Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bad News and Good News

When a co-worker comes to work sick and coughs all over your world, it is only a matter of time before you get sick. That time is now. That 'you' is me. And that 'sick' feels like an acute sinus infection, though possibly just a bad cold.


But, even though I sit here and complain that I can't breathe through my nose, I know that its not so bad. The bad news is that a local family has it much worse than me....I truly feel for them. A distant acquaintance from high school died the day after Thanksgiving. He was a couple of years younger than me. In the news, it said he was taken from his home in an ambulance and died in the emergency room at 12:45pm...

Strange, the first thing that went through my mind was that he actually died in the daytime - in the full light of day. I guess in some unsupported stereotypical way I always associated the death of a young person with nighttime shenanigans on the highway - the witching hour or in a firey blaze between 1:00am-3:00am. A daytime passing of a youth. It seems so harsh. Daytime is for living, right? It is so true that ye know not the hour. While I didn't know him very well, I pray for him and his grieving family and friends.

In lieu of this tragic news, I think about what will be thought following this man's death. I think about the typical depressing Catholic eulogy. Eulogies tend to be really unsure about saying whether or not the departed is going to be with God. Many times it is a "pray for the soul of such and such that s/he may not experience everlasting torment" sort of thing.

I think it is an appropriate moment to say that since leaving the Catholic Church, I have found the actual Good News. It was always there, but it was shrouded in apostasy, in ill-translated scripture and in false dogma. A sheep in lion's clothing. The scriptures were originally written in Hebrew and Greek. God specifically chose these languages for their special nuances in the conveyance of his message. When the scriptures were translated into Latin, many very important words were mis-translated, some of which include the words 'eternity / eternal' and 'hell'. Replace these mistranslated words with the original ones (do your homework) and it entirely changes the terrifying biblical message most Christians are fed into actual GOOD NEWS...not Good News with severe stipulations.

The Concordant Literal New Testament is one of the bibles that retains the correct and original Greek translations. I recommend it to any thinking Christian. Forget the King James Version or the New International Version, etc, etc. When it comes to communications in any form, the orignal message is very important. And this is the message which has brought me much peace:

Jesus died for all mankind. All is of God and all will return to God. Salvation is the only outcome worthy of God. There is no salvation by self. A human cannot do what has already been done for them by Christ. Salvation occurred (notice past tense: occurred) through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. It was the most powerful and loving gesture ever to be done for humankind and nothing we do (including works or even belief) can change the fact that through His grace we will all return to God.

This isn't just the Good News...it is the Best News.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sex and the City (of God)

The song remains the same: Holy Leader Commits The Unholy.

The article below could be an episode on a soap opera. You can't write this stuff. This kind of drama plays out in the news regarding leaders of one Christian denomination or another on an almost daily basis.

The key issue that ties all these unfortunate headlines together is sex. Say the word in front of a church congregation and many will still blush, cross themselves or pass out. Why is it such a forbidden topic? Catholics see sex as a blessing and a curse - it is a blessing because it produces more Catholics (want 'em or not, here they come) and it is evil and reeks of sin because of the unspeakable mechanics of it...it is obviously sinful because people get the basest pleasure out of it. Pleasure - in the eyes of the Church, that word is as dirty as the word sex. They're all about suffering, baby. They seem to deny that God would want them to enjoy it.

Sex is a gift from God, not to be abused... or misused... or neglected. If you gave someone a beautiful gift and they left it in their closet, never to be used, how would you feel? If that person mistreated your gift or dropped it on the floor, how would you feel? Like many gifts from God, sex is a something that needs attention and not repression / suppression. I don't understand how celibate priests can speak of sex (or counsel on marriage) in any way. They are human, too. Those pent-up feelings always seem to end up coming out and eventually hurting someone - scratch that - they hurt many people. A levee holding back too much water will eventually burst. This is the law of nature; and therefore, God's law. People need to be open and honest about sex and that goes for reverends, pastors, deacons and priests, too.

I feel that if sex wasn't so taboo in Christian churches, we would see a decrease in moral offenses by church leaders. Healthy open dialogue about sex and sexual issues needs to take place in Christian churches, for both leaders and followers.

Bonus Article: An older piece about the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson and his hypocrisy. Every time he runs to cheerlead someone's cause or issue, I just have to shake my head. It's not the fact that he had a child out of wedlock, but for God's sake, the man still preaches with unbound arrogance and, I feel, selective racism. You would think that his little fall from grace might be God's way of saying "Calm down, son. Be humble. That's the lesson, here." Mr. Jackson missed the point, I think.

SEX SCANDAL: Archbishop Admits Sleeping With Brother's Wife

WSBTV.com - POSTED: 4:29 pm EST November 19, 2007

DECATUR, Ga. -- The 80-year-old leader of a suburban Atlanta megachurch is at the center of a sex scandal of biblical dimensions: He slept with his brother's wife and fathered a child by her. Members of Archbishop Earl Paulk's family stood at the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit at Chapel Hill Harvester Church a few Sundays ago and revealed the secret exposed by a recent court-ordered paternity test. In truth, this is not the first -- or even the second -- sex scandal to engulf Paulk and the independent, charismatic church. But this time, he could be in trouble with the law for lying under oath about the affair. The living proof of that lie is 34-year-old D.E. Paulk, who for years was known publicly as Earl Paulk's nephew. "I am so very sorry for the collateral damage it's caused our family and the families hurt by the removing of the veil that hid our humanity and our sinfulness," said D.E. Paulk, who received the mantle of head pastor a year and a half ago. D.E. Paulk said he did not learn the secret of his parentage until the paternity test. "I was disappointed, and I was surprised," he said. Earl Paulk, his brother, Don, and his sister-in-law, Clariece, did not return calls for comment. A judge ordered the test at the request of the Cobb County district attorney's office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which are investigating Earl Paulk for possible perjury and false-swearing charges stemming from a lawsuit. The archbishop, his brother and the church are being sued by former church employee Mona Brewer, who says Earl Paulk manipulated her into an affair from 1989 to 2003 by telling her it was her only path to salvation. Earl Paulk admitted to the affair in front of the church last January. In a 2006 deposition stemming from the lawsuit, the archbishop said under oath that the only woman he had ever had sex with outside of his marriage was Brewer. But the paternity test said otherwise. So far no charges have been filed against Earl Paulk. District Attorney Pat Head and GBI spokesman John Bankhead would not comment. The shocking results of the paternity test are speeding up a transformation already under way in the church after more than a decade of sex scandals and lawsuits involving the Paulks, D.E. Paulk said. "It was a necessary evil to bring us back to a God-consciousness," said the younger Paulk, explaining that the church had become too personality-driven and prone to pastor worship. The flashy megachurch began in 1960 with just a few dozen members in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. Now, it is in the suburbs on a 100-acre expanse, a collection of buildings surrounding a neo-Gothic cathedral. For years the church was at the forefront of many social movements -- admitting black members in the 1960s, ordaining women and opening its doors to gays. At its peak in the early 1990s, it claimed about 10,000 members and 24 pastors and was a media powerhouse. By soliciting tithes of 10 percent from each member's income, the church was able to build a Bible college, two schools, a worldwide TV ministry and a $12 million sanctuary the size of a fortress. Today, though, membership is down to about 1,500, the church has 18 pastors, most of them volunteers, and the Bible college and TV ministry have shuttered -- a downturn blamed largely on complaints about the alleged sexual transgressions of the elder Paulks. In 1992, a church member claimed she was pressured into a sexual relationship with Don Paulk. Other women also claimed they had been coerced into sex with Earl Paulk and other members of the church's administration. The church countered with a $24 million libel suit against seven former church members. The lawsuit was later dropped. Jan Royston, who left the church in 1992, started an online support group for former members to discuss their crushed faith and hurt feelings. "This is a cult. And you escape from a cult," she said. "We all escaped." These days, Earl Paulk has a much-reduced role at the cathedral, giving 10-minute lectures as part of Sunday morning worship each week. "My uncle is 100 percent guilty, but his accusers are guilty as well," D.E. Paulk said, declining to talk further about the lawsuits.

Jesse Jackson fathers child out of wedlock, asks forgiveness

January 18, 2001 - Web posted at: 2:23 p.m. EST (1923 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Civil rights activist and CNN talk show host Jesse Jackson is asking for forgiveness after acknowledging Thursday that he had an extramarital affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter now 20 months old. "I fully accept responsibility and I am truly sorry for my actions," Jackson said in a written statement. Jackson, a Baptist minister and one-time aide to Martin Luther King Jr., admitted that he fathered the child and has provided "emotional and financial support" since her birth. "As her mother does, I love this child very much," he said. "I was born of these circumstances," said Jackson, himself born out of wedlock, "and I know the importance of growing up in a nurturing, supportive and protected environment so I am determined to give my daughter and her mother the privacy they both deserve." His New York-based spokesman, John Scanlon, told CNN that Jackson issued the statement in advance of tabloid newspaper reports about the child. "We decided to issue this statement so that our point of view could be reflected in this story," Scanlon said. The statement does not reveal the name of the mother or the child, calling it "a private and family matter." Jackson says that "to protect all those I love I will not discuss it any further beyond this statement." The two-time former presidential candidate plans an indefinite hiatus from his activist activities, which included opposing the confirmation of President-elect George W. Bush's attorney general nominee, John Ashcroft. "I will be taking some time off to revive my spirit and reconnect with my family before I return to my public ministry," the statement said.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Here's some good old-fashioned right-wing fundamental Southern Christian intolerance for you.

Jesus died for ALL humanity...not just Christians...not just Jews....not just Muslims...EVERYONE. It is this type of Christian "elitist" group that acts like they are above trying to respect and reach out to another faith that so chaps my hide. These "Christians" are hypocrites and blasphemers. Jesus embraced everyone he came across. He reached out in love. He didn't get snippy like a prissy little schoolgirl and flip his hair and say, "No, we don't want them around. They aren't the cool kids."

Hyde Park Baptist church is a terrorist organization. They terrorize Christianity because they twist it like the Jihadists twist the Muslim religion. Instead of blowing up cars in acts of terror, this Baptist church bastardizes scriptures and blows up all that Jesus came to establish. If this ridiculous behavior defines a Christian, I renounce that label effective immediately.

John 15:12 - This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Notice that "Christians only" is absent from this passage. How friggin' hard is this to comprehend? Do they need a map drawn out for them?

Church rejects interfaith service on its property
Hyde Park Baptist says it didn't realize Muslims were leading annual Thanksgiving event.

By Eileen Flynn – Statesman.com - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Friday, November 16, 2007 - Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the city's largest interfaith organization, announced Thursday that its annual Thanksgiving celebration Sunday had to be moved because Hyde Park Baptist Church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property. The group learned Wednesday that the rental space at the church-owned Quarries property in North Austin was no longer available because Hyde Park leaders had discovered that non-Christians, Muslims in particular, would be practicing their faith there. The event, now in its 23rd year, invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Bahais and others to worship together. Organizers had booked the gymnasium at the Quarries in July and made the interfaith aspect clear to Quarries staff at that time, said Simone Talma Flowers, Interreligious Ministries' interim director. Several Muslim groups were acting as this year's hosts for the event. Kent Jennings, associate pastor of administration at Hyde Park, released a statement Thursday that said church leaders received a postcard about the service Monday and only then realized that it "was not a Christian oriented event." The postcard also "promised space for Muslim Maghrib prayer and revealed that the event was co-hosted by the Central Texas Muslimaat, the Forum of Muslims for Unity, and the Institute of Interfaith Dialog," according to Hyde Park's statement. "Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property," the statement said. "Hyde Park Baptist Church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision." Central Texas Muslimaat and Forum of Muslims for Unity are local Muslim nonprofit groups that promote charitable works and education. The Institute of Interfaith Dialog holds regular interfaith gatherings that aim to teach non-Muslims about Islam. With hundreds of people expected to attend and only a few days to find another site, Muslim organizer Shams Siddiqi said they couldn't find another facility. That's when leaders at Congregation Beth Israel, Austin's largest synagogue, offered to host the celebration. "Symbolically, that's a very good thing," Siddiqi said of the joint Jewish-Muslim endeavor. Of Hyde Park's decision, he said it was "unfortunate that people still feel this way in this day and age." Some Christians object to praying with people of other faith backgrounds or allowing those people to worship in their sanctuaries. Hyde Park Baptist, an evangelical megachurch at West 39th Street and Speedway, is not a member of Interreligious Ministries, and church leaders were not planning to participate in the service, Flowers said. Every year, a different faith group hosts the Thanksgiving event, which typically includes food, prayer, song and dance. Last year, St. Louis Catholic Church hosted. This year, because the Muslim groups did not have their own space that was large enough, they decided to rent the Quarries, a 58-acre property near MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and Duval Road that the church has owned since 1984. Flowers said she was disheartened by the church's decision. "As a Christian, my first response is, what would Jesus do in this situation?" she said. She also stressed the importance of respecting all beliefs and said Beth Israel's involvement is a blessing. "They said, 'It's an honor to be able to provide the space, especially knowing our co-hosts are Muslims,' " Flowers said. Synagogue leaders said they would arrange space for Muslims to make their evening prayers, Flowers said. "What a great testimony of inclusion."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tell Me What I Think

Any relationship where fear and guilt are a daily occurrence is an unhealthy relationship. Take for an example, the benign wife fearful of her overbearing, demanding husband who has raised his hand threatening to hit her, but never actually gone through the motion of hitting her. He makes her feel bad and guilty about having an extra slice of cake after dinner because he finds her weak will and thunder thighs unattractive. Think this woman is able to fully give all her love and heart wholly and comfortably to this man? Not on your life. One’s relationship with God should not be this way, either.

The Catholic Church, however, rules the roost with this method. Do this…or suffer the consequences. Don’t do this…or suffer the consequences. Cast votes based on black and white church views only …or suffer the consequences.

When I was Catholic I would have said “How dare you threaten me, sirs!” …and I would have been taunted ...with consequences.

There are counseling centers for those who escape abusive relationships and many marriages end in divorce citing mental cruelty. I think there should be spiritual rehab centers for recovering Catholics, to help get one’s self-esteem back, rebuild a spiritually correct concept of the living God, and find new meaning in a personal pursuit of scriptural knowledge.

God gave people minds to use – not to turn over to a religious institution for conditioning. To use one’s mind to think for oneself, to contemplate, to research, to study, and learn is to praise God. Just as a parent is proud of their child for coming up with the answer on his or her own, so is God joyful in our personal utilization of the mental gifts He has blessed us with.

The article below is just one more painfully obvious example of how the Church wants its followers to fall in line and cease all independent thought right this minute. Cookie cutter, meet the Catholic. Don't look within yourself for the answer. Look to us, they say, because you are not intelligent enough to discern the right and wrong, good and bad in political issues. Leave it up to us, kids.

Here’s the thing, God loves ALL His children, His entire creation so much more than the most loving parent on Earth loves their children. Contemplate this for a moment. Imagine your own children are the peoples of the Earth and you are God. Would you be one to manipulate your children with idle threats: “Eat your veggies or all your teeth will fall out?” No, you would use POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT and say “Eat your veggies, love, and they will help you grow up nice and strong.” God is not a frustrated novice of a parent; He is an expert parent, an expert psychologist, an expert friend, an expert lover, and an expert fan of yours and mine. The Lord is my Shepherd, not my Executioner.

The Catholic Church's concept of God is absolutely terrifying.
But man cannot live on fear alone...


Catholic bishops say voters' souls at stake

ChicagoTribune.com - November 15, 2007

BALTIMORE - Proclaiming a sense of new energy and empowerment, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday issued instructions to Catholic voters that their eternal salvation could be at stake when they cast ballots. Bishops emphasized that voters must consider the church's teachings on abortion and other moral issues when they select a candidate for the White House or any other office. If they don't, bishops said, it's not clergy who will judge them but God. "It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens have an impact on general peace and prosperity and also the individual's salvation," the bishops said in the document, titled "Faithful Citizenship." "Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well-being." Bishops have drafted a similar document every four years since the 1976 presidential election, when concerns centered on Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe and recovery from the Watergate scandal. But the guidelines issued Wednesday for the first time spelled out possible consequences as well as giving much more nuanced instruction to the Catholic electorate than in years past. Voters are implored not to support abortion-rights political candidates but also advised that views on abortion should not be the sole factor. Catholics should also weigh church teaching on such moral issues as immigration, just war and poverty, bishops said. "It was groundbreaking not in the sense that it changed any doctrine or added any doctrine," said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. "What we did provide for the first time in this document is some concrete guidance in how a voter goes about making prudential judgments." Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said previous statements in his memory have not spelled out such specific consequences. The statement reflects the bishops' frustations with pro-choice Democratic politicians and Republican leaders who focus solely on ending abortion, he said. For many bishops, approving the statement recalled the heyday of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the 1970s and 1980s, when the group earned a reputation for going against the grain and exercising moral authority. "The Challenge of Peace," a historic pastoral letter that tried to explain church teaching on war, peace and the nuclear arms race, was issued in 1983 under the leadership of the late Joseph Bernardin when he was archbishop of Cincinnati. Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento noted that the document was approved on the anniversary of Bernardin's death. "In a way it replicates what we did 30 years ago," he said. The document does not tell voters which candidates or party to favor. It also does not address whether priests should deny communion to Catholic politicians who stray from church teaching. Cardinal Francis George, the newly elected president of the conference, said bishops probably would discuss the issue this week behind closed doors. The voting guidelines followed a letter issued by outgoing President Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., calling for a responsible transition in Iraq. "Our nation must focus on the ethics of exit than on the ethics of intervention," Skylstad wrote. "The morally and politically demanding but carefully limited goal of responsible transition should aim to reduce further loss of life and address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the refugee crisis in the region, the need to help rebuild the country and human rights, especially religious freedom." Russell Shaw, information director for the bishops' conference from 1969 to 1987, said it's too soon to tell whether the bishops have emerged from the sexual abuse crisis and entered a new era of influence. But the bishops' optimism is clear. "They are looking for hopeful signs that they have turned the corner," said Shaw, who observed the meeting this week. Fighting back from financial woes caused by the abuse crisis, the conference reorganized last year, resulting in a more collaborative process to develop such statements. They debated the statement publicly for the first time. As a result of the public debate, bishops were able to shape the document on the floor. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago insisted that the guidelines urge Catholics to consider the religious roots of current conflicts overseas. "The people who coalition forces are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and a dozen other locales are not the poor and oppressed seeking to throw off their chains," he said. "They are jihadist fanatics who believe they are doing God's will." Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Ala., praised the document, which he says "gets to the guts of the moral and conscience formation." "We've never gone that far in clarifying those issues," he said. "Bishops can't always get inside a person's head." Whether they can get inside the ballot box is another question, though the initiative may get an extra boost when Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States in April, the peak of primary season. The Catholic electorate tends to be diverse ethnically, politically and even religiously, noted Gregory Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Institute on Religion and Public Life. Adherence to Catholic social teachings often corresponds with church attendance, which varies, and just as many Catholics voted for President Bush in 2004 as for John Kerry. Karl Maurer, a director of the conservative Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said "If the statement had been more stern and more clear" it would impact the behavior of voters as well as the politicians they have to choose from, he said. Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, said the bishops' guidelines convey an important message about the breadth of Catholic social tradition. "The key is what people hear from their pastor and get in the pews," she said.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Truth Hurts


1) Serving God as a priest in the Catholic Church only works if you have a penis. God hates vaginas.

2) Only priests can successfully interpret scripture, so don't bother trying it yourself. It will be wrong. Don't ask questions. Follow our interpretations of an ill-translated bible blindly or burn in hell.

3) Embrace your guilt: We give you the Utopian ideal to fall short of because we know you will. We love your guilt. It allows us to control you and keeps you coming back to church every week. We have enough carrots to put on sticks in front of all you horses out there.

4) Attention all married women - have babies with wild abandon. It is God's will. Even if you can't afford or don't want children. It doesn't matter what YOU want. Of course we know the rhythm method doesn't work - but don't tell all the overwhelmed mothers that. We had to give them a placebo method so that'd they'd shut up about how "they don't have the energy for another". Hey, if they get pregnant again, its just God's will and their pain and suffering is their punishment for having (dirty, dirty, sinful) sex in the first place.

5) Even though the bible outright condemns repetitive prayer (Matthew 6:7) - go and pray 10 Hail Mary's and 5 Our Father's and you will be forgiven. God loves meaningless words repeated over and over to Him, while the person robotically saying the prayer daydreams about what's for dinner.

6) Who cares if the concept of Original Sin was made up by Augustine due to his own guilt and that the bible states that there is no Original Sin (Ezekiel 18:20) - we'll go with it; all unbaptized infants will forever be lost unless water is poured on their head! God hates dry infant heads.

7) The Pope is incapable of being wrong, is infallible and all those under him are holier than thou, even those who cover up sexual abuse, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston who fled to Rome and has a post at the Vatican. He's holier than you, too. The Pope is allowed to give asylum to whoever he chooses. Unless they are a woman, of course.

8) Confessing your sins to God doesn't work - you MUST go through a priest to have that done, even though the priest himself is likely full of sin, as he is human. Oh well, do it anyway - remember, no questions asked. (See #5 for how to be forgiven of your transgressions.)

9) God is great but so is the Virgin Mary, too. Mmmm, ok, just to be safe - pray fervently to both. Oh, and all the saints, too. Sometimes you just can't rely on Jesus to take your calls...you should leave messages with his staff, too.

10) Jesus Christ died for ALL of us and ALL of our sins, saving humankind through his sacrifice of utmost Love. Not good enough; One can only attain salvation by self - you can only save yourself by believing in God, otherwise, enjoy hell. The end.


Of course, I included an article in this post and it pertains to #1.....

Women's ordination spurs rift: St. Louis Catholics and Jews split after a synagogue offers to host the ceremony.

The Associated Press - November 11, 2007

ST. LOUIS: The Archdiocese of St. Louis and a Jewish Reform congregation are on the same side when it comes to advocating for immigrants and the poor, often finding common ground in a zeal for social justice. But when the Central Reform Congregation offered its synagogue for today's ordination of two women in a ceremony disavowed by the Roman Catholic Church, it drew the ire of church officials and a pledge never again to partner with the congregation. Two women who profess to be Roman Catholic -- Rose Marie Dunn Hudson, 67, of Festus, and Elsie Hainz McGrath, 69, of St. Louis -- are to be ordained by a former nun as part of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, a small movement that began in 2002 independently from the Roman Catholic Church. The Reform congregation's rabbi, Susan Talve, informed her friend and colleague, the Rev. Vincent Heier, who directs the archdiocese office for ecumenical and interreligious affairs, of the decision. Heier told her it was unacceptable. "It's not appropriate to invite this group, to aid and abet a group like this, which undercuts our theology and teaching,'" Heier said he told Talve. The Roman Catholic Church is framed in hierarchy, which sets rules and offers guidance for the faithful. The Jewish tradition has no centralized leadership, and congregations operate autonomously, answering to their own mission statement. It was precisely that mission that Talve and her congregation's board relied on when considering the request of the two members of Roman Catholic Womenpriests. But the ceremony defies Catholic Church doctrine that reserves ordination of priests and deacons to men only. The women say it is unjust and discriminatory. The two women are ignoring the warnings of Archbishop Raymond Burke, who last week said they will be excommunicated if they proceed with the ceremony. Of the roughly 100 women who have been ordained as priests or deacons worldwide in the Womenpriests movement, including 37 in the U.S., only the first seven were officially excommunicated by the Vatican, said spokeswoman Bridget Mary Meehan. Others have received letters from their bishop like that sent by Burke, she said. Talve was in her office when the women approached her this fall. "They said they were looking for a sanctuary, and that got my attention," Talve said. "As Isaiah said, we are a house of prayer for all people." The congregation's board voted unanimously to serve as host, drawing on its core values and principles, which include hospitality and providing sanctuary. Heier and Burke pressed Talve and the board to withdraw their offer, saying the act would "cause pain" to the church. "It's akin to us inviting a group that is contrary to Jewish life," Heier said. "She didn't understand." Heier said he and Talve disagree on abortion and gay marriage, "but this is the straw that broke the camel's back." Talve said she regrets the church is pained by the decision to host the women, but a decision not to would have hurt others. She said hundreds of practicing Catholics have called to thank her for taking a stand. Heier enlisted the help of the larger Jewish community, but the local Jewish Community Relations Council neither condemned nor affirmed CRC's decision. In a statement, the council emphasized the autonomy of each congregation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


When I read this article I had to laugh. The Reverend Creflo Dollar? Are you kidding me?

"The minister is among the religious leaders who preach the "prosperity gospel," the teaching that God will shower faithful followers with material riches. "

Material riches, eh? 'Prosperity gospel'...which gospel is this in again? Don't the meek inherit the earth? If I recall correctly, Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip and chastised them about turning His Father's house into a place of business. I don't recall Jesus' words on the best way to invest in annuities or real estate, or which luxury vehicles should be driven by His so-called "chosen few". It is a truly laughable situation but what is scary are the minions of misled sheep (many dirt poor) who blindly give their hard-earned money to this pseudo pastor and follow the Gospel According To Bling. A message, no matter what it is, never looks as good unless its wearing Gucci. Give to the poor...why do that?

Megachurch took in $69 million in 2006

Charlotte.com – Monday, Nov. 12, 2007

An Atlanta megachurch took in $69 million in 2006, according to a financial statement the church's minister released in response to a Senate investigation into him and five other well-known televangelists. The Rev. Creflo Dollar disclosed the World Changers Church International's financial information to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but said the money he spends is his own. Dollar said his income comes from personal investments, including businesses and real estate ventures. But the church gave him a Rolls Royce, which he mainly uses for special occasions, he said. "Without a doubt, my life is not average," he said. "But I'd like to say, just because it is excessive doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong." Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, launched an investigation into the finances of six ministers after hearing reports of some preachers' lavish and opulent lifestyles. In a letter last week, he requested answers by Dec. 6 to questions about their executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and private jets. Besides Dollar, the letters were sent to faith healer Benny Hinn, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Texas, David and Joyce Meyer of Missouri, Randy and Paula White of Florida and Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. Dollar questioned the investigation's focus on religious groups. The minister is among the religious leaders who preach the "prosperity gospel," the teaching that God will shower faithful followers with material riches. But he said he uses only his personal finances to pay for his luxuries. "My lifestyle does not come out of the church's bank account," he said.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sister Act

Don't get me wrong, I know there are sincere, dedicated nuns out there. But I'm not talking about them in this post. Abuse cases by Catholic nuns are obviously not as prevalent as are abuse cases by priests, but they do happen. And they are no better than anyone else - priest, bishop, etc. - in a Church position of trust that betrays innocent children. Abuse is abuse is abuse, whether by man or woman.

I have heard numerous stories from people older than I who recall the angry mean nuns of Catholic school with their rulers and furrowed brows. I only went to Catholic school for Kindergarten and 1st grade, but I also recall the stern scoldings the class would get from a Sister - I don't recall what for, but perhaps just for being unruly kids.

A couple years ago for a short time I volunteered to mentor and hang-out with at-risk kids at a local Catholic convent / former orphanage. It was a huge old brick facility and some Catholic nuns still lived there, retired and living rent-free in the building. There were rape / abuse counseling rooms on the lower level where sessions would be held with professionals as well as other crisis-centered groups. When touring the facility, I asked the manager if the nuns ever come downstairs to talk to the children or help with counseling, speaking to the victims or women or anything like that. She said [paraphrased] "You'd think that, but none of the Sisters here want anything to do with any of it. They get around fine but they like to be left alone and prefer not to deal with anyone." I was semi-shocked. I thought when a nun took her vows it was for life, not just up until age 65. How disappointing it was to hear that. I have to question the motives of a nun who takes vows for life and then stops caring after retirement, especially when the needs of those are so close at hand. Walk down the stairs and continue God's work.

Being a nun could be a good career for the woman who is a hermit, closet lesbian or who just wants to do as little as possible and coast by in life, while still retaining a level of respect...and I have a sinking feeling that this type of motive is the rule rather than the exception. I don't know, I could be wrong.

Nun who taught in Chicago pleads no contest to abuse

ChicagoTribune.com - 1:24 PM CST, November 12, 2007

A Sister of Mercy nun who taught in Chicago-area Catholic schools for more than three decades has pleaded no contest to two counts of indecent behavior with a child. The incidents involved male students at a Milwaukee elementary school where she was principal in the 1960s. A complaint filed against 79-year-old Norma Giannini says many of the incidents took place at a church convent and the St. Patrick's School office while the boys were middle school age. Giannini, a Chicago native, later worked in Illinois. The Sisters of Mercy removed her from service in December 1992 when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee notified them of allegations against her. At that time, she was principal of Most Holy Redeemer School in Evergreen Park. She began teaching in 1949 and served at parish schools including St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge, St. Catherine in Oak Park and the now-closed St. Finbarr in Chicago until 1964. After her stint in Milwaukee, she returned to Illinois in 1969 and served at Christ the King in Chicago until 1972. She then worked at Mother McAuley High School until 1977, finishing there as one of four deans before becoming principal of Little Flower on the South Side. After Mother McAuley, she moved to St. Clare of Montefalco in Chicago, then became principal of Holy Redeemer in 1989. The two boys connected to the charges in Milwaukee, who are now adults, say Giannini had sexual contact with them dozens of times. Sister Betty Smith, regional president for the Sisters of Mercy in Chicago, says the nun received counseling after the sisters learned of the accusations in the 1990s. She says Giannini has been closely monitored and separated from minors since then.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


[ Check out my latest drawing which inspired this blog ]

Here's a wingdinger for ya...(see article below)

Anyone who knows me knows I am all about women's rights. And that includes the stance that women should be allowed to be priests if they want. But, while I am disenthralled with the idea of the established Christian institution as a whole, I guess that is neither here nor there at this point.

In this article a bishop is backing a campaign to legalize brothels "without condoning them" (but if you're not against us, you're for us, right?) He claims it is for the safety and health of the women, which is a nice thought.

Prostitution. Not the safest line of work -- physically or psychologically -- and certainly not a wholly respected profession. It is a fact that many women who go into this line of work are uneducated women, women with a history of self-esteem issues, abuse / drug abuse and / or existing psychological problems or a combination of all. They are human beings. Someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's mother...they need more than just protection of their health. Let's be honest, chances are that this is not a first choice of a career for most of these women, but because they lack choices, they go this route. Many could be desparate single mothers, many could have a need for counseling, or just need someone to give them the self-esteem and direction that they continue to search for in futility.

And if there are those women who went into this line of work with full gusto, fully informed and enjoy what they do despite all the risks, so be it. Everyone is in charge of their own happiness and who am I to judge? But I'm not talking about those women.

For this bishop to throw in his two cents in this way is truly a half-assed assertion of the power he actually has to help out. He made a statement that focused on the health of patrons and health of the women in the brothel, but there is more than just "physical health" to these women. It seems as if the women in these brothels are viewed as just "bodies in danger". There are are other fragile parts of these women - their minds and their souls --which need just as much protection, nurturing and safeguarding as their persons. If this bishop did his true duty, he would use his power to establish in his church (or elsewhere), regardless of whether or not the brothel law passes, counseling centers, mentor programs, safehouses and means of further education and hope for these women, instead of just letting them be where they are - perhaps safer - but still without other options. It is the duty and responsibility of those with such power to help those without. Even Jesus counseled prostitutes.

I give this Bishop points for 'social grammar', but his "statement" is seriously lacking in depth and content. I guess they don't teach sensitivity and social problem-solving in seminary...especially not where women are involved. Catholic clergymen may as well sing out in a baritone chorus: "Function on, women! Copulate and procreate! That's all there is to you."

Bishop backs brothel regulation

Reuters – Yahoo News – Thu. Nov 8, 10:03 AM ET

A Roman Catholic bishop in the southern English port city of Portsmouth is backing a campaign to legalize brothels without in any way condoning them. The Right Reverend Crispian Hollis supported the local branch of the Women's Institute which wants to license brothels. "If you are going to take a pragmatic view and say prostitution happens, I think there is a need to make sure it's as well regulated as possible for the health of people involved and for the safety of the ladies themselves," Hollis said. "That's not to say I approve of prostitution in any way. I would be very much happier if there was no prostitution in Portsmouth," he told The Portsmouth News. "But it's going to be there whatever we do and it has been from time immemorial. So I think that is something we have to be realistic about." His comments won praise from Rachel Frost, from the International Union for Sex Workers. "The bishop should be commended for having the guts to come out and say that," she said.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tea, Christmas & Conan

On Sunday, my mom and I had a little tea ceremony at my house. We had the ceramic bowl cups and a clear teapot and we poured hot water over a tea flower bulb and watched it bloom before our eyes. Along with this beautiful tea we talked about God. We had planned it for awhile, for just the two of us. It was really awesome. She said something supremely validating: "You didn't leave the church because you stopped believing, you left because you believe." I'm really happy that I have the support of both my Mom and my Dad. I couldn't ask for better parents.

I told my mom that this year I find myself very sad when I hear Christmas music. It reminds me of church -- the ceremony, the candles, incense, choir, decor -- and the utter disappointment in its corrupt apostasy. I won't be going to Christmas Mass this year. It will be the first ever, I think. I would like to have my own 'dedication' at home and have been thinking about the specifics of it. I will likely write about this at a later time.

On an unrelated topic here is a recent article about a stalker priest. A stalker priest?! Why are so many crazies in the priesthood? It is almost like a haven or cover for those with problems. Maybe as part of the ordination, a priest should also receive the fake nose and mustache get-up. It might help disguise their extracurricular shenanigans. (Me laughing out loud).

Priest Fit for Trial in O'Brien Case

The Associated Press – Nov. 9, 2007, 2:50 PM EST

NEW YORK -- The priest accused of stalking Conan O'Brien was kind and caring, nothing like the obsessed man who allegedly told the late-night talk show host he was "tracking him through space and time," his seminary mentor said. The Rev. David Ajemian, a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, was arrested last week while trying to enter a taping of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" in New York City despite being warned to stay away by NBC security personnel. He was arraigned on charges including stalking and aggravated harassment and ordered held for psychiatric evaluation. Ajemian, 46, was scheduled to appear in court Friday for an update on the case, said Jennifer Kushner, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan prosecutor's office. His attorney, Eric Seiff, said Ajemian was being held at a New York jail, but declined to comment except to say "it will be worked out in court." Ajemian, who allegedly began writing O'Brien in September 2006, has been placed on leave by the Boston Archdiocese and can't minister publicly. He was removed in June from his last posting, at St. Patrick Parish in Stoneham, after two years at the parish. A spokesman at the archdiocese did not respond to questions about whether the move was related to the stalking allegations. But on July 2, Ajemian wrote security officials at NBC questioning "why you chose to raise this matter with my superiors after I left you a clear message by phone several weeks ago that I would cease all contact with the show," according to court papers. In the same letter, he called himself "a stalker of a very different order than the kind you are used to dealing with" and dared them to "tell Conan about your surveillance of me." In a previous letter, Ajemian expressed frustration to O'Brien that he had been denied a spot in his audience after he'd flown to New York "in the dimming hope that you might finally acknowledge me." "Is this the way you treat your most dangerous fans???" he wrote. "You owe me big time pal." He also told O'Brien he knew where he lived and wrote, "Remember (mobster) Frank Costello once dodged a bullet in your building and so can you." Ajemian's seminary mentor, the Rev. John Mark Hannon said Thursday he believes Ajemian can still be a good priest if he receives proper psychiatric help. "He was a good seminarian. He was kind and generous and affable and concerned how people were," said Hannon, who mentored Ajemian before he graduated from St. John's Seminary in 2001. "He's very likable," Hannon added, "it's just he's stupid, apparently." Ajemian, the son of former Time magazine journalist Robert Ajemian, attended Harvard University at the same time O'Brien did. Ajemian graduated from Harvard in 1983, while O'Brien graduated in 1985. It was unclear if the two crossed paths there. O'Brien's roommate at Harvard, the Rev. Paul O'Brien, a priest in Lawrence who is not related to Conan O'Brien, declined comment. NBC said Conan O'Brien would not comment on Ajemian. After graduating from Harvard, Ajemian took a roundabout route to the priesthood. Among his jobs was work in 1990 as a legal assistant at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and he also worked as a teacher. The Rev. Hannon, pastor at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Hanson, said Ajemian never spoke to him about O'Brien and never gave any indication anything unusual was happening in his life. He's not a dangerous person, Hannon said. "I still consider him a friend," he said.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Down With the Sickness

Earlier this week I was very sick with food poisoning. I won't go into details, but anyone who's had this illness knows how disgusting and awful it is. When I was in its throes - fever, chills like crazy - enduring the longest train ride home in my life from work (where I got sick) I was thinking how being sick not only affects the body, but the mind & spirit - everything sucks and one cannot notice the beauty of being healthy when they feel like crap, nor the beauty of ANYTHING, not sleep because shivering keeps one awake, not water because it gets thrown up, etc. It gives one's world the "blue screen" and it becomes time to reboot.

And now that I feel better, I feel BETTER - like 120% - everything feels better; my bearings are oiled and my gears sharp! It is like being (for lack of a better term) born again. Not being sick is the best. And don't we all take for granted those days of health that go by like a breeze? And while mine was an involuntary experience, there are those experiences that are sought after for the intentional pain that eventually lead to the relief that is worth the risk - such as a mother giving birth, laying down one's life for a friend, donating a kidney, etc..in short: sacrifice.

A man appeared before St. Peter, who asked him, "Where are your wounds?"

The man replied, "I have no wounds."

To which Peter rejoined, "Was there no passion in your life, no cause in which you spent and risked yourself that would invite scars?"

Martin Zender, a very insightful modern-day prophetic and ex-Catholic is a biblical scholar who is one of few brave enough to talk about how our all-encompassing God is both good AND evil (evil is not to be mistaken with sin) - because truly we cannot appreciate the good without experiencing the bad, too. It is in this necessary contrast that our greatest appreciations surface and I totally agree with this logic. It makes perfect sense. As nature is both cruel and loving, as is the Creator. If people were in a Utopian state the entirety of their lives, never knowing strife or sorrow, how are they to know happiness? When bad things happen, it often brings out the best in people and can often bring people closer to the Lord. And, while the crucifixion was a violent, non-sinful example of torment and suffering, it was brought forth through God, not Satan...and it was an evil act against the Son of God, yet a necessary and great event.

"I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; 6That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, 7The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these."

Isaiah 45:5-7

And speaking of sickness, I am truly grateful that my illness was purely bacterial-viral and that it was neither contagious, nor caused harm to anyone else...some are not so fortunate:

Church Youth Minister Allegedly Paid Children For Sex

MSNBC.com - Mon., Nov. 5, 2007

LAKELAND, Fla. - Police said a youth minister was arrested for allegedly having sex with more than one child. According to police, Marshal Seymour turned himself in Friday night after a warrant was issued for his arrest, WESH 2 News reported. The Lakeland Police Department said the warrant came after an investigation that Seymour committed numerous sexual offenses while he was a volunteer youth minister at the First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland. Police said Seymour allegedly engaged in sexual activity with more than one minor and often paid the victims money for the sexual conduct or to keep quiet about the encounters that had occurred. Seymour was charged with unlawful sexual activity, using a child in sexual performance, and tampering with evidence. Police said they are still investigating the allegations.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Jester's Mask of Piety

I have to wonder how many more men out there are using the guise of priesthood to cloak their chest of skeletons and taint The Word. So many stories surface these days and they are ever out-doing each other. The writers for shows like Nip/Tuck ought to just hire some priests for their scandalous screen material. It is unfortunate that the position that so many people trust and look to for leadership in their faith is so soiled...which is why one cannot leave their faith in the hands of another human being. They have to search and seek for themselves what the truth is. There is only one who can be trusted and that is God. Everyone else is just half-informed peripherals who one can have fellowship with, but can't 100% rely on for full interpretation. It is the "use your own brain" clause. I imagine in the next articles I see will be priests getting away with murder or being the head of the mob or drug ring. Wouldn't surprise me. Not in the least.

And still, they won't let women be priests because they are not pious enough. Corporations are wrought with corruption, as are institutions...same-same.

Three priests set up failed business called Shag

Monday October 29 2007 - By Edel Kennedy Independent.ie

TWO Irish priests accused of misappropriating millions from a Florida church had formed a mortgage company with another priest called Shag Inc. Fr John Skehan (80), originally from Johnstown, Kilkenny, and Fr Francis Guinan (64), originally from Birr, Co Offaly, are accused in relation to $8.6m missing from church coffers. The two men are accused of using offertory dollars to keep girlfriends, take gambling excursions and foreign holidays, and buy property. It has emerged the two pensioners invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Shag Inc, a failed mortgage loan scheme. Records show it was formed in 1984 and dissolved a decade later. The third priest has been named as Michael Hickey, a priest assigned to several parishes in Florida, who had a long history of drunk driving. The 71-year-old was charged with driving under the influence five times between 1979 and 1999 and he was banned from driving in 1999. Shag appears to be an acronym made up of the first letter of the pensioners' last names: Skehan, Hickey and Guinan. Their investment history was mixed, with one of their clients later being jailed for defrauding clients of more than €2m. William Cartwright borrowed money totalling $177,000 from the priests to make loans based on mortgages. The money ran out and he filed for bankruptcy, with investors receiving about 50 cents in the dollar. However, he was jailed for seven years for defrauding customers in a separate property scheme. The men had listed the address of the company at St Patrick's Church near Palm Beach Gardens, where Guinan served for 16 years. A small group of parishioners discovered Shag's connection to the Cartwright fiasco when, suspicious of Guinan's handling of their church's finances, they conducted an investigation in the early 1990s. They confronted Guinan, who denied them access to parish financial records. After a year, they took their case to diocesan officials, who conducted an audit but determined that Guinan had done nothing irregular. When he was transferred from St Patrick's to another parish in 2003, the diocese conducted another routine audit of the church finances. His successor described the finances as "a mess" and installed new financial accountability measures at the parish. Police investigating the missing millions are limited to going back just five years. However the diocese is not bound by such limitations. Palm Beach diocese spokeswoman Alexis Walkenstein said they are seeking to have all the funds reimbursed. When asked about Shag, she said it was "pretty unusual for priests to form for-profit corporations". "However because diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, there is no rule to prevent diocesan priests from accumulating wealth as long as it is within legal and moral confines," she said. "I am not going to comment on the Shag corporation because that entity was not part of the diocese of Palm Beach." Skehan and Guinan were arrested last September on suspicion of stealing millions in offerings and gifts made to their parish as far back as 40 years ago. They are likely to be charged with stealing less than $1m when the case goes to trial next February but could face jail sentences of up to 30 years if they are found guilty. However, they are likely to enter a plea bargain, which would see them serving around four years. Skehan is thought by prosecutors to have stolen $1.5m from the Catholic church in Delray Beach between 1996 and 2003 alone. But the state attorney's office has said that charges cannot be brought in relation to $1.1m of these missing donations because of the five year statute of limitations. Guinan will be accused of stealing about $488,000 from the parish between September 2003 and April 2005 after he took over from Fr Skehan. Both men are free on bail of $40,000. It is believed that Hickey may now be in Ireland.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Loco Catolicos

Today is November 1st, the Catholic Day of Obligation called All Souls Day. It is one of those made-up days on the church calendar when the church tells its parishioners that they must attend mass. A money-maker day for the church as Sweetest Day is a money-maker Hallmark holiday for the card, candy and flower industries.

I honor the souls of my loved ones who have passed EVERY DAY - not just ONE day. I think about how they touched my life and meditate on the blessings they have passed on and think about being in their presence again one day. I have even unexpectedly experienced a couple of them in their spiritual forms after they have passed, but I will save that for another blog entry.

If you read the article below, you will find a strange and backwards Catholic-approved tradition in Mexico on Day of the Dead: On Nov. 2, many Catholic families in central Mexico leave plates of food and glasses of water in their homes overnight, alongside a votive candle. Folk tradition has it that the souls of the dead appear during the night to eat and drink. "We put out the offering for my father," said Gabriela Gonzalez, a vendor at the Sonora Market. "It's a little plate of mole, because that was his favorite food. And a little shot of brandy, too. And a cigar."

Doesn't this sound like something the Egyptians would have done for their mummified dead? Is it hard to grasp the concept that disincorporated souls don't eat or drink or smoke? I would think that the energy of the soul is not concerned with earthly and bodily necessities, as the soul is separated from the body, if I'm not mistaken. If it were, then the widows should sit in their beds for a long-awaited amorous romp with their beloved departed. LOL. It doesn't sound like this is a metaphorical ritual either, many of these people ACTUALLY believe the food is eaten by their dead loved ones. I can understand the poetry in this tradition, but as it is taken literally, not so much.

Supposedly spiritual and 'Christian' people can't rise above thinking in terms of the earth - I know that if my soul were to return to the earth "only on a certain day" as they imagine it does, I would go to spend time with my family, I wouldn't head straight for the fridge!

Nothing in the Bible indicates this type of ritualizing food and drink for returning souls and so it gets shuffled into the man-made dogma category of false and error-filled teachings that I can only suspect is not cool with God.

Mexicans put own mask on Halloween: The U.S. import has caught on despite the Catholic Church's opposition. It adds a secular flavor to the solemn Day of the Dead.

Chicagotribune.com - By Héctor Tobar - Los Angeles Times Staff Writer - October 31, 2007

MEXICO CITY - The merchants at the Sonora Market are doing a brisk business in plastic pumpkins, wizard costumes and devil's pitchforks. Eerie music blares from the loudspeakers: It's the Halloween rush. "I want my Halloween!" Mexican children will shout this week, though not necessarily the same night as kids north of the border. "Quiero mi Halloween," they will say, because there is no commonly used translation of "Trick or treat!" for this American import that falls at about the same time as the more spiritual Day of the Dead. The English syllables that make up the word "Halloween" carry an additional note of weirdness for Mexicans. Some choose to write Halloween with the Spanish transliteration jaloguin, as in the statement: The Roman Catholic Church requests that the faithful refrain from celebrating that pagan American holiday known as jaloguin. "Against Halloween," one poster wrote this month on a Spanish-language Catholic website. "I propose a cultural rebellion, a Christian rebellion, a Catholic rebellion!" Like baseball and fast-food restaurants, Halloween is one of those U.S. cultural products that has inexorably worked its way into Mexican life. And just as the local McDonald's outlets dispense packets of jalapeño sauce for their customers' Big Macs, people here have taken Halloween and given it a Mexican touch. When Mexico City children go door to door dressed in costumes and ask for candy, it isn't necessarily on Oct. 31. Many children here will seek their treats on Friday of this week, when Mexicans mark the Day of the Dead. In Mexico City, the masks and costumes of Halloween are a lighthearted, secular flavoring on top of the more solemn Day of the Dead, when many families perform rituals meant to honor and comfort the souls of their departed loved ones. "Here in Mexico we still celebrate the Day of the Dead more than Halloween," said Enrique Garcia, a 36-year-old Mexico City native whose stand at the Sonora Market was filled with latex Halloween masks. "But with Halloween we make a little more money." One day this month, Garcia sold half a dozen masks in less than 15 minutes, the most popular being the Ghostface character from the "Scream" movies. Shoppers squeezed through the market's narrow aisles in search of costumes, Frankenstein statues and bottles of fake blood. Halloween has long been celebrated in northern Mexico, where the cultural influence of the United States is stronger, said Stanley Brandes, a UC Berkeley anthropology professor and author of a book on the Day of the Dead, "Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead." In recent decades, Halloween has gained in popularity in central Mexico, despite criticisms from Mexican intellectuals and church leaders, who have periodically instructed Catholics on the perceived dangers of the holiday. "The majority of the people in the country actually like Halloween and accept it," Brandes said. And criticisms of Halloween's commercialism ignore one important fact, he said: "There's a lot of money being made from Day of the Dead too. I don't think it's any less commercial than Halloween." A few stands down from Garcia's, Isaac Montes de Oca was buying plastic buckets in the shape of pumpkins and mummies for his daughter's first birthday party. She was born Nov. 2, so Montes de Oca and his wife were organizing the party with a Halloween theme. "We're from Guerrero," a state south of Mexico City, "and there we celebrate the Day of the Dead," he said. "We have big parties where we reenact scenes from the Bible. They don't do that here in Mexico City. Here, it's Halloween." Bernice Rodriguez, a vendor wearing a pair of red-sequined devil's horns, sold the Montes de Oca family six pumpkin buckets and six mummy buckets for the wholesale price of $1.50 each. Rodriguez's wares were a mixture of cheap Halloween imports and locally made products with origins in the Day of the Dead. Papier-mache skeletons hung from a wire, alongside a tall statue of "La Catrina," a female skeleton dressed in formal clothing and based on famous Day of the Dead etchings Jose Guadalupe Posada drew almost a century ago. "People here buy La Catrina so they can decorate their Halloween parties," Rodriguez said. "Halloween is not something I grew up with. . . . In my house we still put out the offerings" for the Day of the Dead. On Nov. 2, many Catholic families in central Mexico leave plates of food and glasses of water in their homes overnight, alongside a votive candle. Folk tradition has it that the souls of the dead appear during the night to eat and drink. "We put out the offering for my father," said Gabriela Gonzalez, a vendor at the Sonora Market. "It's a little plate of mole, because that was his favorite food. And a little shot of brandy, too. And a cigar." Though packed with Halloween shoppers in October, throughout the year the Sonora Market is a place where people come in search of the herbs, incense and other paraphernalia necessary to seek favors from the spirit world. Gonzalez runs one such stall, a few paces from the ones selling Halloween costumes. Once Halloween is over, those other stands will return to selling cheap toys and other goods. "You burn incense on the Day of the Dead, because the smoke helps the dead to find their path," Gonzalez said. "If you try the food you left out during the night and it doesn't have any flavor in the morning, it means the dead person came and tasted it." One Day of the Dead night not long ago, Gonzalez said, she awoke to the sound of a man chugging down water and chewing food. It was her departed fathers, she said, come to enjoy a meal in his old home. Telling this story, Gonzalez broke into a warm smile. She had told a good ghost story, just like the ones you hear on Halloween.