The White House Un-Reality Show January 24, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Economic Crisis, War.
Tags: austerity, black unemployment, climate change, democrtic party, drone wars, gay rights, Immigrant Rights, kill list, libor, militarize africa, mlk, obama wars, one percent, pakistan war, robo=signing, roger hollander
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by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Despite the fact that “it was Barack Obama who began the current austerity offensive in the weeks before delivering his first inaugural address,” the president was allowed to pose as a champion of the social safety net. Having redefined war, he once again claims to be a peacemaker. “By cheering the inaugural speech, progressives are only encouraging Obama’s gaming and mendacity.”
The White House Un-Reality Show
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“He merely peppered the speech with progressive buzzwords and references – just enough notes to get the faithful to fill in the empty spaces with their own internal music.”
Like an abusive spouse who preys on the emotional desperation and dependency of his domestic victim, Barack Obama knows that all he need do is offer some cheap street corner flowers and a few sweet words, and the previous nights and months and years of beatings will be forgiven. Just hum a bar or two of an old, shared song, and the battered partner will supply a full symphony of Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra – because she needs to hear it, if only inside her own head.
After four years of chasing Republican skirts in search of a grand austerity bargain; of debauching himself in marathon binges of global lawlessness and aggressive war; of defiling the Bill of Rights through preventive detention and massive domestic spying; of callous neglect of the jobs and lost wealth crisis afflicting the most loyal members of his political family; and of brazen cavorting with the vile and filthy rich, sheltering them from incarceration for crimes against the national and global economy, Barack Obama slunk home on the morning of January 21, to be smothered with kisses.
Much of what passes for the Left, and for traditional African American leadership, agreed with the New York Times’ assessment that Barack Obama’s second inaugural address represented a firm embrace of “a progressive agenda centered on equality and opportunity.” Significantly, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell echoed the sentiment: ”The era of liberalism is back…the speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party inages past.”
It is in the mutual interest of corporate media and rightwing Republicans tomove the bar of “progressive” politics ever rightward. However, for African Americans and white progressives, it amounts to erasing their own political legacies from history.
“There is no agreement to end U.S. combat involvement in Afghanistan, and no intention of achieving one.”
Actuality, Obama embraced nothing: he merely peppered the speech with progressive buzzwords and references – just enough notes to get the faithful to fill in the empty spaces with their own internal music. It was classic Obama.
“A decade of war is now ending,” said the Second Incarnation of Obama, sounding a false “peace” note. If he was talking about Afghanistan, that’s a damnable lie. There is no agreement to end U.S. combat involvement in Afghanistan, and no intention of achieving one – only the stated goal to lower troop levels. The Pentagon is fielding contingencies to reduce U.S. troop strength to between 6,000 and 20,000. (When Obama entered office there were 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which he raised to about 100,000 in the “surge” of 2011.) Although the administration line is that most of the remaining Americans will be “trainers,” they will include thousands of Special Forces troops to continue “counterinsurgency” and “counterterrorism” operations. Special Forces are “trainers” and “force multipliers” by U.S. military definition, “training” native troops while engaged in combat missions. U.S. air forces, drone and manned, will continue to pound targets. Obama’s nearly completed “codification” of U.S. drone policies exempts the CIA from any clear rules for “targeted-killing” drone operations in neighboring Pakistan for at least a year, to allow them to do as much damage as possible in the quest for Obama’s version of peace.
But history may record Obama’s greatest crime against peace as changing the definition of war. According to his unique doctrine, the U.S. cannot be in a state of war, or even “hostilities” with another people or country, unless Americans are killed in the process. Thus, Obama refused to report to the U.S. Congress under the War Powers Act following eight months of bombardment of Libya, claiming no state of war had existed since no Americans had died. By this logic, the U.S. is empowered to bomb anyone, anywhere on the planet at will, without the constraints of national or international law, as long as care is taken to protect the lives of U.S. personnel.
“History may record Obama’s greatest crime against peace as changing the definition of war.”
Obama rhetorically abolishes war while promulgating a doctrine of general immunity from the rules of war. Armed with such a concept and vocabulary, he can proceed with the militarization of Africa policy, his “pivot” to contain the Chinese in the Pacific, the terror campaign in Syria, the virtual state of war against Iran, and update of his Kill List in perpetuity. What, then, is the president’s meaning when he tells hundreds of thousands on the National Mall that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war?” This, from a man who makes war on language, itself.
“An economic recovery has begun,” said Obama. Not for Blacks, whose official 14 percent unemployment rate is more than twice that of whites (6.9 percent), and whose median household wealth has fallen to one-twentieth that of white families – a catastrophe of historical proportions. The “recovery” is mainly confined to Wall Street, which is awash in cash, thanks to more than four years of free money (for banks, only). This administration’s jobs policy, like the Republicans’, consists almost entirely of tax incentives to business: trickle down. The One Percent’s “rising tide” has lifted only their yachts.
Obama admits that “a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” but has done nothing to curtail the hegemony of Wall Street, the mighty engine of economic inequality. Quite the opposite. His Justice Department has granted blanket immunities from prosecution in both “Scandals of the Century” – the LIBOR interest rate rigging scheme and mortgage robo-signing – letting the mega-crooks off with fines. Nevertheless, liberals were heartened when Obama fixed his lips to say “the free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play” – as if there were even a hint of substance in the verbal exercise.
“His Justice Department has granted blanket immunities from prosecution in both ‘Scandals of the Century.’”
As much as 80 percent of the public supports Social Security and Medicare, including the entirety of the president’s Democratic base. Yet, it was Barack Obama who began the current austerity offensive in the weeks before delivering his first inaugural address, informing the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards that all entitlements would be on the table for chopping during his administration. He followed through by appointing a Deficit Reduction Commission chaired by a far-right Republican and the farthest-right Democrat he could find (Simpson and Bowles), who crafted the blueprint for austerity that became Obama’s model for a grand bargain with the GOP. The deal fell through in 2011 when Republicans balked at even “modest” tax increases on the rich, but there is not a scintilla of evidence that the president has abandoned his long, ideologically-based opposition to the safety net as presently constituted.
Only last month, he offered to alter the way Social Security benefits are calculated – as an opener to negotiations. Obama has shown, by word and deed, that he poses the greatest threat to Social Security in its history – far greater than George W. Bush, whose assault on the New Deal program met ferocious Democratic resistance. Obama will carry much of the Party with him – which is why we at Black Agenda Report call the First Black President “the more effective evil.”
“There is not a scintilla of evidence that the president has abandoned his long, ideologically-based opposition to the safety net as presently constituted.”
So, when Obama uses a ceremonial occasion to declare that: “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us” and “…a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune,” it is only cheap rhetoric, signifying nothing. Obama claims he wants to “reform” entitlements in order to “strengthen” them – which is precisely the Republican line. By cheering the inaugural speech, progressives are only encouraging Obama’s gaming and mendacity.
And so it goes. The Great Deporter becomes the great protector of immigrant rights. The man who killed the Kyoto Agreement is heralded as a champion of the environment because he expresses respect for “science” and pledges to somehow “respond to the threat of climate change.” The mention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name signifies…what? Nowadays, not a thing.
It is true: Obama is the most gay-friendly president to date. I don’t think U.S. imperialism and Wall Street hegemons have a fundamental problem with that, either.
Apparently, being gay-friendly is all it takes to be considered a champion of a “progressive agenda” in 2013.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, gay marriage, gay rights, Gay Voices News, lgbt, Pope benedict, Pope Benedict On Gay Marriage, Pope Benedict On Same-Sex Marriage, religious bigotry, The Pope, World Day Of Peace, World Day Of Peace 2013
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Pope Says Gay Marriage Poses A Threat To ‘Justice And Peace’ In World Day Of Peace 2013 Address
Posted: 12/14/2012 5:18 pm EST | Updated: 12/14/2012 8:08 pm EST
Pope Benedict XVI said this week that gay marriage poses a threat to “justice and peace.” The 85-year-old religious leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”
According to the Associated Press, the head of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off the Christmas season on Friday with the traditional lighting of the tree in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. On the same day, the Holy See released the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2013.
“There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” the Pope said, according to ANSA.
“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity,” he continued.
The Pope went on to suggest that support of gay marriage “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
According to AP, the Pope said abortion is also a threat to peace.
This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has vocally opposed same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being “insidious and dangerous.” Previously, he had called same-sex unions “a threat to humanity.”
Pope Benedict Blesses Top Lawmaker Pushing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” Bill December 15, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, DAVID BADASH, gay rights, lgbt, Pope benedict, rebecca kadaga, roger hollander, uganda, uganda parliament
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by David Badash on December 13, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sent his first tweet from his new Twitter account, then turned around and blessed Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Uganda Parliament who promised to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill as a “Christmas gift” to Uganda’s Christians.
Kadaga was at the Vatican to meet the Pope and to attend the seventh Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.
Pope Benedict XVI has given blessings to Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga during a mass attended by thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican,” Nsimbe Kasim at the Ugandan New Vision news reports:
During the service, the Pope launched his Twitter account and sent his first message in several languages to millions of online followers.
“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” the Pope wrote.
The Ugandan delegation was in Rome to attend the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.
Yes, that’s right, the Pope blessed the woman who is about to become guilty of crimes against humanity for passing the Kill The Gays bill.
“Kadaga who led a delegation of Ugandan legislators to the Vatican expressed delight at meeting the Pope and visiting St Peter’s Basilicca [sic],” New Vision adds:
“I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically.
“I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It’s a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” she said minutes after meeting the Pope.
The Speaker dedicated to all Ugandans readings from the book of St.Mark which the Pope quoted in several languages during the Vatican mass.
She handed over to the Pope a portrait of the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, a historical place where Christians were murdered because of their allegiance to their faith.
The deathly irony is inescapable.
[At the link below is the full text of the "Reichskonkordat," the political treaty between the Vatican and Adolf Hitler. At the time this treaty was signed, the anti-Jewish racial laws were already in force in Nazi Germany:
Here is an example of what is in the treaty:
In order to foster good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an apostolic nuncio will reside in the capital of the German Reich and an ambassador of the German Reich at the Holy See.
Hours to Stop “Kill the Gays” Bill November 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: anti-gay, gay rights, lesbian rights, lgbt, Museven, roger hollander, uganda
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Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill is back. If it passes, this horrific law would allow the death penalty for lesbian and gay Ugandans. It could pass at any moment.
President Museveni once promised to veto this heinous bill. But Uganda’s politicians are desperate to pass the bill and they’re pressuring Museveni to give in. The Speaker of the Parliament is actually calling it a “Christmas gift” to Uganda!
Last May, millions of us stood up with activists from across Uganda to stop this very same law – and it worked. Now we have to do it again. We need to take action and share this far and wide. We need every voice to build a massive outcry that the media and world leaders can’t ignore. The pressure could be enough to stop this bill in its tracks:
According to our partners, the bill is now up for debate and can be voted on at any moment. As Ugandan politicians work to finalize the the text of the bill, one thing is clear – if passed, it will force lesbian, gay, bi and trans Ugandans into the shadows. Despite global opposition, some politicians in Uganda refuse to give up the bill and one is even calling for a new regional law, that would send every gay person in Africa to jail – for life.
If this bill passes in Uganda, it wouldn’t just mean tragedy for gay and lesbian Ugandans – it could set off a domino effect across the continent. Will you add your name and ask your friends to sign with you now?
These politicians are using homophobia to distract Ugandans – and the world – from the very real problems they’re supposed to be addressing at home, from corruption to freedom of the media. They’re playing political games with people’s very lives and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Ugandans will pay a steep price if they win.
With millions of us together, we helped knocked this bill off course once before. Our friends in Uganda need to know we still have their backs. Sign now and then ask your friends to get on board – there’s no time to lose!
This global movement for the simple right to live and love freely is unstoppable. But, as this hateful bill shows, there are still many hurdles in the historic battle for human rights and full equality. This is one of those milestone moments, and by raising your voice you are making a huge difference.
Thanks for going All Out.
Best, Andre, Hayley, Jeremy, Sara and the rest of the All Out team.
Uganda’s anti-gay bill to be passed by end of year www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/official-ugandas-anti-gay-bill-to-be-passed-by-end-of-year-despite-criticism-abroad/2012/11/12/a4f5d3b8-2cb4-11e2-b631-2aad9d9c73ac_story
Uganda’s President to block “Kill the Gays” Bill www.76crimes.com/2012/06/18/uganda-president-ill-block-kill-the-gays-bill
Ugandan Parliament Speaker pushes for “Kill the Gays” bill www.thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/31/1117031/ugandan-parliament-speaker-pushes-for-kill-the-gays-bill
Ugandan lawmaker calls for all homosexuals to be jailed for life www.gaystarnews.com/article/uganda-lawmaker-calls-all-african-gay-people-be-jailed-life111012
Conservative Christian goes undercover as a gay man October 17, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, Christianity, conservative christian, evangelical, gay, gay community, gay liberation, gay rights, human rights, laura kane, lgbt, religious bigotry, roger hollander, sodom and gomorrah, tim kurek
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Roger’s note: Shades of John Howard Griffin’s classic ”Black Like Me,” which had a tremendous impact in the era of the Civil Rights movement.
Courtesy of Tim Kurek Tim Kurek, who posed as a gay man for a year to understand the adversity homosexuals face in the Bible Belt.
Courtesy of Allen Media Strategies Timothy Kurek, centre, poses with friends on his first Pride Day in Nashville, during his year of pretending to be gay.
The Cross in the Closet
The Cross in the Closet, Tim Kurek’s book about his year-long experiment.
When Timothy Kurek told his mother he was gay, she wrote in her diary that she would have rather heard she had terminal cancer.
Most of his Christian friends stopped speaking to him. “Jesus doesn’t love you anymore,” one said. As he sat outside a café in a gay neighbourhood, a stranger yelled “Faggot!” and threw a full two-litre bottle of cola at his head.
All terrible, painful experiences for a gay man — but Kurek isn’t gay. He’s a straight, conservative Christian from Nashville.
The aspiring writer went “undercover” as a homosexual for a year to understand the adversity gay people face in the Bible Belt. His book about the experience, called The Cross in the Closet, was released last week.
Kurek said the idea came to him after a friend came out as a lesbian. She told him, sobbing, that her family had disowned her.
“While she was crying in my arms, instead of loving her and trying to comfort her, my thoughts were … ‘Maybe I should give it a go and try to save her, get her to repent,’” he said.
Kurek was raised Independent Baptist and told that being gay was a sin. He remembers learning the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and being taught that God destroyed the cities to punish homosexuality.
But after his experiment, he realized the voice in his head wasn’t God, but religious propaganda.
“I realized I had to kill that voice inside of me, because it was only hurting me and hurting others,” he said.
The only way he could do that, he thought, was to experience what his friend had just gone through. So in January 2009, when he was in his early 20s, he “came out” to his family, got a job at a café gay men frequented and started going to gay bars.
His family was outwardly supportive, although he later found his mother’s diary entry that revealed she was struggling. “I was actually pretty fortunate, compared to a lot of other LGBT folks,” he said.
The first time he went to a gay club, he panicked when a shirtless man began grinding against him on the dance floor.
“I didn’t know whether I needed to punch him in the face or go have a cigarette,” Kurek said.
So Kurek asked a friend, who he described as a “big, burly, black teddy bear,” to pose as his boyfriend, so he wouldn’t be hit on.
He didn’t have relationships with men, but did experience what it was like to wear the label of gay in the South, he explained.
He devotes an entire chapter to the first time he was called “faggot.” To his surprise, it made him weep.
“I had to be held back from attacking the person that did it. I never felt so violated and minimized in my entire life, because of that one word,” he said.
LGBT advocates are divided on Kurek’s experiment. Helen Kennedy, director of Egale Canada, said he can never truly know what it’s like to be gay.
“He can’t see what it’s like to be a gay father, or to be an out man in a straight workplace,” she said. “He’s coming from a place of privilege.”
Irene Miller, president of PFLAG Toronto, agreed, but said she was hopeful the book would change some homophobes’ minds. “Within that evangelical culture, if they listen to his message, then it may do some good.”
When the year had ended, Kurek found his views had completely transformed.
“I went from being a very narrow-minded, hyperconservative Christian to an ally of the gay community,” he said.
His project not only changed him, but also his family and friends. When he revealed a year later that he was in fact straight, his mother said she understood that sometimes you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand them.
She is now an avid supporter of gay rights. His new LGBT friends were also supportive, Kurek said.
And rather than destroy his faith, the experiment actually saved it. “To the conservative Christians who read my book, I say, ‘Hey, there’s a much better way,’” he said. “It’s God’s job to judge, it’s the spirit’s job to convict, and it’s my job to love.’”
Uganda Gay Pride September 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
Tags: capital punishment, death penalty, gay pride, gay rights, human rights, lgbt, roger hollander, uganda
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U.S. nuns locked in battle with conservative Vatican leadership August 19, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Women.
Tags: birth control, catholic church, feminism, gay rights, marrige equality, nuns, olivia ward, patriarchy, Pope benedict, roger hollander, roman catholic, sartain, Vatican
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Roger’s note: it may be because of my own long discarded religious background that I bother to post an article about the Roman Catholic Church, which is today a bastion of misogynist patriarchal tyranny. I often wonder why good people remain involved in and institution that is so fundamentally corrupt, but I suppose that I have no right to be judgmental, especially where good works are being done. The nuns who are the subject of this article would do better, in my opinion, to be working outside their dinosaur of a Church; but then again, they have invested their lives within that organization, and it may not be fair to expect them to abandon it without a fight. As the article suggests, excommunication could very well be the outcome for these socially progressive and feminist nuns. Today’s incarnation of the Inquisition, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is at the center of power within the RC Church, the current Pope Ratzinger being its former head and today’s champion. This startling statistic tells the story about the out of touch nature of the male patriarchical hierarchy of the Church: “… more than two-thirds of Catholic women have practised officially prohibited contraception, and according to Gallup, 82 per cent find birth control morally acceptable.”
Seth Perlman/ASSOCIATED PRESS Pat Farrell, left, outgoing president of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, left, stands with president-elect Sister Florence Deacon, at St. Louis vigil Aug. 9.
Erika Schultz/ASSOCIATED PRESS Seattle Roman Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain praised the nuns’ good works and promised to deal with their differences “in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.”
It’s no New Age drama revival, but a crisis meeting of more than 900 Catholic sisters of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who represent some 80 per cent of America’s 57,000 nuns, a group attacked by the Vatican for harbouring “radical feminist ideas:” putting too much energy into social justice and too little into fighting abortion, contraception, gay rights and other traditional Catholic anathemas.
They have also dared to discuss women’s ordination, priestly marriage and hot-button political issues such as U.S. President Barack Obama’s health-care plan, to which the church is fiercely opposed.
When Pat Farrell, the group’s outgoing president, reaches the microphone, her message is loud and clear. Church criticism should not be met by “violence,” she tells the rapt female audience. But neither should it be accepted “with the passivity of the victim. It entails resisting rather than colluding with abusive power.”
Heads nod and smiles flash across tight-lipped faces in the crowd. “I believe the philosophical underpinnings of the way we’ve organized reality no longer hold,” Farrell continues, gaining momentum. “The human family is not served by individualism, patriarchy or competition . . . Breaking through in their place are equality, communion, collaboration, expansiveness . . . intuitive knowing and love.”
The words are like a splash of cold water in the face of the conservative church fathers. But the Aug. 7-10 gathering itself, with its free-form ceremonies and freethinking speakers, is also part of the problem, in the view of the Vatican’s watchdog Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In April, it issued a damning report, ordering the nuns’ leadership to correct its “serious doctrinal problems,” and submit to an overhaul under the direction of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain. He is known, most recently, for opposing Washington state’s Marriage Equality Bill, on the grounds that same-sex couples, being “different” from male-female couples, do not deserve equal treatment in law.
Earlier this week, Sartain met with the nuns’ national board after praising their good works in “social, pastoral and spiritual ministries,” and promising to deal with their differences “in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.” The sisters pledged the same. But the simmering anger beneath the nuns’ outwardly tranquil demeanour and the outpouring of support for them from Catholics across the country point to a confrontation that could rock the church for decades to come.
It’s a struggle that the Vatican may find hard to win.
While some American Catholics uphold the traditional views of the church and its ecclesiastical mission on earth, millions of others find its teachings less relevant and are privately going their own way.
Most tellingly, studies show that more than two-thirds of Catholic women have practised officially prohibited contraception, and according to Gallup, 82 per cent find birth control morally acceptable.
A recent University of Michigan survey said that by 2000, only 6 per cent of Catholics believed that divorce was never permissible, and 19 per cent that homosexuality was never justifiable. The book Just Love, on modern Catholic sexual ethics, became a runaway U.S. bestseller when the church campaigned against it.
As the ordination of women grows in other religions, the Vatican looks increasingly like King Canute trying to hold back the tide. Sexual abuse scandals have thrown the celibacy requirement for priests under a harsh spotlight, and allegations of Byzantine power struggles and corruption swirled after recent leaks of papal documents and arrest of the pope’s butler on theft charges. Some within the church say that 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI is out of touch and “isolated.”
Though the winds of change have raised scarcely a breeze behind Vatican walls, they have struck American nuns with cyclone force.
When 17-year-old Mary Ann Nestel left her middle-class home in Kansas City and entered a convent back in the 1950s, she took her parents’ names, draped herself in a standard-issue habit and became Sister Robert Catherine.
But with the meeting of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, convened by Pope John XXIII to review and renew the church, and inherited by his successor Pope Paul VI, the focus shifted from doctrine and tradition to community outreach. Priests and nuns were urged to stop setting themselves apart from contemporary life, and to wear clothing “suited to the circumstances of time and place” in which they worked.
“It was in the 1960s that I stopped wearing a habit,” recalls the ginger-haired, 72-year-old Nestel, sporting a scoop-necked t-shirt and comfortable flared skirt in the breathless summer heat. “At first we dressed very conservatively in navy or black. But our (leader) said we should look like the people of the day.”
Moving with the times was an act of obedience then, she says. But in the more reactionary era where nuns find themselves today, modernity has become defiance. It is this tension between an evolutionary church, and one that believes its teachings are immutable and eternal, that is at the heart of the sisters’ struggle.
“I think that the fundamental faith of the Catholic Church is that there are objective truths and teachings. . . that really do come from revelation and are interpreted authentically through the teaching of the church. . . and are expected to be believed with the obedience of faith,” said Bishop Leonard Blair, who took part in the doctrinal assessment of the sisters. “Those are things that are non-negotiable,” he told National Public Radio.
But to the greying generation who took “Vatican II” to heart, as well as younger progressive Catholics, it’s the church fathers who are on the wrong side of history.
A visit to the south St. Louis suburb of Carondelet is telling.
Here, Nestel is a local hero, sharing the struggles of the community and offering hands-on help.
She is executive director of the Community Betterment Foundation and Carondelet’s housing corporation. The former supplements the meager budgets of the working poor with a storehouse of food and children’s clothing, a free health clinic, seniors’ centre and literacy program. The latter has partnered with the city to change the character of the place, from a dilapidated, drug-ridden marginal community to one that is bringing back working- and middle-class people to affordable renovated homes, safe playgrounds and attractive and accessible shopping and recreational sites.
Over the desk of Nestel’s spotless, sparsely furnished office, a cross-shaped graphic rather than a traditional crucifix is on display. It reads: “We the People + The Body of Christ.” It was taken from Network, the group of Washington-based activist nuns who recently made a national bus tour to drum up opposition to legislation that would dramatically cut spending on social services.
Nestel takes the people-centred message seriously. When the food pantry was almost empty last week, she phoned the media and declared an emergency. Now she smiles broadly as she walks through the narrow basement shelves, replenished with tins, packages and boxes of food. People from every walk of life responded to the call, she says, and a local bar offered free beer to donors.
Nestel’s work goes beyond charitable services. A few blocks away, she congratulates a crew of renovators who drip with sweat as they put the finishing touches on a trim, brick three-bedroom house that was reclaimed from a drug gang and rebuilt by the housing corporation. It will be marketed for $160,000, (U.S.) sweetened by a 10-year tax holiday for the new owners.
On a nearby street, bright, artist-designed murals decorate walls that were once eyesores, another urban renewal project. Blooming gardens and a fenced playground might have sprung from the film Meet Me in St. Louis. People on the street may not recognize a visiting bishop, but they know Nestel on sight.
The corridors of the conference hotel are a poor woman’s tour of the world. They are lined with tables and posters advocating for social justice in Guatemala, in Africa, in South Sudan — and for causes closer to home. Many of the sisters present here have done service in the world’s roughest neighbourhoods, ministering to the hungry, homeless and oppressed.
Farrell, the leadership conference’s retiring president, worked with the non-violent resistance movement in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, and on the front lines of El Salvador’s bloody civil war, where four female Catholic missionaries were tortured, raped and murdered. Others have worked in U.S. inner cities where the lines between war and peace are blurred.
But harsh conditions are nothing new to North American nuns, nor is the heavy hand of the male-dominated church.
“In the 19th century, Catholic nuns literally built the church in the American West,” wrote Utah State University historian Anne Butler in the New York Times. They braved “hardship and grueling circumstances to establish missions, set up classrooms and lead lives of calm in a chaotic world marked by corruption, criminality and illness. Their determination in the face of a male hierarchy that then, as now, frequently exploited and disdained them, was a demonstration of their resilient faith in a church struggling to adapt itself to change.”
Since the early 18th century, more than 200,000 Catholic sisters have pioneered the country. But now their numbers have shrunk to less than 60,000, and threaten to dwindle by thousands more in the next decade as the older ones die or retire from duty.
That makes the struggle between the nuns and the Vatican all the more urgent, as fewer young women are interested in enrolling in what they see as an institution that imposes archaic rules. Many serving today fear that if they cannot move with the times, the times will eventually pass them by and their orders become extinct.
“Today individuals have the right to decide how to live their lives and craft their own morality,” says Jamie Manson, a lay minister and graduate of Yale Divinity School. “They are not hard-wired to live in community.” But, she says, many young Catholic lay workers are still hungering for spiritual mentorship. Allowing them to live in religious communities that are devoted to public service, along with their partners, might rejuvenate dedicated religious life.
It’s one more challenge for the nuns as they continue their mano a mano confrontation with the bishops charged with bringing them into line.
At best, the church may drag out the talks to prevent a perilous split, although the Vatican’s current conservative leadership seems to make that less likely. But officials can also see warning signs of strains within the church: the powerful Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined the sisters in speaking out against government budget cuts that would slash food and nutrition programs for the poor. Meanwhile, highly vocal Catholic social conservatives back widening state crackdowns on abortion and defunding of contraception.
At worst, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and its members may find so little common ground with their critics that they opt to defy the church’s authority and form their own organization. Some have pondered the ultimate threat of excommunication.
Can those who have lived at the sharp end of the world’s harsh realities retreat to an obedient quiet?
“Many of the foundresses and founders of our congregations struggled long for canonical approval of our institutes,” Farrell tells the sisters. “Some were even silenced or excommunicated.” And she adds with a fleeting smile, “a few of them . . . were later canonized.”
Tags: anti-gay, benedict xvi, bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, DAVID BADASH, gay marriage, gay rights, human rights, Pope benedict, religious bigotry, roger hollander, roman catholic, same-sex marriage
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The special Prayer (Google translation) directs the faithful to pray for “those who were recently elected to legislate and govern.” France’s new President, Francois Hollande, has promised gay marriage will be the law of the land next year. The Catholic Church also is telling its believers to ask Jesus Christ to “grant us the courage to make hard choices and a better quality of life for all and vitality of our youth through strong families and loyal,” and specifically to ask Christ to ensure children “cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother,” a direct attack on same-sex couples adopting or raising children.
For children and young people that we help all people to discover their own path to progress towards happiness, they cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.
The Advocate notes:
French bishops typically avoid entering political debates, but Reuters reports that spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said the [Catholic] Church wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”
The prayer effort follows the Catholic Church’s outspokenness against recent plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Scotland. Pope Benedict XVI denounced the momentum for marriage equality in the United States during a visit of American bishops to the Vatican in March.
A Reuters report confirms the purpose of the Prayer.
In May, the Pope told Catholics they should become more political and ignore what the Bible teaches about politics. Speaking in Tuscany, the Pope urged the melding of Church and State, and told listeners to be “the engine of society in promoting peace through justice.”
The Catholic Church in France did not explain why only heterosexual couples should be allowed to raise children, nor does the Prayer direct the faithful to pray for the victims of pedophile priests.
“Gay panic” is not a defense July 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Australia, Criminal Justice, LGBT.
Tags: australia, australia law, gay bashing, gay panic, gay rights, homophobia, lgbt, mary elizabeth williams, panic defense, queensland, roger hollander
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Monday, Jul 16, 2012 11:10 AM EST, www.salon.com
Believe it or not, there are still places where an alleged killer can claim the victim was coming on to him
Who could use a reminder today that not all Christians are homophobic lunatics trying to bend the Bible to justify their bigotry? Meeeeeee!
So let’s give props to the Catholic priest Rev. Fr. Paul Kelly of Maryborough, Australia, who took a stand against — and illuminated the horrific stupidity — of one his nation’s most cruelly backward laws. As Father Kelly explains in the Change.org petition he started, “A loophole in Queensland law allows people accused of murder to defend themselves in court by claiming ‘gay panic’ — that is, if someone who they think is gay ‘comes onto’ them, the sheer panic they feel is partial justification for murder.” And you thought Stand Your Ground was dangerously insane? There are places in the world where the mere perception that someone of your own gender might be into you gives you the right to kill him or her.
As Father Kelly writes, “A man was killed in my church’s grounds, and one of his killers used this same ‘gay panic’ defense. They were eventually acquitted of murder.” In 2008 Wayne Robert Ruks was punched and kicked to death by two men at the church. His killers claimed Ruks “made homosexual advances” and tried to grab Pearce’s crotch. They were jailed for the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Ruks’ family, by the way, has stated that he wasn’t gay. And Opposition Leader Campbell Newman argues that “It’s important to note that the defense of provocation is not based on one sexuality, it’s open to any Queenslander.” But the Queensland government vowed six months ago to close the legal loophole that would allow a defendant to use the claim of nonviolent homosexual advances as a justification for killing in Queensland.
Sadly, that promise recently fell through. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie confirmed Monday that “The Liberal National Party remains tough on crime. However, given these laws are yet to be tested, (it) does not intend to make any further amendments to the provocation defense at this time.” He described any amendment to existing law as “unnecessary.”
As Father Kelly says, “I’m utterly appalled that a law that so revoltingly and openly discriminates against gay people is still tolerated in a modern society. Laws like the ‘gay panic’ defense are a crucial part of legitimizing and reinforcing a culture of hate which means that 73 percent of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality.” And while we’re being revolted here, let’s add the fact that loopholes like this are hurtful to gay and straight citizens alike. They tell everyone that any paranoid freak has the right to interpret their actions as some big scary gay come-on and bash their heads in accordingly.
As a person who had this happen in his own parish, Father Kelly can speak with unique authority on why this is utter BS. He seems like a pretty cool guy in general. If you leaf through some of his recent sermons online, you’ll see a man who preaches to his flock about the value of “wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, courage, reverence and wonder,” and who tells them that “fear is the great enemy.” He’s doing the work a spiritual leader is supposed to do – inspiring social change and positive action. His online campaign has in recent days caught fire, garnering 163,000 signatures, including Stephen Fry’s. It’s also created a Twitter storm against “#gaypanic” and earned the endorsement of Kelly’s fellow clergy. Over the weekend, Capetown Catholic priest Father Stefan Hippler tweeted his “support for my brother priest in Australia and his campaign.” Hippler, by the way, is busily and fiercely fighting for tolerance among his own followers, most recently condemning Uganda’s Catholic bishops for speaking in favor of “traditional family and its values” within a culture that punishes homosexuality with death.
In a world where people are still so freaked out by the mere idea of homosexuality — by the possibility of a same-sex gesture — that they can use it to justify the most violent and despicable acts, we all need to speak out and say this is beyond wrong. That this is stupid. We cannot as a society excuse repellent behavior; we have to strike down outdated laws that protect it. And to do so, we desperately need people who have a voice and a platform. Maybe even a pulpit, guys. Father Paul Kelly was personally affected by an unspeakable crime at his doorstep, so he’s doing something about it. He’s fighting hate with humanity, ignorance with light. Because that’s exactly what Christians are supposed to do. Thanks for the reminder, Father.
Why I Can’t Celebrate the End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell October 8, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Peace, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, Civil Rights, civilian casualties, dadt, gary lehring, gay bomb, gay rights, Iraq war, lesbian rights, lgb, lgbt, militarism, roger hollander, war
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Many are applauding the repeal of DADT as an advance for gay and lesbian civil rights. And while any advance in civil rights is difficult to oppose, I am troubled by the celebration and fanfare that has accompanied the repeal of this policy. After eighteen years of such a costly and repugnant policy, why do I not rejoice at this step forward in legal protections for LGB individuals? Why can’t I celebrate the end of DADT as an advance in civil rights?
Part of my reticence to celebrate comes from the current news coverage that suggests that the repeal of DADT is the final victory of a monolithic LGBT community that has been fighting for inclusion in the military for decades. But the gay community has never been uniform in its support for military inclusion. Eighteen years ago Clinton’s decision to lift a ban on homosexuality in the military was met with reservation from many quarters of the LGBT communities who opposed the creeping militarization o f our lives and communities . This reticence and resistance from within our communities is missing from this celebration of civil rights. While “inside the beltway” activists honor and defend as a civil right every individual’s decision to serve their country through military service, are LGBT communities obligated to support such a corrupt, misogynistic, and homophobic institution? Have we forgotten the Pentagon’s plan in 1994 to develop a “gay bomb” that would release female pheromones on the battlefield, thereby triggering uncontrollable lust among enemy combatants on the battlefield, rendering this newly created gay enemy unable to fight? Such adolescent misunderstandings of masculinity, sexuality, and human nature should be enough to make LGBT communities question if the military is really an institution worth joining.
What might a progressive and/or a radical LGBT community response to the repeal of DADT look like today? We might begin by acknowledging that while ending this ban will make it easier for LGB people in the military to stay there, and easier for others to join, there are larger political implications to this inclusion. This civil rights victory entitles LGB persons to serve as “the mercenaries of a military industrial complex” as Barbara Smith said. These “mercenaries” have succeeded in killing more than 110,000 civilian non combatants in Iraq, and more than 10,000 civilian noncombatants in Afghanistan. Is this truly progress, and if so for whom? Our military leaders claim that the creation of a stable democratic society is the goal in these countries. Nonetheless the Pentagon was slow to condemn anti-gay honor killings in Iraq and seems not to think that rampant violence directed at sexual minorities is incompatible with a democratic society. Should progressive LGBT communities not also be globally engaged ones? Should civil rights victories here manipulate us into abandoning our moral courage and outrage at homophobia and sexual violence abroad ? When Abu Ghraib revealed homosexual rape to be part of the military’s humiliation of prisoners, I wondered if that could have happened if an LGBT service member had been present. Yet, today, I fear that misplaced patriotism, jingoism, demonization of the enemy– all well worn practices of the United States Military–will create camaraderie among queer and straight soldiers long before it would help gay servicemen and women see their own connection to sexually subjugated enemy combatants.
A truly radical LGBT response would go further still. We might be working to dismantle the military industrial complex and shift those billions of dollars to help the very economically distressed communities and individuals that military recruiters target to make their monthly enlistment quotas– sites which will now include LGBT community centers. Deploying promises of a steady income, high tech training, college grants, and upward social mobility, the US Military targets the highest risk populations in our society for recruitment. Suspect under normal conditions, during a prolonged recession this strategy is simply dishonest and exploitive. It seems even more exploitative when one realizes that all of these promised benefits have become comparatively less generous and less effective in recent decades.
A radical LGBT community movement might also demand that the savings from the repeal of DADT be directed toward those LGBT community centers that are now targeted for recruitment: a kind of queer combination of a Peace dividend and reparations to a community for historically egregious official discrimination. With more than 13,000 GLBT service members fired under DADT and an average investment in their training priced at $52000 per service member, a queer dividend of $383 million invested at the community level over the next 18 years could help address the many forms that LGBT discrimination takes today.
But of course no such dividend will be forthcoming. In the current budget debate as the military insists that any cuts to its budget will cripple its readiness, we should remember that this $383 million was money the military squandered upholding a discriminatory policy. Surely, this is a painless budget cut that all taxpayers can applaud. Unfortunately, like the Cold War “Peace dividend,” the end of this war on LGBT people by the US military will bring no advantage to these communities nor to American taxpayers. The military will simply find another unneeded weapons system in which to invest, another politically connected Halliburton to which to funnel taxpayer dollars.
Although it is tempting to see any advance of civil rights as a good thing, I cannot celebrate the repeal of DADT. If the goal is the advance of LGBT civil rights, many areas exist where national leadership and congressional action would make a more significant impact on the lives of beltway activists, progressive GLBTs and Radical queers all. National laws making it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in housing, in adoption, in civil unions, in immigration or in the workplace would have far reaching consequences for many. A law that ends discrimination in the workplace could bring truly progressive change to greater numbers of people in the United States and might also have been applied to the military as one of the country’s largest employers. When finally the Employment Non Discrimination Act, or some future incarnation of it, passes and becomes the law of the United States, I will celebrate. Until then, consider me “Section 8,” but the military is no place for queers.
Gary Lehring, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Government and Gender Studies at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He is the author of Officially Gay: The Political Construction of Sexuality by the US Military.