Monday, October 20, 2014

Pope prepares to purge conservative cardinal in push to reform Vatican

Pope Francis is about to demote an arch-conservative cardinal who has been bitterly opposed to his reformist agenda and his call for greater acceptance of gays and divorcees in the Catholic Church.

The sidelining of American cardinal Raymond Burke comes against a backdrop of acute differences of opinion among nearly 200 bishops and cardinals who for the last two weeks have been discussing issues relating to the family at a synod, or assembly, at the Vatican.

The move suggests that the Pope, who has upset many within the Catholic Church with his call for a more flexible and "merciful" approach towards gay people and divorcees, is determined to purge the Vatican of some of his more trenchant critics.

Cardinal Burke, who has strongly criticised Pope Francis's more open attitude towards homosexuals, is currently head of the Vatican's highest court of canon law.

But he said he is preparing to be given a new, much lower profile role as the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic charity based in Rome that traces its origins back to the Crusades.

"I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it," the cardinal, whose official title is Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, said.  He said he had not yet received formal notice from the Pope of the demotion.

He and other conservatives were highly critical of an interim document released on Monday, halfway through the synod, which suggested that the Church should be "welcoming to homosexual persons" and open to lifting the ban on remarried divorcees from receiving Communion.

He has accused Pope Francis of harming the Church by allowing such free-ranging debate on key issues facing ordinary Catholics.

Cardinal Burke maintains the hardline, traditional Catholic approach that homosexuals are "intrinsically disordered" and that the act of gay sex is a sin. He has gone further, saying that homosexual acts are "wrong and evil".

The bishops, archbishops and cardinals involved in the synod were to vote on Saturday evening on whether to accept a final document from the two-week meeting, in which language about acceptance of homosexuality and remarried divorcees is expected to be watered down on the urging of conservatives, particularly bishops from Africa and the US.

It will then be up to Pope Francis to decide whether, and when, to make the document public.

The synod has revealed acute dissent within the uppermost ranks of the Catholic hierarchy between progressives and traditionalists.

The bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays, showing deep divisions at the end of the two-week meeting.  They failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to gays that stripped away the welcoming tone contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

Two other paragraphs concerning the other controversial issue at the synod - whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive communion - also failed to pass.

There will be more debate on both issues at a second synod to be held next October.

This month's synod has revealed acute dissent within the uppermost ranks of the Catholic hierarchy between progressives and traditionalists.

"You have some people, like Burke, who are very upset by what has been discussed at the synod," Father Tom Reese, a Jesuit priest and veteran Vatican analyst, told The Telegraph on Saturday.

"There is a large body of bishops who think the language being expressed is too accommodating and fear that it will result in ordinary people thinking that it doesn't matter whether you are divorced or shacked up with someone or whatever. They certainly don't want that to be the message."

While Cardinal Burke and others are appalled by Francis's agenda, saying that it attacks the sanctity of marriage and the Church's teaching on homosexuality, other bishops are in favour of aligning the Church more with the challenges faced by modern Catholics.

Asked during a Vatican press conference for clarification on whether the Church welcomed gays or still regarded them as sinners, an Indian cardinal said the Church should embrace homosexuals with compassion and understanding.  "Yes, I would certainly say they are part of the Church," said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai.  "I have met gays in Mumbai and I have told them they are very welcome, that we wish to care for them."


Madman Kerry says Extremism Not Linked to Islam; Responsible Factors Include Deprivation, Climate Change

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday night rejected any link between Islam and extremism practiced by the likes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh), pointing instead to factors such as poverty among youthful Mideast populations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and climate change.

Addressing a reception at the State Department in honor of the recent Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, Kerry told an audience of Muslim community representatives, diplomats and others that the world was facing “a very complex time, and there are many currents that are loose out there that have brought us to this moment.”

“The extremism that we see, the radical exploitation of religion which is translated into violence, has no basis in any of the real religions,” he said. “There’s nothing Islamic about what ISIL/Daesh stands for, or is doing to people.”

The situation was “complicated, and for other reasons,” Kerry said. “We’re living at a point in time where there are just more young people demanding what they see the rest of the world having than at any time in modern history.”

He said with large youthful populations in some countries in the Middle East, South-Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, “you are going to have a governance problem unless your governance is really addressing the demands and needs of that part of the population.”

Kerry said extremist violence was just a symptom of underlying causes that needed to be addressed. He spoke in that context of a need for a partnership – to pursue peace, shared prosperity and the ability to get an education and a job, as well as “sustainability of the planet itself.”

“And that brings us to something like climate change, which is profoundly having an impact in various parts of the world, where droughts are occurring not at a 100-year level but at a 500-year level in places that they haven’t occurred, floods of massive proportions, diminishment of water for crops and agriculture at a time where we need to be talking about sustainable food.”

“In many places we see the desert increasingly creeping into East Africa,” he said. “We’re seeing herders and farmers pushed into deadly conflict as a result. We’re seeing the Himalayan glaciers receding, which will affect the water that is critical to rice and to other agriculture on both sides of the Himalayas. These are our challenges.”  [Higher levels of CO2 are in fact REDUCING the desertificaton of Sub-Saharan Africa]


UK: Leftist indifference to the disabled

Their one-size-fits-all ideology is all that matters to them

Yet another instance of Ed Miliband’s legendary political acumen was his attempt at last week’s PMQs to rebrand the Tories as “the nasty party”. This was on the basis of leaked comments by Lord Freud on the unfortunate effect of the minimum wage on the disabled. A transcript of what the junior welfare minister actually said at a private Tory meeting showed it to be the very opposite of what Miliband tried to convey.

In fact, he was addressing precisely a point I made here in June 1999, after being approached by a local councillor who had worked with the disabled for years. He alerted me to the social disaster that the Labour government’s new minimum wage was about to create.

It was going to prevent thousands of people with learning or physical disabilities from doing modest jobs – such as clearing litter, assembling wooden toys or stacking supermarket shelves. This work took them out into the community with a sense that they were doing something useful, but it didn’t necessarily justify their being paid the new minimum wage. So what many charity workers and social services managers proposed was that the handicapped should continue doing such therapeutic work, but for wages below the new minimum, with the difference made up by a modest change to the benefit rules.

The then government’s insistence on everyone getting the full minimum wage made nonsense of its claim that it would help the disabled, but it remained impervious to objections. I quoted the fine Orwellian twist of a reply to a Labour MP from the trade minister Ian McCartney, loftily explaining that the minimum wage “supports a culture of social inclusion”. In other words, as I wrote, to promote the “inclusion” of the handicapped, they must be socially excluded.

Sure enough, this was just what happened. In 2000 The Guardian was quoting Mencap in reporting that large numbers of handicapped people had been laid off, and were now forced to while away their time in day centres or languish unhappily at home.

This was precisely the anomaly Lord Freud was again trying to address, in those remarks for which David Cameron ordered him to apologise, on the grounds that they were “foolish and offensive”.


Tackled by the Language Police

Wretched excess by government can be beneficial if it startles people into wholesome disgust and deepened distrust, and prompts judicial rebukes that enlarge freedom. So let’s hope the Federal Communications Commission embraces the formal petition inciting it to deny licenses to broadcasters who use the word “Redskins” when reporting on the Washington Redskins.

Using the FCC to break another private institution to the state’s saddle for the satisfaction of a clamorous faction illustrates how the government’s many tentacles give it many means of intimidating people who offend it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, empowered to ban trademarks that “may” disparage persons, has already limited trademark protection of the Redskins' name.

The FCC petition argues that broadcasting during prime time of the word “Redskins” has “an adverse impact on impressionable young Indian as well as non-Indian children.” (Today’s sensitivity arbiters say the word “Indian” does, too, but never mind.) Furthermore, uttering “Redskins” is “akin to broadcasting obscenity” and pornography, is “hate speech” and an “ethnic slur” that “keep[s] alive the spirit of inhumanity, subjugation and genocide” and “may” cause violence against Native Americans. Besides, it is a “nuisance,” defined as something “annoying.”

Is the FCC empowered to protect an entitlement to a life without annoyances? What if the FCC is annoying? This is complicated.

Professor Eugene Volokh, who specializes in First Amendment law at UCLA’s School of Law and supervises an invaluable website, The Volokh Conspiracy, thinks the petition refutes itself. It argues that “Redskins” is offensive because of the ideas and attitudes the word conveys. But when the Supreme Court upheld restrictions on the broadcasting of certain vulgarities (George Carlin’s “seven dirty words”), it stressed that the mere fact that speech is offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. And although the court focused on the content of the words, it did not focus on the political content or on the speaker’s opinion. “Indeed,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “if it is the speaker’s opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according [an utterance] constitutional protection,” because “the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas.”

Volokh adds: “The premise of the criticism of ‘Redskins’ is precisely that it embodies a racist, demeaning message about American Indians (whether or not this is intended by those who use it), and that it offends because of this racist meaning. It thus is the speaker’s imputed opinion and supposed ‘political content’ of the word that gives offense.”

Some say “Redskins” is merely an offensive epithet with a negligible ideological message. Volokh replies that the epithet is offensive to those who are offended “because of its allegedly racist ideology, and the call to suppress it stems precisely from the perception that it conveys this racist ideology.” Anyway, the anti-“Redskins” petition is less legal reasoning than a form of bureaucratic bullying known as regulation by “raised eyebrow.” The petition’s author notes that the FCC sometimes indicates disapproval of this or that, thereby compelling broadcasters, worried about being put out of business, to practice self-censorship. So the petition seems designed to trigger this, thereby succeeding even if it fails – even if the FCC dismisses the petition.

If, however, the FCC under progressives today but conservatives tomorrow, can, in the petition’s words, define and ban particular words as “nuisances” because they “annoy” a “substantial composite” of the population, what other words will appear on an ever-lengthening list?

Today many colleges and universities have “free speech zones” – wee spaces to which the First Amendment is confined. Such institutions are run by educators whose meager educations did not teach them that the Amendment made America a free speech zone. Campuses are habitats for progressives, and the distilled essence of today’s progressivism is the use of power to limit speech. The fact that censorship is progressivism’s default position regarding so many things is evidence of progressives' pessimism about the ability of their agenda to advance under a regime of robust discussion. It also indicates the delight progressives derive from bossing people around and imposing a particular sensibility, in the name of diversity, of course.

The petition, which uses “R*dskins” (this typographical delicacy supposedly will help prevent pogroms against Native Americans), says the phrase “colored people,” too, is “now considered derogatory.” If so, some progressive has the awkward duty of notifying the NAACP that its name is “akin to” a disparagement, an obscenity, pornography, a racial slur and hate speech. The language policeman’s lot is not a happy one.



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


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