Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Prediction for 2014: Increasing Attempts to Undercut Pope Francis's Socioeconomic Teaching by Dividing His Supporters Over Gay and Women's Issues

The mainstream media love to play the centrist (which is to say, right-wing-in-disguise) game of pretending that Catholic teaching about doctrinal or moral issues cannot be revised and never has been changed. History notwithstanding: history and all it demonstrates to us about how, in fact, Catholic teaching has been changed in the past, and repeatedly so, notwithstanding . . . .

The Year Turns: Happy New Year to All, with Hopes that We May Meet One Another Doing Good in 2014

In previous years as the year turns, I've posted commentary on the turning of the year written by my uncle several generations back, Wilson Richard Bachelor, whose work was published this year in my book entitled Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth-Century Country Doctor and Philosopher. Dr. Bachelor had a habit, year after year, of sitting awake in his study writing as the new year arrived while his family slept in the house to which his study was attached. Many of his new year's eve reflections dwell on our obligation to be better and kinder to one another, to build a more humane world together, regardless of our religious views (or our lack of any religious commitment: he himself was a freethinker who rejected theism). 

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Travel Report from Rome: Impressions of St. Peter's, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museum

Another excerpt from my travel diary--this one reflecting on our tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's, for which we had an outstanding tour guide, an art historian recommended by a friend of ours:

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our Pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome Summed Up

So, all things considered, a very interesting pilgrimage: 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Leaving Rome, I Encounter an Important U.S. Catholic Journalist and Am Unimpressed

Steve and I are sitting in the Rome airport waiting for our flight to Atlanta. A fascinating experience as we checked in this morning for our flight: we dutifully arrived three hours in advance of the flight, and so were first in line to go through the check-in process. As we stand and wait, an interesting, voluble young woman strikes up a conversation with us, and is very helpful to us as we prepare for the check-in. She's a seasoned traveler who comes to Rome often. She teaches in the field of international relations and conflict resolution.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Two Questions Worth Pondering: What Are We Inviting Them To? and Is Attending Church Worth the Risk?

Quick News Commentary: Phil Robertson and "Duck Dynasty," New Ways Ministry on Top Catholic LGBTI Stories of 2013 (You Can Vote on These)

Some very brief remarks about the recent controversy regarding the deplorable homophobic statements of "Duck Dynasty" t.v. star Phil Robertson: here's a list of some commentary I've found worth reading in the past few days:

A Travel Report from Rome (With Thanks for Your Responses to My Florence and Assisi Stories)

I haven't had much to say here in the past several days, because Rome is so overwhelming with all that it has to offer that I haven't had time or energy, frankly, to blog very much. We return home tomorrow, and as I gather my thoughts after our return, I may have a bit more to tell you about our time in Rome.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sarah Posner in Al Jazeera America: "As Lindsey Pointed Out, There Are Other Types of Inequality and Exclusion Some Catholics Say the Pope Has not Adequately Addressed"

Sarah Posner, Al Jazeera America, "Pope Francis a Rock Star Among Catholics on Inequality, But . . .":

A Travel Report from Assisi: Francis, Where Are You?

Assisi was beautiful. The entire time we were there, it was shrouded in thick fog, turning the place magical, as the outlines of shops selling tacky tourist tat were softened, obscured by the mist. In the sheer physical beauty of the place and in its peaceful aura, I experienced St. Francis far more palpably than I did at his shrine, with its busy-ness/business so awkwardly juxtaposed against the legacy of a saint who would, I suspect, have absolutely deplored the way in which he's remembered by the shrine.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Travel Report about Our Arrival in Florence

We're now in Rome. Arrived by train from Assisi this afternoon, and I have internet capability for the nonce, after several days without it. Assisi was our next stop after Florence, which I believe I mentioned in my past posting was our destination after Bolzano. Here's a snippet from my travel diary about our arrival in Florence on the evening of the 18th:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Travel Report as We Leave Bolzano for Florence

Dear Readers,

A travel report: we made it safely to our first destination, Bolzano, on Sunday--or was it Monday? The days blur when you are in a jet over the ocean for . . . a day, two days? . . . don't they? By my reckoning, it's now Wednesday.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Pilgrimage: With Best Wishes to All of You for the Holidays

Dear Readers,

I'm typing this posting as Steve and I prepare to leave for the airport. We're heading off today on a Christmas trip to Italy, which became possible for us when we discovered a kind of magic called "frequent flyer miles" that waved away the price of airfare. We've also found additional magic called convent guesthouses at several of the places we'll visit as we travel--reasonably priced lodging with meals included.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pope Francis, Anti-Gay Clobber Texts, and Hope: An Advent Meditation

Advent's my season, in some ways. As a gay Catholic who hopes and believes that my church might eventually decide to treat me and others like me with basic human decency, I have long lived in hope, believing in the substance of things unseen. 

Quote for Day: "It Is Still Globally the Case – and Pope Francis Is Well Aware – That the Poorest of the Poor, the Last on the List for Food, Medicine and Education, Are Women"

Once again: we cannot talk credibly about poverty and overcoming the exclusion produced by unjust socioeconomic structures without talking specifically about women--as philosopher Janet Martin Soskice notes recently in The Tablet:

Why Pope Francis Is an Important Figure in Progressive Politics

Sonali Kolhatkar on what makes Pope Francis an important figure in progressive politics:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Peter Montgomery on Gay Rights Around the Planet: Whiplash-Producing Developments

For those trying to follow the rapid (and whiplash-producing) developments in the field of LGBTI rights at a global level, Peter Montgomery offers a great succinct summary at Religion Dispatches today. As he notes, "If there were still any doubts that the struggle for and against the human rights of LGBT people has gone global, events this month would have erased them."

Gospel and More Gospel: When the Gospel of Jesus (and Pope Francis) Meets the American Gospel . . .

Pope Francis says,

Quote for the Day: "Yet There Was Not a Single Woman in the Room"

Quote for Day: "No One Can Say They Are for the Poor as Jesus Was and Do Nothing, Nothing, Nothing for the Equality of Women"

Sister Joan Chittister to a panel of scholars of religion at the American Academy of Religion meeting in November:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pope Francis Chosen as Time's Person of the Year: A Selection of Commentary

As the day ends, here's a selection of commentary (and news reports) on Time's choice of Pope Francis as 2013 person of the year. Time's two statements first, followed by commentary and news reports, alphabetical by the surname of authors:

News: Bro Porn, G. Gänswein & Pain, Gays & Russia, Children & Eating, Cruelty & Irresponsibility, Greed & Prosperity, Mandela's Legacy

Some one-liners that have leapt out at me in articles I've read recently:

Vatican's Commission on Sexual Abuse Crisis: "As Banks Trade in Coin, Churches Trade in Trust"

A mid-week tally of articles about the abuse crisis in the Catholic church that have caught my eye in the past few days:

Letter to Editor: When It Comes to Enforcing Catholic Sexual Teaching, Depends on Who's Calling the Shots

A letter to the editor of my statewide free newspaper Arkansas Times that caught my eye this week: this is a response to the firing of teacher Tippi McCullough by Mount St. Mary school in Little Rock when she chose to marry her partner Barbara Mariani:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Emily Dickinson's Birthday: Scraps, Facts, and Dreams

Today's Emily's birthday (as in Dickinson), and I can't think of a better way to commemorate it than by sharing one of her previously unpublished "scraps" that Andrew Sullivan has been featuring at his Dish site recently. These are from Gorgeous Nothings, edited by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner (NY: New Directions, 2013). When I say that Emily's "scraps" haven't been published previously, I'm speaking of their publication in Gorgeous Nothings, from which the Dish blog has been drawing poems.

NCR Reader Responds to Firing of Michael Griffin in Bensalem, Pennsylvania: "They've Been Wanting to Get Rid of Him"

Oh, well, in for a penny, in for a: why not run the risk of appearing obsessed (and petty?), by posting yet another comment about that contributor to National Catholic Reporter threads, Purgatrix Ineptiae, about whom I've blogged a number of times (most recently here and here)?

Another Day, Another Tribalistic Argument Defending USCCB in ACLU Case: Why I Beg to Differ

Another day, another firing of a gay teacher in a Catholic school another tribalistic defense of the U.S. Catholic bishops as pro-life leaders: this one is from Kevin Clarke at America, who is citing the Catholic Health Association's response to the ACLU lawsuit in Michigan. Clarke writes,

Quote for Day: Refusal of Republican States to Expand Medicaid One of Most Sordid Acts in Recent American History

Kevin Drum on the decision of Republican states to turn back billions of dollars that would have provided healthcare coverage to their poorest citizens:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why Holy Ghost Catholic School Fired Gay Teacher: Contract "Requires All Faculty and Staff to Follow the Teachings of the Church"

Why Holy Ghost Catholic Prep school in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, fired teacher Michael Griffin when he got a license to marry his partner Vincent Giannetto: according to David Gibson's report for Religion News Service (by way of National Catholic Reporter), 

NCR Expunges Anti-Gay Hate-Speech Comments to Which I Objected Yesterday

A footnote to what I posted yesterday about objectionable postings by a Catholic blogger calling herself  Purgatrix Ineptiae at the National Catholic Reporter site, in which this blogger continues to characterize gay people as mentally defective because they are "disordered," and continues to link homosexuality to pedophilia (and necrophilia!):

New York Times Editorial on ACLU Case vs. USCCB: Bishops' Squandered Pro-Life Case

After Time started the new year with an article about how the pro-life movement is carrying the day in the U.S., there's been a lot of talk in Catholic circles (see, e.g., this posting by Greg Sisk at Mirror of Justice) about how pro-lifers are winning the war against abortion. The National Opinion Research Center's survey of trends in attitudes (pdf file) about abortion this year showed support for the label "pro-life" inching up among younger Americans. This trend has been taken as a sign that the pro-life movement is winning, though this study and others continue to indicate that many Americans who claim the label "pro-life" also support the right of a woman to choose an abortion when that decision appears medically warranted.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

About Rush Limbaugh's Attacks on Pope Francis: Total Silence from U.S. Bishops

And in case you happen to have missed this:

Contributor to NCR Threads Continues to Link Homosexuality with Pedophilia and Necrophilia, Speaks of Gays as Mentally Disordered

As Catholic pastoral leaders seek with increasing lack of success to convince their flocks and the general public that gay people pose an incomparable threat to social stability, and that gay folks are in league with the devil and their open, loving, committed relationships are evil (I'm piggybacking on my previous posting), here's the kind of discourse about gay people that continues to be protected at Catholic blog sites:

One Hand, Other Hand: Another Firing of Catholic Gay Teacher, Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis Releases Names of Credibly Accused Priests

As anyone reading this blog for some time now may have realized, I tend to read the news with a pair of rabbinic spectacles on: I like to juxtapose news stories that make me think about this hand and that hand. On the one hand, it appears this way. But on the other hand, there's this perspective.

I Did It: My Obamacare Story

I signed up yesterday for Obamacare. And I couldn't have been happier, both with the results and with my experience navigating the ACA website.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Philip Pullman on Storytelling: An Excerpt from His Introduction to the Brothers Grimm

I love Philip Pullman. I found His Dark Materials engrossing, and I enjoyed his quirky fictionalized biography of Jesus as well. Because few books exercised such a formative role in my imaginative life after I began to read than did Grimms's fairy tales, I was delighted to discover that Pullman has done a re-telling of the Grimms's stories.

Resources for Pope-Watching: Paul Vallely's New Book on Francis, Paul Lakeland's VOTF Lecture

For those engaged in pope-watching (and who's not, these days?), Paul Vallely's new book Pope Francis: Untying the Knots may be of interest. I haven't read the book, but find Ken Briggs's recent review of it in National Catholic Reporter thought-provoking. According to Briggs, Vallely tells Bergoglio's story as one of conversion: in his life as a priest, Jorge Bergoglio has moved along a trajectory from rigidity to openness. Something along the way triggered this remarkable shift in his spirituality, and the shift is now on evidence in his papal style.

Papal Commission on Sexual Abuse Crisis Announced; Survivors Respond

The Vatican announced yesterday that Pope Francis has set up a papal commission to advise him about dealing with the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church. As Elisabetta Povoledo, Alan Cowell, and Rick Gladstone report for New York Times, this is the first concrete step Pope Francis has taken to address the abuse crisis, and the announcement comes two days after a United Nations panel resoundingly criticized the Catholic church for its mishandling of abuse cases.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Marilynne Robinson on "The Great Narrative" of Wondrous Love in the Gospels: An Advent Meditation

I posted this excerpt from Marilynne Robinson's essay "Wondrous Love" during Holy Week 2012. I'm of a mind to publish it again now as an Advent meditation. I love its insistence that what Christians think and say in the name of Christ--what they profess as the teaching of churches called into being to remember Jesus and transmit his memory--has always to be normed by the "great narrative" of the Christian gospels.

For Those in Petition-Signing Mood: Rush Limbaugh and Pope Francis, Koch Brothers and Catholic University of America

The political right is not going to give up the cozy alliance that the U.S. Catholic bishops have forged with it in recent years without a fight. Pope Francis represents a direct repudiation of that alliance, and so he himself is becoming the target of many right-wing American media commentators and political figures.

Catholic Hospitals and Women's Needs: Dueling Catholic Perspectives--Phyllis Zagano and Katie McDonough

Two competing narratives in response to the ACLU lawsuit vs. the USCCB re: Mercy Health Care of Muskegon, Michigan, which I discussed yesterday:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cooking to Save the Planet: Mushrooms and Eggs (and Sweet Potatoes and Crème Fraîche)

Writing about food in the week after American Thanksgiving is like carrying coals to Newcastle, isn't it? Or gilding the lily. Or something along the lines of those two metaphors: too much too much, when we've just finished beating too much too much to death less than a week since.

Why Do the U.S. Bishops Sound So Unlike Pope Francis? Vinnie Rotondaro Provides Answers

Vinnie Rotondaro

I also want to recommend today Vinnie Rotondaro's examination of why Pope Francis's message of merciful concern for the poor, which is, after all, as old as the gospels, seems to come as such a surprise to so many people, American Catholics included. The reason Francis surprises us, Rotondaro surmises, is that he's so unlike many members of his own hierarchy--the U.S. bishops certainly included:

People Talking: Rush Does Not Heart Francis, Women and Catholic Church, Catholic Hospitals, Dolan and Gays, Vatican Questionnaire

I've been busy of late counting Samuels and chasing Nathaniels (more on that later, perhaps), and have fallen behind in blog-reading. I've fallen behind in reading blogs that comment on the news more than report it. As I catch up today, I thought I might share with you some of what I've been reading. Many of these pieces provide interesting perspectives on stories we've already discussed here:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Philomena: A Review (of Sorts)

I'd like to recommend to you a movie Steve and I saw on the day after Thanksgiving--Stephen Frears's Philomena, starring Judi Dench. I don't want to say too much about the plot, since I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't yet seen the movie. Many of you will already know that the film recounts the real-life story of an Irish woman, Philomena Lee, who gave birth to a child in one of those homes for unwed mothers run by nuns in Ireland. The little boy was taken from her and sold to a couple in the states, and she spent years searching for her son--the focus of the film's plot.

Jason Berry on Evangelii Gaudium and the Catholic Clerical Sex Abuse Crisis

Jason Berry

Another take on Evangelii Gaudium, this by Jason Berry, who deserves tremendous credit for his persistence in reporting about the Catholic clerical sex abuse crisis long before anyone else dared to write about this: Berry notes that Francis and his pastoral formulation of Catholicism are enjoying great popularity in Europe, where unemployment for Spanish and Greek young people is now at Depression-era levels. But he also points out that the stress on open doors and on the need for a decentralized church which places service to the least among us first on its agenda will cause people to ask questions about how he intends to address the abuse crisis.

The Missed Opportunities of Pope Francis's Evangelii Gaudium

In a statement at his Christian Catholicism site, Jerry Slevin concludes that, with his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis "missed real opportunities in his Letter, likely intentionally." Jerry writes,

Monday, December 2, 2013

Parsing Cardinal Dolan: Catholic Hierarchy Losing Marriage Equality Battle Because It's about Morality, Not Money

The outgoing leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, has just observed that the Catholic bishops (who aren't anti-gay at all) have been "out-marketed" by the gays and their allies in the marriage equality battle. For those who don't follow the bishops closely as they talk about these issues, a bit of parsing may be in order:

Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: A Critical Response from a Nobody Who Isn't Even in the Room

When a big religious organization, one with global reach, announces that it's reforming itself, reaching back to its origins and seeking to bring the powerful originating impulse from which it stems into the contemporary world, it's major news. When the Catholic church announces that it's in a reforming return-to-origins mode, as it did at Vatican II and is now doing under Pope Francis, people take notice. And they should do so.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: Reflections from a Nobody Who Isn't Even in the Room

I've struggled for several days now to write something about Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.  I have read the document--sort of: it's lengthy and diffuse, and to be honest, much of it strikes me as a habriaqueísmo (a word I learned from the document itself, #96) that doesn't speak to me because it doesn't seem to see me in the room. And so my eyes scan the words without fully taking them in, since I suspect they're not addressed to me as an openly gay, partnered Catholic theologian who was never, throughout my brief, abortive theological career, accorded any lasting place within a Catholic college or university, or within a Catholic parish--because I am clearly not welcome within these institutions as I am in my real life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Outcry in Louisville about University Hospital's Healthcare Plan Following Merger with Kentucky One/Catholic Health Initiatives

Another eye-catching item in today's news: as Laura Ungar reports for Louisville Courier-Journal, the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups are unhappy about a recent announcement made by the University of Louisville hospital. The hospital recently announced that its 2014 insurance plan for employees will no longer cover vasectomies. The plan also erases all references to domestic partners, lumping them together with "dependent adults." The plan has explicitly inserted into its insurance coverage guidelines language defining spouses solely as legally married persons of the opposite sex.

Breaking News: Four New Indictments of Adults in Steubenville Rape Case

AP is reporting (and see CNN's report) this morning that there are four more indictments in the Steubenville rape case, in which high-school football players Ma'lik Richmond and Trenton May were convicted this past March of raping a 16-year old girl at a party last August. Here's Huffington Post's valuable cache of articles covering that story, in which it was widely reported that many members of the local community rallied around and protected the rapists and blamed the teenaged girl for her rape. 

More on Linda Woodhead's Survey of What British Catholics Actually Believe: The "Big Con" of Magisterial Teaching about Sexual Morality

Prof. Linda Woodhead

At Religion Dispatches, Linda Woodhead reprises the summary of her recent research findings regarding what British Catholics actually believe (as opposed to what they're told to believe) that I discussed last week. She frames her presentation of her findings by noting that the questionnaire the Vatican is circulating, which asks for lay input prior to the synod on the family, is unlikely to obtain a clear picture of what lay Catholics believe, because its methodology is so cumbersome that it will elicit "hydra-headed" replies that aren't susceptible to easy interpretation.