Thursday, April 29, 2010

Studies on the Family

For all your family research needs:
Allan C. Carlson is president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society and international secretary of the World Congress of Families. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the National Commission on Children, on which he served until 1993. Over the last ten years he has advised various congressional leaders and presidential candidates on how to craft family-friendly policies and legislation.

ISI Books

Introduction to Family and Civilization
Author of Third Ways
Author of The "American Way"

Online Lectures

A Radical Economics?: Capitalism and State in Quest for Community
Beyond Capitalism & Socialism: Rebuilding an American Economy Focused on Family and Community
Not Safe, Nor Private, Nor Free: Wendell Berry on Sexual Love and Procreation
Röpke's Conundrum Over the Natural Family
Russell Kirk, Northern Agrarian
The Curious Costs of Gender Equality
Third Ways: What Bulgarian Greens and Swedish Housewives Can Teach Us About the Financial Crisis

ISI Journals

Wilhelm Röpke’s Conundrums over the Natural Family —Spring 2009, IR
Agrarianism Reborn: On the Curious Return of the Small Family Farm —Spring 2008, IR
The New American Faith Paul Gottfried, After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State —Spring 2000, MA
The Problem of Karl Polanyi —Spring 2006, IR
Two Becoming One Flesh: Marriage as a Sexual and Economic Union —Fall/Winter 2004, IR
Creative Destruction, Family Style —Spring 2002, IR
Compassionate Conservatism: Ten Lessons from the New Agrarians —Fall 2000/Spring 2001, IR
The Family and Liberal Capitalsim —Summer/Fall 1982, MA

Additional Information

Additional information about Allan Carlson is available through Mars Hill Audio.

Times as Parallel Magisterium

A fascinating take on The New York Times, the sex abuse scandal, and parallel magisteriums:

The New York Times isn’t fair. In its all-hands-on-deck drive to implicate the pope in diocesan cover-ups of abusive priests, the Times has relied on a steady stream of documents unearthed or supplied by Jeff Anderson, the nation’s most aggressive litigator on behalf of clergy-abuse victims. Fairness dictates that the Times give Anderson at least a co-byline.

After all, it was really Anderson who “broke” the story on March 25 about Fr. Lawrence Murphy and his abuse of two hundred deaf children a half-century ago in Wisconsin. Reporter Laurie Goodstein says her article emerged from her own “inquiries,” but the piece was based on Anderson documents. Indeed, in its ongoing exercise in J’accuse journalism, the Times has adopted as its own Anderson’s construal of what took place. Anderson is a persuasive fellow: back in 2002 he claimed that he had already won more than $60 million in settlements from the church. But the really big money is in Rome, which is why Anderson is trying to haul the Vatican into U.S. federal court. The Times did not mention this in its story, of course, but if the paper can show malfeasance on the part of the pope, Anderson may get his biggest payday yet.

It’s hard for a newspaper to climb in bed with a man like Anderson without making his cause its own. Does this mean that the Times is anti-Catholic? New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan thinks it is—he said so last October in response to an earlier series of stories on clergy abuse. Whatever one thinks of Dolan’s accusation, clearly the Times considers sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests more newsworthy than abuse committed by other groups. An April 13 verdict against the Boy Scouts of America, which has struggled with the child-sexual-abuse issue for a century, did not merit page-1, above-the-fold treatment but rather a single paragraph deep inside the paper. A longer April 15 story about a Brown University student credibly accused of raping another student, an incident the university did not report to the police and arguably “covered up” at the request of powerful figures in the Brown community, appeared on page 18.

No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church.

Well worth reading the whole thing. Woodward goes into a point by point examination of the ways the Catholic Church and the New York Times parallel each other.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pope Benedict and Media, Britain

Cardinal Levada, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Benedict's old job) and one of the top Americans in Church governance, was interviewed on PBS:
He might not be so hot on the Grey Lady these days, but in yet another intervention underscoring the significance with which the Holy See's taken the latest cycle of clergy sex-abuse revelations and the reaction to them, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal William Levada sat for an extended interview with PBS' "Newshour," which ran tonight. Calling himself "a great fan" of the program, fullvideo's up of the unprecedented broadcast TV sit-down with the Vatican's #3 official -- the highest-ranking American ever at the Holy See, and Rome's top hand on the handling of abuse cases...
Speaking of the New York Times:
In a profile of Jeffrey Anderson, the New York Times reveals that the lawyer who is attempting to bring suit against the Vatican was successful in steering the Times news coverage toward his case. Referring to Anderson's involvement in the case of Father Lawrence Murphy, the Times story notes that the aggressive trial lawyer was a main source for a front-page report critical of Pope Benedict: The New York Times was working on a different article last month when a reporter contacted Mr. Anderson. He provided documents about the Murphy case describing how efforts by Wisconsin church officials to subject Father Murphy to a canonical trial and remove him from the priesthood were halted after he wrote a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, asking for a cessation of the trial. The Times report also quoted Jeffrey Lena, an attorney representing the Vatican in American courts, who observed that Anderson had courted publicity to favor his lawsuits. "It shows how you can both create a media frenzy, and then capitalize on it," Lena said.
And interesting suggestions coming from British Catholics:

The ridiculous insults directed at the Holy Father by Foreign Office officials raise fundamental questions about the papal visit to Britain in September. The Vatican has decided that Pope Benedict will proceed with the trip; but it is under no illusions about the gravity of the situation...

Apologies have been issued, but the question remains: how can Britain stage a successful state visit when the civil servants organising it exhibit ignorant hostility towards the Pontiff?

This newspaper believes that a state visit will be very difficult to arrange successfully, and not just because the Foreign Office has compromised its professional standards...

Moreover, the fact that this would be the first state visit to Britain by a Pope – John Paul II made a purely pastoral visit in 1982 – means that the taxpayer will foot much of the bill. Secularists, backed by the media, can therefore complain that their money is being used to celebrate an organisation they loathe...

Their plans to disrupt the occasion are already advanced. There is one relatively simple route out of this minefield, and that is to make the Pope’s visit a pastoral rather than a state one.

More on Matters Spiritual

Fr. Longnecker speaks on things that go bump in the night:
This article tells us that sightings of ghosts, demons, werewolves, black beasts and monsters of all kinds are higher than ever in modern day Britain... When I worked as an Anglican priest in England I received regular requests to cleanse houses of spooky stuff.When I lived in England I went to a seminar by the famous psychiatrist Kenneth McCall, who wrote the book Healing the Family Tree. He was a very experienced exorcist and was very involved in the healing and deliverance ministry. He said that all that was required in most cases of paranormal activity was for two or three baptized Christians to pray the Lord's Prayer with a focus on 'deliver us from evil.' This is my experience too. There are cases of profound demonic activity, but most cases of paranormal activity are low level. The name of Jesus is also very powerful. A priest friend of mine named Roger, who is now gone home told me that he was once walking down the corridor of a psychiatric ward where he had gone to visit a parishioner when a madman ran up to him brandishing a knife. My friend was only just over 5'. His attacker was over 6' and heavy. Roger pointed to him and said, "In the name of Jesus, drop the knife!" The man dropped the knife, burst into tears and hugged Roger and asked forgiveness.
And some words of wisdom on the biblical basis for the account of the fall of the devil, as well as sage advice:
Let us listen to the words of John Paul II's Sunday Regina Caeli from April 24, 1994 when he said the following words: "May prayer strengthen us for that spiritual battle of which the Letter to the Ephesians speaks, “Draw strength from the Lord and from the vigor of his power” (Eph 6:10. The book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of Saint Michael the Archangel (C.f. Rev 12:7). Pope Leo XIII had a very vivid recollection of this scene, when at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer of Saint Michael to the entire Church: 'Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Divine Power of God - cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.' Even if this prayer is no longer recited at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, I invite all of you to not forget it, but to recite it so as to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sightings of the Enemy

Pray for the perpetrators, and pray for us all. Every so often, the enemy raises his ugly head a little:

At the urging of their pastor, members of St. Matthew Catholic Church stopped at a rose garden on church grounds Sunday to pray for whoever knocked off the head and praying hands of a concrete Virgin Mary statue and to teach their children that even a peaceful garden in full bloom is not protected from violence.

The desecration took place between Friday midnight and 5 a.m. Saturday, when it was first discovered, McSweeney said.

The head and hands had been cleanly knocked off, with little damage to the rest of the 3-foot statue. The pastor said the vandalism didn't look random or accidental, "but it seems to me purposely done."

He said the church, for now, will keep the damaged statue in the same spot to stir members to continue their reflections.

Mark Shea comments:
There's something so utterly puerile and small about desecrating a statue of the Virgin. And the person who does it invariably regards himself as a hero, "striking back". Satan loves to Miltonic poses of heroism as he does these little deeds of teenage vandalism. His favorite targets are the weak--hence his love of abortion.
And in his combox:
There was a statue of Christ in Rehoboth Beach, DE that was similarly decapitated a few years back.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Distributism Against the Modern World

A round up, because of the research I'm doing into the subject. A defense of Distributism against conservative capitalist Catholic critiques. A Professor Wilbur's syllabus for a class on Distributism at Notre Dame. A program for the creation of Urban Distributism:
The original Distributist program can be reconstructed -- and it appears to have had these six stages: 1. Promote Distributist ideas in print and in public debate. That was done. 2. Start a Distributist “League” to sponsor activities. That was done. 3. Provide for model Distributist experiments (e.g., self-sustaining Distributist communities). That was done. 4. Form a Distributist political party and elect Distributist candidates. That was done. 5. Influence legislation in favor of Distributist reforms and programs. That was done, at least partially. 6. Achieve majority representation in Parliament and gradually inaugurate the Distributist State. Obviously that was not done.
Joseph Pearce (an excellent writer--highly recommended) on E. F. Schumacher and Distributism. A cool excerpt:
He opposed government policy and maintained that such a course of action was no way to run a world. In response, someone said to him 'how should we run the world then?' Good question. So he decided to study that question and with a completely open mind. He embarked upon an enormous course of reading... Then somebody said you should read the social encyclicals of the Popes of Rome. He replied, 'No, no, I'm sure that the Popes are very holy men living in their ivory tower in the Vatican but they don't know a thing about the conduct of practical affairs... But this friend... insisted that he should read the social encyclicals, Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno above all... He did so and was absolutely staggered. He said, 'here were these celibates living in an ivory tower... why can they talk a great deal of sense when everyone else talks nonsense'...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

British Demonstrate Famous Class, Courtesy...Anti-Catholicism

Well, this is charming:

A magnificent scoop from my colleague Jonathan Wynne-Jones, who reveals in The Sunday Telegraph that Foreign Office proposals for the Pope’s visit to Britain included suggestions that he should bless a gay marriage, launch papal-branded condoms and open an abortion clinic.

David Miliband has apologised; the Catholic hierarchy is furious, accusing the FO of “disrespecting” the Pope. (Yup, Malcolm McMahon, the bishop in charge of education, used “disrespect” as a verb.)

Ruth Gledhill has more:
In The Sunday Times online we report that the Pope's advisers are starting to regret he ever accepted the invitation to come to Britain in September. This emerged following the Fantastic exclusive by my colleague in religious affairs, Jonathan Wynne-Jones at The Sunday Telegraph, on the astonishing memo dreamed up by some Oxbridge person at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. To Jonathan's revelations I can add one more line. The memo also suggested that, during the visit, the National Anthem be changed from God Save the Queen to God Save the World. ' ...former Ambassador to Italy Sir Ivor Roberts told me: 'I cannot think of a Papal visit anywhere in the world where the host government has had to apologise so profusely and abjectly in advancing for the appalling behaviour of one of its officials.' THE government apologised to the Pope last night after an official paper suggested he should be asked to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage and launch a Benedict-branded condom range on his state visit in September. 'The document, drawn up by the Foreign Office as part of a briefing pack and sent to officials across Whitehall, also suggested Benedict XVI could demonstrate a hard line on child abuse by “sacking dodgy bishops” and launching a helpline for abused children. 'The government’s papal visit team also recommended that he sing a song with the Queen for charity and apologise for the Spanish Armada...

Holy See Always Had International Status

A very good rebuttal of Geoffrey Robertson:
Before 1870, there were two subjects of international law: the Papal States and the Holy See. Of these two persons in international law the one, the Papal States, was extinguished by the Italian post-Risorgimento government when they invaded and overran those States in September 1870. But the Holy See which goes back to early Christian times and to an era where the concept of the nation state was unknown, continued to exist as the preeminent episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, and as such, diplomatically, and in other spheres, the Holy See was and is acting for the whole Catholic Church.

The Holy See remained a sovereign entity and a subject of general international law in the period between the annexation of the Papal States in 1870 and the Lateran Treaty of 1929 when the Vatican City State was created to solve the so-called Roman question (when the Pope withdrew to the Vatican and refused to recognise the Italian Government’s annexation of Rome and the Papal States) and give the Holy See a territorial dimension once again.

This can be seen by the practice of states, including Britain which re-established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1914 after a break of 450 years. During this period, when the Holy See had no territory, the Holy See continued to conclude concordats and continued, with the consent of a majority of states, to exercise the active and passive right of legation. In fact in the course of the 59 years during which the Holy See held no territorial sovereignty, the number of states that had diplomatic relations with it, which had been reduced to 16, actually increased to 29.

So those like Robertson who claim that the Holy See’s international status was unilaterally created by the “fascist state of Italy in 1929” are using a bogus argument...

"Why aren’t we there yet?"

We always end up like our founder (h/t The Anchoress):

The day the Antichrist is ripped from his papal throne, true religion will guide the world. Or perhaps it’s the day the last priest is gutted, and his entrails used to strangle the last king, as Voltaire demanded. Yes, that’s when we will see at last the reign of bright, clean, enlightened reason—the release of mankind from the shadows of medieval superstition. War will end. The proletariat will awaken from its opiate dream. The oppression of women will stop. And science at last will be free from the shackles of Rome.

For almost 500 years now, Catholicism has been an available answer, a mystical key, to that deep, childish, and existentially compelling question: Why aren’t we there yet? Why is progress still unfinished? Why is promise still unfulfilled? Why aren’t we perfect? Why aren’t we changed?

Despite our rejection of the past, the future still hasn’t arrived. Despite our advances, corruption continues. It needs an explanation. It requires a response. And in every modernizing movement—from Protestant Reformers to French Revolutionaries, Communists to Freudians, Temperance Leaguers and suffragettes to biotechnologists and science-fiction futurists—someone in despair eventually stumbles on the answer: We have been thwarted by the Catholic Church.

Or by the Jews, of course. Perhaps it’s no accident that anti-Semitism should also be making a reappearance these days. The poet Peter Viereck’s famous line—“Catholic-baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals”—gets quoted in too many contexts to express the connection anymore, and, God knows, the history of Catholicism has plenty of anti-Semitic sins to expiate. Still, Jews and Catholics do have this much in common: In moments of uncertainty and doubt, the people of the West go haring back again to their old gods and traditional answers—blaming the Jews and the Catholic Church.

Do read the whole thing, because it covers a great deal of ground and dares to defend the very effective policies which the church and this pope have put into place over the past decade, both to address and to prevent abusive situations. This is reassuring news for victims who are not hearing it elsewhere, and need to know about it; they need to know that their suffering and their pain has been heard – that it is being and will continue to be addressed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park and Mohammed

While I'm not a fan of all their stuff, this is important:
"...their primary point was that you can make fun of anyone in a free democracy—except Muhammad. The threats and violence that have dogged anyone who dares even represent the prophet—from Salman Rushdie to Danish and Swedish cartoonists—have created a kind of fear-fueled exception to free-speech laws even in Western democracies. The episode addressed this hypocrisy clearly, even as Parker and Stone took care to obscure the actual image of Muhammad with everything from a black “censored” bar to a U-Haul truck to a bear mascot suit because South Park’s animated townspeople wanted to avoid having a fatwa placed on them. This wasn’t just provocative satire—it was both smart and brave. Unfortunately, South Park’s network, Comedy Central, seemed to cave into the threats to a degree when the second episode of the two-part series was aired this week, bleeping out even the mention of Muhammad’s name. This was cowardly and provided evidence that coercion could be successful... The group’s homepage—which is now down—featured the “warning” over audio from radical clerics and also showed the picture of the author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was threatened alongside Van Gogh. I contacted Ayaan to get her take on the incident. “It is obviously a very clear threat and it echoes the same threats that were used against Theo van Gogh and me when he was alive,” Ayaan said. “It is an invitation to murder, a way of inspiring other people to kill. And how disgusting that they are using the image of an innocent man who was killed—he has a son and a mom and dad and friends. When you grieve, you get closure. For them, there's no closure this way. I don’t know if I can legally stop them from using my image, but I feel threatened by them and, according to the Netherland's Radio 4, the Dutch Secret Service say they are concerned for my safety. The images and audio on their website make it clear that they are in cahoots with [Al Qaeda cleric and propagandist] Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen and consider the Fort Hood shooter—Nidal Malik Hasan—a hero.”"
And a good thing to support (different incident, but the same cause):

Recently, I asked you to put your names on a petition to support the 12 signatories of the Manifesto Against a New Totalitarianism. The manifesto signatories included me, Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Taslima Nasrin. We and eight others received a serious death threat from the British-based Islamic website (See a screen grab of the forum entry where the death threat was issued.)

Your signatures of solidarity with us would show that we are not afraid to defy Islamist radicals. More than 4,800 of you have already signed - and most of you have opted to name your city or town. I love your guts.

Only one person emailed a disconcerting message. Norman Finkelstein wrote to say, "Is there a petition supporting the death threats?"

Below are the opponents of the death threats. Thank you for going public. Remember that there's strength in numbers, so please forward this link to like-minded friends and family.

Benedict "A Saint!" and Other News

So saith an abuse victim:

In an emotional interview with Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli of Il Giornale, an abuse victim who met with Pope Benedict XVI during the Pontiff's visit to Malta said that the session had restored his faith.

"I did not have any faith in priests. Now, after this moving experience, I have hope again," said Joseph Magro. "You people in Italy have a saint. Do you realize that? You have a saint!"

And this saint is busy:
Almost lost in the recent furor over clerical sex abuse is that Pope Benedict XVI just turned 83 and is approaching one of the busiest stretches of his pontificate. At an age when most church officials have long retired, over the next six months the German pontiff will make six trips, preside over dozens of public liturgies, close the Year for Priests, chair a Synod of Bishops on the Middle East and keep up a steady stream of audiences, both public and private. A major document on Scripture in church life is expected before summer. In his spare moments -- which are few -- the pope is still working on his second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth." Recent media reports have drawn a portrait of a weary pope, overwhelmed by the onslaught of criticism over the church's handling of sex abuses cases. Yet on the public stage, Pope Benedict has shown few signs of succumbing to job fatigue. In Malta in mid-April for a 27-hour visit, he appeared to nod off for a few seconds during Mass. But although that moment was well photographed, it was the exception to the rule. Throughout the visit, he appeared happy and relaxed -- notably as he chatted with young people aboard a boat in Valletta's Grand Harbor. If the story line was a dispirited pope alarmed by a drop in approval ratings, he clearly wasn't following the script. Nor is the pope about to go into hiding. There's far too much on his schedule... As he turned 83, Pope Benedict looked as though he could keep up the pace indefinitely. Only one pope has lived longer in the past century -- Pope John Paul II, who was 84 when he died.
In other news: Clarification has come to internal Vatican struggles over dealing with the abuse scandal:
veteran Vatican analyst Jean-Marie Guenois of Le Figaro explains what happened. The Congregation for the Clergy, under Cardinal Castrillon, argued for protective treatment of accused abusers. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under Cardinal Ratzinger, argued for decisive disciplinary action. Sometimes Cardinal Ratzinger had his way, as in the handling of the Groër case; sometimes he was frustrated, as with Maciel case; sometimes the results were indecisive, as with the Burresi case.

Then in 2001, after the abuse scandal exploded in the US, Cardinal Ratzinger won a major victory, with the assignment of abuse cases to the CDF. The lenient attitude of the Congregation for Clergy was no longer a factor; prompt and serious discipline was possible. The second, decisive victory came in 2005 with the election of Pope Ratzinger. Within weeks the Maciel and Burresi cases were resolved.

And the Milwaukee suit against the Vatican makes a claim almost any Catholic in good standing would know is utterly false:

In the federal lawsuit, attorney Jeffrey Anderson makes the novel argument that the Catholic Church is a worldwide business enterprise, with the Vatican controlling every detail of the "commercial activity" down to the parish level.

While expressing sympathy for the victims of the late Father Lawrence Murphy, who are the named plaintiffs in the suit, attorney Lena notes that the Vatian "knew nothing of his crimes until decades after the abuse occurred, and had no role whatsoever in causing plaintiffs' injuries."

The suit, he said, is being exploited as "a platform for a broader attack" on the Catholic Church. It is, Lena said, "simply the latest attempt by certain U.S. lawyers to use the judicial process as a tool of media relations."

And American Papist has a useful graph of the abuse crisis, representing the frequency of cases.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pope Bendict Round Up

So, things have gotten weirder in recent days. First, there was this remarkably temperate comment in an Australian newspaper:
No-one has yet suggested bombing the Vatican and pursuing the Pope through the sewers of Europe till he is caught and riddled with bullets in order to stop priests buggering choirboys in Boston, Chicago, Dublin and Sydney. But a precise mirror image of this is how we behaved in Afghanistan. If we bomb it flat, we were told, and pursue Bin Laden through the caves of Tora Bora and the mud huts of Waziristan until he is caught and riddled with bullets, al-Qaeda won't hijack planes and blow up trains any more. And the world will live at peace. We were told this eight years ago. And we believed it... The Pope's followers desolated, perhaps, 100,000 lives (or this is my guess) by sexual depravity in the past 80 years and killed, perhaps, (this too is my guess, I ask for yours) no more than 5,000 smashed and embittered Catholic boys and girls they drove to suicide or drunken oblivion and early death in those years. The crimes are comparable pretty much and well-attested and well known from enquiries here and in Germany, the US and Ireland. Why then do we not bomb the Vatican and obliterate Italy for harbouring this criminal mastermind, this known protector of evil predators? Why do we not pursue him through the sewers of Europe and riddle his corpse with bullets?... Why not bomb the Vatican, and riddle the Pope with bullets as he staggers out of the flames?
A professor declares the Vatican's authority ended and basically cries "AmChurch...rises! AmChurch...rises!" in a piece titled "Don’t look to Rome for the true Catholic voices":
Simply put, what Rome says no longer matters. The bishops — those of this country in the vanguard — have already squandered any claim to trust. The pope himself now seems hell-bent on forfeiting what remains of his authority... Yet this moment of painful mortification holds great potential for clarification and renewal. The collapse of Christendom — the concept of a secular order based on Christian precepts — is now fully complete. So too is the triumph of modernity. No encyclical handed down from on high will reverse that verdict. We ourselves must deal with the consequences...

To its proponents, modernity implied liberation. To others, it suggested moral anarchy. Either way, the quickening tempo of change diluted and then dissolved established authority. Truth became first malleable and then seemingly obsolete.

For decades, the Roman Church placed itself at the forefront of those resisting these developments. Resistance proved futile. In a particularly squalid and reprehensible fashion, the Church’s very leadership has now succumbed to what it had long warned against...

Members of a discredited hierarchy are no longer capable of articulating the truth entrusted to the Church. So people of faith must assume responsibility for doing so, interpreting the message of the Gospels for our time and thereby fashioning a much needed critique of the cultural confusion that modernity has wrought...

And then there's this lovely website:

It has been documented that Members of the Catholic Church have committed Crimes Against Humanity - specifically the sexual, physical and psychological abuse of minors.

This has been taking place not in isolated areas, but on a global scale. The Vatican has knowingly made efforts to hide this truth from state authorities - as well as its own people.

Protected by the principals of Religious Freedom - not to mention tax exemption - the Catholic Church has been free to continue these heinous acts with impunity.

The Vatican has been recognized as a sovereign city-state since 1929. Considering its standing in the Global Community, and its despicable behavior, it is time for a UN Resolution to place the Vatican under House Arrest and bring these people to trial.

They sell T-shirts/hats/mugs/etc. and give the proceeds to SNAP, the sex abuse victims advocacy organization. And now Hans Kung stands forth to call for the Church to repudiate the legacy of JPII and Benedict in favor of his version of Vatican II and Church reform in an open letter titled
Church in worst credibility crisis since Reformation, theologian tells bishops: Pope Benedict has made worse just about everything that is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church and is directly responsible for engineering the global cover-up of child rape perpetrated by priests, according to this open letter to all Catholic bishops.
Oh, and to say this:
There is no denying the fact that the worldwide system of covering up sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005).
George Weigel has written an open letter in response:
...your...snarling put-down of Karol Wojtyla’s alleged intellectual inferiority in one volume of your memoirs ranked, until recently, as the low-point of a polemical career in which you have become most evident as a man who can concede little intelligence, decency, or good will in his opponents. I say “until recently,” however, because your April 16 open letter to the world’s bishops, which I first read in the Irish Times, set new standards for that distinctive form of hatred known as odium theologicum and for mean-spirited condemnation of an old friend who had, on his rise to the papacy, been generous to you while encouraging aspects of your current work... What can be expected, though, is that you comport yourself with a minimum of integrity and elementary decency in the controversies in which you engage. I understand odium theologicum as well as anyone, but I must, in all candor, tell you that you crossed a line that should not have been crossed in your recent article, when you wrote the following [quote from above]. That, sir, is not true. I refuse to believe that you knew this to be false and wrote it anyway, for that would mean you had willfully condemned yourself as a liar. But on the assumption that you did not know this sentence to be a tissue of falsehoods, then you are so manifestly ignorant of how competencies over abuse cases were assigned in the Roman Curia prior to Ratzinger’s seizing control of the process and bringing it under CDF’s competence in 2001, then you have forfeited any claim to be taken seriously on this, or indeed any other matter involving the Roman Curia and the central governance of the Catholic Church. As you perhaps do not know, I have been a vigorous, and I hope responsible, critic of the way abuse cases were (mis)handled by individual bishops and by the authorities in the Curia prior to the late 1990s, when then-Cardinal Ratzinger began to fight for a major change in the handling of these cases... I say that your description of Ratzinger’s role as quoted above is not only ludicrous to anyone familiar with the relevant history, but is belied by the experience of American bishops who consistently found Ratzinger thoughtful, helpful, deeply concerned about the corruption of the priesthood by a small minority of abusers, and distressed by the incompetence or malfeasance of bishops who took the promises of psychotherapy far more seriously than they ought, or lacked the moral courage to confront what had to be confronted.
In the meantime, a continued string of new lawsuits have begun to be filed against the Pope and/or the Vatican. I suspect lawyers now view the Church as a target of opportunity and actually have begun to hope (in the wake of the Geoffrey Robertson/New Atheist story) that a court somewhere, somehow, will give a ruling against the Pope/the Vatican in such a fashion that they think it would stick. I suspect that absent a decisive international consensus to the contrary or some definitive ruling from God only knows where, these cases will not stop or go away until someone succeeds, and then the dam is breached, and the order which has held since Constantine shall pass away.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Free Speech, Mohammed, and South Park

Fodder for another episode, of course. But a part of an ongoing worldwide pattern, as the people behind this--warning? Threat?--make abundantly clear with the images of Theo Van Gogh, taken shortly after he was attacked in a street for making this video with Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
Anderson Cooper features the "warning":
Cooper called the threats against the South Park creators “chilling,” and drew a clear line between finding the oft-crude humor of South Park unpleasant or finding it an affront to humanity:

“We live in a country which prides itself on its freedom of speech, in which we can say whatever is in our hearts, in our minds, as long as it’s not threatening to someone else– as long as it’s not calling for violence against somebody else. Now, you might not like South Park the cartoon, you might think it’s offensive, you might decide it’s not something you want to watch– that’s up to you. But the notion that some radical Islamic group in America would make a threat, even a veiled one, against two men’s lives because of it is chilling. And for the people making this threat, that is precisely the point– to chill discussion, to chill debate.”

On the broader "free speech regarding jihad" front, Mark Steyn comments on the limited utility of mocking jihadists:

Kathy Shaidle, a peerless mocker, has a terrific response to the Demos thesis. She divides the target audience into two: On the one hand, jihadists and their sympathizers are unlikely to be susceptible to this pitch because to be hot for jihad in the first place makes one almost by definition a humorless plonker. On the other, there's a long and honorable tradition of using ridicule as a morale-booster for your own side.

Except that "our" side has pretty much internalized the Ayatollah Khomeini's ruling that "there are no jokes in Islam". The Danish cartoonists attempted some very mild satire and as a result now live in hiding. The only publisher in Canada willing to report on the cartoon story without kowtowing to the Islamic bullies wound up with a six-figure legal bill. A Vancouver courtroom under the eminent jurist Commissar Heather MacNaughton, Jokefinder-General of British Columbia, devoted the best part of the day to examining "expert witness" Khurrum Awan about the "tone" of my jokes. John Miller, Professor of Ovine Fornication at Ryerson University, sought intervenor status in the case for the purpose of supporting a statutory penalty preventing me from ever again being published in Canada, because of a line of satirical mockery. Only the other day Ann Coulter made a camel joke and gave the Dominion's multiculti spinsters a fit of the vapors - and Fatima Al Dhaher, the young lady who was "traumatized" by the camel joke, became the new pin-up gal for a hate-free Canada even though she's a member of a group that wants every last "subhuman" "Zionazi" "kikeroach" removed from the Middle East.

In essence, PC enforcers like the wretched Allan Rock (see below) have gone a long way toward criminalizing ridicule and mockery. Given that a lot of comedy is mere pandering, most "satirists" understand that when you wander on to this terrain you're lining yourself up for far more trouble than it's worth. Better to stick to mocking those dumbass fundamentalist Christianists, right? When they're waiting for you outside the stage door, it's with a placard not a death sentence.

And Kathy's right, too - that the jihadists shrug off jokes as a sign of western decadence, or at any rate an inability to understand what's at stake.

Sovereign Immunity Lawyer on the Case(s)

Well, this is good to know:
The Vatican has long let cardinals or its official spokesmen do its talking when scandal hits.

But as the Vatican reels from a swirling clerical sex abuse crisis, the Holy See has turned to an unusual advocate: a tennis-loving, Saab-driving solo practitioner from Berkeley, Calif., whose obscure interest in sovereign immunity law and fluency in Italian landed him the job of the pope's U.S. lawyer.

Jeffrey Lena's studied yet creative approach to defending the Vatican in U.S. abuse lawsuits has influenced the Vatican's new public message as he is increasingly called on to act as Rome's unofficial U.S. spokesman and strategist.

In an exclusive interview Saturday with The Associated Press, Lena conceded he never thought he'd be the Vatican's lawyer much less it's very public messenger.

"Two weeks ago I was a lawyer minding my own cases. That's not what's happening now," Lena said.

Yet further letters:

In Kentucky, the 51-year-old attorney is defending Pope Benedict XVI from a deposition motion in a case involving child abuse by clergy. In a suit pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Lena is arguing that the Vatican cannot be tried for transferring a predatory priest from Ireland to Oregon. In Mississippi, he is defending the Vatican against accusations that it participated in a money-laundering scheme. In New York, Lena is defending the Holy See in a commercial-licensing dispute about the use of images belonging to the Vatican Museums.

Wherever it is in the United States that the Vatican stands accused, Lena is there to protect it.

"I am counsel for the Holy See," Lena said.

Monday, April 19, 2010

""We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed..."

Something that everyone should know by now. A good story, for the most part--although since when did we exclude women?:

The Catholic sex-abuse stories emerging every day suggest that Catholics have a much bigger problem with child molestation than other denominations and the general population. Many point to peculiarities of the Catholic Church (its celibacy rules for priests, its insular hierarchy, its exclusion of women) to infer that there's something particularly pernicious about Catholic clerics that predisposes them to these horrific acts. It's no wonder that, back in 2002—when the last Catholic sex-abuse scandal was making headlines—a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 64 percent of those queried thought Catholic priests "frequently'' abused children.

Yet experts say there's simply no data to support the claim at all. No formal comparative study has ever broken down child sexual abuse by denomination, and only the Catholic Church has released detailed data about its own. But based on the surveys and studies conducted by different denominations over the past 30 years, experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. "We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others."

More goodness follows. Among other things: insurance companies consider the Catholic Church no higher a risk for such cases than any other denomination

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"God Rejects No One. And The Church Rejects No One."

From the papal comments at Malta:
Maybe some of you will say to me, Saint Paul is often severe in his writings. How can I say that he was spreading a message of love? My answer is this. God loves every one of us with a depth and intensity that we can hardly begin to imagine. And he knows us intimately, he knows all our strengths and all our faults. Because he loves us so much, he wants to purify us of our faults and build up our virtues so that we can have life in abundance. When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to him, he is not rejecting us, but he is asking us to change and become more perfect. That is what he asked of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in his great love, God challenges all of us to change and to become more perfect. Saint John tells us that perfect love casts out fear (cf. 1 Jn 4:18). And so I say to all of you, “Do not be afraid!” How many times we hear those words in the Scriptures! They are addressed by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, by Jesus to Peter when calling him to be a disciple, and by the angel to Paul on the eve of his shipwreck. To all of you who wish to follow Christ, as married couples, as parents, as priests, as religious, as lay faithful bringing the message of the Gospel to the world, I say, do not be afraid! That is why I say to you: do not be afraid, but rejoice in his love for you; trust him, answer his call to discipleship, and find nourishment and spiritual healing in the sacraments of the Church... In this Year for Priests, I ask you to be open to the possibility that the Lord may be calling some of you to give yourselves totally to the service of his people in the priesthood or the consecrated life. Your country has given many fine priests and religious to the Church. Be inspired by their example, and recognize the profound joy that comes from dedicating one’s life to spreading the message of God’s love for all people, without exception... As Christians we are called to manifest God’s all-inclusive love. So we should seek out the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized; we should have a special care for those who are in distress, those suffering from depression or anxiety; we should care for the disabled, and do all we can to promote their dignity and quality of life; we should be attentive to the needs of immigrants and asylum seekers in our midst; we should extend the hand of friendship to members of all faiths and none. That is the noble vocation of love and service that we have all received. Let it inspire you to dedicate your lives to following Christ.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Real Challenge Facing Benedict, Catholic Church

So the current run of stories surrounding the Pope make a story where none was before. Before long, Geoffrey Robertson writes his legal brief, Hitchens and Dawkins retain him as counsel to go after the Pope, and headlines spring up speaking about a possible arrest of a Pope. But that's unlikely to happen, since any actual evaluation of the facts in a court of law would exonerate the Pope. So what's the real goal? The underlying aspect of the story, which seems secondary, but really is of the first importance: they're quietly but steadily challenging the Vatican's right to count as a nation, with sovereignty and a place in international law and the affairs of nations, and the Pope's ability to call himself a head of state. In other words, they're busily breaking down the papal independence that Popes have fought for down through the milennia, since the time of Constantine. Papal temporal independence was the main point of the papal states, armies, and material wealth. Take that away, and we have reverted to the legal status of the early Church--that is, completely at the mercy of the powers that be according to the law. This is the real story. This is the real substance of the current attacks on the Church.

LA Times: Pope really a "head of state"?

I say again: the real story is not Hitchens, et. al's attempt to get the Pope arrested. The real story is the movement afoot to strip the Vatican of sovereign status:
But is the spiritual leader of the world's Roman Catholics really a "head of state" as well? Benedict XVI is the head the church's governing body -- known as the Holy See -- which claims many of the privileges of a sovereign country. In recent decades the Holy See has welcomed ambassadors, signed international treaties and used its status to influence developments at the United Nations. That the Holy See is often treated as a state is deeply troubling, for several reasons. For one thing, the Catholic Church isn't truly a sovereign nation; to allow it to play one on the international stage perverts the meaning of statehood. Moreover, the church's claim to statehood gives it even more political influence than it would otherwise wield and grants outsized power to only one of the world's many religions. And its claim is particularly worrisome now that the church -- embroiled in a disturbing scandal that has reached from Boston to Berlin -- is claiming the sort of immunity enjoyed by prime ministers and presidents... law requires that a "state" have four attributes: territory, a permanent population, a functioning government and the ability to engage in international relations. The last requirement largely builds on the others: Whether a state can engage in international relations is decided by whether other states treat it like one... For decades the strange practice of treating the Catholic Church as a state has been bad for women's equality, gay rights and reproductive freedom. The Holy See's fictive statehood allows it to promote its retrograde views on gender and sex in diplomatic settings and during treaty negotiations. Now, the unfolding sexual abuse scandal reveals another dark side of the Holy See's claim to statehood: the extraordinary immunities claimed by the pope in the face of conspiracy accusations that span the globe.

Benedict XVI Media Roundup

So the media continues on the path to the weird. The Vatican's website has a page devoted to the Church's response to the sex abuse scandal. Dawkins and Hitchens pursue the arrest of the Pope. Funny thing, though--a papal arrest would be less important than their attempt to deny Vatican City sovereign status in international law. Such a move would bring us back to the times before Constantine--that is, 1600 years ago. The Pope has had stature in international law since the time of Constantine. At no point in the intervening years has the pontiff been totally subject in law to a sovereign. This is huge. An interesting response to the calls for a trial of Pope Benedict:
But why stop at the Pope? Surely equity demands that others should stand in the dock along with Benedict if sex abuse happened on their watch and they failed to act energetically to stop it. I suggest that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, and his predecessor, Kofi Annan, be the first ones to him. Six years ago, the UN announced a zero-tolerance policy for sex-abusers among its peacekeeping troops. But it is still struggling to get member states to investigate and discipline soldiers. In fact, the UN's under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Alain le Roy, told the Wall Street Journal in March, "It's my biggest headache and heartache, this whole issue." Sex abuse has been happening on a massive scale for years. There have been abundant allegations against peacekeepers in Haiti, Cambodia, West Africa, and Kosovo, amongst others... Closer to home, perhaps Mr Roberson should consider indicting the executive director of USA Swimming, Chuck Wielgus. Yesterday, ABC television (in the USA) featured an investigation of sex abuse in organized swimming. It found that 36 coaches – out of 12,000 -- have been banned for life for sexual misconduct over the last 10 years by USA Swimming. The ABC claimed that “In some cases, the swimming coaches found to have been sexual predators were able to move from town to town, one step ahead of police and angry victims and their parents.”... How about, say, Texas Governor Rick Perry? Shouldn’t he be standing there, too, to defend himself against claims that he failed to prevent an epidemic of juvenile rape in his state’s prisons?... Tu quoque, the argument that I’m not guilty because you did it too, must be the worst of all arguments. But anyone with the facts acknowledges that the Catholic Church’s problems are no worse than those of other organisations, and they are probably a good deal better. A reporter for yesterday’s issue of Newsweek had the bright idea of asking insurance companies whether the Catholic Church paid higher premiums because its employees were a greater risk. The answer was No - and it never had. "We don't see vast difference in the incidence rate between one denomination and another," said an insurer. "It's pretty even across the denominations." I wish that the record of the Catholic Church were vastly better, but that’s not the point. What gets missed when the failings of the Catholic Church are highlighted while other organisations go unscrutinised is the fact that all of us are stuck in a child-abuse crisis which stretches back for decades.
Michael Ruse throws temperance out the window:
Let me say at once that, unlike Dawkins, I don't necessarily want to see this as the end of religion or even of the Catholic Church in some form. I stress that although I cannot share the beliefs of Christians, I respect them and applaud the good that is done in the name of their founder. But I do now think that as presently constituted, the Catholic Church is corrupt and should be eradicated.

You might argue that this is to go too far. But what is the alternative? Vatican Three, perhaps? The Church could open its doors to married priests, give women a proper role (if we can appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, why cannot a woman become a member of the College of Cardinals?), make a place within for gays and other minorities. It could recognize birth control for the blessing that it is and stop insisting that the moment the sperm gets to the ovum, nothing else matters but to preserve this entity, even though such a stand causes unnumbered cases of pain and sadness (and certainly does little to reduce the abortion rate) and leads the Catholic bishops to oppose universal health care, quite apart from the fact that it all flies in the face of the official philosophy of the Church, Thomism. And I could continue.

This will not happen. This last week, the Pope appointed an archbishop for Los Angeles. The appointee is a member of Opus Dei, for goodness's sake. You don't have to subscribe to the nuttiness of The Da Vinci Code to know what this means: he belongs to an organization that throve under Generalissimo Franco, about as right-wing as it is possible to get. Far from trying to reform, the Church is digging in and digging in.

In these bits on the Pope's refusal to be intimidated, the most revealing portions come in the comments section. Sandro Magister on the odd coincidence of the attacks on the Pope coming in the areas where he's most effective. A useful comment from a mother on the crisis:
I don't want to hear apologies or complaints about media bias or comparisons to the equally abysmal records of other institutions. I'm glad there is zero tolerance for pedophiles, but I want something more.

I want outrage.

I want to know that the righteous anger I feel toward these predators in cleric's clothing is shared – by the many good priests smeared by the sins of a few, by the bishops forced to deal with such predators, by the pope who knows more than anyone the length, breadth and depth of this plague.

Perhaps that's what has been missing all along in the church's response to this crisis, from the early days when pedophiles were bounced from one parish to another, to recent years, when church leaders plaintively assured the faithful that they feel the victims' pain. Empathy, contrition and strict new policies are good, but they cannot restore confidence until lay Catholics know in their bones that church leaders share their fury at these sickening crimes and their perpetrators, that protecting children no longer will take a back seat to protecting clerics.

Benedict, in many ways, is ideally suited to voice this righteous anger. As leading Vatican expert John Allen argued in a recent New York Times op-ed, Ratzinger's experience poring over abuse case files beginning in 2001 led him to a "conversion" on this issue. It drove him to take several unprecedented steps as pope, including disciplining prominent clerics who previously had escaped scrutiny, meeting personally with abuse victims and writing the first pastoral letter focused on the abuse crisis.

Those steps are a start, and we need more – more disclosure about how abuse cases were handled, more pointed reprimands of the most negligent bishops and more vocal acknowledgment of the outrage that victims and lay Catholics rightly feel. Rather than being intimidated into silence by his late arrival at full understanding of this crisis, Benedict should shout from the rooftops what Catholic mothers and fathers need to hear now: What happened to these children was an abomination. Nothing excuses it. And, so help us God, we will do everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.

Father Federico Lombardi comments on the scandal:
It has been observed that the greatest frequency of abuses coincided with the most intense period of the 'sexual revolution' of past decades. Formation must take account of this context and of the more general context of secularisation. In the final analysis, this means rediscovering and reaffirming the sense and importance of sexuality, chastity and emotional relationships in today's world, and doing so in concrete, not just verbal or abstract, terms. What a source of disorder and suffering their violation or undervaluation can be! As the Pope observed in his Letter to Irish Catholics, a Christian priestly life today can respond to the requirements of its vocation only by truly nourishing itself at the wellspring of faith and friendship with Christ. People who love truth and the objective evaluation of problems will know where to seek and find information for a more overall comprehension of the problem of paedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors in our time, in different countries, understanding its range and pervasiveness. Thus they will be able to achieve a better understanding of the degree to which the Catholic Church shares problems that are not only her own, to what extent they have particular gravity for her and require specific interventions,and, finally, the extent to which the experience the Church is going through in this field may also be useful for other institutions or for society as a whole.
And from Father Z, a glorious vision of a properly Roman removal of compromised bishops--kept all in the family, of course:
"I agree that there must be a purification of the episcopate. But it must be done with Romanità. If I were Pope, I would form a small corps of monsignori tasked to obtain some resignations… I think I would recruit them from, say, Sicily. They seem to know how to do this sort of thing quietly, with a smile. "Eccellenza… our Holy Fadher isa greatly concerned fora your healt." One sits down a little too close to the bishop. The other, still standing, opens his jacket, reaches in and draws out a beautiful Waterman fountain pen and thick, folded sheet of paper. The bishop’s eye is drawn to the momentary bloody-red flash from the stone in the visitor’s cuff-link. "You would, Monsignore, give greata consolation to da Holy Fahder were you to step down anda den… how you say Monsignore Brazzi? ... shtare rinda?..." "Stay insida you house", intones Msgr. Brazzi at the bishop’s side… never taking his eyes from the bishop’s face. "...rinda ... inside… nota go out…." "’Inside’... yes… daats eeet", repeats the standing visitor, the pleats of his pants like knives. "You reada da Mass. You reada da books. You eata da lunch. You pray da Rosario. You confessare. Rinda. No agitazioni. You worka hard… tooo haaard fora too many yeers. Time to rest.. fora your healt. You see, Eccellenza Reverendissima, we are only concerned fora your healt. You wait quiet, maybe now and den talka to police when dey come? Giornalisti later… after polizia." The bishop swallows hard and, trying to summon some courage blusters, "What is your name, Father!? I will…" The dark-haired monsignor leans over the desk toward the bishop, who falls back into his high backed leather chair. "My name is Monsignore Vito Andolini. E chist è pe tia!" He hands the bishop the Waterman. Meanwhile, in a different office of the same chancery, another pair of monsignori are speaking with the auxiliary bishop – infamous liturgical weirdo – about the likelihood of promotion to a soon to be created role as Apostolic Envoy to the Pirates of the Gulf of Aden. "Who better than you? ... Eccellenza? You feeling, alrighta?" His hand reaches past the sharp-lapel and into the inner pocket of his well-tailored jacket. Okay, okay…. after that little day-dream I think I might need some therapy too. But,.... you geta my pointa. Huge public displays might not be the best approach."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

China's (Huge) Demographic Imbalance

And in our file of "Reasons Why China is Not the Economic Hope of the World":

All over this district, the evidence of government concern is on display. A 20-yard-long propaganda poster in one tiny hamlet dwells sternly and very frankly on the problem, declaring: 'Our current family planning policy is this, "Pay attention to the issue of gender imbalance."'

It quotes a recent national census showing a growing imbalance and predicts: 'In 2040 there will be 300million men and 250 million women under 40. At least 30million men will have difficulty getting married.

This will cause "elements of instability" and hinder economic growth. The harm caused by this imbalance could include disintegration of families, high divorce rates, "sex offences" and distortion of the birth rate.'

The poster, astonishingly candid in a country where critical journalism and dissent are still suppressed with all the force of the state, is sadly lame when it comes to suggesting what to do.

It calls for 'action to care for girls' and then sets out four vague and wordy slogans which can be summed up as 'girls are good'. And so they keep saying.

As we travelled around the countryside, it was interesting to see that the traditional Chinese rural propaganda - charmingly naive tiled pictures calling for one-child families, until recently an inescapable feature of the country's rural landscape, often on every corner and at any crossroads - had recently disappeared, or been covered up.

The message remains but it has been altered, although some old slogans, such as 'fewer births, better births', remain.

'Journalists abandon standards to attack the Pope'. You can say that again

I shall rip off Damien Thompson, as he ripped off Phil Lawler:

Journalists abandon standards to attack the Pope By Phil Lawler | April 10, 2010 10:03 AM

We’re off and running once again, with another completely phony story that purports to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in the protection of abusive priests.

The “exclusive” story released by AP yesterday, which has been dutifully passed along now by scores of major media outlets, would never have seen the light of day if normal journalistic standards had been in place. Careful editors should have asked a series of probing questions, and in every case the answer to those questions would have shown that the story had no “legs.”

First to repeat the bare-bones version of the story: in November 1985, then-Cardinal Ratzinger signed a letter deferring a decision on the laicization of Father Stephen Kiesle, a California priest who had been accused of molesting boys.

Now the key questions:

• Was Cardinal Ratzinger responding to the complaints of priestly pedophilia? No. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the future Pontiff headed, did not have jurisdiction for pedophile priests until 2001. The cardinal was weighing a request for laicization of Kiesle.

• Had Oakland’s Bishop John Cummins sought to laicize Kiesle as punishment for his misconduct? No. Kiesle himself asked to be released from the priesthood. The bishop supported the wayward priest’s application.

• Was the request for laicization denied? No. Eventually, in 1987, the Vatican approved Kiesle’s dismissal from the priesthood.

• Did Kiesle abuse children again before he was laicized? To the best of our knowledge, No. The next complaints against him arose in 2002: 15 years after he was dismissed from the priesthood.

• Did Cardinal Ratzinger’s reluctance to make a quick decision mean that Kiesle remained in active ministry? No. Bishop Cummins had the authority to suspend the predator-priest, and in fact he had placed him on an extended leave of absence long before the application for laicization was entered.

• Would quicker laicization have protected children in California? No. Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the power to put Kiesle behind bars. If Kiesle had been defrocked in 1985 instead of 1987, he would have remained at large, thanks to a light sentence from the California courts. As things stood, he remained at large. He was not engaged in parish ministry and had no special access to children.

• Did the Vatican cover up evidence of Kiesle’s predatory behavior? No. The civil courts of California destroyed that evidence after the priest completed a sentence of probation– before the case ever reached Rome.

So to review: This was not a case in which a bishop wanted to discipline his priest and the Vatican official demurred. This was not a case in which a priest remained active in ministry, and the Vatican did nothing to protect the children under his pastoral care. This was not a case in which the Vatican covered up evidence of a priest’s misconduct. This was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican– which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s — wanted to consider all such cases carefully. In short, if you’re looking for evidence of a sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, this case is irrelevant.

We Americans know what a sex-abuse crisis looks like. The scandal erupts when evidence emerges that bishops have protected abusive priests, kept them active in parish assignments, covered up evidence of the charges against them, and lied to their people. There is no such evidence in this or any other case involving Pope Benedict XVI.

Competent reporters, when dealing with a story that involves special expertise, seek information from experts in that field. Capable journalists following this story should have sought out canon lawyers to explain the 1985 document– not merely relied on the highly biased testimony of civil lawyers who have lodged multiple suits against the Church. If they had understood the case, objective reporters would have recognized that they had no story. But in this case, reporters for the major media outlets are far from objective.

The New York Times– which touched off this feeding frenzy with two error-riddled front-page reports– seized on the latest “scoop” by AP to say that the 1985 document exemplified:

“… the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.”

Here we have a complete rewriting of history. Earlier in this decade, American newspapers exposed the sad truth that many American bishops had kept pedophile priests in active ministry. Now the Times, which played an active role in exposing that scandal, would have us believe that the American bishops were striving to rid the priesthood of the predators, and the Vatican resisted!

No, what is “fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal” is a media frenzy. There is a scandal here, indeed, but it’s not the scandal you’re reading about in the mass media. The scandal is the complete collapse of journalistic standards in the handling of this story.

Pope May Face Court in Britain

Christopher Hitchens, enter stage left. The most important part of this excerpt comes at the bottom. Pray for the Pope:
"They are hoping to exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, on a Spanish warrant when he visited Britain in 1998... “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence," Dawkins, who wrote The God Delusion, said. “This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment," Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, said. Their lawyers, barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, believe they can ask the Crown prosecution Service and that Pope Benedict will not be able to claim diplomatic immunity since he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations. “There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring,” said Stephens. “Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.”"
Geoffrey Robertson has already been heard from on the legal aspects of the case in the Daily Beast--make of that what you will.

Friday, April 9, 2010

China is Not the Economic Hope of the Future

For several reasons.
China is in the midst of “the greatest bubble in history,” said James Rickards, former general counsel of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management LP.

The Chinese central bank’s balance sheet resembles that of a hedge fund buying dollars and short-selling the yuan, said Rickards, now the senior managing director for market intelligence at McLean, Virginia-based consulting firm Omnis Inc.

“As I see it, it is the greatest bubble in history with the most massive misallocation of wealth,” Rickards said at the Asset Allocation Summit Asia 2010 organized by Terrapinn Pte in Hong Kong yesterday. China “is a bubble waiting to burst.”

Rickards joins hedge fund manager Jim Chanos, Gloom, Boom & Doom publisher Marc Faber and Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff in warning of a potential crash in China’s economy. The government has raised banks’ reserve requirements twice this year after economic growth accelerated and property prices rallied.

And, of course, as tends to happen in Communist countries, the government tends to fudge the books to make everything look all right. Why do we believe the Chinese when it is claimed that state-owned businesses are profitable and generating products reliably? Have they proven honest in the past, or a good dealer when it comes to their own screw ups?

" President Obama’s Targeted Killing of U.S. Citizens"

This sounds like something insane. However, it's the latest news.

The NYT reports that the Obama Administration has authorized the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, The article notes the international law justification for his killing: he is an avowed member of Al Qaeda actively engaged in hostilities against the U.S. Under either the law of armed conflict or the general law of self-defense, the Administration probably has the legal authority to kill him. (Unless international human rights law applies, but the administration plainly believes this law does not apply).

But, as I noted here a few months ago, this international law analysis does not answer questions about al-Awlaki’s constitutional rights. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedents, U.S. citizens often can invoke constitutional rights against the U.S. government, even when they are abroad. (See Reid v. Covert). Maybe this is a situation where granting constitutional protections would be, as Justice Harlan suggested, “impracticable and anomalous.” It certainly seems that way, and I assume the Obama Administration has concluded that the Constitution does not apply. Alternatively, the Constitution might apply, and the theory is simply that al-Awlaki’s rights substantive and procedural Due Process rights are not being violated. This seems a harder argument to make, and it would be fascinating to see someone (like Harold Koh again?) make it.

Weirdness. And it was discussed well before the event by Ron Paul:
The post 9/11 atmosphere that really worries me. It worries me about how much our CIA is involved overseas. And this week I could not believe a headline that said the president was considering the legality of assassinating an American citizen. No, it’s true. It’s true. He was born in this country, and he’s a Muslim and he’s identified to be with people who don’t like us. So they want to declare him an ‘enemy combatant’ which they can do like the attorney general of the president says, “Oh, he’s an enemy combatant, and therefore he has no rights. But he’s a terrorist.” Well, no. He is maybe a suspect, and nothing has been proven. He might be a bad guy, but is that the way you take care of bad guys? Talking in the White House about assassinating this guy?

I mean, what happens if conditions get really bad and we start talking to each other about some of the terrible things that Washington DC is doing to us. Are we going to be ‘enemy combatants’ because the precedent has been set already for American citizens to be imprisoned indefinitely?

Video in the original.

Pope May Face Arrest

If a UN judge gets his way. And a certain segment of the British public. Summary:
The AP ran a story on Geoffrey Robertson's campaign to prosecute Pope Benedict for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). I found the story at the blog Opinio Juris, where Julian Ku seems sympathetic to the idea of using international law in this way, although he doubts it would happen. Without in any way minimizing the anguish of the victims of the sex abuse scandal, this latest campaign to use international law against the Vatican by a prominent UN official deserves close scrutiny. Generally, members of the UN Secretariat are supposed to be impartial in matters concerning UN membership. Why did the Secretary General appoint Robertson to a privileged position – one of five jurists responsible for the UN's new internal justice system – when he has been publicly critical of one of the UN special observers? Would a vocal critic of the ILO be given such a post? Better question: will Robertson, who is in charge of the system that punishes misdoings by UN staff and management, escape accountability on this score?
The UN judge speaks:
The Vatican says the pope, as a "head of state," is immune from legal action. But U.N. judge Geoffrey Robertson says the Vatican is wrong—and that the pope could be tried for systemic sex crimes.

Well may the pope defy “the petty gossip of dominant opinion.” But the Holy See can no longer ignore international law, which now counts the widespread or systematic sexual abuse of children as a crime against humanity. The anomalous claim of the Vatican to be a state—and of the pope to be a head of state, and hence immune from legal action—cannot stand up to scrutiny...

Head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court.

In legal actions against Catholic archdioceses in the U.S., it has been alleged that this reflected Vatican policy as approved by Cardinal Ratzinger (as the pope then was) as late as November 2002—sexual assaults were regarded as sins that were subject to church tribunals and guilty priests were sent on a “pious pilgrimage” whilst oaths of confidentiality (“papal secrecy”) were extracted from their victims...

This is a dodgy portrayal at the very best. Church law handles cases one way, and operates within the structure of the Church. But as has been stated repeatedly in recent days, at no point did Church law attempt to stand in the way of civil actions against abusive priests. Heck, we can't in almost every country on earth at the present time. Unless someone wishes to make complaints about affairs within the Vatican itself (which may legitimately done) or in the old Papal States, or possibly Italy/some other place which recognizes Church law in a more forceful sense than the USA, then please don't act as though in house policies really prevented the police from enforcing the law in the past. Mark Shea was right on when he said "I think that the solution to many of these problems remains what it has always been: If we laypeople think that somebody like Father Murphy belongs behind bars, then hey! We own all the cops, guns, lawyers, courts, and jails. But, in fact, we laypeople opted to do nothing about Father Murphy when we knew all too well what sort of creep he was." Robertson continues: 2005, a test case in Texas failed because the Vatican sought and obtained the intercession of President George W. Bush, who agreed to claim sovereign (i.e., head of state) immunity on the pope’s behalf. Bush lawyer John B. Bellinger III certified that Pope Benedict XVI was immune from suit “as the head of a foreign state.”

The third Mr. Bellinger is notorious for his defense of Guantanamo and Bush administration torture policies, and his opinion on papal immunity is even more questionable. It hinges on the assumption that the Vatican or its metaphysical emanation, the Holy See, is a state. But the Papal States were extinguished by invasion in 1870 and the Vatican was created by fascist Italy in 1929 when Benito Mussolini endowed this tiny enclave—0.17 of a square mile containing 900 Catholic bureaucrats—with “sovereignty in the international field... in conformity with its traditions and the exigencies of its mission in the world.”

The notion that statehood can be created by another country’s unilateral declaration is risible. If it weren’t, Iran could make Qom a state overnight and the U.K. could launch the city of Canterbury on to the international stage by the same process. But it did not take long for Catholic countries to support the pretentions of the Holy See, sending ambassadors and receiving Papal Nuncios in return. Even the U.K. maintains an apostolic mission that, until 2005, was always filled by British Catholics.

And that last bit would appear to be false. If they are referring to the post of Ambassador to the Holy See, the current holder of that office, Francis Campbell, is the first Catholic in the position since the Reformation. If Robertson is accurate in his challenge to Vatican statehood, though, then the basis for the Vatican policy of acquiescence to the loss of the papal states falls away. We are facing a fundamental challenge to the operations of the Church in the modern age. I don't know if I can emphasize this enough: this cuts at the roots of the Church's independence and existence in the modern world, possibly forcing a reordering of our relationship with the wider world, if Robertson succeeds with this campaign or it is taken up by others. And the rest:

The U.N. at its inception refused membership to the Vatican (U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull said emphatically that it could never attain statehood) but has allowed it a unique and anomalous “permanent observer status,” permitting it to become signatory to treaties like the Law of the Sea and (ironically) the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to speak and vote at U.N. conferences, where it promotes its controversial dogmas on abortion, condoms, and homosexuality. This has involved the U.N. in blatant discrimination on grounds of religion, as other faiths are unofficially represented, if at all, by NGOs. But it has encouraged the Vatican to claim statehood—and the immunities from liability that attach to heads of state.

This claim could be challenged successfully in the U.K. if the pope is served with a writ when he visits there in September. Unlike overly deferential American judges, British courts do not accept the executive’s word on who gets immunity. Had Chile's General Pinochet gone to New York instead of London, the White House would have stopped his extradition proceedings immediately rather than allowed him to be detained for 18 months while the courts determined that as a former head of state he could not claim immunity from torture charges.

In any event, head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court (hence its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC statute defines a crime against humanity to include rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing serious harm to mental or physical health committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale if condoned or tolerated by a government or a de facto authority. The U.N. Appeal Court in Sierra Leone has held that recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves for an army amounts to a crime against humanity.

If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic events but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority—i.e. the Catholic Church—then under the command responsibility principle of international law (laid down by the U.S. Supreme Court) the commander can be held criminally liable. He falls within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC so long as that abusive practice and the policy to tolerate it continued after July 2002, when the court was established.

Pope Benedict has recently been credited with reforming the “papal secrecy” system he allegedly approved in 2002, so that guilty priests may now be reported to civil authorities, although initially (and disgracefully) he blamed the scandal on “gay culture.” His admonition last week to the Irish church repeatedly emphasised that heaven still awaits the penitent pedophile priest. The Holy See may offer the prospect of redemption to its gravest sinners, but it must be clear in law that the pope does so at his own risk—as a spiritual adviser, and not as an immune sovereign.

And AP took up the story on the upcoming visit to Britain:

Prosecution in the deepening cleric sex abuse scandal, however, ultimately rests on the question of immunity. If British judges do challenge the pope's immunity, there are a handful of possible legal scenarios — all of them speculative.

The pope could be served for a writ for civil damages, a complaint could be lodged with the International Criminal Court, or abuse victims could try to have Benedict arrested for crimes against humanity — perhaps the least likely scenario.

Lawyers question whether an alleged systematic cover-up could be considered a crime against humanity — a charge usually reserved for the International Criminal Court — and whether it could be pursued under universal jurisdiction.

Well. This next bit is...interesting.
"Head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court," said Robertson, who represented The Associated Press and other media organizations who sought to make U.S.-U.K. intelligence exchanges public in the case of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.
Read it all.


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