Sunday, May 31, 2015

Buffy Sainte-Marie's Power in the Blood


Iconic singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and her new album Power in the Blood have been getting a lot of good press in the past two weeks. Reviews for the album have been overwhelmingly positive and a range of media outlets, from Democracy Now! to Vogue, have highlighted the multi-talented Buffy, her 50+ year career, and her new album.

You may recall that in the lead-up to the May 12 release of Power in the Blood I did a special series of posts focusing on Buffy, her music and her social activism. In Part 1 of this series I talk a bit about my own interest in, and appreciation for, Buffy and her music. I also share some concert photos of her that I took in 1999. (This series begins here and continues here and here.)

This evening I share an excerpt from the official media release for Power in the Blood followed by highlights from a number of reviews, an insightful 10-minute video on the making of the album, and a compilation of links to several recent interviews and articles. Enjoy!

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s bold new album, Power in the Blood, begins where it all started more than 50 years ago, with a contemporary version of “It’s My Way,” the title track of her 1964 debut [right]. Its message, about the road to self-identity and the conviction to be oneself, still resonates with the Cree singer-songwriter, activist, educator, visual artist, and winner of countless awards (Oscar, Juno, and Golden Globe, among them).

Perhaps you know Sainte-Marie from her 1960s protest anthems (“Universal Soldier”), open-hearted love songs (“Until It’s Time for You to Go”), incendiary pow-wow rock (“Starwalker”), or the juggernaut pop hit “Up Where We Belong,” which Sainte-Marie co-wrote and Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes sang for the soundtrack to An Officer and a Gentleman.

One of her earliest classics, “Cod’ine,” a harrowing account of addiction well ahead of its time, was covered by everyone from Janis Joplin to Donovan to Courtney Love. Or maybe you remember Sainte-Marie from her five years on the television show Sesame Street beginning in the mid-’70s.

Whatever the case, every song and every era has revealed new and distinctive shades of an artist revered for her pioneering and chameleon ways. There was no mold from which Buffy Sainte-Marie emerged; she created her own, ripened from experiences in both her head and her heart.

Power in the Blood is a follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed Running for the Drum [left] and only her fourth studio release in more than twenty years. Although just because you don’t hear from her for long stretches doesn’t mean she's not playing. Quite the opposite. Sainte-Marie’s creativity is always in motion, and her passport's always in hand, touring for lectures and performances around the world with her high-octane backing band. She records only when she feels like touring, and currently Sainte-Marie is taking center stage around the world, including North America, Europe and Australia.

Her latest record is an honest reflection of Sainte-Marie. The hallmarks of her catalog – the eclecticism and compassion she brings to each album, oblivious to genre boundaries and production trends – are in glorious bloom here. It’s the Buffy you know and love, and it’s geared for contemporary audiences.

– Author unknown
Excerpted from the official media release for
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Power In the Blood

At 74, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie has come up with an album to compare with her best. From her earliest acoustic folk days, the Canadian Cree has combined sinuous songcraft with a powerful spiritual and political conviction lent flavour by incorporating elements of American Indian traditional music. Her rare latter-day recordings have added muscular rock power, atmospheric keyboard textures and electro grooves to a dynamic mix, exhibiting a stirring, chanting momentum focused on her extraordinary vibrato voice.

[Power in the Blood] is her 14th album, yet only her third original studio set in nearly 40 years. She may not be prodigious but she makes every track count, with a sense of both urgency and stoicism in songs addressing damage done to her heritage and the environment by the powers she has always pitched herself against. Of the twelve tracks, two are striking reinventions of older songs (pugnacious 1964 anthem "It’s My Way" and furious 1972 break-up rocker "Not the Lovin' Kind") and two are uplifting covers of British bands (Alabama 3’s "Power In the Blood" and UB40’s "Sing Our Own Song"). With dreamy lullabies, hypnotic love songs and pointed politics all delivered with emotional stridency, Saint-Marie blends rich musicality with the force of righteous conviction.

– Neil McCormick
"Buffy Sainte-Marie's Power In the Blood: 'Every Track Counts'"
The Telegraph
May 10, 2015

Apparently nobody told Buffy Sainte-Marie to slow down when she hit her eighth decade on this earth. But, even if they did, who'd expect her to listen? At 74 years old, this perennially underrated artist sounds as vital and as urgent as ever on this, her 18th record. In fact, Power In The Blood might just be the best album she's made since the late 1960s. Recording in Toronto with producers Michael Phillip Wojewoda (Rheostatics), Jon Levine (K'NAAN) and Chris Birkett (Sinéad O'Connor), the Canadian-born Cree singer-songwriter and activist has found just the right sonic home for her singular voice.

On a diverse, even eclectic, collection ranging from caustic political missives ("Uranium War," a terrific re-working of her early composition "It's My Way") to tender, vulnerable ballads ("Ke Sakihitin Awasis," "Orion") to hard-driving rock ("Not The Lovin' Kind," "Generation") to borderline EDM funk ("Power in the Blood"), her band grooves and drives with consummate skill.

. . . Truly there is no song I've heard this year that's affected me (on the first and on the 31st listen) as deeply as "Ke Sakihitin Awasis"; by turns a slow-burning love song, a lament for something lost and a dream of renewal and rebirth, this magisterial lullaby alone is enough to justify recording everything else that surrounds it. Power In The Blood is a masterpiece in a storied career.

– Stuart Henderson
Excerpted from "Buffy Sainte-Marie: Power In The Blood"
May 13, 2015

[Buffy's] first [album] since 2008’s Running for the Drum is a hard-hitting, musically diverse collection, touching on themes of militarization and corporate greed as well as love, family and protecting Mother Earth. Powwow singing and electronic rhythms give it a contemporary flavour and a strong sense of urgency.

– Lynn Saxburg
Excerpted from "Never Idle, Buffy Sainte-Marie
is Energized by New Album
Ottawa Citizen
May 30, 2015

I listened loud to [Buffy Sainte-Marie's] music through college and into adulthood and was inspired by her fierceness and activism. From her unique voice — that is part trill and part songbird — to her instruments of mouth bow and drum, to her lyrics of protest, perseverance and hybrid-music mixes, she always brings her all.

Indeed, since hitting the folk music scene in the 1960s, Buffy Sainte-Marie has been a hero for many. She is a musical innovator — producing her own music and adopting electronic instruments before anyone else.

She still travels with a rock band all over the world. She's also a front line educator creating the Cradleboard Teaching Project that brings Native American cultures into public education systems. She has been an activist from AIM to Idle No More, an actor and a successful artist.

At 74, Buffy's fire is still burning bright with a new album, Power in the Blood, that once again challenges what you think you know about her, about music and about indigenous peoples.

– Rosanna Deerchild
Excerpted from "The Loud and Proud Song and Wisdom of Buffy Sainte-Marie"
CBC News
May 16, 2015

[Buffy Sainte-Marie] is well-known and rightly honored for her civil rights activism and music, but the 74-year-old Cree singer-songwriter is no throwback to yesteryear. As fans know, the artist’s catalog is an embarrassment of riches, with styles ranging from acoustic to traditional American Indian songs to classic folk to true rockers.

Her latest batch of songs is a delicious mix of styles.

Standout tracks include Miss Sainte-Marie’s reinvention of the 1964 tunes “It’s My Way,” which mixes electronic with soul-stirring percussion reminiscent of American Indian drum lines and folk lyrics, the electronica-Americana “Farm in the Middle of Nowhere” and the rock-folk-Americana-Native mix that is “Generation.”

Expect critics to name Power in the Blood, released last week, as one of the best albums of the year.

– Nancy Dunham
Excerpted from "Some Music Releases Not to Be Overlooked"
The Washington Post
May 18, 2015

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s genre-detonating early-1970s recordings, which found a happy medium between indigenous, country, electro-acoustic, and folk, have been rediscovered by indie stalwarts like Owen Pallett. In the age of Idle No More, her politics have seemed prophetic. After working for years on a variety of projects less related to music, she returns with an uncategorizable collection of profound resonance. Power in the Blood is the work of an elder working against genre, knowing history, and moving forward into aesthetically unknown territory. For a septuagenarian, the optimism of it is heartening.

– Anthony Easton
Excerpted from "SPIN Country Report"
July 1, 2015

Few Canadian artists have had as fascinating and varied a career as Buffy Sainte-Marie. [Her latest album is] a totally compelling and powerful new collection of songs. . . . Buffy [is] singing and writing as strongly as ever, and framing her songs in contemporary settings. Helping her do that are such ace producers as long-time collaborator Chris Birkett (Sinead O'Connor), Jon Levine (Serena Ryder), and Michael Phillip Wojewoda (Rheostatics). Earlier songs "It's My Way" and "Not the Lovin' Kind" are reworked effectively, while "We Are Circling" first appeared on Internal Sounds, a 2013 album from The Sadies. At a time when contemporary folk artists seem scared to write protest songs, it's refreshing to hear her sound eloquently angry still, as on the title cut.

. . .A charismatic performer, she is touring North America this summer. Canadian festival shows include the Calgary Folk Festival (July 25), Interstellar Rodeo in Edmonton (July 26), and Manitoulin Country Fest on August 7. Check her site for more shows.

– Kerry Doole
Excerpted from "Buffy Sainte-Marie: Power in the Blood"
New Canadian Music
May 12, 2015

[Power in the Blood] is one of the most diverse albums out there. I am awestruck by the songwriting of this extremely underrated singer/songwriter [and] extremely impressed with the melting pot of music that blends in with [Buffy's] lyrics and messages perfectly. Her voice . . . is still full of power even 50 years [into her career]. She is well, well overdue for some mainstream success.

– Matty
Excerpted from "Power in the Blood by Buffy Sainte-Marie"
Muen Magazine
May 9, 2015

It’s easy to lump folk icon Buffy Sainte-Marie in with Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and other activist voices of a generation, but that would be a major disservice to Miss Sainte-Marie.

Her work is at least as influential with fans and with artists as diverse as Kanye West and Samantha Crain. Yet Miss Sainte-Marie has always remained a moving musical target, mixing and matching styles including folk, rock, industrial, electronic, hip-hop and, of course, American Indian. The common denominators in her rich catalog of work are her distinctive vocals wrapped around songs that throb with individual and communal respect. Those themes are resplendent in her dazzling new album, Power in the Blood.

“If I’m thinking professionally, I am a songwriter,” Miss Sainte-Marie said when asked whether she defines herself as a songwriter, singer, activist, actor, composer, educator or philanthropist, or by one of the many other roles that have defined her life’s work. “When I started singing, I had already been making up songs for years. It’s just what I did for fun [starting when I was] three. Other kids would like to go out and play ball or paint or dance, but I wanted to create songs.”

And what a selection she has crafted on this lush album, which brims with more modern and visionary sounds that put listeners in mind of artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Neil Young.

. . . Those who try to pigeonhole Miss Sainte-Marie and her music don’t understand how her artistry works. That’s one reason the swirl of electronic, rock, folk, country, hip-hop and Native sounds in Power in the Blood will surprise many.

But for all the bold synthesizers and samples, Miss Sainte-Marie’s music is still steeped in her rich folk tradition, particularly on the country-based “Farm in the Middle of Nowhere” and “The Uranium War,” which continues her lament about Native issues.

– Nancy Dunham
Excerpted from "With Power in the Blood,
Buffy Sainte-Marie Releases a Visionary Album
The Washington Times
June 1, 2015

The stand-out moment for me comes in the album’s opening third with “We Are Circling,” a rhythmic, rocking anthem celebrating every Earthly thing from “creature to creation,” first recorded with The Sadies for their 2013 Internal Sounds. According to Sainte-Marie, the song originates with the Rainbow Family in Northern California, when it had just one verse, but she’s written more, spreading its message in ever-widening circles with each verse, her trademark vibrato punctuating the lines “This is harmony / This is community / This is celebration / This is sacred.” It is the album’s spiritual heart, its pulse, its power, its blood.

Fearless and forthright as ever, Sainte-Marie takes on politics and social justice causes with aplomb. A cover of UB40’s anti-apartheid anthem “Sing Our Own Song” recontextualizes the song and adds new lyrics referencing Idle No More; “Ke Sakihitin Awasis” is dedicated to all generations of indigenous people of North America, those who keep the culture alive and not let the struggle and oppression be easily forgotten.

With the vigor and gusto of someone half her age, Sainte-Marie rallies a new generation on Power In The Blood’s closing song, “Carry It On” to keep the legacy she has established alive: “Look right now / and you will see / we are only here by the skin of our teeth / as it is, so take heart / and take care of your link with life / and carry it on.”

– Jim Di Gioia
Excerpted from "Buffy Sainte Marie: Power In The Blood"
Quick Before It Melts
May 11, 2015

Following is a 10-minute documentary by Folk Roots and Blues Music on the making of Power in the Blood. It features interviews with Buffy and the album's three producers – Jon Levine, Chris Birkett and Michael Wojewoda. Enjoy!

Related Off-site Links:
Buffy Sainte-Marie Q&A: 50 Years of Activism and Music – Karen Bliss (Samaritan Mag, May 27, 2015).
In Conversation with Buffy Sainte-Marie – Chuck Armstrong (Diffuser, May 18, 2015).
Where There's Folk, There's Fire: An Interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie – Kelly McCartney (The Bluegrass Situation, May 11, 2015).
Buffy Sainte-Marie on Her New Album and Legacy as a Native American Activist – Alex Frank (Vogue, May 27, 2015).
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "War is Different from Economic Oppression. War is Murder" – Sadaf Ahsan (National Post, May 21, 2015).
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Ingenious Plan To Help Our First Nations Housing Crisis – Joshua Ostroff (Huffington Post Canada, May 27, 2015).
Buffy Sainte-Marie on Idle No More, Stephen Harper and Residential Schools – Joshua Ostroff (The Huffington Post Canada, June 3, 2015).
Writer of the Week: Buffy Sainte-Marie – Emily Maxwell (American Songwriter, June 8, 2015).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Talks Corporate "Racketeers," 2016 Election, and Power In the Blood – Joe Lynch (Billboard, June 18, 2015).

For more of Buffy Sainte-Marie at The Wild Reed, see:
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That "Human-Being Magic"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Lesson from the Cutting Edge: "Go Where You Must to Grow"
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient"
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Still Singing with Spirit, Joy, and Passion
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "The Big Ones Get Away"

Saturday, May 30, 2015

"And Still We Rise!" – Mayday 2015 (Part II)

Before the month of May ends, I want to share a second batch of photos from this year's MayDay parade.

As I mentioned in Part I, on Sunday, May 3, 2015, my friends Tim and Raul and I attended the 41st annual In the Heart of the Beast Theatre's MayDay parade in south Minneapolis. This year's theme was "And Still We Rise," and was inspired by Maya Angelou's poem, "Still I Rise," and by the local and national work of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The text that accompanies my photos is excerpted from the MayDay 2015 program guide. Enjoy!

Parade Story, Section 1: Ecstatic Origins

We honor our deep roots in Grandmother Africa with a giant Baobab tree, aptly named as the African "Tree of Life" because its parts are extremely useful. The fruits, seeds, bark and leaves provide nutritious sustenance to people and many other species on the giant continent – ancient home to the entire human race. Here we discover many diverse beings intertwined in the roots, truck and branches: birds, insects, fish and animals with radical interdependence in the universal tradition.

Humans of all ages and backgrounds dance as tree guardian spirits. Some are tangibly connected to the roots, spinning the tree and calling for wisdom and energy to honor and preserve original natural beauty, goodness and wildness.

Parade Story, Section 2: Elephant in the Room

"Elephant in the Room" embodies the overpowering evidence of racism and its sinister reality, unacknowledged, as it inhales money and life.

The bright pink front abounds with colored bubbles, an insidious Happiness Machine projecting "Everything is OK." It represents the construct that continues to benefit the larger legal, penal and industrial systems of racism in our United States.

The elephant's structure is a cage of incarceration with an extreme bias against people of color and particularly those who identify, or who are identified, as black. The crushing feet of this beast is given characteristics of the police, too often the instruments of this machine's most vivid trespass – taking black lives. The wheels of this monstrosity grind with a statistical predictability toward the next sacrifice with etched outline of the fallen, or those that will fall, on each wheel. Carried away by the beast, justice goes backward as "Injustices" direct its movement with gravels. Around the elephant are the personal cages that obscure and confine us in this reality.

Confined in bird cage masks, participants alternate between day-to-day actions and a lockstep march of compliance. The few who express awareness become targets for the "Elephant in the room" and the "Injustices" who receive money from the backside of this beast.

Parade Story, Section 3: We Rise

We are angry at the institutions of racial injustice. We are angry at our entanglement that supports and perpetuate these institutions.

We work to free ourselves from the subtle and overt ways in which racism has a hold over us all. We celebrate those who have fought before us. We are ignited alongside the protesters of Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement.

We rise with alarm, with purpose, with certainty. Our bodies pulse with internal fire -- our breath joining and powering a collective call for our transformative energy to build a just world.

We rise!

Parade Story, Section 4: Black is Sacred

We are arriving to a world where everyone is living and working in the bliss of their purpose. Where we can recline in the park, with no fear, just Black folks' hearts opened and shining at the sky. And at ease. Our thoughts can ramble, and we just ponder the way bugs move through the grass. All people have big smiles and are flying kites. The elders are hunched down in gardens smelling sweet roses with baskets full of veggies all around. Or they recline in hammocks, while sipping on sun-brewed, raw honey sweetened chamomile tea out of glass jars. All bodies are sacred, joyous, loved, safe, and sensual. We are slow dancing to the sound of wind chimes and standing in the sun. All children learn to trust and blossom their truths and dance in the warm rain of self-love.

Parade Story, Section 5: And Still We Rise: Sprout of Life

When the invisible forces of life that orchestrate matter reconnects with the circle of life: Life sprouts.

When we look beneath the layers of human culture, we can reconnect with the spirit of the nature and the circle of life. Then we experience Hope seen through those layers of human culture, we can feel and see their faces as sprout of life.

We can experience the strengthening of life, through joy.

We can experience freedom in its most pristine time.

Inspired and strengthened by the joy, we become the new blood which travels THROUGH the circle of life.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"And Still We Rise" – MayDay 2015 (Part I)
Photo of the Day – May 3, 2015
Mystics of Wonder, Agents of Change (MayDay 2014 – Part 1)
A Creative Exploration of the "Spiritual Dialectic of WONDER?!" (MayDay 2014 – Part 2)
See the World! (MayDay 2013)
The End of the World as We Know It (2012)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of South Minneapolis: Part 1 (2010)
"Uproar!" on the Streets of South Minneapolis: Part 2 (2010)
Getting Started: MayDay 2009 (Part 1)
Celebrating Our Common Treasury: MayDay 2009 (Part 2)
MayDay and a "New Bridge" (2008)
The Time is Now! (2006)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Quote of the Day

The statement that homosexual acts, by definition, cannot contribute to the good of the human person seems to contradict the scientifically proven relational experiences of committed, monogamous homosexual couples.

Lawrence Kurdek has done extensive research on gay and lesbian couples and notes the following characteristics when comparing these relationships with married heterosexual couples: Gay and lesbian couples tend to have a more equitable distribution of household labor, demonstrate greater conflict resolution skills, have less support from members of their own families but greater support from friends, and, most significantly, experience similar levels of relational satisfaction compared to heterosexual couples.

Not only do empirical studies challenge magisterial claims that homosexual acts, by definition, are detrimental to the human person and human relationships, such studies also challenge the doctrinal congregation's claim that, "as experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these [homosexual] unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children ... [and] would actually mean doing violence to these children." That unsupported claim is contradicted by experience and scientific analysis.

Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman
Excerpted from "Pope Francis Brings Nuance
to Notion of Complementarity
National Catholic Reporter
May 29, 2015

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – August 11, 2010
The Standard for Sexual Ethics: Human Flourishing, Not Openness to Procreation
Relationship: The Crucial Factor in Sexual Morality
Daniel Helminiak on the Vatican's Natural Law Mistake
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality

Related Off-site Links:
To Have a Truly Just Church, Pope Francis Must Move Beyond Complementarity – Jamie Manson (National Catholic Reporter, May 6, 2015).
Homosexual Relationships: Another Look – Bill Hunt (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 8, 2012).

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Progressive Catholic Perspectives on Ireland's Historic Gay Marriage Vote

Above: Joe Caslin's pro-marriage equality mural on
Caherkinmonwee Castle in County Galway. (Photo: David Sexton)

NOTE: This is a follow-up to the previous Wild Reed post, Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S. For my own thoughts on the overwhelming Catholic support for marriage equality in Ireland, click here.

After the Irish vote on gay marriage, which saw 62% vote in favour of a change to the constitution to allow gay people to marry, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said the church needed to take “a reality check” and “not move into denial.” . . . [T]ruth and right are more likely to be found in common consensus than in autocratic dictatorship. But for a Catholic leader, even the mention of a phrase like “reality check” is groundbreaking.

This, after all, is an organisation that has chosen to ignore reality, even when it is up close, personal and staring it in the face. I’m thinking of issues such as contraception, which it continues to pronounce against, while the vast majority of Catholics are more than happy to use it; and child abuse, which it refused to acknowledge, even as the files on its criminal priests stacked up and grew dusty on the desks of cathedral offices the world over.

. . . What led to Martin’s radical rethink was simple: the fear that he will soon be leading a church without any followers. For thousands of years, the men at the top of the Catholic church thought power flowed just one way: now, at long last, they’re realising it’s not that simple. Because a church with no worshippers wouldn’t be a church at all, and the men who run it would have no power any more.

They’d better do something quick. I have an idea: they could start emulating the life of a preacher who lived in poverty 2,000 years ago. Whatever made me think of that? As reality checks go, that one really would take some beating.

– Joanna Moorhead
Excerpted from "The Irish Catholic Church is Changing Its Tune
– Soon the Vatican Will Too
The Guardian
May 27, 2015

Some of the most effective social media around the ["Yes" vote's overwhelming success] featured families of LGBTIQ Catholics. Their simple statements of love for their children and their hope that they might marry and form good Irish families were persuasive. It was all rather traditional in the end—everyone is entitled to love. While the institutional church lost miserably, the enduring message of post-Vatican II Catholicism—that all persons are equal with corresponding rights and responsibilities—had a good day. The fact that this message was distilled from the rubble of sexual abuse, clergy cover-up, heterosexism, disdain for women, and the rest of the clerically-constructed system is a miracle in itself. The pulpits are still in the hands of the priests, though, and they do not show many signs of sharing.

. . . Irish clergy used to make a living telling other people how to live their lives no matter how flawed their own were. A generation ago people in Ireland went to daily mass after work and heard the messages repeated ad nauseam. Irish Catholics proved they know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, the important values like love and justice from warped attempts to dictate outmoded morality.

It is for lay Catholics around the world to be clear, as Irish voters were, that we can and will make our own decisions.

Much remains to be done to dismantle deeply entrenched structures. But the Irish referendum means that a top-down, clergy-heavy model of church heard its death knell in Dublin. As it reverberates around the world the Gospel message might get a little more airtime. As the Irish say, it will make a glass eye cry—with joy.

– Mary E. Hunt
Excerpted from "Did Ireland Just Bury the Catholic Church?"
Religion Dispatches
May 26, 2015

[I]n falling out of line with the Vatican, Irish people are actually falling in line with their Catholic counterparts in other Western countries, including the United States.

They aren’t sloughing off their Catholicism — not exactly, not entirely. An overwhelming majority of them still identify as Catholic. But they’re incorporating religion into their lives in a manner less rooted in Rome.

We journalists too often use "the Catholic Church" as a synonym for the pope, the cardinals and teachings that have the Vatican’s stamp of approval. But in Europe and the Americas in particular, the church is much more fluid than that. It harbors spiritually inclined people paying primary obeisance to their own consciences, their own senses of social justice. That impulse and tradition are as Catholic as any others.

– Frank Bruni
Excerpted from "On Same-Sex Marriage, Catholics Are Leading the Way"
The New York Times
May 27, 2015

Ireland, the source of Catholic missionaries throughout the word for hundreds of years, has suffered a drastic exodus of people from its church-going ranks since the sexual abuse scandal broke into public view during the past decade. The majority of Irish men and women may still call themselves Catholic, but they no longer accept the hierarchy as believable, particularly in matters of sexual morality. Thus, the stunning rejection of the church’s view of gay marriage as an invalid relationship in the eyes of God and the church. What the church teaches about sexuality is rejected almost as a duty. The church has no credibility in matters of sexuality in Ireland.

The Irish have been brought up by the Catholic Church to view marriage as a sacrament and that’s the reason they can shift sideways to see a same-sex relationship in the same God-blessed way. Because marriage is a beautiful commitment of love, taught to them by the church, the Irish can make the connection to two people of the same sex loving each other with a similar commitment. It is the love commitment they value, and have come to see in their friends and family members who are gay and lesbian as well. Love conquers. The Irish are lovers. It doesn’t matter who the partners are — “I promise to love you all the days of my life, so help me God.”

– Paul F. Morrissey
Excerpted from "Ireland is For Gay marriage Because It is Catholic "
USA Today via Religion News Service
May 27, 2015

I have three suggestions [for why Catholics are so supportive of marriage equality]. . . . First, perhaps the fact that Catholics have a celibate clergy that includes a large number of gay men means that the fear bred from ignorance is less likely to be operative than in other traditions. Second, could it be that a natural law approach to ethical questions, that is, that reason should guide our thinking and our conclusions, is bred into the Catholic bone? Third, might Catholics be so imbued with the sacramental principle that they recognize any expression of genuine love to be evidence of God’s presence in the world, and hence to be cherished rather than condemned? In Ireland or here or elsewhere, the actual principal difference between leaders and people, on same-sex issues or birth control or religious freedom or perhaps many other issues, is that the leadership thinks deductively while the rank and file think inductively. Experience trumps ideology, which—strangely enough—is Pope Francis’s consistent message!

– Paul Lakeland
Excerpted from "Gay-Friendly Catholics"
May 27, 2015

It is time for church teaching to reflect what social science tells us and what Catholic families have long understood: Catholicism must cast off a theology of sexuality based on a mechanical understanding of natural law that focuses on individual acts, and embrace a theology of sexuality that has grown out of lived experience and is based on relationships and intentionality.

. . . On the issue of church teaching on sexuality, the time for dialogue is likely passed. Action is needed. The strongest message out of the Irish referendum is that on its teaching about sexuality, the church today faces a watershed moment, just as it did in 1968 with Humanae Vitae.

– The Editorial Staff
Excerpted from "Ireland Vote for Same-Sex Marriage
a Watershed Moment for Church Teaching
National Catholic Reporter
May 29, 2015

What a gift the Catholic hierarchy has been handed by the Irish with their overwhelming vote to legalize same sex marriages. Coming just months before the Synod on the Family set for next October in Rome, the vote by this Catholic nation is nothing less than a church plebiscite – a vote of the Catholic sensus fidelium for all to see that official Catholic teaching on human sexuality is wrong, hurtful, and even, at times, immoral.

. . . The Irish vote is a wake up call. If the Synod on the Family ends with only a “pastoral” conclusion, a call that we all need “to open our selves and parishes" to essentially wayward, sinners, that we need to love these “sinners” even as they continue to engage in “intrinsically disordered acts,” it will have failed all of us and the synod, despite the best intentions, will almost certainly end up further eroding - if this is possible - the Catholic church as a moral force on matters of family, human relationship and sexual theology.

It is time we remember: Our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters are people, just like the rest of us. Some more generous; others less so. Some more enlightened; others less so. Some more sinful; others less so. Just people, saints and sinners and in-between.

Can the Catholic hierarchy finally admit it has Catholic sexual teachings wrong? Admittedly, it’s a tall order. I admire Pope Francis enormously. However, just withholding judgment without addressing and amending past teaching errors will not be enough. Nowhere near enough.

Bishops, you have been served.

– Thomas C. Fox
Excerpted from "Bishops, Your Church Has Spoken"
National Catholic Reporter
May 29, 2015

I was quite uncomfortable with [Cardinal Pietro Parolin's statement that the same-sex marriage referendum was not only "a defeat for Christian principles, but also a defeat for humanity."] I mean there has been lots of disasters in the world but I certainly would not support the belief that the referendum was among them. To suggest that over a million people who went to the polls and voted yes were so false in their judgment that it was a disaster for humanity is not something I can accept. It is an inappropriate statement . . . [and] not one I think that represents the mind of Pope Francis despite it coming from a very senior Church figure. It is a very heavy judgement on the whole issue.

– Willie Walsh, Bishop Emeritus of Killaloe
Excerpted from "Bishop Willie Walsh: "I Don't Accept the Referendum
as a Defeat for Humanity"
The Independent
May 27, 2015

Cardinal Parolin’s comments [re. the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland being not only "a defeat for Christian principles, but also a defeat for humanity"] demonstrate exactly the kind of inflexibility and arrogance that have driven so many people from the Church. It is very hurtful and insulting to supporters of marriage equality to be spoken of as having unchristian, even inhuman, values. More than 80% of the Irish people still identify themselves as Catholic, and most of the Irish people who voted to support same-sex couples and families did so because they recognize the love and commitment these couples share. They were moved by the stories of people they know, and by the relationships they have witnessed first-hand. Their vote was no ‘defeat for humanity,’ but a victory for the fundamental Catholic values of love, inclusion, and the inherent dignity of all people.

This issue and these disagreements will be front and center during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September and the second phase of the Synod on the Family in Rome in October. How our Church leaders respond will impact the lives of people all over the world. We urge the Synod participants to invite in same-sex couples; parents of lesbian and gay people who are married, or who struggle because they can’t be married; and gay couples raising children so they can hear directly from us. We urge respectful listening, a willingness to ask questions, and openness to the Spirit. Like Archbishop Martin of Dublin, we are calling upon our Church leaders to recognize that they must address the new realities in the world with sensitivity, sincerity, and honesty.

[Pope] Francis clearly agrees with [Cardinal] Parolin's "defeat for humanity" opinion on the outcome of Ireland's same-sex marriage vote. Remember that, back in January, the pope famously likened "gender theory" (which provides the intellectual basis for same-sex marriage and a host of other progressive ideas related to sexuality) to "ideological colonization" and even "Hitler Youth." Why? Because, Francis explained, gender theory "does not recognize the order of creation."

But rather than respond directly to Ireland himself, this time, Pope Francis is putting the harsher, condemnatory language in the mouth of his secretary of state while he does the work of evangelizing the youth about the truth and beauty of the church's teachings on marriage.

Parolin is taking on the old-fashioned role of Vatican scold while Francis takes the new, more merciful, catechetical approach. But ultimately, both men agree with the institutional church's opposition to marriage equality. Both men believe same-sex relationships violate the traditional understanding of natural law and gender complimentary.

Most importantly, both men believe these church teachings on marriage are correct and should not change. The problem, they believe, is that the institutional church hasn't done a good job of communicating the church's truths effectively and pastorally. As Parolin himself said in his statement on Ireland, the church "must strengthen its commitment to evangelization." Francis attempted to do just that in his audience the following day.

If the vote in Ireland proves anything, it is that both Francis, the good cop, and Parolin, the bad cop, will fail in their efforts. Ireland demonstrates that the pope's understanding of acting mercifully toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will not be adequate to bring them into the pews.

– Jamie Manson
Excerpted from "Are Francis and Parolin
Playing Good Cop-Bad Cop on Same-Sex Marriage?
National Catholic Reporter
May 28, 2015

Above: Joe Caslin's pro-marriage equality mural
on South George Street, Dublin. (Photo: David Sexton)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S.
Singing Their Own Song in Ireland
Quote of the Day – May 21, 2015

Related Off-site Links:
European Bishops Strategize for Positive LGBT Outcome at October’s Synod – Bob Shine (Bondings 2.0, May 27, 2015).
Confidential Meeting Seeks to Sway Synod to Accept Same-Sex Unions – Edward Pentin (National Catholic Register, May 26, 2015).
European Bishops Discuss Improved LGBT and Divorced Ministry – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 25, 2015).
Vatican’s "Defeat for Humanity" Statement Shows Church Officials Have Not Learned from the Irish Example – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, May 28, 2015).
How the Irish Became the World’s Leading Gay Activists – Margaret Spillane (The Nation, June 15, 2015)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 12: Gunnedah

NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

After my brief but enjoyable visit with members of the McGowan family in the beautiful Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, I boarded a train in Grafton on the morning of Sunday, March 22 and headed south to the town of Wauchope, the closest train-stop to Port Macquarie and the home of my parents.

My time in Australia was quickly coming to an end. My good friend Joan, who had traveled with me to Australia from the U.S. at the beginning of the month and shared some wonderful times with me and my family in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie, in Melbourne (right) and its surrounding area, and in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, had returned to the U.S.on March 20, the day I journeyed north from Sydney to visit the McGowans. And now I had just a week left before I headed back to my life in Minnesota.

With this in mind, my parents and I decided that we'd use part of my remaining time to drive to our hometown of Gunnedah and visit our relatives and friends there.

The drive from Port Macquarie inland to Gunnedah is about four-and-a-half hours. In a previous post I noted that the town Gunnedah is located in the Namoi River valley of north-western New South Wales and serves as the major service centre for the farming area known as the Liverpool Plains.

The town and its surrounding area were originally inhabited by indigenous Australians who spoke the Kamilaroi (Gamilaraay) language. The area now occupied by the town was settled by Europeans in 1833. Through my maternal grandmother’s family, the Millerds, my family can trace its connection to Gunnedah back to the town’s earliest days. For more about the town’s history and my family’s connection to it, see the previous Wild Reed post, My “Bone Country”.

As with my March 2015 visits to both Goulburn and Maclean, my time in Gunnedah was brief . . . but very enjoyable and meaningful. Just days before our arrival, Mum and I made phone calls and I got on Facebook to arrange a gathering of extended family members and friends at the Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club on the evening of Tuesday, March 24. Many of following photos are from that very special evening. Other photos, as you'll see, are from the archives!

Right: My parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly – Gunnedah, March 24, 2015.

Left: Mum and Dad, early in their courtship, in Gunnedah in the mid-1950s. Dad is in his band uniform.

Above: Standing at right with my brothers (from left) Chris and Tim. This photo was taken in the backyard of our family's home in Gunnedah on the occasion of Tim's First Communion, sometime in the mid-1970s.

Above: With my high school friends (from left) Michelle, Danielle and Jo – Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

Above: Danielle and Jo in 1983. It was during our last year of high school that Danielle, Joanne and I, along with our friends Joy and David, climbed Nobby Rock. Situated north-east of Gunnedah, Nobby Rock was known as Ydire by the Gunn-e-dar people of the Kamilaroi tribe. For more images of our September 1983 hike, click here.

Above: Michelle (at right) with our mutual friend Lisa at my 16th birthday party in 1981.

Above: With my childhood friend David Syphers and his wife Angie.

Above: That's me next to our family's dog, Deano. Behind me (from right) is Dianne and David Syphers, and my younger brother Tim. We'd all been out with Dad collecting sandstone rocks for Mum's garden. I'm thinking this photo was probably taken in the late 1970s.

Above: With my Uncle Michael and his wife Val. Michael is my mother's younger brother.

Left: Michael and Val at the 1991 wedding of my brother Tim and sister-in-law Ros.

Above (from left): Angie, John and Heather Sills, David, me, and Danielle.

Above: Dad with John Sills in the 1950s.

Left: John and Heather at the 1988 wedding of my brother Chris and sister-in-law Cathie.

Above: With my Aunt Ruth, mum's younger sister.

Above: Ruth graduating from the Royal Women's Hospital in Paddington, Sydney, in 1968. Pictured with her are her parents (my maternal grandparents) Valentine (1890-1971) and Olive Sparkes (1906-1997).

Above: Ruth in 1975 with her husband Rex and their children Emily and Greg. Sadly, Rex passed away in 2006.

Above: Angie & David Syphers and David & Jillian Tudgey. Jillian is the youngest daughter of Heather and John Sills. My brothers and I grew up with the Sills family as our neighbors. And good neighbors they were too! David Syphers lived with his family just down the street. He and his sister Dianne were good friends with my brothers and I.

Above: Dad with longtime family friends Gwen, Wendy and Gary.

Gwen and her late husband Ray owned a property, “Fairview,” in the Kelvin district, north-east of Gunnedah, where they raised their three daughters, Denise, Wendy and Diane. I have many happy memories of spending time as a child with the Riordan family on their farm - playing tennis, riding mini-bikes with my brothers (right), and hiking through the nearby Kelvin Hills.

Above: Friends Michelle, Jo and her daughter, and Louise and her husband Russ.

Above: With longtime family friend Jeanette Goodwin.

Above: Jeanette's mother Hazel (left) with my paternal grandmother, Belle Smith (right), and Nanna's sister Phyllis (center). This photo was taken during one of my Great Aunt Phyllis' visits to Gunnedah from Sydney in the 1950s. (For more photos of Aunty Phyllis (1913-1996) and her life in Sydney, click here.)

Above (from left): Heather Sills, Dolores Worthington, Dad and Mum.

Above: Longtime family friends Peter Worthington and John Sills.

Left: Abby.

Right: Noah.

Abby and Noah are my cousin Greg's wife's two children. Greg's a great step-dad to them.

Above: With my cousin Sharon and her husband Ross.

Above: Mum's older sister Fay; Fay's daughter Sharon; Mum; and my maternal grandmother, Olive Sparkes (1906-1997) – Gunnedah, 1980.

Above: Sharon, Jillian and Wendy.

Above: Jo, Mum, Louise and Michelle.

Above: Lots of catching-up among and between the relatives!

Right: Mum with her good friend Rosemary.

Above: Dad, David, Mum, Angie, and Peter.

Above and below: My "bone country."

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Part 10 – Sydney and the Blue Mountains
Part 11 – A Journey to Northern Rivers Country
A Visit to Gunnedah (2014)
Journey to Gunnedah (2011)
This Corner of the Earth (2010)
An Afternoon at the Gunnedah Convent of Mercy (2010)
My "Bone Country" (2009)
The White Rooster
Remembering Nanna Smith
One of These Boys is Not Like the Others
Gunnedah (Part 1)
Gunnedah (Part 2)
Gunnedah (Part 3)
Gunnedah (Part 4)