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Posts from the ‘Politics’ Category

Pope Francis: a skilled abuser of rhetoric

More on Pope Francis:

Of the three Popes that I’ve lived through so far, Pope Francis is, I’d argue, by far the worst of the bunch (yes, I think that he’s even worse than Benedict, and that’s saying something).

Here’s the thing: if someone is a malicious ideologue, I much prefer that they be open about their maliciousness and their unwavering commitment to a rigid and regressive ideology. Francis doesn’t do that, though. He couches his callousness in pseudo-tolerant and pseudo-progressive rhetoric and hides his dangerous attitudes and beliefs behind a facade of avuncular populist everyman friendliness. And people (not just Catholics) are eating it up, buying into it, proclaiming that Francis is A Different Kind of Pope, one who will change the Church, modernize the Church, make the Church into a progressive entity (needless to say (I hope), none of these proclamations hold up under even the mildest of scrutiny).

If you buy into Pope Francis’s pseudo-tolerant & pseudo-progressive rhetoric, you’re gullible (it happens. It’s a very human trait and a trap we all fall into from time to time, no matter how smart and/or skeptical we are), wilfully ignorant (a form of maliciousness that I have no sympathy for (see the ‘willful’ part)), or committed to the same rigid and backwards ideology that Francis is.

Francis is manipulative. He’s a skilled abuser of rhetoric who knows how to say the “right” things at the “right” time. He’s good PR for the Church. Unlike his immediate predecessors, he’s neither an intellectual nor extremely intelligent. But he’s sly like a fox. He’s a gift to the Church, a perfect Pope for the Catholic Church of 2013.

Two examples of what I’m talking about:

One:

The pseudo-progressive rhetoric: Francis claims to be a friend to the poor. People believe this (partly because much of the mainstream media disseminates this claim without question). They fawn over him, declare him to be A Different Kind of Pope who is ushering in A New Kind of Church.

The reality: Francis’s previously-stated opinions on and actions taken against contraceptive use and access to abortion cancel out his proclaimed desire to remedy poverty and economic inequality (providing easy access to contraception is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce poverty). He has a history of actively opposing the free distribution of contraceptives and he opposes a woman’s right to an abortion, even in cases of rape.

Two:

The pseudo-tolerant rhetoric: Francis claims that he doesn’t judge gay individuals who “accept the Lord and have good will“. The news media is currently eating this up. People are swooning over it.

The reality: Francis’s previously-stated opinions on, vehement opposition to, and actions taken against extending equal legal rights to gays and lesbians cancel out his newfound pseudo-tolerant rhetoric.

And, well, if I have to choose between two powerful individuals who hold the same dangerous opinions and adhere to the same rigid and bigoted ideology, I’ll take an openly intolerant ideologue over a phony and manipulative abuser of rhetoric any day.

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Pope Francis is no friend to the poor

The puffs of white smoke have arisen. Habemus Papam and all that. Pope Benedict is out, and Pope Francis is in. And although Francis’s proclaimed concern for issues of social justice, poverty, and economic inequality is certainly admirable, in various articles and stories lauding these traits, many commentators and media outlets have constructed a narrative that is far from complete. Rarely mentioned is Francis’s history of vehemently opposing the free distribution of contraceptives in Argentina or his extreme (even by Papal standards) opposition to a woman’s right to an abortion, even in cases of rape.

My argument is this: Francis’s opinions on and actions taken against contraceptive use and access to abortion cancel out his proclaimed desire to remedy poverty and economic inequality. One of the simplest and most efficient ways to help the economic status of women (and, by extension, their families) is by providing access to effective methods of contraception (as the linked study illustrates, women who live in places where extreme poverty coexists with hardline Catholicism are the least likely to have access to effective means of contraception. And here’s the clincher: the study’s authors found that poor women in Latin America (Pope Francis’s domain) suffer the most from this lack of access).

So, no, I’m not buying the argument that “Pope Francis cares for the poor” or “Pope Francis has a deep concern for social justice issues and human rights”. Far from it. Pope Francis is, I’d argue, indirectly (and perhaps even directly, in some cases) responsible for the economic inequality, poverty, and social injustice he so disingenuously claims to oppose. His culpability in these matters must not be swept under the rug. Please expose it and shine a light on it wherever and however you can.

More on the USCCB

As I mentioned in my previous post:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful, wealthy, and dangerous organization. They wield a great deal of influence over many politicians, affect the outcomes of various aspects of the legislative process, and pose a direct threat to the basic human rights of many Americans. Their priorities are skewed, their claims are frequently baseless, and they protect the Catholic Church over all else, no matter the cost. They get away with this because no one holds their feet to the fire and makes them answer the tough questions. Let’s ask those questions. Let’s shed some light on their tactics and actions and raise consciousness about the harm that they cause. They’ve gotten away with this for far too long.

Well, someone in the media is asking the tough questions, shedding light on their tactics and activities, and raising consciousness about the influence that they wield and the dangers that they pose. Rose Aguilar, an author, journalist, and the host of “Your Call“, a daily call-in show on San Francisco public radio, has been doing much-needed and important work on this issue, and is calling out the USCCB in a way that most in the media have refused to.

Last Monday’s episode of “Your Call” asked the question “How did the US Conference of Bishops become so powerful?”. It was an excellent episode, and I highly recommend listening to the podcast. And today, Rose’s op-ed, “The birth control bishops“, was published on Al Jazeera English. I’m honored and so happy to have been quoted/used as a source in it:

Speaking of damage control, over the course of my research, I ran across an analysis of a May 2011 USCCB 143-page $1.8m report [PDF] analysing the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church titled: “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010”. The report was compiled by the research team at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

“It is important to note that, although the research was carried out by the John Jay College, the UCCSB had the final say on whether or not to authorise publication of the report,” writes Miranda Celeste Hale, an English professor at North Idaho College, who writes about politics and the negative effects of childhood religious indoctrination.

Hale spent her spring break reading and analysing what she calls a worthless and dangerous report, which blames the cultural revolution of the 1960s for the abuse.

Hale says one of the most egregious aspects of the report was that the researchers arbitrarily redefined paedophilia as sexual abuse of victims that were ten years old or younger at the time, despite the fact that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) sets the cut-off age at 13.

Redefining paedophilia allowed the researchers to claim that 22 per cent of sexual abuse victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or post-pubescent, but Hale points out, if the researchers had used the DSM’s definition, that percentage would jump from 22 per cent to 73 per cent.

“The redefinition of paedophilia was really shocking,” she says. “Normally, a high percentage of priests would have been considered paedophiles and suddenly it’s fewer priests. No media outlet bothered to mention that or the fact that the report was funded almost solely by Catholic affiliated organisations.”

Hale believes the report is a “major setback in the movement towards church accountability”. She writes: “No, we must not shut up. We must not allow the Church to dominate the discourse. Speak out in whatever ways you can. On its own, what you or I say or write may not have any effect on the Church or the discourse surrounding this issue. Taken as a whole, though, our words provide a clear indication that there are many of us who will neither blindly accept the Church’s domination of the conversation nor quietly sit by while they evade justice time and time again.”

Rose is doing really great work, trying to keep media attention & scrutiny on the USCCB and their destructive activities and attitudes, and I’m really grateful for that.

Anyway, please go read her article– it’s excellent & I hope that it (and all of her work on this issue) gets the attention that it deserves. ♥

GOP Debate Bingo!

Mes amis, in preparation for tonight’s CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate, I bring you GOP Debate Bingo! Click on the image to download a .pdf of the bingo card:

And, as usual, I’ll probably be Twittering a bit about it. Find me at @mirandachale. :)

The dangers posed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

New video discussing the various dangers posed by the unchecked privilege, power, influence, wealth, bigotry, and bullying tactics of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The description that I posted at YouTube:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful, wealthy, and dangerous organization. They wield a great deal of influence over many politicians, affect the outcomes of various aspects of the legislative process, and pose a direct threat to the basic human rights of many Americans. Their priorities are skewed, their claims are frequently baseless, and they protect the Catholic Church over all else, no matter the cost. They get away with this because no one holds their feet to the fire and makes them answer the tough questions. Let’s ask those questions. Let’s shed some light on their tactics and actions and raise consciousness about the harm that they cause. They’ve gotten away with this for far too long.

& My analysis of the USCCB’s “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” can be found here.

A step towards equality in Washington state

Sometimes I really love living in Washington state. This is one of those times.

Yesterday, Governor Christine Gregoire expressed her support for a legislative bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state.

I’m so grateful to her for doing this. Why?

  • First, the obvious: arguments against legalizing same-sex marriage are unjust, unfair, and untenable. Often, the only support offered for such arguments arise from personal emotional objections to the issue and/or an individual’s homophobia/bigotry. And, although this shouldn’t need to be said, unfortunately it does: gays and lesbians are not second-class citizens. They deserve equal treatment under the law. Period.
  • Second: she’s taking a big risk here. Sadly enough, politicians who publicly support the legalization of same-sex marriage sometimes face a backlash that can jeopardize their careers.
  • Third: as she explained yesterday, because of her religious beliefs (she’s a practicing Catholic), this decision hasn’t been an easy one for her:

“I have been on my own journey, I’ll admit that,” she said at a news conference announcing her support of a legalization bill that will be introduced next week.

“It has been a battle for me with my religion,” said Gregoire, who is Catholic.

The Democrat previously had supported efforts to expand the state’s current law on domestic partner rights for gay couples, but had not come out in favor of full marriage rights.

She obviously understands that civil rights should not be decided by public opinion (religious or otherwise) and has made it clear that her political position on this particular issue is not determined by either her religious beliefs or her private opinions. I admire her so much for that, and this quote makes me want to hug her:

“I’ve always been uncomfortable with the position I took publicly,” she said. “Then I came to realize, the religions can decide what they want to do, but it’s not OK for the state to discriminate.”

Yes, THIS. A million times this. In one brief quote, she both demonstrated her personal integrity and refuted the completely false claim that, if same-sex marriage were to be legalized, churches and other religious organizations would be required to approve, recognize, or perform these marriages. No: this is an issue of civil marriage rights and does not affect the freedom of religious groups in any way. Religious individuals and groups who oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage are and should be free to express their opposition in a myriad of ways, but their personal objections must not be allowed to impede the process of extending civil rights to all citizens, as Gregoire notes here.

Unfortunately, this bill will face many challenges, and, even if it does pass, there’s a possibility that it will be overturned through our state’s initiative and referendum process (I’m not a fan of initiatives/referendums, to say the least). In 2009, the domestic partnership law was almost overturned in a state-wide referendum (I wrote about it at the time).

Despite the challenges and the uphill battle to come, this is a big step towards equality, and I am extremely grateful to Governor Gregoire for the integrity, courage, and compassion she has shown. She’s awesome. :)

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P.S.: this quote from the above-linked Seattle Times article is so very moving. It brought me to tears:

“It’s about damn time,” said 75-year-old John McCluskey of Tacoma, who attended the news conference with his partner of 53 years, Rudy Henry. The couple registered as domestic partners the first year that they could, in 2007.

“At our age, we don’t know how long we’ll be around,” he said. “We’d really like to get married.”

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