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Momentum Builds for Reforming El Salvador’s Abortion Ban March 14, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Health, Hillary Clinton, Latin America, Uncategorized, Women.
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Roger’s note: El Salvador has what may be the most repressive abortion laws in the Western world.  There are cases of young women jailed for years because of a miscarriage.  It is barbaric.  And no one is more responsible for such barbarism than the Catholic Church.  When I read that abortion is a sin, that there are campaigns to totally eradicate abortion in the struggle for good over evil, it takes me back to the Dark Ages.  Such attitudes and laws reflect inhuman religious ideology in the service of patriarchy. It has been said jokingly, but I believe it literally, if men could have babies then abortion would be a sacrament.

The movement to decriminalize abortion in El Salvador described in the article below, if successful, would only eliminate the most Draconian elements of the anti-abortion legislation (abortion in the case of rape, for example); but there still would be a long way to go to reach the ideal of abortion being solely a matter between a woman and her physician.

Mar 10, 2017, Kathy Bougher, rewire news

“Is it the will of a compassionate God to mandate that young girls who have been raped carry to term resulting pregnancies?” asked theologian María Lopez Vigil at a talk organized by advocates. 

In 1997, the legislature in El Salvador was considering a vote to criminalize abortion under all circumstances. Morena Herrera, a feminist activist, “was facing the legislature, alone, trying to defend and justify why they should not change the law,” recalled Mariana Moisa, communications director at the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto.

“They were transmitting live, and they shut off her microphone,” Moisa recalled.

The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly went on to ban abortion in all circumstances. In addition to making abortion illegal no matter what, this unjust law has been misapplied in cases of obstetric emergencies or miscarriages—leading to the imprisonment of dozens of women in the country because of pregnancy complications.

Now, however, the legislature is considering a bill from Vice President of the Legislative Assembly Lorena Peña that would decriminalize abortion in cases of rape or human trafficking, fetal non-viability, or to preserve the pregnant person’s health or life. It would also legalize abortion when the pregnancy results from rape or statutory rape of a minor, with the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Although it would not necessarily shield women from prosecution when the law is misapplied, it effectively returns the law to its pre-1997 state.

On February 27, the legislature’s Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Points, where the bill is being heard, convened a first-ever public hearing on abortion in response to the unexpected number of requests they received to present testimony. Twelve out of the seventeen organizations and individuals who testified spoke in support of decriminalization, including nationally and internationally recognized professionals in public health and law, representatives from two progressive Protestant churches, and a variety of activists.

Marcela Zamora, a well-known Salvadoran filmmaker, shared her recently published essay, “I Aborted,” a rare public statement in El Salvador. She recounted how more than ten years earlier, while living in a country that allowed abortion, she experienced a pregnancy with complications that threatened her life. Although she was able to obtain an abortion, she questioned what would have happened to her if she had been in El Salvador at that time.

Moisa said she was struck by the contrast with the tenor of the hearing in 1997. “This time, in 2017, they invited us to the legislature, and our voices were heard. They made clear that the discussion would be based on scientific and legal information. Morena was there again, [this time] with a whole panorama of diverse voices who stood up alongside her to express their support for a possible reform,” she remembered.

This change didn’t come out of nowhere. Activists on the ground have been working for two decades to engage allies and elected officials on this issue—and in the last few months, that momentum has ramped up on a number of fronts.

Abortion as a Health Issue

Those speaking out in favor of the bill are, for the most part, concentrating on the exceptions to the ban it enshrines into law.

At a January forum organized by the Alliance for the Life and Health of Women—a coalition in which the Agrupación is a key player—members of the medical profession provided the medical and scientific justifications for the proposed change to the law.

Gynecologist Guillermo Ortiz, currently a senior adviser for Ipas and formerly chief of obstetrics at the Women’s Hospital in El Salvador, said that physicians who support the proposal for reform “are in favor of saving lives. But there are conditions that make [abortion] necessary, and we are talking about those situations so that exceptions can exist within the law.”

As part of that convening of medical experts, seven nationally and internationally recognized OB-GYNs signed off on a memo to the Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Points. The memo, viewed by Rewire, says the society must “generate legal instruments that guarantee protection for [patients’] lives,” in at least the four cases defined in the proposed reform.

The memo cited the Ethics Committee of the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians: “There exists a broad consensus … that abortion is ethically justifiable when it is carried out for medical reasons to protect the life and health” of the pregnant person.

“It is fundamental to remember that the global experience shows that the frequency of abortion does not depend on legislation and that the rates of abortion do not increase with more liberal legislation,” the memo continued. “To the contrary, they can diminish, if at the same time other measures are adopted,” such as information and free access to highly effective contraception.

As part of its scrutiny of the proposal, the legislature had requested an opinion from the El Salvador Health Ministry.

In a February 21 symposium on health and bioethics organized by the ministry, El Salvador Minister of Health Dr. Violeta Menjivar responded, “As the Ministry of Health, we consider it appropriate that the legislature and society together participate in a reflection and deliberation on the harm the absolute prohibition on abortion causes to the health of Salvadoran women.”

She supported the move to reform the law, noting that the United Nations had made a request in January 2015 that El Salvador repeal its broad criminalization of abortion under all circumstances.

At the February 27 hearing, Sofia Villalta, a nationally recognized gynecologist with more than 40 years of professional experience, testified on the causes of unwanted pregnancies and emphasized the underlying role of the “subordination of women to masculine power.” She cited a study within the Salvadoran society of gynecologists which showed that 80 percent of them want to return to the prior legislation allowing abortion.

The Consequences of Criminalization

At the February 21 forum organized by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Virginia Rodriguez of the National Committee on Bioethics in El Salvador posed the question, “If a woman has rights from conception, at what point does she lose her rights? When do the rights of the fetus in development take priority over her rights to life?”

Rodriguez was referencing a February 15 decision from the El Salvador Supreme Court, when it ruled on a 2007 case involving conflicting laws over when life begins and when the State must protect that life.

Although the Court agreed that the the El Salvador Constitution declares life as beginning at “conception,” it said “it is necessary to weigh each case.” It also stated that the idea of fetal rights does not “claim a duty of absolute and unconditional protection of life in gestation.”

Alberto Romero of the Agrupación Ciudadana and the Movement for Secular Culture wrote in a booklet published by the Salvadoran Foundation for the Study of the Application of Law, FESPAD, that the Court’s decision “permits a resolution of the vacuum that exists in the current legislation, which does not establish legal mechanisms to resolve the collision of rights that takes place between the [fetus] and the woman who is pregnant.”

On the day of the hearing, the nine-member National Committee on Bioethics in El Salvador—which also includes Morena Herrera and Margarita Rivas of the Agrupación—published a paid ad in La Prensa Gráfica, noting the ways in which existing law infringes on the rights of pregnant people and women in general.

The ad stated that the existing law promotes gender discrimination against women; prevents women with high-risk pregnancies or obstetric complications from accessing medical treatment in accordance with existing scientific knowledge; and has provoked cases of discrimination against women within the justice system based on economic conditions, effectively criminalizing poverty.

The law has also, the committee said, generated legal conflicts whereby physicians’ responsibilities to protect doctor-patient confidentiality conflict with their mandates under the anti-abortion laws. Overall, the ad said, the broad criminalization of abortion violates the rights of pregnant people by treating their constitutional rights as equal to or subordinate to those of the fetus.

Responding to Questions of Faith

The Alliance for the Life and Health of Women also organized a series of events from February 17 through 21 to address the realities and contradictions around religion in El Salvador.

“The Alliance knew it was important to address religious concerns in a society as deeply religious as El Salvador, where almost 99 percent of the population professes a belief in God and about 91 percent belong to a religion,” said Romero, who researches secularism and social issues in El Salvador.

“For many people, both legislators and citizens in general, it’s difficult to reconcile [many religions’] mandate against abortion with the rational arguments for permitting it. It’s important to present a variety of interpretations that do not condemn and criminalize abortion,” he said.

Advocates noted that different religions take varied stances on abortion. “The Anglican Church here in El Salvador talks about abortion not being a theological issue, but a pastoral one of accompaniment of women,” said Alejandra Burgos, a member of the Agrupación and a progressive feminist theologian.

Indeed, during the February 27 hearing, Martin Barahona of the Anglican Church in El Salvador explained that “in this case the Anglican bishops consider that the only people who have the right to decide are the women who are pregnant.”

“Even Pope Francis, who maintains that abortion is a sin, mandates priests to have compassion and accompany women,” Burgos pointed out.

“It’s necessary in this society to provide alternatives to people who are living with these contradictions; to show that a religious believer can also support the right [to] interrupt a pregnancy,” she concluded.

In one talk, María Lopez Vigil, a Cuban-Nicaraguan theologian, author, and editor of the progressive Nicaraguan magazine Envio, proposed looking at abortion in a broader perspective, considering the realities of the country.

“Consider the commandment ‘do not kill’ with situational ethics. There is nothing more abortive than poverty,” she said.

In arguing for a compassionate, merciful view of God, she asked the audience of more than 300—many of whom had not attended Alliance events in the past—if it was “the will of a compassionate God that women suffer and die for ‘not having enough faith’ when they experience obstetric emergencies? Is it the will of a compassionate God to mandate that young girls who have been raped carry to term resulting pregnancies?”

She challenged structural injustices and spoke of “abortive societies,” in which countries obligate pregnant girls and adolescents to give birth, but after the birth do nothing to help them support and raise their children. That, she said, is a “structural sin.”

What’s Next?

Responses to the campaign for decriminalization are diverse.

After the various hearings and forums, Legislative Representative Juan Valiente of the right-wing ARENA party spoke on a TV talk show supporting debate on the reform, going against his party’s stance.

In addition, he tweeted, “I’m against abortion, but I recognize that there is a collision of rights and it’s important to investigate and debate. I’m not afraid.” And to another constituent opposed to decriminalization, he posted, “I prefer to lose your vote than my conscience.”

Even with these sea changes in some public opinions and attitudes, there is still strong religious opposition.

A group of Catholic churches initiated “40 days of prayer” leading up to Easter Sunday with the goal of “ending abortion in the world and in the country” in a war “between good and bad.” Regarding the Ministry of Health position, prayer campaign leader Karla de Lacayo told La Prensa Gráfica, “it’s a lie” that women’s lives are at risk.

“With [medical] advances now, there is no way the woman is going to die. And, if it’s true, if the child dies in the process, then that’s what God wanted,” de Lacayo said.

In the legislature itself, there remains the fact that supporters of the reform must form coalitions in order to get the majority vote necessary to first pass the measure out of committee, and then win a majority of votes in the full body. Neither the right-wing ARENA party nor the left-leaning FMLN has a numerical majority in the committee or the full legislature.

Supporters hope for a positive resolution in the next few weeks, before the next election cycle gets underway. At that point, they say, chances of any substantive vote on any matter disappear.

As Sara Garcia, coordinator for the Agrupación, told Rewire, “This is a historic moment. International organizations such as the UN are speaking out. More and more social movements are making pronouncements. Professional medical organizations and the universities declare their support.”

“The government can’t keep ignoring the realities of women in this country,” she said.

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“Right to Life” Taken to its Logical Conclusion May 16, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Uncategorized, Women.
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Pope Francis Co-operated with the Military Junta in Argentina May 31, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Human Rights, Latin America, Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: The Catholic Church. from the parish priests up to the bishops, cardinals and Popes, has a long history of supporting brutal dictatorship, not only in Latin America, but around the globe.  The two most glaring examples of the 20th century were in Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s Germany, where the Church was at best voluntary blind to atrocity and at worst complicit.  There is not reason to believe that this was not true with respect to the current Pope Francis during his tenure as leader of the Church during the period of Argentina’s vicious dictatorship.

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 5/31/2014 at 11:09:08

It is claimed by two priests that Pope Francis handed them and other leftists to the military death squads, and did not attempt to protect lay people who then became part of the 30,000 ‘disappeared’ in Argentina.

A letter is one of several documents that de la Cuadra and other human-rights activists say shows that Bergoglio (i.e. Pope Francis), as head of the Jesuits, may have turned a blind eye to some atrocities, then later denied knowing about those atrocities despite his own testimony to the contrary and that ultimately as head of the catholic church in Argentina, he did little to open the church’s archives to reveal the truth about its complicity.

The testimony of Argentine war criminals in tribunals showed that Catholic priests and chaplains played a central role in the torture and murder of dissidents by blessing torture chambers and absolving troops of their sins after they had thrown dozens of bound and drugged dissidents from a plane into the 50-mile-wide Rio de la Plata.

The accusations have been around for years, but no official court has accused Bergoglio of wrongdoing. He has argued that he lobbied the junta to free the kidnapped priests and quietly worked to hide or protect many other suspected dissidents.

But Bergoglio has had to make that case amid a stream of revelations about other Catholic leaders’ collaborations with the junta. In a jailhouse interview the former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, who is serving a life sentence for human-rights abuses, confirmed that some top church officials were aware of the dictatorship’s kidnappings and killings of dissidents.

There were also allegations that Father Bergoglio knew where two of his Jesuit priests were held and tortured for five months by the junta, but did little to help them.

Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi rejected those charges, calling them “slander,” and saying that instead “there have been many declarations of how much he did for many people to protect them from the military dictatorship.”

The main chronicler of the priests’ kidnap case is investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky, a former member of a ’70s-era leftist guerrilla group who tends to favour the policies of Kirchner’s populist government. It was Verbitsky’s past and political slant that allowed a Vatican spokesman, shortly after Francis’ election, to dismiss the complaints against the new pope as a campaign by “left-wing, anti-clerical elements.”

But Verbitsky is also highly regarded for shedding light on some of the worst abuses of the dictatorship. He famously established that security forces drugged dissidents and dropped them from aeroplanes and helicopters into the Rio de la Plata.

Pope Francis has never been implicated directly in any actions, but many in Argentina who support him, including 1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, said that “he was not complicit in the dictatorship but he lacked courage to accompany us in our struggle.”

The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State was formed of survivors of church and state terror in Dublin, Ireland. The event was initiated by Nobel Prize Nominee Reverend Kevin Annett of Canada and members of Irish survivors’ groups and has since charged Pope Francis with child abuse. Via citizens courts by 2013, this group successfully prosecuted and convicted former Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger, for Crimes against Humanity in Canada. Pope Benedict subsequently resigned, the first Pope to do so in 600 years.

Reports of any of these accusations in the mainstream media as might be expected are infrequent.

With the knowledge of the United States, Latin American dictators used terrorism to wage their war on terrorism.

Pope Francis’ Junta Past: Argentine Journalist on New Pontiff’s Ties to Abduction of Jesuit Priests

Satanic 9th circle murder evidence links Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury

http://ahaadotme.wordpress.com/

Cully Downer is Irish and the author of ‘Ahaanews’ a UK based blog activist site. He has been a mental health advocate and freelance author both in the UK and North America. He works independently and now lives in the south coast of England.

 

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U.N. Panel Questions Vatican Officials on Child Sex Abuse January 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Criminal Justice, Religion.
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Roger’s note: This paragraph knocked me off my seat:

“Written answers from the Vatican emphasized the distinction between the Holy See and the Catholic Church and said that although it encouraged adherence to the principles of the convention globally, it was responsible only for implementing the convention in the territory of the Vatican City State.”

The Vatican, whose long vindictive arm reaches to the farthest corner of the glove to punish a priest or theologian who dares to advocate, for example, the ordination of women priests, this poor powerless Vatican, perhaps the most centralized authoritarian institution on the face of earth, this poor impotent Vatican finds that its hands are tied when it comes to enforcing the law that protects children from its abusive priests.  Five stars for chutzpah and hypocrisy.  But kudos to the Pope and his Cardinals for “encouraging” their priests to keep their hands (or worse) off children.  Not to mention protecting all those children running around the halls of the Vatican.

NICK CUMMING-BRUCEJAN. 16, 2014, New York Times

GENEVA — In an unusual appearance before a United Nations committee, Vatican officials faced questions on Thursday about the Holy See’s handling of sexual abuse of children by the clergy.

The officials, including Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, who served as the Vatican’s chief sex crimes prosecutor for a decade up to 2012, are appearing before the Committee on the Rights of the Child to show how the Vatican is implementing a legally binding convention promoting child rights, which it signed in 1990.

Human rights organizations and groups representing victims of clerical abuse welcomed the hearing as the first occasion the Vatican has had to publicly defend its record.

“It’s a moment that has given hope and encouragement to victims across the globe,” Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in Geneva ahead of the hearing.

Amid the shake-up launched by Pope Francis in the 10 months since he took office, rights groups also saw Thursday’s hearing as an occasion that could shed light on the pontiff’s approach to dealing with the clerical abuse scandal.

Pope Francis announced last month the creation of a new committee to tackle clerical abuse but has so far said little on the scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

In questions posed by the U.N. committee before the hearing, the Vatican was asked to provide details of cases of sexual abuse committed by clergy that were brought to its attention, to detail measures for ensuring clergy accused of sexual abuse did not remain in contact with children, and to explain what explicit instructions it had given to ensure compulsory reporting of sexual abuse to the competent national authorities together with the cases where instructions had been given not to report abuse.

Written answers from the Vatican emphasized the distinction between the Holy See and the Catholic Church and said that although it encouraged adherence to the principles of the convention globally, it was responsible only for implementing the convention in the territory of the Vatican City State.

“It was quite shocking. It was a pretty direct, pretty blunt effort to sidestep the questions,” Pam Spees, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which is seeking to hold Vatican officials responsible for sexual abuse crimes, said in an interview.

 

The Politics of Abortion in Latin America July 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Latin America, Women.
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Cora Fernandez Anderson

by Cora Fernandez Anderson, Five College Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Reproductive Politics

July 17, 2013 – 2:01 pm, http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/07/17/the-politics-of-abortion-in-latin-america/

 

Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk.Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk. (Apartments in Nicaragua via Shutterstock)

In light of the recent case of Beatriz, a 22-year-old Salvadoran woman and mother of a toddler, who, while suffering from lupus and kidney failure and carrying an anencephalic fetus, was denied the right to an abortion, it is relevant to discuss the restrictive abortion laws in Latin America and some of the reasons behind them.

Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region. Legal abortion upon request during the first trimester is only available in Cuba (as of 1965), Mexico City (as of 2007), and Uruguay (as of 2012). In the rest of the continent, abortion is criminalized in most circumstances, with few exceptions, the most common of which are when the life or health of the woman is at risk, rape, incest and/or fetus malformations. However, even in these cases the legal and practical hurdles a woman has to face to have an abortion are such that many times these exceptions are not available, or by the time they are authorized it is too late. The consequences of such criminalization are well known: high maternal mortality and morbidity rates due to unsafe back alley abortions that affect poor and young women disproportionately.

The current laws ruling abortion in the region have been inherited from colonial powers. They are a legacy of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. While European women have already gotten rid of these laws many decades ago, Latin American women still have to deal with them. Why is this so?

As both scholars and activists know by now, women’s rights, like other human rights, are only respected if a movement organizes around them and puts pressure on the state to change unfair laws and policies. While feminist movements swept Europe and North America during the 1960s and 70s, Latin American countries were busy fighting dictatorships and civil wars. It is not that women did not organize, but rather they did so to oppose the brutal regimes and to address the needs of poor populations hit by the recurrent economic crises. Reproductive rights just had to wait. When democracy finally arrived in the region—in the 1980s in South American and the 1990s in Central America—feminist movements gradually began to push for reproductive rights. For example, the September 28th Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion was launched in 1990 in the context of the Fifth Latin American and Caribbean Feminist meeting held in San Bernardo, Argentina. Since then, most countries in the region have seen mobilizations and protests around this date. However, by the time the movements began to focus on reproductive rights, the global context had changed and the conservative right had also set up a strong opposition to any change to the status quo.

The strongholds of the opposition to decriminalization lie in two places: first, the Catholic Church, and second, the ascendance of the religious right in the United States. The Catholic Church has historically been a strong political actor in Latin America, ever since its large role in the conquest and colonization of the continent by the Spanish and Portuguese crowns in the 16th and 17th centuries. The church’s influence among both political and economic elites is still a reality in the whole region with only a variation of degree among the different countries. However, the church’s strong opposition to abortion has not been constant. While the church has always condemned abortion, it used to be considered a misdemeanor and not a murder of an innocent human life, as in the current discourse. In addition, it was not until the late 1800s that the church considered that life started at conception. Until 1869, a fetus was thought to receive its soul from 40 to 80 days after conception, abortion being a sin only after the ensoulment had taken place.

Even in the beginning of the 20th century, when many Latin American countries passed their current legislation that allowed legal abortion under certain circumstances, the Catholic Church did not pose a strong opposition to these reforms. As Mala Htun explains in her research on South American abortion laws, at the time abortion reforms were passed by a nucleus of male politicians, doctors, and jurists. In addition, these reforms legalized abortion only in very limited circumstances and required the authorization of a doctor and/or a judge, and therefore represented no real threat to the dominant discourse of abortion being morally wrong. The church only began organizing against abortion decriminalization when feminist movements came together to claim the autonomy of women’s bodies threatening this consensus.

When John Paul II became Pope in 1978, moral issues such as abortion were given a priority in the church’s mission as never before. Having lived through the Soviet conquest of his home country, Poland, and experienced the repression of Catholicism and the legalization of abortion there, the Pope felt very strongly about these issues. Once many of the European Catholic countries achieved the legalization of abortion in the 1970s and 80s, Latin America, being the largest Catholic region in the world, became the battleground in which abortion policy would be fought and decided.

Together with this shift within the Catholic Church, a second stronghold of the opposition has come from the United States. Long past the days of Roe v. Wade, since the 1980s the increasing influence of the religious right within the Republican Party has implied that U.S. reproductive rights policies have been increasingly anti-abortion when this party was in office. How has this affected Latin America? Both directly, by banning federal funding for international NGOs involved with providing, advising, or even advocating for abortion decriminalization (known as the Mexico City Policy or the Global Gag Rule), and also indirectly, through the legitimacy and strength given to anti-abortion discourses, particularly during the George W. Bush administration.

Latin American politicians have not been indifferent to these trends and have thus sought the support of the Catholic Church and/or U.S. Republicans and anti-abortion groups to strengthen their chances of winning office. Unfortunately, in this context the future of Beatriz and many other poor and young women in the region remains politically uncertain.

‘Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis March 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, History, Human Rights, Latin America, Religion.
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Roger’s note: This says it all:

In contrast to the super-upbeat tone of American TV coverage, the New York Times did publish a front-page analysis on the Pope’s conservatism, citing his “vigorous” opposition to abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women. The Times article by Emily Schmall and Larry Rohter then added:

“He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War. He has been accused of knowing about abuses and failing to do enough to stop them while as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by the dictatorship.”

March 13, 2013

Exclusive: The U.S. “news” networks bubbled with excitement over the selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to be Pope Francis I. But there was silence on the obvious question that should be asked about any senior cleric from Argentina: What was Bergoglio doing during the “dirty war,” writes Robert Parry.

 

By Robert Parry (Updated March 14, 2013, to delete incorrect reference to Bergoglio in Guardian article)

If one wonders if the U.S. press corps has learned anything in the decade since the Iraq War – i.e. the need to ask tough question and show honest skepticism – it would appear from the early coverage of the election of Pope Francis I that U.S. journalists haven’t changed at all, even at “liberal” outlets like MSNBC.

The first question that a real reporter should ask about an Argentine cleric who lived through the years of grotesque repression, known as the “dirty war,” is what did this person do, did he stand up to the murderers and torturers or did he go with the flow. If the likes of Chris Matthews and other commentators on MSNBC had done a simple Google search, they would have found out enough about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to slow their bubbling enthusiasm.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, in 2008. (Photo credit: Aibdescalzo)

Bergoglio, now the new Pope Francis I, has been identified publicly as an ally of Argentine’s repressive leaders during the “dirty war” when some 30,000 people were “disappeared” or killed, many stripped naked, chained together, flown out over the River Plate or the Atlantic Ocean and pushed sausage-like out of planes to drown.

The “disappeared” included women who were pregnant at the time of their arrest. In some bizarre nod to Catholic theology, they were kept alive only long enough to give birth before they were murdered and their babies were farmed out to military families, including to people directly involved in the murder of the babies’ mothers.

Instead of happy talk about how Bergoglio seems so humble and how he seems so sympathetic to the poor, there might have been a question or two about what he did to stop the brutal repression of poor people and activists who represented the interests of the poor, including “liberation theology” priests and nuns, during the “dirty war.”

Here, for instance, is an easily retrievable story from Guardian columnist Hugh O’Shauhnessy from 2011, which states:

“To the judicious and fair-minded outsider it has been clear for years that the upper reaches of the Argentine church contained many ‘lost sheep in the wilderness’, men who had communed and supported the unspeakably brutal Western-supported military dictatorship which seized power in that country in 1976 and battened on it for years.

“Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did nothing to shake the support of senior clerics, including representatives of the Holy See, for the criminality of their leader General Jorge Rafael Videla and his minions.

“As it happens, in the week before Christmas [2010] in the city of Córdoba Videla and some of his military and police cohorts were convicted by their country’s courts of the murder of 31 people between April and October 1976, a small fraction of the killings they were responsible for. The convictions brought life sentences for some of the military.

“These were not to be served, as has often been the case in Argentina and neighbouring Chile, in comfy armed forces retirement homes but in common prisons. Unsurprisingly there was dancing in the city’s streets when the judge announced the sentences.

“What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentine hierarchy was any expression of regret for the church’s collaboration … in these crimes. The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence),” which alleges Bergoglio’s complicity in human right abuses.

The Guardian article stated: “The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.

“One would have thought that the Argentine bishops would have seized the opportunity to call for pardon for themselves and put on sackcloth and ashes as the sentences were announced in Córdoba but that has not so far happened. … Cardinal Bergoglio has plenty of time to be measured for a suit of sackcloth – perhaps tailored in a suitable clerical grey.”

Now, instead of just putting forward Bergoglio’s name as a candidate for Pope, the College of Cardinals has actually elected him. Perhaps the happy-talking correspondents from the U.S. news media will see no choice but to join in the cover-up of what Pope Francis did during the “dirty war.” Otherwise, they might offend some people in power and put their careers in jeopardy.

In contrast to the super-upbeat tone of American TV coverage, the New York Times did publish a front-page analysis on the Pope’s conservatism, citing his “vigorous” opposition to abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women. The Times article by Emily Schmall and Larry Rohter then added:

“He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the Dirty War. He has been accused of knowing about abuses and failing to do enough to stop them while as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, tortured or killed by the dictatorship.”

[For a limited time, you can purchase Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush family for only $34. For details, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

A Rogue Power: Vatican May Shield Pope from Growing Prosecution Efforts February 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Religion.
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Roger’s note: Apparently it was Mussolini who made the Vatican into a sovereign state.  Somehow that seems appropriate.
02.19.13 – 12:30 PM, http://www.commondreams.org

by Abby Zimet

Amidst growing efforts by international law advocates to arrest and prosecute Pope Benedict for the Church’s cover-up of child sex crimes, Vatican officials have announced they will give the retiring Pontiff sanctuary, arguing that otherwise he would be “defenseless” – a feeling likely familiar to the Church’s many victims of sexual abuse. A week before his resignation, the Pope reportedly heard from an undisclosed European government that the International Tribunal into Crimes Against Church and State (ITCCS) had called on “all people of conscience” to “disestablish the Vatican,” and seek Benedict’s and others’ arrests for crimes against humanity. Their call comes as part of an upcoming Easter Reclamation Campaign that also seeks to seize the assets of the Church under international law. In addition, the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights has requested, on behalf of the Survivors’ Network, an international inquiry into the Church’s sheltering of pedophile priests. Pope Benedict is reportedly scheduled to meet next week with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to request immunity against  allegations of child rape. We don’t really wish him well; we simply wish him what he legally and morally deserves.

“We call upon all citizens and governments to assist our efforts to legally disestablish the Vatican, Inc. and arrest its chief officers and clergy who are complicit in crimes against humanity and the ongoing criminal conspiracy to aid and protect child torture and trafficking.”

Contraception Mandate Clarified To Accommodate Religious Groups, Obama Administration Announces February 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Religion, Women.
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Roger’s note: This makes my blood boil.  In his monumental work, “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins questions the way we tip toe around the prerogatives of the religious minded.  The notion of religious freedom means the right to worship (or NOT worship) as you please.  Religious freedom does not mean that one can hide behind his religious belief to opt out of legal and social obligations, in this case, the obligation to provide health benefits to women.  Remember that it was not that long ago the freeing the slaves was “morally objectionable” to established religion in the South.  Once again Obama is copping out to a powerful institution, in this case the Roman Catholic Bigoted Church.  Would that he would pay more attention to those of us who find torture, aggressive warfare that targets civilians, indefinite detention, destruction of the environment, destruction of our public education system, etc. etc. “morally objective” on human grounds.

 

lbassett@huffingtonpost.com

Posted: 02/01/2013 11:40 am EST | Updated: 02/01/2013 12:27 pm EST

religion bigot[1] 3239145902_f0b63a127e

Faced with nearly 50 lawsuits by employers with religious objections, the Obama administration announced on Friday new details of the contraception coverage rule that clarify which employers will be exempt from having to cover contraception costs for their employees.

The new rules announced on Friday eliminate some confusion over which organizations qualify for the exemption by requiring employers with religious objections to self-certify that they are non-profits with religion as a core part of their mission. Religiously affiliated organizations that choose to insure themselves would instruct their “third-party administrator” to provide coverage through separate individual health insurance policies so that they do not have to pay for services to which they morally object.

“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”

The so-called “contraception mandate,” which went into effect on Aug. 1, 2012, requires most employers to cover birth control for their female employees at no additional cost. Houses of worship are exempt from the rule, and religiously affiliated organizations that are not churches, such as schools and hospitals, are allowed to opt out of directly paying for contraception coverage. The cost of coverage, in those cases, would be shifted to the insurer.

The accommodation for religious organizations did not satisfy all of them. As of Friday, there have been 48 lawsuits filed in federal court challenging the contraception mandate. Some for-profit companies that are not religiously affiliated, including the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby, sued the administration on the grounds that they are being denied their religious freedom by having to cover services to which they morally object. Judges have granted nine of those companies temporary relief from the rule as they pursue their claims in court.

Some non-profit religious organizations that self-insure, such as Catholic schools and dioceses, also filed lawsuits against the mandate, arguing that the accommodation does not apply to them because there is no third-party insurer to absorb the cost of coverage. The courts have largely dismissed those cases because non-profits with religious objections were given a one-year grace period to comply with the birth control coverage rule.

Reproductive rights advocates said on Friday that they are still pleased with the details of the contraception rule. “We look forward to examining and commenting on the proposed rule and helping ensure that, when it is implemented, the women who are affected will have simple and seamless access to contraceptive coverage without co-pays or added costs,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “It’s time for opponents of women’s reproductive choice to stop politicizing women’s health.”

The U.S. Catholic Church, one of the primary foes of the contraception mandate, remained mum on the changes.

“We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later,” said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The New York archdiocese is one of many dioceses that have sued the administration over the changes.

quit-squirming christianhypocracy

A Fetus Is Not a Person if it Costs us Money, Says Catholic Church January 24, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Women.
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Daily Kos / By Kaili Joy Gray

Forced to put its money where its mouth is, the Catholic Church backs off on the idea that the fetus is a person.
January 24, 2013  |

You know how the Catholic Church is always going on and on … and  on and freakin’  on … about the sanctity of life and also a bunch of vague concepts about liberty ‘n stuff? We can’t have abortion because every sperm is sacred. We can’t have insurance coverage for women’s health care because  something about Taco Bell and freedom. We can’t even  fund cancer screening because apparently Jesus was cool with women dying of undetected breast cancer.

And all of this—all of it—goes back to the Church’s insistence that life begins with your very first hell-worthy dirty thought and must be protected at all costs, despite all consequences, including, of course, the consequence of dead women, whose lives are not nearly as valuable as the “life” of an unborn fetus. In just the past year, the Church has called upon its faithful followers to march, to starve themselves, to go to jail, to even take up arms—all to protect those fetuses. No exceptions. None. Not if the fetus is already dead inside the womb. Not if the fetus is going to kill the actual living woman carrying it. No goddamned exceptions EVER.

Well, except for one: when it’s going to cost the Church money.

Turns out, when a man sues a Catholic hospital for malpractice because his wife and the twins she was carrying inside her died when she turned up in the emergency room and her doctor never bothered to answer a page—well, things get a little tricky. Yes, the Catholic hospital adheres to the strict Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, as set forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And yes, those directives include the claim that “[t]he Church’s defense of life encompasses the unborn” and a mandate to uphold “the sanctity of life ‘from the moment of conception until death.'” But come  on. That obviously does not apply when Catholic Health Initiatives, the Church-affiliated organization that runs the Church-affiliated St. Thomas More Hospital where a young woman and her two unborn fetuses died, is the lead defendant in a lawsuit:

Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that  those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.

As Jason Langley, an attorney with Denver-based Kennedy Childs, argued in one of the briefs he filed for the defense, the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

Thank you, counselor, for totally undermining everything the Catholic Church has ever said about women and health care and fetuses and the “sanctity of life,” just to save a buck, thereby confirming how very empty and meaningless all that rhetoric really is. Praise the Lord.

THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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Roger’s note: First of all, he is wrong.  Same sex relationships are found extensively throughout nature.  It is not, as the bigoted Pope says, “unnatural.”  Of course, that is beside the point, which is that genuine  loving human relationships, regardless of gender, are inherently moral by any standards.  But what would a former Nazi Youth Cardinal Ratzinger whose dogmatic, tyrannical, authoritarian, and quasi-fascist character is well documented, know about morality???  The Pope’s statement is of the same base and ridiculous nature of that of Republican Governor of Bigotry, Mike Huckabee, who blames the absence of God in the classroom for the slaughter of children in Newton, Connecticut.  And what does is say for the Catholic Church  that its supreme leader, supposedly God’s representative on earth, is an out and out bigot? 

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.

As Gay Star News reports, the Pope, in his annual address, said that same-sex marriage is “unnatural” and “against human nature.”

“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.”