Monday, April 04, 2005

Topic of the Week - The Passing of Pope John Paul II

With Pope John Paul II passing this weekend, I have mixed emotions on his tenure and with a former Catholic identification as part of my past, my mixed emotions stem from his teachings on the 'culture of life.' In addition, the issue that upsets me most is the continual stance of the Catholic Church on their lack of acceptance of the Gay community - more on this later.

I do acknowledge he will be remembered as one of the most influential religious leaders in history. The world truly lost a person who had tremendous political and personal effect on the entire world and for that matter, much influence on our politics within the United States.

Pope John Paul's actions helped lead to the fall of communism within the Soviet bloc countries, the influence he had in attempting to bring the East and West Catholic Church together as one, his Evangelical mission in journeying to over 120 countries in meeting with heads of state as well as his outreach to world youths, his public demonstrations of unifying all faiths in some common bonds (apology to the Jewish faith on the Catholic Church's role in the holocaust is one example)...and many other remarkable acts of courage and benevolence.

Its interesting to evaluate the commitment to the 'culture of life' that Pope John Paul had across the entire platform inclusive of abortion, the death penalty in all cases (overturning 1600 years of Catholic teachings on ' cases of extreme gravity'), calling for an end to war in absolute terms no matter the seemingly justification behind it, and an end to Euthanasia.

Pope John Paul's 'culture of life' realizes in contrasting values and beliefs here in the U.S. between Liberals (against death penalty, against war absolutely) and Conservatives (against abortion, against euthanasia) on this definition of the preservation of life. One wonders why there is such polarization within our country on this issue? Not really.

I personally believe there is some common ground on this issue between Liberals and Conservatives but only if one is truly open to understanding and accepting another person's values and beliefs on this issue without judgment...without proclaiming the other is wrong. Otherwise this country will continually be inflamed with hatred, dissention and attacks on the other's stance on this issue leading to further corruption, manipulation and increasingly unethical behavior by our government leaders in trying to win "votes" from the side that may have the most populace base in a given state...eventually resulting in stagnation on progress in all areas of our culture.

This one issue of the 'culture of life,' in my opinion, causes a majority of our population to base their vote without any or with very little consideration of the many other public policy issues. This has led and leads us continually to a state of paralysis in this country. It further lessens our standard of living in all areas; economically (macro and micro), spiritually (religious and secular people), financially (individually and state/federal government). This issue, 'culture of life,' is most important in finding common ground if we are to evolve in a positive direction in this country and is why I have mixed emotions on the Pope's stance specific to this issue - his was an absolute interpretation, regardless of circumstance.

Another issue which is all important is civil rights and liberties, especially with the Gay community. Just as our country came together and took a governmental public policy stand against prejudice of all Americans (Blacks, Women, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, etc.) with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we must end the prejudice and persecution of the Gay community and publicly acknowledge and recognize their personal rights in all areas with passing legislation that reinforces the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legislation in terms of marriage, civil unions and family matters supporting equal benefits in standing with all Americans. This is all so important if we truly value what our country was founded upon..."We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" matter your sexual orientation, your religious or spiritual belief, your gender and your race & ethnic heritage.

This leads me back to my most conflicted emotion with the Pope as one of the most influential spiritual leaders of all time. When the leader of a religion that constitutes over a billion people (17 percent of the world's population) publicly proclaims and defines a platform stating that "homosexual marriage is part of a new ideology of evil," no matter his rationalization biblically, he is putting politics (church stance) above humanity and civil rights.

I won't even go into discourse on how poorly and slowly Pope John Paul reacted on the American Catholic Priest Phoebaphile and Pedophile issue as well as how hypocritical this stance is against the Gay community in general...especially when there is a spoken acknowledgement yet unspoken denial by the Vatican to the fact there are approximately 40 percent (most likely higher) of Priests that are gay.* How can the leader(s) of the Catholic Church denounce the Gay lifestyle when a significant percentage of his dominions are very much a part of this lifestyle...especially with the knowledge and acceptance of knowing this?

The Christian Right in this country follow the same path with their lack of humanity, lack of recognition and lack of acceptance in supporting the Gay community within their personal relationships.

That is why the successor to Pope John Paul will be all important and will most definitely affect the political environment in this country at a most delicate point in history. This then begs the following questions:

- How will the American Catholic Church leaders and Catholic population react to a successor that follows the same policy as Pope John Paul on the acceptance, rather lack of acceptance of the Gay community? On the same policy regarding Pope John Paul's definition of the culture of life?

- How will the American Catholic Church leaders and Catholic population react to a successor that is more moderate on the policy of not acknowledging civil rights for the Gay community? On a more moderate policy regarding Pope John Paul's definition of the culture of life?

- How will our President and conservative Republicans react to a more moderate Pope on these issues? To a more conservative Pope?

- How will The Christian Right react to another conservative Pope? Will they try to align more politically with the Catholic Church or follow their own agenda politically?

Your opinion to any of these questions or statements made in this Topic of the Week? Post your comments below.

* Fr. Donald Cozzens, who along with Thomas Doyle, Rev. Richard McBrien and John McCloskey and former Ambassador Ray Flynn discussed the future of the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandal on Meet the Press on March 31, 2002, wrote a book entitled "The Changing Face of the Priesthood" -- in his book, Fr. Cozzens quoted a number of studies that placed the estimate between 30 percent and 50 percent of Priests who are gay.


At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Pete said...

I must say, PWB, that I too immediately thought of what would be the religious influence on certain hot-topic social issues (namely Gay Rights) upon the appointment of a new Pope.

While reading through the newspaper this morning, I found myself scanning the list of candidates and immediately skipping to the next one and dismissing ALL qualifications of this possible Pope if I saw any negative mention of gays and lesbians and resultant marriage “laws”.

Though Pope John Paul II was undoubtedly a good man, the next religious leader of over a BILLION people must proclaim and even promote tolerance and equal rights towards all. Extend his Christian credo of "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." He must also embrace the idea of change. To know that something stagnant ends up turning to poison. Change is good. Change abounds in evolution. Change is intelligence.

To paraphrase a letter I received upon my coming out from my dear grandmother, a devout Catholic and undying Christian servant, "...though I may not understand or agree with your private life, rest assured knowing that I will never cause trouble in your life, never add to the daily struggle you most undoubtedly live with. You will always be my grandson and I love you."

What she showed was an *attempt* at understanding. She didn’t dismiss me or worse, *ignore* me or my life. She cultivated trust in me and in doing so she never forgot that I was, above all, one of her God’s precious creatures.

I hope she knew how much it meant to me to know that. She understood the struggle I face in playing the cards I was dealt. She never once made it out to be a choice. She always showed grace under pressure and ALWAYS treated everyone just as she desired to be treated.

Isn’t that one of the more fundamental principles of a kind religion?

As an agnostic being, I will still say my own private version of a prayer that the elected/appointed officials who serve us (including the new Pope) will keep that thought at the core of their raison d’etre.

At 1:44 AM, Blogger john said...


Lawrence Auster has a heap of posts and comments up at the moment about the late Holy Father. Auster is derisive of the view that John Paul II was a conservative. But that depends on what you mean by conservative and Auster has an unusual view of that. It is certainly clear that JPII was a political centrist but I think one could say much the same of GWB. So is GWB a conservative? NO! I can hear some people shouting. But no real-life politician wins universal approval even from his own side of politics so I think we have to say that in the ordinary meaning of the term GWB IS a conservative.

From my own libertarian conservative viewpoint both GWB and JPII are/were not nearly conservative enough but I think that real-world conservative politics at least from Disraeli on have almost always consisted of finding a safe balance between competing political claims rather than pursuing some hard-line ideology. Hard-line ideologies are for Leftists. So I think Auster's view of the matter misses the point that JPII was of necessity a real-world politician -- so compromises were to be expected of him. Even my great hero, Ronald Reagan, signed into law some pieces of legislation I would rather not think about.

What I think Auster also misses is that political centrism is thoroughly Papal. The attitudes of JPII were simply modern adaptations of traditional Papal thinking. I go into that at slightly greater length here. Papal thinking is in fact the ancestor of the Blairite "third way". The syndicalism that was recommended in the famous 1891 encyclical De rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII also tried to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism.

I guess I should mention explicitly also that there was one respect in which His Holiness was NOT a centrist -- his stand in favour of individual rights versus the power of the Communist State. So in that respect he was very much a conservative, and a great one.

At 10:23 PM, Anonymous AADAMS said...

Only a quick response here, one that can hardly stand up in eloquence to Pete's statement, but let's not overlook that fact here that JPII and the Vatican held an unswerving, and I will go so far as to say murderous, position on the use of birth control - specifically condoms - in Africa. Scores of women have been the victoms of rape and they may die, or have died, because of it. Impossible to reconcile the fact that Africa has the largest Catholic population anywhere on Earth and the highest HIV/AIDS rate, the Catholic Church is inscrutable and flawed in its care and protection of the world's people. JPII, so far as I'm concerned, is largely responsible for the deaths of many innocent AND practicing Catholic women. So no tears lost - only hope for improvement, a serious reality check, and a nice dose of practicing what one preaches: love, compassion, equality, and the protection of those less fortunate.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous John Chicago said...

In a message dated 4/5/2005 7:11:44 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

"How can the leader(s) of the Catholic Church denounce the Gay lifestyle when a significant percentage of his dominions are very much a part of this lifestyle...especially with the knowledge and acceptance of knowing this?"

PWB, thank you for your forceful and thoughtful advocacy on behalf of gay rights and gay men, and perhaps on behalf of gay priests as well. What you might want to consider is what "gay lifestyle" means. What is your "straight lifestyle?" If you stop to think about it, it presumes in shorthand to know something about how gay people life their lives and assumes further that there is something uniform and almost perhaps predetermined about it. I've been out of the closet for 28 years, and i don't believe in a "gay lifestyle."

Your statement above assumes that whatever a "gay lifestyle" is, and whatever in that lifestyle evokes Vatican condemnation, is lived by all priests who would self-identify as "gay." Or that it is lived by all gay people. Not true. Most of my friends are priests. Most are gay, even though when pressed, most would not be open about it for fear of the backlash. All of my gay priest friends DO NOT live anything like a "gay lifestyle" if that means going out to bars, having lots of tricks, and hanging out almost exclusively with other gay men, or even gay priests. Most gay priests are living a lives of selfless service and long hours and little reward that would be quite unattractive to most other gay men in our society. I'm amazed at how much gay priests love the Church and, through despite the pain of the institution not loving them back, have come to an even deeper, purer knowledge of who the church really is: the women and men who struggle to love God and need a Gospel message of compassion and show up in their pews most Sundays.

Please don't make an assumption about gay priests living a gay lifestyle, whatever that may be.

And if elements of what the Church views as "the gay lifestyle" are hedonistic, materialistic, self-absorbed, oversexualized and dehumanizing, who can be a voice for moral development in our gay community? Certainly the Church's current poor theology, biology and misreading of Scripture on this issue (not to mention their bigotry and ignorance) preclude gay women and men gaining much wisdom or moral insight from this traditional source of wisdom and insight. That is truly a loss for our community.

Thank you again, PWB, for engaging in this discussion.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger PWB said...

John Chicago - thank you so much for pointing out my misguided statement(s) with respect to my inference of a "gay lifestyle" for Priests and on a whole. It's interesting to look at oneself in the mirror and have it reveal a built-in bias of which I was previously unaware. Also, it certainly demonstrates the importance of language and linguistics especially when one writes publicly on a subject without direct personal participation in that particular experience whether it be gay, black, a resident of another country or community, etc. etc. Again, I appreciate your feedback and comments.

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Common Sense Guy said...

I think your blog viewers should seriously consider the following email alert from the American Family Association, an organization that is focused on protecting family values.

Special Alert: Call Your Senators Toll-Free Wednesday And Thursday

The most important vote in Congress this session will be coming up soon. The Senate will vote to both abide by the Constitution and require a simple majority to end a filibuster, or to require 60 votes to end a filibuster as liberals desire.

Call your Senators today. Tell them you want them to vote to end a filibuster by a simple majority as the Constitution requires. Should the Senate fail to conform to the Constitution's rule of a simple majority, a minority of 40 liberal Senators can use the filibuster to force their agenda on every American.

Get your friends to call.

The toll-free number is 1-866-808-0065. Ask to speak with your Senator. When finished leaving your message, call your other Senator.

Here is the agenda the liberals want to achieve. They want Senators to filibuster any judicial nominee who will not support this agenda.

- Approval of homosexual marriage
- Legalizing euthanasia
- Banning prayer in school
- Banning the public display of the Ten Commandments
- Banning the Pledge of Allegiance
- Basing our laws on the laws of other nations
- Maintaining abortion on demand
- Forcing the Boy Scouts and similar organizations (including churches) to place homosexuals in positions of leadership
- Complete protection for all kinds of pornography
- Creating hate crimes laws to punish those who believe homosexuality is wrong
- Denigrating Christianity to a secondary status
- Making secularism the only legitimate religion

Call today! Get others to call! The toll-free number is 1-866-808-0065.

I am sure this may not received well by your liberal viewers but protecting family values is most important in our country.

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous of AZ said...

Has anyone heard/read about Mary, who passed away this early Fall in her home in Southern California? Probably not…and why would you. She was 84, lived alone, never married, but had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of children over the years. Yup, she was a 5th grade teacher. In fact, she was my daughters 5th teacher and probably the most influential person I can think of that had/has effected my daughters life outside of her family-nucleus.

I must prefaces what I am about to say. Though born under a religious-orthodox environment, I no longer am or practice or follow any religious doctrine what so ever.. In fact, for most of my adult life I have not nor do I now believe a God created man…but rather man created a God. I am diametrically opposed to any organized religion what so ever…or any other entity outside of the religious arena that attempts to influence, sway, convert and/or pontificate ones own beliefs on others with an absolute blind obedience approach…especially with financially gains from it. And within the religious arena (regardless of the specific arena) it is done subliminally by the Church, Temple, Mossoc, etc.; from its constituency and to hind it behind a cloth (in this instance) and allow it to appear as if its perfectly acceptable. So with that said…

I’m sure Pope John Paul II was in many cycles considered a great person, and will always be revered as so. A man who believed in his own personal religious convictions, a man who by choice elected then follow a life’s long religious path to convey his belief’s and that of his Church to others throughout his worldly parish. A man surely of strong moral convictions and that of human rights…and so on and so on. But there is something that has always disturbed me about anyone in that type of position may they be of the cloth, of the financial community, of the law enforcement environment or from the political arena…it’s the self indulgent and ego driven of power that surely processes one in that role and the knowledge of how to manipulate and use that power over others (for at time self gain…hey we are all human, though some think of themselves as more).

Pope John Paul, like many others in control of and/or of influence of vast amounts of others (minds) was wrapped in silks, surrounded by the a gut of precious metals and gem stones, art of the masters, housed in a palace (of a sort), a personal army, huge worldwide investments, traveled privately on ones own transport, ate and drank the finest of food and wine, had many to care for all his daily needs, spent (from what I heard) at least eight hours a day in prayer (where he flock worked for 8+ hours p/day), met with world leaders of near and far…many of which had traveled to audience with him, and when he spoke (in an array of tongue)…his flock would gather and listen in awe by the tens of thousands on Sunday mornings in the piazza from his pulpit-window far above.

Hum, is there something wrong with this picture?

Not to be too naïve, I thought this man was a priest? One of humility, humbleness, willing to go without, one who is will to sacrifice ones own self for the sake of others, one who expects others to sacrifice (even some basic needs) etc., etc. Now we are not talking about those of the world business community who elected to strive for themselves and gain the riches available to them due to there own greed and success regardless if its at the expense of others, which the business world community does…we are talking about a priest.

So I ask, should a person who is so influential, who has so much control of throngs of (vulnerable) others in a religious position be surrounded by so much opulence tend a flock that much of which lives far below the world standard of…poor? Is there something wrong with this picture? What example is one setting? Speaking of blind faith.

So may it be of cloth, politics or in business…but especially of the cloth, regardless of the religious belief (Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, whatever), if you are in the position to establish, maintain and/or in force life’s examples on others…don’t you think you should live by them too.

I kind of see a parallel between the Church and its leader…and Enron and its leader. Wonder why the church is dismantling?

So what does this have to do with my daughters 5th grade teacher. Well, she too was devoted to her flock, lived humbly among them, shopped and eat in the same neighborhood places, had no one to care for her daily needs, live off a meek at best livelihood, was a great influence on establishing, maintaining and in forcing life lessons to many a young mind…and all by example.

My daughter graduates college in early August, enters grad school August 23rd for her Master in Education. She said to me around the 1st of the year after changing her major three times over a 5-1/2 years of her undergrad stint in college…there is nothing more important to me than to become an elementary school teacher. I would hope to accomplish half as much in my life as Mary did for others…for me.

Who do you think the media should be covering?

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lack of Common Sense Guy:

FYI, freedom of speech is one of our founding Constitutional rights. By the way, have you heard of the Constitution? I don’t believe family values as you expressed are defined as such in the Constitution, but rather a moralist and social order conceived it by a few to sway their views and moral values of the masses…kind of like the reason why the Pilgrims left Good Old Britannia in the first place…wouldn’t you agree?

The fact remains you/I have the right to express your/my views regardless if they differ from each other. You have the right to EXPRESS how you feel…you do NOT have the right to try to impose your views on me or others because they are of those of the American Family Association…what ever that Right-Big Brother censors-structure you are referring too.

Surely it will not work in such a free society as ours….and why should it? Cause you do not like what I am thinking, say, doing? Well my dear Common Sense Guy, the fact you have the expressed your right to view you opinion(s) to me/others…and I have read/listened and disagreed with you…is in deed the reason the Constitution provided us with such a simple statement…it gives you the right to express your VIEWS so freely to me. And I listened and I responded to you and though I (may) disagree with you, I DO respect your views. And why should I?

Though conservative within their society, I do not believe our Founding Fathers were in deed conservative in approach…just look at what they wrote and acted upon…a bit liberal, would you say.

So try, even when its difficult for you to do…do try to respect my rights to express my views…as I do with you. You have the right to speak your mind freely, without recourse…but please don’t try to assert your values upon me through the American FreeDOOM Association. I would hate to leave this wonderful country of OURS after all these years and move back to Good Old Britannia to get away from oppression…once again.

Right/Left…try to find some balance in your life….you’ll be happy!

At 10:08 AM, Anonymous Common Sense Guy said...

Thanks for your reply anonymous. I do appreciate and respect your views and opinions because that's simply what they are, "views and opinions". But when your views and opinions are turned into laws that I must respect and follow because of the courts which the liberals overwhelmingly control, that's where I take a stand. Just like you don't want my views and opinions to become law, I likewise don't want yours either. So where does one go from here? Try to remember that this whole social issue thing is being faught in the courts. It would be better for all of us if we could all just have our own views and opinions, respect each other, eliminate the courts and just leave it at that. It's a nice thought, but I doubt it will ever happen. Too many extremists on both sides. One last thing. I am pretty balanced and believe it or not, I'm one of the happiest people I know ..... Have a great day !!!!!

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Common Sense Guy…in reading your 10:08am response, do I sense I touched a nerve? Seems so. I sense on your part a bit of confusion, a bit of over-lapping sentence structure, a bit of frustration, a bit of self-righteousness, a bit crusade…and a bit of, well sort of like this D.C administration we are governed by these days. You know the one, its call the Confused Extreme Conservative Christian Right…the governing body (I guess) of the American Family Association (again, what ever that is)…but you seem to be draw to it. So I guess that is what makes you happy. Good for you.

There is nothing balance about you. How could there be? Read what you wrote. To the contrary, you (as your peers) are completely one sided in view and in approach. No doubt your favorite game (of life) is “Follow the Leader,” and w/blind obedience at that (that’s the scary part). I believe they did that in Germany in the 30’s/40’s, they did that again in Guyana in the 70’s/’80’s…and they are trying to do it again here in America in the 2000’s. Hum, see the pattern of some sort? Do you honestly think that is healthy for mankind. You probably do.

Read what you just wrote. You just don’t get it. You are so caught up in your own personal convictions (not as extremist), but rather just a pain old lamb following the herd to slaughter, ‘cause you’ve been brainwashed by a misguided fairytale of wonderment to continue your journey to the other side of the grass hill” from others in power….telling you “lamb-chops” are the thing of the day, so enjoy them. Bon Appetite pal !

You’re balanced, I say not…your quite typical as to the many other recent-misdirected who believe because “IN God We Trust” in on the dollar bill, it should be our daily morning prayer (in school). That’s why you’re the happiest person YOU know….that is until one day you sit down for dinner and realize that the lamb chops you have just been served is you…yourself. Try swallowing that Common Sense Guy.

At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Common Sense Guy said...

My Dear Friend Anonymous,
Wow !!! Look who touched a nerve...Maybe you should try reading your comment back to me regarding my 10:08 posting. If someone read both postings, they would probably agree that I appear to be the cool, calm, collected one, (who does happen to enjoy lamb chops very much, thank you!!) I'm starting to think that you could be one of those "left wing extremists" that I referred to. If you are, you should stop referring to lamb chops the way you do, otherwise your friends at PETA may take offense and give you the boot out of the organization!!! Calm down, take a deep breath and relax....everything will be alright. Later pods !!!

At 6:00 AM, Anonymous JM said...

Does anyone remember the Corporal Acts of Mercy?

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick........
Can't see where our present institutions political or religious give a damn about human beings.

It's the age old thing of the rich getting richer & the poor getting poorer.

Whatever happened to Compassion?
Bush & family values?? Whose family??

And the Pope...did he speak out enough about injustice?? NO way.

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous LB Georgia said...

Hey 'Common Sense Guy' - you seem to be so compassionate and controlled in your latest response to Anonymous - you certainly have a typical piety about you that's consistent across the religious right in this country. Why don't you answer and respond accordingly to Anonymous instead of showing that so-called compassionate tone of yours? It would be more interesting than a non-genuine response.


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