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Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94 May 1, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Criminal Justice, History, Nuclear weapons/power, Religion, Uncategorized, Vietnam, War.
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Roger’s note: I just want to comment on the headline for this article.  The New York Times chooses to describe Berrigan as a Pacifist. The Times, along with the rest of the corporate media and political establishment, love the word Pacifist.  Resistance and Revolution not so much.  Howard Zinn famously said, when accused of disturbing the peace, that there is no peace, what he really was doing was disturbing the war.  The reference to his philosophy of non-violence is an attempt to sanitize his radical actions.  We need more Daniel Berrigans; may he rest in power.

By DANIEL LEWIS APRIL 30, 2016, New York Times

01berrigan-master768Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan gave an anti-war sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, 1972. Credit William E. Sauro/The New York Times

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94.

His death, at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University, was confirmed by the Rev. James Martin, editor at large at America magazine, a national Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits.

The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic “new left,” articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.

It was an essentially religious position, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother Philip, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes.

A defining point was the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., and the subsequent trial of the so-called Catonsville Nine, a sequence of events that inspired an escalation of protests across the country; there were marches, sit-ins, the public burning of draft cards and other acts of civil disobedience.

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Father Berrigan, right and his brother Philip Berrigan seized hundreds of draft records and set them on fire with homemade napalm in 1968. Credit United Press International

The catalyzing episode occurred on May 17, 1968, six weeks after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the outbreak of new riots in dozens of cities. Nine Catholic activists, led by Daniel and Philip Berrigan, entered a Knights of Columbus building in Catonsville and went up to the second floor, where the local draft board had offices. In front of astonished clerks, they seized hundreds of draft records, carried them down to the parking lot and set them on fire with homemade napalm.

Some reporters had been told of the raid in advance. They were given a statement that said in part, “We destroy these draft records not only because they exploit our young men but because they represent misplaced power concentrated in the ruling class of America.” It added, “We confront the Catholic Church, other Christian bodies and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes.”

In a year sick with images of destruction, from the Tet offensive in Vietnam to the murder of Dr. King, a scene was recorded that had been contrived to shock people to attention, and did so. When the police came, the trespassers were praying in the parking lot, led by two middle-aged men in clerical collars: the big, craggy Philip, a decorated hero of World War II, and the ascetic Daniel, waiting peacefully to be led into the van.
Protests and Arrests

In the years to come, well into his 80s, Daniel Berrigan was arrested time and again, for greater or lesser offenses: in 1980, for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where the Berrigan brothers and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads; in 2006, for blocking the entrance to the Intrepid naval museum in Manhattan.

“The day after I’m embalmed,” he said in 2001, on his 80th birthday, “that’s when I’ll give it up.”

01BERRIGAN4-obit-blog427eFather Berrigan being handcuffed in 2001 after he and others blocked an entrance to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in Manhattan. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press

It was not for lack of other things to do. In his long career of writing and teaching at Fordham and other universities, Father Berrigan published a torrent of essays and broadsides and, on average, a book a year.

Among the more than 50 books were 15 volumes of poetry — the first of which, “Time Without Number,” won the prestigious Lamont Poetry Prize (now known as the James Laughlin Award), given by the Academy of American Poets, in 1957 — as well as autobiography, social criticism, commentaries on the Old Testament prophets and indictments of the established order, both secular and ecclesiastic.

While he was known for his wry wit, there was a darkness in much of what Father Berrigan wrote and said, the burden of which was that one had to keep trying to do the right thing regardless of the near certainty that it would make no difference. In the withering of the pacifist movement and the country’s general support for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, he saw proof that it was folly to expect lasting results.

“This is the worst time of my long life,” he said in an interview with The Nation in 2008. “I have never had such meager expectations of the system.”

What made it bearable, he wrote elsewhere, was a disciplined, implicitly difficult belief in God as the key to sanity and survival.

Many books by and about Father Berrigan remain in print, and a collection of his work over half a century, “Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings,” was published in 2009.

He also had a way of popping up in the wider culture: as the “radical priest” in Paul Simon’s song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”; as inspiration for the character Father Corrigan in Colum McCann’s 2009 novel, “Let the Great World Spin.” He even had a small movie role, appearing as a Jesuit priest in “The Mission” in 1989.

But his place in the public imagination was pretty much fixed at the time of the Catonsville raid, as the impish-looking half of the Berrigan brothers — traitors and anarchists in the minds of a great many Americans, exemplars to those who formed what some called the ultra-resistance.

After a trial that served as a platform for their antiwar message, the Berrigans were convicted of destroying government property and sentenced to three years each in the federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Having exhausted their appeals, they were to begin serving their terms on April 10, 1970.

01BERRIGAN3-obit-master675rFather Berrigan, right, and a defense lawyer, William M. Kunstler, center, after he was sentenced to three years in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. Credit Associated Press

Instead, they raised the stakes by going underground. The men who had been on the cover of Time were now on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted list. As Daniel explained in a letter to the French magazine Africasia, he was not buying the “mythology” fostered by American liberals that there was a “moral necessity of joining illegal action to legal consequences.” In any case, both brothers were tracked down and sent to prison.

Philip Berrigan had been the main force behind Catonsville, but it was mostly Daniel who mined the incident and its aftermath for literary meaning — a process already underway when the F.B.I. caught up with him on Block Island, off the Rhode Island coast, on Aug. 11, 1970. There was “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” a one-act play in free verse drawn directly from the court transcripts, and “Prison Poems,” written during his incarceration in Danbury.

01BERRIGAN-A1-sub-master180h
Father Berrigan served time for acts of civil disobedience.

In “My Father,” he wrote:

I sit here in the prison ward
nervously dickering with my ulcer
a half-tamed animal
raising hell in its living space

But in 500 lines the poem talks as well about the politics of resistance, memories of childhood terror and, most of all, the overbearing weight of his dead father:

I wonder if I ever loved him
if he ever loved us
if he ever loved me.

The father was Thomas William Berrigan, a man full of words and grievances who got by as a railroad engineer, labor union officer and farmer. He married Frida Fromhart and had six sons with her. Daniel, the fourth, was born on May 9, 1921, in Virginia, Minn.

When he was a young boy, the family moved to a farm near Syracuse to be close to his father’s family.

In his autobiography, “To Dwell in Peace,” Daniel Berrigan described his father as “an incendiary without a cause,” a subscriber to Catholic liberal periodicals and the frustrated writer of poems of no distinction.

“Early on,” he wrote, “we grew inured, as the price of survival, to violence as a norm of existence. I remember, my eyes open to the lives of neighbors, my astonishment at seeing that wives and husbands were not natural enemies.”
Battles With the Church

Born with weak ankles, Daniel could not walk until he was 4. His frailty spared him the heavy lifting demanded of his brothers; instead he helped his mother around the house. Thus he seemed to absorb not only his father’s sense of life’s unfairness but also an intimate knowledge of how a man’s rage can play out in the victimization of women.

At an early age, he wrote, he believed that the church condoned his father’s treatment of his mother. Yet he wanted to be a priest. After high school he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1946 from St. Andrew-on-Hudson, a Jesuit seminary in Hyde Park, N.Y., and a master’s from Woodstock College in Baltimore in 1952. He was ordained that year.

Sent for a year of study and ministerial work in France, he met some worker-priests who gave him “a practical vision of the Church as she should be,” he wrote. Afterward he spent three years at the Jesuits’ Brooklyn Preparatory School, teaching theology and French, while absorbing the poetry of Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings and the 19th-century Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins. His own early work often combined elements of nature with religious symbols.

But he was not to become a pastoral poet or live the retiring life he had imagined. His ideas were simply turning too hot, sometimes even for friends and mentors like Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and the Trappist intellectual Thomas Merton.

At Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where he was a popular professor of New Testament studies from 1957 to 1963, Father Berrigan formed friendships with his students that other faculty members disapproved of, inculcating in them his ideas about pacifism and civil rights. (One student, David Miller, became the first draft-card burner to be convicted under a 1965 law.)

Father Berrigan was effectively exiled in 1965, after angering the hawkish Cardinal Francis Spellman in New York. Besides Father Berrigan’s work in organizing antiwar groups like the interdenominational Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, there was the matter of the death of Roger La Porte, a young man with whom Father Berrigan said he was slightly acquainted. To protest American involvement in Southeast Asia, Mr. La Porte set himself on fire outside the United Nations building in November 1965.

Soon, according to Father Berrigan, “the most atrocious rumors were linking his death to his friendship with me.” He spoke at a service for Mr. La Porte, and soon thereafter the Jesuits, widely believed to have been pressured by Cardinal Spellman, sent him on a “fact finding” mission among poor workers in South America. An outcry from Catholic liberals brought him back after only three months, enough time for him to have been radicalized even further by the facts he had found.

For the Jesuits, Father Berrigan was both a magnet to bright young seminarians and a troublemaker who could not be kept in any one faculty job too long.

At one time or another he held faculty positions or ran programs at Union Seminary, Loyola University New Orleans, Columbia, Cornell and Yale. Eventually he settled into a long tenure at Fordham, the Jesuit university in the Bronx, where for a time he had the title of poet in residence.

Father Berrigan was released from the Danbury penitentiary in 1972; the Jesuits, alarmed at his failing health, managed to get him out early. He then resumed his travels.

After visiting the Middle East, he bluntly accused Israel of “militarism” and the “domestic repressions” of Palestinians. His remarks angered many American Jews. “Let us call this by its right name,” wrote Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, himself a contentious figure among religious scholars: “old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism.”

Nor was Father Berrigan universally admired by Catholics. Many faulted him for not singling out repressive Communist states in his diatribes against the world order, and later for not lending his voice to the outcry over sexual abuse by priests. There was also a sense that his notoriety was a distraction from the religious work that needed to be done.

Not the least of his long-running battles was with the church hierarchy. He was scathing about the shift to conservatism under Pope John Paul II and the “company men” he appointed to high positions.

Much of Father Berrigan’s later work was concentrated on helping AIDS patients in New York City. In 2012, he appeared in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to support the Occupy Wall Street protest.

He also devoted himself to writing biblical studies. He felt a special affinity for the Hebrew prophets, especially Jeremiah, who was chosen by God to warn of impending disaster and commanded to keep at it, even though no one would listen for 40 years.

A brother, Jerry, died in July at 95, and another brother, Philip, died in 2002 at 79.

Father Berrigan seemed to reach a poet’s awareness of his place in the scheme of things, and that of his brother Philip, who left the priesthood for a married life of service to the poor and spent a total of 11 years in prison for disturbing the peace in one way or another before his death. While they both still lived, Daniel Berrigan wrote:

My brother and I stand like the fences
of abandoned farms, changed times
too loosely webbed against
deicide homicide
A really powerful blow
would bring us down like scarecrows.
Nature, knowing this, finding us mildly useful
indulging also
her backhanded love of freakishness
allows us to stand.

Christopher Mele contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on May 1, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Four Activists to Stand Trial on July 7, 2015 for Protest inside the Salvadoran Embassy, in Solidarity with 17 Salvadoran Women who are Unjustly Imprisoned in El Salvador for Miscarriages July 9, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Health, Latin America, Religion, Women.
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Roger’s note: The “radical” pope drew a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, that is nearly 10% of Ecuador’s population.  Following this article on the persecution of women in El Salvador I have posted a critique of the hypocritical plea to end poverty at the same time as defending the Church’s misogynist ideology.  My take on the RC Church, this anonymous quote: “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

For Immediate Release
July 6, 2015

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Washington DC – Four activists will stand trial on July 7, 2015 at 9:30 am in front of Judge Susan Holmes-Winfield (Case# 2015CMD005708) on the charge of unlawful entry, which carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison. The four were arrested on April 24, 2015 at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit-in to call attention to a group of Salvadoran women currently serving extreme 30-year prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of the Raging Grannies. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.

“The 17,” as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Cristina Quintanilla, sentenced to 30 years after she had a miscarriage, was released in 2014 by a court, which commuted her sentence to three years, amounting to time served. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines earlier this year as one of the 17 to be released. (El Salvador and ‘Las 17’, New York Times).

Mirian, Martiza, Marina, Salvadora, Ena,Teodora, Guadalupe, Mariana, Mirna, Cinthia, Verónica, Alba, Johana, Evelyn, Teresa, and María make up the remainder of The 17. Many are mothers of young children, and all have many more years to serve under their current sentences.

“This is a grave injustice. Where there is injustice, silence is complicity,” said Father Roy Bourgeois. “For that reason, we were at the Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, DC, to express our solidarity with these women.” The group invited the embassy staff to join the call for the release of the 15 women who remain incarcerated.

The extreme abortion laws in El Salvador were passed under the ultra-right wing Arena government in 1997. Embassy staff were concerned about the issues raised and informed protesters that the Supreme Court has the authority to review these cases.

Some of the protesters were part of a recent US Human Rights Delegation to El Salvador that visited five of the women in prison who are serving 30-year sentences for having a miscarriage. They have 22 more years to go before they are released.

The Radical Pope’s Reactionary Vision for Women

Pope Francis this week embarked on a seven-day “homecoming” tour of Latin America in his unstoppable quest to defend the planet and the poor.

The continent—the most unequal region in the world, and the Argentine pontiff’s home turf—will likely provide fertile ground for more of his legendary sermons on poverty and inequality. After addressing a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Monday, Francis is scheduled to attend a meeting of grass-roots political activists and visit one of the continent’s largest prisons, in Bolivia, as well as a slum and a children’s hospital in Paraguay.

While he advocates for South America’s impoverished and disenfranchised, its prisoners, its indigenous peoples and its children, one group is unlikely to feature in Francis’ apparently radical agenda: its women.

Despite his efforts to champion his constituency—the world’s poor, of which the vast majority are women—the pope tends to overlook the feminized nature of poverty and inequality.

Like the rest of the world -and  the Vatican – Latin America is built on gender inequality. Important progress has been made in the region over recent decades, and the percentage of its overall population living in poverty had decreased significantly. But the feminization of poverty (an increase in the levels of poverty among women or female-headed households relative to the levels of men or male-headed households) increased from 109 percent in 1994 to almost 117 percent in 2013, according to the United Nations.

Women’s labor participation in the region remains more than a quarter less than that of men, at 52.9 percent, compared with 79.6 percent, as recorded in 2010 statistics. And while the wage gap has shrunk, women still earn a staggering 68 percent less than their male colleagues. South American women are also twice as likely as men to be unpaid workers.

As a public figure who frequently invokes “dignity” in appealing to the hearts and minds of his followers, the Catholic leader would do well to address the results of a recent poll in which Latin Americans were found to be the least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to describe women in their countries as treated with respect and dignity. A median of 35 percent of adults across 22 Latin American countries said their women are treated this way—about half the percentages in any other region of the world.

Of the little research that exists, the statistics on violence against women in Latin America are gruesome. A recent U.N. report published in the Economist found that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. It states that in Colombia, “attacks in which acid is thrown at women’s faces, disfiguring them, nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2012.” Moreover, of the 25 countries in the world that are high or very high in the U.N.’s ranking for femicides (killings of women that seem to be related to their sex), more than half are in the region.

Research shows that when women have access to contraception and are educated to make responsible choices, their income, employment and education levels rise, as do their children’s. As women’s choices expand, they have fewer unassisted labors and backstreet abortions, meaning maternal mortality is reduced, and, depending on the type of contraception used, life-limiting sexually transmitted diseases are contained.

But because the Vatican considers women second-class citizens, it goes without saying that the pope will not mention abortion or contraception during his South American tour.

Figures show that of the 4.4 million abortions performed in Latin America in 2008, 95 percent were unsafe, and about 1 million women are hospitalized annually for treatment of complications from such procedures. In this context, it should be noted that the pope has described the abortion-rights movement as a “culture of death” and has opposed Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s efforts to distribute free contraceptives.

Francis has shown himself capable of influencing policy (he was most recently hailed as instrumental in restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba), but as Jemima Thackray writes in The Telegraph, “the Catholic Church’s growth is coming from non-European countries where the so-called ‘liberal’ issues of sexual equality are considered less important.”

As much as he has advocated “rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world,” Francis has repeatedly embraced the traditional Catholic view that a woman’s role is in the home. Extolling the role of women specifically as mothers by declaring “the presence of women in a domestic setting” as crucial to “the very transmission of the faith,” Francis has said, “I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” Although women may have lives outside the home, Francis has urged us not to “forget the irreplaceable role of the woman in a family.”

Given the pope’s outspoken views, we’ve been hoping he’d get around to addressing gender inequality eventually. But lest we forget, the Vatican is—and always will be—a patriarchal institution based on sexual hierarchy. Asked on two occasions about the possibility of admitting women to the ranks of the clergy, Francis has given a firm no. “That door,” he said in 2013, “is closed.” As Thackray explains, “this is not about having a Western liberal agenda for equality for its own sake, but about acknowledging that in allowing women into positions of influence in the church, this would raise their general status, reducing their vulnerability and poverty. Perhaps,” she continues, “it would also help shake up some of the closed male-dominated systems which have caused some of the other worst abuses by the Catholic Church.”

It would be no violation of doctrine to recognize women as equally and intrinsically valuable, regardless of their familial role or fertility. Until the pope’s vision of equality includes this, it’s incomplete.

A version of this article originally appeared in Truthdig.

Roísín Davis, originally from Northern Ireland, is a journalist with a background in social research and community work. She is an assistant editor at Truthdig. She now lives in Los Angeles.

The Church’s Genocidal “Requerimiento” May 8, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Genocide, History, Human Rights, Imperialism, Religion.
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conquest-of-inca-empire

conquistador

Roger’s note: I am no great fan of the Roman Catholic Church, past, present, and  (presumably) future, albeit I acknowledge that there have been and are some notable exceptions to the murderous conservative institutional church: the Maryknolls, Bishop Romero, worker priests, etc.  Nonetheless, the genocidal crimes of the church, particularly in the third world, are as impossible to reconcile with the philosophy of the biblical Jesus as they are to forgive.

I first became aware of the notorious Requerimiento reading James Michner’s novel on the history of Texas, where it was used against the southwest indigenous tribes.  As a marriage of hypocrisy with homicide the concept knows no equal.  If genuine decent Roman Catholic members can reconcile these acts with their faith, so be it.  As for me, we have enough contemporary examples of the Church’s ethical putrefaction — from the tacit support of Hitler’s Nazis to the thousands of women condemned to botched abortions — there remains ample evidence of its moral decadence.

The following is from Eduardo Galeano’s notes on Haiti:

Three years after the discovery, Columbus personally directed the military campaign against the natives of Haiti, which he called Española.

A handful of cavalry, 200 foot soldiers, and a few specially trained dogs decimated the Indians. More than 500, shipped to Spain, were sold as slaves in Seville and died miserably. Some theologians protested and the enslavement of Indians was formally banned at the beginning of the 16th century.

Actually it was not banned but blessed: before each military action the captains of the conquest were required to read to the Indians, without an interpreter but before a notary public, a long and rhetorical Requerimiento exhorting them to adopt the holy Catholic faith: “If you do not, or if you maliciously delay in so doing, I certify that with God’s help I will advance powerfully against you and make war on you wherever and however I am able, and will subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their majesties and take your women and children to be slaves, and as such I will sell and dispose of them as their majesties may order, and I will take your possessions and do you all the harm and damage that I can.”

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’ February 27, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Jeb Bush, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: I post this article so that you can get an idea of what kind of man is the very possible next US president.  This is a well researched piece of investigative journalism, and the apparent reason for this labor is to warn of us of a possible future president who is an uncompromising ideologue who puts himself above the law.  Now, I have no love for Jeb Bush, but I find something ironic in this.

Most presidents do in fact put themselves above the law and usually get away with it.  Poor Dick Nixon put himself so far above the law that he ended up hoisted on his own petard.  He is the exception.  The current and penultimate president have taken this putting themselves above the law to new heights (including but not limited to brutal torture, drone missile mass murder and presidential kill lists).  Tricky Dick would be envious.  Irony number one, you can warn us all you want about Jeb Bush, but you can bet on the fact that whomever becomes the next president — from super-hawk Democrat Hillary Clinton to the wackiest of the Republican menagerie — will continue in this honored tradition.

Irony number two: as you will see, in the end Bush did in fact respect the law when all political channels had been exhausted, and, as you will also see, the nut case murderous pro-lifers (sic) saw him thus as a traitor to the cause. 

Finally, thanks to Jeff Nguyen for posting this on his excellent Blog (www.deconstructingmyths.com).

 

Posted on January 19, 2015by Jeff Nguyen
Once in a while I come across an article that, in my not-so-humble opinion, is so outstanding, I want to share it with anyone who will listen. I especially enjoy long-form articles which can provide a venue for deep dives into genres such as creative nonfiction or narrative journalism. I would now like to present the Longform series…

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’

By Michael Kruse

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.
The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”

“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”

For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.

2_jeb_ap050318013419_658

Jeb Bush speaks to reporters during a news conference about Terri Schiavo on March 18, 2005. | AP Photo

“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”

***

November 10, 1984, is when they got married; February 25, 1990, is when she collapsed, early in the morning, in their apartment in St. Petersburg, for reasons that never were determined with specificity but had something to do with a potassium imbalance probably caused by aggressive dieting. Michael Schiavo woke up when he heard her fall. She was facedown, feet in the bathroom, head in the hall. He called 911. Police noted in their report “no signs of trauma to her head or face.” The ambulance raced to the closest hospital, but her heart had stopped, robbing her brain of oxygen, and the damage was catastrophic. A court named her husband her guardian that June. Her parents didn’t object. All of this was before Bush was elected. And after years of rehabilitation, of waiting for any sign of improvement and seeing none, Michael Schiavo decided to remove the feeding tube that kept his wife alive, saying she had told him and others she never would’ve wanted to be this way.

To this, Terri Schiavo’s parents objected. Bob and Mary Schindler, Catholics, argued that their daughter, also Catholic, would want to live, even so debilitated.

She had left no will. No written instructions. She was 26. To try to determine what she would have wanted, there was a trial, in the Pinellas County courtroom of circuit judge George Greer, in which Michael Schiavo relayed what she had told him in passing about what her wishes would be in this sort of scenario. Others did, too. She also had next to no chance of recovery, according to doctors’ testimony. Greer cited “overwhelming credible evidence” that Terri Schiavo was “totally unresponsive” with “severe structural brain damage” and that “to a large extent her brain has been replaced by spinal fluid.” His judgment was that she would not have wanted to live in her “persistent vegetative state” and that Michael Schiavo, her husband and her legal guardian, was allowed to remove her feeding tube.

“DONE AND ORDERED,” he wrote on February 11, 2000.

The St. Petersburg Times had covered the trial. Bush, a year and a month into his first term, started hearing about it almost immediately. Staffers replied at first with a variety of form responses.

“The Florida Constitution prohibits the Governor’s intervention in matters that should be resolved through the court system,” read one. But here’s what else it said: “As a concerned citizen, you have the opportunity to influence legislation pertaining to guardianship matters in cases similar to Terri’s. By contacting your local legislative delegation, such as your senator or representative, new legislation can be introduced. If such a bill ever comes before the Governor for signature, he will certainly remember your views.”

Bush couldn’t do anything. Laws didn’t let him. But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to. He did.

He heard from Terri Schiavo’s father in April 2001. “Allow me to introduce myself,” Bob Schindler wrote in an email. He told the governor his daughter had been “falsely depicted” as a “hopeless vegetable.” He told the governor she was indeed “responsive to family and friends.” “I desperately need your help,” he said, adding that “Terri’s case may be beyond your realm of authority”—Schindler knew it, too—“but I sincerely believe you could be helpful.”

Staffers didn’t respond to Bob Schindler’s email. The governor did.

Mr. Schindler, thank you for writing. I am asking that Charles Canady look into your daughter’s case.

Jeb Bush

Canady had been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. He later would be an appellate judge in Florida. He is now a state Supreme Court judge. At the time, though, he was Bush’s top staff attorney.

Meanwhile, the Schindlers appealed, asking for new trials, asking for delays, asking for Greer to recuse himself, asking to remove Michael Schiavo as her guardian based on unproven allegations of abuse and neglect and because he now was living with another woman with whom he had children, asking for new doctors who might make new diagnoses—and they were sufficiently successful to stretch the case into the summer of 2003. Media coverage had intensified, especially on conservative talk radio and websites, and activists convinced the Schindlers to violate a court order and post on the Internet snippets of videos of their daughter appearing to respond to what was going on around her. They also continued their zealous email campaign to attempt to prevent what they saw as imminent court-dictated murder. The top target of their efforts? Bush.

“I’m really limited on what I can do,” the governor reiterated to the conservative online publication World Net Daily in August. A judge had made a decision. Other judges had upheld the decision.

The emails flooded the governor’s inbox.

Bush responded by sending a letter to Greer. He acknowledged it was out of the ordinary. “I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding,” Bush wrote. “However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo.”

Greer said he respected the governor’s position. Then he put the letter with everything else in the already massive file.

“This isn’t his concern,” Michael Schiavo told reporters, “and he should stay out of it.”

He didn’t. Bush filed a federal court brief on October 7 supporting the Schindlers’ efforts. A judge said his court lacked the jurisdiction to do anything.

The feeding tube was to come out on October 15.

Bush met with the Schindlers. He told them his staff attorneys were conferring with experts on the Florida Constitution to see if he could intervene. “He does not have the authority to overrule a court order,” his spokesman told reporters.

The emails didn’t stop.

They came from all over the country. They begged him. They used capital letters. They used exclamation points. They told him to talk to God. They told him there were laws higher than man’s laws and that he, as a Catholic like Terri Schiavo, like her parents, should know that and should act on it and that he had to. “DO NOT LET HER DIE!!!” said a man from Michigan. “Let’s see what kind of compassionate conservative you really are,” said a man from Jacksonville. “If you have any aspirations for a higher office,” said a man from California, “don’t let this be the rallying cry for those who would oppose you.”

To most of them, he didn’t respond—to many, though, he did.

“It is very sad,” he wrote.

“I cannot issue an executive order when there is a court order upheld at every level in the judiciary. … I wish I could but I have no legal authority to do so,” he wrote.

“I am sickened by this situation and pray for her family. We have looked at every angle, every legal possibility, and will continue to do so,” he wrote.

The emails kept coming.

***

“I hope George W. Bush is president some day,” former Republican Party chairman Rich Bond told the late Marjorie Williams, writing for Talk magazine in September 2000. “I know Jeb will be.”

“I want to be able to look my father in the eye and say, ‘I continued the legacy,’” he told the Miami Herald in 1994.

That year, he ran for governor of Florida—as an ultra-conservative, a “head-banging conservative,” as he put it—and lost. In 1998, he ran again, sanding those hard-right edges—and won.

But one constant from the first campaign to the next and beyond: what Bush said he believed was the right role of government. “Government needs to be constrained,” he said in speeches in 1994. “We should be finding practical solutions where we provide incentives for people to take care of themselves.” “Our lack of self-governance is the single biggest reason we’ve seen the growth of government,” he said in 1995. “Good government,” he wrote that year in his book Profiles in Character, “is grounded in its limitations.”

In 1999, in his first inaugural address, he said, “let state government give families and individuals greater freedom”—also, though, “let state government touch the spiritual face of Florida.” In the speech, he mentioned “our Creator” and “the Divine Giver” and said “state government can draw much from these reservoirs of faith.” He was raised as an Episcopalian but became a Catholic because that’s how his Mexican wife grew up. It also suited his disposition. He wrote in Profiles in Character that he believed in the need for a “renewal of virtue” and “passing moral judgments.” He once said “the conservative side” of an issue is “the correct one” because “it just is.”

Bush, 6-foot-4 and stout, quickly established himself as the most powerful governor in Florida history, according to University of North Florida political science professor Matthew Corrigan and others. His ascension coincided with both houses of the state legislature being Republican majorities for the first time since Reconstruction. Voters also opted to alter the state constitution to shrink the size of the cabinet, leaving the governor, the position itself, with more executive power. Bush did a lot with it. He was reelected in 2002, easily, winning 61 of the state’s 67 counties. By this time, of course, his brother was the president.

“He didn’t get told no very often,” Corrigan said.

“My gift, perhaps,” Bush would say toward the end of his two-term tenure, in an interview with the Tampa Tribune, “is that with this office now, we’ve shown that governors can be activist …”

So on October 15, 2003, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube came out. Judge’s orders. She would die within two weeks. This stage of the case looks in retrospect like the start of a test. Just how much power did Jeb Bush have?

HB 35E was filed after 8 at night on October 20. Many lawmakers already were gone for the day. Gelber, the state representative from Miami, put his suit back on at his apartment in Tallahassee and hustled back to the Capitol. Fellow Democrats gathered around as the attorney and former prosecutor began to read the bill one of Bush’s staff attorneys had helped to write.

“Authority for the Governor to Issue a One-time Stay …”

Gelber looked up.

“I don’t have to read anymore,” he said. “It’s clearly unconstitutional.”

“The governor can’t just change an order of the court,” Gelber explained this month. “It’s one of the most elemental concepts of democracy: The governor is not a king.”

The rest of the language described a situation involving a patient with no written will, in a persistent vegetative state, with a family conflict, whose feeding tube had been removed. Terri Schiavo. It gave the governor a 15-day window to step in.

“The courts have listened to sworn testimony and they have determined, court after court, one way,” said state Senator Alex Villalobos, a Republican from Miami.

But it passed in the House, and it passed in the Senate.

Bush signed it, and Chapter No. 2003-418, “Terri’s Law,” as it came to be known, was official less than 22 hours after it had been introduced. He then issued Executive Order 03-201. “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement shall serve a copy of this Executive Order upon the medical facility currently providing care for Theresa Schiavo,” it stated. A police-escorted ambulance whisked her from her hospice in Pinellas Park to a nearby hospital to have her feeding tube put back in.

“The citizens of Florida should be alarmed by what is happening,” George Felos, one of Michael Schiavo’s attorneys, told reporters. “This is not the former Soviet Bloc, where you don’t have the liberty to control your own body.”

Even one of the law’s architects up in Tallahassee expressed unease.

“I hope, I really do hope, we’ve done the right thing,” Republican state Senate president Jim King said. “I keep thinking, ‘What if Terri Schiavo really didn’t want this at all?’ May God have mercy on us all.”

Bush had no such qualms.

“I honestly believe we did the right thing,” the governor wrote to one emailer.

The emails poured in. Some chided him. More praised him.

One arrived with the subject line “Oh Great One!!” Another woman wondered: “How does it feel to be not only a child of God’s, but to actually feel His Hand guiding you and using you as an instrument to do His work on earth?” A husband and wife wrote to him from near Philadelphia: “I wish we lived in Florida and could support you directly—maybe you’ll run for President one day??”

***

“Yes,” said President George W. Bush, in late October, at a news conference in the Rose Garden, “I believe my brother made the right decision.”

“Terri’s Law” had mandated the appointment of a guardian ad litem, and Jay Wolfson, a respected lawyer and professor of public health at the Stetson University College of Law and the University of South Florida, issued his report in December. Wolfson had spent a month reading the court records, observing Terri Schiavo, meeting with Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers and their attorneys, and also the governor, who struck him as “a very intense, highly committed, very informed, faith-driven person who believed in doing the right thing, and doing so through the governor’s office.”

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Left: A supporter of Terri Schiavo keeps vigil outside the hospice where she was being held in Pinellas Park, Florida. Right: Mary Porta prays for Terri Schiavo in Pinellas Park, Florida. | Getty Images

None of this was “easy stuff,” Wolfson noted in his report, “and should not be.” Nonetheless, he wrote, Terri Schiavo was in “a persistent vegetative state with no likelihood of improvement” and “cannot take oral nutrition or hydration and cannot consciously interact with her environment.” He wrote that the practically unprecedented amount of litigation consisted of “competent, well-documented information” and was “firmly grounded within Florida statutory and case law.”

In parts, too, Wolfson was prescient: “The Governor’s involvement has added a new and unexpected dimension to the litigation. It is reasonable to expect that the exquisite lawyering will continue, and the greatly enhanced public visibility of the case may increase the probability of more litigation, more parties entering as interveners, and efforts to expand the case into federal jurisdiction.”

Soon after that, the pope weighed in.

Without using the name Terri Schiavo, but clearly referring to her, John Paul II said “the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory …”

Back in Florida, though, the courts were focused not so much on what was “morally obligatory” but more on what was legally mandatory.

A circuit judge ruled Bush’s “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional.

“The court must assume that this extraordinary legislation was enacted with the best intentions and prompted by sincere motives,” W. Douglas Baird wrote in his ruling. He then quoted Daniel Webster, a lawyer and senator, who died in 1852: “It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

The Schindlers’ attorneys appealed. The Florida Supreme Court was up next.

Bob Destro, an attorney and professor at the law school at the Catholic University of America in Washington, joined Bush’s legal team and emerged from meetings with the governor thinking “this was something he felt very deeply about … that this was a decision that he made, personally, and that he saw this as a question of an injustice being done.”

The state supreme court judges listened to arguments the last day of August.

After the hearing was over, outside the courthouse in Tallahassee, Michael Schiavo angrily asked reporters about the whereabouts of Bush.

“If this was so important to the governor, where is he?” he said. He then got personal, referring to Bush’s daughter, Noelle, who had been arrested in 2002 after trying to buy Xanax with a forged prescription and then relapsed in rehab. “I can remember you sitting here in front of every one of these reporters with tears in your eyes when your daughter had problems,” he raged, “and you asked for privacy and you got it. Why aren’t you giving me my privacy and Terri her privacy?”

The seven state supreme court judges took less than a month to dismiss unanimously “Terri’s Law.”

“If the Legislature with the assent of the Governor can do what was attempted here,” chief justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her ruling, “the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directive of the other branches. Also subordinated would be the rights of individuals, including the well-established privacy right to self-determination. No court judgment could ever be considered truly final and no constitutional right truly secure, because the precedent of this case would hold to the contrary. Vested rights could be stripped away based on popular clamor. The essential core of what the Founding Fathers sought to change from their experience with English rule would be lost …”

Bush told reporters he was “disappointed, not for any political reasons, but for the moral reasons.” He said he didn’t think it had been “a full hearing.” Legal analysts disagreed. They called the ruling a categorical rebuke of what Bush had done.

The governor responded by petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

The words at the top of the docket of the country’s highest court were black-and-white blunt about what this had become: JEB BUSH, Governor of the State of Florida, v. MICHAEL SCHIAVO, Guardian: Theresa Schiavo.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it.

“It means that the governor’s interference in this case has ended,” said Felos, Michael Schiavo’s attorney.

“This matter is now at an end for the governor,” said Ken Connor, another one of Bush’s attorneys.

It did not. It was not.

That week, Connor, the Bush attorney, sent an email to two of Bush’s staff attorneys. “Here is an op-ed I drafted for Dan Webster,” Connor wrote. Connor was active in social conservative causes and organizations. Webster was a Florida state senator, and this Dan Webster, not the lawyer and senator from the 1800s, had beliefs that couldn’t have been more different than those of his namesake.

The op-ed Connor had written ran under Webster’s name on Page 10A of USA Today on January 27, 2005. “By any definition, Terri Schiavo is alive,” the op-ed said. “She has now been issued a death sentence by the courts.” Serial killers, like Ted Bundy, it said, had more rights on death row than Terri Schiavo did at her hospice.

Connor talked on the phone with Dave Weldon, a Republican Congressman from Florida who also was a doctor. Weldon says Connor called him; Connor says it was the other way around—either way, it led to Weldon meeting with the Schindlers in Washington.

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At left, Bobby Schindler attends a special session in Congress to express his sentiments before a right-to-die debate among senators and representatives. At right, activists pray in front of the U.S. Supreme Court for Terri Schiavo on March 24, 2005. | Getty Images

“They showed me some videos of them walking into her room and calling her name and her face lit up and she smiled,” Weldon, no longer in Congress, said this month. “They said, ‘She does that all the time, she’s not a vegetable,’ and they said a bunch of stuff about the husband and were very critical of him, that he had a new girlfriend or something like that. And I felt very compelled.” That, he said, is when he “got Mel Martinez involved.”

Martinez, then a Republican from Florida in the U.S. Senate, talked with Bush. “He’s been saying, ‘I’m not sure we can get it done here in Florida,’” Martinez told the Palm Beach Post. Martinez told Bush he and Bill Frist, at the time the Senate majority leader, were ready to do what they could in Washington but that it wouldn’t be easy.

On March 14, a woman from Clearwater named Pamela Hennessy, who had helped stoke the email onslaught that spurred “Terri’s Law,” emailed Bush, too. She attached a letter she had addressed to the hospice saying she intended to “file formal complaints” to the state Department of Children and Families. The hope was that the agency charged with protecting mainly kids and the elderly might intervene in this case.

Bush wrote back: “thank you Pamela.”

On March 18, in Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed again.

***

“If she dies, I will kill Michael Schiavo and the judge,” a woman in California wrote on an AOL message board. “This is real!” She was arrested.

On a different message board, at blogsforterri.com, an anonymous poster called The Coming Conflict declared, “FL gun owners, it’s in your hands.”

Michael Schiavo and the mother of his two kids got letters addressed to their “Illegitimate Bastard Children” talking about how sometimes kids disappear.

Up in Washington, Congress debated the case of Terri Schiavo, searching for possible methods of federal intervention—with Frist and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, both of whom now say they don’t want to talk about it, vowing to work together through the weekend of Palm Sunday if necessary. A memo that came from Martinez’s office called it “a great political issue” for Republicans. Frist, a surgeon from Tennessee, said on the Senate floor that Schiavo didn’t seem to him to be in a vegetative state, based on his viewing of the Schindlers’ video snippets. Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania called the removal of the feeding tube “a sentence that would not be placed on the worst criminal.” Majority Leader Tom DeLay led the way in the House. Santorum and Frist did in the Senate. Few members of Congress spoke against it. South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one. “There is no room for the federal government in this most personal of private angst-ridden family members,” she said. Republican John Warner from Virginia was the only senator to speak against it. Hillary Clinton from New York didn’t. Neither did Barack Obama from Illinois. A bill emerged from the Senate after midnight on March 21 that would let the Schindlers ask the federal courts to take another look at the decision made by the state courts.

President Bush flew on Air Force One from vacation in Crawford, Texas, back to Washington to sign it into law just after 1 in the morning.

“Our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life,” he said in a statement.

His brother issued a statement of his own: “I thank the Congress for its swift action allowing Terri’s parents to seek a federal review of the case.” He echoed the op-ed that had run in USA Today. “Certainly, an incapacitated person deserves at least the same protection afforded criminals sentenced to death.”

Michael Schiavo called the federal legislation “outrageous.” If politicians are allowed to meddle with him like this, he said, “they’ll do it to every person in this country.”

A federal judge in Tampa heard attorneys’ arguments for the justification of the relitigation of a case that had been up and down the judicial ladder for the better part of a decade. He said no. The federal legislation had failed. The feeding tube stayed out, and Terri Schiavo neared death.

Bush’s last-ditch effort involved the Department of Children and Families. Attorneys for the state agency made motions to intervene based on thousands of anonymous allegations of abuse against Terri Schiavo. Bush ordered the mobilization of officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement—in essence his own police force—and they readied to seize Terri Schiavo if a court order allowed it. “I requested that FDLE in concert with the Department of Children and Families be prepared to enter,” Bush told reporters, “if that was going to be the option available to us”—which it wasn’t, because judges said no. “We were ready to go,” a Bush spokesman told the Miami Herald. “We didn’t want to break the law.”

“I cannot violate a court order,” Bush told CNN on March 27.

People in his email inbox continued to plead with him to do exactly that.

“I do not have the authority that you suggest I have,” Bush responded to one of them. “Under your thesis of executive authority, should I shut down abortion clinics since I abhor abortion?”

On March 30, meanwhile, Bush called a woman in Tampa named Dawn Armstrong, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Armstrong, had died of a heart attack two days before in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, while readying for deployment to Afghanistan. She emailed him later that night, thanking him for “the time you took out of your busy day to express your sorrow for the loss of my husband.”

On March 31, at 6:29 a.m., Bush responded. “Bless you Dawn,” he wrote. “Please let me know if I can be of assistance to you.”

Two and a half hours later, across the bay from Tampa, at the hospice in Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo died.

Shortly after 12:30, Bush got another email from Dawn Armstrong. “I will be deriving strength from many sources—one source of strength is from you, Governor,” she wrote. “We have witnessed your steadfastness in the face of many challenges for a very long time now …” She continued: “May God grant us all the peace we so long for, in His perfect timing. Take care. I’ll be praying for you and your administration.”

Later that night, just before 9, Bush wrote back.

you are making me cry. Maybe it is the day with Terri’s death. I don’t know but the fact that you would write what you did given your loss, makes me thank God Almighty that there are people like yourself. I am nothing.

Let me know how I can ever be of help to you and your family.

Jeb

***

Terri Schiavo’s death did not spell the end of the governor’s intervention in her case.

One email suggested the firing of Greer.

“I will look into this,” the governor responded.

In an email to one of his staff attorneys, less than 48 hours after the death, Bush asked about her autopsy. “We need to get the details of the autopsy,” he wrote, “meaning what was done if possible.”

The staff attorney responded: “I got an update this morning from FDLE. Six board certified examiners participated. They were attuned to the issues involved. Are working on their reports.” She added: “Santorum’s office called me yesterday …”

In early May, Bush gave a speech in Savannah, Georgia, at the state’s Republican convention, in which he stressed that the party had to be uncompromising in what he saw as “a time of moral ambivalence.”

“There is such a thing as right and wrong,” he said. “Republicans cannot continue to win unless we talk with compassion and passion about absolute truth.”

Saxby Chambliss, then a senator from Georgia, followed by telling the crowd he wanted this Bush to be the next Bush in the White House. He asked the people what they thought. They hollered their approval.

In June, the medical examiner released Terri Schiavo’s autopsy, which confirmed what the judges had ruled for years based on the testimony from doctors concerning her prognosis. Her limbs had atrophied, and her hands had clenched into claws, and her brain had started to disappear. It weighed barely more than a pound and a third, less than half the size it would have been under normal circumstances. “No remaining discernible neurons,” the autopsy said. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t feel, not even pain. Forty-one years after her birth, 15 years after her collapse, Terri Schiavo was literally a shell of who she had been.

Bush read the autopsy—then wrote a letter to the top prosecutor in Pinellas County. He raised questions about Michael Schiavo’s involvement in her collapse and about the quickness of his response calling 911. “I urge you,” the governor wrote to Bernie McCabe, “to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome.”

McCabe, a Republican, responded less than two weeks later, saying he and his staff “have attempted to follow this sound advice”—without any preconceptions—“unlike some pundits, some ‘experts,’ some email and Web-based correspondents, and even some institutions of government that have, in my view, reached conclusions regarding the controversy …” McCabe’s assessment: “all available records” were “not indicative of criminal activity.”

Bush relented. “I will follow your recommendation,” he wrote to McCabe, “that the inquiry by the state be closed.”

Michael Schiavo buried the ashes of his wife in a cemetery not far from his house.

***

Today, looking back, what makes Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, angriest about the case is Bush’s letter to McCabe. Even after 18 months of legal wrangling, even after her death, even after the autopsy—after all that—the governor asked a prosecutor to initiate a retroactive criminal investigation of his client. It struck Felos as “odd,” “bizarre”—“personal.”

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Michael Schiavo at home. “He should be ashamed,” Schiavo said of Jeb Bush. “To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.” | Maggie Steber/Redux for POLITICO Magazine

“It was such an abuse of authority,” Felos said. “I think that really raises red flags about his character and his fitness to be president. Jeb didn’t get his way in the Schiavo case. I think he tried to take it out on Michael.”

That, Michael Schiavo said this month, is what makes Jeb Bush “vindictive.” “Knowing that he had no standing in this, he made it worse for everybody,” he said. “He made life, for a lot of people—the nursing home people, the local police, lawyers—he made everybody miserable.”

What makes him “untrustworthy,” he said, is that he fought the courts as long as he did just because he didn’t like the decisions they kept making. “I wouldn’t trust him in any type of political office,” he said.

But for the now former governor of Florida, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates — what makes him a “coward,” Michael Schiavo said, sitting on his brick back patio, is that they’ve still never talked.

Bush has never said he’s sorry. He wasn’t. What he was sorry about is how it turned out. “I wish I could have done more,” he told reporters the day of the death.

Other politicians have said they’re sorry, though, Michael Schiavo said. “I’ve had politicians come to my home and apologize to me for what they did to me.” Names? “No names.” But he mentioned Barack Obama and something he said during a debate in Cleveland with Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries in early 2008. The question was about what he’d like to have back.

“Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that first year,” Obama said, “we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families.

“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.”

Did Obama apologize to Michael Schiavo? In a call? At his house? “I can’t comment on that,” Schiavo said with a smile.

“But I never heard from Jeb,” he said.

What would Jeb Bush say to Michael Schiavo now? Nothing. He didn’t want to talk about the Schiavo case for this story.

What would Michael Schiavo, though, say to Jeb Bush?

“Bring it on,” he said. “Come visit me. I’m asking you. Almost 10 years later and I still haven’t heard from you.

“Was he afraid to meet with me? To see me? Why? That’s what burns me. You got so much to say—but where are you? You lost against this little ordinary man from Philadelphia. You lost. And then to continue on? Unspeakable.

“Why? Give me an answer. Why? Why? What was Terri Schiavo to you? Why? Tell me why. Why do you think you had the right to be involved? Why would you put me and my family through hell? And what did you gain from that? And after you lost, why did you pursue it? What did you gain from that?”

The emails didn’t stop.

“Please do not run for President of the United States,” a man from Goshen, Connecticut, wrote. “If you cannot protect the life of an innocent woman in Florida, how can I expect you to protect the United States of America as Commander in Chief?”

The governor also heard from people like Rick Warren. “On behalf of everyone who truly understood the issues, thank you for doing all you could for Terri Schiavo,” the evangelical megachurch pastor and author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life wrote to Bush in an email. “It’s a sad ending but you lead the right side with courage and conviction. I’m proud to call you my friend.”

“Thank you so much,” Bush responded. “You have lifted my spirits.”

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, emailed to say that “in time everyone in my family will understand your situation and that you were doing your best …” “I think he probably did as much as possible within his jurisdiction at the time,” he added this month.

“I found him to be a person of principles, and I hold his actions in the Schiavo case in esteem,” said David Gibbs III, one of the Schindlers’ attorneys. Gibbs said that as “a devout Catholic,” Bush was “very personally bothered” by the case and that the governor felt what he did “was the right thing to do.”

Polls showed majorities of people in Florida and around the country disagreed. They objected to his intervention as well as the ensuing flurry of federal involvement. Some of the most fervent believers in what he had done turned on him because of what he had not. They said he “blinked.” “He failed us miserably with Terri Schiavo,” Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said this month. “If Jeb had acted, Terri Schiavo would be alive today.”

Still, said Connor, the Bush attorney, “I never, ever heard Jeb Bush waver in the midst of the political fallout. He was steadfast.”

That’s what bothers his critics.

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Maggie Steber/Redux for POLITICO Magazine

“He doesn’t accept loss. He doesn’t accept that the answer is no. He couldn’t possibly consider that he may be wrong,” Wasserman Schultz said this month. “If he had the chance to be president, he’ll do what he’s always done—he’ll do everything he can to implement his very rigid, ideological view of how the world should be. Voters are going to have to ask: Do you want a president who thinks the executive, the president, is supreme, above all else? It’s frightening to think about what he could do with that kind of power as president.”

“Trying to write laws that clearly are outside the constitutionality of his state, trying to override the entire judicial system, that’s very, very dangerous,” said Arthur Caplan, a New York University bioethicist who edited a book about the Schiavo case. “When you’re willing to do that, you’re willing to break the back of the country.”

“It was appalling,” said Jon Eisenberg, one of Michael Schiavo’s attorneys and the author of The Right vs. the Right to Die. “And I think it’s important for people to understand what Jeb Bush is willing to do. It’s important for people to know who Jeb Bush is, and the Terri Schiavo case tells us a great deal about who Jeb Bush is.”

The Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done hasn’t been an issue so far in Bush’s pre-campaign because it won’t help his potential opponents in the primaries. They’re trying to paint him as a moderate. This demonstrates the opposite.

“People who agree he’s a conservative point to the Schiavo case,” Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno said this month.

So most of the talk has touched on his more measured stances on immigration and Common Core. He’s been portrayed as a cerebral policy wonk in contrast to his father, the solicitous writer of thank you notes, and his brother, the clownin’-around worker of rooms. This bloodless depiction, though, ignores the intensity, the vehemence, the practically gladiatorial certitude with which he pursued what he wanted in the Schiavo case, and more generally the fervid way in which he believes in what he believes—that “absolute truth” he talked about in his speech in Savannah, two months after the death of Terri Schiavo, and one month before he asked the prosecutor to investigate her husband.

(Source: POLITICO Magazine)

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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.

 

‘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.”

U.S. nuns locked in battle with conservative Vatican leadership August 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Women.
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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.”

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Published on Sunday August 19, 2012

 
 

Farrell Deacon

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.

 

Peter Sartain

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.”

 
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By Olivia WardForeign Affairs Reporter, Toronto Star
 
ST. LOUIS, MO.—In the packed ballroom of the Millennium Hotel, a serene-looking 65-year-old woman strides toward the podium. Alongside her, like disciples in an archaic temple, other women waft strips of flame-coloured gauze through the humid air, while a heavenly chorus floats above the crowd.

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.”

Catholic Church Revives Abandoned Centuries-Old Tradition To Bash Gays August 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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by David Badash on August 6, 2012

in International,Marriage,News,Politics,Religion

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The Catholic Church has revived a tradition originally begun in the 17th century and abandoned almost 100 years ago, to bash gay people. Following the Vatican’s’s edict to begin a gay marriage holy war, Pope Benedict XVI‘s followers have looked high and low for every opportunity to attack gay people and same-sex marriage. In France, the Catholic Church has actually issued a prayer to be used on August 15, the Prayer for the Assumption, which was begun by King Louis XIII (image, right,) under Cardinal Richelieu in 1638.

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.

Related:

Catholic Church Castrated Homosexual Boys And Those Who Accused Priests Of Abuse

Vatican Declares Gay Marriage Holy War, Forms Worldwide Religions Coalition

Pope Proclaims Reasons For Pedophile Priests Still A ‘Mystery’

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Colbert: If Mormons Posthumously Baptize Holocaust Victims, I’ll Posthumously Circumsize Mormons February 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, Religion.
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WATCH THE VIDEO:

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/409086/february-23-2012/posthumous-mormon-baptism

Elie Wiesel has recently spoken out against the far too common Mormon practice of posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims–including a record nine baptisms of Anne Frank.

In his new segment on the controversy, Colbert gets in a few digs at the Mormon tiers of heaven (the top of which is only reseved for true Mormons), his own Catholic faith and a certain recent comedy film too (to tell you which one would spoil the joke), before he gets down to his retributive business.

“Right now I’m going to balance everything out by converting all the dead mormons to Judaism,” says Colbert, before he ritually circumcizes a hot dog in proxy for all the world’s departed Mormons. “Mormon Tov!” he cries.