Saturday, July 23, 2011

What is wrong with this picture?

From an article under the heading, Priests Defy Vatican on Women's Ordination, NY Times, 7/22/11:
"More than 150 Roman Catholic priests in the United States have signed a statement in support of a fellow cleric who faces dismissal for participating in a ceremony that purported to ordain a woman as a priest, in defiance of church teaching."
The sentence I quoted is the first sentence in the article, the so-called key sentence in journalism.

The sentence tells us that 150 priests are, in effect, defying the Vatican (church teaching, they call it) by supporting someone who participated in a sacrament.  Except the Times didn't phrase it that way.

One has to wonder:  Does the Times now endorse church teaching?  For they call the ceremony one that purported to ordain.

Now what is that all about?

Do they regularly question the validity of other sacraments?   Or other ordinations?  (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.)   Do they report that some religions or religious groups consecrate but others just purport to do so?  (I think not!)

If a lay person blesses patients in a hospital (Yes, I did!), would they report it was just a purported blessing?

Am I making something out of nothing here?   
Or is the Times making nothing out of something?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Laity ID for the RCC

You've heard of Voter ID?  It's a method of suppressing voting, through requiring prospective voters to get a special ID for that sole purpose.  I often think of old ladies in nursing homes.... who may have trouble renewing such an ID.  Let alone getting one in the first place.  Or finding it when it's needed!  But at least, theoretically, it may prevent the dead from voting.

But I digress...

The subject of this post came to me while reading how certain RC bishops are attempting to use disciplinary methods (and threats!), which I found demeaning and unworkable when teaching third and fourth graders.  These bishops belong to a religion, which also claims to be a state*.  They want freedom to practice their religion - and that they have!  They also want a tax-free status when they meddle in politics.  And they want to be free to flee to the foreign state rather than man-up when problems with the law arise.  Even if their very name is, well, Law.

But I digress...

This blog is either a prophecy or a parody.  Only time will tell.  But given that some RC bishops have started threatening (yet again!) to withhold the Eucharist from anyone they deem sinners, it's time to formalize this process.  In terms of some kind of, well, Law.  Some kind of Infallible Law, one would think.  Something with heft and authority.  With clear guidelines.  And teeth to it!

The Roman Catholic Church modeled itself on Roman Civil Law.  And you thought it was modeled on Jesus!  Roman Law was a different type of legal system than US law (which is based on English Law and uses the Common Law approach), where judicial decisions are based not just on legislation but on the precedent of previous authoritative writings and decisions (where two competing sides can battle things out in the Court of Law).  Roman Law, on the other hand, lays everything out.  There's no fudging.  There's no appeal.  It's a top-down process.  RCC (Canon) Law follows this top-down process and adds to it:  The so-called Infallibility Principle.  Where once the Pope says it's Law, it's said to be coming from the mouth of the Almighty.  (Actually, some critics call this "creeping infallibility" - and I'd agree it's pretty creepy!)

Now, to digress just once more...  If the Vatican had followed English Common Law, then likely the sayings of Jesus, for example, would have factored in to any decisions about Canon Law.  You get the idea!  But no...  common sense has no part in this!

So, here's the prophecy or the parody.  Here's where Rome is moving.  It's bound to happen!  Why, the Mormons already have a practice like it:  They call it "Temple Recommend."  It's done yearly.  It proves a Mormon is fit to enter the Mormon Temple and perform certain Mormon rituals there.  It's based on a certificate that proves you're a tithing, law abiding, upstanding, weekly-worshiping, family-centered, coffee and alcohol abstaining Mormon male.

Now, I can't predict what the Vatican would call this.  Canon Law Recommend?  RCC Laity ID?  Roman Catholic Supper Ticket?  Nor can I predict how and where and when the ID would be checked.  Communion Line?  Church Door?  A Card Reader at the Holy Water Font?  Nor how it would be stamped or processed.  Confession Room?  But it's coming!

I have a suspicion it will involve signing a form that basically signs away your freedom of conscience.  Something like agreeing that you will abide by all past, present, and future Infallible Pronouncements.  It attests, on pain of .... oh, dear God...  I hate to think!  Anyway... one has to swear allegiance to all sorts of doctrines (like the doctrine of marriage, the doctrine of sexual inhibitions, the doctrine of ... well, all sorts of doctrines that Common Sense - in the form of Jesus' sayings - never dealt with!). 

Like Voter ID laws which reduce voting, the Canon Law Recommend (Laity ID) would ensure a reduction in Communion Lines.  And other sacraments.   Fewer priests will be needed.  Or maybe it's best to admit that the current reduced number of priests will find it easier to minister to their approved flocks.  They might even know their names!  Possibly they would even know them so well that the ID process could be dispensed with for these known and approved souls (God help them!).  One line for Known Communicants.  Another for aliens, anyone whose presence is suspect!  Who would first have to prove their allegiance - through applying for or showing their ID.

And there you have it!  You heard it first here.


* Quoting myself ( In Betrayal... below):
The pope resides in Vatican City.  It's a tiny area the size of a neighborhood.  With churches, museums, seminaries and residences for those who live and work there.  Whether this neighborhood constitutes a "state" or "quasi state" has never exactly been settled.  And the Vatican seems to operate according to fuzzy logic, shape-shifting according to needs of the Papal Palace at any given point.  Indeed,  one wonders if the Roman Catholic edifice isn't perched precariously upon the same fuzzy logic, the shifting sands of casuistry and dogma and self-protection that it deems an unchanging, infallible rock.  Inside this tiny enclave the Pope is a virtual Dictator or Monarch.  Though the Vatican exchanges ambassadors with most nations, it actually only holds an "observer seat" at the UN.   Nonetheless it claims diplomatic immunity and privileges.  Even asserts mystifying rights, for example the right to secret church tribunals in lieu of open courts, an exalted position above the law, and the right to meddle in the internal affairs of nations, by virtue of its claim to heavenly wisdom and the divine right of popes to expound on that.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Selling the Pope

[Dated, but still good!  An original blog of mine.]

You may have heard that the pope will be visiting Britain [this was the Fall of 2010].  Due to his “head of state” or almost royal status, the British government is laying out millions, perhaps tens of millions, which citizens are now protesting as way too expensive, especially given that 77% of them have no interest in this visit (at best) or are planning to protest (at worst).

Meanwhile the Vatican is trying to explain that charging money for tickets to see the pope say mass is not really “charging” but insisting on “a donation”.   Meanwhile abuse victims are taking full advantage of a new opportunity to get on the publicity bandwagon.

Now, if this were a blog devoted to high flown analysis, I would have put a bunch of links in the first two paragraphs.  But since so many have already written about all the complaints taking place, I’ve turned my attention to possible future solutions to papal visits and how to pay for them.  And I think I’ve come up with a plan which even The Onion might find attractive.

I call it Papal Lay-Away. 

Now you could have called it “Lay Away A Pope” but given the recent sexual scandals in the church, some might get the wrong idea, so I pulled the plug on that one.

Here’s how it works:  It’s like a subscription system.  People who want to see the pope buy a “lay-away” ticket. Over time, could be even years and years, the faithful who yearn to see the pope pay into this system. Next there could be two ways of handling it. Either the pope visits where’s he wanted  (if enough people buy tickets there) or else there is a lottery system, where all deposits are pooled to pay for the pope visiting one country. In another 10 years another lottery. If you’re lucky, or your prayers are answered, you might just get to see the pope! If not this pope, then the next one. Or the next one after that. You could even have a system where people pass on their ticket as a kind of inheritance if they die before they’ve seen a pope!

One final thought. You could give a subscription as a gift. It might even become like the proverbial fruitcake that is given over and over…

Update:  "Selling the Pope" is just another example of what I've written about here.  Amazing, isn't it, how closely the hierarchy seems to follow the hypocrisy of worldly folk?  

“inadequate fingerprints”

 [Reposted from an original blog of mine elsewhere, updated a bit from last Fall.]

This is a true story.  The names are changed to protect the innocent.  It’s a story about Homeland Security:  Your taxes at work to protect you from a 71 year old person who spends time working on a 14th century manuscript – which is poetry.

The said individual, let us call him IF (for “inadequate fingerprints”), has been in the US for nearly 44 peaceful years.  However, due to allegiance to this person’s own nation, IF has never taken the trouble to go through the US citizenship process – thus has no little US flag.  Nor big one either.

Homeland Security is in the Federal Building.  Downtown.  To reach there you must have an appointment.  These are sent by mail.  You are given a time and only unless you have a medical problem can you change the date and time.  Even if you have a medical problem, their phone system makes it nearly impossible to reach them or arrange anything whatsoever.

IF has a medical problem.  Just going through security would help them see that.  They know that already.  For this is the second time IF has been summoned for “biometric” processing.

You might not know this, but Green Cards used to last forever.  No longer! IF found this out the first time when arriving back in the US after a family visit in a foreign land (which is not named to protect the innocent).  Upon arrival and the showing of the Green Card, which had always been sufficient until that moment, IF was told:  “This card has expired.”

But wait… Right there and then a new one was processed.  For free!  Right there in an Airport not to be named.  You know why.

So now Green Cards have an expiration date.  Less than 10 years apparently.  Now here’s the interesting thing.  There is apparently no law that says they must be updated.  It’s only if you leave the country that anyone would notice – apparently.

In any case, even though IF has a medical problem (which possibly might be helped by surgery, but which makes it very difficult to travel, let alone visit Homeland Security), still the determination had been made to apply for the new card “just in case”.   (The medical condition is not life threatening, but merely life-disruptive.)

The medical condition necessitates a lot of washing.  IF thinks of them as “ablutions” – perhaps it’s a way of distracting self from the reasons… which involve very private parts of the body.  And hands of course.

Now hands have fingers.  And fingers have finger prints.  They also have arthritis.

Now on the appointed date, at the appointed hour, IF appeared for the appointed “biometrics”.  One would hope that Homeland Security, which makes use of the most modern methods, would have machines to capture the pattern of an iris.  Or perhaps would take a swab of DNA. But no… fingerprints were wanted.

The modern fingerprint is made on a glass plate connected to a computer.  This writer personally has no idea if ink is involved at all anymore.  That’s because only the person with the letter ordering one to appear for an appointment can even enter Homeland Security.

A little detour to describe Homeland Security.  Many people work there.  Few people are called to show up.  The last time IF was there (ah, yes…”last time” – you can see where this is going…) there was only one other person with an appointment.  There were 3 security guards.  Guarding.  And a bevy of … well… I guess they’re bureaucrats.  Officials.  Maybe like in some Kafka novel.  Naturally the guards do a careful security check.

So there was IF.  Willing to give finger prints.  With hands that were swollen from so much washing….  The lady tried and tried!  Indeed, IF’s “significant other” (someone you would never suspect) wondered where IF was… since it had been hours and hours and no IF was returning from the Federal Building.  What had occurred in the Homeland Security interview?  Had they suspected IF’s involvement in the long ago protesting of a dictatorship in a foreign land?  Indeed, IF had been careful when the Patriot Act was passed, nervous that his significant other had chosen to protest this and that. (Living in a dictatorship had had its effect.)

Well, long story short… the female Homeland Security Official pushed so hard on the fingers for the fingerprints, that poor IF had to plead for her “not to push so hard” due to “I have arthritis in these fingers”.  To no avail…

Finally, after seeking assistance from a supervisor, the official was given leave to accept the “finger prints” and allow IF to go home with the swollen, painful fingers, following the stern warning that if there was any need after the application was processed further, the FBI would contact IF.  Hmmm…

This is the kind of individual your taxes are protecting you from!

Now comes the letter… NO, not from the FBI.  (not yet…)  Homeland Security had determined that the fingerprints were “inadequate” and new ones must be taken.  This time they would not be taken in the afternoon, a good time to find parking (perhaps) near the Federal Building.  But at 8 am.  Together with the warning that the time could not be changed “unless there is a medical reason” – came the stern warning:  If you do not show up for this appointment, your case will be closed.

Case would be closed… What would that mean? 

Mind you, a poor person could not apply for a new Green Card in this day and age.  It costs no less than $370!!!  [Update... $450 now!]  Oh, yes…  Poverty and Green Card do not mix!

So, now what?  One would hope that if the fingerprints are inadequate, Homeland Security would consider that perhaps the methods or the means or the goal of fingerprints is inadequate.  And some other “biometrics” might be considered.  But apparently, in this day and age, when guards are paid to guard and officials to officiate, well…. the procedures must be followed!

Update:  It took six months before the new card arrived.  By that time:  Miraculous surgery and painful recovery had significantly helped IF's aforesaid medical problems.  Case closed!

Movie hits generational nerve

[From an original blog of mine elsewhere, edited a bit, and updated]

I read reviews for restaurants I will never eat in, ballets I will never attend, movies I will never see.  You could wonder about the meaning of that.  So could I – being a shrink and all.  But that’s not the subject of this post.

I was reading this movie review.  For a movie I’m sure I’ll never see.  Well, ok, “never say never” and all that, but trust me, I see very few.  I might go and see that new one by Julie Taymore with Helen Mirren.  Because I admire both women.  But I digress.

I love the freedom of digressing in a blog…

Ok, back to the review.  Something tells me this movie has hit upon a huge fissure in our society.  Generational.  Ethical.  Here’s the quote from the review that piques my interest:

Many older people will watch the movie, which was No. 1 at the box office last weekend, and see a cautionary tale about a callous young man who betrays friends, partners and principles as he hacks his way to lucre and fame. But many in the generation who grew up in a world that Mr. Zuckerberg helped invent will applaud someone who saw his chance and seized it with both hands, mostly by placing them on the keyboard and coding something that no one else had.
Yup.  I’ll never see the movie but I am an “older people” and I totally identify with the description.  Made me wonder about Josh Marshall (closing the Cafe, ejecting the populace, to enhance his brand?)… I hate to say that, but it did.  Especially this part:
“When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films,” said Scott Rudin, one of the producers. “The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.”
I know there’s not a huge overlap here.  But I think this speaks to a huge ethical gap in how some of us view integrity as a very high principle versus others (yes, I can see myself distancing from “them”) view success and fame and money as the objective and betraying people or principles as simply an unfortunate byproduct or worse,  simply inconsequential.

I have no solution.  It’s painful to be older and look at young people and see this happening.  I wonder if the financial downturn will change things at all or maybe make them worse (worse by my definition of course).

It’s amazing sometimes how you can stay at home and just read the reviews.  And there it all is – whether you experienced it personally or not.  But even so, you’re affected by it.  Well, at least I am:  Someone concerned about principles and people.  Someone never motivated much by fame or money or status or power.  Yes, I’m in the group that’s deeply bothered here.   And I’m guessing maybe Josh Marshall, perhaps even unbeknownst to himself, is in this other group.

Update: Here's Paul Krugman a day later.  Different topic but same problem:
Arguably, this shouldn’t be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.
Money talks.  And we've shifted the money to those willing to buy people!  People for sale.  Public offices for sale.  You name it.  Sold to to the highest bidder!

Only if enough people are willing to do what's right - for low pay - can we dig ourselves out of this hole!   Doctors.  Lawyers.  Professors.  IT people.  Electricians.  You name it!

Further Update:  Ok, just this morning I learn that in China teachers are taking bribes for front seats in classrooms.  Apparently failure to pay a bribe puts you in the back seats...

Critique:  So part of it is generational.  But mostly it's human nature.  Greed is the key!  (And whether your ethics gets in the way of your greed.)

Updated critique:  Right now I'm reading Homer's Iliad and I'm struck by the "lust" for war and women that drives the action, the resentment and rage that fuels feuds, irrational behavior.  I wish I had an answer... But all I've got are questions.  

Thursday, June 30, 2011

No Joke

Powerless as I am, I'm humbled to be "among the most powerful."

Enough said.                                   

Nonsense: The Meaning of Life in Three Acts

[From an original blog of mine at TPM Cafe on 5.6.09]

[Dedicated to dd:  King of the Roundish CafĂ© Table, He who posed the Question, and  to seashell, She of the Miraculous Computer and the Answer to Life]

Act III - The Meaning Explained

From seashell I got The Key, the answer that explains my life:

No, TheraP. You are a Democrat and don't use closets. Try looking under the bed for whatever it is you are looking for.

(Well, that was it!  The Answer I'd been looking for.   Even though our bed has drawers under it and no room for shoes there....)


Act II - The Existential Crisis

The Question that has haunted my life for over half a century:
Where are my shoes?  

A life of searching, of questioning....

Act I - As I now understand it

Setting:  A house in New Jersey, during the McCarthy Era 
            Mine was a Republican Childhood
    Downstairs - two finished bedrooms (with closets)
•    One for my Republican parents
•    Another for my little sister  (now a repub
Upstairs - in the Unfinished Attic
My brother and I were slowly turning into Dems

There were no closets!