Sep 29, 2012

Silence Creates Vulnerability

Two very significant news items today - the former President of Ireland criticizes Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality for its destructiveness of young peoples' lives (which I commented on in previous post) and this powerful  quote from Lesbian martyr FannyAnn Eddy from Jesus in Love Blog. FannyAnn was murdered in Sierra Leone eight years ago today.

“Silence creates vulnerability. You, members of the Commission on Human Rights, can break the silence. You can acknowledge that we exist, throughout Africa and on every continent, and that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are committed every day. You can help us combat those violations and achieve our full rights and freedoms, in every society, including my beloved Sierra Leone."

It doesn't take much stretch of the imagination to apply these words to many Christian churches today, particularly the Roman branch of Catholicism. 

Here is the full text of FannyAnn's UN address, taken from the website dedicated to her memory.

Distinguished members of the Commission,

My name is Fannyann Eddy and I am representing MADRE. I am also a member of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association.
I would like to use this opportunity to bring to your attention the dangers vulnerable groups and individuals face not only in my beloved country, Sierra Leone, but throughout Africa.
My focus of interest is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, which most African leaders do not like to address. In fact, many African leaders do not want to even acknowledge that we exist. Their denial has many disastrous results for our community.
We do exist. But because of the denial of our existence, we live in constant fear: fear of the police and officials with the power to arrest and detain us simply because of our sexual orientation. For instance, recently a young gay man was arrested in Freetown for being dressed as a woman. He was held in detention for a full week without any charge being brought. Though I personally was able to argue with the authorities to release him, most people like him would have been held indefinitely because there are very few of us who are able to speak up.

We live in fear that our families will disown us, as it is not unusual for lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender people to be forced out of their family homes when their identity becomes known. Many people who are forced from their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are young with nowhere else to go, and thus become homeless, have no food, and resort to sex work in order to survive.

We live in fear within our communities, where we face constant harassment and violence from neighbors and others. Their homophobic attacks go unpunished by authorities, further encouraging their discriminatory and violent treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

When African leaders use culture, tradition, religion and societal norms to deny our existence they send a message that tolerates discrimination, violence and overall indignity.

This denial has especially disastrous results in the context of HIV/AIDS. According to a recent research study published in December 2003 by the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association in collaboration with Health Way Sierra Leone, 90% of men who have sex with men also have sex with women, either their wives or girlfriends. Of that group, 85% said that they do not use condoms. Clearly the message of sexual education and transmission of HIV is not delivered to these men in Sierra Leone. It is clear that many men get married not because that is what their inner being desires, but because that is what society demands—because they live in a society which forces them to fear for their freedom or their lives because of their sexual orientation. The silence surrounding them—the refusal to acknowledge their existence or address their health care needs—endangers not only them but their wives and girlfriends.

Yet, despite all of the difficulties we face, I have faith that the acknowledgement by the Commission of the inherent dignity and respect due to lesbian, gay people can lead to greater respect for our human rights. As evidenced by the liberation struggle in South Africa, where the constitution bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, respect for human rights can transform society. It can lead people to understand that in the end, we are all human and all entitled to respect and dignity.

Silence creates vulnerability. You, members of the Commission on Human Rights, can break the silence. You can acknowledge that we exist, throughout Africa and on every continent, and that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are committed every day. You can help us combat those violations and achieve our full rights and freedoms, in every society, including my beloved Sierra Leone.

Sep 28, 2012

President of Ireland: Church Isolated on Homosexuality

This just in from The Independent of Ireland

FORMER President Mary McAleese has criticised the Catholic Church for its "isolated" views on homosexuality, saying it has left youngsters in Catholic schools struggling to cope.

She also expressed concern at the growing number of young men who have died by suicide, especially gay men who are most at risk of taking their own lives.

"They are the victims, one, of homophobic bullying; they are also frankly highly conflicted," said Mrs McAleese, who is studying canon law in Rome after her 14-year spell as president, which ended in November.

She said the church's attitude to homosexuality has left the vast majority of Irish children who attended Catholic schools deeply confused.

"They will have heard words like disorder, they may have heard the word evil used in relation to homosexual practice," she told Pat Kenny on RTE yesterday.

"When they make the discovery, and it is a discovery and not a decision, when they make the discovery they are gay when they are 14, 15 and 16, an internal conflict of absolutely appalling proportions opens up.

"They may very well have heard their mothers, their fathers, their uncles, aunts, friends use dreadful language in relation to homosexuality and now they are driven into a space that is dark and bleak," she added.

She met Papal Nuncio Charles Brown, who represents Pope Benedict XVI in Ireland, shortly after Easter to discuss the issue with him.

However, the former president -- who has published a book entitled 'Quo Vadis: Collegiality In The Code Of Canon Law' -- said meaningful progress will not be made until the "omerta" or code of silence is lifted.

She also said the child abuse scandals have left "a massive hallowing out of trust" in the church's leadership and criticised bishops for the manner in which they dealt with the issue.

"The internal damage done to community, to trust, could in many ways have been avoided had there been much better lines of communication up through the system," Mrs McAleese said.


*   *   *

It's nothing we haven't heard before, though it's heartening to hear it from such a public figure as the former president of Ireland. The real question is what is one to do in the face of such intransigence on the part of a powerful institution such as the RCC. Keep sending the message, I suppose, in whatever way one can. Clearly, progress of a sort is taking place, as evidenced by public criticisms of this nature and other signs of  slow incremental changes, parishes accepting without comment the presence of openly gay and partnered members on parish councils (i.e. Cardinal Schonborn),  or as Eucharistic ministers, etc. etc. But large pockets of hardened intransigence (true believers) are also widespread, causing great suffering and grief to many, especially vulnerable young gay people. This can sometimes give the impression that bigotry and intolerance prevail within the RCC, which is certainly not the case. The ferocious campaign currently being waged by US bishops against same sex marriage appears to be backfiring, but the smoke and steam from this noisy display of arrogant bigotry are still causing great damage to the moral fiber of the church. 


In essence, the sex abuse crisis continues unabated, in a mutated form. From the sexual abuse of children and the appalling coverup to the systematic attack on gay persons and their rights, it's all one seamless whole, with the same destructive energy manifesting itself in these seemingly different forms.  However, the presence of this destructive, negative energy within the leadership structure of the church is a frightening thing to behold and should be a cause for profound humility and trembling fear before the Almighty Divine Mystery. The Grace of the Spirit is a gentle, unobtrusive gift. It is there for the offering to each of us, but it must be chosen consciously through humility and trust, with love, compassion, tolerance and acceptance of the other as the test of it's authenticity. What the horrendous abuse crisis in the Church makes clear, both the grotesque abuse of children and the systematic, carefully programmed abuse of gay persons, is how frighteningly possible it is to make the wrong choices. Leadership misleads and the Spirit does not impose. And it is not only solitary individuals that can make these terribly wrong choices, following the path of idolatry instead of the path of humble surrender to the Divine Mystery that transcends and relativizes all institutions. Entire cultures or collectives of persons, such as religious hierarchies, can create a force field of infectious pathological addiction that sweeps up many if not most of its members into its clouded web. And "God" does not intervene to prevent this from happening (not that 'She' could or should). There is a terrible lesson to be pondered here. Moral choices can be perilous, and remaining true to the life giving Spirit within one's inner being is no easy or assured thing. Human beings assigned by custom and role to guide the flock can themselves rush madly over the cliff, bringing thousands along  with them, if leadership itself is turned into a false idol of the ego. The fact is the Spirit moves gently, unobtrusively, slowly - and does not act in the immediate present to prevent these instances when leadership misleads. 


In other words, the Holy Spirit has not provided us with the security blanket of an infallible religious institution and has not given us a  leadership which will not (most of the time) lead us astray. Mis-leadership (to coin a word) of a most egregious kind is always a real possibility, and should lead us to be both humble and critical in the face of any absolute claims made on behalf of any fallible institution. Idolatry is always a possibility, and cautious, critical discernment always a necessity. We must always remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are more than simply a sociological grouping of individuals who follow the ethical teachings of a long dead prophet. We believe that the community called Church is a dwelling place of the Divine Spirit of Jesus and that her energy infuses our family with grace and healing. Without this life giving spiritual Presence, the institutional forms are meaningless. This is why an abusive hierarchy is such a horrendous scandal and causes such profound damage. It threatens the faith of ordinary believers in the power and presence of the Spirit in our midst. If such abuse can exist within the leadership of the Church, harming even the most innocent and vulnerable amongst us,  then where is this life giving Spirit that heals, sustains, protects, enlightens? She is present among us, but like an elusive lover, She hides Her face that we may seek her with longing and desire, and not confuse her Presence with finite, fallible structures. The Spirit in her wisdom uses these trials of abusive leadership to wean us from our addictions and lead us into the freedom of genuine spiritual independence and maturity. She is calling us to trust in the Presence of the Beloved, even in the face of a dysfunctional institution.  It is time to let go of the institution of Church (without letting go of our efforts to hold leaders accountable for their crimes). We can lament the passing of the Church as we have known it, we can mourn its demise, but the time for lamentation is soon coming to an end. The mystery is greater than its finite forms. The Catholic tradition of Christianity will continue, but only the Spirit knows what surprising gifts await us in the future of its rebirth.

And this just in from Leonardo Boff at Iglesia Dscalza's blog:

It happens that when power predominates, it drives love away. Indeed, the organizational style of the hierarchical church is bureaucratic, formal and sometimes inflexible. In it, there's a charge for everything, nothing is forgotten or ever forgiven. There's virtually no room for mercy and for a true understanding of the divorced and homosexuals. The imposition of celibacy for priests, deep-rooted anti-feminism, distrust of everything that has to do with sexuality and pleasure, the cult of personality of the pope, and its claim to be the only true church and the "sole guardian established by God of eternal, universal and immutable natural law" such that, in the words of Benedict XVI, it "assumes a leadership role on all mankind." In 2000, then Cardinal Ratzinger still repeated in the document Dominus Iesus the medieval doctrine that "outside the Church there is no salvation" and that those outside "are at serious risk of being lost." This kind of Church certainly doesn't have salvation. It's slowly losing sustainability worldwide.

read the full article here

Sep 24, 2012

The Blue Look and Buddha's Lost Children

Since the weather has changed dramatically here in Prague - to levels of 1 degree Celsius - and even less at night, it seemed a fitting time to change the look of this blog. The photo is very similar to the view from my beach house in Phuket, Thailand - including the rocky pebbles on the beach. 

I lived in Thailand for thirty years and found the experience spiritually and aesthetically uplifting and inspiring. It was a blessing for me on many levels to live in such a deeply devout Buddhist country, because it not only gave me insight and respect into another religion, it also helped to purify my own attachment to a narrow, sectarian Christian/Catholic point of view. The view from a completely different culture relativizes one's own perspective of country and religion. Things look much 'smaller" from the other shore. 

Just to give one example, Thai Buddhism's Bangkok based Sangha is just as conservative and rigid as the RCC Vatican and just as suspicious of charismatic monks living in the countryside who are too close to the poor. They are equally suspicious of holy Buddhist monks who practice and teach the methods of Buddhist meditation and who give evidence of having ascended the many ladders of Buddhist enlightenment. Thai Buddhism is also replete with stories of sexual abuse of boy monks in it's temples, both city and country. So the pattern of distorted religion repeats itself. However, the stories of inspiration are manifold and here is one of them.

Winner Best Spiritual Film and Best Spiritual Documentary at the 2009 European Film Festival in Paris

"Living is an art to be learned."  -- Phra Khru Bah, Buddhist monk

This is a breathtaking true story of compassion in action, as an extraordinary Thai monk helps transform neglected village boys into self-confident novices. With its stunning cinematography and powerful story-telling, this film has won many awards at film festivals around the world. Be prepared to have your heart opened.

BUDDHA’S LOST CHILDREN covers a year in the life of a small, roving monastic community, and it captures the struggle of forgotten young souls at the edge of Thai society. In the borderlands of Thailand's Golden Triangle, a rugged region known for its drug smuggling and impoverished hill tribes, one man devotes himself to the welfare of the region's children. 

A former Thai boxer turned Buddhist monk, Phra Khru Bah travels widely on horseback, fearlessly dispensing prayers and tough-love. For many boys, this is the first time that they have been given the freedom to simply be children. Paradoxically, by being allowed to be children, the boys discover the key to maturing as individuals, and they do so in the care of this fierce and compassionate monk who dedicates himself to giving them the basic skills needed for a decent start in life.

Director Mark Verkerk explains: “The film also explores the nature of compassion, and what it means to actually live by it. I wanted to find out how it worked, record the mechanics of it in action. In the West, compassion is often seen as a weakness, as something passive and debilitating. But to Khru Bah — a Rambo in robes who shattered for me the stereotype of the navel-gazing monk — it has become the basis for action.”

This story has the potential to change the way many people think about Buddhism in the West, where it is still often seen as promoting a purely passive, contemplative attitude towards life. This view of Buddhism is sometimes mistakenly thought to lead to detachment, and even indifference, to the problems of the material world.

Yet Khru Bah’s example clearly shows otherwise. He has translated the Buddhist ideals of infinite compassion and unconditional love into action, illustrating the principle of engaged Buddhism -- which is now flowering in the West and around the world.

This is a story of courage, love and sacrifice. It explores a powerful example of the struggle between ancient spiritual wisdom and the materialism of the modern world.

And here's another stunning view of Thailand's scenic beauty:

Sep 22, 2012

Where Are the Queer Spirits in Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God.

William Lindsey at his blog, Bilgrimage, has recently posted a series of powerful reflections on Elizabeth Johnson's theological work, Quest for the Living God, which recently brought down upon her a rebuke from the Vatican. The work is a quite breathtaking survey of the manifold theologies at work today which attempt to articulate/express the divine compassion present among the marginalized and oppressed, forms of Presence frequently overlooked in the past. However, William takes Johnson to task for not once mentioning the struggles of Gay people for equality and justice, particularly at the hands of the Roman Catholic institution which is presently waging a quite vicious attack upon the LGBT community. It is a curious oversight, which undermines the power of Johnson's theology and her own critique of traditional theology for overlooking the presence of God among so many marginalized groups. Strange to write a book of such a nature and overlook a very real and ongoing situation of injustice right on one's doorstep. Is the living God not present amidst the struggles of LGBT persons for justice and equality? Are we invisible to a theologian of the stature of Elizabeth Johnson, who seems so radical and 'cutting edge' in so many ways. The following below is a comment I posted at Bilgrimage:

 I was disappointed as well with Johnson's book because of the strange lacunae or 'oversight' in not once mentioning anything resembling "Queer Theology" or LGBT persons in general. She does reference it 'faintly' and briefly when mentioning lesbian women faced with discrimination from 'hetero-sexism' at the hands of the male patriarchy simply because these women are not attracted to men. In fact, when I came to that passage in her chapter on feminine images of God, I thought, "Well, OK, here we go. She's finally going to get into it for real." But no, that was it, no more. This oversight is so strange in an otherwise very inspiring book (more to me than just beautiful words, she succeeded in conjuring for me the living, dynamic sense of the Presence of the Divine working on the margins among the oppressed), that I wanted to send her a message/query. I even went to her personal page at Fordham University to see if there was an email address. That led me to a list of all the faculty and their particular areas of interest/research/expertise. None of them mention anything remotely connected to sexual ethics and gay persons, though there are several professors of Christian ethics - focusing on abortion mainly. I'm still determined to send a message to Ms. Johnson, perhaps to the publisher, pointing out this strange omission in a book that celebrates the diversity of God's many manifestations among the marginalized and oppressed, among non Christians, and even with and among 'secularists' with no particular religious affiliation at all, but who are deeply, spiritually connected to the earth and its preservation. She's covered them all, and done so in a truly inspiring fashion, in fact her vision is breathtaking in it's scope, all but one. Since the book contains an implicit criticism of official Church teaching for overlooking God's presence among so many marginalized, to write an entire book and omit mentioning a significant marginalized group is to commit the very failing the book itself is critiquing. This is what it means to celebrate that 'God is truly with us' on the life journey, all of us, of all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and genders. So it is very strange and leads me to wonder if it was intentional, and I would like an answer to that question. I don't think this should be left unchallenged and I'm determined to get a message through to her.

However, I did make an interesting find on Amazon, a gay Christian Episcopal theologian, both of whose books I've bought-Patrick Cheng of Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.

His book, Radical Love, is a survey of Gay/Queer theology and one of the first of its kind. The bibliography alone is fourteen pages long, making this an invaluable resource. Needless to say, Professor Cheng is not a Roman Catholic theologian but an Episcopalian, teaching at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. However, he was a devout  Roman Catholic in his high school years, until that moment, when trying to make sense of his attraction to boys, he came across Church teaching that he was 'intrinsically disordered'. It took him fifteen years from that moment before he could become comfortable going into a church again, and it was not a Roman Catholic church. The damage caused by the RC church's twisted sexual ethics is inestimable, but Patrick Cheng's story is one moment of grace.

From his introduction:

Radical love, I contend, is a love so extreme that it dissolves our existing boundaries, whether they are boundaries that separate us from other people, that separate us from preconceived notions of sexuality, and gender identity, or that separate us from God. It is the thesis of this book that the connections between Christian theology and queer theory are actually much closer than one would think. That is, radical love lies at the heart of both Christian theology and queer theory.

His second book appears to be even more 'radical' and challenging:

From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ.

Lastly, it is comforting to know that the second of the twin theological books by women recently censured by the Vatican, Margaret Farley's Just Love, contains an entire chapter devoted to the issue of same sex relationships and includes this potent quote:

(same-sex marriage) “can also be important in transforming the hatred, rejection, and stigmatization of gays and lesbians. .... same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities." Thank god for small favors.

Sep 16, 2012

Kindred Spirits: Cardinals Martini and Schonborn

This just in from  Clerical Whispers. They are indeed kindred spirits. If Martini deliberately avoided the papacy, using a cane as a subterfuge, does this mean it might be Shonborn's turn, if not destiny? One can always hope, but the two men are certainly kindred spirits. As always, we must remember that 'the Lord' and 'the Holy Spirit' truly manage and inspire the community called church, but often in obscure and paradoxical ways, providing us with only enough light to take the next step.


Shönborn praises ‘prophetic’ Martini

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has paid generous tribute to the "prophetic" vision of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who died on 31 August. 

In his last interview, published immediately after he died, Cardinal Martini said the Church was "200 years behind the times" and called for far-reaching reforms.

"For me Cardinal Martini was one of the truly great and impressive episcopal figures who was totally committed to the Church and to his episcopal ministry," Cardinal Schönborn said on prime-time Austrian state television on Sunday 9 September.

The news of Martini's death had "overshadowed" the Schülerkreis meeting at Castel Gandolfo that weekend, and the participants had prayed for the cardinal together, Cardinal Schönborn revealed. 

He himself was "deeply grateful" to Martini for making the Word of God known to so many people and getting "countless" people to enjoy the Bible, he said.

War with Iran Imminent - Gulf War III?

(Formatting has been messed up for this post, but I can't seem to fix it. Once again, I was really babbling to myself and trying to sort things out in my own head. But things do look dire, as the barbarian forces of blind irrationality beat the drums once again. )

This topic is beyond my purview (I word I've always wanted to use) or area of expertise, and I don't usually like to delve into politics too deeply on this blog. However, this subject and its links to the recent anti Islamic film, Innocence of Muslims, has me thinking. 

The London Telegraph has just posted an article predicting an imminent strike by Israel against Iran - within the next ten days or so. Frightening and sad. Of course, the newspaper has also been criticized for the article and accused of fear mongering and sensationalism.

An armada of US and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf in the belief that Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s covert nuclear weapons programme. 

Rumors of such a strike against Iran have been in the air for the past ...well, year or so. But recent events, including remarks by the Israeli prime minister and possible Israeli (Mossad) links to the recent anti Islamic film, Innocence of Muslims (which has sparked world wide protests) strongly suggest that something sinister, dark, and malicious is afoot. 

 See Dean Henderson's Mossad's September Surprise.



(I have no idea why the following is in capital letters)

The film, Innocence of Muslims, which sparked anti-American protests throughout the Islamic World last week, bears all the trademarks of an Illuminati Mossad false flag operation designed to both ignite WW III and to sink President Obama's re-election. What matters is the timing of these events.

  Early last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Obama Administration of dragging its feet on giving Israel a green light to bomb Iran. A perturbed White House issued a statement that “having this kind of conversation in public is extremely unhelpful”. Most significantly, last Tuesday Obama refused to meet with Netanyahu concurrent with a UN meeting in New York.

Later that day of September 11th, our embassies were under attack. The attacks continued throughout the week.

Innocence of Muslims was produced by Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, who first claimed to be a Jew kicked out of Israel, and now claims to be allied with Coptic Christians in Egypt. The three-named Nakoula pled guilty to bank fraud in California in 2010. His sidekick in producing the film was Steven Klein, a former US Marine who is active in right-wing religious protests at abortion clinics.

The film was handled by Pastor Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who threatened to burn a copy of the Koran nearly two years ago to the day. According to the Daily Bell, Jones has ties to both the Italian P2 Freemasons and the Israeli Mossad. [1] For more background, see my article “Pastor Jones & Mohammed Atta”

A few weeks back an Israeli document was leaked which indicated that Israel planned to attack Iran before the US Presidential election. The release of Innocence of Muslims seems designed to drag the US back into the Middle East quagmire at a time when the Israeli Rothschild entity has become increasingly isolated.

All of this is reminiscent of October Surprise, an intelligence operation launched by Ronald Reagan’s election team to sink the incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Heading Reagan’s election effort was soon-to-be CIA Director Bill Casey.

Back to myself again, pondering the news:

Yesterday, the respected British arms forces minister, Nick Harvey, was removed from his post and today London's Daily Mail quotes him as saying he was 'fired' because he refused to support a pre-emptive strike against Iran. 
Does this mean we are on the verge of a 'serious event'? It would seem so. I'm not quite certain why I started on this topic, only that I find it profoundly disturbing and the connection with religion - both fundamentalism and the deliberate inflaming of passions over Islam - seems significant as well. It's also linked with the previous article I posted on the assassination of a moderate Islamic spiritual leader, again a topic that is an anomaly for this blog. Not my usual stuff.  However, by a curious leap of logic, I was reminded of remarks made by Saint Maximiliam Kolbe to his fellow inmates at Auschwitz when they were tempted to rail against their Nazi persecutors. "Hate is destructive; love alone is creative." WWII might seem like a long way to go for inspiration, but Kolbe's example in the face of pure evil just sprung to mind, his unshakeable faith in the face of a destructive force he was powerless to control.


He urged his fellow inmates to forgive their Nazi captors and to view their incarceration as 'part of God's divine plan'. That is stating it much too baldly, to the point of being offensive. Rather, the saintly priest refused to rail against his condition and would instead bow his head humbly and profoundly in surrender to a mystery of providence too unfathomable to express in human words, and simply say, "God's will, God's will". However, what this enigmatic statement really revealed was Kolbe's profound faith in 'God' as the ultimate Lord of History, no matter how terrible the events of history that may wreak havoc with our lives, events that are spawned by human evil, which in itself is no way 'God's will." Of course, numerous books have been written since those terrible years questioning whether such reflections of Theodicy are any longer possible. Yet I still find Kolbe's profound faith in the face of the Unspeakable profoundly moving. Somehow a loving Providence had brought him to this place to practice love and forgiveness rather than hate and revenge, and that same Providence would work 'all things into good'.


I was also reminded of the profound faith of the Jewish woman, Etty Hillesum, who submitted to her fate in Auschwitz, not with passivity, but profound surrender to the wisdom of Providence, which she believed had guided her throughout her journey and was sustaining her during her final ordeal. Witness of faith in the face of the unspeakable.
A convoluted train of thought, but I've reached it by the sense that there is something inevitable about this forward march into the chaos of war once again in the Middle East, a pattern of human negativity so intrenched, so deeply rooted, so determined in its negative egoism and blindness, that there is little we can do practically to avoid it. It must work itself out to its final end, and we must have faith that the Holy  Spirit, Lord of History and Life, will work her own ways through these events. Our role must be to surrender in total faith and trust while being ever alert to the signs of the Spirit telling us what we must do. Passivity is not an option. Total surrender in trust and faith are, however, absolutes.

Sep 13, 2012

Another Prophet follows the path of Jesus

 I found this story, describing the assassination of Sufi leader Sheikh Said Afandi of Dagestan,  both heartbreaking and sad - as well as deeply troubling because of US involvement. The pattern of prophecy continues in our world in the battle between moderation and extremism, as another gentle, deeply spiritual moderate Islamic leader is assassinated.  The complete article is very long, but well worth studying and absorbing for the detailed look it gives into the machinations of the US government and CIA in fostering Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and the lands of the former Russian federation. The article comes from the outstanding blog, Boiling Frogs, created by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edwards, author of the recently published Classified Woman.  The book has been given a rating of 5 stars by all 92 of reviewers.

While the complete article can be found below,  this particular passage struck me as significant.

While Sufis incorporate the worship of saints and theatrical ceremonial prayers into their practice, Salafis condemn as idolatry any non-traditional forms of worship. They also call for the establishment of Islamic political rule and strict Sharia law. Sufism is home to the great spiritual and musical heritage of Islam, said by Islamic scholars to be the inner, mystical, or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam, going back centuries.

As one Sufi scholar described the core of Sufism, “While all Muslims believe that they are on the pathway to God and will become close to God in Paradise–after death and the ‘Final Judgment’– Sufis believe as well that it is possible to become close to God and to experience this closeness–while one is alive. Furthermore, the attainment of the knowledge that comes with such intimacy with God, Sufis assert, is the very purpose of the creation. Here they mention the hadith qudsi in which God states, ‘I was a hidden treasure and I loved that I be known, so I created the creation in order to be known.’ Hence for the Sufis there is already a momentum, a continuous attraction on their hearts exerted by God, pulling them, in love, towards God.” [9]

The mystical Islamic current of Sufism and its striving to become close to or one with God is in stark contrast to the Jihadist Salafi or Wahhabi current that is armed with deadly weapons, preaches a false doctrine of jihad, and a perverse sense of martyrdom, committing countless acts of violence. Little wonder that the victims of Salafist Jihads are mostly other pacific forms of Islam including most especially Sufis.

The respected seventy-five year old Afandi had publicly denounced Salafist Islamic fundamentalism. His murder followed a July 19 coordinated attack on two high-ranking muftis in the Russian Volga Republic of Tatarstan. Both victims were state-approved religious leaders who had attacked radical Islam. This latest round of murders opens a new front in the Salafist war against Russia, namely attacks on moderate Sufi Muslim leaders.

Whether or not Dagestan now descends into internal religious civil war that then spreads across the geopolitically sensitive Russian Caucasus is not yet certain. What is almost certain is that the same circles who have been feeding violence and terror inside Syria against the regime of Alawite President Bashar al-Assad are behind the killing of Sheikh Afandi as well as sparking related acts of terror or unrest across Russia’s Muslim-populated Caucasus. In a very real sense it represents Russia’s nightmare scenario of “Syria coming to Russia.” It demonstrates dramatically why Putin has made such a determined effort to stop a descent into a murderous hell in Syria.

I will avoid any comment about the parallels with Christian fundamentalism, particularly in the present leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, with it's deep money ties to corrupt elements within the US government and beyond - but the parallels are there to ponder. We are indeed in a bitter winter night, both in terms of global politics as well as global religions. But I find the death of a gentle leader like Sheikh Said Afandi more inspiring than depressing, since only if the precious vial of the heart is broken can the perfume of holiness and goodness penetrate our hardened hearts. Blessings upon the Sheikh as he is admitted into paradise. Or to paraphrase a Tibetan Buddhist saying, "Only through the annihilation of the ego can the Self become a boundless center of compassion flooding itself upon the world." We have been bathed - all of us in the human community-in waves of light and compassion by the recent death of this wise and spiritual man. A lesson to us all (and the witness of Sibel Edmonds echoes this), in the fight for truth and justice - whether in the political or religious sphere - we must be willing to give our all. 

The complete article by William Engdahl

Part I: Syria comes to the Russian Caucasus
dagestan1On August 28 Sheikh Said Afandi, acknowledged spiritual leader of the Autonomous Russian Republic of Dagestan, was assassinated. A jihadist female suicide bomber managed to enter his house and detonate an explosive device.

The murder target had been carefully selected. Sheikh Afandi, a seventy-five-year old Sufi Muslim leader, had played the critical role in attempting to bring about reconciliation in Dagestan between jihadist Salafi Sunni Muslims and other factions, many of whom in Dagestan see themselves as followers of Sufi. With no replacement of his moral stature and respect visible, authorities fear possible outbreak of religious war in the tiny Russian autonomous republic.[1]

The police reported that the assassin was an ethnic Russian woman who had converted to Islam and was linked to an Islamic fundamentalist or Salafist insurgency against Russia and regional governments loyal to Moscow in the autonomous republics and across the volatile Muslim-populated North Caucasus region.

dagestan2Ethnic Muslim populations in this region of Russia and of the former Soviet Union, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and into China’s Xinjiang Province, have been the target of various US and NATO intelligence operations since the Cold War era ended in 1990. Washington sees manipulation of Muslim groups as the vehicle to bring uncontrollable chaos to Russia and Central Asia. It’s being carried out by some of the same organizations engaged in creating chaos and destruction inside Syria against the government of Bashar Al-Assad. In a real sense, as Russian security services clearly understand, if they don’t succeed in stopping the Jihadists insurgency in Syria, it will come home to them via the Caucasus.

The latest Salafist murders of Sufi and other moderate Muslim leaders in the Caucasus are apparently part of what is becoming ever clearer as perhaps the most dangerous US intelligence operation ever—playing globally with Muslim fundamentalism.

Previously US and allied intelligence services had played fast and loose with religious organizations or beliefs in one or another country. What makes the present situation particularly dangerous—notably since the decision in Washington to unleash the misnamed Arab Spring upheavals that began in Tunisia late 2010, spreading like a brushfire across the entire Islamic world from Afghanistan across Central Asia to Morocco—is the incalculable wave upon wave of killing, hatreds, destruction of entire cultures that Washington has unleashed in the name of that elusive dream named “democracy.” They do this using alleged Al-Qaeda groups, Saudi Salafists or Wahhabites, or using disciples of Turkey’s Fethullah Gülen Movement to ignite fires of religious hatred within Islam and against other faiths that could take decades to extinguish. It could easily spill over into a new World War.

Fundamentalism comes to Caucasus
Following the dissolution of the USSR, radical Afghanistani Mujahadeen, Islamists from Saudi Arabia, from Turkey, Pakistan and other Islamic countries flooded into the Muslim regions of the former USSR. One of the best-organized of these was the Gülen Movement of Fethullah Gülen, leader of a global network of Islamic schools and reported to be the major policy influence on Turkey’s Erdogan AKP party.

Gülen was quick to establish The International Dagestani-Turkish College in Dagestan. During the chaotic days after the Soviet collapse, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation officially registered and permitted unfettered activity for a variety of Islamic foundations and organizations. These included the League of the Islamic World, the World Muslim Youth Assembly, the reportedly Al-Qaeda friendly Saudi foundation ‘Ibrahim ben Abd al-Aziz al-Ibrahim.’ The blacklist also included Al-Haramein a Saudi foundation reported tied to Al-Qaeda, and IHH, [2] a Turkish organization banned in Germany, that allegedly raised funds for jihadi fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, and was charged by French intelligence of ties to Al Qaeda.[3] Many of these charities were covers for fundamentalist Salafists with their own special agenda. Read more ?

Sep 12, 2012

Revolution in the Ranks: The Quiet Warriors

 Thanks to Iglesia Descalza's blog for this article.

The Catholic Church has come out swinging against the rights of gay people to get married even in civil ceremonies let alone in religious weddings. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, even drilled home the issue non-too-subtly in his two prayers at the Republican and Democratic conventions. Both parties were reminded that "happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature's God" and the cardinal asked God to "empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making", adding for the Democrats' benefit,"...or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community."

The message isn't taking root with some of those in the ranks. One priest in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, has been reprimanded by his superior, Archbishop Henry Mansell, for taking part as a lector in the same-sex Lutheran marriage of his cousin in New York. Fr. Michael DeVito, pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Suffield, was not vested but did wear his Roman collar. His participation last month in the marriage of his cousin Richard Termine, a freelance photographer, and Roger Danforth, would have remained anonymous but for a write-up in the New York Times.

The Archdiocese issued a statement saying that, "Archbishop Mansell informed Father DeVito that his participation in this ceremony was understandably perceived by many Catholics as an implicit endorsement of same-sex marriage, which is contrary to Church teaching. As a consequence, and in accordance with canon law, the Archbishop formally rebuked Father DeVito and informed him that the rebuke would be a permanent part of his record. Fr. DeVito said that he would not participate in any way in same-sex marriages in the future."

Meanwhile in Minnesota, which is facing a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would ban same-sex marriage, one priest is helping to fund the opposition. While the Diocese of Duluth has given $50,000 to support the "Marriage Amendment", one priest in the diocese, Fr. Peter Lambert, pastor of St. Louis parish in Floodwood, has given $1,000 of his own money to Minnesotans United for Families, the primary group opposing the amendment. A spokesperson for the diocese indicated that Fr. Lambert did not expect his contribution to be made public and declined to say what actions if any might be taken against the priest. Stay tuned...

Sep 5, 2012

What the Spirit tells us through the passing of Cardinal Carlo Martini

Lots of commentary about the final interview granted before his death by the wise and spiritual Cardinal Martini.

Below is by far the richest translation I've seen of the text - well worth pondering - for what it says about the mysterious ways of Providence. Without laboring the point, I felt with the death of John Paul I and with the clear avoidance of the papacy by Cardinal Martini, that the Spirit 'in some sense' intended the debacle of the last two papacies - perhaps in the light of John McNeil's insight that the Catholic Community as a whole needed to learn the painful lesson of the fallibility of its leaders and perhaps because the reformation of the Church envisioned by the Spirit was/is far more radical than we can imagine. In other words, we were not meant simply to have a 'reformed' Church with wise leaders, who would perhaps change the teaching on sexual ethics, accept women at least as deacons, inch towards  acceptance of gay people. Something far more profound and radical was intended, a purging so deep we still cannot fathom it's meaning or its direction. Perhaps we were being pushed towards greater maturity and independence from leadership itself, weaned from our dependance upon iconic figures as well as from the very structure of institutional religion. But the missed opportunity of electing Carlo Martini to the papacy does not seem like an accident to me - but part of the mysterious designs of providence - who purifies and births the church through suffering. It was simply not meant to be and we are left pondering and wondering, in a spirit of humble prayer and discernment, what exactly is 'meant to be' as far as the future of the Catholic community is concerned. Lord send us your light.

here is the text from Iglesia Descalza's wonderful blog

Before Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini passed away from Parkinson's disease on August 31st at 85 years of age, the liberal prelate, who was known for being open to the possibility of a married priesthood, ordaining women as deacons, and allowing Communion for some divorced Catholics in second marriages, gave a final interview in which he had some last words for -- and about -- the Church he served for so many years. The interview was conducted by a Jesuit confrere, Fr. Georg Sporschill, who also interviewed the cardinal for his book, Nighttime Conversations in Jerusalem, and freelance writer Federica Radice, and published in Corriere della Sera. The interviewers describe this as "a sort of spiritual testament" and assert that Cardinal Martini read and approved the text prior to his death. We have translated it into English. -- RG

How do you view the situation of the Church?

The Church is tired, from the good life in Europe and in America. Our culture has aged, our churches are big, our religious houses are empty, and the Church bureaucracy is increasing, and our rites and habits are pompous. But do those things express what we are today? (...) Comfort is burdensome. We find ourselves here like the rich young man who went away sadly when Jesus called him to make him his disciple. I know we can't leave it all easily. But at least we can seek out men who are freer and closer to their neighbor. As were Bishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where are our heroes to inspire us? We shouldn't limit them within the constraints of the institution for any reason."

Who can help the Church today?

Father Karl Rahner readily used the image of embers hidden under ashes. I see in the Church today so many ashes over the coals that a sense of hopelessness often overcomes me. How can we free the coals from the ashes so as to reinvigorate the flame of love? First, we have to look for those embers. Where are the individuals full of generosity like the Good Samaritan? The ones who have faith like the Roman centurion? Who are enthusiastic like John the Baptist? Who dare to do new things like Paul? Who are faithful like Mary Magdalene? I advise the Pope and the bishops to seek out twelve people who are out of line for leadership positions. Men who are close to the poor and surrounded by young people and experiment with new things. We need to be confronted with men who are burning so that the spirit can spread everywhere.

What tools do you recommend against the fatigue of the Church?

I recommend three very powerful ones. The first is conversion. The Church must acknowledge its own mistakes and follow a path of radical change, starting with the Pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals push us to embark on a journey of conversion. The questions about sexuality and all issues involving the body are one example. These are important for everyone and sometimes they're even too important. We must ask ourselves if people still listen to the Church's advice on sexual matters. Is the Church still a relevant authority in this field, or just a caricature in the media? Second, the Word of God. The Second Vatican Council returned the Bible to Catholics. (...) Only those who feel that Word in their hearts can be among those who help the renewal of the Church and are able to answer personal questions with a right choice. The Word of God is simple and looks for a listening heart as a companion (...). Neither the clergy nor the Church leadership can replace the interior life of man. All external rules, laws, dogmas, are given to clarify the inner voice and the discernment of spirits. Who are the sacraments for? These are the third instrument of healing. The sacraments aren't an instrument for discipline, but a help for men at moments along the way and in the weaknesses of life. Are we bringing the sacraments to the people who need new strength? I'm thinking of all the divorced and remarried couples, the extended families. The latter need special protection. The Church upholds the indissolubility of marriage. It's a grace when a married couple and a family are able (...). The attitude we have towards the extended family will determine the children's generation's approach to the Church. A woman has been abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion who takes care of her and her three children. The second love succeeds. If that family is discriminated against, not only the mother but also her children are cut off. If the parents feel they're outside the Church or don't feel supported, the Church will lose the next generation. Before Communion we pray, "Lord, I am not worthy..." We know we aren't worthy (...). Love is a gift. The question of whether the divorced can take Communion should be reversed. How can the Church come to help those who have complex family situations with the power of the sacraments?

What do you do personally?

The Church is lagging 200 years behind. Why doesn't it shake itself up? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage? However, faith is the foundation of the Church. Faith, confidence, courage. I'm old and sick and dependent on the help of others. The good people around me make me feel love. That love is stronger than the distrust I sometimes feel towards the Church in Europe. Only love conquers fatigue. God is Love. I have one more question for you: What can you do for the Church?