Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Catholic bishops scrap plans to 'welcome' gay members after landmark summit on family issues ends in deep divisions
Catholic bishops meeting to discuss 'family issues' at a two week summit have scrapped plans to welcome gay members of the Church.
Showing deep divisions at the end of the Vatican synod, which was sought by Pope Francis in part to chart a more merciful approach to homosexuals, the bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to gay Catholics.
Midway through the summit, a draft document was released proposing remarkably progressive plans for the Catholic Church, saying unmarried couples living together can be 'positive', and gay relationships and divorcees must be welcomed.
But by the time the synod ended, the welcoming tone of acceptance had been stripped away and replaced by a paragraph describing homosexuality as a 'problem' Catholic families have to confront.
Rather than considering gays as individuals who had gifts to offer the church, the revised paragraph referred to homosexuality as one of the problems Catholic families have to confront.
It said 'people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy,' but repeated church teaching that marriage is only between man and woman. The paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod of bishops — whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion — also failed to pass.
The outcome showed a deeply divided church on some of the most pressing issues facing Catholic families.
It appeared that the 118-62 vote on the gay section might have been a protest vote by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording. The original draft had said gays had gifts to offer the church and that their partnerships, while morally problematic, provided gay couples with 'precious' support.
New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, said it was 'very disappointing' that the final report had backtracked from the welcoming words contained in the draft.
Nevertheless, it said the synod's process 'and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year's synod, where the makeup of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops.'
The draft had been written by a Francis appointee, Monsignor Bruno Forte, a theologian known for pushing the pastoral envelope on ministering to people in 'irregular' unions. The draft was supposed to have been a synopsis of the bishops' interventions, but many conservatives complained that it reflected a minority and overly progressive view.
Francis insisted in the name of transparency that the full document — including the paragraphs that failed to pass — be published along with the voting tally. The document will serve as the basis for future debate leading up to another meeting of bishops next October that will produce a final report to be sent to Francis.
'Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn't been these ... animated discussions ... or if everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace,' Francis told the synod hall after the vote.
Conservatives had harshly criticized the draft and proposed extensive revisions to restate church doctrine, which holds that gay sex is 'intrinsically disordered,' but that gays themselves are to be respected, and that marriage is only between a man and woman.
'We could see that there were different viewpoints,' said Cardinal Oswald Gracis of India, when asked about the most contentious sections of the report on homosexuals and divorced and remarried Catholics.
German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leader of the progressive camp, said he was 'realistic' about the outcome.
In an unexpected gesture after the voting, Francis approached a group of journalists waiting outside the synod hall to thank them for their work covering the synod.
'Thanks to you and your colleagues for the work you have done,' he said. 'Grazie tante.' Conservative bishops had harshly criticized journalists for reporting on the dramatic shift in tone in the draft, even though the media reports merely reflected the document's content.
Francis' gesture, and his words inside the synod hall chastising bishops who were overly wed to doctrine and were guided by 'hostile rigidity,' as well as those bishops who showed a 'destructive goody-goodiness,' indicated that he was well aware of the divisions the debate had sparked. His speech received a four-minute standing ovation, participants said.
Over the past week, the bishops split themselves up into working groups to draft amendments to the text. They were nearly unanimous in insisting that church doctrine on family life be more fully asserted and that faithful Catholic families should be held up as models and encouraged rather than focus on family problems and 'irregular' unions.
The bishops signaled a similar tone in a separate message directed at Christian families released Saturday. There was no mention whatsoever of families with gay children, much less gay parents, and it spoke of the 'complex and problematic' issues that arise when marriages fail and new relationships begin.
'Christ wanted his church to be a house with the door always open to welcome everyone, without excluding anyone,' the message read. (Oddly, the English translation was less welcoming than the official Italian, ending the sentence after 'everyone.')
Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa, who helped draft the revised final report, told Vatican Radio the final document showed a 'common vision' that was lacking in the draft.
He said the key areas for concern were 'presenting homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing' and the suggestion that divorced and remarried Catholics should be able to receive Communion without an annulment.
He complained that the draft was presented as the opinion of the whole synod, when it was 'one or two people.' 'And that made people very angry,' he said.
When nanny staters say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’
Nannies, nudgers and various other adherents to what the UK Labour Party calls ‘the politics of behaviour’ have done a lot of bad stuff in recent years. Their smoking ban hollowed out pub life. Their fearmongering about fatness did more than any fashion mag to convince young people that chubbiness is sinful and skinniness is next to Godliness. Their jihad against junk food in schools deprived today’s kids of some of childhood’s great pleasures: having a Mars bar in your blazer pocket and taking bites out of it in between scoring goals in the playground or sharing a fizzy strawberry lace as you natter about last night’s TV.
But even worse than all that has been the way this fun-allergic lobby has warped the meaning of the word choice. Almost singlehandedly they have transformed the c-word. They have turned ‘choice’ from something individuals do for themselves, using our free will and moral autonomy to decide on a course of action that we think is best suited to our lives, into something that is done for us, by others, and which we have to be guided towards. They talk about the ‘right choice’, the ‘informed choice’, the ‘healthy choice’, and about their determination to shove us donut-scoffing plebs towards that ‘choice’. They have turned choice utterly on its head: when they say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’.
Consider Lord Darzi’s proposals, published this week, for how to make London a healthier city. He wants mayor Boris Johnson to ban smoking in Trafalgar Square and other squares and parks; to ban the siting of junk-food shops near schools; and to give Oyster Card users a discount if they get off their lazy butts once in a while and walk part of the way to work. It is standard, soul-destroying lifestyle-policing fare. But what was most striking was Darzi’s insistence that through restricting certain forms of behaviour - smoking in public, buying chips near a school - he is boosting people’s ability to make a choice. He says he wants us all to make what he calls ‘the healthiest choice’, but that choice isn’t ‘always easy [or] obvious’, so we have to be assisted in the making of it. Labour’s Tessa Jowell also used the c-word in a super-weird way in her backing for Lord Darzi. ‘We need to make the healthier choice the easier choice for Londoners’, she said.
So let’s get this straight: restricting someone’s ability to choose whether he lights up a fag in Trafalgar Square is actually about improving his ability to make a choice? That public officials can propose the restriction of certain behaviours in one breath and then blather on about choice in the very next sums up how emptied of meaning the word choice has become. If they were serious about choice, they would say: ‘Smoke in Trafalgar Square, or don’t smoke in Trafalgar Square, it’s your choice.’ That would genuinely entail giving the citizen a choice – not a massive, meaningful, democracy-shaking choice, no, but a choice nonetheless: to smoke or not to smoke. By contrast, saying ‘We think you should be prevented through by-law from smoking in Trafalgar Sqaure or buying chicken wings within a hundred-metre radius of a school’ is an explicit negation of choice; it’s a pummelling of the autonomy involved in making a choice. It removes choice, it doesn’t enhance it.
This is doublespeak par excellence. Increasingly, when the politicians of behaviour say ‘helping citizens make a choice’, what they really mean is ‘limiting citizens’ ability to make a choice’. So the ever-growing nudge industry talks about overhauling society’s ‘choice architecture’ in order to make it easier for people to make the ‘right health choices’, by which it means putting pressure on us to do what it thinks is right. Smoking-ban supporters and those who want a price hike in booze talk about helping citizens make ‘informed choices’, by which they mean using law or financial pressure to force us to make the choice they think is best for us. They have made the choice – you shall not smoke here, or drink too much, or eat certain foods around schoolkids – and all that remains is for them to nudge or nag or legislate the rest of us towards that choice they have made about our lives. This is prescription, not choice.
We need to reclaim the word choice. Choice is a good thing, a wonderful thing. No, not because individuals will always make good choices; some of them will make very bad choices, including the choice to get blotto every day of the week or to smoke 100 cigarettes a day, which are hardly good things to do.
But it is better for a citizen to make a bad choice using his own free will than it is for someone else to make a ‘good choice’ on his behalf and then elbow and berate him towards that ‘choice’. This is a point John Stuart Mill makes in On Liberty. He said that even though individuals ‘may not do the particular thing so well as the officers of government… it is nevertheless desirable that it should be done by them, rather than by the government, as a means to their own mental education – a mode of strengthening their active faculties, exercising their judgement, and giving them a familiar knowledge of the subjects with which they are thus left to deal’.
In short, the act of making a choice is good even if the choice one makes is bad, because it is through making a choice, through exercising our moral autonomy, that we learn, grow and become independent, fully human in fact. As Mill put it, ‘The human faculties of perception, judgement, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice’. If choices are made for us – by Lord Darzi or some other member of the informed-choice brigade – then we never get to exercise our moral muscles, far less determine our destinies. The idea that there is one choice – The Right Choice – is a contradiction in terms, and an Orwellian one at that, because choice is a conscious act carried out by an individual deciding what he should do, not a predetermined script foisted on society by those in the know. Choosing is good, even if the choice is bad, because choosing one’s path in life and learning from one’s mistakes is what being human is all about. The choice-warping politics of behaviour doesn’t only dull our fun – it diminishes our humanity.
GamerGate: Part I: Sex, Lies, and Gender Games
A controversy over videogames has become a battle in a larger culture war
A controversy over videogames may seem an unlikely candidate for a big story, especially with everything else in the news. Yet an epic Internet drama known as "GamerGate," now in its second month, continues to get media attention and fuel animated debate. (In its latest flare-up, Intel found itself in the crossfire last week when it pulled its ads from Gamasutra, a gaming webzine at the center of the quarrel.) While this saga has everything from sex to alleged corruption, GamerGate has also become a battle in a larger culture war. To the liberal and progressive commentariat, it's part of a reactionary white male backlash against the rise of diversity—in this case, "sexist thugs" out to silence and destroy women who seek equality in the gaming subculture. To conservatives and right-leaning libertarians, it's a welcome pushback against left-wing cultural diktat, particularly in the area of gender politics. Meanwhile, gamergaters themselves—who seem to lean left-libertarian—say that what they want is ethics and transparency in the gaming media.
As often happens, reality is more complex than any of these narratives. While the gamers' revolt has very legitimate issues, is also true that it has been linked to some very ugly misogynist harassment of feminists. It also seems clear that the overwhelming majority of GamerGate supporters reject such tactics—and that harassment related to this conflict has been a two-way street. For a supposed misogynist "hate mob," GamerGate includes a lot of vocal women—and they have their own complaints of gender-based abuse, such as being called gender traitors or even "male sockpuppets." Finally, the feminism GamerGate rebels against is not simply about equality or diversity; it is an authoritarian, far-left brand of gender politics that views everything through the lens of patriarchal oppression and tolerates no dissent.
A disclaimer is in order: I am not a gamer, unless you count playing Space Invaders and Millipede at the student center arcade in college and a mild Tetris addiction after I got my first home computer. While I have no experience with role-playing videogames, I have some knowledge of them thanks to several (mainly female) friends who play and one who writes videogame-based fan fiction.
I do have personal experience with the gamers' mortal enemies, the so-called "social justice warriors," to know they can be a highly toxic Internet presence. Those who voice their loathing of "the SJWs" are not simply talking about people sympathetic to socially progressive causes but about cultist zealots who enforce the party line with the fervor of Mao's Red Guards, though luckily without the real-life power. In social-media discussions of art and entertainment, the "warriors" can be found sniffing out and attacking such ideological deviations as liking a heterosexual love interest for a character perceived as gay, liking or disliking a character on the wrong side of race-and-gender identity politics, or (I kid you not) using the "ableist" nickname "derpy" for a klutzy pony on the TV cartoon My Little Pony. Let them gain enough influence in an online community, and they will poison it for anyone who wants to talk to other fans of their favorite shows, movies, or books—or games—without relentless hectoring about "privilege" and "oppression."
Back to "GamerGate" and its tangled web. (A fairly detailed, straightforward, and balanced chronicle of the events can be read on the Know Your Meme website.) The drama began in mid-August, when Eron Gjoni, a programmer and ex-boyfriend of videogame developer Zoe Quinn, made a massive blogpost accusing her of infidelities and deceptions, with screenshots of their online chats as corroboration.
Quinn, a vocal "social justice" Internet activist, had numerous enemies—many of them on the notoriously anarchic, anonymous 4Chan message board. They were quick to seize on the disclosures, portraying this as an ethics issue because some of Quinn's liaisons had possible implications of favoritism. One of her partners was later a judge in an independent videogame festival that had just bestowed an award on Quinn's game, Depression Quest; another was a videogame journalist who had given her a couple of positive mentions. Threads discussing this dust-up, some of them quite nasty, proliferated in a variety of forums.
With the focus on Quinn's sexual conduct and allegations of using sex for professional gain, the "Quinnspiracy"—as it was initially known—was inevitably seen as a sexist attempt to take down a female developer. In late August, the controversy got a boost when actor Adam Baldwin, whose politics lean right, took interest in it and tweeted links to some YouTube videos critical of Quinn—also coining the #GamerGate hashtag. Around the same time, feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, whose Tropes vs. Women video series critiquing sexist clichés in videogames had made her the gaming community's bête noire, reported that she had left her home as a precaution after a Twitter user sent her a string of rape and death threats which included her address.
For some, the attacks on Quinn and on Sarkeesian became a perfect storm of gaming-culture misogyny. On August 28, Gamasutra ran a blistering attack on "game culture" by feminist cultural critic Leigh Alexander, declaring that "gamers are over" and ridiculing them as socially inept, badly dressed young males addicted to mindless gadget-buying and "getting mad on the Internet." This was followed by a spate of online articles—both on sites devoted to gaming or "geek culture" and in general-interest publications such as Vice and The Daily Beast—attacking gamer culture or announcing its demise. The gamers struck back in the social media, finding supporters in gadfly tech blogger Milo Yiannopoulous of Breitbart London and dissident feminist/critic of feminism Christina Hoff Sommers.
British Muslim Touts Benefits of Islamic State Rule: Tax Breaks, Slavegirls
“Now that we have the caliphate, we can have slavegirls,” said British Islamic activist Mizanur Rahman, touting some of the benefits of the Islamic State (IS) in a series of videos obtained by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Rahman, who also goes by the alias Abu Baraa, noted that enslaved women are permitted under Islamic sharia law as he addressed the question: “Can a father change the nappy of his baby daughter?”
“It’s allowed, but it’s not the normal suitable role of the father. It should be done by the mother. That is obviously part of the modesty and shyness,” he explained, adding: “If there are other women – of course it is better for them (to do it). A sister, a mother, a mother-in-law, a grandmother, an auntie – whatever, if there is somebody else it is better for them, Allah willing. Or a slavegirl.”
“Nowadays we can start to return to some of the many other rulings of Islam, which have been absent for many years," he continued. “Now that we have the caliphate, we can have slavegirls in the caliphate.”
He also pointed out what he considers one of the economic perks of living under the IS. “Do you know how much jizya (tax imposed on non-Muslims) they are charging in the Islamic State now? It is the equivalent of about 400 pounds a year.
“Living in the U.K. is expensive because of the taxes, because of the interest, because of the taxes, because of the interest, because of all the capitalist system. All that is removed and all you pay is this small amount," he said.
“Not only that, but it’s only the able-bodied man who pays the jizya,” he continued. “The disabled or elderly get a pension. They don’t pay the jizya. The women and children don’t pay any jizya ever. A woman never pays jizya. She is allowed to work, but she never pays jizya, nor does she pay any income tax. My brother, what is better for them?”
Rahman has his own website where he expounds on the teachings of Islam, including a statement that “Islam is the most ardent defender of the rights of all people of every colour, race, religion, gender and age.” He is also currently active on Twitter and Facebook.
Rahman claims that America cannot survive IS' retaliation.
"The question is not how the Islamic State is going to survive against the American airstrikes," Rahman said August 7. "How is America going to survive against the Islamic State's defense and retaliation?" he asked. "That's the real question. I don't believe they're going to survive. I think it's already over for America. They don't want to admit it, but it's over."
Rahman, a 31-year-old British citizen of Pakistani descent, was convicted in 2007 for encouraging the murder of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but was released in 2010.
He was arrested again last month with eight other British Muslims on suspicion of encouraging terrorism. "He denies wrongdoing and has not been charged,” Reuters reported.
In response to the MEMRI video, Rahman tweeted out to his over 10,000 followers: “MemriTV gets excited by the Hukm (legal regulation) of changing nappies in Islam.”
Rahman also pointed out that Christians and other non-believers “need to be humiliated” by his fellow Muslims. “Their houses will never be equal to the houses of the Muslims.” he said, adding,“They will never be allowed to ride a horse while the Muslims don’t have horses.”
“Non-Muslim men cannot ride a horse like a man in the Islamic State. They have to ride like a woman, with two legs on one side, because they need to be humiliated, and they should not be similar to the Muslims.”
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.