Tag: catholic church
Ohio's Women Organize Against A Wealthy And Fanatical 'Knight Of Malta'

Ohio's Women Organize Against A Wealthy And Fanatical 'Knight Of Malta'

The Catholic Church does some good things around the world. Think of the nuns and priests murdered by death squads for supporting peasants in Central America. Or Pope Francis, reminding humanity to hold some compassion for the poor and downtrodden every Sunday from his Vatican balcony. Then there are its fanatics and extremists, men-without-women in red hats and red shoes, obsessed with controlling female reproductive organs and protecting pedophile priests. The descendants of Galileo’s jailers might be history’s longest running club of sick puppies. Increasingly, their medievalism is encroaching on Americans.

This week, Catholic extremism’s most high and efficient emissary in Washington, Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Leonard Leo, will discover whether billions in anonymous donor money and a lifetime of DC networking will meet the limits of power in the voters of the state of Ohio.

On Tuesday, Ohio voters will decide whether to approve Issue 1, a ballot initiative that would establish an individual “right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” in their state constitution. The fact that the ballot initiative exists at all is a triumph. The Ohio legislature is captured by right-wing extremists engaged in an audacious experiment in despotism. They have ignored their own state courts and the will of the Ohio voters with respect to gerrymandering. They are bought and paid for by oligarchs and oil and gas interests for whom they have shut down environmental regulations and even legalized the sale of radioactive fracking waste as a road de-icer. (For more on this dirty business read David Pepper’s Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-up Call from Behind the Lines.)

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, Ohio was one of the states that instantly became Handmaids Tale territory, with forced birth the actual law of the state. Other states had the same kind of ban on the books, just waiting for the SCOTUS green light, but Ohio made national news when a ten year old rape victim was impregnated, and the state refused to allow the child to get an abortion. Her trauma was compounded by having to travel out of state to get care.

Against great odds, prochoice forces in Ohio managed to get a constitutional right to abortion on the ballot. Ohio voters will now get to decide whether to follow states like Kansas and Michigan in returning bodily agency to women and girls.

The fight is ugly and expensive. Pro-choice forces have money and the wind at their backs with wins in other states. Desperate anti-choices in Ohio are flooding the zone with misinformation, claiming the amendment will lead to “abortion on demand” or “dismemberment of fully conscious children” if voters approve it. These lies are promoted on the official government website of the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate. (Issue 1’s text explicitly says “abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability.”)

Ohio Republicans have also used the levers of government they control to change the rules to make it harder to get initiatives on the ballot (they failed) and now, they’ve initiated last-minute voter purges. In a roundup on the Ohio tactics in Talking Points Memo yesterday, Kate Riga wrote, “The abortion rights supporters have money, polls and the recent history of other red-state abortion proposals on their side; the opponents have various schemes of essentially legalized cheating on theirs.”

Who helps pay for this effort to trick Ohio voters into privileging rapist sperm cells over 10-year old rape victims? The same strange little man behind the overturning of Roe, of course.

Leonard Leo -- the Knight-Errant in Italian loafers on a camel above -- is an ideological time traveler from the 11th Century, and he’s proud of it. He likes to include his status as a Knight of Malta in his official bios. The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta is a Roman Catholic organization founded in 1048 in Jerusalem as a monastic order that ran a hospital for Christian pilgrims, later tasked by Rome with military duties defending Christians from the local Muslim population. Ejected from Jerusalem when the Turks retook it, the order eventually settled on Malta, ruling it until Napoleon’s army dispersed them in 1798. They did not disband.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, the modern day Knights are a nonstate entity with 13,000 members, maintaining diplomatic relations with 104 countries. After centuries in which membership was restricted to European aristocrats, in 1956 a new rank, ''knights and dames of grace and devotion,'' was opened to commoners. The order operates out of a single building in Rome, with a famous “keyhole view” of the Vatican. Their leader is referred to as the prince and grand master, is elected for life in a secret conclave and must be approved by the pope.

Leo has enjoyed four decades of success in Washington, advising Republican presidents on conservative lawyers to fill the federal judiciary. He is responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court rightist quintet of Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett. As a young man, he helped Clarence Thomas through his nomination fight in 1991. Now he is using donor money to get extremists into state judgeships around the country.

The Knight mostly jousted in the K Street shadows. But since the overturning of Roe, and his historic $1.6 billion dark money treasure haul last year, which I covered for The New Republichere, reporters are paying more attention to him. He leads an increasingly lavish lifestyle in a coastal Maine palazzo (purchased from another Knight of Malta). I’ve been told he bought his own church, made his wife choirmaster and so has his own priest, like the Sicilian noble in Lampedusa's novel Il Gattopardo. His fans in the Catholic Church are pushing for sainthood for a deceased daughter.

Investigations at Pro Publica and Politico turned up accounting and other irregularities, prompting the DC attorney general to look into his networks. (In Ohio, anti-choice activists funded by his network have reportedly paid his consultancy some $2 million.) Shameless Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan recently announced he will investigate the Attorney General for opening that investigation.

Leo would clearly like to keep a low profile in Ohio. As recently as September, he was listed as President of Students for Life America, one of the most active anti-choice groups in Ohio. As the Issue 1 vote nears, his name disappeared off the website, where he has been on the board since 2008. Investigators at The Lever discovered one of Leo’s many pots of money, the Concord Fund, donated $18 million to an anti-choice outfit called Protect Women Ohio Action, with more than $6 million in the past two months.

Last year, the Catholic Information Center (CIC), with offices on K Street, gave Leo an award as a “champion of the rule of law.” The CIC describes itself on its website as "the closest tabernacle to the White House.” In his acceptance speech, which can be viewed on video, the Knight-Errant let loose: “Catholicism faces vile and immoral current-day barbarians, secularists and bigots. These barbarians can be known by their signs. They vandalized and burned our churches after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. … Our opponents are not just uninformed or unchurched. They are often deeply wounded people whom the devil can easily take advantage of."

Calling pro-choice women devil-manipulated barbarians and bigots is both laughable and a kind of hate speech. Most American pro-choice women are like Thera Parks, 51, an Ohio insurance saleswoman, whom the Washington Post interviewed recently. Parks is a Republican who volunteered this spring to collect signatures to get the abortion amendment on the ballot.

Why would a Republican work to overturn her party’s signature achievement - the abrupt end of a right to privacy that women have enjoyed for 40 years? Here’s what she told the Post: “When reproductive rights are banned, parents don’t have a choice or say over their kids or their families or even their own bodies,” Parks said. “A little girl had to leave Ohio to receive care. A thought of forcing young girls to stay pregnant and carry to term is just terrible to me.”

Parks is one of the million points of democratic light around America who will prove to Washington’s Knight of Malta that medieval mores have no home here. As long as democracy exists in some form in the states of the United States, common sense will ultimately prevail over fanatical lunacy.

Nina Burleigh is a a journalist, author, documentary producer, and publisher ofAmerican Political Freakshow, a Substack on politics. Her journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Airmail, and New York. She is the author of seven books including most recently Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America's Response to the Pandemic and an adjunct professor at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Why The Supreme Court's Catholic Conservatives Should Be Denied Communion, Too

Why The Supreme Court's Catholic Conservatives Should Be Denied Communion, Too

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just flouted an order of the Catholic Church by receiving communion from a priest in Vatican City. Last month, the archbishop of the San Francisco Archdiocese put Pelosi on the “do not serve” list when he informed her that “should [she] not publicly repudiate [her] advocacy for abortion ‘rights’” he would declare that she cannot partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Since then, other bishops have voiced their support for that decision. "The church clearly teaches that abortion is a grave evil, and that public advocacy for — and support of — abortion is, objectively speaking, such a manifest grave sin," Portland, Oregon Archbishop Alexander Sample posted on Facebook.

It’s not a new issue. A South Carolina parish priest denied then-candidate Joseph Biden the Eucharist in 2019 because of his pro-choice position during his presidential campaign. Last year, a conference of Bishops deliberated making it official church policy to keep him from Communion. They ultimately didn’t enact the ban.

Even to debate whether President Biden, Speaker Pelosi or any other pro-choice person should receive communion in the Catholic Church while doing nothing to hold Catholic jurists and lawyers accountable for violating other church teachings is enough for me to consider leaving the faith. To wit, no churches have announced that they would withhold the sacrament from Supreme Court Justices who have approved the death penalty, as recently as last week.

When I was incarcerated from 2007 to 2014, I rediscovered my Catholic faith and started attending the weekly masses held on Saturday mornings in the chairs assembled in the prison school hallway. It’s not that I am so pious or good; someone sentenced to years in prison can’t survive without belief in things unseen.

Of course I leaned on the fact that faith supports my redemption — the Bible codifies my visiting rights. But the entire time I was there, the same Church that sustained me would have allowed — indeed, even supported — the state’s taking of the lives of two women who lived in my housing unit. Former nurse Chasity West barely escaped a death sentence for a capital murder conviction and Irish authorities refused to extradite former attorney Beth Ann Carpenter unless the State of Connecticut promised not to pursue such a penalty.

Now they’re both serving life without parole, also known as LWOP, which Pope Francis has condemned.

It was only after I had been home for almost 4 years that the Vatican announced a revision to the official Catechism of the Catholic Church in August 2018. The death penalty, it said, was “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and “inadmissible” in all cases.
Yet, approximately one year after the change in the Catechism, then-Attorney General William P. Barr — and former board member at the Catholic Information Center, an Opus Dei-affiliated bookstore and chapel — resurrected the federal death penalty and oversaw the Justice Department that put 13 people to death. One of them was the first woman to be killed by the federal government, altogether more than had been executed in the previous 56 years combined.

Yet no priest or archbishop called for yanking the wafer from his mouth.

Nor has anyone removed Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh or Clarence Thomas from the communion lines at their Beltway churches.

Since the Catholic Church changed its position in 2018, the Supreme Court has involved itself in a total of 44 capital punishment cases (24 in the 2018-19 term, 14 in the 2019-20 term, 0 in the 2020-21 term, 6 in the 2021-22 term) over four separate court terms. Of those 44, only two decisions ended up protecting the life of the prisoner: the 2019 decision in Flowers v. Mississippiand the 2020 opinion in Sharp v. Murphy. Notably, Catholic justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented in the Flowers case and Justices Alito and Thomas dissented in the Sharp decision.

Many Supreme Court decisions turn on very specific legal questions, and deciding those issues often seems to have nothing to do with the punishment at the end of the case. That’s what happened with the case of Nance v. Ward, decided last week. It was actually the more conservative justices who dissented in approving execution by firing squad. At issue was the legal proceeding that a condemned man could use to challenge his method of execution. But it bears mentioning that in their dissents, the Catholic justices approved of a method of execution — lethal injection — that would likely amount to cruel and unusual punishment for Nance, who has compromised veins.

I can’t say whether writing a judicial opinion is different from active advocacy, which is what the bishops complain of in their communion bans. The actions of Catholic Supreme Court justices may not count as advocacy, but they do amount to complicity. Gorsuch recused himself from a capital case before the country’s highest court, not on the basis of the subject matter; but because he had been involved in the lower courts’ decisions. For the most part, the justices engaged with these cases. They touched them. Their fingerprints remain on the death warrants.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote article about this very issue in the Marquette Law Review in 2008, arguing that if a judge’s moral conviction would have prevented her from imposing the death penalty, then she needs to recuse herself from a case involving capital punishment. Coney Barrett noted the difference between being the judge who imposed the sentence and an appellate judge who is once removed from the penalty, but she didn’t follow her own advice. She failed to recuse herself in the case of Orlando Hall, a man convicted of the rape and murder of the sister of rival drug dealers, but instead noted a dissent to allowing Hall’s execution to proceed.

Conspicuously, though, Coney Barrett didn’t dissent in dismissing a stay order based on the fact that Hall, who is Black, was convicted by an all-white jury. And, just last month, she joined the majority opinion in Shinn v. Ramirezin deciding that potentially innocent men sentenced to die shouldn’t have a chance to prove that their post-conviction attorneys didn’t provide them with adequate representation. The Court’s decision in Shinn v. Ramirez is the least Christian attitude anyone can take toward someone who’s challenging a criminal conviction.

The prohibition on abortion is about 120 years older than the Catechism rule so perhaps it’s an issue of marination in the idea for bishops and judges. But the difference in attitudes toward abortion and death penalty is obvious: one life isn’t culpable, at least not yet. That’s why, before 2018, church leaders operated in “virtually unanimous agreement” that “civil authority, as guardian of the public good, has been given by God the right to inflict punishments on evildoers, including the punishment of death.”

I was baptized as an infant so I never chose the Church. The reason why I came back and stayed is that the Catholic Church is the temple of do-overs. God doesn’t want sacrifice; he wants mercy. And the church’s disparate treatment of reproductive rights supporters and death penalty proponents doesn’t square with that core value.

A healthcare provider can reevaluate their actions and behave differently; they often get a second chance to bring a child to term. Those who carry out death sentences have no such opportunity, unless they prevent the next execution — and not one Catholic with the power to do so was brave or responsible enough to take that stand.

Pelosi and other lawmakers have supported the now-overturned Roe v. Wade precedent out of a moral conviction that women deserve to be protected. It’s a position my God would allow and permit her to participate in the sacrament.

I understand that rules are rules. If public support for abortion services disqualifies someone from receiving communion, then I need to step out of line myself and join the lawmakers sidelined by bishops.

But if rules are rules, then Catholic bishops should impose similar bans on Justices Alito, Coney Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas. That would be equal treatment under church law.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.

Catholic Parishes Cancel Easter Masses Despite Trump Push For “Packed Churches”

Catholic Parishes Cancel Easter Masses Despite Trump Push For “Packed Churches”

Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that he hopes to see churches “packed” for Easter in a few weeks, even as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. Despite this, several Catholic archdioceses are canceling their public Holy Week and Easter Masses, and many congregations are moving them to the internet.

As he urged the country to reopen businesses and schools by April 12 — flouting public health recommendations — Trump told Fox News on Tuesday that he chose the date based on his “very special” relationship with the holiday.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” Trump said. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country … I think it’ll be a beautiful time.”

Despite Trump’s call, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Wednesday that it would hold no public Masses for Holy Week or Easter Sunday.

“The Coronavirus (COVID 19) challenges us to celebrate the Mysteries of Christ for the glory of the Father and our sanctification with reasonable limitations and in cooperation with directives from government and health officials to stem the spread of the virus,” it explained.

In a seven-page directive, the archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship stated, “All possible electronic and spiritual resources are to be made available to the faithful to enter into these days which celebrate the greatest mysteries of our redemption,” including livestreaming.

In an email, a spokesperson for the archdiocese noted that the governor had issued Pennsylvania’s public gathering limits.

“In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we are under stay-at-home orders, and large public gatherings are not permitted by directive of the governor,” he wrote. “The Archdiocese of Philadelphia continues to do everything possible to provide for the pastoral needs of the faithful in the five-county area while at the same time respecting and abiding by directives from government agencies and officials that are in place to provide for the health and welfare of the community-at-large.”

The New York Archdiocese has already canceled public Easter masses. So have the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticutthe Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michiganthe Diocese of Camden, New Jerseythe Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon; and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said they “would also love to see its Churches packed for Easter. However, in our current situation, Wisconsin’s Governor [Tony Evers] has issued a ‘Safer at Home’ Executive Order through April 24. We continue to see our archdiocese and community impacted by the CoVID-19/Coronavirus. Our intention is to use sound judgement and common sense in making decisions for the pastoral care of our people without taking unnecessary risk, including for the many priests, and lay men and women who minister within the archdiocese.”

According to the Washington Examiner, it’s not just those archdioceses closing for Easter.

“Catholic and Episcopal dioceses in every state have canceled,” the paper reported Wednesday. “Many megachurches, as well as smaller congregations, have made similar decisions, advising their members to participate in worship through live-streamed services.”

In a March 17 letter published on the website of the Episcopal Church, presiding Bishop Michael Curry urged suspension of all “in-person gatherings for public worship, in most contexts, during the sacred time of Holy Week and Easter Day,” writing, “Because this is a global health crisis, the principles in this letter apply throughout The Episcopal Church, including beyond the United States.”

With a recent poll showing about half of Americans unwilling to attend church due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with state restrictions on public gatherings still in effect, Trump’s vision of packed Easter services seems increasingly unlikely to come true.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Danziger: Render Unto China

Danziger: Render Unto China

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

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