Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Glimmer of Reason?

I have to wonder what hidden agenda is behind the sudden change of mind, though.
Is it election season?

In major shift, Vatican says condoms lesser of 2 evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS

Associated Press | 8:14 AM CST, November 24, 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) — In a seismic shift on one of the most profound — and profoundly contentious — Roman Catholic teachings, the Vatican said Tuesday that condoms are the lesser of two evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS, even if their use prevents a pregnancy. The position was an acknowledgment that the church's long-held anti-birth control stance against condoms doesn't justify putting lives at risk. "This is a game-changer," declared the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer and editor. The new stance was staked out as the Vatican explained Pope Benedict XVI's comments on condoms and HIV in a book that came out Tuesday based on his interview with a German journalist. The Vatican still holds that condom use is immoral and that church doctrine forbidding artificial birth control remains unchanged. Still, the reassessment on condom use to help prevent disease carries profound significance, particularly in Africa where AIDS is rampant. "By acknowledging that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms," said Martin, a liberal-leaning author of several books about spirituality and Catholic teaching. The development came on a day when U.N. AIDS officials announced that the number of new HIV cases has fallen significantly — thanks to condom use — and a U.S. medical journal published a study showing that a daily pill could help prevent spread of the virus among gay men. "This is a great day in the fight against AIDS ... a major milestone," said Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition. Theologians have debated for years whether it could be morally acceptable for HIV-infected people to use condoms to avoid infecting their partners. The Vatican years ago was reportedly preparing a document on the subject, but it never came out. The groundbreaking shift, coming as it does from the deeply conservative pontiff, would appear likely to restrain any public criticism from Catholic conservatives, who insisted Tuesday that the pope was merely reaffirming the church's moral teaching. Conservatives have feared that a comment like this would give support to Catholics who want to challenge the church's ban on artificial contraception in an environment where they feel they are under siege from a secular, anti-Catholic culture. George Weigel, a conservative Catholic writer, said the Vatican was by no means endorsing condom use as a method of contraception or a means of AIDS prevention. "This is admittedly a difficult distinction to grasp," he told The Associated Press in an e-mail. What the pontiff is saying is "that someone determined to do something wrong may be showing a glimmer of moral common sense by not doing that wrong thing in the worst possible way — which is not an endorsement of anything." Benedict's comments come at a time when bishops in the United States are intensely focused on upholding the strictest views of Catholic orthodoxy, emphasizing traditional marriage, natural family planning based on a woman's menstrual cycle and making abortion the most important issue. In the book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," Benedict was quoted as saying that condom use by people such as male prostitutes indicated they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection. His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren't being used as a form of contraception. However, questions arose immediately about the pope's intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to apply only to men. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, the important thing was that the person took into consideration the life of another. "I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this: ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship." "This is if you're a man, a woman, or a transsexual. ... The point is it's a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another," Lombardi said. Those comments concluded the press conference, and Lombardi took no further questions about how broadly this interpretation could be applied. The clarification is significant. UNAIDS estimates that 22.4 million people in Africa are infected with HIV, and that 54 percent — or 12.1 million — are women. Heterosexual transmission of HIV and multiple, heterosexual partners are believed to be the major cause of the high infection rates. Benedict drew harsh criticism when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem couldn't be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then. In Africa on Tuesday, AIDS activists, clerics and ordinary Africans applauded the pope's revised comments. "I say, hurrah for Pope Benedict," exclaimed Linda-Gail Bekker, chief executive of South Africa's Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. She said the pope's statement may prompt many people to "adopt a simple lifestyle strategy to protect themselves." In Sierra Leone, the director of the National AIDS Secretariat predicted condom use would now increase, lowering the number of new infections. "Once the pope has made a pronouncement, his priests will be in the forefront in advocating for their perceived use of condoms," said the official, Dr. Brima Kargbo. Lombardi said Benedict knew full well that his comments would provoke intense debate. Conservative Catholics have been trying to minimize what he said since excerpts were published this weekend in the Vatican newspaper. The Rev. Tim Finnegan, a conservative British blogger, said he thought the pope's comments were unwise. "I'm sorry. I love the Holy Father very much; he is a deeply holy man and has done a great deal for the church," Finnegan said on his blog. "On this particular issue, I disagree with him." Lombardi praised Benedict for his "courage" in confronting the problem. "He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today," Lombardi said, adding that the pope wanted to give his perspective on the need for greater humanized, responsible sexuality. Luigi Accatoli, a veteran Vatican journalist who was on the Vatican panel that launched the book, put it this way: "He spoke with caution and courage of a pragmatic way through which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the pandemic of AIDS without approving, but also without excluding — in particular cases — the use of a condom," Accatoli said. The launch of the book, which includes wide-ranging comments on subjects from the sex abuse crisis to Benedict's belief that popes should resign if physically unable to carry out their mission, drew a packed audience. Making a rare appearance, Benedict's secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, sat in the front row — an indication of the event's significance. In the book, the pope reaffirms Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception, as well as the inviolability of marriage between man and woman. But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope was saying that condom use is a lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner, even when pregnancy is possible. "We're not just talking about an encounter between two men, which has little to do with procreation. We're now introducing relationships that could lead to childbirth," Martin said. Individual bishops and theologians have applied the lesser evil theory to the condom-HIV issue, but it had previously been rejected at the highest levels of the Vatican, Martin said. Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil. "Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told the AP. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility." He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church's teaching hadn't been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security. "This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional," Suaudeau said. "He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear." Lombardi said the pope didn't use the technical terminology "lesser evil" in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant. "The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems," Lombardi said. "This is not the job of a book of this type."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feminism Defined

I may be repeating myself, but it bears repeating. Many folks think that a feminist views women as being superior or better than men. That is just not the case.

Feminism refers to movements aimed at establishing and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights. Feminism is controversial for challenging traditions in many fields and especially for supporting shifting the political balance toward women.[citation needed] Some feminists argue that men cause and benefit from sexism. Others argue that gender, like sex, are social constructions that harm all people; feminism thus seeks to liberate men as well as women. Feminists, persons practicing feminism, can be persons of either sex. (Source: Wikipedia)

Feminism directly confronts the idea that one person or set of people [has] the right to impose definitions of reality on others. ~Liz Stanley and Sue Wise

Jesus communed with and taught women but traditional men-run Christian churches have long since perpetrated criminality that they tie to feminism -- an evil stance in their eyes...of course they would. Admission of equality would threaten their powerful jobs for which they earn a pretty penny. However, given their incorrect and stereotypical views I would say these men have a right to be scared. They could be mentally castrated by throngs of intelligent women.

"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men - that's their problem." ~Reverend Jerry Falwell

"[Feminism is] a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." ~Pat Robertson

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Steps Back

I happened to see these two articles the same day and immediately thought "two steps back". There is no-to-negative progress being made in Catholicism (at least in the U.S.) in terms of social, spiritual and theological enlightenment. Both of these news articles highlight how the Catholic conservatives are clinging, white-knuckled, to the version of their religion that has not yet matured, forcing out anyone who votes for change and mercy. Heck, the C.C. hasn't even hit puberty yet. They are even going so far as to revive a dangerous literalistic Dark Ages tradition.

The harder they struggle, the tighter that roap gets.

Step 1.

New York cleric picked to head U.S. bishops after conservatives hammer top candidate
AP - November 16, 2010, 11:00 AM    

BALTIMORE -- In an upset, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan elected president today of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, defeating a vice president who had been widely expected to win the job. It is the first time since the 1960s that a sitting vice president was on the ballot for president and lost. It follows protests by some conservative Catholics against the vice president, Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas. Dolan received 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Kicanas on the third round of balloting. Kicanas was vice president for a three-year term which ends this week. Dolan's surprise victory comes at a time when church leaders are divided over how best to uphold Roman Catholic orthodoxy. A growing number of bishops have taken a more aggressive approach, publicly denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, warning Catholic voters they should never vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights under any circumstances and reining in prominent dissenters in their dioceses. Kicanas has not denied Communion to any Catholic politicians and rejected calls to punish the president of the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights. Kicanas instead urged bishops and Catholic university presidents to start a discussion about their differences. Partly because of Kicanas' approach, he was pilloried in the days leading up to the vote by right-wing Catholic bloggers, who urged readers to send protest faxes and leave messages for bishops at the hotel where they are meeting. Dolan also does not outright deny the sacrament to dissenting Catholic lawmakers, but he is seen as an outspoken defender of church orthodoxy in a style favored by many theological conservatives.
Step 2.

Catholic Bishops: More Exorcists Needed
Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer - Friday, November 12, 2010

NEW YORK -- Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms. The two-day training, which ends Saturday in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. "Learning the liturgical rite is not difficult," DiNardo said in a phone interview before the conference, which is open to clergy only. "The problem is the discernment that the exorcist needs before he would ever attempt the rite." More than 50 bishops and 60 priests signed up to attend, according to Catholic News Service, which first reported the event. The conference was scheduled for just ahead of the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which starts Monday in Baltimore. Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that "all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition." The practice is much more accepted by Catholics in parts of Europe and elsewhere overseas. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the longtime private secretary of Pope John Paul II, revealed a few years after the pontiff's death that John Paul had performed an exorcism on a woman who was brought into the Vatican writhing and screaming in what Dziwisz said was a case of possession by the devil. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference, said only a tiny number of U.S. priests have enough training and knowledge to perform an exorcism. Dioceses nationwide have been relying solely on these clergy, who have been overwhelmed with requests to evaluate claims. The Rev. James LeBar, who was the official exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York under the late Cardinal John O'Connor, had faced a similar level of demand, traveling the country in response to the many requests for his expertise. The rite is performed only rarely. Neal Lozano, a Catholic writer and author of the book "Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance" about combatting evil spirits, said he knows an exorcist in the church who receives about 400 inquiries a year, but determines that out of that number, two or three of the cases require an exorcism. No one knows why more people seem to be seeking the rite. Paprocki said one reason could be the growing interest among Americans in exploring general spirituality, as opposed to participating in organized religion, which has led more people to dabble in the occult. "They don't know exactly what they're getting into and when they have questions, they're turning to the church, to priests," said Paprocki, chairman of the bishops' committee on canonical affairs and church governance. "They wonder if some untoward activity is taking place in their life and want some help discerning that." Many Catholic immigrants in the U.S. come from countries where exorcism is more common, although Paprocki said that was not a motivation for organizing the conference. Exorcism has deep roots in Christianity. The New Testament contains several examples of Jesus casting out evil spirits from people, and the church notes these acts in the Catholic Catechism. Whether or not individual Catholics realize it, each of them undergoes what the church calls a minor exorcism at baptism that includes prayers renouncing Satan and seeking freedom from original sin. A major exorcism can only be performed by a priest with the permission of his bishop after a thorough evaluation, including consulting with physicians or psychiatrists to rule out any psychological or physical illness behind the person's behavior. Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn't know and abnormal displays of strength. The full exorcism is held in private and includes sprinkling holy water, reciting Psalms, reading aloud from the Gospel, laying on of hands and reciting the Lord's Prayer. Some adaptations are allowed for different circumstances. The exorcist can invoke the Holy Spirit then blow in the face of the possessed person, trace the sign of the cross on the person's forehead and command the devil to leave. The training comes at a time when many American bishops and priests are trying to correct what they view as a lack of emphasis on the Catholic teaching about sin and evil after the Second Vatican Council, the series of meetings in the 1960s that enacted modernizing reforms in the church. Many in the American hierarchy, as well as Pope Benedict XVI, believe that the supernatural aspect of the church was lost in the changes, reducing it to just another institution in the world. A renewed focus on exorcism highlights the divine element of the church and underscores the belief that evil is real. DiNardo said some Catholics who ask for an exorcism are really seeking, "prayerful support. They're asking for formation in the faith." Still, he said sometimes the rite is warranted. "For the longest time, we in the United States may not have been as much attuned to some of the spiritual aspects of evil because we have become so much attached to what would be either physical or psychological explanation for certain phenomena," DiNardo said. "We may have forgotten that there is a spiritual dimension to people."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Running Out of Rocks

Merciful? Nah. Counselor? Nah. Shepherd? Nah. Bringer of Good News? Hell Nah.

False prophet (Bishop?) Andre Leonard is just another clown at the circus.

The conservative Vatican men are running out of self-justifying rocks to throw. And the rocks are getting very ...specific. So specific, in fact, that those women who've had abortions will allegedly be greeted in the afterlife by their babies crying "momma". Really? And AIDS as God's punishment? What? Well how about cancer, then?

Please allow me to address Andre, here:

Where, in all your hellfire rhetoric, sir, is the love that Jesus taught? Where is the understanding of The Father, the gifts of The Spirit, the Mercy of the Lamb? Hope? Faith? Forgiveness? So where do you find the balls to rush to the defense of retired pedophile priests? Perhaps when you and your pedo-priests walk into the afterlife those children will be waiting for you, demanding their innocence back? What is that saying, "before attempting to remove the sliver from your brother's eye, first remove the log in your own?" In your fork-tongued vitriol, your clouded and bitter judgement of the populous which pays your bills, you greatly underestimate the love and forgiveness of God, sir. Have we forgotten what the purpose of the church is? Have you forgotten who it is who needs your counsel and understanding the most? It isn't the faithful, it is those in turmoil and spritiual conflict. They do not seek your counsel to be told that they're being punished by God or that the fetus they aborted after a rape will chide them on the other side. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE A BEACON OF TRUST AND HOPE. But so far you've accomplished the task of being a hovering cuppola of doom. And lower your voice and strengthen your argument. Please cite in your holy book where it says that these things will happen? You absolutely cannot. It also says in the holy book NOT to say something is so if it is not. That would be lying. So you sir, are a liar. A liar in expensive stoles surrounded by gold chalices which should be sold to help the needy as Jesus taught. And you should be the counselor of the poor in spirit as well. So I say with much respect to you -- what the fuck?

All I hear are the hypocritical ramblings of another Pontiff-appointed AntiChrist.

Conservative Belgian archbishop in eye of storm

AP - BRUSSELS, Belgium – He calls AIDS a form of "justice" for homosexuals and wants retired pedophile priests to go unpunished. He says women who have an abortion will be greeted in the afterlife by their unborn child crying "Momma!"

Archbishop Andre Leonard, 70, was plucked from a sleepy Belgian citadel-town by Pope Benedict XVI in January to energize the country's Roman Catholic faithful and reverse 30 years of liberalism. The appointment was in line with Benedict's policy of putting tradition-minded and conservative bishops in important dioceses.

But since taking office, Leonard's hardline views have added turmoil to a church already mired in an abuse scandal. And, privately, some Vatican officials are expressing concern about an ever-worsening public relations disaster.

The controversy turned into a very public revolt last week when his spokesman resigned, saying he could no longer morally defend Leonard.

"I was his GPS for three months. But it is the driver who has his hands on the wheel. Too often, I had to recalculate the route," said Juergen Mettepenningen. He called Leonard a "loose cannon who thinks everybody else is wrong."

Leonard's views — and the way he delivers them so stridently — are riling the Catholic base, but they dovetail with church teachings that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" and that women who abort babies are sinners.

Also, the Vatican admits it has no tolerance for pedophiles, but rarely subjects elderly pedophile priests to full canonical trials, instead telling them to live out their years in prayer and penance.

Bert Claerhout, editor of Church and Life, a Catholic weekly, says he has been receiving "fierce" letters of complaint from readers — and doesn't believe Leonard's views have suddenly come to the attention of the Vatican.

"The pope knew very well what he did when he appointed Leonard. He wanted someone to bring a conservative view to the church here," Claerhout said in an interview.

Two of Belgium's 10 bishops have publicly challenged Leonard. Unusually, Belgian Premier Yves Leterme, a Catholic, also condemned him. Last week, a man ran up to the archbishop during a service at Brussels' main cathedral and shoved a cherry pie in his face.

Leonard last week published a five-page response to his critics, but refused to back off from his view that AIDS is punishment for a promiscuous lifestyle. Writing on his archdiocese's Web site, he drew parallels with people who continue to smoke despite seeing clear health warnings on cigarette packs.

Leonard took charge of the Belgian church just as a long-simmering sexual abuse scandal began to surface.

In April, the then-Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, retired and admitted that for years he had abused a nephew. In June, police raided Leonard's offices looking for clues. There is no suggestion Leonard is involved in a coverup, but his subsequent defense of retired pedophile priests couldn't have come at a more sensitive time.

"If they are no longer priests, have no more (church) responsibilities, I doubt that taking some kind of vengeance ... is a humane solution," he said on Belgian public television in October.

"Do they really want a priest, aged 85, to be put in stocks and publicly humiliated? I think most victims don't want that."

Vatican insiders call Leonard a "very intellectual" theologian. He escaped the attention of most Belgian Catholics when, in the 1990s, he was the bishop of Namur — a city of 100,000 in the country's thinly populated south.

He holds a philosophy degree from the Leuven Catholic University and did theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a Jesuit school. He was also a member of the International Theological Commission, which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — headed as prefect of the Vatican's orthodoxy office.

He took over from Cardinal Godfried Danneels who opposed key Vatican edicts such as a ban on condoms in AIDS prevention. During his tenure, Belgium legalized euthanasia and same-sex marriages — two red-flag issues in Rome — and Danneels didn't actively try to slow down the pace of change.

Vatican officials acknowledge concern about the Belgian situation, but have refrained from comment saying they don't want to inflame an already tense situation.

Gabriel Ringlet, a former deputy dean of the Universite Catholique de Louvain, wants Leonard to resign — a highly unlikely prospect and one that would be unprecedented in Belgium.

Rita Bettens, a churchgoing Catholic, also said Leonard was causing considerable damage. "And this is not a good time for any of that," she said, referring to continuing fallout from the abuse scandal.