Archive for December, 2012


An inside look at the Taliban’s bankers

In Afghanistan, the lines between insurgency and official business are often blurred. Reporter Matthew Green takes us through the clandestine world of the infamous hawala bankers – the men deemed to be secretly funding the Taliban.


Praying Hitler Rattles Former Warsaw Ghetto
Statue by Maurizio Cattelan not embraced by all
Posted by Kate Seamons
No chance of this one not being controversial: A statue of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees has been installed in the former Warsaw Ghetto, reports the AP. Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s work can only be viewed from afar, by peering through a hole in a wooden gate. What, exactly, Hitler—visible only from the back and appearing as a child—is praying for isn’t made clear, but what is clear is that many aren’t pleased. The Simon Wiesenthal Center this week called displaying the statue in a place where the Nazis forced many Jews to live in cramped, inhuman conditions before being sent to death camps “a senseless provocation. … As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler’s only ‘prayer’ was that they be wiped off the face of the earth.”

                                                        But the director of the art center behind the installation counters that the intention was not to insult, but to try “to speak about the situation of hidden evil everywhere.” And he has Poland’s head rabbi on his side. Michael Schudrich was consulted about the statue and says he didn’t oppose it because he saw value in the moral questions it raises. Evil can present itself in the guise of a “sweet praying child,” he says, and the statue can “force us to face the evil of the world.”

                Praying Hitler Rattles Former Warsaw Ghetto
A statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees in Warsaw, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Catholic Hitler Praying | Rattles Former Warsaw Ghetto

Punishment for Atheism in 7 Countries: Death

And atheists don’t enjoy full rights in Arkansas: report
Posted By Kate Seamons

            Choosing not to believe can be a deadly choice in seven of the world’s countries, according to a new report out today. It found that atheists can be executed for their views in Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Reuters notes that the report didn’t actually catalog any recent executions for atheism; but that’s likely because the charge is typically absorbed by other charges, say the researchers. Denial of “the right to exist” isn’t the only woe suffered by atheists per the report, which outlines other persecution and challenges they face around the world:

  • In countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, and Kuwait, it’s illegal (and dubbed “blasphemous”) to publish atheist views.
  • A number of countries, including Malaysia, force all citizens to register as a member of an officially recognized religion in order to obtain documents necessary for accessing everything from education to medical treatment.
  • The West doesn’t get off scot-free, with the report noting that many secular countries give deferential treatment to Christian churches. It cites the “pride of place” given to the Orthodox Church on state occasions in Greece, and Britain’s automatic bestowal of seats in parliament’s upper house on bishops of the Church of England.
  • Closer to home, atheists are actually barred from holding public office in seven US states; in Arkansas, atheists are prohibited from serving as a witness at a trial.

You Are Not Gay Anymore, Thanks To Horse-Fondling  School

Posted by Evan  Hurst

Mounties

When  you were born, there was always something different about you. When you were  little, you were interested in “girl things” like Barbie Dolls and learning.  When you were in high school and all the other boys were doing splashy-splashy in the pool with the girls, you were staying  in the water getting a boner of anticipation every time one of the guys hopped  out, just praying they’d forget to un-cling their swim trunks from their  glistening wet bodies for just a minute longer, because you were A Budding Gay.  You were upset about this because Religious Indoctrination, but that’s okay  because something came along and changed your life forever!

Yes, one day, after finding evidence of your secret gayness, your mom took  you to the Cowboy Church Of Virginia, where they taught you to relieve  yourself of wretched, wretched homosexuality by just straight up fondling some  horses:

An American church is promising gay men they will be cured of their  homosexuality if they stroke horses.

The Cowboy Church of Virginia, led by chief pastor Raymond Bell, believes  homosexuality and other ‘addictions’ can be cured by Equine Assisted  Psychotherapy.

Horse therapy, in the right hands, can be used to help overcome fears,  develop communication skills, and is generally beneficial to mental health.

But Bell says the horses in his church, a cowboy ranch in the  south,

As opposed to the horses in LIBERAL CHURCHES…

are part of teaching men to stop being gay and encourage them to be more  masculine.

[…]

Bell said he uses EAP to identify how a person got ‘involved’ in  homosexuality to begin with. For example, because of rape, abandonment, lacking  a male role model, abuse, and having low self-esteem.

Show me on the horse where you’d like Jesus to touch you.

Wayne Besen of the good old Truth Wins Out (where your Wonkette used to work  for, like, actual employment!) coined the phrase “pray away the gay” back in the  day, and is now having to add “neigh away the gay” to his toolbox of  phrases, which reminds us of a story we told a few weeks back about a Floridian man and his  love relationship with a mini-donkey named “Doodle.”

Unfortunately, the proper methods for using horse-fondling to relieve  yourself of gayness are not provided, so please don’t try this with your own  personal horse. You can’t just walk out in the pasture and pocket-rocket to  third base with the first whinnying love machine you see. For one thing, you  will get bitten or stomped on. No, this requires the work of licensed  professional heterosexual romance therapy horses, and the men of God who offer  them up for gay men to jerk them off or whatever, I don’t understand how Jesus  therapy works.

But anyway, that is the story of why you are not gay anymore, and also why  you spend so much time in your barn  after midnight, softly moaning to the sounds of pitter-pattering horseshoes and  Isaac Hayes on vinyl sexing your wife, in the vagina. [Gay Star News/Truth Wins Out]


A New Inquisition: The Vatican targets US nuns
  • Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell (CNS/Sid Hastings)
  • Sr. Nzenzili Lucie Mboma: “It is painful to see the Vatican carrying on these kinds of things.” (Jason Berry)
  • Pope Benedict XVI greets U.S. Cardinal William Levada during the pontiff’s general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican in 2011. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Vatican City    

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles, a joint reporting project by NCR and GlobalPost.com, examining the background and the principal players in the Vatican’s investigations of U.S. women religious.

Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell and three other sisters crossed St. Peter’s Square through the fabled white columns, paused for a security check and entered the rust-colored Palace of the Holy Office.

It was April 18, 2012, and on entering the palazzo, they were aware of its history, that in this same building nearly 400 years earlier Galileo had been condemned as a heretic by the Roman Inquisition for arguing that the Earth orbits around the sun.

Today, the palazzo houses the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that enforces adherence to church teaching. As president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Farrell and her executive colleagues had an appointment with the prefect, Cardinal William Levada, about the congregation’s investigation of their group.

They were walking into what Fr. Hans Küng, the internationally renowned theologian who has had his own battles in the palazzo, calls “a new Inquisition.” (See related story.)

The sisters were accused of undermining church moral teaching by promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” To many sisters, the congregation’s action is a turn toward the past, causing a climate of fear and a chill wind reaching into their lives.

The Vatican wants control of LCWR, an association of 1,500 superiors, representing 80 percent of American sisters, most long active in the front lines of social justice.

The main leadership council of American sisters embraced the Second Vatican Council’s social justice Gospel, which has taken sisters to some of the poorest corners of the world to work with politically oppressed people, particularly in Latin America. But a stark drama of attrition has unfolded as the Vatican II generation reaches an eclipse. Since 1965, the number of American sisters has dropped by more than two-thirds, from 181,241 to 54,000 today.

In contrast, the rate of women joining religious orders has surged in Korea, South Vietnam, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Caribbean. Nowhere has the increase been more pronounced than in India. Five of the 10 largest religious institutes of women have headquarters in India, where only 1.6 percent of the population is Catholic.

“While India has nearly 50 million fewer Catholics than the United States does, it has over 30,000 more women religious,” wrote Jeff Ziegler in Catholic World Report.

The Vatican crackdown of LCWR has exposed a schizophrenic church. Interviews with missionary sisters in Rome, from India and other countries, register a deep fault line between cardinals immune from punishment, and sisters who work in poor regions with some of the world’s most beleaguered people. Religious sisters from other parts of the world view LCWR’s conflict with foreboding. How far Pope Benedict XVI goes in imposing a disciplinary culture, policing obedience over sisters, is an urgent issue to many of these women — and one sure to color this pope’s place in history.

The doctrinal assessment delivered by Levada was an intervention plan; he appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to approve speakers for LCWR gatherings and overhaul its statutes. “You can impose silence, but that doesn’t change anyone’s thinking,” Farrell reflected several months later at the convent in Dubuque, Iowa, where she lives.

“This is about the Vatican II church, how we have come to live collegially with participatory decision-making,” Farrell said. “When I entered in 1965 we studied and prayed with [the Vatican II] documents, implementing new charters. … We’re in a line of continuity with the early history of our communities, assessing unmet needs, going to the margins to help the homeless, people with AIDS, victims of torture and sexual trafficking.”

“When Vatican II requested nuns to search their history, Rome believed in a mythology of plaster statue women,” said Syracuse University Professor Margaret Susan Thompson, a historian of women religious. “They found instead nuns who took the job literally, and became controversial for doing so.”

The leadership conference endorsed women’s ordination in 1977 — 17 years before Pope John Paul II reinforced the church’s ban on it with the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Farrell says LCWR has not campaigned for women’s ordination. Nor has it endorsed abortion. The doctrinal congregation’s demand that the leaders speak out against abortion and gay rights is a battle over conscience, forcing words into superiors’ mouths.

“These women are really rooted in Christ and committed to the poor,” said Sr. Nzenzili Lucie Mboma, executive director of Service of Documentation and Study on Global Mission in Rome. A Congolese member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, Mboma had two friends murdered in political violence in the 1960s, during her novice years. “It is painful to see the Vatican carrying on these kinds of things,” she said.

“In certain parts of the church we have an us-versus-them mentality,” said Fr. Míceál O’Neill, an Irish Carmelite prior in Rome with background as a missionary in Peru. ” ‘Us’ is religious, and ‘them’ is officers of the Holy See.”

“We have a church that is doctrinally conservative and pastorally liberal,” O’Neill said. “The Vatican is trying to assert control, ‘we are in charge.’ … Many people are saying the two churches are not coming together.”

“There is a fundamental problem of honesty.”

Farrell, 65, came of age in Iowa in the years of Vatican II. She joined the Franciscans at 18, and in her 30s worked with Mexicans in San Antonio. She moved to Chile in 1980 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Disappearances were common. “It was routine for police to torture people in the first 72 hours,” she said. Demonstrations were banned, yet protests were the only way to put a spotlight on abductions when lives were at stake.

She joined “lightning demonstrations,” unfurling banners of the anti-torture protest movement in congested traffic, spreading leaflets that gave people information on the missing, who were airbrushed out of news reports. At one point she was arrested, with 100 other people, but coverage in a growing clandestine media saw them released the same day.

In 1986, she moved to El Salvador with a handful of sisters to help people reeling from a civil war with U.S. military support of the Salvadoran government. Farrell spent her first weeks sleeping at night in a church sacristy, getting to know people, and eventually moving into a sprawling refugee camp, living with villagers displaced by military bombings. American sisters were a nonviolent presence, giving thin cover to locals.

“We learned never to leave the road because any area off defined footpaths could have land mines,” she explained. “I remember walking down one long hill with trembling knees to meet a group of soldiers who entered the camp. Part of our role as internationals in the camp was to keep the military out and I was on my way down to ask them to leave. That time they did, thank God.”

Religious processions common to Latin America took on heightened meaning. For a newly repopulated community to show up en masse, with banners of saints and the Virgin Mary, conveyed “a political statement,” Farrell said: “We are not afraid. We have a right to be here. Our faith continues to be a source of strength to us.”

In 2005, Farrell returned to her Dubuque convent. Elected to the LCWR board several years later, she was midway through her one-year term as president when LCWR leaders made their annual trip to Rome in 2012 to update church officials on their work. With Farrell were Dominican Sr. Mary Hughes, past president; president-elect Franciscan Sr. Florence Deacon, and Janet Mock, the executive director and a Sister of St. Joseph of Baden, Pa.

Before their appointment in the Palace of the Holy Office, they held an hour of silent prayer in a Carmelite center.

The sisters had met once with the doctrinal congregation’s investigator, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, but had not seen his report. The sisters were expecting some conclusion to Blair’s inquiry but had no indication about what it would entail. Blair was not in the meeting that day. They were to meet with Levada, who was about to turn 76 and retire to his native California.

After a cordial greeting, Levada read aloud an eight-page, single-spaced assessment that his office was just posting to the Internet. The assessment accused the sisters of “corporate dissent” on homosexuality and failure to speak out on abortion. The assessment also castigated LCWR for ties to NETWORK, a Washington-based Catholic lobbying group that supported the Affordable Care Act, and the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, a group in Silver Spring, Md., that gives religious orders canon law guidance on property issues.

Leaving the Holy Office, Farrell felt numb. “It was in the press before we had time to brief our members,” she recalled.

“The reaction of rank-and-file sisters was anger. Now there is a stage of deep sadness and concern for the climate in the church and the misrepresentation of religious life,” she said.

A darkly ironic twist involves the doctrinal congregation’s handling of the clerical sexual abuse crisis. The congregation has processed 3,000 cases of priests who have been laicized for abusing youngsters. Several hundred are reportedly pending.

Yet those procedures, which Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, put in place as prefect in 2001, have a large loophole. The office has not judged bishops and cardinals whose negligence in recycling abusers caused the crisis.

The most glaring example is Cardinal Bernard Law, whose soft-glove treatment of pedophiles ignited the Boston scandal. He resigned as archbishop in 2002 and in 2004 he was named pastor of a great Roman basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore, with a $10,000 per month salary and a highly influential role in choosing new American bishops.

Law was a driving force behind a preliminary investigation of all American religious orders of women, according to several sources interviewed here, and a May 15 report by Robert Mickens, the respected Vatican correspondent for the British Catholic weekly, The Tablet. Law, who has not spoken to the media in a decade, refused an interview request. But Cardinal Franc Rodé, 78, retired prefect of the congregation that oversees religious orders, confirmed Law’s role. In a wide-ranging interview at his residence in the Palace of the Holy Office, Rodé said, “It was the American milieu in the Roman Curia that suggested it.”

The “apostolic visitation” of all but the cloistered communities of U.S. women religious was the initial phase. The doctrinal congregation’s aggressive investigation of the main leadership group soon followed.

“Some people say this is an attempt to divert attention from the abuse crisis, like politicians do,” a missionary sister from a developing country with her order in Rome, said of the doctrinal congregation’s investigation. She asked that her name not be used because the order depends on donations from U.S. Catholics channeled through dioceses.

“The Vatican is trying to assert control, to say, ‘We are in charge,’ ” she continued. “This envisions a different church from Vatican II. Many people are saying that the two churches are not coming together.”

LCWR has indeed pushed the envelope by giving forums to theologians who have questioned celibacy and the evolution of religious life. As liberal theologians clamor for change, LCWR has collided with the doctrinal office over freedom of conscience, a core principle of Vatican II.

Rodé, as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, ordered the 2009 visitation of American sister communities. He told Vatican Radio of his concern for “a certain secular mentality … in these religious families and perhaps also a certain ‘feminist’ spirit.”

Rodé was also prompted by a 2008 conference he attended on religious life at Stonehill College near Boston. Dominican Sr. Elizabeth McDonough, a canon lawyer, accused LCWR of creating “global-feminist-operated business corporations” and “controlling all structures and resources.”

“I’m unaware of any such facts that would back up that claim. It sounds like a sweeping indictment of the direction many orders have taken which the hierarchy found offensive or disloyal, summed up in the ‘radical feminism’ catch phrase,” said Kenneth A. Briggs, author of Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.

“Most orders were scrounging to come up with funds to support retired sisters, often selling off property that belonged to them to do so. It seems clear to me that the aim of the Stonehill meeting was to paint a picture of disobedience as a pretext for a crackdown,” Briggs said.

Rodé in an interview brushed off suggestions that the apostolic visitation was unfair.

Rodé had requested $1.3 million from religious communities and bishops to cover travel and other expenses for the visitation, which he appointed Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to carry out.

The funding request raised eyebrows among many missionary orders.

“Why would you want to pay them to investigate you?” asked one of the missionary sisters in Rome.

The study by Millea has not been made public.

“Vatican II was the most important event that changed the Catholic church,” said Sr. Nzenzili Lucie Mboma. “Jesus was a carpenter. He didn’t build cells, but windows to see every culture.”

She paused. “Why is this investigation happening?”

Also in this series: German theologian Hans Küng still resists the ‘Roman Inquisition’

Coming in this series: Next: The bishops and cardinals who are investigating the sisters have poor records on sex abuse cases.

[Jason Berry, author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, writes from New Orleans. Research for this series has been funded by a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion and American Public Life at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting; and the Fund for Investigative Journalism


The Unequal State of America – graphic of the day

In a new three part special report, Reuters is examining the rise of income inequality in America. Today’s graphic shows how the 50 states and Washington DC rank according to three key metrics (median income, poverty rate and inequality). Click here to see the interactive version of the graphic below. To learn more about the methodology behind this new series, click here.

inequality

Via:- Thomson Reuters

Meet Catholic Talibanist Robert Spencer’s Fellow Christian Extremist: “Usama Dakdok”
Posted b Dorado

Pastor Usama Dakdok, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Pastor Usama Dakdok, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer

by Garibaldi

Robert Spencer is in his own right an extremist anti-Muslim who is motivated by a belief that he is in a militant Christian Crusade against Islam.

“We wanted Catholics to become informed about Islam because not only is Islam the church’s chief rival in terms of religion but Islam is a serious threat to the peace and well-being of the Western world in general.”

Spencer’s extremist allies in this cause are many, on the other side of the pond it’s the EDL, Geert Wilders, etc. and here in the USA it’s individuals like Pastor Usama Dakdok, who has said things like, every Muslim is a demon.” Dakdok has gotten high praise from Islamophobic rags such as the David Horowitz funded and operated FrontPageMag which described Dakdok as a “scholar.” Well, he must be, right? Just look at the company he’s in,

“scholars like Dakdok, Robert Spencer, Walid Shoebat”

Yup…Walid Shoebat. I’m willing to agree with this assessment by FrontPageMag, Spencer certainly is in the field of scholarship and caliber of the likes of Dakdok and Shoebat. I’m just waiting for these two to get blurbs from Spencer for any of their upcoming “scholarly” books.

Dakdok is also a presenter on the Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN), an anti-Islam extremist Christian proselytizing group that features Spencer very often, usually with him debating the likes of useful idiots Anjem Choudhary and Omer Bakri. Interestingly, Spencer still refuses to debate Danios.

Recently, Dakdok was speaking at a Tea Party conference in Ohio where he stated that we are “at war with Islam,” Barack Obama was the product of Muslim rape, Muslims were infiltrating the government, Muslims will kill children in America for not eating halal through beheading and other really vile nonsense. Of course Spencer will never repudiate these remarks or his association with Pastor Dakdok.

What’s disconcerting is all the applause and cheers Dakdok received at the Tea Party conference. (h/t: JD)

See Video: Tea Party Anti-Muslim Hate Comes to Ohio School

(Vimeo)

(CLEVELAND, OHIO, 12/19/12) – The Cleveland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Ohio chapter (CAIR-Cleveland) today released a video highlighting anti-Muslim hate preached at a recent Tea Party event at a school in that state, which included claims that American Muslims “will kill your children” and that “we are in war with Islam.”

At the December 10 event, titled “Infiltration of Islam in America?” and sponsored by the Mansfield North Central Ohio Tea Party, at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Ohio, speaker Usama Dakdok called Islam a “wicked cult” and made hate-filled claims such as: (NOTE: Speaker’s linguistic errors retained.)

“The day will come and Muslim in America will have the upper hand, and they will kill your children for not eating what is liked. For not eating the lawful foods.”

“What happened to the women and the children? They were raped. By who? By Muhammad and his followers. And they got pregnant, and they had babies, and the baby was born by the name Fatima, and Khadija, and Obama, and Hussein, and Barack, and all those wonderful Muslim names.”

“[W]ithout Allah they will die and for sure they would spend eternity in hell with Muhammad and with all previous Muslims, and Baptist, and Presbyterian, and Catholic, and everyone who’s think by going to some church will make it to heaven.”

“Killing you is a small matter [for Muslims].”

“We were not in war with Bin Ladin, we are in war with Islam.”

“[T]hen you have a revival in America among the Muslim, and that’s when they start beheading your children and your grandchildren.”

“So they say this month two and a half percent of the profit [American banks] made will go to Egypt. To help to get rid of illiteracy. What do they mean by illiteracy? They meant Christian. We are gonna kill some Christian. Or this month we are gonna get rid of some AIDS. What is AIDS? That is the Jews.”

CAIR-Cleveland had called on people of conscience to ask the Tea Party group to drop Dakdok from the December 10 program.

“Our nation’s schools should be havens from the kind of hatred spewed by Mr. Dakdok,” said CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia Shearson. “We urge Ohio’s religious and political leaders to repudiate this and all other forms of bigotry being promoted by a vocal minority nationwide – bigotry which can and does lead to violence.”

Shearson noted that another charge was added yesterday to those filed against an armed Indiana man arrested for burning the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in September.

Also yesterday, New Jersey white supremacists faced hate crime charges for allegedly attacking several men of Egyptian descent in 2011. One of the alleged attackers wrote on a website: “(W)e went to hunt down some sand n**gers, it was me and my other bro on like 6 or eight and we whooped them.”

As an example of recent campaigns to promote anti-Muslim bigotry, CAIR cited efforts of the designated hate group headed by blogger Pamela Geller to place Islamophobic ads in transit systems nationwide.

A scheduled 2011 speech by Dakdok at the same school was cancelled by the Mansfield City School Board after complaints from the NAACP and CAIR, but the decision was challenged by a lawsuit brought on behalf of the Tea Party.

With legal fees mounting, the Mansfield School District recently settled the law suit and granted permission for the hate preacher to speak at the school.