely what he would not endorse, if Jehovah's Witnesses sought conscience exemptions to deny health care coverage for blood transfusions.  Miller writes: 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Catholic Bishops Crank Up Republican Voting Machine in Response to HHS Guidelines

Here is an example of the kind of wild over-the-top, scare-infused political rhetoric we can begin to expect from many U.S. Catholic bishops now that the Obama administration has accepted guidelines for HHS to require contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans: Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria says the new regulations may close down "every Catholic school, hospital, and other public ministries of our Church."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Tics, Gesticulations, Swoops, and Flourishes Amidst Liturgical Bedlam

So many droppings, so little time.  I want to frame today's piece with a snippet that a reader sent to Andrew Sullivan recently.  The following isn't the birdcage dropping per se.  Instead, please regard it as the scoop with which I'll then pick up the Catholic birdcage dropping on which I really intend to focus:

"Of Late, We Are Here": Remembering David Kato

A year ago today, human-rights activist David Kato, an out gay man, was bludgeoned to death at his home in Uganda.  Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall commemorate Kato and his legacy in a moving short film linked to this New York Times article today.

Amanda Marcotte on the Newt as the Living Id of the Republican Party: Entitlement and More Entitlement

Amanda Marcotte offers insightful analysis of the double standard used by American conservatives (and the mainstream media and religious right) to assess the sexual infractions of political leaders: if he's a rich, powerful white man with right-wing views, adultery and serial marriages don't matter at all, even if he's mouthing pieties about traditional family values while cheating on a string of wives:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Political Commentary on Southern Themes (and the Newt): Abby Zimet, Ernest Dumas, and Gene Lyons

This report by Abby Zimet at Common Dreams fairly well encapsulates for me what's gone incredibly awry in the political (and cultural, and religious, and ethical) priorities of many Americans today: Zimet notes that while governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky is cutting his state's budget for education and other basic services to the bone, he continues to earmark a $43 million tax break for a creationist-themed amusement park with a honking big replica of Noah's ark.

One Pastor's Take on the "New" Liturgy: Fr. Nobert Dlabal on New Trans as Akin to KGB Document

Father Norbert Dlabal, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Goodland, KS, and Holy Ghost in Sharon Springs, KS, weighs in on the "new" liturgical translations at National Catholic Reporter:

Bethune-Cookman University under Leadership of Trudie Kibbe Reed: The Role of the Southern Association of Colleges

To add to what I wrote yesterday about Bethune-Cookman University and the recent resignation/retirement of its president Trudie Kibbe Reed: as the university's accrediting body the Southern Association of Colleges prepared to review the school for reaccreditation in 2010, it invited third-party comments from members of the public.  I submitted a third-party comment to SACS as someone who had served as the school's highest academic officer, its vice-president for academic affairs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bill Moyers Continues Series on Intersection of Money and Politics

Moyers & Company Show 102: On Crony Capitalism from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

In Higher Education News: Bethune-Cookman University President Trudie Kibbe Reed Resigns/Retires

In the world of higher education, a very strange story now coming out of Bethune-Cookman University in Florida: as Michael Stratford reports  in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday, the university president, Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed, has retired in the middle of the academic year.  At least, that appears to be the story.  But getting a clear picture of whether this is a resignation or a retirement or why it's taking place: that's another story altogether.

Dating God Blog Critiques March for Life: A Voice for American Catholicism to Hear

Brother Daniel Horan

Franciscan brother Daniel Horan has a posting up at his Dating God site which, to my way of thinking, interjects much-needed truth-telling into the Catholic  public discussion of the abortion issue.  And which brings this public discussion to a much-needed level of moral maturity.  Joshua McElwee reports on Horan's posting and adds his own valuable reflections at National Catholic Reporter.

Lemony Snicket Now an Agony Aunt on Twitter?!

Lemony Snicket now giving love advice via Twitter?  I think I may have died and just gone to heaven.

Here's a sample:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Another Gay Teen Suicide: Phillip Parker, Tennessee

How soon will it be until we click on to another story or change the channel when yet another of these tragic suicides of gay teens makes news in the U.S.?  That's what people eventually do, after all, when something is reported over and over in the news, and it seems not nearly enough is happening to stop a particular kind of tragedy from occurring.

Martin Marty on Supreme Court Hosanna-Tabor Ruling: Religious Exemptions and the Common Good

Martin Marty

At the Ekklesia website, noted scholar of American church history Martin Marty weighs in on the recent "ministerial exception" ruling of the Supreme Court.  Marty's take: the Supremes' willingness to grant churches a "ministerial exception" in laws outlawing discrimination for other employers is hardly surprising in a nation with the soul of a church.  "Ministerial exception" now goes side by side with "tax exemption" in the nation's lexicon for matters in which religion and the public square interface.

On Conscience, the U.S. Bishops, and Manufactured Battles with the Obama Administration: David DeCosse at NCR

National Catholic Reporter is now carrying valuable commentary by David DeCosse, director of campus ethics programs at Santa Clara University, about the model of conscience the U.S. Catholic bishops are applying in their clashes with the Obama administration over "religious freedom" issues.  DeCosse focuses, in particular, on the recent battle about the HHS guidelines recommending coverage of contraception in health care plans, including in religiously owned institutions.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Who Has Known the Mind of the Corgi, and Who Has Been Her Counselor? (Act Three)

In my second-act posting about the unfathomable mind of the corgi, I told you about Valentine's newly developed fetish for attacking--and soundly trouncing--plants.  I reported that his enemies of the Kingdom of Flora and Fauna have included the following (outside our garden, which is now thoroughly trounced):

David Clohessy's Kansas City Deposition Unsealed: Notes on SNAP Press Statement

The SNAP website has a good media statement from last week addressing the unprecedented demand in two Missouri cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, that SNAP open its files to the scrutiny of lawyers hired by Catholic officials to defend priests accused of sex crimes with minors.  As the press release notes, a judge has just unsealed the six-hour deposition that David Clohessy of SNAP was required to make in Kansas City recently, and it will be uploaded to the SNAP site when it's available.

Abortion and Contraception: A WHO Study and Implications for Catholic Pro-Lifers

Yesterday, I summed up my reflections on the decision of the Obama administration to support the recommendation of the National Academy of Science's Institute for Medicine to assure access to contraception as part of a comprehensive health care plan for women, when I wrote,

South Carolina Votes, and the Race Heads into the Gutter

The New York Times judges that Mr. Gingrich "pulled the [Republican presidential] race into the gutter" in South Carolina.  And it worked for him.  Big-time.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Commemorating Etta James: "At Last"

And to commemorate Etta James, the powerful and deep-souled blues singer who died yesterday at age 73, a performance of her iconic song "At Last."  Born to a single mother who was often absent during her upbringing, James never knew her father.  But, despite her lifelong struggles with addiction problems, she kept on keeping on, and produced significant vocal work that bridges rhythm and blues and rock and roll.

And she richly deserves to be remembered for all she offered us.

Obama Administration Rejects USCCB Pressure re: HHS Guidelines: Catholic Commentariat Reacts

And, to piggyback on what I have just posted about the religious right's game plan to make the 2012 elections all about God--well, "God" of a highly refracted, politically selective sort--there's this interesting update: though I had predicted here in a number of postings that the Obama administration would cave to the considerable pressure of the highly funded U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' lobby as it demanded an expanded "conscience exemption" for Catholic institutions vis-a-vis contraceptive coverage in health care plans, the administration has just announced that it's going to implement the proposed HHS guidelines that recommend such coverage.

Religious Right Redivivus: Commentary on the Newt's Ascendancy

Good commentary in the past two days on how the Newt has managed to reinvent himself as the religious right's latest, best go-to boy, despite his spectacularly sordid past and his history of egregious failure as a Republican party leader.  This may well be the political story of the year--an illuminatory narrative about the extent to which a highly refracted, politically charged religiosity--of a sort--continues to drive the political future of the nation with the soul of a church.  And about the bottomless pit of cynicism from which that highly selective political religiosity of a sort emanates.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Republican Party and the South: Then-and-Now, An Addendum

In what I posted earlier today, I also intended to note Dr. Wilson Bachelor's view of the death penalty.  That detail somehow got away from me when I finalized the posting, and so here is this small addendum:

The Republican Party and the South: A Then-and-Now Perspective

Wilson Bachelor (1827-1903), Arkansas Republican Leader

In that posting taking note of Fr. Martin's recent call for renewed respect, compassion, and sensitivity among Catholics as they deal with their gay brothers and sisters, I noted that the recurring cycles of disdain openly vented in the American political context against those who are gay (vented with overt Catholic complicity in many cases) tend to wear on me.  More than just a tad.

More Commentary on Newt's Infidelities: Ablow and Sullivan

Dr. Keith Ablow, Media Matters' "LGBT Misinformer of the Year," offers a Bluebeard argument for how the Newt's multiple woman make him eminently qualified to be POTUS: if three women in a row fell for him, two of those knowing he was married, he must be full of "emotional energy and intellect."

Minnesota, Catholic Church, Marriage Amendment: Tom Roberts Updates the Story

I just mentioned Michael Bayly in my previous posting about Phil Ewing's Blue-Eyed Ennis site.  Michael's contributions to the Catholic blogosphere also received well-deserved notice yesterday in something Tom Roberts posted at the National Catholic Reporter site.  

Resources for Catholic Conversations with Gay Folks: Phil Ewing's Blue-Eyed Ennis Site

Fra Bartolommeo, "Christ Appearing on the Road to Emmaus"

As the work week ends, I want to take notice of several valuable resources that have appeared recently at Phil Ewing's beautiful Blue-Eyed Ennis site.  As I noted in a posting several days ago, Fr. James Martin recently posted a piece at the America blog site, calling for Catholics to give renewed attention to the catechetical teaching that gay and lesbian persons should be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  My brief response to Fr. Martin's posting is at the first link above.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Politics, Strange Bedfellows, the LDS-Catholic Alliance, and Mr. Gingrich

Well, maybe I spoke too soon when I noted previously the irony of the  Catholic-Mormon alliance to defend the "traditional" model of family.  As I said, the Catholic and Mormon understandings of what makes family tick couldn't be further apart, when the former preaches the one-man, one-woman, for-life model, and the latter has roots going back to its very foundations that have comprised polygamous models of marriage.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Mormons Join Catholic Bishops' Discrimination Party in Minnesota

Guess who's coming to dinner?  The dinner being the discrimination-gala the Catholic bishops of Minnesota have been throwing the past few years, as they make combating the gays and the human rights of gay citizens their major priority.

American Marines Urinating on Enemy Corpses: Jerry Lembcke's Moral Analysis

The conclusion to Jerry Lembcke's thoughtful and morally sensitive analysis at NCR of the photos circulating online, showing U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban members they had just shot:

Newt Spotting in South Carolina

Red-Spotted Newt

With his star ascending in the Palmetto state, the Newt is back in the news in a big way this morning.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Richard Rapaport Echoes James Petigru on South Carolina: "Too Big to Be an Asylum"

At Salon, Richard Rapaport takes a good look at South Carolina's long, long history of refractory behavior that puts the future of the entire nation on the bargaining table, until South Carolinians get their way.  Rappaport finds the Palmetto state proud, reactionary, and more than a little crazy--echoing the state's native son James L. Petigru, who once observed that the state is "too small to be a republic, too big to be an asylum."

Oh the Humanity! U.S. Catholic Bishops Continue Attack on Gay Community

And as a complement to what I just posted about the possibility of learning from the animal kingdom ways to be more humane towards our fellow human beings:

Terry Weldon on Catholic Magisterial Teaching about Human Sexuality: Animal Considerations

Terry Weldon has a brilliant posting up right now at his Queering the Church website.*  It notes that, by reducing the analysis of human sexuality to the level of acts, Catholic magisterial teaching insults not only those who are gay (and who are the primary and usual target of that teaching these days).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jonathan Weiler on Journalism by the Elite, for the Elite: Implications for American Catholic Conversation

Jonathan Weiler's analysis of what has happened to journalism since the 1970s and how that has affected the national political discourse of the U.S. is illuminating for me.  It helps me understand better what I've long found so disquieting about the centrist perspective of many high-profile members of the Catholic media-intellectual commentariat, who are entirely divorced from (and seemingly impervious to) lived sympathy for those who are gay.  And, increasingly, from the viewpoints of a large majority of the faithful on issues like gay right and marriage equality.

Patriarchy, Violence, and the Battle for the Soul of World Religions: The Case of a Catholic Theologian and Jewish Rabbi

I read openly gay German Catholic theologian David Berger describing his experiences with some fellow Catholics after he came out of the closet in 2010, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach talking about his similar experiences with fellow Jews after word got around that he had written a book with the title Kosher Jesus, and I realize I'm reading two versions of the same story.  One is Catholic, the other Jewish.  One chocolate, the other vanilla.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In Honor of M.L. King Day: Audre Lorde on Truth-Telling

And, finally, in commemoration of today's Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, the following from Audre Lorde's book A Burst of Light (Ithaca, NY: Firebrand, 1988): 

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "The Chalice of Benediction"

This from a Facebook page linked to mine, a page belonging to a young home-schooling mother who is Catholic.  And Catholic again.  Catholic added to Catholic.

Catholic Diocesan Money and SNAP: Goliath, Meet David

As the recent National Catholic Reporter editorial defending SNAP in the Missouri subpoena situation about which I blogged on the weekend notes, SNAP is a modestly funded organization that is run on a shoestring budget and mostly by volunteers.   Its total operating budget for a year is around $350,000.  

Will Doig on Rising Population of Feral Dogs and Cats in U.S. Cities: Apocalypse Now

There's something approaching the apocalyptic in the story Will Doig tells at Salon last Saturday about the growing population of feral dogs and cats in many American cities (and in cities around the world).  In particular, what the story says about the kind of civilization we're becoming strikes me as well-nigh apocalyptic.

Controversy Over Statue of JPII in Rome: A New Head to Be Supplied

This isn't specifically a dropping from the Catholic birdcage, but it does strike me as almost birdcage-worthy: Alessandro Speciale reports for Religion News Service that people in Rome are worried about John Paul II's head.  Not the real head, you understand.  His head on a statue outside the main railway station in Rome.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seven Questions about the Tebow Phenomenon: My Two Cents' Worth

My two cents (and they're not worth much, I feel pretty sure) on the Tim Tebow phenomenon, in the form of questions:

A Reader Writes: Post-Constantinean Catholics Look for Persuasion, not Force

Donation of Constantine, Sylvester Chapel, Santi Quatro Coronati, Rome

Several days ago, a reader, Evagrius, made a valuable comment in response to my posting about re-claiming the moral center of Catholicism in the public square.  I'd like to lift Evagrius's comment from the combox following that posting and post it as a stand-alone posting so that more readers may benefit from it.