Joe Ratzinger Deals with Bad Habits

Sunday Comics

As the Republican National Convention struggles to make Todd Akin disappear, the Vatican is trying do the same to the "radical feminist" nuns of America.

Jim Gabour
2 September 2012

Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger is a popular guy, especially amongst the portions of his international congregation who carry very traditional value systems. Raised in Lower Bavaria, the Pope’s father was a policeman and his mother a cook. His parental models were, happily, a male authority figure and a homemaker.

But of late there have been signs of both rebellion, and a growing scent of systemic moral compromise amongst his supposed followers. Joe is also a man, you see, a very powerful male, and he knows his place in the biological order of contemporary culture.

For that minor transgression, the fellow enthroned in the Vatican has been faulted. Rather like the way US Representative Todd Akin has been faulted, espousing a culturally-altered version of reality. But the beloved priest has a better speechwriter than the abhorred representative. Italian, you see. He has a much better intellect. German, of course. And he has much, much better lawyers. American, as you might expect.

His Holiness Benedict XVI is the 265th of his sort to hold court from a small autonomous piece of extremely valuable real estate embedded in the heart of the city of Rome. By extension from that center he radiates a powerful influence into almost every corner of the globe. In the last few weeks a large concentration of Vatican moral authority has somehow centered itself in the American Pacific Northwest, with both lawyers and church officials vigorously dueling two precedent-setting questions that primarily involve the law and sex.

The odd thing is that in the two cases, the Church is separately arguing the opposite sides of each question. Again, sex has everything to do with it. Sex and money, that is.

A few weeks ago, the Vatican directly ordered Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, Washington, to summarily dismantle the women’s organization that represents eighty percent of American religious nuns, the women delineated in his marching orders as being directly subjugate to the Vatican in all things.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that on 20 August the Vatican’s counsels won a judgment in U.S. District court in Portland, Oregon, that legally affirms that its all-male priests are not in truth controlled by the pope. The Post affirmed that “The original lawsuit was filed in 2002 by a Seattle-area man who said the Rev. Andrew Ronan repeatedly molested him in the late 1960s.”

US District Court Judge Michael Mosman ruled that “There are no facts to create a true employment relationship between Ronan and the Holy See.” The new definition of employment shelters the Pope from the monetary consequences of lawsuits rising from the actions of a molester priest.

Coincidentally, nearby and just a week earlier, the Rev Angel Armando Perez, a Roman Catholic priest from St. Luke’s parish in Woodburn, Oregon, was accused by parents of drunkenly fondling a sleeping 12-year-old boy’s genitals with one hand while taking cell phone pictures of the act with the other, and then, clad only in his priestly underwear, chasing the escaping boy down a public city street.

Increasing the relevance exponentially is the fact that in the above case, just four days prior to the district court’s decision that priests are not in the employ of the Vatican, The Oregonian confirmed that “The Archdiocese of Portland offered an open-ended loan to the Rev Angel Armando Perez to cover the legal fees of Marc Blackman, according to archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce.” Mr Blackman is one of the best, and most expensive, criminal defense attorneys in Oregon. So, the archdiocese is funding the defense of an accused child molester priest, but that priest is not in the employ of the Church, so even if he is convicted they are not responsible for what he did. Most convenient.

Three days before the judgment, the Vicar-General of the Portland archdiocese agreed to formally apologize to a Portland woman who said she was abused by a local Roman Catholic priest thirty years earlier. Monsignor Dennis O'Donovan then apologized from the pulpit of St John the Apostle in Reedstock, Oregon on 26 August.

According to Oregonlive.com Attorney Gilion C. Dumas, who represented the victim in a lawsuit against the diocese and the Rev. Edward Alstock said that “The public apology, which O'Donovan will make on behalf of Archbishop John Vlazny, is a rarity.

As far as we know," she said, "this is the first time that they are going to make a public apology in the parish where the abuse occurred."

But while non-employed priests in the Pacific Northwest are abusing both males and females, the Vatican has sent its hired gun archbishop from neighboring Seattle to make sure American nuns adhere to its own hard-line dogma. They, supposedly, ARE still employees, and imminently subject to Vatican rule.

The Boston Globe printed a lengthy story about the “US Nuns under Vatican Rebuke”:

American nuns described as dissenters in a Vatican report that ordered an overhaul of their group said Friday they will talk with church leaders about potential changes but will not compromise on the sisters’ mission.

Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, called the Vatican assessment of the organization a ‘‘misrepresentation.’’ But she said the more than 900 women who attended the group’s national assembly this week decided they would for now stay open to discussion with three bishops the Vatican appointed to oversee them.

’The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission,’ Farrell said at a news conference, where she declined to discuss specifics.

The organization represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 Roman Catholic nuns in the U.S.

The St. Louis meeting was the group’s first national gathering since a Vatican review concluded the sisters had ‘serious doctrinal problems’ and promoted ‘certain radical feminist themes’ that undermine Catholic teaching on all-male priesthood, birth control and homosexuality. The nuns also were criticized for remaining nearly silent in the fight against abortion.

The Church’s actions caused The Washington Post to ask: "Do the American nuns have a future?"

Even The National Catholic Register had to step up to back the women religious:

“This is a historic moment in the lives of Catholics,” said Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call To Action. “As faithful people we have been called to work for justice—a message that Catholic sisters in this country have taught us for decades but are now being criticized for doing so by the Vatican.”

“The Vatican and bishops involved in the mandate against the sisters and their mission of social justice are not only attempting to diminish the good work of sisters, but are threatening to diminish the importance of the gospel message itself that calls us to work for justice,” said FitzGerald.

Catholic nuns created the country’s largest private school system and, in 2005, approximately one in six hospital patients in the United States were treated in a Catholic facility, many of which were begun by sisters.

“This is an example of how the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church misuses its power to diminish the voices and contributions of women in the church,” said Erin Hanna, executive director of Women’s Ordination Conference. “Gratefully, the voices of the sisters and Catholics across the country cannot be silenced.

“The nationwide vigils are testimony to the support the sisters have from Catholics far and wide. Clearly, the sisters and their mission speak to the hearts of Catholics more than any mandate from the Vatican,” said Hanna.

Further muddling the law, morality and politics, and to both conceal what it is doing and to validate its position, the Vatican has shown an eager willingness to get in bed with… the Republican party. The same party that just adopted a no-exception rule to its abortion policies.

Of course, the Republicans had no problem with throwing the aforementioned Representative Akin to the wolves when it suited them. Even the man who came up with the “no-exception” abortion rule cut Akin. This from the Daily Kos:

Tommy Thompson, Republican candidate for Wisconsin's open Senate seat, jumped on the bandwagon condemning Todd Akin this week. Like Romney, he had to sleep on it and see which way the political winds were blowing, but he got there eventually. On Monday he said it was up to Akin and the voters of Missouri, but by Tuesday he was demanding Akin step down. He called Akin's comments "ignorant at best and outrageous," and also said, "Regardless of gender or party, we all have a moral responsibility to come together in opposition to crimes against women and support exceptions for abortion in the abhorrent situations where rape is involved."

Of course, that "abhorrent situation" isn't considered in the Republican platform. That platform calls for a Constitutional ban on abortion that makes no exception for rape or for incest. That's the same abortion plank as in the 2000 GOP platform, a platform that was written by none other than Tommy Thompson. The Wisconsin Democrats have the goods, quoting a July 2000 report from the Capital Times:

“Not long after he uttered those words, Bush made Thompson the idea man—tapping the four-term governor to chair the committee charged with drawing up the 2000 Republican platform…The current plank pledges Republicans will appoint only judges opposed to protecting reproductive rights, who favor blocking any taxpayer funding of abortions and who will punish doctors who perform abortions. It also supports a constitutional amendment banning abortion even in cases where rape, incest and a threat to the life of the mother are involved.” [Capital Times, 7/29/2000]

Thompson went on to be Bush's secretary of Health and Human Services, his idea guy on, among other things, women's health. Now, like every other hypocritical Republican, he's jumping on the dump-Akin bandwagon, but sure didn't have a problem with the substance of what Akin was saying 12 years ago.

The official Catholic Church’s position is in lock-step with the Republican platform. Though Mitt Romney is supposedly not. The day after Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark, Romney publicly backed off and said the Republican platform is not the Romney platform, and he would allow exceptions for rape and physical harm. His Vice-Presidential partner moved to his side on the issue, though The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Ryan’s opposition to abortion is consistent with Akin’s “No Exceptions” mentality:

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has cosponsored 38 anti-abortion measures, including some that make no allowance for rape.

Ryan’s level of support outdoes House colleague Todd Akin, who’s under pressure from party leaders to end his Senate bid in Missouri after saying that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney yesterday called on Akin to quit the race.

The cosponsorships include bills that would restrict government funding and declare that states have the right to protect life beginning at fertilization.

Though their records are similar, Ryan hasn’t been out front the way Akin has, said Tom McClusky, a senior vice president at the Washington-based Family Research Council Action, the political arm of the group that opposes abortion and gay marriage.

“He’s co-sponsored a lot of great bills but he hasn’t introduced one,” McClusky said in a phone interview. “Akin is someone you would call a pro-life leader, so that’s where your difference would be. He’s introduced bills.”

Since voters in Wisconsin’s 1st District, south of Milwaukee, first elected him in 1998, Ryan hasn’t voted against any bills backed by the National Right to Life Committee. The group gives him a lifetime voting score of 100 percent.

This might make one wonder what position will prevail: that of the Republican party itself, the disavowal/hedge-bet of the Republican presidential candidate, or the underlying/underground beliefs of the heartbeat-away-from-the-presidency Republican vice-presidential candidate.

And then there are the governing opinions of the head of the Roman Catholic Church. And his ideas about what men and women should do, can do, and cannot do.

The New York Times reports that this past week presidential candidate Mitt Romney further snuggled between the tea-stained sheets of church doctrine by confirming that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the influential and ever-so-conservative president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of the point men in charge of shutting down the aberrant American nuns, will deliver the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention next week.

And so it is that Bavarian Joe Ratzinger’s Roman Catholic imprimatur is now firmly attached to a Massachusetts Mormon.

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