How often does the following point by Valerie Tarico need to be made before futher reiteration becomes superflous?
After all, these are men who claim to speak for God. They have direct access to the White House, where they regularly weigh in on issues ranging from military policy to bioethics, and they expect us all to listen – not because of relevant expertise or elected standing, but because of their moral authority. If paedophile payouts weren’t enough to convince you that this “moral” authority is often anything but moral, take a look at some of their other sins against compassion and basic decency.
There is no edge in moral authority that clerics of any hue could possibly lay bona fide claim to. To assert otherwise seems fraudulent. What creative primal moral force would contemplate allowing responsibility for its moral precepts to fall into the hands of any group comprised of such fallible men?
A while back I read a strong piece by Cahir O'Doherty in his Manhattan Diary spot. For his readers he was instructively flagging up the reactionary orientation of America’s top Catholic Cardinal Dolan. His copy came to mind again upon reading of Dolan being praised in irish American circles for extending an invite to President Barack Obama to attend the Al Smith dinner, 'a night when the impact of the Catholic vote is recognized.' Dolan's predecessor Cardinal Egan, a pro-Bush cleric, had in the past snubbed the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by refusing to invite him to the Al Smith dinner. Dolan it seems is more political savvy, which is different from his political instinct being more democratic or liberal.
From the range of churchmen that can frequently be found pontificating on moral matters, cardinals least of all seem fit for purpose. The higher up the food chain the more omniabsent any moral perspective seems to be. Look for the cardinal sins and it is amongst the red hats they are likely to conglomerate: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Cardinals invariably seem either full of malign intent or beset by incompetence. Puffed up with pride, their eye on the material, their heart devoid of anything we might term spirituality, it is simply not possible to believe that the hand of a loving god directs their actions. Across the spectrum from the unscrupulous to the unwitting, whether it is Cardinal Aramburu of Argentina who collaborated with the vicious military dictatorship of the 1970s and was a disappeared denier, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer of Austria, addicted to rape, Cardinal George Pell of Australia who dismisses Jews as inferior, or Cardinal Sean Brady who cajoled and coerced into silence Irish children raped by his priestly colleagues, the image they collectively project is reptilian. Talking snakes is not just some biblical myth located in a magical garden called Eden.
And when they are not being malign or incompetent, they display a penchant for downright stupidity as a recent statement from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone made clear when he blamed Vatican leaks on Satanic forces: ‘The truth is that there’s a will to create division that comes from the devil.’ A bag of hammers falls considerably short of being daft enough to buy into that.
Cahir O'Doherty in his piece argued that ‘most concerning to Irish Americans here has been the continuing alignment of the institutional church and its leadership with the political hard right.’ His point is amplified against the background of an announcement by Mitt Romney that Paul Ryan of Irish American stock would be his GOP vice-presidential running mate.
Yes, that Paul Ryan - chairman of the House Budget Committee and author of the infamous Ryan roadmap budget plan, which promises to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system, and yank health care from millions of children whose parents happen to be poor. And that's just the beginning. In addition to a raft of cuts, the Ryan plan would end the Earned Income Tax Credit, which millions of parents count on.It's a plan that even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich deemed too "radical."
There is a serious conservative reactionary agenda being pushed here and the perspective of Irish America could prove crucial in determining the outcome. Its concern about a right wing church leadership is hardly misplaced. Anybody familiar with religion in the US knows just how dangerous a phenomenon it can be particularly when anchored in the political right and embodied by conservative politicans like Michelle Bachmann and Rik Sanatorum.
My apprehensions about Dolan were raised a while back when I read that he had claimed his predecessor ‘Cardinal Egan did a splendid job.’ I knew something about Egan, having read about the 'splendid job' he did in an article called Gods And Monsters that appeared in Connecticut Magazine at the end of the 1990s. In a later synopsis of that piece it was stated that it portrayed Egan as:
a wily, coldly-calculating defender of the Church and abusive priests, more corporate lawyer than spiritual guardian. The article revealed that he had let accused priests continue to work in local parishes, authorized payments to victims in exchange for silence agreements, and lied about those payments during a deposition.
Birds of a feather ... O’Doherty depicts Dolan in a similar light.
In the past month the Cardinal has attacked the president, the White House, the gay community, the survivors of abuse by priests, The New York Times, and even the nuns. At this point both his supporters and critics could be forgiven for wondering who's not on his black list? I wonder who is served most by all this divisive language and sabre rattling and I doubt if its Jesus. It seems to me the people who most benefit from sowing division are the ones who manipulate our religious faith as a lure to get us into the voting booth.
Dolan's stance on these matters is shaped not by morality but is rooted in a religious anti-liberal agenda. Like many of his ilk he cannot countenance people having the right to make choices without any regard whatsoever to his religious opinion, even when that opinion is capable of forming attitudes like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests having 'no credibility whatsoever.' And Dolan's credibility? When he denied that as Bishop of Milwaukee he authorised payouts to paeodphile priests, he had Joseph Zwilling, New York Archdiocese spokesman, claim it was just charity. Joe the Joke must have been 'zwilling' barrels of beer and chewing on a skipful of hammers when he bagged that one. And this is what wants to pass muster as the credibility crew.
With the American hard right immorally thirsting for more wars, more welfare cuts, more discrimination against gays, women and Muslims, more erosion of science in deference to gobbledegook, it is of concern but little surprise that a conniving cardinal will seek to ingratiate himself with the most reactionary elements in US political life. What is reassuring is that some bishops in particular and Irish America in general seems increasingly sceptical of Dolan:
It's not just the folks at the Empire State Building who are snubbing Cardinal Dolan — a group of Irish-American state legislators in Albany have dissed him, too. ... "Dolan was the first one mentioned to honor, given his recent ascension to cardinal, and originally it looked like it was leaning that way,” said one supporter of the idea. “It was a no-brainer.” But some Assembly Democratic members are said to have balked because of the church’s vehement opposition both to same-sex marriage and a bill to extend the statute of limitations for past victims of sex abuse by priests. “It was clear there were certain members of the majority who would be unhappy and uncomfortable if the honoree was the cardinal,” a second member of the society said. It was decided, instead, to honor Brian O’Dwyer, the liberal lawyer.
Dolan has every right to express his views, but it does not follow that they must be heard. That is not in the cardinal's gift. His right to speak imposes no obligation on society to listen. What his discourse and disposition show all too well is the limitations of religious morality. As one blogger commented:
He's always ready to show us the true nature of Catholic morality. He attacks gays, attacks women, attacks nuns - and then turns around and pays a bonus to priests who rape kids. Thanks, Cardinal Timmy! Now we really know how to get to heaven!
But why would we want to if the celestial beings running Paradise have been issuing moral instruction to him?