Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lent, Easter, Jesus and the Victims of History: A Meditation

Lent ends today, and it's my 63rd birthday, and I find myself in much the same place in which I was as my 60th birthday approached--and as I remembered my mother's death last year. Throughout Lent this year, I have been haunted by thoughts of the children mercilessly gunned down last Christmas. To be specific: I am haunted by the question of how one prays in the face of such tragedy. I'm haunted by the question of where God is as such tragedy occurs.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Reader Writes: What's This Foot Washing All About, Anyway (and Is There a Red State/Blue State Divide Here)?

In response to my posting earlier today about Pope Francis's choice to include women among those whose feet he washed in the Holy Thursday liturgy yesterday, a reader bosicO writes:

For Good Friday Meditation: Odetta Singing "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"

In the News: Debates About Rights Are About People, More on What-about-Children?! and I'm-Not-a-Homophobe-But Arguments

(As the day goes on): sorry for the hiatus in my blogging today. As my previous post indicated, I intended to note some more newsworthy (to me, that is, and I hope to you) stories that have caught my eye the past day or so. And then life got in the way of blogging, with a trip I had to take to do some business, and I'm only now back at my computer. So here's the rest of today's story:

Washing Women's Feet: New Pope Captures Media Attention (and Infuriates Catholic Traditionalists)

I intended this Good Friday to write about something that seems really substantial (to me, at least). Meanwhile, a number of things I've read online this morning and last evening strike me as so noteworthy that I'd like to share these with readers, with brief commentary. And if I have energy and focus later, I'll try to gather my Good Friday thoughts to share, too.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"He Took the Form of a Servant": Holy Thursday and Jesus's Gender Transgression

I've written about this before (and here), but it bears repeating: when Jesus knelt to wash the feet of his followers and served food to them at the Last Supper, he quite specifically assumed the role not merely of a servant, but of a female. Domestic service, waiting at table, washing the feet of guests before a meal, was a role reserved in Jesus's culture for women.

Americans Talk Religion, Morality, Discrimination, Law: Commentary on Supreme Court Prop 8 and DOMA Hearings

A miscellany of articles (in addition to those to which I've already linked) that have caught my attention in the past several days, all spurred by the Supreme Court prop 8 and DOMA hearings, with brief excerpts:

Catholics Still Working on Love for Gay Folks: The Supreme Court and the Catholic Question

A continuation of yesterday's theme, Catholics "still working on love" when it comes to their gay brothers and sisters:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Catholics Responding to Gay Rights: "We're Still Working on Love"

Earlier today, I wrote,

I'm Not a Homophobe, But...: Engaging Arguments Against Marriage Equality

And then there's the I'm-not-a-homophobe-but argument, which is so exactly like the arguments I heard from one fellow white Southerner after another as barriers to human rights for people of color fell away during the 1950s and 1960s as I came of age in the American South:

The What-About-the-Children?! Proposal: Engaging Arguments Against Marriage Equality

Another non-argument (I'm building here on what I just posted) that people fighting for marriage equality and human rights need to keep engaging as the religious right continues to advance it: this is the what-about-the-children?! argument. In her classic anthropological study of middle-class American suburban life entitled Belonging in America: Reading Between the Lines (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin, 1988), Constance Perin notes that the claim that new sociological developments will harm children is a typical line of defense of middle-class Americans confronted with changes in the world around them that threaten their sense of security and control.

The Marie Antoinette Syndrome and Gay Unions As Essentially "Different": Engaging Arguments Against Marriage Equality

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Life with Dogs: A Small Blogging Vacation

You know that feeling you get that you're being picked away at from all sides? That itchy feeling that makes you prickly and unbalanced in response, so that your approach to others becomes touchy or even strident? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Testimony about Pope Francis from Leading Liberation Theologians

As the work week ends, I want to point readers to two more good statements about Pope Francis by highly regarded liberation theologians, which the Iglesia Descalza site helpfully made available yesterday (with a hat tip to Jayden Cameron for pointing to these at his Gay Mystic site):

Pope Francis and His Shadow: Milt Priggee Cartoon

The cartoon: Milt Priggee of Cagle Cartoons, by way of Truthdig.

The Onion on Steubenville Rape Convictions and Mainstream Media Fail

Catholic Rhetoric about Abortion and Serving the Common Good: A Reflection on Bill Tammeus's Recent NCR Article

Yesterday, Bill Tammeus posted an essay at National Catholic Reporter about the issue of abortion and Catholic magisterial teaching. To my mind, at least part of what the essay argues persuasively is that Catholics who refuse to engage those with different mindsets about complex issues re: the ethic of life can hardly expect to persuade others to share the Catholic understanding of life issues. I hear Tammeus arguing that, if Catholics don't intend to engage others with different perspectives in pluralistic secular democracies by means of respectful, dialogic interchange, Catholics shouldn't be surprised that many others in the world around them simply shrug their shoulders at Catholic teachings about life issues.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

10th Anniversary of Invasion of Iraq: A Poem

And, finally today, because yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the start of the unjust Iraq war, a poem I wrote when the Gulf War got underway: I'm tired of these wars . . . .

Mary Hunt on Theology and Consequences: An Initial Response to Pope Francis

And on the theme of the significance of the new pope in general--beyond particular issues like the dirty war and gay marriage--Catholic theologian Mary Hunt has just offered another powerful statement at Religion and Politics. Hunt's optic: theology has consequences, and "moral do-overs are few and far between."

Pope Francis and Gay Marriage: More Valuable Commentary

And, to complement what I just posted vis-a-vis recent commentary about Pope Francis and the dirty war, here's a selection of recent statements on his response to the Argentinian government's implementation of marriage equality: 

Pope Francis and the Dirty War: Valuable New Commentary

Good commentary on the new pope continues to pour forth. Here are several articles that strike me as particularly valuable--all dealing with questions about the dirty war in Argentina and how the new pope may (or should?) choose to address these questions.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Pro-Life" Legislation and Anti-Obama Hijinks in Bible-Belt State Legislatures: When Pro-Life Means Anything But Pro-Life

I blogged recently about Arkansas's draconian new anti-abortion legislation, which will be declared unconstitutional, since it creates a bar that defies federal rulings on the issue of abortions. I noted that, though many pro-life Catholics applaud such defiant legislation by tea-party-dominated state legislatures, the "pro-life" beliefs from which such tea-party legislation arises are a very bad fit for the Catholic tradition. My posting notes the many respects in which the anti-abortion stance of GOP-ruled state legislatures in the bible belt flatly ignores and rejects a consistent or seamless-garment philosophy of life.

Response of a Gay Catholic to Pope Francis's Installation Homily: Does "Everyone" Include LGBT Human Beings?

Dave Zirin on Steubenville Rape Convictions: Connections Between Jock Culture and Rape Culture?

After the Steubenville rape verdicts and the massive failure of several mainstream media news outlets--notably CNN--as they commented on these verdicts, sportswriter Dave Zirin asks about the "connective tissue" between jock culture and rape culture: 

Monday, March 18, 2013

More Responses to Francis: Clelia Luro, Jon Sobrino, Jamie Manson, James Keenan

More valuable commentary on the new pope that has caught my eye as the day has gone on: 

Ivone Gebara on the Papal Election: "Official Coverage" and Stoning Dissonant Voices

Sister Ivone Gebara

I'm really happy to discover today that National Catholic Reporter has published Brazilian theologian Ivone Gebara's meditation on the papal election process, the new pope, and the geopolitics of secrecy. I had read a prĂ©cis of the article somewhere else a few days ago, and thought it was powerful. It helps me keep any hope I can muster with the new papacy grounded . . . in the real world, beyond the world of carefully crafted images and media hype that so many of my fellow Americans eat up with such naive, uncritical alacrity, as if we ourselves, we Americans, have become people of the easy image and not of hard thought and careful critical dialogue.

Pope Francis as Reformer and Catholics on the Ground: Distinguishing False Hope from Real

In any theology that makes much sense to me, hope begins with the ground. It begins with the earth. It builds from where we are and who we are--"earth lifted up a little while," in Wendell Berry's masterful phrase--and moves skyward from that humble (humble: rooted in humus) grounding place.

Listening, Watching, Praying: A Selection of Responses to the New Pope

I'm listening. I'm watching. I'm praying, in my own limping and half-hearted fashion.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tim Padgett for Time: Hope Muted by Reality in Case of Pope Francis

In an essay at Time, journalist Tim Padgett expresses both hope that Pope Francis will be a significant reformer of Padgett's Catholic church, and doubt about whether he can achieve the kind of reform many Catholics envisage, given some strong aspects of his history. There is, for instance, Padgett notes, the matter of Francis's response to proposals for marriage equality in Argentina, which in his view, went beyond pro forma denunciations and were "especially hateful."

Leonardo Boff on New Pope: "Francis Isn't a Name, It's a Plan for a Church"

At his website now, Leonardo Boff has an important theological statement about Pope Francis and his call to rebuild the church, which Rebel Girl has helpfully translated at her Iglesia Descalza site. Boff notes that he had predicted that the new pope would be called Francis, because the Catholic church today stands in imperative need of rebuilding, as it did when Francis of Assisi heard the Lord tell him, "Francis, go and rebuild my church." Boff thinks that the new pope deliberately chose the name Francis because he recognizes that the church is in ruins now due to scandals and demoralization that have eroded the church's most precious possession: its moral voice and moral credibility.

Weekend News: Discussion of Pope Francis and Dirty War a Top Story Worldwide

As the weekend arrives, the story that won't go away remains front and center in news everywhere: what happened in the Argentinian dirty war, and how does that history connect to the promise of reform the new pope Francis is supposed to represent? Lizzie Davies sums up the story for English readers in The Guardian yesterday, noting that the papal press spokesperson Fr. Lombardi is blaming "anti-clerical, leftwing" critics of the pope for circulating the story.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quote for the Day: A Tempus Loquendi

Carlos Gamerro writing in the Wall Street Journal in a statement entitled "Pope Francis, the Disappeared, and the Questions That Won't Vanish":

About the Dirty War: Totally Unsolicited Advice to Pope Francis from a Totally Unimportant Catholic

An in-between-chores posting, after someone just contacted me to say that the discussion of Francis's story vis-a-vis the dirty war in Argentina (about which I maintain we still don't have all the details--and I am willing to listen carefully and suspend judgment until they are disclosed) was major news everywhere today:

A Note of Profound Thanks for Valuable Comments Here

A quick note as I move to the chores part of my morning and away from my computer for a while: I feel it's important to tell readers how much I'm benefiting from the many valuable comments you have been making here the past several days, while I haven't taken time to acknowledge them. I'm moved by the hopefulness of many of my fellow Catholics and many people with whom I interact in various dialogue communities online. 

A Church That Listens with the Ears of Its Heart: Whose Gay Sons and Daughters?

Yesterday, I fantasized about the possibility that a new pope might choose to listen with the ears of his heart to the experience of his brother and sister Catholics and fellow human beings who happen to be gay. I linked to an excellent editorial that the Jesuit magazine America wrote about the listening church and the new pope even before we all learned that the new pope would be a Jesuit.

Pope Francis: More Testimony to Be Considered

And yet more commentary--this by way of corroboration of the primary testimony of the three key pieces of testimony to which I just pointed readers, which have caused me to stop and listen (and keep praying and hoping, even as I refuse to shut down my mind and to silence the voice of my conscience):

Commentary on New Pope: Three Voices That Stand Out for Me

Amidst the torrent of commentary that has appeared in the last two days about the new pope, several pieces have stuck out for me. I'd like to point readers to them today, with some notes about why they've caught my attention--and, in contrast to much I've been reading about these matters, have caused me to keep thinking and asking questions that, in my view, I need to ask, if I'm faithful to my calling as a Christian and a theologian.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Theologians Responding to Pope Francis: Defending the Excluded Demands Consistency re: Defining the Excluded

From the Facebook feed of my friend and theologian-colleague Michael Iafrate: 

America Editorial Calls on New Pope to Listen

I said in my previous posting that I'd refrain from posting a lot of links to the substantial commentary about Pope Francis now appearing everywhere online. It occurs to me, though, to point readers to the latest editorial in the Jesuit weekly America magazine, which was published (online, at least) prior to the papal election and to the announcement that the conclave had chosen a Jesuit pope who in turn asks to be called Francis. 

The Symbolic Imperative of the Papacy Under Pope Francis: Kenotic Atonement

As often happens, I’m feeling considerably out of step with much that’s being said following the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as pope yesterday. As a result, I hesitate to write about this topic today. What if I’m entirely wrong-headed, and misleading people who read what I write here? (But, then, if they had any sense, they surely wouldn’t be taking my flounderings at understanding and finding any path at all in the wilderness as gospel, would they?)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

John Allen on Background of Pope Francis

John Allen's write-up on Cardinal Bergoglio at NCR: according to Allen,

Breaking News: Habeunt Papam, Apparently (with Updates)

News media are reporting white smoke from the papal conclave, but to my knowledge, no announcement yet of who has been elected.

Ryan Budget: "I Love Rich People"

Sometimes the title says it all: "What Ryan's Budget Really Says: 'I Love Rich People.'" That's Dean Baker at Common Dreams.

Papal Conclave and Transition in Papacy: A Collection of Statements and Resources

I think I heard somewhere that something is going on in Rome lately. Anybody else hear those rumors? I should probably look into them.

The Times, They Are A-Changin': Reconstructionist Judaism Selects First Openly Gay Leader (and Southern Baptists Get a Shock)

As Timothy Kincaid reports at Box Turtle Bulletin this morning, this is a really, really big deal: the national Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association has just selected as its leader Jason Klein, an openly gay rabbi. The times, they are a-changin'.

While Princes Pick Popes: A Poem (with Apologies to William Carlos Williams)

Nothing depends

On two rusty wheelbarrows

Tipped against a fence

In the sun

Neither of them red.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Measuring the New Pope: Cartoon Commentary by Cam Cardow

Cam Cardow of Cagle Cartoons and the Ottawa Citizen, via Truthdig.

In News: Maciel Legacy and Papacy, Vatican and Violence Against Women, Regnerus Study

In news not unrelated to the papal conclave and the future direction of the Catholic church:

The Cardinals Close the Conclave Doors and the Holy Spirit Flits Away?

I love Ken Briggs's sharp, sly observation about the silliness of what most of the cardinals being interviewed lately about the papal conclave are saying: he notes that the Holy Spirit, who's supposedly in charge of the whole shindig, can't even get a press conference. And then he observes,

Monday, March 11, 2013

SNAP to Cardinal Angelo Sodano: Step Down Tomorrow as Papal Conclave Begins

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has just issued a press release calling on Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, not to offer a special liturgy tomorrow to mark the opening of the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. As SNAP maintains, Sodano, who was formerly the Vatican's Secretary of State, "is a dramatic symbol of almost everything that is wrong with the Catholic hierarchy, especially when it comes to addressing and stopping the sexual assault of children by clergy and the cover up these crimes."

Andrew Sullivan on Bishops' Opposition to Violence Against Women Act: "Looking for Bigger Rocks"

As last week ended, I noted the vocal opposition of a group of key U.S. Catholic bishops to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act--because that act affords protection to lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, who are, it appears, worthy of assault in the minds of some pastoral leaders of the Catholic church. How else to construe these bishops' opposition to an act that seems, to many of us as we read the gospels and think about Catholic moral teaching at its best, a no-brainer?

Poll After Poll Finds Solid (and Increasing) Majority of U.S. Catholics Support Marriage Equality

I just linked to a recent New York Times/CBS poll which shows that 62% of American Catholics support same-sex marriage. As the Times article by Laurie Goodstein and Megan Thee-Brenan to which I've linked notes, this rate of support is higher than the American rate as a whole: 53% of Americans approve of same-sex marriage.

Mainstream Media Reporting on Papal Transition: Neither Fair Nor Balanced

I'm pretty sure I've told this story before here, but it bears repeating, I think: some two decades ago, I "won" a national essay contest for scholars of religion. The "prize": we winning essay writers were flown in to present our essays at the national center for the study of religion and American culture that sponsored the contest.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

As Papal Election Nears, AP Recycles Old News about Bishop Finn Attacking NCR's Catholicity

Does anyone in the world but me find it, well, odd that, on the eve of a papal election, the Associated Press is shopping around an article by Maria Sudekum about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City "rebuking" the National Catholic Reporter for, as Finn wants us to imagine, having ditched Catholic identity? Here's the Sudekum article, which has just shown up at the ABC news site. FOX (of course) is also helping to push this article, as are the Washington Post, Breitbart, and a slew of news outlets.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Apologies: I'm Behind in Acknowledging Comments

Dear Readers,

I realize I'm running even behinder than usual in acknowledging your many welcome comments here. My slowness is due to the fact that the final proofs of my forthcoming book arrived several days ago, and I'm immersed in the proofing process.

Rights for Me and Thee: Howard University Files Amicus Brief Supporting Marriage Equality

Uh-oh. As I just noted, one of the most predictable tactics of the hard right in the U.S. (including not a few U.S. Catholic bishops) is to seek to play the rights of one targeted minority against another targeted minority--to play the ancient politics of divide et impera to control minority groups by setting them one against another. 

Rights for Me But Not for Thee: Key Catholic Bishops Oppose Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act Due to Inclusion of Sexual Orientation

I wrote yesterday that the much-touted progressive socioeconomic teaching of the emeritus pope spectacularly undercuts itself when the person issuing it seeks to deny or block the human rights of targeted minorities. As I stated,