Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Vatican vs the American nuns

I've been thinking a lot about the nuns lately -- the American nuns that the Vatican has been denouncing and sanctioning.

I write as a non-Catholic, of course with no personal experience of being Catholic.   I do recall stories from friends about the mean nuns they had for teachers in parochial school.  And I suppose there are the occasional obsessed ones like the Mother Superior portrayed by Meryl Streep in Doubt

On the other hand, I have been a patient in a Catholic run hospital, and I was impressed by the overall spirit of care and compassion in the hospital.   I recall a very kind and lovely nun from the administration coming by to see if I needed anything, but there was not a shred of putting her religious views on display.  She simply lived as an example;  and from what I saw she was a very good example of kindness and consideration for others.

My impression of nuns is generally quite favorable -- the tireless and selfless ones working in the slums or in hospitals or in primitive cultures, the ones who have been martyred fighting for human rights.   They seem closer to the people;  their values seem more closely connected to human needs

They seem more truly Christian in following the teachings of Jesus than the hierarchy of the Vatican with all its ornate costumes and rituals -- and its disconnect from the people and from modern life as it is lived outside the cloister of the Vatican.  Have you ever heard of a nun who wears custom made red shoes, as does the pope, or whose ceremonial headdress is studded with gems and gold?

Thus, I have little patience with their male hierarchy, starting with Benedict himself, for denouncing the American nuns for spending too much time on human concerns (poverty, health care, civil rights for gays) and not enough on defending "the faith" as defined by the Holy See.

Does Benedict really think the nuns should get out of the soup kitchens and march in protest of abortion and gay marriage?   That seems to be the case.

This spring, the Vatican announced it was sending a team of three American bishops to lead "a complete makeover" of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents about 80% of U. S. nuns.

A spokeswoman for the group said they had been "stunned by the severity" of the Vatican's criticism that accused them of promoting "radical feminism" and of contradicting the bishops.  One of the accusations, according to a New York Times article (6/2/12) was that they "focused their efforts on serving the poor and disenfranchised, while remaining virtually silent on issues the church considers great societal evils:  abortion and same-sex marriage."

If I were to choose an example of the effect of being Christian on a person's life, it would not be the Pope or his minions, who not only protected and covered up but enabled accused priests to further abuse little children.  It would not be a hierarchy more concerned with maintaining an other-worldly piety while putting dogma ahead of people.   It would be the humbleness and kindness of nuns who put people and their needs at the heart of their life of service to God.

Isn't that what Jesus taught?

I personally -- speaking as a non-Catholic, of course -- think the Roman Catholic Church and its world-wide religious reach would be better off if they made a radical change and gave the nuns an equal place in the hierarchy and the Vatican.    Imagine a female pope !!   It might lead to the transformation that the church seems to need.

But small steps first.   Instead of a delegation of bishops to lead a makeover of the nuns' organization, I recommend a delegation of nuns to lead a makeover of the Vatican.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Pariah Bush

How is it that journalists are letting Romney and other Republicans get away without addressing the Bush problem?

Answer: there are almost no journalists left. They're just news readers.   I'm sure Rachel Maddow or Laurence O'Donnell would take him on -- but of course he won't agree to be a guest on their shows.

Here's what they should ask:
Mr. Romney, you never mention former President George W. Bush, yet you want to bring back most of his policies.   If he is so unpopular that he can't be mentioned, why do you think the American people would want to got back to his policies?

Why do you support a return to the policies that go us into such a mess?
There.  Let's hope a gutsy debate moderator will ask that.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

For what it's worth

A CNN poll has a glimmer of good news for Democrats:  The name of George W. Bush produces negative reactions in people.

The implication:   It will be a good campaign tactic (as well as abundantly true) to use his name early and often in talking about how we got into this economic mess.   Here are the data:

1.  Of former living presidents, George W. Bush is the least popular (43% favorable/54% unfavorable).   In contrast are Bill Clinton (66%/31%), George H. W. Bush (59%/32%), Jimmy Carter (54%/33%).

2.  When asked if they are better off than four years ago, there was an even split between yes and no (44% and 43%).

3.  But if the question is:  "Are you better or worse off than four years ago when Bush was president," it goes up to 47% better off to 41% worse off.

So we need to keep talking about "the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy," combined with "the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan" with no provision for paying for them.  And of course "the Bush recession."

The Republicans obviously understand this, because they avoid him like the plague.   Is there one single Republican politician who wants Bush to campaign for him?   No one talks about him, period.  The immediate past president?  Isn't that a bit odd?

So then we keep making the point that Romney's financial plan is to go back to the Bush policies.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What the Wisconsin recall vote means

Those of us paying only casual attention to the recall vote yesterday in Wisconsin may have thought of it only as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker's busting of the public service workers' union.  That is what initially gained national attention and generated the most heat.

It was far more than that.  Some wanted to paint it as a trial run for November.   It was not that.

1.  The decisive win for Walker (53% to 46%) was complex.  Exit polls revealed that even some people who opposed Walker's anti-union tactics voted for Walker, some because they like his aggressive approach to fiscal responsibility in general or thought the good he did outweighed the union busting.

The big factor seems to be feelings about the recall itself.  In exit polls, 60% said they are appropriate only for official misconduct, and 10% said they are never appropriate.

3.  Perhaps this helps explain why 36% of labor households voted to retain Walker.  I have not yet seen another explanation offered, and it seems blatantly anti-intuitive given Walker's fierce anti-labor power play.

4.  Does the Democrat's loss signal trouble for Obama in November?   Not necessarily.    Exit polls show voters in the recall favor Obama over Romney by 52% to 43%.   Of Obama supporters, 17% of them voted to keep Walker in office.

5.  It has almost been lost in the hullaballoo, but the recall election did have one favorable effect for Dems.   The Democrats regained control of the state senate, when one of the Republicans subject to recall was defeated by his Democratic opponent, a former state senator.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Creationism belief grows

A recent Gallop poll asked the following question:

Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?

1) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process,

2) Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process,

3) God created human beings pretty much in their present form at once time within the last 10,000 years or so.
 Forty-six percent (46%) chose #3:  creationism.

Thirty-two percent (32%) chose #1:  theological evolution.

And 15% chose #2, scientific evolution.
Those who believe in creationism are up by 2% compared with 30 years ago.  However, there was a decline from 2008 to 2011 to 40% and then a sharp rise in the past year to 46%.


Prop 8 headed for Supreme Court too

It looks like both the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 will be heading for the U. S. Supreme Court for a definitive decision about gay marriage.

Last week, in a unanimous decision by a three judge panel of the 1st U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional.  

Now the 9th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to have the full court review the decision by its three judge panel that upheld a lower court's ruling that this law is unconstitutional.  If the defendants of Prop 8 do not appeal by a certain date, then marriage equality is again legal in California.

But, assuming those defendants will also appeal to SCOTUS, we could have hearings and a decision on both the cases within the year.