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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St. Andrew at the movies

When I think of the disciple Andrew, I see two mental images of him from the movie Jesus ......

In the first image from the film, Andrew and John have been looking for Jesus because John the Baptist had told them he was the messiah, and they await his return from the desert impatiently. When they catch sight of him, they trail after him and he asks them why. They reply because he's the messiah and a doubtful Jesus asks, "Are you sure?" The two proto-disiples answer at the same time, John saying "Yes!" and Andrew saying, "No!" Jesus just laughs and walks off, but they then ask where he lives and he tells them to come and see.

- this clip goes from Jesus' temptations in the desert to his meeting with John and Andrew ...

Jesus then goes home to his mom's house, naps and eats, and then invites John and Andrew to accompany him to the wedding at Cana. There Jesus dances the night away while the still skeptical Andrew fumes, sure he's made a mistake in thinking this party animal could be the messiah. Jesus' mother convinces him to change the water to wine so that Andrew can be convinced he's made the right choice in Jesus. A suddenly serious Jesus hands Andrew wine and says, "Drink, Andrew. The cup you desired is here."

- this clip goes from Jesus deciding to go to the wedding to offering Andrew the cup of wine ....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A couple of things .....

An article by Fr. James Martin SJ on the pope and the condom issue mentions an article at America magazine from 2000 on condoms ... more than 25 moral theologians have published articles claiming that without undermining church teaching, church leaders do not have to oppose but may support the distribution of prophylactics within an educational program that first underlines church teaching on sexuality. These arguments are made by invoking moral principles like those of “lesser evil,” “cooperation,” “toleration” and “double effect.” By these arguments, moralists around the world now recognize a theological consensus on the legitimacy of various H.I.V. preventive efforts (The Vatican's new insights on condoms for H.I.V. prevention). This may explain why some, including me, are underwhelmed by the pope finally catching up.

And, there's a post at In All Things by Austen Ivereigh on the Church of England Synod and the Covenant - Synod approves Anglican Covenant, but will it work? (for info on the Anglican Communion and the covenant, I'd suggest Thinking Anglicans). For those who haven't been following the issue, basically stated, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wants everyone to sign a covenant that defines church doctrine and levels consequences for being "heterodox", but neither the conservatives nor the liberals want the covenant. Mr. Ivereigh writes ....

Although +Rowan Williams wants as many Anglican provinces as possible to sign up to it, he always knew that introducing a more Catholic ecclesiology -- defining boundaries of doctrinal orthodoxy -- would alienate both the conservative evangelicals and the liberal Anglicans. The loss of GAFCON [the extreme conservatives] and the Episcopal Church of North America [liberals] are foreseen, if not intended, consequences of the Covenant process. But the gain lies in a stronger, more unified, and more coherent Anglican Church, even if it will be considerably smaller than now. For Catholics that is good news, because Rome can again have a dialogue partner it can do business with. The good news for Anglicans will be that they can put an end to the endless eviscerating rows over homosexuality. The disagreements won't end, but the hope is that the Covenant will enable them to be contained -- rather than, as now, resulting in provinces declaring themselves out of communion with each other.

I disagree with the statement that the covenant will lead to a more stable Anglican Church, and with the idea that we Catholics should welcome an Anglican shift towards a more Roman Catholic model of governance. What exactly is our interest, as Catholics, in the Anglican Communion? I'd hope it would be that they'd flourish as themselves, but given the way we've stuck our noses into their business, and the way we've undermined their stability, all I can imagine is that we're supposed to be hoping the Anglican Communion will crash and burn and be absorbed by the Catholic Church instead. Is the expression "Catholic ecumenism" just an oxymoron? :(

Saturday, November 27, 2010


An interesting thing about the movie I mentioned yesterday is its relation to American Transcendentalism. In the film Little Women, Joe tells her friend, the German philosophy professor, that her family are transcendentalists. No surprise there .... the author of Little Women, Louisa MayAlcott, was the daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott .... an American teacher, writer, philosopher, and reformer .... He hoped to perfect the human spirit and, to that end, advocated a vegan diet before the term was coined. He was also an abolitionist and an advocate for women's rights .... Alcott became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and became a major figure in transcendentalism.

Here's a bit about transcendentalism from Wikipedia ....

The movement developed in the 1830s and 40s as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among transcendentalists' core beliefs was the belief in an ideal spiritual state that "transcends" the physical and empirical and is realized only through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. The major figures in the movement were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Amos Bronson Alcott ....

Transcendentalism was rooted in the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant (and of German Idealism more generally) .... The transcendentalists desired to ground their religion and philosophy in transcendental principles: principles not based on, or falsifiable by, sensuous experience, but deriving from the inner, spiritual or mental essence of the human. Immanuel Kant had called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects." .... they were intimately familiar with the English Romantics, and the transcendental movement may be partially described as a slightly later, American outgrowth of Romanticism. Another major influence was the mystical spiritualism of Emanuel Swedenborg.

It will probably come as no surprise that transcendentalism and Catholicism seem in some ways antithetical. The Catholic Encyclopedia states ...

The transcendentalists one and all, dwell in the regions beyond experience, and, if they do not condemn experience as untrustworthy, at least they value experience only in so far as it is elevated, sublimated, and transformed by the application to it of transcendental principles. The fundamental epistemological error of Kant, that whatever is universal and necessary cannot come from experience, runs all through the transcendentalist philosophy, and it is on epistemological grounds that the transcendentalists are to be met. This was the stand taken in Catholic circles, and there, with few exceptions, the doctrines of the transcendentalists met with a hostile reception.

If only I understood Kant ... must read more on this stuff.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Little Women

This week's movie was the 1994 version of Little Women. I remember reading the book when I was a kid and liking it very much. The movie is a pretty good rendition of the book.

Here's just the beginning of Roger Ebert's review (three and a half stars) ...

This is a surprisingly sharp and intelligent telling of Louisa May Alcott's famous story, and not the soft-edged children's movie it might appear. There's a first-rate cast, with Susan Sarandon as the mother; Winona Ryder as the tomboy, Jo; Trini Alvarado as Meg; Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis as Amy, younger and older; and Claire Danes as Beth. As the girls are courted by their neighbor (Christian Bale) and his tutor (Eric Stoltz), and as Jo comes under the influence of a German professor (Gabriel Byrne), the film is true to Alcott's story about how all of life seems to stretch ahead of us when we're young, and how, through a series of choices, we choose and narrow our destiny .... The story is set in Concord, Mass., and begins in 1862, in a winter when all news is dominated by the Civil War. The March family is on its own; their father has gone off to war .....

As Ebert mentions, the beginning of the movie is a little too sweet and the relative poeverty the family finds themselves in would be a move upwards for me :) but still the film brought back a lot that was familiar from being a kid with my sister - having cats, learning to sew, writing stories, sharing clothes, dealing with money problems, wondering about the future.

- the March family digs

- Meg and a kitty

- Joe and friend Lorrie

- Joe and love interest, a German philosophy professor

Again: Obedience to God and to the truth

The other day I posted something, then deleted it, but thought I'd post it again today.

I'd been reading the comments to a post on the missal translation at Pray Tell, and saw comments there by Philip Endean SJ (Worship and power) that struck me.

They reminded me of a statement made by Rowan Williams a couple of years ago in which he defended having disparate private beliefs [expressed in personal letters] and public beliefs [expressed at the Lambeth Conference] on religious issues (Rowan Williams: pragmatism and belief). At that time I'd so disliked his stance that I'd written a post about it, even dragging in The Grand Inquisitor :).

Anyway, I deleted my post from the other day because the two examples don't exactly match, and also because I didn't want to seem to be pitting Fr. Endean against the ABC. But I did really like what Fr. Endean had written, so here it is again ....

We need pastors to be honest in the sense of expressing what they really think. So much of our malaise as Church comes from people saying what they think they ought, rather than their reasoned and conscientious convictions .... Obedience to human authority is not a virtue, but a conditional means to an end: obedience to God and to the truth. And I advocated that people should speak out of their reasoned, conscientious convictions, not just spout out what they happen to be thinking on a wet Wednesday afternoon. The point is: honesty about our own convictions is the first, and an indispensable, step in finding good practical decisions under God.

After Rowan Williams had made his statement explaining why he believed it was ok to have both a private and public viewpoint on religious issues, NT Wright and some other bishops made a statement too backing him up ...

[...] the Archbishop has said repeatedly, as he did in one of the letters, that there is a difference between 'thinking aloud' as a theologian and the task of a bishop (let alone an Archbishop) to uphold the church's teaching .... It expresses what Jesus himself taught: the fundamental and deeply biblical teaching on the vital importance of church unity and of working for that unity by humility and mutual submission.

I just don't get this. Am I wrong in thinking that if Jesus had believed church unity was more important than pastors saying what they believed to be true, there'd be no such thing as a Christian church in the first place?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Red Queen Hypothesis, FBOs, and the pope on condoms

Reading about the pope's remarks on condom use with AIDS, I was reminded of The Red Queen Hypothesis, where the Red Queen says "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place" .... change doesn't always make a difference.

Yes, the pope saying that condoms can be used in some situations to prevent the transmission of disease is a change, at least in what he's held to be the case up til now. Many Catholics, both lay and religious, have been advocating for decades what the pope finally seems to be advocating, and the fact that the pope's changed his mind will only make a meaningful difference if faith based health organizations that work with HIV positive people will now be allowed to allocate money for education on the use of, and access to, condoms. Up til now this hasn't been the case, at least not officially.

Here's something on this issue from Catholic for Choice ...

"Pope Benedict is the leader of a church that receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year for HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. We hope that this statement is only the first step on the path to making sure that people who need condoms and education about how to use them effectively can get the services they need. It will be especially significant for the many, many people who work for Catholic aid agencies and have been secretly handing out condoms while fearing that they will lose their jobs. It is also a suitable moment to recognize that taxpayer money that goes to Catholic agencies may now be used to fund comprehensive prevention programs—something that has been a concern for some time. For example, read our special report on this issue, "Seeing Is Believing."

And here's the report mentioned above. It's long but I think it's worth a read ....


Seeing is Believing: Questions about Faith-Based Organizations Involved in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment
By Kathryn Joyce, RH Reality Check
July 16, 2010 - 7:00am

For many years, faith-based health providers have received enormous sums of money from both state-based and private entities to provide healthcare services. More recently, that healthcare has included treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately, many of these providers do not provide a full range of preventative care, especially advice on the use of and access to condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. Too few people have questioned whether the faith-based groups’ use of those funds is as effective as it might be. This report, sponsored by Catholics for Choice, raises some of those questions and provides some proposals for how we might move forward towards more transparency.

At the end of this report is a series of recommendations that we will be sending to public and private funders of HIV/AIDS care around the world.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, recalls Calle Almedal, a longtime HIV/AIDS advocate, Catholic hospitals and other institutions which were mainly staffed by nuns were the only ones that would treat patients dying of AIDS. From New York City to Uganda, as AIDS victims were shunned by hospitals and left to die at home, often the only facilities that would take them in were Catholic.

It reminds Almedal, a gay man and a Catholic who has worked at the intersection of faith-based organizations and AIDS for more than a decade, of an encounter in 1986 with an Irish nun who worked in a Catholic hospital. "She looked at me with her very blue eyes and said, ‘Mr. Almedal, do you think that condoms are the only solution?' I said no, and she looked at me and said, ‘Nor do I.' The nun and her staff were distributing condoms. And they were talking about abstinence."

This disconnect between talk and action that stands out in Almedal's mind has long characterized faith-based work on HIV/AIDS, as religious groups working in the field part ways with the strictures of their traditions and hierarchies, and in recent years the mandates of conservative American funders, in order to deliver potentially life-saving resources to populations most vulnerable to the disease.

"The doctrine is there, but then you have the pastoral care, which is about the reality that people live in," Almedal says. "And that's where those nuns were – out there in reality, and they gave realistic advice to people."

But the principled duplicity of these private acts of resistance seems, in recent years, to have hardened into a new status quo when it comes to partnerships between US and even international funding organizations – meant to be part of the "evidence-based community" – and the conservative FBOs that proudly are not. After six years of billions of dollars of conditional HIV/AIDS funding from the US PEPFAR program, the landscape for FBOs and HIV is incontrovertibly altered, and not all for the good. With rising HIV rates – thanks to abstinence-only education in Africa – and an apparent (and possibly related) spike in anti-gay campaigns across the continent, the global AIDS community might be witnessing a new phase of the old equation: that silence, even silent dissent, can equal death.

Faith-Based Aid

This July, before the 18th International AIDS Conference, a biannual confab hosted by a roster of international bodies, including the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), a coalition of religious groups and representatives gathered to discuss the role of faith-based groups in confronting the epidemic. If the meeting resembled its last iteration, what that role is remains a very fraught question.

In 2008, nearly 500 faith-based delegates, mostly from Christian nonprofits, gathered in Mexico City for a faith-based pre-meeting to AIDS 2008. The pre-conference, "Faith in Action Now!," organized by the international Christian group Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, featured a number of heavyweights in Christian AIDS work, including Saddleback Church, the Vatican-based UNAIDS partner CARITAS Internationalis, and the massive US evangelical charity World Vision. Besides the star power of Saddleback pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, who led American evangelicals in embracing AIDS activism, the meeting exposed several divides in today's faith-based HIV movement: between mainline Christians and evangelicals, between Christians and the underrepresented non-Christians, but mostly, between the abiding camps of the culture wars.

"It was probably the biggest conference we've had," says the Rev. Jape Mokgethi-Heath, an Anglican priest in South Africa, "but a number of cracks were beginning to emerge in showing how the faith-based sector doesn't necessarily come from the same background. There were groups that felt if we spoke about prevention, as faith-based organizations, we have to give prevention messages for everybody. And there were people very uncomfortable talking about providing prevention for sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users."

"No one wanted to talk about prevention. ‘That's not what we're here for,' they said," recalls Catholics for Choice president Jon O'Brien. Much of the opposition centered, predictably, around objections to condoms, which religious conservatives view as condoning and enabling lifestyles they disapprove of. Indeed, the Alliance's official faith-based advocacy activities during the main conference, which drew tens of thousands, focused on travel restrictions, workplace discrimination, children's access to treatment and generic anti-retroviral drugs. Noticeably absent from this list was anything concerning prevention.

Subsequent faith-based meetings in Istanbul and New York, as the UN Population Fund sought opinions on how best to partner with FBOs, revealed the same quiet struggle, as many groups refused to discuss issues like condoms, prevention and vulnerable populations like sex workers. In the end, UNFPA declared the topics of collaboration would be the relatively uncontroversial goals of ending violence against women and lowering maternal mortality.

These debates are familiar to anyone who's paid attention to the evolution of the President's Emergency Provision for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, since former president George W. Bush launched the $15 billion plan in 2003. Key to the massive outlay of government funds was the administration's insistence that one-third of all prevention funds be used for abstinence-only education, and their practice of privileging startup conservative evangelical nonprofits that had the correct ideology but often little or no experience in development or AIDS work. What's less clear is the effect had by international bodies like UNAIDS or UNFPA doing outreach to faith-based groups, including groups pushing a conservative sexual agenda, and how much the UN may have reinforced PEPFAR's problematic restrictions. The problems that have been identified at the UN level point back to the manner in which US funds influences the UN agenda.


Although religiously-affiliated medical institutions and other organizations were among the first to work with HIV/AIDS patients, the Jubilee 2000 movement for global debt relief, tied to the Catholic celebration of the millennium, started the popular drive for a faith-based response to HIV/AIDS. While the early movement was dominated by progressive faith groups, they sought the broad support of a big tent, and pushed the Bush administration to address AIDS. Paul Zeitz, the co-founder and executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, says that when they did, Bush's existing efforts to fund conservative faith-based initiatives influenced how PEPFAR money would be spent.

"As PEPFAR was being designed, there was a premeditated plan to make sure that faith groups sharing the administration's ideological perspective would benefit. It was a well thought-out plan," Zeitz says. One year in, Bush launched the New Partners Initiative, which called for applications from groups with scant experience working with government grants.

"What it meant was the old partners, the public health people who distributed condoms, were disdained," explains Jodi Jacobson, the founder and former executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equality. "The new partners, many of whom had never stepped foot in Africa, were suddenly getting millions of dollars to go there. As far as we were concerned, it was a slush fund for the far right."

As reports of PEPFAR spending came in, programmatic horror stories abounded: evangelical grantees who counseled women to stay with abusive husbands, or avoid domestic violence by dressing differently; a Ugandan pastor famously praying over a box of burning condoms; a Cameroonian peer education project that required HIV-positive female volunteers to not have any more children; and a Nigerian abstinence-only project targeted at sex workers. More broadly, partners like World Vision, which received more than $750 million between 2006 and 2008 alone, have been blunt in faith-based hiring preferences, stating, "There's no encouragement for a career here if you're not a Christian." And an investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity found that evangelical agencies independently determined unfit for funding nonetheless received support thanks to their ties to the Bush White House.

Ellen Marshall, a public policy consultant for the International Women's Health Coalition, says that such stories pale beside the overarching reality that PEPFAR grantees are allowed to refuse certain services within US law. "They're not horror stories when we just know point-blank that people are not getting all the services and information that they need to protect themselves against HIV. That is the horror story that is square on the shoulders of Congress."

Additional PEPFAR conditions prohibited needle exchange programs, banned family planning services in Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission Clinics, required grantees to sign an anti-prostitution loyalty pledge, even if they served sex workers, and allowed broad refusal clauses that could permit grantees to refuse service to anyone based on moral objections.

Although there has been hope that the Obama administration will correct PEPFAR's ideologically-driven culture to again promote evidence-based work, just this February the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency responsible for distributing most PEPFAR funds, for refusing to comply with two Freedom of Information Act requests pertaining to a 2009 audit by the US Inspector General. The audit revealed that USAID had directly funded religious training materials that included Bible stories and proselytism through its "Abstinence and Behavior Change for Youth" program, and that the agency faces "recurring questions about the applicability of the Establishment Clause overseas."

"What the [Inspector General's] report didn't indicate is what happened next," says ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri, and whether the curriculum has since been withdrawn. "We're concerned that they haven't issued that mandate, because they seem to be unconcerned with these violations of church and state."

Paul Zeitz says the conflict seems to be an inevitable consequence of progressive AIDS activists partnering with politically powerful conservative evangelicals, who were able to help PEPFAR bring about a sea change in the global AIDS field, but who brought their own demands to the table. At the time, Zeitz says, the conflicting camps agreed that, beyond all ideological differences, they wanted more money spent on AIDS, and quickly. "Our view is that we want to see billions spent on health equity and to advance human rights," Zeitz says. "We'd rather have a huge battle about where the money should be going rather than have a huge battle without any money."

The huge battle came, and conservative titans like Focus on the Family countered progressive criticism by attacking groups that promoted condoms, and successfully pushing to defund two major AIDS coalitions.

There were individual casualties as well. The Rev. Mokgethi-Heath's organization INERELA+, a network for clergy affected by HIV/AIDS, was denied PEPFAR funding because part of its program included needle exchange, and PEPFAR didn't allow selective funding for groups that transgressed any of its regulations. In lobbying PEPFAR's authors in the US Congress, Mokgethi-Heath found that there were baffling systemic cultural problems built into the program that conflicted with all previous standards for effective HIV/AIDS work. "I remember going to various staffers in Washington," he says, "trying to advocate for a greater response in terms of openness and to show how some of the policies around PEPFAR were increasing stigma instead of overcoming it. On one occasion when we walked into the office of a staffer for a Republican senator, this lady said to me, ‘Why would you want to do away with stigma? I think stigma is a very good thing. I think stigma helps to moderate people's behavior.'"


While Zeitz saw pragmatic reasons to secure PEPFAR funding quickly before beginning the long debate over how it would be spent, he was troubled by the silence of international groups like UNAIDS on the flaws of PEPFAR. "For those of us in the beltway fighting the PEPFAR policy voraciously, we were troubled that the international normative agencies were pretty mute about the flaws of the policy they were promulgating. Of course, the World Health Organization (WHO) got US money. And UNAIDS – a third of their money came from the [US] government."

From the early years of PEPFAR, Zeitz and others charged that PEPFAR's restrictions were tying the hands of local advocates. But they found many expected allies missing from the fight. Then-UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, "never spoke out about PEPFAR prevention policies," says Zeitz. "And he was a scientist and knew better. They left it to a few small organizations to fight back, and I think we failed. They argued that we were the outside voice and they were doing inside/outside, and trying to mitigate the negative impact [from within the system]. Did we strike the right balance? I don't know."

Piot, who says he no longer talks to the press about his UNAIDS work since leaving the agency, has come under criticism from other progressive HIV/AIDS advocates as well. Jodi Jacobson says that under Piot's leadership, UNAIDS had close ties with PEPFAR authorities, in part because the US was putting such large funds into global AIDS and the money pressured UNAIDS and WHO to "be in line with the US ideological agenda." In 2004, Piot co-authored an op-ed with PEPFAR head Ambassador Randall Tobias, a conservative abstinence promoter who said condoms "really have not been very effective" and who campaigned against prostitution until his involvement in a 2007 prostitution scandal forced his resignation. (Prior to leaving, Tobias, together with US Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul, hosted a cocktail reception for Piot to celebrate his leadership on AIDS.) And in 2007, Piot appeared at Saddleback Church's Global AIDS Summit to praise the work of religious leaders on HIV/AIDS and the US for its PEPFAR funding.

The result of these friendly relations, Jacobson says, was that partnering more indiscriminately with FBOs became a hallmark of the global AIDS movement. "There's a tendency towards fads in the UN agencies, and the faith-based groups became the fad then, and everybody had to work with them."

"My feeling is that international agencies like UNAIDS rushed, like the Bush administration" to partner with faith-based groups, says Jacobson, "because they pandered all the time to what the Bush administration wanted to do and lost their objectivity about who should be getting money, and didn't ask who and what for. It's not that we hadn't worked with [FBOs] before, but they had had to work on human rights and effectiveness standards. When the Bush administration came in, they didn't have to anymore."

Jacobson, whose criticisms of the close ties she saw between PEPFAR and international groups like UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, resulted in her being uninvited to various discussion lists, recalls that groups like the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, a UNAIDS partner, would tour the US and never speak a word of criticism about the controversial PEPFAR program, leading to an impression in the HIV advocacy community that "UNAIDS was pretty much in the pocket of the Bush administration."

"If the US holds the purse strings for UNAIDS, then you need someone to stand up. And we had a wet noodle in Peter Piot," says Jacobson.

The UN and Religion

Azza Karam, senior culture adviser at the UNFPA, which supports HIV/AIDS work related to the sexual health agenda, explained the shift at the organization in recent years, following the vision of executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, to focus more on cultural components of the disease. While under the complicated division of labor between UN agencies, "culture" has long been the province of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) alone, the host of taboo topics like sexuality that swirl around HIV/AIDS necessitated more engagement with cultural questions. "HIV/AIDS has been the domain where all the issues we couldn't touch in development communities we had to touch," says Karam.

"The mandate was, we can talk about cultural mandates to change and identify them," says Karam, "but there are so many agents of change and perhaps the strongest are in the faith-based sector." Part of the UNFPA decision to emphasize culture meant mapping out the variety of faith-based actors and confronting problems like the opposition of local leaders to condom access through culturally sensitive solutions, like devising means for condom distribution through traditional authorities and religious institutions. An agency-wide UNFPA survey revealed that the clear majority of its 112 worldwide offices already had strong relationships with faith-based groups, and with good reason, as FBOs are often the longest-serving and most trusted organizations on the ground in developing nations.

"We'd been making partnerships over the years, but suddenly it became mainstream," says Karam. "What that translated into was two things: active outreach to groups who wouldn't have been traditional development partners – transsexuals, MSM, sex workers: the groups you need to target to spread awareness and medicine – but then you realize that you have to reach out to groups that are marginalizing HIV/AIDS sufferers and stigmatizing them. The ones saying ‘don't do condoms, don't do family planning.' A culturally sensitive approach means you have to see [the first] group, and the group that is marginalizing that group. It's prioritizing human capital above all."

The outreach to those doing the marginalizing was intended, Karam says, to bring multiple groups together: existing faith-based partners that either publicly or privately supported the UN's human-rights agenda as well as FBOs opposed to that agenda, so that UNFPA's friends in religious communities could be mobilized to take on opponents. "The UN cannot do the religious preaching," says Karam. "What we can do is facilitate. We can convene them, identify the ones who believe and behave along human rights lines, and get them to understand their power. Then they can be the front lines with the detractors. About what God intended, how the prophet lived.

"We're not doing outreach to the tough guys – at least not directly. The people who work with us, who are our partners, are having themselves to confront some of that traditionalism."

Talk Versus Action

Part of the identification process Karam described in finding out which FBOs are "friends" included separating religious rhetoric from FBOs' actions on the ground. The Achilles heel of the development world, according to Karam, is their consistent self-marginalization by dismissing opponents as fundamentalists. Rather, development workers should listen to religious rhetoric – such as the pope's recent statements that condoms exacerbate the spread of HIV/AIDS – and then look at who's on the ground, at the Catholic nuns providing condoms or referring people to places where they can obtain them. "You realize this community is there and they've been there for ages, and we've dismissed them because of what some of their leaders tell us."

A recent New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof sounded a similar note, praising FBOs like World Vision for expanding the evangelical agenda and deflecting criticism about their enduring sexual concerns by noting the quiet resistance of Catholic nuns and priests who distribute condoms to AIDS patients. It's a common refrain, and not without merit. Many international HIV/AIDS advocates share the impression that FBO workers privately dissent, either to official church doctrines or funding conditionalities, through their actions in the field.

"In some ways," says Kevin Osborne, Senior HIV Advisor for International Planned Parenthood, the disconnect between talk and action is "a good thing, because people on the ground are responding to realities. The bad thing is that it allows dogma to continue, and it allows people to think that everybody is bad. All people get tarnished with a brush that [FBOs are] all bad. And that's too bad, because there are a lot of good – Catholic in particular – groups doing amazing work in a very progressive manner. At the coalface, people are saying we have to provide condoms, not moralize, and treat everyone who comes in – gay men, people using drugs – because that's what our role is."

Among the groups Osborne mentions is Catholic Relief Services, which he says has done amazing work not just around orphans and vulnerable children, but also under-the-radar sexuality education. "I think that these groups are more prevalent than you think they are. But on the international level, nobody tackles the bigger issue, because everyone thinks they are toeing the line."

What it also leads to, says the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest and a researcher for progressive think tank Political Research Associates, is the incidence of nonprofits shaping their proposals to the strictures of funders, even when they know that abstinence education is ineffective. As one Ugandan doctor memorably told Kaoma, abstinence education works in one regard alone: to raise funds from international organizations.

Zeitz describes a sense in Africa in the 1990s that hyper-conservative groups were being reined in by evidence-based policies. Among FBOs, there was a culture of open dissent to some aspects of religious dogma, with Catholic groups in Zambia secretly but widely distributing condoms. But this ethos was reversed by the influx of Bush-era American money. When Zeitz returned in 2006 with a representative from World Vision, his inquiries about condoms were met with incredulity. "They looked at me like I was speaking Chinese," he says. Part of the response might be understandable local wariness that the abstinence-promoting World Vision is checking up on FBOs' regulatory compliance, but part of it, Zeitz suspects, is a cultural shift. "When Bush came and brought PEPFAR, they channeled money to those hyper-conservative groups and reawakened them. I think it will take years and years until the chilling and reawakening forces will be done."

FBOs and African Homophobia

The effect of tailoring programs to funding isn't necessarily limited to small organizations. Uganda's President Museveni, who championed condom distribution during the early days of the country's "ABC" prevention program, later disavowed them, and his wife, Janet, became an abstinence crusader. "People all over Africa thought his shift in policy to promoting abstinence, which led to an increase in HIV, was part of a political strategy to get him a third term with US help," says Zeitz.

The turnaround in Uganda's approach to HIV/AIDS, and its possible motivation in US coffers, had another effect as well. In late 2009, much of the world was outraged by news of Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, which called for the death penalty for some acts of gay sex, and created a pogrom-like atmosphere with a provision to punish people who don't inform on citizens they know to be gay.

The Rev. Kaoma conducted a yearlong investigation into the relationship between conservative clergy in Africa and the US. Focusing on Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya, Kaoma documented a clear trend of the US Christian conservatives fighting a proxy culture war in African countries, helping exacerbate anti-gay hysteria and leaving the fate of African sexual minorities as collateral damage in their effort to shore up global south support against mainline US denominations.

While US conservatives' ultimate goals may be domestic, the result they've had in Africa has been dramatic, reviving a culture of vicious repression of gay rights through the involvement of evangelical figures ranging from the powerful Rick Warren to fringe homophobes like Scott Lively, who testified to the Ugandan parliament in the months before Uganda's anti-gay bill was written that homosexuality was tied to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.

Part of the effectiveness of American missionaries-cum-political advisors stirring African homophobia has been their savvy appeal to postcolonial pride, declaring homosexuality a decadent Western imposition. Similar sentiments have been on display from Catholic officials as well. This October, the African Synod at the Vatican – representing 300 bishops and cardinals from dioceses that have received tens of millions of dollars in PEPFAR funding – declared that progressive Western nonprofits were engaged in a deliberate neo-colonial "anti-family" campaign to corrupt African values through the promotion of condoms and moral relativism. Ghanaian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle went so far as to suggest that Western NGO workers "hang around boys in order to introduce them to homosexual relationships" through condom education.

The irony of the charges of colonialism, notes the Rev. Mokgethi-Heath is that African rhetoric about "throwing off the shackles of colonialism" ignores the colonial origins of conservative evangelicalism in Africa. The Rev. Kaoma agrees, incredulous that Africa's historical acceptance of sexualities counter to conservative mores, including homosexuality, premarital sex and polygamy, has been dismissed.

"The same argument against homosexuality is used against condoms: that this is Africa, and we have to defend our morals," says Kaoma. "There's nothing African about abstinence." But Kaoma says that the outsized credibility visiting white pastors receive in Africa is to blame, with even renegades like Lively, shunned by US evangelicals, ranking an audience with Uganda's leadership.

The results, even before last fall's anti-gay bill, have been horrific. Pastor Martin Ssempa of Uganda's Makarere University Community Church, a PEPFAR fundee and early ally of both Rick Warren and the Musevenis – he was named "special representative of the First Lady's Task Force on AIDS in Uganda" – went beyond burning condoms to help lead the country's anti-gay movement, declaring that homosexuals should have no rights and no place in the country's HIV/AIDS framework; publishing the names and addresses of LGBT rights activists and, most recently, screening gay pornography to his Kampala congregation and asking, "Is this what Obama wants to bring to Africa?"

Although Ssempa may have lost some powerful friends – the Warrens distanced themselves in 2007 after negative publicity about Ssempa – he is not alone. In 2007, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission discovered that the Uganda Muslim Tabliqh Women's Desk, another PEPFAR grantee, was likely connected to a planned "Anti-Gay Squad," which Tabliqh Organization senior cleric Sheikh Multah Bukenya said would "wipe out all abnormal practices like homosexuality in our society."

Compounding the rhetoric of American interlopers like Scott Lively, Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, also a PEPFAR grantee in a country considering its own anti-gay bill, and a partner with Warren in making Rwanda the first "Purpose-Driven Nation," has dealt in similar insinuations, calling homosexuality a form of "moral genocide" – a deadly accusation in a country with Rwanda's history. And the Church of Uganda, a PEPFAR-recipient under the leadership of the virulently anti-gay Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, has made equivocating statements about the anti-gay bill – suggesting that life imprisonment is a better sentence than death – that demonstrate how reactionary discourse about gay rights, and its inherent links to HIV/AIDS work, has become in the country.

Victor Mukasa, a research and policy associate for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), describes the sanctions against media outlets and development officials who have spoken about HIV and homosexuality, which included a public warning, published in a newspaper, to a UNAIDS representative who met with LGBT groups, asking him to leave the country. "It shows what power these people have, and how horribly they have affected the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda," he says, noting the increase in infection rates in recent years. With options for prevention information or care often limited to groups like Ssempa's church or even the Church of Uganda, Mukasa asks, "Who wants to go there for an HIV test or treatment? Who wants to go and die there or get arrested there? Who wants to go to Makerere church if they're gay? No one! People are going to remain in their closets and continue having high-risk sex activities with each other without a condom, without protection or education because nobody will educate them about what to use. And what will be the end? It will be devastating." Mukasa, who is from Uganda, says IGLHRC has noted similar welcomes for US conservative evangelicals in Nigeria, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

"There's a neo-colonialist attitude that's driving our conservative class," says Kaoma, referring to the importation of American-born solutions to AIDS like the Warrens' Purpose-Driven plans in Rwanda and Uganda. "What pains me most is that they're using Africa as a testing board, a guinea pig for these ideologies. And when they backfire," he says, noting that HIV rates are on the rise again in Africa, "they'll jump out again."

Division of Labor

Part of the solution to rifts in the HIV movement could be dividing funding and work into appropriate sectors. For Catholic groups that traditionally cared for the dying, mitigating the impact of AIDS on sufferers, Mokgethi-Heath says, a continued focus on treatment is an uncontroversial choice. And indeed, South African bishops created a celebrated large-scale treatment program that delivers huge amounts of ARV medications to poor patients.

A guiding compromise at the level of groups like the Global AIDS Alliance has been partnering with conservative faith-based groups where they're willing to work – on care, with orphans – and leaving prevention and condom distribution to groups that embrace comprehensive sex ed. "Our approach is to create strategic alignments based on the policy content that we're trying to advance," says Zeitz, "so when we're working on prevention, we work with the evidence-based crowd, and when we work with orphans, we work with Rick Warren and Kay."

Ellen Marshall hopes that the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator will slowly try to formalize this approach and find a way out of some of the abuses of the early PEPFAR years – developing a "graceful and legal way" to shift faith-based groups opposed to prevention to work solely on treatment. "Undoing this takes forever, and it takes a different reason to undo it than, ‘you're not providing the full range of services,' because they're legally protected in doing that."

However, says Kevin Osborne, sectorizing HIV work in this way is no longer simple in the age of life-extending treatments that allow HIV positive people to continue having active sexual lives. "I think there has been a push for them to do that, to get [conservative FBOs] away on principle from the trickiness of prevention, i.e. abstinence. But now what we've learned about HIV is that the dividing line isn't that simple anymore. That's going to be another challenge for faith communities – because they don't have to worry too much about them dying, because people are getting well – but how do I deal with people's vibrant sexuality? As we've acknowledged globally, prevention and care are not even two sides of the same coin, but [part of] a continuum and it's seamless. And it's [on] that seamless continuum that a lot of battles have to be fought."

Part of those battles will concern criminalization of HIV transmission: a trend Osborne sees as in keeping with the current anti-gay movements in Africa, or campaigns against sex workers elsewhere – all related responses to HIV that eschew the human rights orientation that development work should support. "The fight against gays, that's the topic of the moment, but tomorrow it will be something else," Osborne says. "It's just the culture of selective human rights."

Real Dissent

Not all FBOs practice dissent silently, either against PEPFAR conditionality or the broader prohibitions of their faiths. In the ongoing debate over abstinence and condoms, Bishop Kevin Dowling of the Catholic Diocese of Rustenberg, South Africa, is the preeminent example of principled disobedience against the Vatican and doctrine. Dowling, who has worked on HIV/AIDS in South Africa for nearly 20 years, starting community-level home healthcare projects in townships and mining settlements, has received PEPFAR money in recent years to participate in South Africa's highly successful ARV program, which has treated approximately 70,000 people through 17 Catholic hospitals and clinics since 2004. However, the work Dowling became famous for, and for which he has been sharply censured by his church and colleagues, is publicly distributing condoms throughout South Africa's shack settlements.

Dowling, who began his prevention work with women performing survival sex work on the outskirts of South African mining camps, says promotion of condoms is an issue of being fully prolife. "The fact is that we are dealing with 99.9 percent recurring people who are not Catholics. I think it's a matter of conscience for me that we don't offload on them the restrictions required by official Catholic teachings. I can't understand the argument that goes, ‘If you are going to have sex anyway and you're HIV positive, and you've decided not to abstain or be faithful, then in terms of Catholic teaching you're breaking the Sixth Commandment: thou shall not commit adultery.' Now it makes no sense to me to say, ‘Go ahead now and break the Fifth – thou shall not kill – because it's illicit to use a condom to prevent the transmission of a death-giving virus.'"

Dowling is often alone in his stance though, isolated from his colleagues and accused of sowing confusion in the church body. Next to this example, the fact that UNAIDS has a memorandum of understanding with Caritas Internationalis, a mammoth Catholic coalition working in more than 200 countries that upholds Catholic doctrine on prevention issues, reinforces fears that UN efforts to bring religious leaders to the table have outweighed guiding principles on human rights and evidence-based work.

"The price we paid at the ecumenical meeting [before the 2008 AIDS meeting]," says Jon O'Brien, "is that there was no discussion of prevention, or the difficulty of working with men who have sex with men if you see it as a sin."

In a 2003 interview with Vatican Radio, marking the reauthorization of a partnership agreement between Caritas Internationalis and UNAIDS, Calle Almedal, who conducted faith-based outreach for UNAIDS and now consults on the issue for the World Council of Churches, noted the stark differences between the groups over condom use. He said that UNAIDS recognized it has been "a bit too simplistic in our approach to condoms," and had not been "sensitive enough to the issue of abstinence and being faithful," envisioning a technical solution to the disease. (However, while Almedal says that faith-based organizations should become more involved in fighting AIDS, he takes the unorthodox position for an FBO outreach advisor that they shouldn't do so with public money, but should finance themselves by tapping considerable church assets.)

Almedal says, "I got snapped over my head when I brought [comprehensive sexuality education] up in UNAIDS." But he qualifies this by saying not just FBOs, but "the world has taken prevention off the table."

Some FBOs are doing more than quiet resistance, but are leading the way towards better AIDS care, as African Anglican churches declared AIDS stigma a sin, South African congregations declare themselves "AIDS-friendly," and some Malawian FBOs have led secular organizations in breaking taboos on discussing sexuality.

But, as the Rev. Mokgethi-Heath says, not enough do. "I think the difficult thing to do, but the important thing to do, is to operate from the integrity of your position," he says. "If we have identified certain challenges in dealing with HIV, we can't change our message to suit a funder. And that will mean, from time to time, that organizations doing really good work will go under because their messages aren't very popular. If enough people do it, it absolutely will change the funders. But not enough do."

Asked whether private dissent is enough, Bishop Kevin Dowling pauses.
"I can't demand of people to take the road I did. It's very difficult and you feel great isolation and stress and you just feel alone in a very threatening world.

"I take the passage from the Gospel where Jesus was talking to the Pharisees as the heart of the issue here: ‘You're the one who places impossible burdens on the shoulders of your people, but will you lift a finger to help them carry them?' I think all of us as church leaders need to take those words very seriously. We have to do advocacy with both PEPFAR and church leadership all over sub-Saharan Africa. We need to sit down and very honestly look at the total situation of the human person in this epidemic and unpack that fully, and ask ourselves, do we as FBOs and our partners contribute to the solution, or are we continuing to be part of the problem?"

Kathryn Joyce is the author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, a study of conservative Christian women's movements (Beacon Press, March 2009). Her articles have appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, Newsweek and other publications.


We believe that there should be complete transparency about the funding that faith-based organizations receive from local, state, national and transnational institutions. At present, it is unreasonably difficult to find out how much taxpayer money goes to fund organizations working on HIV and AIDS. It is also very difficult to review the criteria by which public funders judge whether any organization may or may not receive funds for their HIV/AIDS work and whether there are special criteria for FBOs.

We believe that public funds going towards preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and treating those living with HIV/AIDS should be subject to the same strictures as are public funds in other spheres.

All public funding agencies should publish annually a list of the organizations they have funded and how much money each received.

All funding agencies should develop and publish a list of criteria by which they judge whether to fund an organization. If there are special criteria for FBOs, the reason for their existence needs to be made clear, along with the differences from the general criteria.

Finally, funding agencies must ensure that public funding is not used to allow any organization to discriminate in hiring, to refuse to provide or find reasonable alternatives for the provision of basic treatment or prevention options, or for the use of proselytizing.

In publishing those criteria, the following questions should be answered:

* Do funders require evidence-based interventions from their applicants/recipients?
* Do funders require disclosure of which evidence-based interventions applicants will not undertake? (e.g., for those seeking funding for prevention, are condoms and comprehensive sexuality education provided?)
* Do the applicants provide services to all groups in a non-discriminatory manner (e.g. sex workers, men who have sex with men, etc.)?
* For those working on treatment, do applicants provide all services to all those who need them (e.g. ARVs, family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies, needles for intravenous drug users, etc.)?
* In cases where funders give money despite gaps in treatment or prevention options (and we acknowledge that there may be reasons to do so), what are acceptable reasons?
* When there are gaps in treatment or prevention options, what allowances or alternative schemes are set up to ensure that those gaps are filled by other organizations? Do funders design arrangements for the coordination of comprehensive care? Do funders allow recipients to handle pass-through money, trusting that they will find and pay another organization to provide the missing services?


Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Big Silence

- St. Beuno's

For those who've ever wondered what a retreat at St. Beuno's Ignatian spirituality center would be like, I've noticed today that the BBC tv program, The Big Silence, has been put on YouTube. It's sort of like the past series, The Monastery (which I posted about here), but though Abbott Christopher Jamison OSB also facilitates the introduction of five individuals into the retreat, in this series only the very beginning is spent at Worth Abbey.

I'm not sure if I'll end up watching it myself - I guess I was a little disappointed to see that Abbott Jamison was part of the fairly conservative Catholic Voices project when the pope visited the UK. But I did like The Monastery very much, and I've never seen the inside of a Jesuit retreat center, so, ok, I'm going to have to watch :) Here's the introductory episode below. You can watch all 12 episodes here ...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Amazing Blondel: Alleluia

No, not radical orthodoxy's Maurice Blondel, but another one :)

My sister's just watched Robin Hood and asked me why King Richard (the lionheart), who appears at the beginning of the film, looked so unhappy. I said maybe it was because he'd married someone he (probably) didn't love, Berengaria of Navarre, or because he didn't take Jerusalem (the third crusade), or because he was held ransom for a couple of years.

But anyway, that reminded me of the legend of Blondel de Nesle, about whom it was ...

claimed that, after Richard I of England was arrested and held for ransom in 1192, he was found by the minstrel Blondel, whom he saw from his window, and to whom he sang a verse of a song they both knew. Later versions of the story related that Blondel went from castle to castle, singing a particular song that only he and Richard knew, and that the imprisoned Richard replied with the second verse - thus identifying where he was imprisoned. Then, Blondel either aided the king's escape or reported his position back to his friends. Blondel finally found Richard at Dürnstein; in fact, there was no mystery about Richard's location.

He's so famous, he's been immortalized in literature, movies, and there's a band named for him too, Amazing Blondel. Here's a video of them at Lincoln Cathedral ....

The pope on condoms and a feminist theology blog

There's a furor over a quote on condom use from the pope in a new book .....

"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality." (In All Things)

Why does this seem to be a big deal? ... theologians from Karl Rahner to Charles Curran, and even clerics like Bishop Kevin Dowling (see my past post on him), have spoken for contraception use ... it's just that now the pope seems to have changed his mind a little (only in the restricted case of condoms for male prostitutes who have sexual diseases?). But even in this case of using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS: is there a person out there who is HIV positive and who cares about the health of their partner but who won't use a condom because the church says not to; is there a person out there who is HIV positive and who doesn't care about their partner but who will now use a condom because the pope has changed his mind? To me the pope's change of heart seems too little too late, but I suppose this might alter things for the better in Catholic-run health agencies dealing with AIDS victims.

Anyway, this brings me to a blog I've been recently visiting, Women in Theology/WIT. Who knew there'd be others besides me who read both In All Things and Feministing :). I assume they're mostly Catholics because they attend Catholic colleges, but also their latest post points that way too: Pope Benedict Changes His Mind on Condoms? - who but Catholics would expend the energy to discuss the use of condoms against AIDS as the principle of double effect?

You can read more about the book and what the pope said here at Reuters FaithWorld blog - Condoms, Pius XII, sex abuse and other main points in pope book.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I've posted often about the film Jesus - today I saw the whole movie's online. I'm watching it again because it's slightly different than the one I own - this one has more content than the abridged US version. The clips start and stop at awkward moments because they're each 8 minutes long, but ....

- this clip begins with Jesus saying goodbye to his mom after Joseph has died, stopping then at the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, to tell Mary whom he loves that he can't marry her after all, and then finding his cousin John the baptist, to begin his new life ...

- if you can get past a couple of minutes of Herod and John the baptist quarrelling, this clip will show the first meeting of Jesus and Peter, a miraculous catch of fish, and Jesus healing a man who can't walk ....

- here's Jesus in the garden before his arrest. It starts with Judas telling the soldiers where he is, then shows Jesus with Satan, who's trying to convince him to not go through with the crucifixion by showing him a future where people kill each other in his name. The reply Jesus makes is ... "Through me, God will reveal his love for all mankind .... I will die for the everlasting kindness of the human heart created by the Father, so that man will make His image shine once again. And those who want to will find in me the strength to love until the end."...

You can read a review of the movie by Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Greensboro College, W. Barnes Tatum, here.

Is there an Episcopal church within walking distance?

This from Anthony Ruff OSB in a recent post at Pray Tell, Losing faith in Catholic church’s direction ...

"[...] I admit that my impression is based more on anecdote than hard data. But the anecdotes I hear from all parts of the country are piling up. And they are very disturbing. A permanent deacon’s wife – last I knew, this traditional Catholic woman was active in the pro-life movement – no longer attends Mass ever since the Pope’s and curia’s scandalous response to the sex abuse scandal. A young Catholic couple – the wife has an aunt in a committed lesbian relationship – leaves the Church over its treatment of homosexuals. A Catholic theology professor is worshiping at a Lutheran church on Sundays. A Catholic graduate of a Catholic college choses not to baptize his child in the Catholic Church because of its treatment of gays and women. Two Catholic people long employed at two Catholic publishers ask themselves how much longer they will stay Catholic and when they will make the break with it. A young women near the end of her studies in pastoral ministry, in tears, asks herself why she wasted all this time and money preparing to minister in a Church she no longer wants to associate with. Most every week I hear at least one such story.

Then there is the data. Adult baptisms in the US Catholic Church have declined 40% since 2005. Catholic infant baptisms in Boston are down 46% since 2000, Catholic marriages down 54%. The diocese of Leeds will loose 40% of its clergy within five years. In Ireland 16 men began seminary this fall – in the 1980s it would have been over 150.

The overnight collapse of the Catholic Church in Quebec and the Netherlands is legendary. Increasingly I’m asking myself whether we are now at the beginning of such a collapse."

Sadly, a blogging friend, PrickliestPear, has recently left.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kirche am Steinhof

- angel by Othmar Schimkowitz

The latest church I've virtually visited is the Church of St. Leopold in Vienna, "one of the most famous Art Nouveau churches in the world", as Wikipedia states ....

The church, situated 310 metres (1017 ft) above sea level, dominates and forms part of the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital .... It was built in 1903-1907 by the 63-year-old architect Otto Wagner, with mosaics and stained glass by Koloman Moser, and sculptural angels by Othmar Schimkowitz (1864 - 1947). The great majority of the other smaller details are the work of Otto Wagner himself. The statues on the two external towers represent Saint Leopold and Saint Severin (l. & r. respectively: they are the two patron saints of Lower Austria) and are the work of the Viennese sculptor Richard Luksch (1872 - 1936) .....

Otto Wagner incorporated numerous features specifically related to its function within an asylum: e.g. there are very few sharp edges, and most corners are rounded; almost no crosses are visible; the priest's area is potentially entirely separate from the patients'; access to the pulpit is only from the vestry; emergency exits are built into the side walls in case a patient needed to be speedily removed; continuously flowing water replaced holy water stoups at the entrance; there were separate entrances for male and female patients; confessionals were more open than is customary. There were toilet facilities easily accessible within the church in case of patient need. Originally the pews were of different widths to accommodate different categories of patient: calm / restless / disturbed (the latter needing more space). The floor is raked as in a theatre though not as steeply; the fall from entrance to altar is approx. 26 cms: standing at the back the view to the altar is thus less obstructed.

Here are some photos ....

- a painting by Koloman Moser of one of his stained glass windows at the church

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

V and Fr. Jack

This week's rental was the 2009 tv series V. I remembered the original 1983 V miniseries starring Marc Singer (the Beastmaster :), and also Mark Mossa SJ had posted about one of the characters, a priest named Fr. Jack, so I thought I'd give it a try.

In both versions of the series, the plot chronicles the arrival on Earth of a technologically advanced alien species which ostensibly comes in peace, but actually has sinister motives. The original series was inspired by the Sinclair Lewis novel about fascism in the US, It Can't Happen Here (1935), and you can see a fascist alien seduction of earth in the new series as well ..... the aliens move to control the media with Scott Wolf's tv journalist becoming the aliens' spokesperson, they incorporate human teens into a paramilitary youth organization, and they also get religious institutions to back them up.

So far RC priest Fr. Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch of The 4400) is my favorite character .... we're barely into the first minutes of the first episode before he's disagreeing with the Vatican :) Here he is below with FBI agent Erica Evens with whom he creates a resistance movement against the aliens .....

And the tv trailer for the show ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweet Sir Galahad

I like this song Joan Baez wrote for her sister Mimi who'd lost her first husband but then fell in love again ......

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Missal translations and a letter from Vatican II

Earlier I mentioned a Tablet article by Fr. Philip Endean SJ - Worship and power - about the new missal translations. Recently the subject of a hijacked translation has been in the news at America magazine ('Leaked' Vatican Document on New Mass Translations) which has links to coverage at PrayTell and NCR.

It's all confusing to me, but here's a bit of background from Anthony Ruff, OSB from a post at his blog PrayTell .....

[...] Nearly two decades had been spent on a revised translation, which was completed in the 1990s and approved by wide margins by all the English-speaking national bishops’ conferences. Rome rejected this translation in its entirety and in 2001 issued completely new translation guidelines.

The bishops’ conferences, working through their translation agency ICEL, developed several drafts these past eight or nine years following the new rules, with widespread (but secret) consultation at each step. ICEL now sends drafts to Rome as well at every stage, and the changes called for by the Congregation for Divine Worship and its advisory committee, Vox Clara, have been incorporated. The deadline for the national conferences to submit their final version to the Holy See for approval was last December (2009)

This summer the story began to leak that Vox Clara, or at least a few members of Vox Clara, had radically revised the final text without consulting the national conferences. In fact, it seems that their revising began already last September, meaning that the revisers worked from a draft earlier than the final one and largely ignored the last round of consultation from the national conferences. You probably have seen the number 10,000 – or at least 10,000 – batted around on the blogs in regard to the extent of the revisions. The Holy See gave final approval to this radically revised version on March 25. Then the final text continued to be revised behind the scenes until a final version was received in the US a few weeks ago. Cardinal George announced on August 20 that this would be the Missal text and it would begin being used in the U.S. on the First Sunday of Advent 2011 (November 26/27) ........

At the conclusion of Philip Endean's article in The Tablet, he wrote ...

This new translation, both in its content and in the manner of its imposition, represents a retreat from the salutary, evangelical reform of church style and mood that Vatican II represented. Those of us who experienced pre-conciliar Catholicism as abusive received Vatican II as a powerful reassurance that the Church was mending its ways. That gave us hope and liberation. It will be a scandal, in both the common and the theological senses of the word, if - at a level that really hurts - the new translation takes that reassurance back.

That mention of Vatican II reminded me of an NCR story on a translation analysis by Xavier Rindfleisch at PrayTell . The name Xavier Rindfleisch ... was a nom de plume playing on Xavier Rynne, the famed 1960s pseudonymous author (the late Redemptorist Fr. Francis Xavier Murphy) of articles in The New Yorker that revealed the inner workings of the Second Vatican Council.

I looked up Fr. Murphy and found one of his letters to The New Yorker online. In tone it reminds me a lot of John O'Malley's book What Happened at Vatican II, from which I've posted a number of excepts here in the past. The letter's really interesting but very long - seven pages - so below I've pasted just part of it .....


Letter from Vatican City
by Xavier Rynne
December 25, 1965

"The event,” as theologian Karl Barth has called Vatican Council II, reached its formal close here yesterday, though it may be said that its real work is just beginning ....

At the beginning, Pope John declared the Council’s two- fold purpose to be aggiornamento, or the updating, of the Roman Catholic Church, and the promotion of Christian unity. The former purpose has been carried out to a considerable, though not complete, extent by the sixteen decrees, whose implementation represents the work that has only started. To symbolize the second purpose, Pope Paul in the closing days of the Council, despite pro-tests from some Council Fathers, decided to hold a historic religious ceremony. On Saturday, December 4th, at the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, the Pope joined in an interfaith prayer service with a group of Orthodox, Protestant, and other non-Catholic churchmen who have been attending the Council as observer delegates. Many Council Fathers attended (it was not open to the public), but it was the first time that any Pope had ever participated in an interdenominational religious service .....

The first turning point of the final session was the Pope’s intervention to resolve the Council’s impasse over the much debated declaration on religious liberty. His action gave new courage to the majority and was in sharp contrast with his refusal to act on this important document the year before. The new crisis developed over whether there would be a preliminary vote accepting a revised version of the declaration as a basis for the final text. Without such a vote, it would have been possible for the minority—who made a strong attack during the four days of debate on this subject—to emasculate the text, and possibly even kill it as far as the present Council was concerned. A number of conservative bishops, including some cardinals, petitioned the Pope not to allow a vote and to turn the document over to a new subcommission—most particularly, not to Cardinal Bea’s Secretariat for Christian Unity, which had drafted the original text—so that it could be rewritten along the lines they desired. Very much was at stake. In a sense, the success or failure of the Council depended on this document, for many people, including almost every one of the Protestant observers and the American bishops, regarded a strong statement on behalf of religious liberty as one of the touchstones by which the Council would be judged. An air of gloomy foreboding and suspense prevailed on the night of Monday, September 20th, when it became known that the top echelons of the Council had met that afternoon and had decided by a narrow majority not to present the text on religious liberty for a vote. (Some said that the measure had lost by a vote of sixteen to nine.) Cardinal Spellman, one of those present, emerged from the meeting in obvious anger, and Cardinal Shehan, of Baltimore, reportedly went to see the Pope to protest.

The next morning, at the Council session, the bishops were naturally astonished when Archbishop Felici announced that a secret ballot would be taken immediately on whether to accept the declaration on religious liberty as the basis for a final text. The results were 1,997 in favor and 224 opposed, amounting to a landslide for the progressives. The Council had sailed over its first major hurdle. What had happened overnight was that the Pope had taken counsel with a number of advisers, who pointed out that he could not possibly go before the United Nations on October 4th to plead for peace and a respect for human dignity if no clear-cut stand had been taken on religious liberty. He seems also to have been impressed by the words of the exiled Cardinal Josef Beran, of Prague, who said on the Council floor, “From the very moment when freedom of conscience was radically restricted in my country, I witnessed not only the grave dangers to the faith but also the serious temptations toward hypocrisy and other moral vices that oppression of conscience brings in its wake.” (Cardinal Beran went on to make the memorable statement that his country was perhaps now making painful expiation for such sins against freedom of conscience as the burning of John Hus in the fifteenth century and the enforced re-Catholicization of the Bohemian people in the seventeenth century under the Hapsburgs.) The Pope is also understood to have had a hand in drafting the carefully worded proposition by which the matter was put to a vote. His continuing support of “the American schema,” as the declaration on religious liberty was called at the Council, brought about its eventual acceptance on December 7th, the final business day, by a vote of 2,308 for and 70 against ......

The Pope’s remarks to the Council on November 18th about the reform of the Curia and, more recently, his Motu Proprio reforming the Holy Office make it obvious that what he plans for this body is not a revolution but a gradual conversion. As he himself said, “The desired transformation will seem slow and partial, but it cannot be otherwise if due respect is to be had for persons and traditions. But this transformation will surely come.” As if to put teeth into these last words, on December 6th, two days before the Council ended, he published the long-awaited new statute for the Holy Office. Not only has that formidable office been given a new name—the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—but it is henceforth to he oriented not so much toward the repression and condemnation of error as toward the fostering and positive study of “new questions and opinions.” It has been enjoined specifically to adopt a more positive attitude toward international theological congresses, and to establish closer ties with the Pontifical Biblical Commission—in other words, to abandon its obstructive attitude toward modern theology and theologians. The new office is also to make wider use of consultants throughout the world (no longer relying exclusively on theologians resident in Rome) and is to accord those who have been accused of error in matters of faith the opportunity of defending themselves. Two of the men who have suffered greatly at the hands of the Holy Office in recent years—Fathers John Courtney Murray, of the United States, and Henri de Lubac, of France, both of them Council periti and Jesuits—were pointedly invited by Pope Paul to concelebrate with him at a public session of the Council on November 18th, and the latter also dined with the Pope on the eve of the publication of the Holy Office decree .....

Few Council documents have aroused as much controversy or been followed with such close interest as the famous declaration on the Jews, now incorporated in a broader declaration on relations with non-Christians, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Moslems. Although the broader declaration is destined to become the Magna Carta of the newly formed Secretariat for Relations with Non-Christian Religions, under Cardinal Marella, it is the original declaration that public attention has been almost exclusively fixed on. Its history has been stormy. It originated as an idea of Pope John XXIII, who created the Secretariat for Christian Unity, presided over by Cardinal Bea. A suitable text was written early in 1961 and was presented that May to the Central Commission, which was empowered to decide what texts were to be discussed at the opening session of the Council. Bowing to pressure not only from Arab states but from reactionary forces in the Church, the Commission refused to accept the draft. So nothing was done about it during the first session. In December, 1962, after Pope John had recovered from his illness, he had Cardinal Bea revise the document, and gave the revision his approval. To avoid objections from a new reviewing body, it was decided to annex the document to the schema “On Ecumenism.” When this came up for discussion at the second session, under Pope Paul, it was suddenly announced, just as Cardinal Bea was preparing to introduce the text, that the discussion would have to be postponed until the next session because of “lack of time.” Pressure had again been exerted from the usual quarters. When the text actually reached the floor of the Council, at the third session, it was so altered that Archbishop Heenan, of Westminster, one of the members of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, declared it to be virtually unrecognizable. The approval of this bastardized text—to the extent that he did approve it—was probably Pope Paul’s greatest tactical mistake. After two days of debate, it became clear that the previous text would have to be restored. The final version represents a compromise with the restored version, which was approved for submission to the Council on November 20, 1964. The passage rejecting the charge of “deicide” was strengthened, though the word itself was omitted. While the restored version both “deplored and condemned” hatred and persecution of Jews, the final version merely “deplores” them, but it does inveigh against “displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews,” this time mentioning the word “anti-Semitism” explicitly. While the old version warned Christians not to teach anything that could give rise to hatred and persecution of Jews, the final text urges them not to teach “anything inconsistent with the truth of the Gospel and with the spirit of Christ.”

It was a foregone conclusion that the document would win a majority when it was put to a vote on October 14th and 15th, the only question being whether three groups—those disappointed by the omission of the word “deicide”; Bishop Carli’s followers, who opposed the declaration on theological grounds; and those who felt that there were still political objections—would be able to register enough non-placet votes to impair the unanimity with which Council texts are supposed to be approved. As usual, the Fathers were deluged with literature beforehand. Bishop Carli’s group urged non-placet votes on the grounds that the declaration favored indifferentism by tending to regard all religions as being on the same level, that it would retard the “conversion of the Gentiles,” and that it would put an end to missionary work. One of the most violent pamphlets was a four-page affair signed by thirty-one so-called Catholic organizations, most of which promptly disavowed any connection with it; it turned out to be a hoax, concocted by a Latin-American crank. So much tension had been generated, however, that the authorities naturally took seriously an anonymous letter received by Cardinal Marella from a person threatening—half in French and half in German—to blow up St. Peter’s and the whole Council if the Jewish document was voted. Extra police were detailed to guard the building. Except for a resounding crash when some workmen’s scaffolding collapsed, the voting proceeded smoothly, and the result—1,763 placet and 250 non-placet—insured that the document would be promulgated. Many bishops who disliked the omission of the word “deicide” nevertheless voted for the text, because they feared that too large a negative vote would cause the pope to withdraw the document. They considered that the present document was better than no document at all. As one of the periti involved in the drafting of the various versions put the matter, “If it had not been for the publicity surrounding the previous versions, the present text would probably be regarded as excellent.”

Apart from religious liberty, the subject that caused the biggest stir during the final session of the Council was Schema 13, “On the Church in the World Today.” ..... The debate on Part I of the document soon narrowed down to an intense discussion of just one short paragraph, on the problem of atheism, which had been inserted to satisfy the demands of numerous bishops who wanted a clear statement condemning both atheism and Communism. The new text was carefully drafted in such a way as to avoid excessive condemnation while putting emphasis on what was lacking in atheism. No mention was made of Communism at all. The position of moderation taken by the subcommission that drafted the text was naturally supported by those who felt, like Patriarch Maximos IV and Cardinal Koenig, of Vienna, that “Christians have had a large responsibility for the rise and spread of atheism.” The Patriarch said, “Condemning Marxism cannot save humanity from atheism. Rather, we must denounce the causes of atheistic Communism. . . . Many who call themselves atheists are not necessarily against the Church. In their own minds, they are only seeking for a clear idea of God. . . . They are scandalized by a Christianity that often proves itself to be so egotistical. We, too, should be opposed to the exploitation of man by man.” ......

It was over birth control that the Council nearly came to grief during its closing weeks. On November 24th, two weeks before its scheduled close, it received a letter from Cardinal Cicognani, Secretary of State, containing a last- minute amendment for Schema 13: Pope Paul, it appeared, wanted a clearer reference to the present doctrine of the Church banning artificial contraception. Since the Pope had previously withdrawn the birth-control question from the jurisdiction of the Council, reserving it to himself, and had appointed a special commission of experts to advise him in making a final pronouncement on the matter, many Council Fathers felt they were now being asked to approve legislation without adequate discussion. Tempers began to soar, and for a while it looked as if the dark days that marked the close of the third session were about to be repeated. Fortunately, as a result of protests by leading commission members, such as Cardinal Léger, of Montreal, and a discreet but firm move on the part of the lay auditors, two days later another letter came from Cardinal Cicognani stating that the Pope was only offering suggestions and not ordering an amendment. The commission adroitly turned the issue by adding Pope Paul’s more liberal statement of June, 1964, to the two other papal statements, and the Pope expressed himself satisfied with their work. As expected, the Council has ended with no resolution of the birth-control problem.

The Pope’s reference at the U.N. to birth control, urging the world to increase the food supply and decrease poverty rather than the population, revealed his awareness that the world expects him to make a pronouncement on the subject. He stated frankly in the Cavallari interview that he did not know the answer to the problem. “The world asks us what we think about [birth control] and we must give an answer,” he said. “We cannot remain silent. It is difficult to know what to say. For centuries the Church has not had to face such problems. And this matter is a little strange for churchmen to be handling, and even embarrassing from the human point of view. So the committees are meeting. Papers and reports have been piling up. We have had to do a great deal of studying, you know. But now we have to make decision. Only we can do that. Deciding is not as easy as studying. But have to say something. What can we say? God must enlighten us.”

Paul’s quandary over this problem is similar to the undogmatic and searching approach of the majority of the Council Fathers to the many new and difficult problems that confronted them. This, as we know from history, is quite unlike the juridical and dogmatic attitudes of earlier Councils. Some answers have been provided by Vatican 11, but more questions have been raised. As Dr. A. C. Outler, the Methodist observer delegate, remarked before a gathering of the American hierarchy Rome shortly before the Council’s end, “Far less has been accomplished than has been made possible. More frontiers have been opened than occupied.” In retrospect, Vatican II’s crowning achievement will probably be to have opened doors. ♦