Category Archives: scandal

Psst! Did You Hear the One About the Pope?

i’m guessing that for the part of the country that is outside of the ny, pa, dc area the fact that the pope was in the u.s. was just a headline somewhere. but in the middle of the tri-cities of his visit, there was a popenato of epic proportions.

here in philadelphia there was the typical mixture of excitement and grousing and at times the grousing out-shouted the excitement 4 to 1. now, that may have been a result of the stupid things city officials said in the run up, like “treat this as a severe storm event (which translated means to stay the hell home)” or that the secret service coordinated a lockdown situation that paralyzed a good portion of the city, or that at times there seemed to be no logical coordination between the secret service, public transportation and city officials.

whether the event lived up to expectations or broke records, it seems that the only measure worth talking about is whether pope francis can successful lead his church in a direction that brings people back. it’s no secret that participation in the roman catholic church has been dropping off – due mostly to (finally) the public airing of the horrors perpetrated by the church and their continued failure to not only acknowledge them but right them.

i was raised in the catholic church – 12 years of catholic schooling, followed by 30 years of a tenuous relationship where c and i participated in the church only to raise our children with some kind of tradition. but as the same sunday sermons from decades ago continued on as an opportunity for priests to berate the crowd for disobedience with the edits of the church—oddly enough only centered around issues of sexuality and not morality, most of which have to do with controlling women — i transitioned from not listening to drifted away. then, like most people i know, when the horrors of the sex-abuse scandal and systematic cover up hit the headlines i decided i was completely done with the roman catholic church.

in order to even stay with the church for as many decades as i had, required me to recite the mantra: “render unto ceasar what is ceasar’s and under god what is god’s”. meaning: ignore church bullshit and concentrate only on the lessons of christian tradition that matter: love one another and take care of one another.

then along comes pope francis. there has been much written about his life and how he has lived the teachings of christianity and it seems that he is carrying that into his leadership of the church. and to a large extend that’s true, certainly his words are a much more thoughtful message that has to do with love and forgiveness, mercy and inclusiveness not to mention just taking care of one another.
and then… well, then it’s just more business as usual. his inspiring words were followed by a visual of a cathedral filled with white men and the visual of seminarians and local priests, deacons and bishops – all men. men who ignore or distain women while dressed in dresses and funny hats. it all just looked so irrelevant.

sure, the pope was careful to include women in his words, but i think that’s because without them (the slave class) the church cannot function so it seemed like that was more about protecting an investment than sending a message of inclusion. and here in philadelphia there was the additional message from a hard-liner, perpetually ornery archbishop chaput who chose to use this stage to issue a ridiculous remark about the only real function of sex is to procreate, ignoring all the other more relevant messages that could and should have emanated from his moment in the spotlight.

and for all of its moralistic preaching about sexuality what is the true origin of priestly celibacy? don’t answer jesus ‘cuz that’s not it. property. and money. no married priests then no families to support and no nasty legal battles about rights of inheritance. the true reasoning is not high and mighty.

in his defense, pope francis has accomplished a lot of revolutionary things within the church, not the least of which is cleaning up the vatican bank (you want to know something about real scandal? read god’s bankers by gerald posner).

listen, i’m all for carrying on ancient traditions and rituals, in fact very much so when those traditions involve rituals where a family and a church family are able to share meaningful moments together. but when the trappings of a religion far outweigh its reason for being, i’m out.

francis may be delivering the right message, but he’s stuck delivering it in the wrong container.


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Watch What We Do and Not What We Say

in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, i was glued to the television watching the watergate hearings and devouring all the newspaper coverage. so when i had to write a paper for my high school civics class at the end of my senior year, i re-read the transcripts from the hearings and wrote twice as many pages as the assignment required. the title was: “watch what we do and not what we say”.

it probably goes without saying that this should always be the rule when it comes to elected officials.

remember the big news story about the stop trading on congressional knowledge (stock) act? that was the law that made it illegal for congress and their relatives to make stock trades based on insider information gained from congressional activity. you know, the same law that the rest of us are subject to. the same law the sec used to toss a hardened criminal like martha stewart in the pokey. the very same law that it seems like a giant duh! that members of congress should be subjected to. that law got passed with a lot of self-congratulation and fan-fare. and the people felt good.

so now every member of congress and their relatives has to file a log of all trades in excess of $1,000. further, the records of these trades are listed in an on-line database so that everyone will be able to see and relate trading to committee meetings or hearings, etc. and draw a direct link between member’s activities and how that might translate into making a profit on insider knowledge.

or, maybe not.

actually, definitely not. remember all the endless arguing and media blitz about the debit ceiling? how about healthcare reform? the budget? gun regulations? the repeal of the portion of the stock act that makes the reporting transparent and relatable to congressional activity? yes, yes, yes, yes…. er, um, noooooo.

there was not one dissenting voice in this vote. portions of the stock act were quietly repealed. unanimously. it took 10 seconds in the senate and 14 seconds in the house. and the president signed it quickly and quietly.

before you get too worked up, congressional members and staffers who earn more than $119,554 a year still have to report trades in excess of $1,000, but none of that would be posted on-line. instead, paper forms will be warehoused in washington d.c. where the public can search them by hand. from big boxes that are filed in huge rooms that it takes lots of people to manage. no computerized records. same trick that is being used with gun registrations. if you can’t stop the train, just pile up a whole bunch of junk on the tracks. because making the stock transactions of people in congress too easily constitutes a risk of terrorism, or so the reason was given. my guess is that the potential terrorists are constituents. just my hunch.

so you know all that rhetoric about people dependent on the government? or greedy public workers with their fat cat pensions that are bankrupting this nation? or special classes that are protected by the government in ways like, oh i don’t know… voting? yeah, we’re supposed to be disdainful of those people.

some of the very same “privileges” that the rest of us are supposedly receiving are business as usual among members of congress. but they’re not considered privileges, they’re just considered necessities. or what elected officials are entitled to. or what is necessary to keep good members of congress happy, you know, like what giant bonuses were designed to do for wall street firms who employed all of those brilliant fund managers that prevented a major meltdown of the financial system… oh, wait a minute.

back to congress. read about the perks you don’t have at your disposal but that you’re paying for here.

so, after all of this i was thinking about my senior civics paper and the watergate hearings and how forty years have passed since i wrote that paper. and how some things still remain true.

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when all else fails, scream slut!

the american public saw an important example of the rules of public discourse recently, namely that there are ways to get your point across:

1.     make a measured and intelligent argument

2.     reframe the argument

3.     scream slut 

nothing is more effective than name calling.  and if you’re a man up against a topic that involves women where women are speaking out for their own best interests, revert to the most base kind of name calling.  

i felt like i was back in high school last week.  not just because of the immature and prurient attitudes surrounding the topic of women’s healthcare (yes, healthcare.  yep, discussing control of our ‘lady parts’ with our doctor is something we need), but because the kind of talk i was hearing harkened back to the early 1970s when i was in high school.  (of course even the 1970s were nothing compared to earlier eras)  few people thought anything of the kind of attitudes and insults that were a part of everyday life for women not that long ago.   

every woman i know remembers facing this kind of gutter talk, often in retaliation for being smarter, more reasonable or more accomplished than a fellow student or co-worker. to watch it play out on a national stage over forty years later is shocking, unbelievable, frustrating and sad.  the fact that those in political prominence, who court the good graces of a drug addled radio bully, don’t speak out against the base insults he screams, speaks volumes.    

i’m speechless to witness how some here would invite the kind of religious fervor at the same time that our soldiers are dying in nations where the freedoms of citizens (especially women) are severely limited by religious fervor.   

i have mentioned to C many times over the past decade how it seemed that younger women don’t quite understand how playing into certain kinds of chauvinistic attitudes harms themselves.  it’s also been clear that many young women are too far distanced from the days when their futures were severely limited by the fact of their gender to understand that kind of prejudice continues (albeit to a lesser degree thanks to the power of law) today.  

there’s a successful radio show on during morning drive in the philadelphia market whose focus is essentially ‘let the frat party live on’.  (full disclosure: i listen to the show sometimes because the stuff on there that’s hilarious is when they make themselves the butt of the joke)  it’s bothersome enough to listen to them celebrate so called gentleman clubs, strippers, porn and the like, (this from fathers of little daughters) even more disturbing to hear women clamor to join in on trips to these same clubs for  lap dances from the women who work there.  i guess being one of the guys is always cool (even if you’re not a guy).   

C is fond of telling a story about our trip to universal studios.  they were requesting volunteers from the audience to get strapped into a harness and ‘fly’ in front of a blue screen.  the caveat to being a volunteer was that english had to be your native language.  the reason?  when people are in a panic situation they revert back to their native self.   

the language of the drug addled radio host (not name calling, just using descriptive language) showed his true self.   

but then, you knew that already.  

my hope is that younger women (and men) with take note of this moment and refuse to continue the wholesale dismissal of others by the swipe of vile name calling.   

oh, and that they put enough pressure on sponsors so that there is no funding for loudmouth drug addled radio hosts.  (not likely, but a girl can dream)


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thanks, but no thanks

so, last week thousands of kids who attend catholic high schools and grade schools in the philadelphia area were told by the archdiocese of philadelphia that they were out of luck.  a blue ribbon panel recommended that 48 grade schools and 4 high schools in the archdiocese should close.  soon to follow, 50 parishes worth of catholics will be told that their parish is no more.  (but by the way, DON’T FORGET TO GO TO CHURCH AND PUT YOUR CHECK IN THE COLLECTION… AND GO TO CONFESSION, SINNER!) 

people were (and still are) devastated. 

i didn’t go to school around here, but i did go to catholic schools (my high school is now still there in name, but long gone as the school that i went to).  the philadelphia area catholics are a different breed of catholic from california catholics (you can imagine).  when i first moved here, people would routinely ask what parish you were from or live in as opposed to the township or municipality.  (there are many who still do)  loyalty reigns.  rivalries abound. there are schools that were closed decades ago who still have loyal alumni who meet regularly and raise money for scholarships so other kids can go to other catholic schools in the name of their now closed school.  (they deliberately do not give money to the archdiocese) 

we live a very good school district so we sent our kids to public school and sent our kids to catechism training at the local parish.  we (and our kids) were (are) considered second class catholics (even though the large majority of catholic kids in our parish did not attend the parish school but did attend ccd)  it was made clear that we were not terribly welcome.  we stuck it out until our kids made all the sacraments necessary to continue the faith if they so chose.  

then came the sex abuse (abuse of power) revelations.  done and done.  i could not stomach being associated with such utter corruption and filth.  we knew plenty of people who stuck it out, believed what the church said about fixing itself.   

and now this.  and no one believes that all of this would be necessary if not for the huge settlements in the sex abuse cases.  

lies and deceit charge very high prices.  what is being lost right now is incalculable. 

C quotes St. Peter as looking down and saying, “I built a church and this is what you guys do with it?”

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off kilter

when i was a kid, i had a gyroscope.  it was a satellite looking thing but with a way cooler name (if you were a geeky kind of kid…)  pull the string, toss it onto a hard surface and (through the wonder of physics) no matter how the angle of the surface changed it would happily spin, maintaining orientation.  

use the term moral compass and that’s the image in my mind.  

those two words have come to mind a lot lately.  two more words: penn state. 

when the story first broke, it was broadly brushed as though some along the chain of command fulfilled their obligation to inform those who had the power (and responsibility) to act on behalf of an innocent child.  then the grand jury report was released.  

the first witness to a child being raped in an on campus shower by an adult man (as awful as it is, that bears repeating – a witness saw a child being raped in the on campus shower by an adult man) had that feeling in the pit of his stomach. (you know that feeling, the one that tells you that something is seriously off) he told his superiors. 

apparently those superiors did not experience the feeling in the pit of their stomachs.  or maybe they did.  then they felt the overwhelmingly human need to protect.  but not the child victim. 

the truth got bent off its axis and a rape got translated into maybe kinda some kind of could be misinterpreted as sexualish play and bumped to the fellas upstairs.  up there it got translated into “horseplay”.  

did anyone stop and think of the victim?  a child.  the victim was a child.  

nobody does the right thing for a child.  not surprisingly there are more children.  everybody does the right thing for the god of football.  everybody does the right thing for the god of the university.  everybody does the right thing for the god of the almighty what i perceive to be my prestigious job (and even still everybody does the right thing for the god of funding for the charity and access to university facilities).  

nobody does the right thing for a child.

there’s been criticism of the parent(s) of the victims for not reporting the abuse.  shades of the catholic church whose excuse for not reporting rapes to proper authorities (as opposed to “church” authorities…you’re not above the law, father) was that “the victims never brought it to my attention”.  the victims were children.  

the students took to streets of campus to protest.  not to protest the university’s cover up of child abuse.  not to protest the (mis)use of university funds (presumably tuition monies) to pay for the legal defense of those who covered up a crime.  not to stand up for the courageous young victim who spoke up about what happened to him.  

to protest the firing of a beloved football coach.  presumably to protest an act that might mar their beloved football season.  

there seem to be a whole lot of people these days who need to get their moral compass checked.  maybe we could send out some of those gyroscopes.

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