CAT | politics
Cross-posted on Ricochet:
Over at the Guardian Jonathan Freedland exults in a new pope he believes is the “obvious new hero of the left” arguing that “even atheists should be praying” for him, a statement that can be read (on one interpretation) as assuming that atheists are on the left, something that isn’t necessarily so (trust me on this).
There is the usual discussion of where the pope may stand on sexual morality (I’d guess a—so to speak— compassionate conservative with a little medieval thrown in to spice things up), but I found this more interesting:
It seems [Francis] wants to do more than simply stroke the brow of the weak. He is taking on the system that has made them weak and keeps them that way.
“My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost,” he tweeted in May. A day earlier he denounced as “slave labour” the conditions endured by Bangladeshi workers killed in a building collapse. In September he said that God wanted men and women to be at the heart of the world and yet we live in a global economic order that worships “an idol called money”….
…[H]e also seems set to lead a church campaign on the environment. He was photographed this week with anti-fracking activists, while his biographer, Paul Vallely, has revealed that the pope has made contact with Leonardo Boff, an eco-theologian previously shunned by Rome and sentenced to “obsequious silence” by the office formerly known as the “Inquisition”. An encyclical on care for the planet is said to be on the way.
Boff? Never heard of him. Perhaps that obsequious silence was just too deep.
A back issue of National Catholic Reporter Online fills the gap:
One of Pope Francis’ most vocal supporters since his election three days ago has been Leonardo Boff, one of the founders of liberation theology….
And no, that’s not reassuring.
FWIW, I don’t think that Francis has signed up for liberation theology. When it comes to economics, at least, his thinking appears to be a muddle of Rerum Novarum and Juan Peron.
And no, that’s not particularly reassuring either.
The fact that the current clutch of campaigners for ‘religious freedom’ (brought together by their opposition to Obamacare’s contraception mandate) has adopted Thomas More, a less than admirable proto-Dzerzhinsky, as a symbol of freedom of conscience, a principle for which More showed not the slightest sympathy, should tell you all you know about their protest. It is based, not on the idea of religious freedom, but of religious privilege, an idea that is not only unlikable in its own right, but also (in an increasingly multicultural nation) can only help reinforce the drift to the Balkanization that is a very real menace to a shared American future.
Writing in the (leftish) National Catholic Reporter, David DeCosse takes a critical look at what the Cardinal Dolan crowd is now arguing:
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia articulated the problematic logic behind the bishops’ religious liberty campaign. “The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom,” he said in his 2012 homily at a “Fortnight of Freedom” Mass organized in support of the campaign. “Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”
Here we can see a subtle but significant shift from the logic of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. In the conciliar document, the respect for human dignity that is the basis of the right is an end in itself. The right so understood belongs to all people — Catholic, lapsed Catholic, Muslim, Jew, atheist and more. But, in Chaput’s homily, the right is not an end in itself; he says so explicitly. Instead, the right is instrumental: Its real value lies not so much in the freedom to believe but in the “deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.”
Here Chaput has introduced a tiered, imbalanced justification of religious liberty in civil society. The devoutly religious are more entitled to it than anyone else.
Quite: It’s about privilege, not freedom.
Include me in the ranks of those who are skeptical about what the US is trying to do in Syria. This particular analysis, however, forms no part of my thinking:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) over the weekend accused President Obama of arming al Qaeda militants in Syria and said it was evidence “we’re in God’s end times.”
“This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists,” Bachmann said in a radio interview with Understanding the Times that was first reported by Right Wing Watch. “Now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history.”
“Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice,” she continued. “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, his day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; these days would be as the days of Noah.”
Kathryn, I was interested to read this passage from that new interview with the Pope:
Personally I think so-called unrestrained liberalism only makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker and excludes the most excluded. We need great freedom, no discrimination, no demagoguery and a lot of love. We need rules of conduct and also, if necessary, direct intervention from the state to correct the more intolerable inequalities.
Reading the first sentence, I (perhaps mistakenly) was left with the clear impression that the Pope believes that he has seen “unrestrained [economic] liberalism” at work. I am curious to know where.
Looking at the Pope’s second sentence, fair enough, but when it comes to the avoidance of demagoguery, I wonder how, on reflection, the Pope would classify certain sections of the speech he made on a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, sections analyzed by Theodore Dalrymple in an analysis (previously posted on the Corner here), of which this is a key extract:
In his homily, the Pope decried what he called ‘the globalization of indifference’ to the suffering of which the tragedy of the drowned was a manifestation and a consequence. Our culture of comfort, he said, has made us indifferent to the sufferings of others; we have forgotten how to cry on their behalf. He made reference to the play of Lope de Vega in which a tyrant is killed by the inhabitants of a town called Fuente Ovejuna, no one owning up to the killing and everyone saying that it was Fuente Ovejuna that killed him. The West, said the Pope, was like Fuente Ovejuna, for when asked who was to blame for the deaths of these migrants, it answered, ‘Everyone and no one!’ He continued, ‘Today also this question emerges: who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We each reply: it was not I, I wasn’t here, it was someone else.’
The Pope also called for ‘those who take the socio-economic decisions in anonymity that open the way to tragedies such as these to come out of hiding.’
With all due respect, I think this is very loose thinking indeed of a kind that the last Pope would not have permitted himself. The analogy between the two situations, the murder of the tyrant in Fuente Ovejuna and the death by drowning of thousands of migrants, is weak to the point of non-existence. After all, someone in Fuente Ovejuna did kill the tyrant; no one in the west drowned the migrants. Is the Pope then saying that Europe’s refusal to allow in all who want to come is the moral equivalent of actually wielding the knife?
…The Pope’s use of a term such as ‘those who take the socio-economic decisions in anonymity’ was strong on connotation but weak on denotation, itself a sign of intellectual evasion. Who, exactly, were ‘those’ people? Wall Street hedge fund managers, the International Monetary Fund, opponents of free trade, African dictators? Was he saying that the whole world economic system was to blame for the migration across the Mediterranean, that the existence of borders was illegitimate, that Denmark (for example) was rich because Swaziland was poor, that if only Losotho were brought up to the level of Liechtenstein (or, of course, if Liechtenstein were brought down to the level of Lesotho) no one would drown in the Mediterranean? There was something for everyone’s conspiracy theory in his words…
Then we turn to the Pope’s final sentence. Its contents were perfectly reasonable in one sense. Few would deny that the marketplace needs rules of conduct. The real question is what those rules should be. And so it is with the Pope’s observation that it is at times “necessary” for the state to “correct the more intolerable inequalities”. Yes, sure, but the real question is when, and how.
And when it comes to answering those questions, I somehow doubt that this pope is on the side, metaphorically (if not theologically), of the angels.
Washington (CNN) – House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.
A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.
The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.
With this move, House Republican leaders would give any employer or group health plan the ability to opt out of contraception coverage for the next year. That time frame syncs up with the larger measure in which this is included: a one-year delay of Obamacare provisions not yet in effect.
“This is a big deal for the congressman,” Huelskamp’s spokesman, Paul Nelson, told CNN. “He has been pushing for (the conscience clause) since he entered Congress.”
Democrats say the measure is unnecessary because the administration has granted exemptions to contraceptive coverage to religious nonprofit institutions. But advocates, such as Huelskamp, insist that all institutions should be able to opt out of any preventative coverage for women that they find objectionable.
The addition of the “conscience clause” ties a heated social issue to the already sharp shutdown debate.
The Economist takes a look at what America’s Roman Catholic church has been saying about immigration:
In America Roman Catholic ears are ringing from sermons supporting immigration reform. On September 8th, just before politicians returned to Congress after their summer break, several Catholic bishops spoke in favour of a bill passed by the Senate in June. The legislation would provide a bridge to citizenship for the 11m people currently residing in America without legal authorisation to do so (and also proposes $46 billion for border security measures). It followed on from vigils in August in support of reform of immigration policies (pictured). Prospects for the passage of any sort of immigration reform in the current legislative session are fading quickly, while the chances of the Senate bill passing the House of Representatives are currently low. But the Roman Catholic church is increasing pressure from the pulpit. Why is the church interested in changing immigration policies?
Well, some of it is ideological, of course, a religio-philosophical stance not too dissimilar from that which we heard the other day from the Pope in Lampedusa, and which was so rightly criticized by Theodore Dalrymple for its intellectually lazy “moral exhibitionism”.
But is there, wonders The Economist, something else:
Currently only 22% of Americans are Catholic (although almost a third of those in Congress are Catholic, making up the largest religious group). One possible reason why the Catholic church is keen to cultivate Hispanic migrants could be that, if some of the immigrants are more socially conservative, their voices could become louder on topics such as contraception and abortion, over which the church has clashed with the Obama administration. Welcoming more Hispanics into the country would also swell congregations, extending the church’s influence from pulpits to polling stations.
That could indeed be part of it, but I suspect that The Economist is defining the issue too narrowly (when it comes to social conservatism, the opinions of Latino immigrants may be less straightforward than the magazine imagines). Better, perhaps, to see this simply as a reflection of an old truth.
Numbers mean clout.
Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake.
Depending on how you interpret that statement, it is either simply untrue or it has achieved an emptiness so great that the Dalai Lama must only look on in wonder.
The leftist Catholic News Service reports:
Members of Congress may be out of town and immigration reform legislation may be stuck until at least this fall, but the summer recess has been time for Catholic activists to rally their forces and pressure elected representatives.
During the first weekend after Labor Day in some dioceses, priests have been asked to preach, celebrate special Masses or hold other events to educate about the church’s position on comprehensive immigration reform. Catholic colleges and universities are being asked to do the same the last weekend in September.
In addition, a conference hosted by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, was scheduled just outside of Washington for late September. It will focus on the next step, offering help in planning for the process of mass legalization, a component of the Senate-passed immigration reform bill.
The Nuns on the Bus tour revved up again in May and June, taking religious women on a 6,500-mile trip through 15 states. Over the course of 53 events in 40 cities, stretching from the Northeast across the South and to California, the sisters and others who joined them along the way talked about the need for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Gatherings of as many as several hundred people were held in church halls, congressional offices, social service agencies and at a Mexican border crossing.
In a more localized pilgrimage for immigration reform, Sacramento, Calif., Bishop Jaime Soto on Aug. 12 blessed 11 pilgrims who were walking the 285 miles from Sacramento to Bakersfield, holding events along the way to talk about immigration. The 21-day Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship, planned by PICO National Network, a faith-based community organizing group, started at Sacramento’s National Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe and has been making its way from one (mostly Catholic) church to another across central California’s agricultural valleys.
After talking to the public and trying to meet with members of Congress as they travel, the pilgrims planned to end their trek Monday at a rally that organizers expect will draw up to 5,000 people.
On the other side of the country, the Washington-based organization Faith in Public Life has spent the summer building coalitions at Catholic colleges and universities to work for immigration reform through letters, postcards and texts to members of Congress.
In July, more than 100 presidents of Catholic higher education institutions, joined by dozens more faculty members, wrote to Catholic members of Congress about the church’s teaching on migration in an effort organized by Faith in Public Life in collaboration with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities….
The Financial Times reports:
[Venezuelan president Maduras] campaigned on the basis that his predecessor spoke to him in the form of a little bird. Last week, he admitted that he regularly sleeps in the mausoleum where the comandante’s remains are kept for inspiration.
He is not alone in making that pilgrimage. Mariana Alcalá recently travelled from the western city of Barquisimeto to Caracas to lay flowers at a shrine set up by devotees near the military barracks where the former president’s remains are kept in a sarcophagus surrounded by the presidential guard of honour.
“Our giant has left us in person, but he will always be with us in spirit. I think that the majority [of chavistas] believe, have faith, that one way or another he is helping us, not only socially but also spiritually,” says Ms Alcalá. “We ask him for help, and he helps us, he illuminates us.”
The “Saint Hugo Chávez” shrine in the 23 de Enero slum in central Caracas is one of many that have sprung up around the country since the socialist leader, who described himself as a Christian, died in March. In poor areas like the 23 de Enero, one of Chávez’s strongholds where he was revered in life, his image hangs next to those of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Pope Francis I.
“This is a product of the empathy he developed with the majority of the unassisted, unprotected, forgotten population of Venezuela. When he took power they felt that some sort of father had arrived, a saviour, a protector, an Almighty,” says Lizbety González, a Venezuelan expert on cults. “His death generated a deep pain and that vacuum was filled by a cult, a cult that is evident all over Venezuela now.”
Some even believe the former president could be more powerful dead than alive. “Chávez is a god, a messiah, a warrior of light,” says Humberto López, who likes to dress as the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara.
Over at the Guardian, Nick Cohen highlights an intriguing detail in Pope Francis’s “who am I to judge” remark about homosexuals:
Journalists wanted to know whether a “gay lobby” in the Vatican had covered up Ricca’s alleged sins. “If a gay person is in eager search of God, who am I to judge them?” the pope replied. “The Catholic church teaches that gay people should not be discriminated against.”
This sounds a start: a small start, a long overdue start, but a start nevertheless. But consider the sequel. “Being gay is not the problem,” the pope continued, “lobbying is the problem and this goes for any type of lobby… political lobbies, masonic lobbies, all lobbies.” (“Lobby dei politici, lobby dei massoni, tante lobby.”)
And with that casual phrase, the pope signalled his fealty to the deep strain of reaction in European history and hardly anyone noticed. Few Anglo-Saxon readers understand that prejudice against freemasons is the founding conspiracy theory of the far right. It saw the machinations of a society that began among harmless Scottish craftsmen in the 15th century as responsible for liberalism, the enlightenment, the rights of man… everything it hated.
In the 1790s, an abbé named Augustin Barruel, an alarming combination of Dan Brown and David Icke, looked at the American and French revolutions and concluded that the masses could have overthrown divinely ordained monarchs and the holy mother church only if they were the dupes of an international conspiracy of freemasons.
The masons were not middle-aged men in fancy dress, but the descendants of the Knights Templar, who went underground in the Middle Ages and swore to avenge themselves on the church and monarchy that had persecuted them.
It sounded mad. Indeed it was mad. But a conspiracy theory that says that human rights are a sham behind which a sinister secret society manipulates the world was too useful to waste. Successive popes issued bulls against it. Pius IX included freemasonry along with socialism, liberalism and freedom of conscience as evils the faithful must fight in his Syllabus of Errors of 1864.
The antisemites and fascists of the early 20th century added that the masons were in league with the Jews. Franco and Mussolini persecuted them. The Nazis made freemasons wear red triangles and murdered them by the thousand.
Do not think these foul ideas are dead. Radical Islam echoes the European far-right’s ravings. (The Hamas charter says the freemasons are in an alliance with the Jews and – brace yourselves – the Rotary Club and the Lions as well.) Like Hamas, Luigi Negri, a Catholic bishop, believes that freemasons were responsible for the French revolution and the Russian revolution, too. Last week, the Catholic Herald took its cue from the pope’s condemnation of the “masonic lobby” to raise the “truly frightening thought” that masons had infiltrated the Vatican and were subverting the Holy See from within. These devils in aprons are everywhere.
Bergoglio, in short, was digging in over-manured soil….
Reading too much into a handful of words? Maybe, maybe…