You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘in the news’ category.

When I read Lori’s absolutely spot-on post, I was right there with her, saying “Amen!” out loud. It seemed promising to hold a summit in the Vatican to address sexual abuse in the church. What was accomplished? Nothing in particular. The Pope is still noncommittal about making substantive changes and no action plan was made. In a way, he’s become a trope. A symbol of The Oblivious Guy in Charge. Of the One Percent, living opulently as others struggle. Of the patriarchy.

Every so often, I feel I’m slightly psychic. My late mother did, as well. When I’d visit her, she’d talk at length about Nostradamus’ and Edgar Cayce’s predictions. Recently, I found something interesting from twenty years ago in a folder of her effects. It’s a list she wrote, describing the specific sequence of events that portend the end times!

One of the things she wrote was this: “The news media declares The Pope dead.”

Notice it doesn’t say that he died, but was declared dead by the media. So many people are so fed up with his lack of leadership during this crisis, it’s as if he doesn’t even exist for us anymore.

In normal times (remember those?) I would never throw a stone at a respected religious leader. But these times are decidedly abnormal. And respect has to be earned. I pray for the Pope’s safety and would never wish ill to befall him.  Now if only he’d make safety in the sanctuary his highest priority as well.

Advertisements

They’re meeting at the Vatican right now. They’re calling it the Protection of Minors Summit. And they’re addressing the elephant in the room — or, more fittingly, the sacristy — sexual abuse by priests. So far, the Catholic Church has addressed this scandal in fits and starts. There has been some transparency, as various dioceses publish lists of “credible accusations.” Nuns, too, are finally having their #MeToo moment. There have also been some bitter disappointments, like cardinals who blame homosexuality for the crisis, or the leaked regulations governing priests who break their vows and father children.

Will this summit do anything to really address the grotesqueries that have occurred in the Church? Maybe. But only if true root causes are examined. Chief among them? Clericalism. You know, the whole attitude of “only I can make bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; only I am special; therefore, whatever I do cannot possibly be wrong.” It’s a poison that too many “men of God” have swallowed whole.

I am waiting to hear the results of the summit, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m also not leaving the Church. My faith isn’t in people. It is in God. The community I choose to practice my faith with is, by and large, a good group of people. Bad priests don’t represent my faith any more than Hitler represented patriotism. But I want to see my Church do right.

Jesus set the table at the Last Supper, and I know Him to be inclusive. It’s time to add a leaf to the table. Let clerics eat humble pie, and allow new voices to be heard. Invite married folks, women, LGBTQ. Let them speak. If not, the Church is sunk. And no summit on earth will bring it back.

 

 

What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

The psychology behind selfies is fascinating to me.  A woman took a picture of herself grinning widely, almost maniacally, and in the background was noted primatologist, Jane Goodall, looking at her curiously.

I wonder what Goodall would say about this primate’s behavior, posturing as if to say, Look! I discovered Jane Goodall. I hereby claim her accomplishments as my own.

Then there’s the phenomenon of photobombs, illustrated by the Fiji Water Girl, the model paid to promote the product by inserting herself into pictures of celebrities at the Golden Globe Awards. Younger commenters think what she did was cute, but older ones (like me) see it as crass.

Normally, I enjoy a funny meme, but I see this as being in poor taste.  There’s no denying we live in different worlds based on how we look at the world.

Why do people do what they do? Most aren’t doing these things to annoy anyone else, but to enjoy life in their own way. It does seem that everyone is looking into a camera instead of living in the moment. Is it more important to prove to others that you had fun than to actually have fun? What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe it’s not up to me to figure out what’s wrong with this picture. All I can do is to find what’s right with the picture that I hold of the world. In the meantime, if I see a photobomb or Fiji girl coming at me, I’ll look the other way and keep going.

In the court of public opinion, one side is blamed, the other acquitted. In this age of instant news, it can change by the day. The word “acquitted” can also be used to describe one’s behavior.

Neither side acquitted themselves well in two unsettling situations recently. With the drama around the State of the Union address, President Trump and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, proved that chronological age has no bearing on maturity.

And none of the three sides behaved responsibly when the Covington Catholic School students had a bizarre confrontation with a Native American man and another group of protesters.

Actually, I should say none of the four sides, to include online commenters. Based on the initial, short clip that went viral, there were bomb threats to the school. It also turns out that the Twitter user who posted the original video isn’t the person pictured on the account. Molly McKew, an information warfare researcher, said that “a network of anonymous accounts were working to amplify the video.” Oh, the times in which we live, that a job exists with the title, “information warfare researcher.”

Viral videos are the “honks” of cyberspace. Just as the horn of a car has been misused over the years, eventually, every form of communication becomes another weapon. At first, it was a great tool to be able to have news delivered to us instantly online.

We’re getting wise to the fact that we’re all being manipulated, even if it takes a moment to spot the hidden agenda. Maybe it’s wrapped in a funny meme or a truncated version of the truth, but the red flags are there. At the end of all of these controversies, someone got the views or “likes” they were seeking. And the truth got more elusive by the day.

What if empathy was a finite resource that only existed in a fraction of the population? Imagine what would happen if the ones designated as caretakers of compassion went on strike. Or their kindness soured into cynicism. What would become of humanity then?

I’m concerned that compassion will be elbowed out eventually, especially since those in charge seem unwilling or unable to model it. The younger generation is growing up at a time in which “Instagram Influencer” is an actual job. We’ve even learned to condense our coarse critiques into 140 characters.

Now tell me, when did we decide as a society that pulling pranks was “all in good fun?”  This “heartwarming” (not to mention “housewarming,” but in a bad way)  video of a firefighter fooling his girlfriend into thinking their house was on fire so he could propose to her is (as all of our fathers used to say, say it with me now:) everything that’s wrong with the world today.

If I were that woman, not only would I refuse that marriage proposal, I’d throw my now-ex-boyfriend in jail for causing a public disturbance. Not to mention misuse of tax dollars. Of course, then social media would obliterate me for being a spoil-sport, I’m sure. I can’t even believe this needs to be said, but here goes. Terrifying someone you love is not kind.

A different video of a child in China who walked to school in weather so cold that his hair froze caused an outpouring of kindness. And this one of a stranger who drove 2300 miles to return a family dog to this sick boy shows that focusing on the positive is the antidote for negativity. Despite everything wrong with the world today, there’s still hope for humanity.

We’ve seen protests of all kinds in the last few years: Black Lives Matter, MeToo, immigration. To be honest, I’m astounded that there aren’t daily protests in the streets over the global scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  In truth, it’s a crime against humanity. Those responsible should be brought to the Hague before the International Court of Justice.

The MeToo movement, in particular, started a seismic shift in the world. I’d like to propose another idea: EtTu. A rallying cry for the survivors and families of these horrific acts, perpetrated by priests and buried by bishops. The cover-up is still happening, even now. Catholic bishops at a recent conference were told by the Vatican to “delay voting on measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.”

Retired Catholic University Professor Stephen Schenk believes that the bishops “can’t be trusted to police themselves. I think the ultimate solution, especially here in the U.S., is going to require an active, permanent role for the laity, because of the problem of oversight.”

These issues are difficult to discuss, but when I saw this victims’ statement video, their toxic effects became clear. An 84-year-old man described his experience from 1947. If even one bishop had spoken up instead of covering it up, it could have saved all the subsequent children from becoming victims. One survivor said, “It’s very lonely. Especially when it’s your word against God’s.” But as our Lori wisely said in her post, “They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.”

Today is Veterans Day, a day to honor all those who have served in the military. I’ve always appreciated veterans, despite my doubts that it’s possible to bring about peace through war. It almost seems quaint to believe that noble ideals still define this nation, but one of the most important is being able to speak one’s mind freely.

When I read an article about a US navy ship being menaced by a Chinese destroyer recently, I thought, Uh-oh. They’re trying to provoke us into a war! Then I read between the lines:  “The U.S. Navy will continue patrolling the disputed South China Sea, a top Navy official said Monday, after a Chinese destroyer came dangerously close to an American Navy ship during a ‘freedom of navigation’ sail-by near a Chinese-occupied reef.”

Hmm. “Freedom-of-navigation sail-by” must be military-speak for, we’re going to buzz by your claimed territory and say You’re not the boss of me!

If the military is fighting to protect our way of life, maybe we can fight for them as well by questioning authority. They’re fighting for my right to say that I’m concerned for the safety of those soldiers and I wonder if it’s worth it.

As China continues to build its own islands to establish yet another military base, it makes me wonder. Are they doing this because we keep poking at them? Or are we poking at them because they keep adding to their arsenal?

A country, a company, a cause – all are strengthened when people have a right to speak freely. To me, that’s what this holiday signifies. We can speak up because they stood up. And for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Yesterday, I watched a really interesting Ted Talk with Ozlem Cekic.  Cekic is the first Muslim woman to win a seat on the Danish Parliament. After a comment from a friend, she quit ignoring the racist e-mails she received.  She looked through them, having saved them in case something happened to her, and contacted the person who had written her the most often.  “Let’s get together for coffee.”

She intended to let him get to know her.  Her idea was that he wouldn’t hate her once he knew her.

And she was right but she received a surprise as well.  He was funny.  He was friendly.  He had a nice home.  He and his wife had the same coffee service her parents had.  She liked him.  He wasn’t anything like she expected.  In addition to broadening his limited beliefs, she got to broaden her own as well.

Today I find myself looking around and wondering.  How are my own beliefs about the people around  me limiting what I see?  How am I missing out on seeing that spark of God’s light simply because what I expect to see is something else?

–SueBE

Do you feel broken by recent events? I hear you. It’s hard to live in the here and now when here is untenable and now is rife with violence, greed and anger. Perspective helps, so let’s go back to the Sermon on the Mount. You know what Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice,” etcetera. Notice what he didn’t say? “…for they will inherit the earth — in twenty minutes!” Nope. All of those rewards Jesus talks about? Those are things that will happen in heaven, in the hereafter — “next life” stuff.

So how do you make it through this life when real justice will only occur in the next? Think long-term. Even the king of the fruit flies only lives 24 hours. Sure, he can buzz as loud as he likes, even assemble a fruit fly army…in the end, he is a nothing in a sea of nothingness. He is a grain of sand. He is a mote, a distraction, a flicker, an afterthought. This life is brief. The next life is eternal. Why waste time on negativity, selfishness or anger when there is so much joy to look forward to?

I’m not asking you to ignore life or to ignore the inequalities and injustice that surround us. Just the opposite. Keep working on it. Don’t give up because of “this world” distractions. Those are just fruit flies. Swat them away. Keep plugging away at justice, mercy, love and hope. Because that’s what will matter in the next life. And next life stuff is awesome. I want to be there for it. Don’t you?

Have a Mary Little Christmas

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: