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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trump and abortion

A furor in the news when pro-life Donald Trump said women should be punished if they got illegal abortions (then changed his mind). Democrats jumped on him, of course, but also the Republicans did too, and I think that's the real story - the Republicans and the pro-life movement were furious that Trump said out loud what they have been pursuing for years - the abolishing and criminalizing of abortion - the logical extension of their "abortion = murder" rhetoric.

From TIME ... Donald Trump’s Abortion Logic Is Totally 100% Right ...

The success of Donald Trump stems from one major factor: the perception that he tells it like it is because he’s beholden to no one. Whether Trump actually does tell the truth is a different question—one more often answered in the negative—but Wednesday, he did something rare for a Republican politician: he told the truth, saying that if abortion were illegal, women should be punished. (He later walked back his comments).

Commentators on the left erupted with outrage, and on the right with denial. “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund in a statement. “We have never advocated, in any context, for the punishment of women who undergo abortion,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser of the anti-abortion-rights group Susan B. Anthony List in a statement. “Punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.”

And so went the usual anti-abortion claims: Outlawing abortion should punish abortion providers, not women. Women who have abortions are ignorant victims, coerced or tricked into forsaking their true desire for motherhood by greedy doctors who exploit them for financial gain.

These are lies. But they also reveal an important idea underpinning the anti-abortion-rights movement in the U.S.: It’s not about the life of the embryo or fetus. It’s certainly not about helping or protecting women. It’s about hostility to women’s social advancement, which has been rapid, and which would have been wholly impossible without access to contraception and abortion. And it’s not just Trump whose antipathy toward women’s rights and freedoms plays out particularly pronouncedly around abortion rights. It’s Ted Cruz, it’s the anti-abortion movement, and it’s most of the Republican Party ....

And from The LA Times ... Opinion Trump's abortion 'gaffe' exposed an anti-abortion contradiction ...

[...] “While antiabortion advocates have made it as difficult as possible in various states for women to get an abortion, often use language that equates abortion with murder, and hope for a day when Roe vs. Wade is overturned, rarely do they suggest criminalizing a woman seeking an abortion in that world. That’s, at least, in part because, politically, even they know what Trump apparently didn’t: No one would stand for that.”

But that is precisely why Trump’s original comment was so disruptive. It exposed a contradiction in a lot of anti-abortion rhetoric that those activists cannot explain away, hard as they try.

If abortion is murder — or the moral equivalent thereof — it’s absurd to suggest that only the doctor who performs an abortion should be criminally responsible.

That’s Trump’s new position: "The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb."

Put aside the paternalism of this explanation. (Women are pawns of presumably male doctors with no control over their own actions.) It defies logic to suggest that a person who initiates criminal act ought to be immune to punishment for it. At the minimum, the woman who seeks an abortion is an accessory to murder — if you believe abortion is murder ....

And from The Daily Beast ... Donald Trump’s ‘Punishment’ Talk Exposes Abortion Foes’ True Face ...

After Donald Trump said that when abortion is criminalized there must be some punishment for women who get an abortion, anti-abortion activists went into overdrive to distance themselves from his comments.

National Right to Life said it “has long opposed the imposition of penalties on the woman on whom an abortion is attempted or performed.” Other anti-choice organizations, including the Susan B. Anthony List and Priests for Life, joined in. Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund declared flat-out, “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion.”

That, of course, is utterly, ridiculously false. Just a few months ago, Personhood USA, a group that has been pushing for state-level laws granting legal personhood to fertilized eggs at the moment of conception, cheered the attempted murder prosecution of a woman in Tennessee who had tried to give herself an abortion. As Miranda Blue noted at Right Wing Watch in December, “In Alabama, the state supreme court has used ‘chemical endangerment’ laws to lay the legal groundwork for fetal personhood, leading to the prosecutions of nearly 500 women accused of endangering their fetuses.”

One of the co-chairs of Ted Cruz’s “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” group—announced by the Cruz campaign in January— is Troy Newman, who says a woman who has an abortion is essentially a “contract killer.” He has made it clear, in writing, that he thinks a biblical response to abortion means executing providers and treating women who have abortions as “murderers.” ....

And from Slate ...Good News, Donald Trump! Women Are Already Punished for Seeking Abortions (see the article for all the embedded links) ...

[...] Trump will be glad to hear that women seeking abortions are already punished here in the United States of America:

1. Women are fed misleading information and outright lies by doctors compelled by law to tell them that their abortions may cause breast cancer (it doesn’t), that they’ll be prone to infertility (untrue), and that life begins at conception (up for debate). In fact, one out of three bits of information abortion providers are forced by law to tell their patients are false.

2. To get to clinics, women must walk through gauntlets of protesters calling them murderers, telling them they’re going to hell, and waving signs with bloody imagery.

3. Women must wait for a prescribed amount of time between mandatory pre-abortion counseling and the procedure in 28 states. Waiting periods make abortions more expensive, more dangerous, logistically challenging, and emotionally taxing.

4. In 14 states, women must make two separate visits to a clinic, requiring extra time and money for transportation, time off work, child care, and travel expenses.

5. In Utah, women seeking abortions at 20 weeks gestation or later are forced to take anesthetic drugs, even if it’s against their will, adding additional risk to an overwhelmingly safe procedure.

6. Two-dozen states impose redundant or unnecessary safety requirements on abortion providers, making it harder for them to stay open and serve their patients.

7. Twenty-two states impose superfluous licensing standards, and 14 require doctors to have affiliations with local hospitals. These laws are forcing clinics across the country to close, leaving women with longer distances to travel, longer wait times, and more expensive procedures.

8. Poor women cannot use Medicaid to cover their abortions, sentencing them to debilitating expenses or unwanted pregnancies and children.

9. In 38 states, girls must notify or gain consent from their parents before obtaining abortions, putting themselves at risk of financial, emotional, and sometimes physical harm.

And again from The LA Times ... Abortion and the myth of 'protecting' women ...

[...] Some anti-choice activists have suggested that clinics literally hold women down and force them to have abortions. But most people floating the "coerced abortion" myth are more subtle. They pretend that unscrupulous boyfriends and clinic workers exploit women's supposed inability to make rational decisions when emotional.

In 2007, the National Review hosted a forum in which anti-choice activists laid out the theory that women are too stupid — though they shied away from that word — to make a fully informed choice to end a pregnancy. The woman is the "second victim of abortion," argued Dorinda C. Bordlee of the Bioethics Defense Fund. Villanova University law professor Joseph Dellapenna concurred, saying, "Women were victims of the abortion and not perpetrators."

Throughout the forum, participants advanced the notion that women choose abortion because the poor dears don't know "abortion for what it is" because "health and legal authorities fail to tell them," as Catholic blogger Pia de Solenni put it. And so, as Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, claimed, abortion bans are about "protection, not punishment."

In other words, much as we have laws that say a minor is too immature to consent to sex, we ought to shield women — lifelong minors, effectively — from making choices about their own bodies.

The ignorance argument is all over the latest attacks on Planned Parenthood. David Daleiden, the head of the Center for Medical Progress, told the National Review that if he had a chance to ask Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, anything, "I would ask her if she knows abortion the way Planned Parenthood providers know abortion." ...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Captain Hook in the Underworld

- Hook, at a happier time

I'm really enjoying the latest from Once Upon a Time. Captain Hook, one of my favorite characters, has died and gone to the Underworld, a sort of pit stop on the way to a better or worse final destination for the dead, where those who have unfinished business must tarry. Hook's girlfriend and her family have come after him to save him from Hades, who rules the Underworld, but it's going to be complicated. Here is Hades threatening Hook ...

It probably all seems silly to those who aren't fans, but I think the show has more depth than is obvious and more heart than a thousand episodes of Game of Thrones. All the characters are well developed, with back stories that are continuously being revealed in flashbacks, making it hard to ever deliver final moral judgements on any of them. Captain Hook, or Killian Jones, is as complex as any of the others. Here we see in a flashback how he started off life as a kid ...

And after later losing his brother and killing his own father, plus a couple of centuries of antisocial behavior, he makes a final decision to do the right thing and save everyone else by dying himself ...

Sniff, sniff :( Hope they save him!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter and Mary Magdalene

The Apostle to the Apostles: In Defence of Mary Magdalene

Here's the Jesus miniseries version of Jesus' burial, resurrection appearance to Mary M, and words for the disciples afterwards, including the bit deleted from the American version which shows Jesus still hanging around in the present ...

Let's take this moment to remember that it was Mary who was the first person to see the risen Jesus. And let's recall that our church turned her into a sex worker and that the church and Pope Francis still do not deem women to be the ontological or practical equals of men and will not allow them to be even deacons, much less priests. Way to follow Jesus' lead (not).

Holy Saturday

- the Garden Tomb

So, What Did Jesus Do On Holy Saturday? ... was he in hell, harrowing, or was he in paradise with the repentant thief? I would rather believe he was in paradise. But maybe he just stayed put in the tomb ...

Saturday Night in the Tomb - William Coleman

I like to imagine Him dancing there,
testing his limbs' limits once more, fitting
back into his body the way we might
slip back again into a forgotten
favorite shirt crumpled in the closet,
finding ourselves wrapped in an old love's
scent and remembering the moonflowers
opening in our gaze, steadying
for another long, glorious night of worship.
That's the God I believe in—the one
who can't wait to roll back the rock, leave nothing
behind, make an appearance everywhere,
yet who still loves these nights alone, the cool
darkness of His room, that sweet, solitary
music that keeps Him humming long after the dying's done.

Justin Trudeau :)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday: incarnation blossoms

- incarnation blossom

I don't like Good Friday. I've tried to get into the spirit of it - I've done some of the online Stations of the Cross and I've made myself watch The Passion of the Christ a few times without closing my eyes during the most heart-wrenching parts :( ...

It's just too awful, both Jesus' suffering and also the creepy enthusiasm displayed by some Catholics over the thought that all that suffering was for them. I don't like the idea that God sent Jesus here to die, I don't believe he had to suffer a brutal murder to save us from our sins and I'm tired of trying to put a pious felix culpa spin on it. So maybe a poem instead ...

Supernatural Love - Gjertrud Schnackenberg

My father at the dictionary stand
Touches the page to fully understand
The lamplit answer, tilting in his hand

His slowly scanning magnifying lens,
A blurry, glistening circle he suspends
Above the word 'Carnation'. Then he bends

So near his eyes are magnified and blurred,
One finger on the miniature word,
As if he touched a single key and heard

A distant, plucked, infinitesimal string,
"The obligation due to every thing
That's smaller than the universe." I bring

My sewing needle close enough that I
Can watch my father through the needle's eye,
As through a lens ground for a butterfly

Who peers down flower-hallways toward a room
Shadowed and fathomed as this study's gloom
Where, as a scholar bends above a tomb

To read what's buried there, he bends to pore
Over the Latin blossom. I am four,
I spill my pins and needles on the floor

Trying to stitch "Beloved" X by X.
My dangerous, bright needle's point connects
Myself illiterate to this perfect text

I cannot read. My father puzzles why
It is my habit to identify
Carnations as "Christ's flowers", knowing I

Can give no explanation but "Because."
Word-roots blossom in speechless messages
The way the thread behind my sampler does

Where following each X, I awkward move
My needle through the word whose root is love.
He reads, "A pink variety of Clove,

Carnatio, the Latin, meaning flesh."
As if the bud's essential oils brush
Christ's fragrance through the room, the iron-fresh

Odor carnations have floats up to me,
A drifted, secret, bitter ecstasy,
The stems squeak in my scissors, Child, it's me,

He turns the page to "Clove" and reads aloud:
"The clove, a spice, dried from a flower-bud."
Then twice, as if he hasn't understood,

He reads, "From French, for clou, meaning a nail."
He gazes, motionless,"Meaning a nail."
The incarnation blossoms, flesh and nail,

I twist my threads like stems into a knot
And smooth "Beloved", but my needle caught
Within the threads, Thy blood so dearly bought,

The needle strikes my finger to the bone.
I lift my hand, it is myself I've sewn,
The flesh laid bare, the threads of blood my own,

I lift my hand in startled agony
And call upon his name, "Daddy Daddy" -
My father's hand touches the injury

As lightly as he touched the page before,
Where incarnation bloomed from roots that bore
The flowers I called Christ's when I was four.


- Basinger and Evans

Another movie check-out from the public library, Cellular ... a 2004 American action crime thriller film directed by David R. Ellis and starring Jason Statham, Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and William H. Macy.

- Macy

I got the movie because I wanted to see some of Captain America's earlier films :) It was actually pretty good and I especially liked William Macy's character. Here's the beginning of Roger Ebert's review, in which he gave the film 3.5 stars ...

"Cellular" stands "Phone Booth" on its head. The 2003 thriller was about a psychopath who threatens Colin Farrell with death if he leaves a Manhattan phone booth. The new one has Chris Evans racing desperately all over Los Angeles as he tries to stay on his cell phone with a woman who says she's been kidnapped. The same writer, Larry Cohen, collaborated on both projects and is no doubt currently involved in a thriller about chat rooms.

The plot of "Cellular" sounds like a gimmick, and no wonder: It is a gimmick. What's surprising is how convincing it is, under the circumstances, and how willingly we accept the premise and get involved in it. The movie is skillfully plotted, halfway plausible and well acted; the craftsmanship is in the details, including the astonishing number of different ways in which a cell phone can be made to function -- both as a telephone, and as a plot device.

Kim Basinger stars as Jessica, a high school science teacher who is kidnapped by violent home invaders and held prisoner in an attic. The men who have taken her want something from her husband -- something she knows nothing about. They know where her young son Ricky (Adam Taylor Gordon) attends school and plan to kidnap him, too. The kidnappers are hard men, especially their cold, intense leader Greer, played by Jason Statham. Because they've allowed Jessica to see them, she assumes they will eventually kill her.

The attic has a wall phone, which a kidnapper smashes to bits. But Jessica the science teacher is able to fit some of the parts back together and click on the wires to make a call -- at random. She reaches Ryan (Chris Evans), a twentysomething kid who at first doesn't believe her when she says she has been kidnapped. At one point, he even puts her on hold; that's part of the movie's strategy of building our frustration by creating one believable obstacle after another. Jessica pleads with him not to hang up, to trust her enough to hand his cell phone to a cop. Something in her voice convinces him. He walks into a police station and hands the phone to a desk cop named Mooney (William H. Macy), who gets sidetracked and advises him to go to homicide, up on the fourth floor. Uh-huh. But Mooney, too, hears something in her voice, and later in the day it still resonates. He's not your typical hot-dog movie cop, but a quiet, thoughtful professional with unexpected resources ....

And here's a trailer ...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Last Supper

Here are some movie versions of the last supper ...

- I especially like this version from The Gospel of John ... it includes Mary M at the dinner table, plus the foot washing scene ...

- And here's the version from Jesus of Nazareth. It seems very grim to me, and the music doesn't help ...

- Here is the scene from The Passion of the Christ. It has a brief foot washing bit too, though it's not shown in this clip. And while the film has subtitles,, this scene seemed really touching to me ....

- I do also like this version from the miniseries Jesus too. See, he says "this is my body, rake, eat" but not "this is my body, take, put it in a monstrance, and adore it" ;) ...

Yard photos

Here's an almost Easter lily (not sure what kind of lily this is) ...

The dead tree has a new little tree growing up from under it ...

Thor is looking kind of wolf-ish today ...

A thought for Holy Week

From Catholic writer Kaya Oakes ...

At her Facebook page ...

This came up multiple times in conversations this week both online and in person (the life of a religion writer), and it's something to contemplate: in spite of Pope Francis, is the Catholic church in America getting worse in terms of how it treats LGBTQ people and women? And will the incoming generation of priests, many of whom have huge egos and are obsessed with clericalism, further rob lay people of the little agency they once had? On the one hand, the priest shortage means lay people will continue to do more (mostly unpaid work); on the other, the authoritarian nature of most bishops means that priests will have the final say as to what that work looks like and how it functions. I don't have any answers here, more of a question for those of you who have opinions: what will the America church look like in 10, 20, 30 years? And what, if anything, can be done to turn that around? ....

Probably nothing, given we lay people have absolutely no voice in the church and that those few priests who do speak up for us, like Fr. Roy Bourgeois, are crushed and discarded by the hierarchy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Martian

This week's movie checked out from the public library was The Martian ...

a 2015 American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. The film is based on Andy Weir's 2011 novel The Martian, which Drew Goddard adapted into a screenplay. Damon stars as an astronaut who is mistakenly presumed dead and left behind on Mars. The film depicts his struggle to survive and others' efforts to rescue him. The film's ensemble cast also features Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

I had read the novel some time ago and have been looking forward to seeing how the movie would be. I think they did a pretty good adaptation. One of the things most impressive about both the book and the movie is the fairly good accuracy of the science involved - NASA and 'The Martian' partner to make space 'cool' – and accurate and What ‘The Martian’ gets right — and wrong — about life on Mars. The other impressive thing, at least for me, was the main character's personality: in the face of continual adversity he just never gave up trying to solve the problems set before him.

Here's a trailer ...

Monday, March 21, 2016


- How to cope with Holy Week when you feel less than inspired

- The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity

- Lust, Lies And Empire: The Fishy Tale Behind Eating Fish On Friday

- The Myth That Young Men Don’t Want Love Is Spoiling American Sexual Culture

- Almost everything you buy, from cereal to mascara, is killing the rain forest

- Tyler Perry’s The Passion: A Perfect Bourgeois Jesus

- Most Popular Theories of Consciousness Are Worse Than Wrong

- Finally, another article by pro-life Catholic Charles Camosy on his belief (a false belief) that Democrats could destroy the GOP — if only they would welcome antiabortion liberals. That's like saying that the Democratic party could win over Republican voters if only it stood for Republican values instead of Democratic ones. There are a few pro-life Democrats, yes, but they will never have any power in the party ... the two Democratic candidates now running for president have their differences, but both are very strongly pro-choice. Camosy doesn't ever seem to understand that one of the mainstays of the Democratic party is insuring women's rights, including reproductive rights.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Happy almost Palm Sunday

I find the movie versions of the gospel events so helpful ... they make everything a little more real for me. Here are a sew versions of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday from some of the Jesus movies I like ....

- Here's the scene from The Last Temptation of Christ. You've got to love how it begins, with Peter asking: "Will there be angels there to meet us, or anyone besides who's here?" Jesus doesn't answer, just smiles and puts his arm around Peter's shoulders :) ...

- Here's Lost's Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus, from The Gospel of John ...

- And here's the version from Jesus of Nazareth, which also adds the scene of Jesus causing a disturbance in the temple. This one is a bit grim with foreshadowing ...

Friday, March 18, 2016

Should Mother Teresa be made a saint?

There's been a lot in the news about the canonization of Mother Teresa. I've not paid much attention to her, aside from when it was revealed a few years ago that she had been living in a spiritual wasteland for most of her religious life - Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith - and I haven't been a fan (she was very conservative), so I was intrigued to find that not everyone is sanguine about her becoming a saint. Here's a bit from a couple of articles I saw today.

- Mother Teresa Was No Saint ...

[...] To canonize Mother Teresa would be to seal the lid on her problematic legacy, which includes forced conversion, questionable relations with dictators, gross mismanagement, and actually, pretty bad medical care. Worst of all, she was the quintessential white person expending her charity on the third world — the entire reason for her public image, and the source of immeasurable scarring to the postcolonial psyche of India and its diaspora. A 2013 study from the University of Ottawa dispelled the “myth of altruism and generosity” surrounding Mother Teresa, concluding that her hallowed image did not stand up to the facts, and was basically the result of a forceful media campaign from an ailing Catholic Church ...

- Why Mother Teresa is still no saint to many of her critics ...

[...] In India, where Teresa carried out the majority of her work, that legacy was called into question last year, when the head of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) sparked outrage when he criticized her intentions. “It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity,” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said at the opening of an orphanage in Rajasthan state in February 2015, the Times of India reported. “In the name of service, religious conversions were made. This was followed by other institutes, too.” .....

In his critique of Teresa, the devoutly Hindu Bhagwat would find an unlikely ally in the work of devoutly atheist Christopher Hitchens. The late British writer became one of the most vocal critics of Teresa in the 1990s, tying his reputation to assailing a woman who was, at the time, an unassailable figure. In 1994, Hitchens and British Pakistani journalist Tariq Ali wrote an extremely critical documentary on Teresa titled “Hell’s Angel.” You can see it for yourself below.

And here's a bit from Wikipedia (see the page for footnote sources) ...

Mother Teresa considered that suffering – even when caused by poverty, medical problems, or starvation – was a gift from God. As a result, while her clinics received millions of dollars in donations, their conditions drew criticism from people disturbed by the shortage of medical care, systematic diagnosis, and necessary nutrition, as well as the scarcity of analgesics for those in pain. Many of her critics accused her of a fundamental contradiction: It was estimated that she raised over $100 million for her charity, yet only 5-7% of this was used in catering to the poor. Some have argued that the additional money could have had transformative effects on the health of the poor by creating advanced palliative care facilities in the city. Others, both in India and abroad, criticised her opposition to abortion and contraception ...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Atonement vs the primacy of the Incarnation

Reading an article on an alternative to the atonement theory of Jesus' death - The Mystery of God and Suffering by Ken Overberg SJ. I do like this alternative idea (the primacy of the incarnation) much more than the idea that Jesus had to die for our sins, and I find it more believable too.

At the end, the article also touches on theodicy and suffering ...

[...] We respond to suffering simply by being truthful, avoiding denial and admitting its pain and horror, whatever the cause. We must never glorify suffering. Yes, it can lead us to deeper maturity and wisdom, but suffering can also crush the human spirit. The first step to grief and healing, then, is to move from overwhelmed silence to speech, the bold speech of lament. The Psalms show us how to speak out against suffering and oppression, even against God. But such crying out allows us both to grieve and to grow into a mature covenant partner with God. A paraphrase of Psalm 56 expresses well this relationship: ‘Be gracious to us, O God; enter our lament in your book; store every tear in your flask’.

Awareness of suffering and relationship with God allow and inspire our action. We acknowledge that, at times, our choices have caused personal and social suffering, so one form of action is moving towards repentance and a change of heart. We also suffer from sickness and many other personal challenges. In this suffering we need to reach out to others, to ask for help, to receive what they offer, to allow them to accompany us in the dark abyss.

Following the life and ministry of Jesus, we also work as individuals and as communities to overcome and end suffering. We know that some suffering results from people’s evil choices (war, injustice, oppression). We know that other suffering simply happens in a world that is not yet fulfilled (earthquakes, debilitating diseases). Our deeds include remaining with others in their suffering, along with action for political and economic issues. We cannot do everything, but we can and must do at least one thing, whatever God asks of us.

The third element in our response to suffering—trust in God—is, of course, especially challenging in suffering’s dark times. Jesus, as we have seen, is a marvellous example of trust in God. His deep, trusting relationship with Abba grounded his life and teaching, and sustained him in his suffering .... We follow Jesus’ words and life by entrusting our lives to our God, who has been called a Loving Abyss.


We can trust because there is even more: our God is a God of resurrection, of new life. Jesus’ story did not end with suffering and death, but with new and transformed life. Trust in God is not some pie-in-the-sky piety, but a profound conviction rooted in the experience of the risen Jesus. Christians are an Easter people, trusting that good overcomes evil, that life overcomes death. Christians trust that God leads us as individuals and as community in resisting evil, and brings us all to the fullness of life.

I kind of like this but it's not enough, at least for me. Instead of answers about why there is so much suffering and why God allows it to happen, we're asked to just trust (have faith?). I'm not a very trusting person. I do trust others, but that trust is conditional and based on my experience with them. I guess the question is, do you have the kind of experience with God to foster trust in him. I don't think I do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Into Temptation

This week's movie check out from the public library was Into Temptation ...

is a 2009 independent drama film written and directed by Patrick Coyle, and starring Jeremy Sisto, Kristin Chenoweth, Brian Baumgartner, Bruce A. Young and Amy Matthews. It tells the story of a prostitute (Chenoweth) who confesses to a Catholic priest (Sisto) that she plans to kill herself on her birthday. The priest attempts to find and save her, and in doing so plunges himself into a darker side of society.

The film was partially inspired by Coyle's father, a kind but belligerent man who had considered becoming a priest in his early life. The script won the McKnight Screenwriting Fellowship from the IFP Minnesota Center for Media Arts. Into Temptation was filmed and set in Coyle's hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Several supporting roles were filled with actors from the Minneapolis – Saint Paul theater area, and Coyle himself performed in a supporting role.

What made me decide to see the movie was that the main character was played by Jeremy Sisto, who played the title role in the miniseries Jesus ...

But anyway, I liked the movie. Here's a clip of Sisto's character talking to his friend, another priest, about the woman who had confessed to him and who he had tried to find and save ....

Ask Justin Trudeau to save the baby seals

Last year at this time I got an email from Paul McCartney :) about the Canadian seal hunt - he wanted to stop it (me too). This year there is renewed hope that the next seal hunt can be stopped, given that Justin Trudeau is Canada's prime minister now.

Activists urge Justin Trudeau to phase out Canada's failing seal industry

If you want to help, you can sign the letter from the Humane Society International to Trudeau asking him to end the seal hunt = Tell the Canadian government to end the commercial seal slaughter.

Here's a brief video from the Humane Society of the baby seals (no worries - nothing icky) ...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Jesus and the adulterous woman: the movies

- Cristo e l'adultera, Tintoretto

The gospel reading for today is John 8:1-11, or Jesus and the woman taken in adultery ...

a passage known as the Pericope Adulterae (/pəˈrɪkəpiː əˈdʌltəriː/)[1] or Pericope de Adultera — is a famous passage (pericope) found in the Gospel of John 7:53-8:11. In this episode, after Jesus has sat down in the temple to teach some of the people, after he spent the previous night at the Mount of Olives, a group of scribes and Pharisees confront Jesus, interrupting his teaching session. They bring in an adulteress, and invite Jesus to pass judgment upon her: should she be stoned, as Moses taught, or not? Jesus first ignores the interruption, and writes on the ground as though he does not hear them. But after the religious leaders continue their challenge, he states that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. The religious leaders depart, leaving Jesus and the woman in the midst of the crowd. Jesus then asks the woman if anyone has condemned her. When she answers that no one has condemned her, Jesus says that he, too, does not condemn her, and tells her to go and sin no more.

Although nothing in this story contradicts anything else in the Gospels, many analysts of the Greek text and manuscripts of the Gospel of John have argued that it was "certainly not part of the original text of St John's Gospel." ...

Though it's probably an add-on, I like this story ... Jesus the friend to women, Jesus who doesn't condemn. There's lots of art on the subject, but I especially like the way it's portrayed in the movies. Four examples ...

- Here's the scene from Zeffirelli's miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth ...

- Here's the scene from The Gospel of John, with Henry Ian Cusick of Lost as Jesus ...

- Here's the scene from The Passion of the Christ. Though the movies is mostly known for its Good Friday violence, it also has a lot of flashback scenes of moments in Jesus' ministry, like this one ...

- This one is my favorite example, the one from the miniseries Jesus, with Jeremy Sisto in the title role ...

Friday, March 11, 2016


This week's movie rental was Everest ...

a 2015 biographical adventure drama film directed by Baltasar Kormákur ... starring an ensemble cast which features Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, and Jake Gyllenhaal .... It is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, and focuses on the survival attempts of two expedition groups, one led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal)

I wanted to see the movie because I had tried but failed to read the book on which the movie is (or is not?) based, and also because I like a lot of the actors in the film. It was also visually beautiful, scenery-wise. But it was incredibly depressing ... almost everyone dies, and not in glorious and dramatic ways, but in often silent, unremarked, pointless ways .... the meaninglessness of their deaths and the indifference of nature was devastating, at least to me. I don't mean to say by this that the movie wasn't good - I think it's a testament to the great acting and well-told story that it affected me.

Richard Roeper liked it very much. Here's his video review of the film ...

The Pope and Bill Gates

Reading today about Pope Francis meeting many wealthy and powerful people, from actors like Leonardo Di Caprio to the heads of companies like Apple, Google, and Instagram. But he wouldn't meet with Bill Gates ....

[...] Francis just narrowly missed receiving in audience Bill Gates himself, the absolute top dog of Microsoft, in addition to being the richest man in the world according to the Forbes ranking. The proposal was shot down by a pair of African cardinals, who reminded the pope that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is highly active in promoting abortion in poor countries.

But that's not true, at least not for the last two years - the Gates Foundation doesn't promote abortion, it tries to help women who want contraception to access it ...

More: Melinda Gates: My battle for contraception

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


- An article by John Allen about Pope Francis not meeting with the Australian sex abuse victims who came to Rome to see Cardinal Pell testify ... Francis may need to expand his comfort zone to include sexual abuse survivors

- Photos by and interview with French nature/wildlife photographer Laurent Baheux ... 'We have incorrectly placed human species on top of all others'

- Pope Francis wants to make the controversial Aloysius Stepinac a saint. I had a post about him back in 2011 - a scary guy. Read more about Catholic clergy involvement with the Ustaše.

- A Lion, Tiger, And Bear Who Were Rescued From Captivity Are Now Best Friends

- How bullying a 180-pound robot could help improve disaster response. Spot the robot :) ...

- And my sister sent me this ... meerkats! :) ...

Monday, March 07, 2016

Editorial on Cardinal Pell

A Washington Post editorial on Cardinal Pell ...

A cardinal grapples with ‘the indefensible’

[...] The fact is that the church was institutionally complicit in allowing men in positions of authority, in hundreds of dioceses worldwide, to abuse children, thereby damaging or wrecking their lives.

Even now, the church’s foot-dragging continues. While hundreds of priests have been defrocked and disciplined, bishops — the princes of the Catholic Church, sovereign in their dioceses — have only rarely been held to account, despite constant demands by victims’ groups and reformers.

Mindful of that criticism, the Vatican last summer announced that Pope Francis would establish a tribunal to judge bishops who enabled or turned a blind eye to pedophile priests. But nothing has been heard from the tribunal since, and the impunity of all but a handful of bishops remains a fact.

I've been aware of Cardinal Pell in a negative way for about the last decade. Here's a past post in which I mention some of the reasons why ...

Senior Vatican official offered bribe to child sex abuse victim, inquiry hears ... David Ridsdale tells Australian inquiry that in 1993 he informed Cardinal George Pell about being abused and was offered money to buy his silence. (And PS - in Australia it's virtually impossible for sex abuse victims to sue the Catholic church for the abuse!)

This accusation will come as no surprise to those who have been watching Pell for some time. What is really mind-boggling is that Pope Francis has chosen him as one of his eight advisers and as the head of the Vatican's financial reforms.

Just to reiterate, Pell was the head of Vox Clara, the Vatican commission responsible for the much hated English translation of the missal (read Jesuit Philip Endean's Tablet article on the translation process), and he is a committed foe of conscience. One can also read an essay out about him - The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell by award-winning journalist David Marr (you can read an article by Marr on the book, with some extracts from it at ABC Religion & Ethics). Much of the essay has to do with Pell's handling of clergy sex abuse in Australia.

Here's a really good 2013 interview on ABC TV with Marr on Pell, sex abuse, and the money. It's harrowing but I strongly suggest watching it if you really want to know what kind of man Pell is ...

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Liar, liar, pants on fire

In the video below, John Oliver of Last Week Tonight discusses the Texas anti-abortion bill that's now before the Supreme Court - he does a good job of explaining how the sponsors of the bill are misrepresenting the truth. The lie is "we are putting all these restrictions on abortion clinics because we care about the health and safety of women". That's not only untrue, it's cynical ... Texas Abortion Law Is About Politics, Medical Groups Say and The Texas Abortion Case Is Bad Medicine. The law exists for one reason - to try to make abortion inaccessible for women, especially poor women.

More reading: When Abortion Restrictions Increase, Women Start Googling How to Do It at Home

Friday, March 04, 2016

Crazy On You

It's raining cats and dogs, the garage roof is really leaking, and I'm remembering a song I heard today at the Apple Movie Trailers page ...

Flowers in the yard

Thursday, March 03, 2016

"Why we want to see cardinals punished ..."

A great article at Religion News Service (hat tip Fr. Thomas Reese). It comes just after Cardinal Pell's testimony on the covering up of sex abuse (Cardinal George Pell has to resign, or Pope Francis must act) and echos my past post, Pope Francis and the sex abuse Cardinals. Here's a bit of the RNS article ...

Off with his hat! Why we want to see cardinals punished in the abuse scandal

[...] The Rev. Thomas Reese, an expert on Vatican polity, explains the dilemma: Cardinals are princes of the church and bishops are its nobles. They can’t resign from their spiritual status. But they can resign from their institutional role.

“The minimum we want is for them to stand up and say that they did wrong and they take full personal responsibility and resign. If they did that, I think we can accept that. We might even forgive them,” said Reese.

“But when they fight tooth and nail to stay in their job with all its perks, we are offended,” he said.

“The cardinals wear read because they are willing to die for the church,” said Reese. “They ought to be willing to take a bullet for the good of the church and resign. It’s the closest thing the church has to capital punishment.”

Why do I feel so vengeful about this? And am I alone in this feeling? I suspect not .....

Cardinal Müller, Klaus Mertes SJ, and Spotlight

Cardinal Müller, the head of the CDF (aka the Inquisition), has given his opinion of the film Spotlight ... Muller on 'Spotlight' cover-up: Most priests 'bitterly wronged' by abuse generalizations

His creepy minimizing of the badness of clergy sex abuse and its cover-up comes as no great surprise to me (he has some creepy ideas about women and marriage as well). Here's a bit of what Müller said ...

"The vast majority of priests have been bitterly wronged by the generalizations regarding abuse," he said, recalling that criminal statistics showed that most sexual abusers were found within the family circle. "They are fathers and other relatives of the victims. One cannot, however, draw the inverse conclusion that most fathers are therefore possible or actual perpetrators."

He is wrong. Fr. Anthony Ruff OSB of Pray Tell wrote a bit about this in a comment a few years ago (12/3/2013 - 5:48am ) ... Sure abuse happens in families .... let’s compare family members’ total contact with children with that of Catholic priests. Of course there is way more abuse in families – but how much more, and is it proportionate? What we really need – but I’m not aware of such data – is a comparison of the rates of child abuse by married Protestant and Orthodox clergy with the rates among celibate Catholic clergy. I know of no proof that the Catholic rate is equal or lower, and I suspect it is higher. I can’t imagine that all these Protestant ministers have been abusing children and somehow the media missed it. The obvious difference between Catholic and Protestant clergy is celibacy ...

And Professor Patrick Parkinson has written ... [B]etween 1% and 2% of the male population would be expected to be convicted for some form of sexual offence over their lifetime (including sex offences against adults). If those figures are similar for Australia, then Cahill's research would indicate that the rate of convictions for Catholic priests who studied at the seminary in Melbourne is much higher than in the general population (3.7% of those ordained between 1940 and 1966 and 5.4% of those ordained between 1968 and 1971) ..... [R]ates of reported child sexual abuse by priests and religious in the Catholic Church are many times higher than for clergy and paid pastoral staff such as youth workers, in other denominations .... The figure for the number of victims in the Catholic Church was exactly 10 times that in the Anglican Church ...

Back to Müller ...

"For me hushing something up means deliberately preventing a recognized criminal offense from being punished or not preventing a further offense from occurring," Müller said. "Now, as we all know, in past decades the state of knowledge regarding sexual abuse was very different from that of today. Unfortunately, no one had their eye on the long-term consequences of sexual abuse in those days, as, thank God, we have today. Seriously admonishing the perpetrator was often thought -- somewhat naively perhaps -- to be enough."

Because back in the "olden days" of the cover-up ... we're talking like the late 90s in Spotlight ... no one could have been expected to realize that raping children was a bad thing???? Perhaps the fact that it was a crime would have been the first clue.

As the article goes on to state, Müller himself has been accused of covering up abuse ...

Jesuit Fr. Klaus Mertes, the whistleblower who first unveiled the abuse in the Jesuit College in Berlin during his tenure as headmaster in 2010, has called for Müller to step down .... According to Mertes, when Müller was Bishop of Regensburg from 2002-2012, he ignored the German bishops' conference's guidelines which recommended that priests sentenced for sexual abuse of minors should never again be allowed to work with children or young people and reinstalled a priest in a parish who had served a prison sentence for abuse.

"Instead of stepping down, Bishop Müller, who covered up and obscured sexual abuse when he was in the highest position in the church in his diocese, has climbed the hierarchical ladder just like that," Mertes said. "… He still continually speaks of 'malicious press campaigns' against the Catholic church. Not a sign of remorse .... "In my opinion, that is intolerable -- above all, intolerable for the victims," Mertes continued. "How can this man, who is the head of the Congregation finally responsible for abuse, of all things, ever again be credible?"

Read more about Jesuit Klaus Mertes in a past article at US Catholic - What the pope should learn from the sex abuse scandals in his home country ... and in a past interview with him in Der SSpiegel - SPIEGEL Interview with Top Jesuit Priest: 'We Kept Quiet about Sexual Abuse for Too Long

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Today: the Supreme Court abortion case

From PBS Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly ...

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the biggest challenge to abortion rights since 2007. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the justices will consider whether to strike down a Texas law, HB2, that would leave the state with only nine or 10 clinics, and not a single abortion provider west of San Antonio ... Here Are the Stakes in the Abortion Case Before the Supreme Court Today

From the LA Times - Editorial Post-Scalia Supreme Court to rule on the most important abortion case in two decades

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will consider arguments in the most important case it has heard on abortion rights in two decades. Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt is a challenge by a group of abortion clinics to a 2013 Texas law that requires doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and directs abortion clinics to meet the safety standards of ambulatory surgical centers. These mandates, though they may at first sound reasonable, will in fact dramatically reduce the ability of Texas women to obtain abortions, and for no sound medical reason. The court should make it clear that this aw — like hundreds of others enacted around the country — is an antiabortion measure that has been cynically passed off as a protection for women. The justices should side with the clinics and strike it down ...

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Spotlight, Cardinal Law, and Pope Francis

Tonight I watched the movie that won Best Picture at the Oscars, Spotlight ...

Spotlight is a 2015 American biographical crime drama film directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer. The film follows The Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the actual Spotlight Team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup.

The film was excellent. I recommend it highly. I barely know where to begin in describing it, so instead I've added some links below that may be of interest. What I do want to write about here is this ....

Representatives of the church have put a positive spin on the film, giving the impression that the institutionalized abuse is all a thing of the past, that Pope Francis has fixed the problem, that all that's left to be done now is for the church to be forgiven. This narrative is disingenuous.

Clergy sex abuse still occurs and cover-ups still occur (in the news today: Grand jury: 2 bishops hid sex abuse of hundreds of children). In large part this is because the underlying reasons for the abuse and the cover-ups are not being addressed. Richard Sipe is quoted in Spotlight as saying that only 50% of the celibate clergy actually practice celibacy, which creates a culture of secrecy in the priesthood that encourages cover-ups. Others agree ... both Professor Patrick Parkinson and Bishop Geoffrey Robinson have written about the connection between sex abuse and mandatory celibacy.

And then there's Pope Francis. His sex abuse commission had a screening of Spotlight to which he was invited, but he did not attend. He has not listened to the advice of his own sex abuse commission on appointing Bishop Juan Barros Madrid. His sex abuse commission has dumped one of it's two members who are sex abuse survivors, Peter Saunders, for being too outspoken. When asked by an Irish abuse victim to remove Cardinal Brady, who had admitted he covered up abuse, the pope demurred. When former Dominican Republic nuncio Wesolowski, was being investigated for sex abuse, he was scooped back to the Vatican and the Pope refused to extradite him to Poland and/or the DR. And it was Francis who chose Cardinal Pell to be such an important figure in Rome (Senior Vatican official offered bribe to child sex abuse victim, inquiry hears). And when abuse survivors came to Rome to see Pell testify and asked to see Pope Francis, they were apparently snubbed by him (Australian abuse victims contest Vatican on lack of Pope meeting and Francis may need to expand his comfort zone to include sexual abuse survivors). Read more on all this - Pope Francis has done nothing to prevent sex abuse

Perhaps what is the most creepy is that Cardinal Law, who has been proven to have covered up clergy sex abuse in Boston, was not punished by the Vatican for what he had done when he fled Boston for Rome. Instead he was rewarded - made Archpriest of one of Rome's most important churches, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore ...

On the evening of the first day that Francis was chosen as Pope, he made a visit to Law's church. Some papers mistakenly reported that he had gone there to make his first action as Pope the removal of the notorious Cardinal, but actually he just said 'hi' (see Report that pope to exile Law 'totally false,' Vatican says and Pope Francis: Controversy Arises with Disgraced US Cardinal Bernard Law). I was so disappointed. I still am - the Pope has never yet said a word against Law, much less punished him. You can read more about Law ... In Search of Cardinal Bernard Law and Where Is Cardinal Bernard Law Now?

- NCR Editorial: Best Picture win for 'Spotlight' is fitting humiliation for church

- Encore: Hollywood Shines New 'Spotlight' On Boston Clergy Sex Abuse

- Clergy victims doubt “Spotlight” Oscar win will bring change

- The letter signed by 58 Boston-area priests and sent to Cardinal Bernard F. Law on December 9, 2002, asking him to resign.