Archive | November, 2011

The cowardly tale of Joseph Ratzinger

30 Nov

What would you do if you knew a man responsible for the most heinous of crimes imaginable was living his life free from the glare of the law, unpunished for the most egregious of sins. For most of us, our lives  guided by a common sense of morality, one that abhors torture, rape and murder, there would be no compunction, the man would need to suffer for the gross crimes he has committed. Unfortunately, not all are beset with such clarity, these few let their own moral incertitude and pompousness to lead them to decisions of dire consequence.

Persons of such moral ambivalence, in their fine vestments of silk, have been complicit in facilitating the ruination of the lives of the most vulnerable in society for decades. Yet they still, to this day, abscond from the sins of their own corruption and in most cases go on to fulfil lives full of dogmatic proclamation, without a single nod to the patent irony, so common to men free from the rigours of a  regular moral conscience. One such person is currently sat upon a throne dedicated to a martyr of the most astute moral clarity.

Amongst all the defamatory claims of moral culpability made against Joseph Ratzinger, there is one incident, one where the facts are of absolute certitude, one that will surely typify the current pontiff as a figure who at best, is a man of a questionable moral compass, and at worst, as a man who wilfully ignored the plight of the most innocent of victims, for  the sake of preserving the reputation of an institution already founded upon the deceit of its followers.

The case in question, even when compared to similar instances of institutional abuse, is a horrific one. It occurred in several dioceses across Wisconsin over nearly a quarter of a century. The man at the centre of the case is the now deceased Father Lawrence Murphy. It’s estimated that from 1950 to 1974, Murphy brutally molested over 200 young boys at a renowned Wisconsin school for the deaf.

Despite an acute knowledge of his actions the local clergy did not inform the state authorities. Instead they moved him to a new parish, one where he was still free to work with children for over 20 years. It wasn’t until Murphy was nearing his death that they sought the council of  the Vatican and one office in particular, the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, previously known as the office of the Roman Inquisition. This office was lead at the time by one Cardinal Ratzinger.

Ratzinger failed initially to correspond to letters sent in 1996 by Rembert Weakland, Milwaukee’s Archbishop at the time, who given his failure to contact police authorities is hardly deserving of a clear conscience either. After further action by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Ratzinger eventually addressed the case. An impending canonical trial was halted after Ratzinger communicated with Murphy. Claiming for clemency on account that he had already repented and was in failing health, the future Pope acquiesced to the appeals of the paedophile priest. Murphy died two years later, still a priest, having never faced any sanction, canonical or secular, for the terror and pain he inflicted upon so many lives.

Ratzinger knew of the rape and torture perpetrated by Murphy but did nothing. For him the professed penance of a serial paedophile was enough, for him no further action was necessary. The dispassionate provisions of Ratzinger were not his alone, successive Archbishops in Wisconsin failed to inform state authorities nor did they stand in solidarity with the victims, instead they advocated for the imposition of canonical law to decide the fate of Father Murphy rather than let him face the trials of a secular court.

For all the debate on the Church’s handling on issues of child sex abuse, the case of Lawrence Murphy should invoke even the staunchest of defender’s with a crippling shame.There is no silver lining in this, no escape clause for Ratzinger. He failed the most vulnerable and allowed a most despicably evil man to see out his life in relative comfort, free from the sanction of justice.

The Pope  is meant to be Gods conduit on earth. His grasp of morality, you would expect, to be even congenital. Yet when it came to the case of Lawrence Murphy(and probably others we have yet to know of) he found an ethical quandary. Not only has this Pope eschewed reason but morality too, in an instance of black and white, of right and wrong, Ratzinger found shades of grey.

But maybe surprise should be reserved, after all the Catholic Church has always tried to extricate its way out of accepting moral culpability. The most regular method for doing so was to cite moral equivalence. Their position of anti-Semitism, a product of the time; their toleration of slavery, acceptable given the stance of their most fervent patrons. Their claims on absolute moral ascendancy are continually undermined by their constant and frivolous adaptation on what constitutes morality and immorality, becoming ever more based on the changing attitudes of their ‘flock’ . With moral rationalism gaining greater hold, the church will inevitably accept the rights of homosexuals and the days of its supreme paternalism will eventually fall by the wayside as women assert their unalienable rights as equal citizens of the world.

Finally, if you still hold Ratzinger and the faith he leads with reverence then ask yourself this-What kind of person subscribes to a church that supplants common sense morality to such an extreme degree that it allows the most deplorable of crimes to go unpunished? This man, by his inaction, has indirectly facilitated the torture and rape of innocent children, and yet still holds a position of supreme moral authority for the souls of over 1 billion people. As history will surely attest, this Pope will go down as one of the more malignant figures in a post that is not shorn of a few. Charlatans, bigots and sexual degenerates, the pontiff’s chair have seen the lot. Maybe its about time a coward joined the fray too.

Keeping kids out of it

23 Nov

Indoctrination has never been a word with warm and cuddly undertones. It evokes images of pristine Aryan children, arranged in perfect symmetry, pledging their hearts and minds to a vile and bigoted creed.

We invoke it to cast light on the dangers of stymming a child’s natural inquiry and freedom to think outside the rigorous confines of narrow doctrine. Whilst we readily accept that credulous adults have the right to subscribe to a strict and certain mode of dogma, we reject it for our children.

Or do we? The past year has seen an explosion in the number of angry citizens vehemently protesting across the globe in scenes of collective uproar. Many of those that attend these cathartic outpourings of middle-class angst do so with their young children in tow. As they loudly scream about the evisceration of society, or rather their interpretation of it, they arm their youngsters, many no older than 5 or 6, with placards of solidarity, all held with the innocent bliss of a child yet to understand the uglier facets of their continually expanding reality.

This is wrong. Regardless of where you may lie on the political spectrum,  it should be an incontrovertible truth, if not so already, that peddling your children for political gain is wrong, regardless of how reasonable you may think your political positions to be. All parents, be it those at the Tea Party rallies in Washington or those currently encamped in London, that use their children for means of drawing political or social awareness are falling them as responsible adults.

Of course, it’s fine to teach kids about the basics of right and wrong; how you should treat others and even a sense of respect for peers and elders. These are all qualities that are necessary for the maintenance of a tolerant society. It’s not alright to indoctrinate children with the ideals of free-market capitalism or democratic socialism before they can even grasp their basic ramifications, let alone spell them.

Children should be just as free, if not more so, to critically explore the nature of their own reality. They should not be forced at such an impressionable age to accept the strict confines of a dogma that will inevitably sequester their chances in life and potentially lead to an existential crisis in future. The parents at many of these events claim they are fighting for their children’s future, when in fact they are irrevocably damaging it.The irony of it all seems lost to them.

It’s no coincidence that those who most stringently attest to the rigorous doctrines; bible-thumpers, political extremists tend to be thicker than most. Such an early suspension of the faculties of doubt and inquiry are bound to lead an adult who is not only uncompromising and fatuous in their beliefs but one that’s probably a bit of a div and a dick to boot. So please don’t fuck about it, hire a babysitter next time.

Is Mormonism the new black?

23 Nov

Jesus is coming to Missouri.  It sound pretty unlikely, but for over 3 million Americans it’s a proposition that underpins the very fabric of their faith. Mormonism, or the Church of Latter Day Saints to give its formal name, the faith with which Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney belongs, has been unwittingly  cast under the glare of the media spotlight of late as the race for the 2012 Presidential election heats up.

A prominent supporter of Rick Perry, one of the current frontrunners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, recently labelled Mormonism a ‘cult’. Robert Jeffress, a soft spoken minister of the 1st Baptist church in Dallas, went on to proclaim that Mormons, whilst capable of great morality, were not Christians in his estimation. His comments have met with both criticism and approval from both sides of the political fence and have reopened the debate on how much scrutiny should be placed on a Presidents faith.

The role of faith in the White House has always been contentious. The United States constitution is strictly secular in its design with the separation of church and state a primary design of the founding fathers. Despite this, numerous men of the cloth have been close to the Oval office. The Reverend Billy Graham, a man derided by some as merely a cheap huckster, has provided council to 12 Presidents dating back to Harry Truman. All of these men belonged to more traditional Christian faiths. Kennedy was a Catholic, George W. Bush a Methodist and Jimmy Carter a Baptist.

No modern President has ever confessed to beliefs outside of the mainstream, let alone to no faith at all. But does the history and belief system of the Mormon faith hold any values that would inhibit voters from electing someone like Mitt Romney?

Mormonism has never been far short of controversy since its inception in the early 19th Century. Its founder Joseph Smith was a charlatan known for defrauding the more gullible citizens of upstate New York. The dogma, which Smith concocted, is pretty bizarre, even in comparison to most mainstream faiths. The primary tenets of the Book of Mormon, the core text of the faith, include a belief that Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel; that Jesus visited North America; that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri, rather than in Iraq; and that God is a physical man that lives on another planet.

The Church has gained even greater notoriety as a ‘cult’ for its positions on marriage and race. Polygamy was not only tolerated but at times encouraged up until the dawn of the 20th Century. Black Americans were not allowed to preach the faith until 1978, when Church elders were struck with a sudden revelation, 10 years after the death of Martin Luther King.

Bigoted attitudes were not the sole preserve of the Mormons with many Southern Protestant ministers prominent in their invocation for segregation, even during the height of the civil rights movement. However the prolonged delay of Mormon elders to accept racial equality was a bone of contention that still sticks to this day.

Of course mainstream Christianity is hardly free from ridicule itself. The fables of talking snakes, magic hands, and messianic zombies aren’t exactly propositions that stand up to much scrutiny. But Mormonism not only accepts the hokum of the two testaments but adds to it with its own strange concoctions. The criticism of Mormons from other Christians shouldn’t be so much that the Mormons are crazy and weird in their convictions but rather they’re even more crazy and weird than them.

But maybe there is a saving grace for Mitt Romney in all of this. His faith, despite its absurdity, is uniquely American. It manages to marry the two things millions of Americans love most; God and country. Mormonism plays to American exceptionalism, putting the United States squarely at the centre of both this world and the next.

Anarchists: Everyone’s worst enemy

23 Nov

The continued clamour on Dame Street has not only served to remind us of the frailty of our own current economic situation, but of the global economic system too. Many, if not most of those currently encamped at the financial seat of the state do so with good cause. Victims of the economic collapse, they want nothing more than a just solution that favours the many rather than the few. Unfortunately that sentiment is being drowned out by an imbecilic few; Anarchists, whose designs are not for the change of the system but for its total destruction.

The Occupy Wall street protests have spawned a variety of offspring, most of which share, with little or no diffidence, the concerns of those, who until last week, dwelt in the plazas of New York’s financial district. Unfortunately, smatterings of black attired Anarchists have exploited the momentum of the movement to expound their own particularly warped views. They have done so in pretence of solidarity with those who claim to stand for 99% of the population. Many of these flagrant opportunists have found their way to Dame Street.

This same small corps of nomadic naysayers, perennially hollering against the ‘establishment’, also manned the gantries of Dale Farm in Essex. Their lack of political allegiance and clarity allows them to be capricious in choosing their causes, rallying from Rossport to Essex to Dublin. They contend to speak for the masses, a narcissistic claim predicated on the delusion that the rest of us have been unwittingly caught under the grip of elite-sponsored propaganda. Any residual sympathy for them is quickly dissipated given their proclivity to turn to violence, regardless of circumstance.

While the message from New York has been convoluted of late, the basic crux of an argument is there. The frustration is with the current system championed by the plutocrats of Wall Street, who not only stemmed but perpetuated the economic ruin of the past three years.  Wealthy men and women who are still fostering a culture that both solidifies and advances the position of the 1%, that not only designed and advocated a ruinous system but also benefited massively from it, creating an economic disparity that gained even greater traction as regulatory laws were stripped back under successive US administrations.

The calls of the Occupy Wall Street movement are for the reform of the system, not its destruction. This tempered view has not only garnered the sympathy of trade unionists, academics and politicians, it’s also aroused the participation of those normally not prone to acts of public demonstration. Even if there is a prevailing naivety amongst many in attendance, the frustration is still real and just and thus should be taken seriously. This is what the protesters in Dame Street need to grasp.

Unfortunately those who would rather whoop and holler, just for the sake of it, may temper the mood. We saw it this year in Dale Farm and in the incessant violence  of Athens, as hooded thug’s battled police with bricks and bottles. Anarchists have neither the want nor the patience to accept the gradual nature of change. Pugnacious and uncouth, they spoil the validity of the true message of protest, leading both the media and public alike to paint all with a broad and disdainful brush. They claim to speak for the 99%, they don’t. We are not the duped many, they are the deluded few.

Jesus: Sick for his mummy

23 Nov

Oh Carlos Tevez, when will you learn that if there’s one thing the public hates its prima donna millionaire footballers. The Argentines refusal to play for Man City this week has stoked many a pundit’s ire, both professional and amateur alike. However, his petulancy is not so much born out of a desire for more money or fame but rather in something more innocent; a longing to move home. Something another famous footballer can readily identify with.

Jesus Navas, as the name suggests, is a Spanish footballer of some repute. Unfortunately that repute extends beyond the pitch as well. Navas suffers from crippling homesickness, reportedly experiencing acute anxiety attacks when away from his hometown of Seville for prolonged periods of time.

Of course, many a young man has suffered while pining for home. However, Navas is different. His talent is unique and while his club, Seville FC, are not exactly small fries, they’re not in the same league of great clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United. In fact, Chelsea, even with their billions in petro-dollars, were firmly rejected by the youngster at the age of 20 because he feared the homesickness would be all too much.

So bad was his disorder that he even considered missing Spain’s sojourn to South Africa for last year’s World cup. Resolved to overcome his fear, he took the plunge and travelled with his countrymen.  The rest is history with Spain emerging victorious and Navas playing a pivotal role on their road to glory.

So spare a thought for Jesus, and maybe Carlos too. Just like the most stilted of Hollywood clichés; you can have all the money and success in the world, travel to exotic places and rub shoulders with the world’s most powerful, but in the end there’s no place like home.

 

Ricky Williams: The most interesting man in the NFL

23 Nov

Ricky Williams, the current Baltimore Ravens running back, is a man who stands out from the crowd in more ways than one. An enigmatic figure with a penchant for Bob Marley, Williams has met with equal amounts of praise and derision for his exploits on the field and his unique approach to life off it. His refusal to correspond to type and pursuit of a life extraneous to football transcended sport and brought this most intriguing character to widespread attention.

A man not prone to toe the line, Williams created a media storm in 2004, when at the age of 27 he turned his back on football, leaving behind millions of dollars and more than a few disgruntled Miami Dolphins fans, many of whom blocked out Williams name from their jerseys in a show of disgust. It was a swift fall from grace for a man who, even in his teens, was touted as a future hall-of-famer.

A standout at the University of Texas, Williams was predicted for great things. His rare combination of speed and size saw him rack up huge numbers for a high-powered Texas offense, breaking several school records in the process. A desire to leave a lasting legacy lead him to forgo an early into the NFL, a move that eventually culminated in him winning the 1998 Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding player in college football.

Even in those formative days it was apparent that Ricky was not the usual aspiring pro. He was shy and at times almost reclusive. He had an unusual innocence, ill-fitting of such a powerful athlete. These quirks and idiosyncracies were often seen in the odd manner in which he gave interviews. A young Williams would conduct entire press interviews in full playing regalia, his eyes shuttered by the darkened visor of his helmet, he chuckled at the reporters with all the verve and joy of  a playful nine-year-old.

Williams light-heartedness masked a much darker reality. Suffering from acute anxiety disorders and the residual effects of a troubled childhood, he tried to escape the thralls of a troubled mind. Despite various prescriptions, he continually turned to the smoky solace of marijuana, a drug, he claimed, to be the most effective medicinal treatment for his collection of psychiatric ailments.

His constant drug-related transgressions lead commentators to  a growing suspicion of apathy for the game on the part of Williams. They were not without warrant, and in 2004 he promptly quit the game, escaping the clamour of coaches, players and reporters for the  solitude of the Australian outback. He went ‘walkabout’ in a voyage of self-discovery. Later, he moved to a remote region of California, armed with a medicinal prescription for marijuana, Williams spent his time practising yoga and studying for a qualification in holistic medicine.

Unfortunately his abrupt decision to quit the game met with dire consequences, he was found liable to pay over $8 million dollars to the Miami Dolphins for breach of contract, a move which lead to him to return to the game he had forsaken. His comeback was not swift with injuries and suspensions for drug use curtailing his early efforts to re-establish himself as an elite running back.

Despite the setbacks, Williams eventually settled and in 2009 ran for over 1,000 yards, six years since his previous 1,000 yard season. Although many still question his desire for the game, Williams has cultivated a rare niche within the NFL. A thinking mans player, his erudite manner and tendency to wax lyrical on life  has gained him a newfound respect amongst many fans of the game.

Fortunately the passivity that so marks his private life is left firmly by the sideline when it comes to the business of playing. He runs hard and runs fast, beating defenders with both his speed and his power and has now clocked up nearly 10,000 rushing yards, an impressive record, especially given the pock-marked nature of his career. At 34, he’s still running strong, and although no longer first string, he still plays an integral role for his new team, the Baltimore Ravens.

A practising Hindu and vegan, Williams eschews the common  footballing stereotypes. His gentle and soft-spoken nature contrasts starkly with the bombastic machismo of a Terrell Owens or a Randy Moss,and although his critics have labeled him as selfish and immature, there’s no doubt that Williams remains one of the most fascinating personalities  in modern sport.