Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Out and About - September 2008

For the city of St. Paul, the biggest event of September 2008 was undoubtedly the Republican National Convention which was held September 1-4 (and just five miles from my home).

In the days leading up to and throughout the duration of the RNC, I participated in a number of events advocating alternatives to numerous aspects of the Republican agenda, including the
use of torture, efforts to suspend the right of habeas corpus, and the occupation of Iraq.

The largest of these events was the September 1 peace march that drew tens of thousands of people to the streets of St. Paul. It was also an event that ushered in an unprecedented militarization of various Minnesota law enforcement agencies at a cost of $50 million.

In the weeks after the RNC, many were highly critical of the city and state policy makers who authorized this militarization, one that, as Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman notes, “led to mass arrests, the use of pepper gas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets against peaceful protesters and the tactics of intimidation that went along for the ride.”

In his September 25 column, Coleman also gave voice to the question that many were pondering: “How did a city that loves its police force - a city where many residents are on a first-name basis with their cops - wake up on September 1 in a militarized zone where the cops were deployed in military formations, using military tactics, in ways that did not discriminate between the small band of creeps that came to cause trouble and the throngs of peaceful citizens exercising their rights?”

“There is no answer yet to that question,” concluded Coleman.

In his September 13 Star Tribune commentary, Paul Scott observed: “Until RNC week, we had never needed to learn the breaking point for our freedoms. Now, thanks to some yabbos with bandanas around their faces, we know the moment at which St. Paul authorities will rescind the ability to walk on public streets free of intimidation and disillusionment with one’s country: Three broken windows at Macy’s.”

For more on the RNC, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Walking for Peace, Witnessing Against War
Saying “No” to Torture and the Republican Agenda
Out and About - August 2008
Marching on the RNC
Amy Goodman Arrested at the RNC
Amy Goodman: Breaking with Convention

Above (from left): Coleen Rowley, Ray McGovern, and Ann Wright - three of the speakers at Peace Island: Hope in a Time of Crisis, a “solutions-based” conference held at Concordia University during the Republican National Convention.

With Antonia Juhasz (third from left), author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time, and my friends Sue Ann and Kathleen - Peace Island Conference, Tuesday, September 2, 2008.

For Antonia Juhasz’s views on why progressives should vote for Barack Obama, see the previous Wild Reed post,
Progressives and Obama (Part 2).

Left: The weekly vigil outside the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems in Eden Prairie - Wednesday, September 3, 2008.

Alliant TechSystems is the largest Minnesota-based weapons manufacturer and the primary supplier of landmines, cluster bombs, nuclear missile rocket motors, and depleted uranium munitions to the U.S. Department of Defense. In addition, the corporation has sales representatives in over 60 countries.

For more information about this weekly vigil, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Walking Against Weapons
Award-winning “Hellraisers” at it Again
Alliant Action
It Sure Was Cold!

Above: Down by the Mississippi - Saturday, September 6, 2008.

For more images of this beautiful spot by the river, click
here and here.

Above: My friend Benjamin (third from left) singing with Ovation, an ensemble of One Voice Mixed Chorus - Sundin Hall, Hamline University, September 21, 2008.

Above: Gretchen Murr, president of PFLAG St. Paul/Minneapolis , and Jody Huckaby, PFLAG national executive director, at the September 27 PFLAG Northern Plains Regional Conference, Hotel Sofitel, Minneapolis.

I helped staff an informational booth for the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) at the PFLAG conference.

Above: Speakers at the first annual PFLAG Northern Plains Regional Conference included Robert and Carol Curoe (back row at left), co-authors of Are There Closets in Heaven? A Catholic Father and Lesbian Daughter Share Their Story, and Jacqueline White (back row, fourth from left), author of the forthcoming My Transgender Husband: A Love Story.

For more of Carol and Bob Curoe, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sharing Their Story
Catholic Father & Lesbian Daughter Banned from Speaking on Church Property
Choosing to Stay

Above: Poet and author David Weiss (left) and Lowell O. Erdahl, Bishop Emeritus of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, at the first annual PFLAG Northern Plains Regional Conference - September 27, 2008.

To read excerpts from David Weiss’s book, To the Tune of a Welcoming God: Lyrical Reflections on Sexuality, Spirituality, and the Wideness of God’s Welcome, see the previous Wild Reed posts Making Love, Giving Life and Coming Out: An Act of Holiness.

Above: One Voice Mixed Chorus performing at the first annual PFLAG Northern Plains Regional Conference, September 27, 2008.

Above and below: The annual Silent Auction fundraiser for Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) - St. Joan of Arc Church, September 28, 2008.

Above: With my dear friends Ken and Carol Masters.

Above: Mike, Pepperwolf, and Darlene at WAMM’s September 28 Silent Auction.

Right: With WAMM co-founder Marianne Hamilton.

As I note on my Faces of Resistance website, “Marianne’s activism began after World War II when she became president of the Minnesota chapter of the World Federalists. Her activism continued through the Vietnam War era, when she was an outspoken critic of the conflict. In the 1970s she was invited to the Paris Peace Talks as part of an antiwar delegation. In 1982, Marianne joined with Polly Mann and others to form WAMM. Marianne is particularly well known for her international activism, and received the 1999 International Citizen Award, granted jointly by Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.”

Marianne is a real inspiration to me. She’s positive and proactive and “makes the connections,” as we like to say in the progressive community. For instance, in 2002 Marianne observed that: “More and more people are now saying that social, military, and globalization issues are all one . . . My upbringing in Catholic schools taught me about the interconnectedness of humanity – that we can’t separate one from another. That’s my personal motivation. And it seems to motivate a lot of people.”

Above: Kay and Ward.

Above: Carol, Marlys, Tom, and Brigid at WAMM’s Silent Auction.

Above and below: Signs of summer’s end.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Back in the USA
Out and About - April 2007
Out and About - May 2007
Out and About - June 2007
Out and About - July 2007
Out and About - August 2007
Out and About - September 2007
Out and About - October 2007
Out and About - November 2007
Out and About - December 2007
Out and About - January 2008
Out and About - February 2008
Out and About - March 2008
Out and About: April 2008
Out and About - May 2008
Out and About - June 2008
Out and About - July 2008
Out and About - August 2008

Remembering the "Radical Ethic" of the Catholic Worker Movement

Chris Hedges has a great piece at TruthDig.com entitled “Fueling the Fire of Real Change”, in which he recalls the history and ongoing mission of the Catholic Worker movement. In light of the recent financial turmoil on Wall Street, I find Hedges’ piece to be both informative and inspiring.

Writes Hedges: “As our society begins to feel the disastrous ripple effects from the looting of our financial system, the unraveling of our empire and the accelerated rape of the working and middle class by our corporate state, hope will come only through direct contact with the destitute.”

Following is the full text of Hedges’ article (with thanks to my friend and Progressive Catholic Voice contributor Steve Clemens for bringing it to my attention).


Fueling the Fire of Real Change
By Chris Hedges
September 28, 2008

Turn your back on Wall Street. Walk a few blocks up from the gleaming and soulless towers of disintegrating capitalism to the shabby, brick Catholic Worker house at 55 E. Third St. Sit, as I did recently, in one of the chairs in the basement dining room with its cracked linoleum and steel utility tables.

“Works of mercy and contact with the destitute sustain the spark in the ashes,” William Griffin, who has been with the Catholic Worker for 34 years and writes for the newspaper, told me. “It is with the poor and the indigent that you sense the imbalance and injustice. It is this imbalance that inspires action. Generations come in waves. One generation is inspired by these sparks, as Martin Luther King was during the civil rights movement. These fires often fall away and smolder until another generation.”

The coals of radical social change smolder here among the poor, the homeless and the destitute. As the numbers of disenfranchised dramatically increase, our hope, our only hope, is to connect intimately with the daily injustices visited upon them. Out of this contact we can resurrect, from the ground up, a social ethic, a new movement. Hand out bowls of soup. Coax the homeless into a shower. Make sure those who are mentally ill, cruelly cast out on city sidewalks, take their medications. Put your muscle behind organizing service workers. Go back into America’s resegregated schools. Protest. Live simply. It is in the tangible, mundane and difficult work of forming groups and communities to care for others and defy authority that we will kindle the outrage and the moral vision to fight back. It is not Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who will save us. It is Dorothy Day.

Day, who died in 1980, founded the Catholic Worker in the midst of the Great Depression with Peter Maurin. The two Catholic anarchists published the first issue of the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933. They handed out 2,500 copies in Union Square for a penny a copy. The price remains unchanged. Two Catholic Worker houses of hospitality in the Lower East Side soon followed. Day and Maurin preached a radical ethic that included an unwavering pacifism as well as a hatred of unfettered capitalism. They condemned private and state capitalism for its unjust distribution of wealth. They branded the profit motive as immoral. They were fervent supporters of the labor movement, the civil rights movement and all anti-war movements. They called on followers to take up lives of voluntary poverty. The Catholic Worker refused to identify itself as a not-for-profit organization and has never accepted grants. It does not pay taxes. It operates its soup kitchen in New York without a city permit. The food it provides to the homeless is donated by people in the neighborhood. There are some 150 Catholic Worker houses around the country and abroad, although there is no central authority. Some houses are run by Buddhists, others by Presbyterians. Religious and denominational lines mean little.

Day cautioned that none of these radical stances, which she said came out of the Gospels, ensured temporal success. She wrote that sacrifice and suffering were an expected part of the religious life. Success as the world judges it should never be the final criterion for the religious and moral life. Spirituality, she said, was rooted in the constant struggle to fight for justice and be compassionate, especially to those in need. And that commitment was hard enough without worrying about its ultimate effect. One was saved in the end by faith, faith that acts of compassion and justice had intrinsic worth.

Many of the old stalwarts of the movement do not place their hopes in Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. They see their task as sustaining the embers of social and religious radicalism. They hope that this radical ethic can once again ignite a generation shunted aside by a bankrupt capitalism.

“If you lived through the civil rights movement as I did, you would want very much to vote for Obama,” said Tom Cornell, who first came to the Worker in 1953, “but I don’t think I will be able to, given Obama’s foreign policy and his failure to promote a health care system for all Americans. I can’t vote for someone who leaves an attack on Iran on the table.”

Those within the Worker, however, worry that the looming economic dislocation will empower right-wing, nationalist movements and the apocalyptic fringe of the Christian right. This time around, they say, the country does not have the networks of labor unions, independent press, community groups and church and social organizations that supported them when Day and Maurin began the movement. They note that there are fewer and fewer young volunteers at the Worker. The two houses on the Lower East Side depend as much on men and women in their 50s and 60s as they do on recent college graduates.

“Our society is more brutal than it was,” said Martha Hennessy, Day’s granddaughter. “The heartlessness was introduced by Reagan. Clinton put it into place. The ruthlessness is backed up by technology. Americans have retreated into collective narcissism. They are disconnected from themselves and others. If we face economic collapse, there are many factors that could see the wrong response. There are more elements of fascism in place than there were in the 1930s. We not only lack community, we lack information.”

I do not know if our hope lies with the Catholic Worker. Institutions, even good ones, ossify. They can become trapped in the deification of their own past and the rigid canonization of the views of those who began the movements. But as our society begins to feel the disastrous ripple effects from the looting of our financial system, the unraveling of our empire and the accelerated rape of the working and middle class by our corporate state, hope will come only through direct contact with the destitute. The ethic born out of this contact will be grounded in the real and the possible. This ethic will, because it forces us to witness suffering and pain, be uncompromising in its commitment to the sanctity of life.

“There are several families with us, destitute families, destitute to an unbelievable extent, and there, too, is nothing to do but to love,” Day wrote of those she had taken into the Catholic Worker house. “What I mean is that there is no chance of rehabilitation, no chance, so far as we see, of changing them; certainly no chance of adjusting them to this abominable world about them — and who wants them adjusted, anyway?

“What we would like to do is change the world — make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute — the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words — we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.”

Chris Hedges

Image 1: Fritz Eichenberg.
Image 2: Thomas Marczewski.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On the Road with Punk Rockers and Homeless Mothers
Walking for Peace, Witnessing Against War
Rita Larivee on Being “Authorized by Baptism”
A Socialist Response to the Financial Crisis
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
Capitalism on Trial
A Lose/Lose Situation
A System That's Not Going to Survive
The Wrong Type of Government Intervention
Sarah Palin’s “Theocratic Fascist” Affiliations
All Those Community Organizers? Who Needs Them!
The Shadow is Real
Sarah Palin and the Rove-Cheney Cabal
John Pilger on Resisting Empire

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Catholic Worker Movement

Monday, September 29, 2008


Today is traditionally known in Roman Catholicism as Michaelmas - the Feast of the Archangel Michael.

Following is part of what Wikipedia has to say about St. Michael.


Michael is an archangel, one of the principal angels in Christian and Islamic tradition. He is viewed as the good Angel of Death (as opposed to Samael, the evil Angel of Death), and as the field commander of the Army of God. He is mentioned by name in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation (12:7). In the book of Daniel, Michael appears as “one of the chief princes” (Daniel 10:13) who in Daniel’s vision comes to the angel Gabriel’s aid in his contest with the angel of Persia, Dobiel, and is also described there as the advocate of Israel and “great prince who stands up for the children of your (Daniel’s) people (Daniel 10:21, 12:1).

The Talmudic tradition rendered his name as meaning “who is like El (God)?” In recent years, a popular mistake has become to translate the name as “One who is like God.” It is, however, meant as a question: “Who is like the Lord?” The name was said to have been the war-cry of the angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers.

Much of the late Midrashic detail about Michael was transmitted to Christianity through the Book of Enoch, whence it was taken up and further elaborated. In late medieval Christianity, Michael, together with St George, became the patron saint of chivalry and of the first chivalric order of France, the Order of Saint Michael of 1469. In the British honours system, a chivalric order founded in 1818 is also named for these two saints, the Order of St Michael and St George.

St Michael is also considered in many Christian circles as the patron saint of the warrior. His most singular honor was given to him in 1950 when Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958) named him patron of policemen. He is also a patron of Germany and one of the patron saints of the city of Brussels in Belgium. . . . In Germany, after its evangelization, Saint Michael replaced for the Christians the pagan god Wotan, to whom many mountains were sacred, hence the numerous mountain chapels of St. Michael all over Germany.

Roman Catholics refer to him as “Saint Michael the Archangel” and also simply as “Saint Michael.” Orthodox Christians refer to him as the “Taxiarch Archangel Michael” or simply “Archangel Michael.”

In both the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran calendar of saints, his feast day, once widely known as Michaelmas, is celebrated September 29 and was one of the four quarter days on which accounts were settled and, in England, when terms began in universities. Stubble-geese being esteemed in perfection about this time, most families had one dressed on Michaelmas Day. In some parishes they had a procession on this day and baked a cake, called St Michael’s bannock. His feast in the Middle Ages was celebrated as a holy day of obligation, but along with several other feasts it was gradually abolished since the eighteenth century.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church his principal feast day is November 8, where he is honored along with the rest of the “Bodiless Powers of Heaven” as their Supreme Commander, and his miraculous appearance at Colossae is commemorated on September 6.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
The Archangel Michael as Gay Icon

Image 1: A 13th-century Byzantine icon of Michael the Archangel from the Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai.
Image 2: The statue of St. Michael located in the Holy Family Chapel at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet - St. Louis (Michael Bayly).
Image 3: St. Michael’s Bannock (Michael Bayly).

She's Back!


Well, at least in the U.K.

Hopefully the Sci-Fi Channel here in the States will pick up the second season of The Sarah Jane Adventures as it did the first (available October 7 on DVD from Amazon.com).

For a review of the first episode of season 2 of The Sarah Jane Adventures, click here.

For a review of The Sarah Jane Adventures season 1 DVD box set, click here.


Here’s an interesting piece of Sarah Jane trivia: Did you know that in “Turn Left” , a season 4 episode of the “new” Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Smith, along with her son Luke and his teenage friends Maria Jackson and Clyde Langer, are reported to have been killed while thwarting an alien threat to Earth?

“Turn Left” is a grim (but highly entertaining) examination of what would have happened to a number of characters related to Doctor Who and its two spin-off shows (Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures), as well as to the rest of the citizens of the planet, if the character of Donna Noble (the Doctor’s traveling companion throughout season four) had not met the Doctor and saved his life at a crucial point in the timeline of the series. Thus Sarah Jane and her young companions are killed defeating an alien menace the Doctor would have encountered and defeated in the Doctor Who episode, “Smith and Jones”. (The real timeline is eventually restored by Donna at the end of “Turn Left” due to the intervention of the Doctor’s former traveling companion, Rose Tyler.)

To view the news broadcast in “Turn Left” that announces the death of Sarah Jane Smith, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Blast from the Past: The Return of Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane Smith
What Sarah Jane Did Next
She’s So Lovely
Impossible! . . . It Can’t Be!

Recommended Off-site Links:
A recent interview with Elisabeth Sladen of The Sarah Jane Adventures

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In the Garden of Spirituality: Joan Timmerman


“We are not on earth to guard a museum,

but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

- Pope John XXIII

The Wild Reed’s series of reflections on spirituality continues with a second excerpt from Joan Timmerman’s 1992 book, Sexuality and Spiritual Growth.

In this excerpt, Timmerman outlines the stages of spiritual growth, and compares the spiritual life to an “interwoven fabric in which a strand, once began, is never completely left behind, but becomes part of the larger ‘robe’ one weaves.”


One could characterize the spiritual life as the conversation, sometimes interrupted, sometimes lively, but always ongoing with that Unknown with which the known is connected. It is what we reach for when, in music or art or love or sport or work, we aim for more. Spirituality is the response of the whole person, body, mind, feelings, relationships, to the perceived presence of the holy in the here and now.

. . . Spiritual traditions identify not only types of spirituality but stages of growth into the transformed life that has characterized those who knew themselves to be in some way grasped by the Spirit. There have been many different images – ladder, journey, spiral, mountain – by which the insight has been expressed that the spiritual life is dynamic. To speak of its progress in stages only claims analogy with the recent and well-received characterizations of how psychological and moral development is achieved.

. . . The spiritual life could be imagined as an interwoven fabric in which a strand, once began, is never completely left behind, but becomes part of the larger “robe” one weaves.

In the first stage, the person has learned to live in a world of things, effectively linking means to ends, managing nutrition, technology, personal energy. This is not to be despised, for without it, all hope of further enhancement of life is unlikely. The first step on a stairway is foundational for it sustains all the rest. It is not dispensable. “Be normal” is the first rule of the spiritual life, according to Jesuit scholar and expert on the Christian spirituality of the East. . .

Stage two is characterized by conversion to a world of people. The second rule of the spiritual life is “Reach out to others.” In this stage a real shift of values takes place in which human happiness, relationships, and vitality are assigned priority over the demands of the non-personal sphere. . . . It is possibly the stage in which most people, especially most conventionally religious people, live the whole of their lives. . .

In stage three a process of purification is embraced. Old patterns of thought and action that have become obstacles to the call heard in the heart are let go. Social sins, accepted with ordinary socialization, such as misogynism, racism, workaholism, low self-worth, laziness, and half-heartedness are recognized and overcome. The call to take hold of life – to learn to live with enthusiasm using all the senses, to learn to be responsible as a member of the world community – is heard and followed. In this stage a mentor is most important and often appears as if in response to one’s desire for direction and growth. The issue is discernment. . . . At this point in spiritual growth, the balance is sought, the over-development is curbed, the underdeveloped aspects of one’s physical and psychological self are accommodated. . .

Stage four has traditionally been named enlightenment or illumination for it is characteristically a time of vision and revisioning. It may very well coincide with what has been called the age of grief, the time, most often during midlife, but occasionally earlier in a particularly tragic or traumatic life, when the emptiness of one’s present life is revealed. . . . The vision may restore the depths of fear and mystery and death, banished by distractions and multiple good works, or it may open one to see the connectedness of things and to awaken an explicit desire for a relationship with the divine. . . . The spiritual challenge of stage four is that what is asked of me is to move into the unknown. . .

Stage five culminates in union; that is, the person lives as one transformed, in authentic connectedness with the Whole, with an awareness of the Mystery in all things. Authentic, as used here, does not imply flight into the natural from the supernatural. It implies wholehearted dedication and submission to the specifically human, the specifically finite task of a given person’s life. Death itself is regarded no longer as the enemy, but as a moment in which the process of transformation, both here and beyond, is continued. Mystical or semi-mystical experiences are characteristic of union. These, in some lives, have been extraordinary and dramatic; but there is also mysticism of everyday things. Specific to mysticism is that it carries its own absolute validation; one knows that one has gone beyond, even in the midst of everyday things, what can be described with everyday words.

Others highlighted in The Wild Reed’s “In the Garden of Spirituality” series include:
Zainab Salbi
Daniel Helminiak
Rod Cameron
Paul Collins
Joan Chittister
Toby Johnson
Joan Timmerman
Uta Ranke-Heinemanm
Caroline Jones
Ron Rolheiser
James C. Howell
Paul Coelho
Doris Lessing
Michael Morwood
Kenneth Stokes

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Classic Engelbert II

On the 2007 DVD, Engelbert Humperdinck: Greatest Hits 1967-1977, Engelbert notes the following of his recording of “I’m A Better Man (For Having Loved You)”:

It was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and I happened to get hold [of it] in my early career. Of course, to be involved with a Burt Bacharach and Hal David song is outstanding, so I was thrilled by that. Although it didn’t do great as far as the charts – it did climb into the Top Ten, which was rather wonderful. The lyrical content and the melody was absolutely fantastic. It’s one of my favorite songs up to this day.

Mine, too, Engelbert. Mine too.

NEXT: Classic Engelbert III

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Engelbert Humperdinck: Not That Easy to Forget
Classic Engelbert

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Rove-Cheney Cabal

I hope author and social critic Naomi Wolf (pictured at right) has got it wrong in her recent essay at HuffingtonPost.com. Yet, to be honest, the scenario she outlines is one that I too have found myself contemplating, albeit reluctantly.

Basically, Wolf believes that Sarah Palin – not John McCain - will be the “affable, weak figurehead” at the helm of the coming “police state government” that will be illegally ushered into power and managed from behind the scenes by the same Rove-Cheney cabal that illegally put George W. Bush into power and has been pulling the strings ever since. As for Barack Obama’s fate in this truly nightmarish scenario, I just don’t want to go there.

The idea that the U.S. is on the road to becoming a fascist society is the thesis of Wolf’s latest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. It’s a thesis that’s reiterated and expanded upon in her recent Huffington Post essay, excerpts of which are shared below.


Excerpts from
The Battle Plan II
Sarah “Evita” Palin, the Muse of the Coming Police State
By Naomi Wolf
September 22, 2008

Please understand what you are looking at when you look at Sarah “Evita” Palin. You are looking at the designated muse of the coming American police state.

You have to understand how things work in a closing society in order to understand “Palin Power.” A gang or cabal seizes power, usually with an affable, weak figurehead at the fore. Then they will hold elections – but they will make sure that the election will be corrupted and that the next affable, weak figurehead is entirely in their control. Remember, Russia has Presidents; Russia holds elections. Dictators and gangs of thugs all over the world hold elections. It means nothing. When a cabal has seized power you can have elections and even presidents, but you have no freedom.

I realized early on with horror what I was seeing in Governor Palin: the continuation of the Rove-Cheney cabal, but this time without restraints. I heard her echo Bush 2000 soundbites (“the heart of America is on display”) and realized Bush’s speechwriters were writing her – not McCain’s – speeches. I heard her tell George Bush’s lies – not McCain’s – to the American people, linking 9/11 to Iraq. I heard her make fun of Barack Obama for wanting to prevent the torture of prisoners – this is Rove-Cheney’s enthusiastic S and M, not McCain’s, who, though he shamefully colluded in the 2006 Military Tribunals Act, is also a former prisoner of war and wrote an eloquent Newsweek piece in 2005 opposing torture. I saw that she was even styled by the same skillful stylist (neutral lipstick, matte makeup, dark colors) who turned Katharine Harris from a mall rat into a stateswoman and who styles all the women in the Bush orbit – but who does not bother to style Cindy McCain.

Then I saw and heard more. Palin is embracing lawlessness in defying Alaskan Legislature subpoenas –this is what Rove-Cheney, and not McCain, believe in doing. She uses mafia tactics against critics, like the police commissioner who was railroaded for opposing handguns in Alaskan battered women’s shelters – Rove’s style, not McCain’s. I realized what I was seeing.

Reports confirmed my suspicions: Palin, not McCain, is the FrankenBarbie of the Rove-Cheney cabal. The strategy became clear. Time magazine reported that Rove is “dialed in” to the McCain campaign. Rove’s protégé Steve Schmidt is now campaign manager. And Politico reported that Rove was heavily involved in McCain’s vice presidential selection. Finally a new report shows that there are dozens of Bush and Rove operatives surrounding Sarah Palin and orchestrating her every move.

What’s the plan? It is this: McCain doesn’t matter. Reputable dermatologists are discussing the fact that in simply actuarial terms, John McCain has a virulent and life-threatening form of skin cancer. It is the elephant in the room, but we must discuss the health of the candidates: doctors put survival rates for someone his age at two to four years. I believe the Rove-Cheney cabal is using Sarah Palin as a stalking horse, an Evita figure, to put a popular, populist face on the coming police state and be the talk show hostess for the end of elections as we know them. If McCain-Palin get in, this will be the last true American election. She will be working for Halliburton, KBR, Rove and Cheney into the foreseeable future – for a decade perhaps – a puppet “president” for the same people who have plundered our treasure, are now holding the US economy hostage, and who murdered four thousand brave young men and women in a war of choice and lies.

. . . Make no mistake: Sarah “Evita” Palin is Rove and Cheney’s cosmetic rebranding of their fascist push: she will help to establish a true and irreversible “fear society” in this once free once proud nation. For God’s sake, do not let her; do not let them.

To read Naomi Wolf’s essay in its entirety, click here.

For Naomi Wolf, the response to protesters by the militarized
police presence at the recent Republican National Convention
in St. Paul,
(a response that included
preemptive arrests and the harassment and
arrest of journalists
) support a number of the steps to dictatorship
outlined in her book, The End of America. (Image: Michael Bayly)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sarah Palin’s “Theocratic Fascist” Affiliations
All Those Community Organizers? Who Needs Them!
It Won’t Last
The Shadow is Real
An American Prayer

Recommended Off-site Links:
The End of America: Naomi Wolf Warns U.S. in Slow Descent Into Fascism - Democracy Now!, November 28, 2007.
It was Martial. And it was the Law - Paul Scott (Star Tribune, September 13, 2008).
Unanswered Questions About Militarization of St. Paul - Nick Coleman (Star Tribune, September 25, 2008).

Rivers of Belief

Take me back to the rivers of belief.
Take me back to the rivers of belief, my friend.

And look inside my heart,

And look inside my soul.
I promise you
I will return.

Take me back to the rivers of belief.
Take me back to the rivers of belief, my friend.

I look inside my heart,
I look inside my soul.
I'm reaching out for you
but you're not there.

Where is the peace
on my rivers of belief?

Adapted from “The Rivers of Belief”
from the Enigma album MCMXC A.D.
(Curly M.C./David Fairstein)

It's a Great Time to Be Catholic . . .

. . . and Hopefully Part of the Change That Must Come.

A Conversation with Simon Rosser

Rainbow Spirit
Fall 2004*

As an internationally renowned researcher on sexuality and sexual health, and a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, Simon Rosser, Ph.D (pictured at right) believes that the Roman Catholic Church’s policies on human sexuality must be reality-based and healthy. As a gay man, he expects these same policies to be fair – including being non-homophobic – and to speak from the whole of Catholic tradition, not just one extreme part of it. CPCSM coordinator and Rainbow Spirit editor, Michael Bayly, recently spoke with Simon about same-sex marriage and the Catholic tradition.

Michael Bayly: In talking about same-sex marriage and Roman Catholicism, you advance a “pro-equality position.” What exactly do you mean by this term?

Simon Rosser: In Gaudiem et Spes the bishops at Vatican II declared that the Church is committed to the essential dignity and free will of all human beings, including those it disagrees with. Vatican II did not say everyone but homosexuals. Equality, respect for conscience, and dignity are core values inherent in Church teaching (at least from Thomas Aquinas to Vatican II). When new challenges such as civil marriage for same-sex couples arise, the true Catholic response can never be to simply quote scripture or denounce something because it looks different. Bigotry can never be authentic Catholic teaching. The richness of our Catholic heritage lies in carefully thinking through and discerning what theologians call tradition – with a small t (what has always been done) – from Tradition – with a capital T – which is that core of Catholic theology which discerns the authentic Catholic response in each new situation.

Michael Bayly: Many people who oppose same-sex marriage point to scripture to support their stance. Yet you maintain that scripture actually supports same-sex marriage. How is this so?

Simon Rosser: The opponents of same-sex marriage selectively point to some rather minor passages in scripture to say that scripture is against same-sex marriage, while ignoring the central Gospel call to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Do good to those who hate you,” and “If your brother has something against you, stop what you are doing and go and be reconciled.” Selective quoting of scripture to suit one’s own politics is a common rhetorical device used by zealots. I think the richness of Catholicism includes placing scripture in context and then balancing scripture in light of tradition, science, and real life. That’s what keeps Catholicism from becoming extremist or over-identified with one political stance.

Michael Bayly: A growing number of people – yourself included – contend that the dominant Catholic tradition regarding homosexuality is flawed. Can you talk about how the tradition became flawed and what we can do as Catholics to rectify this situation?

Simon Rosser: The Church is in a tough place right now. On the one hand, the Church teaches that science and theology can never be truly in conflict since Catholicism teaches they are reflections of the same God. On the other hand, Catholic sexual theology is about 150 years behind science in some fundamental assumptions about sex and sexuality.

The theology of human sexuality that the Church is teaching is seriously disturbed, so science/medicine and theology appear at times diametrically opposed. Part of the problem is that as the scientific world advanced, the Church first didn’t keep pace with change, and then became a refuge for those frightened of change, including the psychosexually underdeveloped. I don’t think it’s fair to expect the Church to be ahead of science, but when it lags so far behind, it loses credibility and starts becoming extremist.

Michael Bayly: Why do you view the Church’s teaching on the “objectively disordered” nature of homosexuality to be “anti-Catholic”?

Simon Rosser: I’m neither a theologian nor a member of the clergy, but my understanding is that in promoting the doctrine of free will, the Church rejected as heresy the notion that some people are intrinsically ordered towards evil. To argue otherwise is to get into notions of predestination that the Church has consistently condemned for centuries.

Just how extreme is the current Vatican administration’s position? Prior to John Paul II, the official Vatican position regarding homosexuality was “love the sinner, hate the sin.” The documents authored by Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI] were the first to label a homosexual orientation (not behavior) as “objectively disordered.” These documents thus represent a fundamental shift in Catholic theology. In my opinion, that shift goes against centuries of Catholic tradition as promoting hatred is incompatible with basic Christianity; and the predestination of orientation violates Catholic teaching on free will.

Michael Bayly: What role do you see science playing in the formulation of Church teaching on topics such as same-sex marriage?

Simon Rosser: I think Church teaching is at its most progressive when it engages in genuine dialog, especially with experts and those most affected, to advance its theology. In turn, theology is like life – it’s liberating when it is healthy, challenging, and based in reality.

The last 50 years have been ones of enormous increase in scientific understanding of sexual orientation and identity. Science also made some major mistakes along the way that the Church can learn from and hopefully avoid repeating. So I think the Church has everything to gain and nothing to lose by engaging in genuine dialog with scientists on this issue.

Michael Bayly: As a gay man, a Catholic, and a researcher in multiple fields of science and public health, what do you believe the Church’s policy should be toward homosexuality and, by extension, same-sex marriage?

Simon Rosser: As a Catholic, I am mindful of the Church’s fundamental mission to preach good news, to bring liberty, and to heal. There’s also some rather strong statements in the Gospel about taking the plank out of one’s own eye before examining splinters in others’. If the Church’s teaching is not good news, liberating, or healing, then something’s fundamentally wrong. When the Church is supporting oppression and advocating denial of human rights, we know our leadership is in trouble. As a researcher on sexuality and sexual health, I think the most important priorities are for the Church’s policies to become reality-based and healthy.

As a gay man, I expect the Church’s policies to be fair, including being non-homophobic, and to speak from the whole of Catholic tradition, not just one extreme part of it. The ultra-conservatives are fond of saying that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Well that’s not reality. Based on science’s current understanding of the origins and stability of sexual orientation, God made Adam, Eve, and Steve; and until we have a theology that can deal with that complexity the Church is neither healthy nor living in reality.

Pope John Paul I had an interesting perspective on sex. He argued that since in most cases it was an attempt to love, if it was sinful, then perhaps it was the least sinful of human failings. Similarly, St. Paul at the Council of Jerusalem argued against requiring all Christian men to be circumcised, saying that in that sexual issue, there needed to be room for development and respect for diversity. Such insights seem a lot closer to what scientists are calling sexual health – an approach to sex which neither minimizes the serious problems that can happen, nor breeds an unhealthy preoccupation, sense of guilt and shame, or reduces sex to a biological evolutionary drive.

I believe that any Catholic who believes that Christ died for all of us, who believes that God is love, and who is convinced by the scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice but a loving orientation towards the same gender, must ultimately come to the conclusion that homosexuality is as much God’s will as heterosexuality, and that marriage is ultimately more about witnessing the sacredness of love as a sign of God, and less about blessing reproduction.

Michael Bayly: If this policy that you and others advocate is not realized within the Church, what can we reasonably expect to see in the years ahead?

Simon Rosser: In my experience, fundamentalists of various varieties – Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Christian – appear to perceive science and medicine as a threat, and seem to confuse their particular brand of God’s Revelation with ultra-conservatism. They all interpret their special brand of ‘truth’ to condemn homosexuality. Curiously, all of them are simultaneously displaying the scandals you get when ultra-orthodoxy runs amok – scandals of power, pedophilia, and abuse. What do the Taliban, Catholic clergy, and the ex-gay movement have in common? All of them are mired in sex abuse scandals – the Taliban in gang rape of Afghani boys, Catholic priests in child molestation of boys, and the ex-gay ministers in orgies and abuse of clients. Clearly, we Catholic don’t have a monopoly on abuse, but sadly, our sexual theology is very impoverished.

In my opinion, several of the Church’s recent statements on sexuality read as if they were written by a 12-year-old, or someone attracted to 12-year-olds. This places bishops like Archbishop Flynn, who has one of the deepest commitments to addressing the problem of pedophilia in the priesthood, in an untenable position. He has publicly declared he will do whatever it takes to address the sexual abuse in our clergy; yet he is ordered to defend a sexual theology that experts predict will perpetuate another generation of abuse.

I think the first step is for the scientists and the bishops to sit down at the same table and talk. I spent over ten years treating pedophiles and incest families. Watching the Church is like watching a giant incest family play out its dynamics. It’s deeply dysfunctional, it’s really sad, but it’s also fascinating. And it probably has to fall apart some more before real reform can be initiated.

Signs of real reform, as opposed to cosmetic cover-up, include reform of the Vatican level – holding the Congregation of the Faith responsible for overseeing both the sexual abuse by clergy and the promotion of pedophilic theology, “mainstreaming” of Catholicism from ultra-conservative positions to more moderate ones, and the establishment of genuine dialog between scientists and bishops on this issue.

Michael Bayly: What keeps you hopeful and committed to facilitating positive transformation within the Church? What message can you impart to those who feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the hierarchical Church’s seemingly intractable position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage?

Simon Rosser: The same people who attempted to cover up clergy sex abuse are the one’s formulating the church’s current sexual theology condemning homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This isn’t a coincidence. The homophobia inherent in the current articulation of church policy mirrors the homophobia in pedophilic clients, pre-treatment.

I have a lot of hope because I think the situation is so bad that American Catholics will be forced to think for themselves. And that’s a good thing. Whether it’s homosexuality, contraception, premarital sex, divorce, masturbation, or HIV prevention, the official Church position is now so extreme, so negative, so ultra-conservative, and ill-informed, that I’m confident that less than 5 percent of Catholics actually believe or follow Catholic sexual teaching.

In this situation either the church reforms or it dies. Given the ability of the Catholic Church to survive, I’m confident it will reform. But we have to do our part. American Catholics need to think for ourselves, to distinguish pedophilic propaganda from Catholic teaching, to support bishops and specifically to demand they reform or close down the Congregation of the Faith, and to commit to prioritizing a healthy adult-focused sexual theology. It has to happen. So, it’s a great time to be Catholic and, hopefully, to be part of the change that must come.

* This interview was first published in the Fall 2004 issue of the Rainbow Spirit, the journal of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, ahead of Simon Rosser’s keynote address at the October 25, 2004 CPCSM-sponsored event, “Reflections on Same-sex Marriage from a Catholic Perspective.” This event was part of a series of three presentations collectively entitled “Encountering God at the Crossroads of Marriage, Catholicism, and the GLBT Experience.” Other presentations in the series included Kathleen Hull on “The Evolving Nature of Marriage,” and “Sharing Our Lives,” a panel presentation by GLBT Catholics.

For other Rainbow Spirit interviews, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Kathy Itzin: The Voice of a Good Heart
Keeping the Spark Alive: A Conversation with Chuck Lofy
The Other Side of the Closet: An Interview with Déadra Aalgaard
The Power of Our Stories: An Interview with Mary Bednarowski
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex: A Conversation with Daniel Helminiak
Sharing Their Story: An Interview with Carol Curoe