jose escriva

Memorial Day 2011

Yesterday I watched a film on PBS called “Most Honorable Son” which told the story of a Japanese American’s life as an airman in the American army in the Second World War.  It was a moving film for its reminding us of the many sacrifices so many made at home and abroad to defeat fascism.  400,000 Americans lost their lives in the wars in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific islands while defeating Germany, Italy and Japan.  Sixteen million Americans served in combat.  Many hundreds of thousands lost limbs or retained physical or mental scars from their combat days.  And the subject of the documentary, airman Ben Kuroki, endured much else as a decorated hero who had to fight racism in his own country and projections of betrayal from his Japanese people who were in concentration camps in the West while he served in air combat over France and Germany. Meditating on this sacrifice of so many on the morning after that television program (and I am only counting the American sacrifices since today is America’s day to honor its dead soldiers), something  comes to mind.  The defeat of fascism, this great movement of bluster and control, of genocide and racial hatred, of bullying and advanced weaponry, of “institutionalized violence” and of the marriage of corporate and government powers—how complete was it?  We are told that the German surrender was “unconditional” and that the Italians switched to our side before the war’s end, but there is something deeply disturbing about news we pick up these days.

I am thinking of the return of fascism in the Roman Catholic Church today.  The honoring of Jose Escriva, founder of Opus Dei and card-carrying fascist priest by naming him a “saint.”  Escriva was, among other things, an admirer of Hitler and his Opus Dei tribe was happy to serve on fascist dictator Franco’s Cabinet for many years.  The support in the highest places in the Vatican for Fr. Maciel (yes, Pope John Paul II was so enamored of this man that he invited him along on plane rides and canonized his uncle and set a canonization of his mother into motion).  Maciel abused over 20 youths whom he attracted to his many seminaries and abused four of his own children (3 boys and a girl) born in two clandestine liasons.  He also very publicly supported the fascist dictator of Chile, Pinochet and Maciel’s papally-blessed organization, Legion of Christ, demanded vows that no one question the dictator, the “good Father,” who everyone knew was all about Jesus work on earth.  Then Communion and Liberation, called “the Opus Dei of Italy,” equally extreme in its put-down of women and freedom of conscience and Protestants and anything that smacks of democracy.  All these movements fully endorsed and abetted and sanctified by the higher-ups in the Vatican (including the secretary of state under John Paul II and the present secretary of state and Pope John Paul II himself whom the present pope is rushing into canonization).

Americans sacrificed much to bring fascism to an end.  Given today’s ecclesiastic history, the effort was only partially successful.  It is time to rise up against the well-healed efforts to render fascism fashionable once more and to wrap it in Biblical and Papal covers.  This would be, it seems to me, a rightful response to Memorial Day: Remember the fallen by carrying on their struggle—not by playing ecclesiastical couchpotato while the symbols of Christianity are seized once again by fascist sympathizers.  Resistance once called forth the courage and generosity of a generation of Americans.  It is still needed.  Now more than ever.

Fascism is on the return not only in fundamentalist church circles both Vatican and Protestant, it is also alive and steaming in the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” declaration (recall that several members of the supreme court so eager to render this decision are also Opus Dei members).   This notorious decision has declared that any corporation has the same rights as an individual citizen especially when it comes to financing political campaigns.  Not since Mussolini himself defined fascism as “the marriage of government and corporations” has there been so egregious an endorsement of fascism from so high a place in American society.

I had two uncles who served in World War II and, luckily, came home.  One served in France and Germany and was among those who liberated Dachau.  The other was a marine who served in the Pacific theater including bloody battles of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.  Both are now deceased.  I wonder if either would be pleased with the return of fascism in our time.  I believe both would be shocked that such sacrifices as their generation made were so easily forgotten.

Thus, Memorial Day.  Let us Remember.  Not just by planting flags but by sustaining worthwhile resistance.  Amen.

101 Reasons for not Canonizing Pope John Paul II

Pope Benedict XVI is in a big hurry to canonize his former boss Pope John Paul II, who hired him as Director of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition) in 1981 and stood by him for 23 years as he brought back the Inquisition contrary to the letter and spirit of Vatican II. Following are 101 reasons not to rush.

1. The very tradition of canonization was seriously compromised under JPII when the office of devil’s advocate was done away with.  An immediate pay off was the unprecedently swift canonization of Fr. Jose Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. A woman who worked closely with Escriva for 13 years and wrote a book that detailed his fits of anger, pique, sexist attacks and more was denied any appearance at the proceedings.  As were those who heard him say he admired Hitler.

2. Special privileges were bestowed directly from JPII to Fr. Maciel, notorious for having on the one hand raised more money than anyone in church history but on the other having sexually abused over 20 of his seminarians. Even after these facts were made public, Pope JPII supported the man and his organization, the Legion of Christ, ordaining dozens of Maciel’s priests in large public events in St Peter’s square. As it turned out, he had two wives on the side and sexually abused his four children (three boys and a girl).  Maciel was a fierce supporter of Chilean dictator Pinochet who murdered over 700 priests, nuns and lay leaders.  Numerous other covering-up of pedophile clergy around the world occurred on Pope JPII’s watch as continued news articles make clear.

3. Pope JPII, with Ratzinger leading the attack, dismantled and emasculated what was probably the most Christ-like movement in the past 500 years of church history, namely the base community movement and liberation theology movements of Latin America.  Instead of supporting the poor and those standing with them in Jesus’ name, JPII replaced the brave and justice-committed church leaders (such as Oscar Romero) with those committed to the fortunes of the rich and powerful.

4. Pope JPII emasculated the most alive liturgical movements in Europe, namely those of the Dutch Catholic Church and forbade Bishop Casigalida to offer an Afro-Brazilian liturgy he  had created with Brazilian artists.

5. Pope JPII dumbed down the leadership of the church by appointing bishops whose sole qualification was that they were sure to be obedient Yes men.  This had everything to do with the priestly pedophilia scandal not being dealt with appropriately.

6. Pope JPII put the Virgin Mary on a pedestal but allowed women no responsibilities in the church, forbidding priests to use the feminine pronoun for God (as if the Divine Feminine is not just as important as the Divine Masculine) and even forbidding girls to be altar girls.

7. When he removed the condemnation of Galileo after 450 years, JPII commented that religion should learn from science.  Yet he fully concurred with Cardinal Ratzinger’s two documents that condemn homosexuals mercilessly and without any scientific backing (science having demonstrated that 8-10% of any given human population is going to be homosexual and 464 other species with homosexual populations have been revealed).

8. Pope JPII, contrary to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, eliminated the principle of collegiality along with theological diversity and freedom of conscience and lay leadership and substituted for it a Vatican dictatorship that claims all rights to appoint bishops and to teach as the only “magisterium” of the church.  He “killed all theology in Europe” according to a professor at the Institut catholique de Paris.  He confused “infallibility” with totalitarianism and ruled with an iron fist that would make Ghadaffy look proud.  A Vatican insider in JP II’s reign told me that “in front of the cameras he was very forgiving (as to his attempted assassin), but within the Vatican anyone who disagreed with anything was gone in 24 hours.”

9. Return of Simony.  Not only was the Maciel scandal awash in cash, but the pope’s private secretary, a Polish priest (now a cardinal), was charging $50,000 to attend private Masses with the Pope as reported by Jason Berry in the National Catholic Reporter.

10-101. Ninety-one theologians and activists from many countries were condemned under JPII’s pontificate, a good number of whom lost their livelihoods as well as their ministries, some suffered nervous breakdowns or died of heart attacks under the pressure imposed on them by Rome and rabid right wing attackers buttressed by the Vatican. To see the full list, visit this site's Wailing Wall.