Friday, November 2, 2012

A Senator and a Bishop; Another Sex Scandal; and Religious Freedom

There's more to my faith than this, but it's important:
  • Religious freedom is vital
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)
    • For everybody
      (Catechism, 2106)
This isn't the sort of "freedom" that means "free to agree with me."

It's the freedom to act as if God matters - or not. I think deciding that God's real, and matters, is prudent. But as a Catholic I wouldn't be allowed to 'make' you believe that: even if I could.

Freedom isn't always popular. Government leaders sometimes find it annoying. Particularly when someone starts talking about ethics and voting. That's the first news item I discuss this week.
  1. Conscience and a Senator
  2. Another Sex Scandal
  3. Chicago Declaration: Religious Freedom; for Everyone
Like I said, there's more to my faith than supporting religious freedom. The most important rules are:
There's more - there always seems to be more - like:
  • People
    • Aren't all alike
    • Have equal dignity
    • Must not be treated unjustly
    (Catechism, 1934-1938)
  • Faith
    • Is important
      (Catechism, 1814-1816)
    • Without works is dead
      (Catechism, 1815)
    • Must be
      • Kept
      • Acknowledged
      • Lived
      • Professed
      • Spread
      (Catechism, 1816)
Here's a sampling of what it's like, living in a society where leaders don't like 'old fashioned' ideas like people having equal dignity, or faith being important.

1. Conscience and a Senator

"North Dakota bishop stands by pastoral letter on election"
Carl Bunderson, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 31, 2012)

"Bishop David D. Kagan of Bismarck defended his letter on the election which was read this weekend at parishes in North Dakota, against demands by a state senator that it be withdrawn or changed.

"Bishop David D. Kagan of Bismarck defended his letter on the election which was read this weekend at parishes in North Dakota, against demands by a state senator that it be withdrawn or changed....
(Carl Bunderson, CNA)
I doubt that the state senator would be upset if Bishop Kagan had been the sort of nice, inoffensive, preacher who spreads sweetness, light, and vaguely 'spiritual' soundbite.

From the point of view of folks who like the status quo, Catholic Bishops in America have been downright uppity lately. From my point of view, I'm delighted that Catholic leaders are acting like leaders who are Catholic.

Before getting back to Bishop Kagan and an upset senator, a point or two about the Catholic Church and acting as if God matters.

Ethics and the Establishment

American law won't let priests tell us who to vote for.

But it's legal for us to be told why we should vote for or against issues, and how we should make decisions about voting. Given the alternatively-ethical standards of today's establishment, this situation could change.

Folks who like the status quo trying to 'protect' America from people who want something better is nothing new, and that's another topic:

Vote Smart: Resources

Catholic bishops in America have published quite a few resources for folks who give a rip about elections and voting, including these:
Basically: ethics matter; a candidate's appearance doesn't; and 'my family always voted for this party' is a lousy way to choose.

"A Properly Formed Conscience"

" 'It's with a properly formed conscience, which we regularly nourish with prayer, the sacraments, and continued study, that we can...set a good example, which ultimately isn't about you or me,' Bishop Kagan told CNA Oct. 30.

"The example we set, he emphasized, presents Christ to other people...."
I think Bishop Kagan could have stayed out of trouble if he'd mentioned "a properly formed conscience," and left it at that. A strong indication that he's not going to affirm the 'do whatever you feel like doing' standard of today's American culture is the phrase "...which ultimately isn't about you or me...."

"Seek ... What is True and Good"

"...Bishop Kagan issued the letter asking parishioners 'to vote as a Catholic citizen with a properly formed Catholic conscience.'

"Bishop Kagan wrote that the teachings of the Church are 'the means for us to properly form our consciences so that we seek always what is true and good.'..."
(Carl Bunderson, CNA)
"That which is true and good" might not seem particularly threatening. The trouble, as I see it, started because Bishop Kagan got specific about what's true and good: and what's not.
"He [Bishop Kagan] went on to say that intrinsically evil actions, such as abortion and euthanasia, 'must always be rejected and opposed,' and that issues that do not directly affect the life and dignity of people are secondary to these.

"Though Bishop Kagan 'will not tell you how to vote,' he wrote that 'I ask you to vote for the candidates who represent you as Catholic citizens. Please do not vote for the candidate who is most likeable.'...
(Carl Bunderson, CNA)

North Dakota Senator Instructs Catholic Bishop on Church Teaching

"Responding to an advance copy of the letter, however, state senator Tim Mathern asserted in an Oct. 23 statement that the obligation to 'follow your conscience' is in conflict with the obligation of Catholics to form their conscience according to Church teaching, and that Bishop Kagan's teaching 'short circuits conscience formation.'..."
(Carl Bunderson, CNA)
I'm inclined to think that a Catholic Bishop might know more about theology and Catholic teaching than a state Senator.

Happily, state senators don't currently have the authority to silence a bishop. I hope that continues to be the case.

I also intend to vote next week.

If enough Americans have been paying attention, we may be able to keep our freedom to act as if God matters.

If not, the establishment will win: and the American government will keep trying to make people of faith shut up and follow orders.

2. Another Sex Scandal

First of all: Yes, I know about the pedophile priests. Now, about sex, the BBC, and the Vatican.
"Vatican condemns sex abuse in wake of Jimmy Savile revelations"
CNA/EWTN News (October 30, 2012)

" The Vatican has reiterated condemnation of sexual abuse following allegations against deceased British TV star Jimmy Savile, who during his life was given a papal knighthood for his charity work...."
Jimmy Savile isn't a Catholic priest, but he did get a papal knighthood.

I'm not shocked and horrified that the Vatican rewarded someone for doing good work: and that this person later turned out to have done something bad.

For two thousand years, the Catholic Church has been run by human beings. We're finite creatures. We don't know everything: that includes priests, bishops, and the Pope. "Papal infallibility" doesn't mean that the Pope knows everything, and that's yet another topic.

Which reminds me: We all deal with original sin, some better than others; some worse. "Original sin" isn't the idea that God botched the creation of humanity, and that's still another topic or two. (July 25, 2012, July 11, 2012, November 27, 2011)

"Heinous Crimes of Sexual Abuse of Children"

"...'The Holy See condemns in the strongest terms the heinous crimes of sexual abuse of children, takes very seriously what has come to light about Jimmy Savile,' said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Oct. 27.

" 'It is deeply saddened that a person who is stained in this way could in his lifetime be proposed for an honor by the Holy See, which, in the light of what has been learned recently, certainly should not have been given.'..."
(CNA/EWTN News )
Despite the impression many Americans have, the Catholic Church says that:
  • Sexuality is
    • Good
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2331-2336)
    • Very important
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2332)
  • Rape is
    • Bad
      • We shouldn't do it
    • Very bad when done by someone in a position of trust
    (Catechism, 2356)
Again, I know about the recurring pedophile priest story.

What some priest did was bad. The occasional attempts to cover up their misdeeds was bad: and very stupid. People who had nothing to do with this evil are paying the consequences, and I've been over this before. Often:
Should someone who sexually abused minors have been given rewards for charity work? Probably not. But I seriously doubt that Pope Bl. John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II of England got together and said, "we know this guy's a villain, so we'll reward him."

Apparently not even the BBC knew about Savile's extracurricular interests. Not officially, anyway.

Jimmy Who?

Maybe Jimmy Savile was as high-profile as the Beatles on this side of the Atlantic. Then again, maybe not. Either way, Sir James Wilson Vincent "Jimmy" Savile, OBE, KCSG seems to have had zipper issues:
"...Savile died October 2011 and was a popular media personality in Britain starting in the 1960s. However, some 300 cases of sexual abuse of minors, both male and female, have come to light since his death....

"...Following the sex-abuse allegations, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, wrote the Vatican asking if it were possible to revoke Savile's papal knighthood...."
(October 30, 2012)
The Vatican hasn't removed him from the register of folks who have gotten papal knighthoods - because there is no such register. Folks who get that sort of reward don't even show up in the yearbook:
"Fr. Lombardi said in his statement that the honor 'perishes with the death of the individual,' and so there is no process for removing the knighthood posthumously.

" 'Since there is no permanent register of persons who have received such recognition, it is not possible to expel a dead person from a register that does not exist. Decorated names do not appear at any time in the pontifical yearbook.'..."
(CNA/EWTN News )

"What is Most Important..."

"...'What is most important is therefore to reiterate the strongest condemnation of all sexual abuse, particularly against children, as serious crimes. On this the Holy See is steadfast.'

"The BBC, for whom Savile worked as a TV and radio presenter, is under review for its child protection and sexual harassment policies....

"...The BBC is also being scrutinized for its shelving of a 2011 report on claims against Savile which was being prepared for the TV program Newsnight."
(CNA/EWTN News )
Maybe the BBC just happened to not notice a few hundred illicit sexual encounters by one of their top performers: and also just happened to keep a report on the shenanigans from being aired. Or maybe someone in the BBC knew, and didn't want to embarrass Jimmy Savile.

Do I think that the BBC is run by pedophiles who routinely and systematically rape minors? No: Jimmy Savile's case may be an isolated one.

Or maybe BBC executives didn't see anything wrong with one of their top attractions having a little 'fun' on the side. I really don't know.

Fixing the Problem, Getting a Grip

I'm upset that some priests used the respect and authority that comes with their position to permanently injure the psyches of some children and young people. If anything, I'm more upset about their immediate superiors who apparently knew what was happening, and ignored the situation.

This was wrong.

It was not right.

It should not have happened.

But it did, and now the Church is paying (literally) reparations: and fixing the problem. If that's not what you read in the papers, I'm not surprised.

I'm not quite so surprised that the Vatican took so long to start sorting out these cases.

For one thing, the Vatican's staff isn't enormous. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is the office that handles abuse cases, among other duties. There are about 45 people of the CDF staff. That's one CDF staffer for every 22,222,222 Catholics.

For another, lurid tales about the Satanic Catholic Church have been part of American culture for centuries. Maria Monk's perennial bestseller was set in Canada, but it's still being reprinted for the U.S.A. market. I'm not surprised that real complaints of sexually aggressive priests didn't stand out from the background noise:

3. Chicago Declaration: Religious Freedom; for Everyone

"Chicago Declaration gathers support for religious freedom"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 24, 2012)

"A new declaration signed by business and cultural leaders in Chicago voiced support for the U.S. Constitution's religious freedom protections and emphasized the importance of education and engagement on this fundamental right in the face of current threats.

" 'In recognizing the unique and indispensable role of religion in our society and in the development of people, we affirm the positive good that religion plays in resisting vice and degradation, and in building virtue and a more noble humanity,' the signatories of The Chicago Declaration stated.

"Noting that religious freedom is 'the indispensable means of ensuring the hopeful vitality of our people and Constitutional Republic,' they warned that 'to lose it is to lose the heart of the nation and the Republic itself.'...
What I hope does not get ignored in other reports about the Chicago Declaration is that "various religious and political backgrounds discussed current threats to religious freedom and signed the declaration to affirm their support for the Constitution." (Michelle Bauman, CNA)

These are not religious crazies who want everybody to agree with them or be punished. They're folks who think that Americans should be free to act as if God matters: or as if there is no God. The key word here is "free."

I'm convinced that God exists. But I'm also a practicing Catholic: and as I've said before, that means that I must support religious freedom. For everybody.

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