Dean Martyn Percy re-instated at Christ Church, Oxford

Justice is now being served. and Christ Church, Oxford, can resume its eirenic ministry of inclusion. (Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand)

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PREMIER.ORG.UK:

Christ Church Dean reinstated after accusations quashed – Premier – The Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy will return to his position at Christ Church college at the University of Oxford after an allegation made against him was dismissed.

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Comments
  • Sally Barnes I think there will have to be some sorting out about the “charges”, the way they were worded which were damaging in themselves, the way it was conducted, and the huge amount of money the whole thing cost..Delete or hide this
  • Haydn Rawstron Ronnie, the judgement was crystal clear: the complaints fell ‘very far short’ of ‘good cause’ for dismissal. It seems that the announcement of Dean Martyn Percy’s acquittal was not made by The Dean, himself, but by those who brought the action against the Dean. Their account does not of course reveal that their attempt to remove The Dean from his position was a country mile away from what could reasonably be called appropriate. The Governing Body (GB) could be said to have squandered half a million pounds on a seemingly senseless, imbecilic action. The waste of money is one thing. The poisoning of college life throughout a whole academic year for undergraduates and graduates in such a confined environment as Christ Church is another. The damage done to the college’s reputation and the number of alumni who have written Christ Church out of their Wills or are reconsidering making donations to the college is yet another. But worst of all was the draconian treatment of The Dean himself. The charges were not sexual, behavioural or anything to do with ‘modern charges’, though the GB outrageously left those possibilities hanging in the air for several months, before being obliged to clarify the situation regarding the charges. They were about pay, rights and presumably ‘authority’, the authority of the Dean versus the ‘authority of the Governing Boday in general’. What has caused outrage among many alumni of Christ Church was the manner in which the GB chose to defeat Martin Percy’s authority, resorting to a medieval vehicle to achieve its ends. At the beginning of the news release published since the Dean’s acquittal, is written that the process originated from ‘A COMPLAINT’ which a Christ Church statute (from the 16th century) required to be investigated: this complaint first needed to be made by seven members of the GB! Seven apparently intelligent men and women decided to proceed against Dean Percy, using college funds to carry forward their action, by means of this archaic principle of ‘tribunal’, knowing that Dean Percy, in order to defend himself, would probably need first to bankrupt himself. Was that the GB’s strategy all along, to present the Dean with such an enormous financial challenge that he would resign rather than impoverish his family? Adding insult to aggression, the GB removed the Dean from his college duties and then had the gall to remove him also from his clerial duties as cathedral Dean, even though its quarrel with the Dean had nothing to do with the cathedral per se. This is a terrifying example of how a collective of intelligent men and women can behave against a single comparatively defenceless individual. We would condemn outright such behaviour on the playground. Who is there to censure such behaviour among adults?
    • Ronnie Smith Thanks, Haydn, for this stunning account of the injustice of the Christ Church Governing Body – in their spiteful action against Dean Percy, whose reputation – and the reputation of the College – has been besmirched, causing irreparable damage to both the Dean and the Cathedral and College Community. Surely, the GB should be called to account and replaced – if that is possible.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Love Changes the Algorithm

Love Changes the Algorithm

We speak the word of love with our hands and our feet, with our bodies and our souls. And speaking the word of love changes the world’s algorithm.POSTED ON AUGUST 2, 2019BY JAKEOWENSBYIN LUKE 12:13-214 MINUTES READ

Don’t worry, be happy. Said Jesus. Never.

On a weekend tragically shattered by back-to-back massacres in El Paso and Dayton, Jesus has a very different word for us.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be unhappy. He wants something more than happiness for us.

The pursuit of happiness—at least as most people understand the word “happiness” today—leads to shallowness, emptiness, and spiritual exhaustion. By contrast, Jesus wants to lead us into a life worth living. The kind of life that will change this bruised and battered world’s algorithm.

To get there, we’ll have to be brutally honest with ourselves about what really matters to us. Not what we say matters. But what our actions reveal about what we’re actually staking our lives on. True to form, Jesus challenges our pretensions and our hidden assumptions with parables.

For instance, while Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem, someone complained to him about how the family estate had been divided. The person’s brother had apparently walked off with quite a haul, and this person felt shortchanged. After a verbal eye roll, Jesus responded with what is often called the Parable of the Rich Fool.

It goes like this:

A farmer brought in a bumper crop. The yield was so great that, if he could find a way to store the grain, he would be able to take a luxurious early retirement. For the rest of his life he could “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” Sure enough, that farmer knocked down his old silos and erected new ones. As soon as he had completed the silos and stockpiled all that grain, the grim reaper rang his doorbell. Fat lot of good all that grain did this farmer. (Luke 12: 16-21)

There’s a nexus of questions embedded in this parable. Why have you been doing what you have been doing? What’s the point? To what have you ultimately been devoting all your time and energy and attention? In the end, what will validate that your life will have been worth living? That you were doing something more than taking up space?

The rich fool of Jesus’s parable belongs to one of two broad, centuries-old approaches to these questions. He devoted his life to the pursuit of what one tradition of Greek philosophers called hedonia: relaxing, eating, drinking, and merrymaking.

Hedonia is frequently translated as happiness. It would be more accurate to render hedonia as pleasure. We get our word “hedonism” from it. The point of human life is to experience pleasure or, at the very least, to avoid physical and mental pain. Don’t worry, be happy.

Another school of thought stretching back to the ancient Greeks argues that the good life is devoted to eudaimonia. Aristotle used this phrase and translators sometimes render it as “happiness.” But because so many of us equate happiness with pleasure, it is best to render eudaimonia as well-being.

Aristotle and his intellectual heirs argue that a life worth living is more than feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Instead, life is about leaning ever more fully into our humanity. Being honorable and courageous. Being a good friend and making a contribution to our community. Being generous, self-controlled, and wise. Well-being is doing human being well.

Jesus, of course, was not a Greek philosopher. He was a devout Jew. Nevertheless, you could say that he belonged to the eudaimonia school. Human life is about doing human being well. And for Jesus, that meant leaning into our true selves as the image of God.

The first chapter of Genesis portrays God as hovering over a confused, chaotic mess. God speaks from the midst of that crazy mess. And, as John’s Gospel and First Letter attest, the word that God spoke was love. And love changed the algorithm. Love brought light and life.

Let’s face it. The world is a messy place:

  • Racism is on the rise.
  • Suicide rates are climbing.
  • Addiction is epidemic.
  • And as the carnage this weekend in El Paso and Dayton illustrate, mass shootings are occurring with horrifying, dizzying frequency.

Sometimes it feels like we can’t make a difference. But listen to what Jesus is telling us. We are the image of God. We are on this planet to speak God’s very own word. And that word is love.

While we may not live to see the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven—while it may even seem as if we are tumbling in the opposite direction—remember that we are the image of God. Our lives are not pointless. We are here to speak the very word of God.

To a lonely stranger, a hungry child, a fearful immigrant, a disabled adult, a homeless addict, a grieving survivor, we can speak the word of God. And that word is love. Even though we will not in that moment change the entire world, we will change that person’s world. Our neighborhood’s world. Our community’s world.

We speak the word of love with our hands and our feet, with our bodies and our souls. And speaking the word of love changes the world’s algorithm. By honoring, nurturing, and sustaining the lives of others, we make our own lives worth living.

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This message, from the blog of TEC Bishop Jake Owensby, gets to the heart of of the message of Jesus in the Gospels. “Love one another – as I have loved you. By this, shall everyone know that you are my disciples – if you love one another” – Jesus

Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ unmasked in the USA

This couple used to run a conversion therapy camp. Now they’ve been charged with human trafficking.

The couple has been accused of beating, exploiting, starving, and forcing kids in their care into solitary confinement.By Alex Bollinger Wednesday, August 21, 2019     12 Comments

Photo: Mug

The former operators of a conversion therapy camp have been indicted on a number of charges related to alleged abuse, including human trafficking and forced labor.

Gary and Meghann Wiggins are accused of forcing at least four boys at their home for troubled youth in Texas to work for them in their businesses and abusing and neglecting them.

Gary Wiggins, 49, had previously run a conversion therapy camp in Alabama for boys. Several of the boys ran away from that home and accused him of denying them food and putting them in solitary confinement as punishment.

“I’m going to get the demon out of you and make you straight,” Wiggins told the boys, according to Lucas Greenfield, one of the survivors of the conversion therapy camp.

Related: The Washington Post said Mike Pence doesn’t support conversion therapy. No one’s having it.

Greenfield said that Wiggins “took off his belt and started swinging” in order to beat the gay out of him.

The camp appeared in a 20/20 segment on conversion therapy, and another teen sent there said that “Brother Gary” would use epithets like “faggot” and “queer” as he tried to make the kids straight. In the segment, Wiggins claimed to have an 80% success rate when it comes to turning teen boys straight.

Authorities in that state had looked into Wiggins’ camp, but no charges were filed. Through his lawyer, Wiggins said that he always got permission from parents before beating the boys.

Since then, he has been running the Joshua Home in Texas for troubled boys. Local media reports have not mentioned the sexual orientation of the boys who were in his care. He and his wife also own several businesses: Joshua Home Moving and Joshua Home Lawn Care.

Last year, police got a warrant for the Joshua Home and for the businesses. The evidence they found led them to remove the eight boys between the ages of 10 and 17 in the Wiggins’ care.

Now a grand jury has indicted them on Trafficking of Persons charges, accusing the couple of forcing four of the boys to work in their businesses.

Nicholas Nasiatka, 11, was one of the alleged victims of the Wiggins, and his older brother Andrew is speaking out.

“My brother did a lot of work around the grounds and helped around,” he told KXAN. “There was certain disciplinary measures such as staring at the wall.”

He used to be a Baptist and said that since he left the faith he has been thinking critically about what his brother went through.

“It was always just you know, suppress the thought, suppress the critical thinking, and just trust in the faith,” Nasiatka said. “That’s not a place that a child should be at and that’s not the way a child should feel. They should feel safe, secure, happy. There was no happiness whatsoever there.”

Before the grand jury indictment, the Wiggins’ attorney Eddie Shell said that none of the accusations made by the boys removed from their care warrant charges.

“The parents of all of the boys have always been informed of the condition of the boys and the whereabouts of the boys,” he said. “Anything that the Wiggins’ have done, they have done it with the permission of the parents.”

“I’m glad the children are out of it, and I’m glad we’ve progressed to where we have, sometimes it’s frustrating because these cases take so long,” said Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd.NewsAlabamaAndrew NasiatkaBurnet CountyCalvin Boysconversion therapy campEddie ShellGary WigginsJoshua HomeLucas GreenfieldMeghann WigginsTexas

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This recent article from the USA describes the existence of discredited ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’ camps which have been exposed in the US media. The high-lighted paragraph appearing in the middle of this report gives access to a 20/20 broadcast video recording that high-lights the problems of high-risk youth being detained in one of the camps.

The video gives graphic evidence of a continuing culture of some fundamentalist Christian groups who still believe that LGBTQI people are ‘acting out’ a dimension of their lives that is inconsistent with Biblical teaching, and therefore amenable to therapy which purports to be able to ‘convert’ intrinsically Gay’ people into being heterosexual. Such therapies are increasingly understood by medical professionals and spiritual authorities as being – not only ineffective, but also dangerous.

Young people, encouraged by ‘Christian’ therapists that they are acting against their ‘natural’ sexual and biological identity; are still being recruited – or committed by their parents – to the care and treatment of such ‘therapists’ against, in most cases, the advice of professional medical and psychological experts in the field, who now believe that attempts to change people from being homosexual in orientation to being heterosexual are not only outdated but positively harmful.

What such attempts at ‘conversion’ can do to a spiritually immature young person is to convey a massive sense of guilt and a potential for self-harm when the process fails to achieve its intended objective. This process has now been perceived by most reliable medical and spiritual authorities to be manipulative at the very least, and potentially deadly for youth suicide statistics.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Anglo-Catholic Hui – Refreshment and Renewal

Anglo-Catholics boost evangelism

This year’s Anglo-Catholic Hui meeting in Wellington has recharged Anglicans to go out and share the Good News of Jesus through the beauty and wonder of God and the best of ‘high church’ traditions. (Anglican Taonga)
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My wife, Diana, and I were privileged to be able to attend this lovely occasion of Anglo-Catholic Fellowship and Renewal, based around the buildings of the Church of Saint Peter, Willis Street, Wellington, New Zealand.

Organised as a follow-up to the first Anglo-Catholic Hui – held in Dunedin in 2018 – this (second) Hui was a welcome reminder of the fact that the Anglican Church throughout the world is part and parcel of that world, needing to reach out with love and fellowship to all who may be seeking the meaning of life for themselves.

Our Main Speaker, Bishop Stephen Cotterill – of the Diocese of Chelmsford, in the Church of England – had much to say about how the mission of the Church had to change tactics in order to engage the interest and support of ‘outsiders’; the sort of people whom Jesus attracted by his generous and loving inclusivity.

No longer can Christians expect people to respond to ‘a set of dogmatic principles’; rather, we need to walk alongside people, listening to their individual concerns and aspirations; their fears, hopes and dreams. In other words; we are to meet people on the ground that we have in common, rather than presenting them immediately with a set of theological propositions with ‘oughts and shoulds’ that may not attract or encourage their assent or even interest.

Bishop Stephen challenged us to be ‘other Christs’ after ther manner of Jesus with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus – who listened to their concerns and sought to meet their needs as they, themselves, were able to articulate them. The Christian life is a pilgrimage for most people – rather than an instantaneous conversion experience; drawing upon people’s own spiritual resources and clarifying their deepest thoughts on the mysteries of human experience and its relation to the divinity instinct in every human being.

These thoughts certainly resonated with my own experience – that Faith is caught rather than taught – although one’s initial attraction to Christianity will need ongoing mentoring (such as all the attendees received on this occasion from our gifted Speaker) that helps us to move further along the pilgrim way of (and into) Christ.

What struck me at the Hui was the readiness of everyone to respond to the Bishop’s invitation – at the passing of The Peace in the Mass – to turn to one’s neighbour and say the words: “You are beautiful!” This simple utterance was received by most people with both surprise and joy! This followed a gem of an exposition of the need to become part of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our relationship to Jesus and in our intentional outreach to our sisters and brothers in the world.

I welcomed, also, the reminder from Bishop Stephen of our need to more deeply consider the role of Mary, as the ‘Mother of God’ and the response she made to God’s invitation to become a partner with God in her collusion with the work of the Holy Spirit in her womb (the depths of her being!). On reflection, it was good to be celebrating Mary’s Assumption on the same day that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was presiding at the Annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in the Church of England.

It was interesting to me, having spent a year (1971/2) at All Saints, Margaret Street, the Anglo-Catholic mecca in London, studying (as a lay-member) at the Institute of Christian Studies under the leadership of the Vicar, Fr.Michael Marshall, that; when the (later) Bishop Michael Marshall had been made Director for Mission in the C. of E.; our Speaker, Bishop Stephen, (at that time a priest) had become one of Bishop Michaels’s missionary staff, actively engaged in preaching missions around the Church of England! I had been profoundlty affected by the Anglo-Catholic worship and preaching at ASMS, and it was there that my own ministry journey began.

Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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T.E.C. Protests against Trump’s Border Policy

Supporting immigrants: A video from The Episcopal ChurchEpiscopal Church Office of Public AffairsPosted Aug 17, 2019Back to Press Releases 

The Episcopal Church continues to respond to the complex array of challenges facing immigrants across the United States, including support for children and other people seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border, assisting immigrants who are undocumented, advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, and resettling refugees through Episcopal Migration Ministries.

In a new video, The Episcopal Church: Walking with Immigrants, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry introduces five bishops whose dioceses are actively engaged in immigrant welcome. Each bishop shares ways individuals or groups can support this work. Their intent is to inspire action and to highlight the many ways people can engage with and deepen their understanding of immigration issues.

Supporting immigrants: A video from The Episcopal Church – Episcopal News Service

The video ends with an overview of the advocacy and refugee resettlement work done at the national level. The Rev. Canon Charles K. Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond the Episcopal Church, speaks to the Church’s 80-year commitment to immigrants and displaced persons; support which continues today through Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations.

“Many Episcopalians have asked, ‘what is The Episcopal Church doing?’ And maybe the deeper question behind that has been the question, ‘what can I do?’” said Curry. “This video is intended to address those questions and to provide some ways that we, as followers of Jesus of Nazareth, can respond to this humanitarian crisis.”

The featured bishops represent the four U.S. dioceses geographically located along the border with Mexico and the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, serving as one example of the many ways other Episcopal dioceses are engaged with people seeking asylum.

Bishops appearing in the video include Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown, Episcopal Diocese of Maine; Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego; Rt. Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona; Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn, Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande; and Rt. Rev. David Reed, Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

The Episcopal Church, through the Office of Government Relations (OGR) and Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), has compiled a list of resources, bishop statements, and information in response to the ongoing humanitarian situation at the southern border.

For information mentioned in the video and more, visit the EMM website. For resources on advocacy and policy education, visit the OGR website.

Join Partners in Welcome, the online learning and networking community from Episcopal Migration Ministries, and engage with others across the Church who are committed to the work of supporting refugees and asylum-seekers.

To directly support EMM and its life-changing work, visit www.episcopalmigrationministries.org/give or text ‘EMM’ to 41444 (standard messaging and data may rates apply).

The Office of Government Relations represents the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. This office aims to shape and influence policy and legislation on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. All of its work is grounded in the resolutions of General Convention and Executive Council, the legislative and governing bodies of the church. Connecting Episcopalians to their faith by educating, equipping and engaging them to do the work of advocacy through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is a key aspect of this work.

Episcopal Migration Ministries is a ministry of The Episcopal Church and is one of nine national agencies responsible for resettling refugees in the United States in partnership with the government. Episcopal Migration Ministries currently has 13 affiliate offices in 12 states.

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One cannot but admire the persistence with which the U.S. Episcopal Church – under the Leadership of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry – pursues its programme of protestation against US President Donald Trump’s treatment of would-be immigrants at the Mexican Border of the United States.

Trump is insisting on perpetuating a serious Human Rights violation under the political expediency of discouraging immigration into the USA from other countries – a policy which directly contradicts the welcoming of immigrants set in place as part of the basic formulation of early U.S. Federal polity by the Founding Fathers.

Bishop Michael and the Episcopal Church in the United States are to be heartily congratulated on their insistence on basic human rights for the detainees at the Mexican Border. In the video included in this press release, Bishop Michael explains what he sees as the only ethical response needed to counteract the US President’s offence against the international Charter of Human Rights.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Donald Trump’s Culture Wars

The Trump administration told the Supreme Court that trans discrimination should be legal

Their argument is that trans women aren’t really women. The 54-page brief is just a riff on that.By Alex Bollinger Saturday, August 17, 2019     7 Comments

Photo: Shutterstock

The Trump administration filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that it should be perfectly legal to fire transgender people for being transgender.

The brief, signed by U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco as well as several other Trump administration lawyers, argues in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v EEOC & Aimee Stephens that an employer has every right under federal law to fire someone for transitioning. And the brief makes that argument using transphobic tropes.

The case is about Aimee Stephens, who worked for Harris Funeral Homes for five years before announcing that she was transitioning in 2012. Her employer said that she was “violating God’s commands” and fired her two weeks later.

She filed a complaint with the EEOC saying that she suffered from sex discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the EEOC agreed. And now the Supreme Court will hear her case.

Related: Gay Republican group endorses Trump despite nonstop attacks on LGBTQ people

Her argument is that the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on sex, and it’s impossible to fire a transgender person without considering their sex. Furthermore, even if one were to accept that “sex” only refers to sex assigned at birth, she was discriminated against because she was fired for not conforming to sex stereotypes associated with people assigned male at birth.

This is an argument that the Trump administration has been working against, even though the Obama administration was supportive. Donald Trump and Republicans in general oppose LGBTQ civil rights legislation, so of course they’re going to work against attempts to get those protections through the courts.

The brief’s argument is that Congress never intended for “sex” discrimination to preclude discrimination against transgender people, even if that’s what a plain reading of the text would suggest. They also say that Harris Funeral Homes developed policies (like bathroom usage and a dress code) based on sex assigned at birth, and Stephens refused to follow those policies.

For sex discrimination to have occurred, the Trump administration argues, Stephens would have had to have been treated worse than a similarly-situated transgender man. She can’t prove that, so there was no sex discrimination.

And this is why the transphobia in the brief is important. The brief never refers to her with “she” pronouns, instead repeating her last name over and over, even while it refers to other people, like her boss, with gendered pronouns.

It also repeatedly says that Stephens’s identity and gender are unimportant to the case, what’s important is that she was going to violate her employers’ dress code. The brief reduces being transgender to clothes and presentation, as if she’s a man playing dress-up.

The brief also avoids the word “cisgender,” referring to “biological” and “non-transgender” people. It refers to “transgender status” as something that has no bearing on someone’s gender.

The brief’s language is steeped in the idea that sex assigned at birth is the only real identity someone can have, and being transgender is something on top of that. That is, Aimee Stephens is a gender non-conforming man, not a transgender woman, according to the Trump administration.

Consider this sentence (also notice how many times they say “Stephens” to avoid using pronouns): “To show that sex was a but-for cause of Harris Homes’ treatment of Stephens, Stephens would have to show that changing only Stephens’s sex would have changed the result.”

Well, that’s easy. If Stephens were assigned female at birth and identified and presented as a woman, she wouldn’t have been fired. Q.E.D.

Instead, the brief says that a “similarly-situated female employee” is “a female who intended to dress as a male.” That is, a gender non-conforming woman or a trans man, but not a gender-conforming woman like Stephens.

The brief is 54-pages of similar arguments, all based on the idea that Stephens is not a woman.

The anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a brief this week too. They made pretty much the same argument as the Trump administration – even using Stephens’s name repeatedly to avoid pronouns – because the ideological distance between them and the mainstream Republican Party is very small.

The Justice Department may file a brief in this case next week.

The Supreme Court will also be hearing two cases involving anti-gay job discrimination that are based on a similar argument: firing an employee because they’re gay or bi is sex discrimination based on sex stereotypes.PoliticsAimee StephensAlliance Defending FreedomBarack ObamaCivil Rights Act of 1964Donald TrumpEEOCHarris Funeral HomesLGBT job discrimiantionNoel FranciscoR.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homestransgender job discrimination

A brutal culture war may be Trump’s only path to re-election

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It must by now be most obvious that President Donald Trump is using all means at his disposal to ensure he gets elected next time. His courting of conservative and fundamentalist religious parties in his obsession with being re-elected at the next Federal Election in the US has now drawn his attention to the plight of trans-gender people, whose existence in the community has brought objections from conservative Christians – simply because of their sexual difference from ‘the norm’.

To manipulate religious opinion for the purpose of re-election must surely place Trump in the position of religious bigotry – if only because of his own attitudes towards women and minorities which might otherwise cause the broader American public to shun his quest for even more power than he wields at the moment.

Father, Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The problem of 2 Popes at the same time

A Pope too many: Does Pope Francis have a mutiny on his hands?

Emeritis Pope Benedict

Monday, August 12th, 2019

The opulent Roman salon of a wealthy German princess is the location for regular gatherings of a group of ultra-conservative Catholics — including Steve Bannon, former White House strategist once favoured by President Donald Trump — where they plot their campaign to undermine the Papacy of Francis.

She is Princess Gloria of Thurn and Taxis, famously dubbed Princess TNT by Vanity Fair in 1985 because of her explosive personality, a devout if very traditionalist Catholic.

She hosts meetings attended by a number of senior Cardinals as well as Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the long-time personal secretary to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI.

This group — and this is what is most controversial — is appealing to and seeking to use the legacy of the retired 92-year-old Pope, who is resident in the Vatican, to lend legitimacy to their anti-Francis campaign.

What is not clear at this stage is the extent to which, if at all, Benedict is aware and approving of their efforts. Further light may be thrown on this later in the year when Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, publishes his new book. This is entitled Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Reform the Catholic Church, and is due out in November.

The author has already given voice to his misgivings about what’s happening in Rome in an article in the current edition of The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly.

The article has drawn the support of the editor, Brendan Walsh, in a very trenchant editorial under the heading “Rome Cannot be Home to Two Popes”.

The cover of the magazine shows Francis and Benedict together under the heading “One Pope Too Many?

The opening paragraph of the editorial captures the essence of the difficulty of having two Popes in the Vatican — an unprecedented situation in the modern Church.

“Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign as Pope on 13 February 2013 and to live silently in the Vatican thereafter is beginning to cause problems.

Opponents of Pope Francis’ reforms have begun to treat Benedict as the true Pope, suggesting the papacy of Francis is somehow invalid.

“There is even a popular T-shirt with a slogan ‘Benedict is my Pope’, which Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right interior minister, has been seen wearing”.

This was a controversy waiting to happen.

The big mistake was made in the immediate aftermath of Benedict’s bombshell resignation. Back in 1294, when Celestine V became the last Pope to resign voluntarily, his successor immediately banished him to a remote castle.

Nobody would dare suggest that Benedict should have faced a similar fate, but it ought to have been quietly but firmly signalled to him that he shouldn’t plan on spending his retirement in Rome.

There were plenty of institutions in his native Germany that would have been happy to accommodate him, including the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, where he was professor of theology before becoming Archbishop on Munich in March 1977.

Allowing Benedict to stay on in Rome as Emeritus Pope was always pregnant with risk. Continue reading

  • Image: KathPress

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This interesting item from CATHNEWS NZ demonstrates the difficulty of Pope Francis having to deal with the situation of his immediate predecessor, who appears to be at the centre of a group of Catholics in Rome who seem disaffected with the authority of the current Pontiff.

Certainly the relationship of Princess Gloria (a wealthy conservative Catholic) with the likes of Steve Bannen – the US President’s close advisor – as well as of the previous Pope bodes no good for the more liberal Roman Catholic ethos being generated under the papacy of Pope Francis.

Also, the recent closure of the ‘Pope John Paul II Institute in Rome, which propagated the conservative agenda of that Pope – an initiative of the current Pontiff – has stirred up residual resentment in the Vatican and among the Catholic conservatives. As it was Pope Benedict who set up the J.P. II Institute in the first place, is is proable that he has become the centre of a movement to undermine the more radical moves of of Pope Francis to bring the Catholic Church into the twenty-first century – in accord with one of the goals of Pope John XXIII at Vatican II.

This new conservative development certainly poses a problem for Pope Francis, while yet also posing the question whether, or not, a ‘Pope Emeritu’ (Benedict XVI) should be able to interfere in any way with the authoritative role of a reigning Pontiff.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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