- Panthers & Mustangs Advance
- Cold Mornings
- SWOT Chart
- PA Kelp
- Navarro Photos
- Old Coast Hotel
- Cannabis Investors
- Local Grain
- Boomer's Today
- Catch o'the Day
- Eduardo Smissen
- Anything Goes
- Alternative Energy
- Ukiah Outage
- Weed Ordinance
- Union Buster
- Troubled Church
- Neave Trio
- Mendo Pillars
AN EXULTANT SHAUNA ESPINOZA WRITES:
We won!!!! AV beat St Elizabeth's 53-51 in a game that literally came down to the last seconds. After being down by 12 at one point, the boys played EXCELLENT defense in the 2nd half, holding St. Elizabeth's high scorer to only 6 points after a 15 point 1st half. Abraham Sanchez had 17 points followed by Erin Perez (12 points). These boys have so much heart, and refuse to go down without a fight. Next game is Wednesday, 7pm, Archbishop Hanna in Sonoma.
FROM THE PRESS DEMOCRAT:
Anderson Valley’s boys team, the No. 7 seed, pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the North Coast Section tournament so far by defeating No. 2 St. Elizabeth, 53-51, in Oakland on Saturday night. Jared Johnson’s layup with 35 seconds turned out to be the game winner. St. Elizabeth was unable to score in the final seconds. Johnston’s basket culminated a fourth-quarter rally by the underdogs. Anderson Valley trailed by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter.
“It came down to heart and our guys responded to the challenge,” coach Luis Espinoza said. “Trailing by 10 on a strange court against the No. 2 seed, a lot of teams would’ve given up. The kids believed we could come back and we did. It was our best game of the season by far.”
Anderson Valley began the game by pressing on defense. “We weren’t having success doing that,” Espinoza said. “We switched to a box-and-one and that worked a lot better.” St. Elizabeth scored only six points in the fourth quarter, while the Panthers put 18 on the scoreboard.
Anderson Valley will travel to Archbishop Hanna for Wednesday’s semifinal.
BOY'S PLAYOFF BRACKET:
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GIRLS BASKETBALL: ROUND VALLEY 52, ANDERSON VALLEY 44
"At Covelo, the Mustangs’ girls team became the first squad in school history to advance to the semifinal round of NCS. 'It’s something this group is proud to have accomplished,' coach Eddie Whipple said. Round Valley led all the way but couldn’t put Anderson Valley away. At the end of one quarter it was 15-8 and the lead grew to 28-18 by halftime. 'The second half, our largest lead was 12 and the closest Anderson Valley got was eight,' Whipple said. 'We felt in control all the way.' The schools played three times this season, with the Mustangs winning the first two times much more easily. Christina Phillips was Round Valley’s top scorer with 11, two more than teammate Taylor Gravier. For Anderson Valley, Liset Aijio scored 10 and Jayna Mariqiz had 10. Round Valley will take a 17-6 record to Ferndale on Wednesday. Anderson Valley falls to 11-8." (Howard Senzell, Press Democrat)
WEATHER OUTLOOK FOR NORTHWEST CALIFORNIA: "Cold temperatures are once again expected Sunday night...but at this time temperatures are currently anticipated to remain in the upper 30s and 40s restricting widespread frost formation. Colder temperatures are forecast for Monday night when frost may develop again across the region." (National Weather Service)
FORT BRAGG’S SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) ANALYSIS: (For February 21, 2015 City Council Strategic Planning Retreat)
A Reader Writes: “I hope you can publish this BS.”
(Ed note: No, neither our print or web format accommodates the odd chart layout. But we can certainly link to it.)
PS. Our personal favorites:
Under “Threats” — “Negative Community — 2. A group emerged that were [sic] close to the Chief piled on the issue to say the city has screwed up again, but that got started at the top, small but vocal group. People that are being negative.”
Under Weaknesses: “The council has made decisions based on the mob coming in and yelling at us — not good decisions. Continued grandstanding and fueling of the unrest.” … “The audience is so bitter and hateful; it is offensive (the old Coast Hotel is an example). … There are smart people running the city but the community doesn’t always see that. It’s hard on employees.”
PPS. The attachments are interesting. They show how panicked Mayor Turner is, and how he’s trying to rein in Councilmen Mike Cimolino and Lindy Peters, too.
DEBRA KEIPP reports from Point Arena: "The seals ate it! The fishermen in PA are saying that's all they see are sick starving seals everywhere this year. They're coming from all over to get into colder waters, but PA which usually sits at 52-56 degrees, has gone up to an unheard of 64 degrees! There is no kelp to speak of. The ribbon-like tops have all been eaten off and all that's left are the big kelp trunks washed ashore. Not the usual piles of kelp seen on shore this time of year. The beaches are CLEAR of them mostly.
To top it off - out of 34 crab traps set, one of our best fishermen got a total of TWO crabs. Count 'em on one hand. So the fishermen are going broke, too. Not enough take to pay for their lunch sandwhich, let alone fuel. That's so so sad. Some say seals don't eat crab, but if they're hungry enough, I'd say they are, and that's the reason for no crab in the pots this month... errr... aaaa.. season!
OUR FORT BRAGG correspondents report that the “for sale” sign has been removed from the Old Coast Hotel, meaning the conversion of the central Fort Bragg into a rehab center is on the way. One wonders what other County landmarks might be put to dubious purpose — Grace Hudson's graceful old home in central Ukiah as a teen center? Hendy Woods is obviously a great place for a rural needle exchange. Etc.
FARM-TO-TABLE MARIJUANA STARTUP throws posh Berkeley launch party
by Greta Kaul
When San Franciscans awoke Friday morning, those with medical marijuana cards were able to make high-grade, sun-grown cannabis appear on their doorsteps within an hour.
Flow Kana, the startup behind it, celebrated its new farm-to-table — or farm-to-bowl — service by passing joints at a Berkeley hills launch party Thursday night.
About 125 guests were ferried by a fleet of vans to the party at a posh eco-friendly house overlooking the bay. As guests traveled up the spindly drive, the voice of Flow Kana CEO Michael Steinmetz came through the speakers, dubbed over music from “Interstellar.”
He ran through a few house rules (no smoking tobacco on the property) for his guests — many of them cannabis industry workers or investors — and outlined the company’s mission: “Who’s going to grow my cannabis, and with what values?”
Customers who want to use Flow Kana begin by downloading the app. Once users verify that they have a medical marijuana card, a quiz matches them to types of cannabis they would probably favor. From there, customers can browse boutique strains from categories like chill, zen, awe and active.
Most of the time, the goods will arrive via bicycle courier, packaged in small mason jars, with tags indicating who grew it, where and when. Not unlike farmers markets, the idea is to sidestep dispensaries and let farmers create brands, Steinmetz said. If customers want to, they can read about the farmers on Flow Kana’s website.
Customers pay by cash or debit card upon delivery — banking is still complicated for those in the weed business. The price is the same for any variety: $50 gets about 3.5 grams.
At the party, three women wearing flowery crowns flitted about with cannabis-laced treats. On the terrace, a man chose between two strains of marijuana — Strawberry OG and Headband — as he readied a bong.
With lights and candles around the perimeter, it was a setting fit for a private wine tasting. That was part of what made it special to Casey O’Neill, a Mendocino County cannabis farmer who will sell his wares through Flow Kana.
“We celebrate fine wine; we should celebrate fine cannabis,” he said. “I really hope that this can be a nail in the coffin of prohibition.”
O’Neill and other farmers see marijuana, which is more profitable than other crops, as a way to keep small Northern California farms producing vegetables on the land. O’Neill’s HappyDay Farms is about two-thirds cannabis and one-third vegetables.
“Vegetables are soulful work, but without cannabis I wouldn’t do it,” he said, speaking of profit, but also in terms of the manual labor involved in farm work. He said he finds that some strains of marijuana, which take away his back pain but leave his head clear, are much more effective than regular painkillers.
Like Steinmetz, O’Neill calls marijuana medicine.
“If I take a substance and it makes me feel good, that’s by definition a medicinal effect,” he said.
States are quickly chipping away at the federal government’s prohibition on marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in nearly half of the states — California was the first in 1996. On Tuesday, Alaska became the third state to allow recreational marijuana, and on Thursday, the District of Columbia made it legal.
Marijuana aficionados in California remain hopeful that recreational use will become legal in 2016. After all, California’s Emerald Triangle — Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — produces a sizable chunk of the marijuana grown in the U.S.
“It’s important now that we’re at this level that we respect the people who built this industry,” said Jamie Kerr, who came to the Berkeley party from Shasta County, where she runs a dispensary and wholesale edibles business.
Flow Kana has adopted that philosophy, Steinmetz said, because the growing part of the business is a nonprofit collective of farmers.
Steinmetz’s company has raised about $400,000 from angel investors, but the entrepreneur hopes to attract more cash quickly so he can expand to the rest of the Bay Area by the end of the year, and further as more areas make marijuana legal. He said investors are knocking at the door.
When PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s venture firm put undisclosed millions behind Privateer Holdings, a private-equity firm focused on marijuana, industry insiders saw it as a sign that things are about to heat up.
Among investors, “The cannabis industry went from being a cocktail conversation to being taken seriously in just the last six months to the last year,” said Troy Dayton, one of many investors at the party.
Dayton is CEO of the ArcView Group, an Oakland marijuana investment group.
“There’s this race on for the Uber of cannabis,” he said, alluding to Flow Kana and similar weed delivery startups including Meadow and Eaze.
Steinmetz is confident about his business model, which he called the first of its kind, because he’s already plugged in to the tight-knit Northern California cannabis community, “For me, the supply is infinite,” he said. “We just need to build the demand.”
At least among among those at the party, there seemed to be such a demand. After Steinmetz wrapped up his remarks, drawing cheers from the crowd, the air grew heavy with marijuana’s distinct musk.
(Courtesy, the San Francisco Chronicle.)
Swami Chaitanya talks with guests at the Flow Kana launch party.
* * *
THE BACK STORY…
SwamiChaitanya is 71 and lives in Laytonville with his partner Nikki Lastreto at the Sacred Treasure House. The Swami was quoted in the NYT last year as a responsible pot grower who tries to keep his water consumption down and has no use for the greedy young growers who rip off water. (According to the NYT piece, “He adopted the name Swami Chaitanya after studies in India, and prefers it to his given name, which he asked not to use.”) In fact, we even got a pot conference press release that we ran last year which gives Ms. Lastreto (an “altar designer” by trade) as the contact person. Her email, not surpriingly, is: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE MENDOCINO GRAIN PROJECT, currently located at the former Rainbow Construction warehouse at 1350 Hastings Road, is looking for a new home.
by Jeff Costello
A lot of younger people seem to be under the impression that baby boomers are the selfish "me" generation, who, after a brief flirtation with something that came to be known as "counterculture," became yuppies, stock brokers etc. I've read a number of angry articles by X and Y generation people that assert this. It may be true, but I don't know to what extent, because I don't know any of these people. If I and most everyone I know are in a minority of this generally perceived notion of what/who baby boomers are, we are apparently living on a different planet. Where are my stocks and bonds, my hedge fund, my 401k? I don't even know what these are.
I lived in Marin County in the 70s, where, as I understand it, the "yuppie" phenomenon was born. People driving around in BMWs ("Basic Marin Wheels," or alternately, "Break My Windows"), tooting cocaine in hot tubs, and proclaiming "I want it all now." Who were these people? What did they do? How did they come to typify my general age group? Was it a simple case of squeaky wheels getting the grease? Squeaky wheels make an irritating sound, do they not?
I was born in Westchester County, New York, which at the time was the richest county in the U.S. Now here I was in Marin, at the time when it was the richest county in the U.S. The irony of this did not escape me as I spent my food stamps at the Big G supermarket, struggled to find a doctor who took Medi-Cal, delivered our kids at home because hospital birth costs were out of the question, and lived rent-free at Waldo Point on a series of salvaged boats and cobbled together barges and such. According to Wikipedia the current richest county is Loudon, VA, basically suburbs of Washington DC - a good fit, I'd say.
The great disappointment for me about the 60's was that so many of "us" were merely pretending in the hippie days, affecting the look, the clothes, hair, etc. There for the party, the chicks, or maybe some were narks. Underneath it all they were squares, did not get the implication, the potential of what was going on. My distinct suspicion is that some of today's wealthy CEOs and banksters were among the phonies in the hippie scene.
I naively believed that pot and acid were going to cause an evolutionary human leap. Now of course, acid is gone and pot is legal in Washington and Colorado, and on the way to being legal in other states. And damn if the drug didn't really change anything, in fact, the same guys who wanted to beat me up for having long hair then are now sporting ponytails, pot is just another drug to have with a beer, politicians smoke weed and still do the same old shit. Marijuana has been taken over by the squares and worse, and legality is going to make a lot of money for them. I haven't smoked it since -- around 1981. A drinking buddy of mine in Hawaii smoked weed all the time and still loved football, had anger issues and got into fights... in other words he was unchanged by it... And a lot of the growers I knew had elephant-sized egos and guns to match. These people were not hip and groovy at all. It was all very enlightening for me and I grew to dislike the whole scene very much.
Thirty years ago a guy I knew from Sausalito moved up to Humboldt County to get rich growing. Stories went around about garbage cans full of hundred-dollar bills, buried in the hills. Way out on a ridge somewhere, I found him sitting on the floor of the cabin, leaning against a wall with ten or fifteen guns of various types leaning next to him. He was drained of color, clearly highly stressed and paranoid. The man looked utterly miserable.
"Bear" Owsley, the acid chemist associated with the Grateful Dead who became a guru-type celebrity in San Francisco in the 60's, spent his last days in Australia, thinking it was the place to evade global warming disaster, and died in a car wreck. He had converted to a meat-only diet, and had a website up "proving" that humans were not designed to eat any plant-sourced food. As for the counterculture? Ah well...
CATCH OF THE DAY, Feb 28, 2015
ANNA BARKER, Willits. Drunk in public, resisting arrest.
ERIN BLACKWELL, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
GREG CARMICHAEL, Vallejo/Ukiah. Honey oil extraction.
ROBERT DOUGLAS, Ukiah. Shoplifting, conspiracy.
FRED FLEMING, Fort Bragg. DUI.
BRIAN FONSEN, Potter Valley. Assault & Battery.
JACOB JACKSON, Cloverdale/Ukiah. DUI.
GRADY KNOX, Leggett. Sale of meth, possession of meth for sale, fugitive from justice.
CHARLES MANIACI, Phillipsville/Ukiah. Failure to register.
ODESSA ONEIL, Ukiah. Shoplifting, conspiracy.
WAYNE PANKEY, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
RICHARD PAZ, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
WILLIAM RODGERS, Laytonville. Domestic battery.
CARLOS SILVA-PENA, Redwood Valley. Driving without a license, possession of hashish.
VAN SLAGLE, Willits. Resisting arrest.
MARCO MCLEAN REMEMBERS EDUARDO SMISSEN
Goodnight, Spock. Goodnight, Eduardo. The recording of last night's (2015-02-27) KNYO Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show is ready to download and keep or just play with one click at http://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com.
I haven't talked with Eduardo Smissen in a very long time. He's been on my email odds-and-ends and notification list since I got my MCN account in 1998. I went to his wedding in the Elk firehouse, that was officiated over by -- and I hope I'm remembering this right -- Peter Lit. A magical wedding.
Eduardo told me once that he got involved in radio because of my bringing him to the show I had for a very short time on KZYX in 1989. He'd bring exotic records and we'd play them and then his microphone was on and he'd just talk and talk about music. And then he had a show there for many years -- I think it was called Radio!Radio! It never occurred to me that he had never been on the radio before; he was just naturally good at it. So I think it might have been a fib; I think he was a radio star in Brazil before that.
An amazing painter. He had some recurring motifs: there was a minotaur -- a businessman in a suit with the head of a bull, with a bird flying out of, or trying to fly out of, the cage of his heart. And he'd paint, on plywood, a scene of running slavering wolves at night and then cut the painting out in the shape of a whole other painting and hang the result over an entire wall. Penguins in flames falling out of the sky like burning bomber planes. I'm sure it's all on his website; look him up.
He made a living for a few years by coloring comic book art for big companies, out of his home studio. I still have the Star Trek comics he gave me, that he colored. Also he worked in Red Rooster Records in Mendocino. And he had an ever-changing collection of moving art in the front window. There'd be a painted sculpture on a record player, going around and around; and then I'd go again, delivering papers or something, and it'd be something different, going around, or going up and down.
When I was making microphones, which would be like fifteen or twenty years ago, he commissioned me to make one for him to use at home. I remember he said, "How much?" And I said, "Twenty?" and he gave me fifty bucks -- oh! and at that time he gave me a good cheap deejay mixer that he graduated out of, that I'm still using for sound work for the theater, and a computer that I repaired part by part as the parts broke or became obsolete, so from where I sit writing I'm looking at it now. The case of it. Everything inside is different. He painted a little funny/sneaky-looking man on the front that I've been looking at all these years and I'm only really seeing it now.
He liked me. He called me Marcocito. I think he liked everybody, and I wouldn't be surprised if he had a cute pet name for everyone even marginally in his life. And everybody liked him.
I wish good things for his family. I'm so sorry.
Times have changed
And we've often rewound the clock
Since the Puritans got a shock
When they landed on Plymouth Rock
If today, any shock they should try to stand
Steada' landing on Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock would land on them
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
Now heaven knows
Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today
And black's white today
And day's night today
When most guys today
That women prize today
Are just silly gigolos
So though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose
— Cole Porter
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The “alternative do-it-yourself” energy projects are all almost 100% diversions from the real-in-the-metal solutions that could be used for practical purpose.
For instance, nobody is talking about Stirling Water pump that was commercially produced by Rider-Ericsson Engine Company in the United States in the second half of the 19th century.
It was operated by wood-burning built-in stove in an absolutely unsupervised way – when the wood burns out it simply stops. It requires a manual push to start it up. It is extremely simple and reliable and requires minimum service that could be easily performed by the owner-operator. It is also safe – no water boiler that could blow in case of steam engines. Analog of the machine could be used as well for small power generation – like feeding the fridge – which is of primary importance in extreme situations that requires the use of such machines in the first place.
It does the job of efficient and high-altitude water pumping. Of course, it could be greatly improved in industrial settings by 1. Modernizing the Stirling engine for much better efficiency (like using NASA design) 2. Using modern pyrolysis-based wood stoves (that requires some high-temperature materials capable of taking 2300 F) and also runs without supervision. It still requires a small electrical input – 150watts – to operate forced air fan and, optionally, electronic controller to save wood by slowing the air fan when certain temperature has been reached.
I have managed to build a pyrolysis-based wood stove (without controller) that I operate for drying the palm nuts, but producing of efficient industrial Stirling engine is beyond my technical or financial capabilities.
ELECTRICITY RESTORED IN UKIAH
Most of the city lost power in the late afternoon.
CANNABIS VOICE HUMBOLDT ASKS FOR HUMCO INVOLVEMENT
by Daniel Mintz
A non-profit group representing the county’s marijuana farmers has described its goals to county supervisors who seemed open to partnering on a land use-based cultivation ordinance.
Representatives and members of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, the local arm of a statewide political action committee, were in Board of Supervisors chambers on Feb. 24 to outline their aims.
Richard Marks, a county Harbor District commissioner, is the group’s executive director and he said its main mission is the creation of a land use ordinance that regulates cannabis farming and generates revenues for the county’s General Fund.
Luke Bruner, the manager of Garberville’s Wonderland clone nursery and the group’s founder, began his presentation by focusing on economic issues. He noted that the county’s unfunded pension liability is in the $250 million range and deferred road and building maintenance costs are also presenting budget challenges.
But he added that a new economy is poised to take off. A recent data analysis “trumpeted” by the CEO of the Whole Foods Market chain estimates that “the organic, connoisseur artisanal cannabis market will exceed $40 billion a year,” Bruner said.
“According to the CEO of Whole Foods, as soon the laws change, Whole Foods is all in,” he continued. “It’s going to be on their shelves.”
He cited other examples and said the State of Vermont hired the Rand Corporation to define the tourism value of cannabis farms and the estimate there is between $20 million to $75 million a year.
In Humboldt, the yearly revenue generation of marijuana has been given various conservative estimates, but Bruner said his group believes the figure is $4 billion.
Cannabis Voice Humboldt is in the process of finalizing a land use ordinance that sets cultivation standards for parcels of five acres or more. The group has announced that it will work to put the ordinance before voters in the November 2016 election if a county-approved ordinance doesn’t materialize.
But Bruner openly asked supervisors for assistance, saying, “Please, within the few powers the State of California allows you to have in this matter, regulate us and guide us on how to do this right because we cannot do it on our own.”
He said a one dollar per square foot canopy fee could eliminate the county’s budget gaps and the presence of licenses and permits would legitimize cultivation.
Now is the time to advance an ordinance, he continued, because there are state-level plans to limit permitting to large, corporate-level farms.
“There are active proposals in Sacramento – right now – to have 50 and up to 100 licensed farms in California and permit no more to enter into the system,” said Bruner.
Canada has limited production to “13 corporate mega-grows,” Colorado has implemented a “vertical, indoor system” and Washington has “a limited number of licenses in a three-tiered system, 60 in total,” he continued.
“What we see up and down the line is an attempt by outside actors to wipe out small farm, rural heritage,” he said.
The chambers were filled with the group’s members but a public comment session only had a few speakers.
The group’s current ordinance draft defines cultivation as a principally permitted use if canopy area is between 600 and 5,000 square feet.
Larger canopy area would require different levels of permitting, with 10,000 to 20,000 square foot areas allowed under conditional use permits.
Those volumes have alarmed environmental advocates and groups, and Dan Ehresman of the Northcoast Environmental Center said his group supports responsible cultivation but the ordinance needs to pay more heed to environmental protection.
“I think there’s a long way to go for an ordinance that would protect our environment, that would protect our forests and watersheds, while also bringing an industry into a framework that we can all support,” Ehresman said.
Connie Stewart of the California Center for Rural Policy said she has “serious concerns” about the current draft because “I think they’re opening themselves up in a way they don’t want to open themselves up.”
Supervisors noted some missing aspects in the draft ordinance but were supportive of the group’s efforts.
Board Chair Estelle Fennell has expressed particular interest in working with Cannabis Voice Humboldt and allowed its members to give Bruner several rounds of loud applause during his presentation due to what she described as the historic nature of the group’s appearance.
OUR TROUBLED CHURCH AND WHY SOME OF US STAY
by Brian Cahill, SemNet Live, 2/20/15
(Jerry Cox of Navarro notes: “SemNet is a group of guys, priests and former seminary students, who attended the SF Archdiocese minor seminary in Mountain View. Brian Cahill is a former student and former Executive Director of SF's Catholic Charities.”)
* * *
In 1969 my dad was appointed to the first lay advisory council of the U.S. Catholic Conference, the forerunner of the U.S. Bishops Conference. The General Secretary of the Conference was a very young Bishop Joseph Bernardin and there was a spirit of Vatican II renewal and optimism among the group. Twenty-five years later, my dad was no less faithful to his church, but he was far less optimistic. Shortly before he died, and only half joking, he said, “There’s no evidence that the Holy Spirit has been anywhere near the Italian peninsula since Roncalli died.” If my dad were alive today he would certainly be positive about Pope Francis, and he might acknowledge that the Holy Spirit has finally reappeared in Rome, but he would not assume that major change was immanent. He would be cautious, skeptical but I think, still faithful.
For those of us who pay any attention to our Church today, in spite of the positive influence of Francis, we have good reason to be cautious and skeptical.
The anger, disgust and frustration surrounding the child abuse scandal caused thousands of Catholics to walk from their Church. Bernard Law of Boston was removed from office but given a cushy retirement job in Rome. Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali announced that he had no priests in active ministry accused of child abuse. It turned out there were twenty-one. That was ten years after the Dallas Charter. Roger Mahoney was allowed to participate in the election of our new pope. He spent part of his time in Rome trying to tweet his way through the unfolding evidence of his role in the child abuse cover-ups in Los Angeles. Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn, convicted for failing to report child abuse, continues in office.
But this tragedy is far from the only failure in our Church today. The history of the church under John Paul II and Benedict, as manifest in the behavior of many American bishops, is one of arrogance, paternalism, flawed logic, sexism, inflammatory rhetoric, hypocrisy, failure of personal accountability, lack of pastoral sensitivity and obsession with authority.
In taking on the role of culture warriors and exclusive possessers of “fundamental truth”, many bishops have lost their credibility and moral authority. Raymond Burke and other shortsighted bishops have used the Eucharist as a sanction against public officials, eventhough then Msgr. Bob McElroy had written about the unintended consequences of the denial of Communion: the perception of coerciveness, the identification of abortion as a sectarian Catholic effort, and the diminishment of the full range and impact of the Church’s social teaching.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, when he was in Denver, tried to tell us not to vote for Barack Obama, while at the same time banning children of same sex couples from the Denver catholic school system. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., told us that Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposals involve "choices where intrinsic evil is not involved." Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix excommunicated a dedicated Mercy nun for making an impossible decision in a tragic, ambiguous medical crisis. After Illinois approved gay marriage, Bishop Thomas Paproki of Springfield conducted an exorcism against same sex marriage.
Oakland Bishop Michael Barber forced the inclusion of a morality pledge in teacher contracts. Jim Purcell’s sister, Kathy had the courage and integrity not to sign. And our own archbishop is trying a similar approach, but it’s not a new idea. Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr’s contract prohibits teachers from “public support of the homosexual lifestyle.” That contract language forced a Catholic teacher who is the mother of a gay son to choose between her son and her job. She chose her son. Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon fired a Catholic high school teacher from her job when the diocese read the obituary of her mother’s death and discovered the teacher was in a lesbian relationship. A Seattle Catholic high school, at the direction of Archbishop Peter Sartain, fired a gay assistant principal after he married his partner. The assistant principal was told that if he divorced his partner he could be reinstated. He moved on. Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt sent one of his priests to speak at a mandatory high school assembly just before Minnesota was to vote on an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. The priest, in attempting to influence soon-to-be voting age seniors, told the students that single parents and children who are adopted are not normal. A married Catholic couple presenting with the priest, compared same sex marriage to bestiality. The students didn’t buy it and the voters of Minnesota rejected the constitutional amendment.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, with his slick Irish charm, explained church teaching on same-sex marriage by saying that he always wanted to play shortstop for the Yankees, but did not have the "right stuff." He wasn't suggesting that gays with the range and arm of Derek Jeter could marry, but instead subtly using the lack of "right stuff" as code for "objectively disordered"—the Roman church’s favorite label for gays and lesbians. Dolan, with his smug sarcasm, has also compared homosexuality to incest.
In addition to his Catholic identity crusade, Salvatore Cordileone continues to lead the failed crusade against civil same sex marriage. He repeatedly proclaims that children need a mother and a father, blissfully ignoring both the heterosexual divorce rate and the thousands of children in the foster care system, placed there because of the neglect or abuse of their heterosexual parents—parents who are living proof that sexual orientation is not a reliable indicator of good parenting. He also ignores that the only significant cohort of adoptive parents for the most vulnerable of these children are qualified gay and lesbian couples who want to form family. Ignoring the pleas of major political and religious leaders to cancel his attendance, Cordileone was the featured speaker at the recent March For Marriage in Washington D.C. last June. Cordileone had no problem associating with the folks at the National Organization For Marriage (NOM) and the Family Research Council (FRC), groups known for their vitriolic rhetoric against gays and lesbians.
Cordileone is also busy on other fronts. He has spoken out against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, currently languishing in Congress. This law would prohibit workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians and includes an exemption for religious institutions, but Cordileone opposes this basic protection. Cordileone is also seeking a federal waiver so that Catholic adoption agencies can get back into the business and legally discriminate against same sex adoptive parents. And in a talk advocating natural family planning, Cordileone commented, “It’s not as if we have our bodies here, and our relationships over here, and our souls over here, our emotions here—it’s all interconnected.” This from the man who says it’s okay to be gay but you can’t act on it.
American Catholic bishops are rapidly losing ground on the issue of same sex relationships not just because a growing number of Catholics, especially younger Catholics, disagree with church teaching and feel the church is disrespectful to gays and lesbians. The bishops are losing because they continue to gloss over the infuriating, insulting, wounding and chasm-like dichotomy between regularly expressing respect and compassion for gays and lesbians and at the same time condemning them for acting on their nature.
Cordileone and his allies ignore recent scholarship on these issues. Louis Crompton, in Homosexuality and Civilization, documents ancient civilizations where same-sex relations were accepted. Daniel Helminiak, in What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, shows how biblical passages apparently condemning homosexuality have been mistranslated and misinterpreted.
Nicholas Cafardi, a civil and canon lawyer from Duquesne University, questions church teaching on natural law and challenges the church "to address the counter-arguments of our fellow citizens who would say that, in their perception of nature, some folks come out of the factory with sexual attraction to members of their own sex. That is their nature. Did the divine creator make a mistake?"
In her book, Just Love, Sister Margaret Farley proposes an ethical framework for sexual ethics where justice is the criterion for all loving, including love that is related to sexual activity and relationships. Predictably the Vatican condemned the book, but many theologians consider Just Love the best book out there on sexual ethics. In a similar vein, Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has called for a complete overhaul of Catholic teaching on sexuality. He argues that there is no possibility of a change in church teaching on homosexual acts unless the church changes its teaching on heterosexual acts. Citing the church's claim that God inserted into nature the demand that every human sexual act be both unitive and procreative, he contends that this teaching creates the false image of an angry, sex-obsessed God, and he reminds us that the teaching is simply an assertion with no compelling arguments or proof that it reflects God's will. Robinson proposes that the Church consider sexual acts in relation to the good or harm done to individuals and their relationships rather than in terms of offending God. He does not suggest that all sex is good as long as it does not hurt anyone, and he shares the church's concern about casual sex not related to love or relationship. He believes the sexual act should be motivated by a desire for what is good in the other person, should involve no coercion or deceit and should not harm a third party. He believes these requirements can be better met in marriage, but he does not believe that is the only way they can be met. Robinson suggests that either heterosexual or homosexual acts, if they meet these requirements, are not offensive to God but are rather pleasing because they enhance individuals and relationships.
In a recent book, God and The Gay Christian, Matthew Vines, a young gay evangelical, makes a compelling case for affirming orthodox, scripture-based faith and at the same time affirming committed same sex relationships. With scholarship and clarity he refutes and discredits the well-known passages in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians and 1Timothy that have been the basis of church teaching on homosexuality. Vines goes on to say, “When we tell people that their every desire for intimate, sexual bonding is shameful and disordered, we encourage them to hate a core part of who they are. And when we reject the desire of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a lifelong covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God, and we tarnish their ability to bear his image.”
I won’t review our battle over working with same sex adoptive parents before I left Catholic Charities other than to say that Archbishop Levada knew what we were doing until he got to Rome and then he decided he was against it.
A few years ago the United Nations began an unprecedented and long over due interrogation of the Vatican regarding the scale of priestly child abuse. The Vatican was obligated to respond to the UN representatives because it’s a 1990 signatory to the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, which calls for all governments to take adequate measures to protect children. Rome ignored the requirements of this agreement for the last eighteen years until 2012. But there is another story here. While the Vatican blew off this UN mandate when it came to the sexual abuse of children, it took the agreement very seriously when it came to another matter. In 2003, when Rome issued the teaching prohibiting same sex couples from being adoptive parents, the Vatican cited the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child as support for the Roman position and the church’s effort to “protect” children from the “great violence” that would be done to them by gay and lesbian parents. When it came to priests abusing vulnerable children, the agreement was ignored, but when it came to gay and lesbian couples adopting vulnerable children, it was run up the Roman flagpole.
The US Bishops continue to argue for a broader exemption from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Healthcare Act. Led on this issue by Archbishop William Lori, the bishops have little Catholic support because the great majority of Catholics have long rejected Church teaching on contraception and 95% of Catholic women of childbearing age use contraception. The bishop’s incredible assertion that contraception is a “deeply sacred religious belief” would be laughable if it weren’t for the reality that in their intransigence, leaders of the American Catholic Church, which always has been a strong advocate for health care, have ended up as opponents of health care reform. The bishops want an exemption for agencies like Catholic Charities and for any employer who would have a “conscience” problem with providing contraceptive coverage for employees. Not only is this effort turning religious liberty on its head, it ignores the reality that affordable health care, including contraception, is the most effective way to significantly reduce abortion.
The history here is interesting. The Obama law mandating contraception is exactly the same law California law passed in 1999. Only one bishop sued over that law and the California Supreme Court affirmed the law. Archbishop Levada told me not to worry about it and Catholic Charities continued to provide contraception coverage. If it was not a calamitous religious liberty issue then, why is it now? The bishops are now arguing that contraception is a “deeply held sacred belief” and that the broader service mission of an organization like Catholic Charities is religious and therefore the exemption should apply. While the mission of Catholic Charities is rightly driven by religious values, the bishops’ argument would allow them, in the name of religious liberty, to shove their beliefs down the throats of all employees regardless of their beliefs. The bishops complain that the exemption only applies to Catholic institutions limited to hiring and serving Catholics, and therefore, for an agency like Catholic Charities, the government is setting limits on who can be served. But the government is not telling Catholic Charities whom it can serve. The government is simply saying that if a Catholic agency hires employees without regard to their faith and serves clients without regard to their faith, then it has to play by the rules of the pluralistic society in which it chooses to function.
And religious liberty is not just about contraception. Last year President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians by federal contractors. He did this only after the House Republicans refused to approve a legislative approach to this problem. The President retained a 2002 Bush executive order allowing religious institutions flexibility in hiring for key positions, but resisted the call for a blanket exemption for all religious organizations. Most involved observers consider the language a reasonable and workable solution. Rev. Larry Snyder, then the head of Catholic Charities USA, agreed with the language. Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Catholic University of America also supported the compromise. “We all wanted to find a way to balance the rights of religious identity with the clear moral obligation to end discrimination based on orientation.” But not all parties wanted to find a way. The language was not good enough for the US Bishops. Archbishop Lori, their point man, announced, “In the name of forbidding discrimination this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.” Actually it will exclude contractors precisely on the basis of their prejudice.
In 2010 the bishops’ lobbyists flooded Congress with false claims about the Affordable Health Care Act, including the charge that it would increase abortions. Two groups of nuns—the Catholic Health Association led by Sr. Casrol Keehan and NETWORK, a coalition of nuns organized by Sr. Simone Campbel—set the record straight with reliable empirical evidence that generous funding of healthcare actually lowers the incidence of abortion. Cardinal George was more angered that nuns dared to challenge the power of the bishops’ conference to speak “with one voice” in the name of the church than he was that the bishops’ lobbyists had spread misinformation on Capitol Hill. Shortly after this event the Vatican—in the person of our own William Levada—ordered a heavy-handed “visitation” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. LCWR represents eighty percent of Catholic sisters in the United States. These are women who do so much of the heavy lifting in our church, especially in education, health care and social services. The bishops have worried that the conference's positions on homosexuality and the ordination of women would "give scandal," and they criticized the nuns for focusing too much on poverty and injustice while not sufficiently supporting church teaching on abortion and marriage. It took four years of life under a cloud of needless suspician until the final report came out from the Vatican last December clearing the nuns of the false allegations raised against them.
Just a few thoughts on abortion. I believe that in many cases, but not all, abortion is wrong, but I think the strategy and tactics of our American church leaders have been ineffective and at times counterproductive. It’s as though someone wrote a handbook for the American bishops on how to lose influence and credibility in the abortion battle, with the following recommendations:
Keep insisting on church teaching on contraception
Keep ignoring the health care needs of low income women
Keep supporting personhood bills and constitutional amendments that don’t go anywhere
Keep insisting, as the bishops did in South Dakota, that abortion is murder but at the same time fail to propose an appropriate punishment for the mother or the abortion provider, thus showing the world they really don’t think it’s murder
Keep claiming that abortion trumps all other Catholic moral issues
Keep trying to tell Catholics they cannot vote for a pro-choice politician, and keep calling the Democrats “the party of death”
Keep being seduced by the likes of Karl Rove, into naively believing that one day, with the right president in place, the Supreme Court will do the bishops’ work for them
Keep ignoring thoughtful, pro-life Catholics such as Peter Steinfels, the former New York Times religion editor, who argues that insistance on an outright legal ban of abortion will in the long run harm the church and the pro-life cause.
It is impossible to ignore the impact of Pope Francis, a modern-day pope who lives simply, who prefers to spend his time with the poor and the marginalized, who tells his bishops to stop being obsessed with the sexuality issues and who sees his role as pastor, compassionate friend and fellow sinner on the Christian journey.
But Jamie Manson, a Yale trained theologian and a writer for National Catholic Reporter, suggests that we should not get too excited. For her, the bottom line is that in spite of the warmth and sincerity of the Pope's words, he is not indicating any change in church teaching. She points out that the Pope says that the church does not want to wound gays and lesbians, but "Francis doesn't seem to understand that it is precisely the teaching of the church that is doing the wounding." And Manson asks the broader question: "What good is a more pastoral church when ultimately, gays and lesbians are still told their relationships are sinful, women are still barred from answering God's call to ordained ministry, women in need of lifesaving abortions are forced to die, and starving families in countries like the Philippines are denied access to condoms?"
The Vatican Synod on the Family convened by Pope Francis, opened with refreshing sensitivity and respect for homosexuals and positive proposals relating to divorced and remarried Catholics. Half way through the session, conservatives were fighting back hard, resisting any change in church teaching. Between the start and close of the Synod, language changes give a hint of what’s to come. The phrase “welcoming homosexual persons” was dialed back to the more antiseptic “giving pastoral attention to persons with homosexual tendencies.”
But the charming Cardinal Timothy Dolan explains how the press got everything wrong about the synod. “There must have been two synods. From what I’ve heard and read the real synod was divisive, confrontational, partisan; it dealt only on same sex attraction, cohabitation, divorced and remarried Catholics.” The synod Dolan attended was “a synod of consensus.” In a CBS television interview Dolan enthusiastically stated how great the synod was and reiterated how there really wasn’t that much controversy. “All of this discussion was to help the Holy Father present the timeless, unchanging teaching of the church in a fresh new way. The Church isn’t about no. It’s about yes—yes to everything that is good and true. We just have to fix the language.”
Raymond Burke—no one would ever call him charming—had a slightly different take after the synod: “Under Francis, the Church is like a ship without a rudder.” Later, he offered this pre-holiday advice: “Catholic families should not expose children to the evils of homosexuality by inviting a gay son home for Christmas dinner with his gay partner.”
Following on the heels of the Synod on the Family was a conference organized by the current head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Muller. Invitees included Mormon and Southern Baptist church leaders, Rick Warren, Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and Archbishop Charles Chaput who had just declared that the “synod confusion was the work of the devil.” Pope Francis opened this conference with a talk acknowledging that marriage and family are in crisis, and the conference went on to be a celebration of procreative, heterosexual marriage. Many observers wondered why the pope, after raising the hopes of progressives at the beginning of the synod, would step into this environment. NCR editors see Francis as calling for a middle ground between doctrine and reality. Others see him as between a rock and a hard place. And some women writers, who appreciate the pope’s efforts to renew the church, are not impressed with his less than enlightened language when he addresses the role of women in the church. And in the same interview when the pope issued his now famous statement, “Who am I to judge?” he also declared, “the priesthood is closed to women.”
So how are we to see this pope? I have no more wisdom than any of you, but clearly he is a breath of fresh air, committed to transparency and a reform of the Roman institutional structure. He may not initiate any change in doctrine, but hopefully he is laying the groundwork for changes in the future. It’s certainly possible that the hardliners, especially the young ones are simply waiting him out with the hope of replacing him with one of their own. But I think it’s also possible that this pope with his modeling a spirit of simplicity, compassion and love at the highest levels of the church, is reminding all of us—lay people, clergy and religious, and especially bishops—that there must be a balance between law and love, that the law is to serve love and can’t be considered as an end itself. I’m reminded what our fellow Semnet member Bob Nixon said about Jerry Kennedy when Jerry died, “He bent to love over law.” And the pope’s recent homily to the new cardinals makes his pastoral approach crystal clear.
But the hard liners, those who prioritize the law over love, are not slowing down. After putting his own people in place in the seminary and the chancery office, Cordileone and his imported crew of orthodox, smugly ideological and deliberatively provocative zealots are moving to enforce his sex-obsessed version of Catholic identity not just in in Catholic high schools, but it turns out, unbelievably—in at least one Catholic grammar school, apparently trying to root out second grade masturbators, fourth grade fornicators and sixth grade same sex couples.
Leaving aside the bizarre, inappropriate, irresponsible behavior of Star of the Sea pastor Joseph Illo, there is nothing wrong with focusing on Catholic identity. The question is: how does a Catholic organization—a hospital or a social service agency, or in this case a school—which does not limit its hiring or its services to Catholics—how does such an entity manage the tension between what our church teaches in the area of sexuality and how it is expected to carry out its mission, serve its students and support its staff, in the pluralistic society in which it lives and operates? The answer: very carefully, and it’s an ongoing challenge, not conducive to an ideological, non-collaborative, disrespectful, thought-police approach. Bob McElroy, who did his dissertation on the writings of John Courtney Murray wrote, “It is the responsibility of the Church to proclaim the whole Gospel, but it is not the responsibility of each part of the Church to proclaim it the same way.” Cordileone appears tone deaf to this kind of nuanced thinking by the man who is now his assistant bishop. But Cordileone is a true believer/culture warrior who is also playing to his national conservative base.
So why stay? Why stay in a church with such flawed, out of touch leaders? Why stay in a church that treats women and gays as second-class citizens? Why stay in a church that can never admit it is wrong? And why stay in a church that at times seems to represent the opposite of Jesus’ message of love and inclusiveness?
My children, and I suspect some of your children, and thousands of their generation, have answered that question clearly. They’ve walked—many of them as soon as they came of age. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that four out of five Catholics who have left the Church and haven’t joined another church, did so before the age of twenty-four. One can point to an increasingly secular, materialistic culture as a factor in this exodus, but a closer look suggests that young Catholics are increasingly turned off by the attitudes and actions of some American bishops. More recently, Catholic high school students, who can spot dishonesty and hypocrisy a mile away, are reacting with disillusion and disgust at how the Church is treating some teachers in Catholic schools.
So for those of us who stay, do we remain simply because we are too old or too apathetic? I would like to suggest that there are a number of valid reasons to stay in our Church that don’t have to do with old age or apathy.
For myself I could say it’s in my DNA, inculcated in my parents’ home, in Holy Name grammar school, and in my time in the seminary. I could say it’s because of my wife Donna, an evolved soul who loves the Church warts and all. But I think there are other reasons.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Life is full of brokenness, broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful, except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives.” Many of our church leaders are broken, but are they any more broken than many of our political leaders? And are they any more broken than we are?
Don’t get me wrong, some of these guys should be the targets of our anger and some of them have their heads so far up their rear ends they’ll never see daylight. But I wonder if all of us had stayed and went on to the priesthood, and if some of us had become bishops, especially if we were formed during the time of John Paul II, would we be any different from some of them? Could we have avoided the insularity and clericalism that so entraps them?
I stay because it’s my church, because I won’t let these guys drive me out of my church. Maybe that’s a form of pride, but I also stay because of the good guys—Thomas Merton, Richard McBrien who just died, heroes like Bishop James Shannon who had the courage and integrity to resign over Humanae Vitae, pastors like Bishops John Cummins and Frank Quinn. I stay because of retired Archbishop John R. Quinn, who continues his advocacy for the reform of the papacy and with humility and wisdom urges his fellow bishops to consider how their voices can be most credible, describing the pitfalls of bishops functioning as partisan political actors, revving up the culture wars and exclusively focusing on abortion and gay marriage.
Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, has not only publicly questioned the bishops' contraception lawsuit, but has consistently spoken out on behalf of the poor and vulnerable and clearly articulated the deficiencies in Paul Ryan's budget. Joliet, Ill., Bishop Daniel Conlon, the point man for the bishops on sex abuse, had the courage and integrity to acknowledge that the "credibility of the bishops on the subject of child abuse is shredded." Bishop Frank Caggiano, newly arrived at Bridgeport CT, told his fellow Catholics: “Rebuilding trust requires transparancy, simplicity and authenticity” and he has gone on to live out those principles, convening a diocesan synod, meeting with all stakeholders and making it clear that he does not have all the answers. John Wester recently reminded his prolife, pro-family colleagues that the Catholic defense of families means aiding immigrant families And Bob McElroy is writing and speaking strongly and eloquently that poverty and inequality should be church priorities at least equally paramont with abortion and marriage.
I stay because of the good women in our church like the leaders of LCWR, like the theologians Elizabeth Johnson and Margaret Farley; like Sr. Simone Campbell, whose Nuns on the Bus was not just about ministry, justice and charity, but a brilliant model of effective communication and public relations, unlike the bishops' silly and shallow Fortnight for Freedom. I stay because of Sr. Sandra Schneiders, the author of Prophets In Their Own Country, who in her address to a recent LCWR meeting, suggested that "Gospel leadership consists of leaders who emerge from the community, leaders who practice anticipatory leadership, discerning and preparing the community for coming change, and leaders who not only act efficaciously, but live with "integrity."
I stay because the Catholic Church, for all its faults, has developed social teaching so significant that it influenced both the work of Martin Luther King and that of the American labor movement, and I stay because our Church has produced the greatest health and social service system in the history of this country.
I stay because of what Frank Norris wrote in God’s Own People: “The Church on earth is a mystery that calls for faith. Only the gift of faith can enable man to see beyond the human element in the Church to the divine presence of Christ within it.” And I recall the words of Hans Kung from his great work, On Being a Christian: “Then why stay? Because, despite everything, in this community of faith critically but jointly we can affirm a great history on which we live with so many others. Because, as members of this community, we ourselves are the Church and should not confuse it with its machinery and administrators, still less leave the latter to shape the community. Because, however serious the objections, we have a found here a spiritual home in which we can face the great questions of the whence and whither, the why and wherefore, of man and the world. We would no more turn our backs on it than on democracy in politics, which in its own way is misused and abused no less than the Church.”
Peter McDonough offers an interesting view of our church today. In The Catholic Labyrinth: Power, Apathy and a Passion for Reform in the American Church, he argues that while there is a conservative and liberal wing in the Church, the folks in between—the largest segment in the Church—are complacent in their participation in their religion and ignore the ethical teaching of the Church in the area of politics and sexuality, and therefore there is no burning desire for reform. His point is that the polarization of liberals and conservatives is somewhat marginalized and most Catholics just do their thing without getting involved one way or the other. He may be right.
But in his recent book, Can We Save the Catholic Church? Hans Kung states, “As long as we truly believe that this is the Church of Christ in which the Spirit of God continues to work despite all human failings and obstacles, there is no reason to doubt that we can and will save it and that the Church will not only survive its present mortal crisis, but that sooner or later, we will once again become what Christ founded us to be.”
In Why Stay Catholic, Michael Leach writes, “Catholicism seen through the eye of a needle is a religion of rules and regulations. Seen with sacramental imagination, it is a unique take on life, a holy vision, a way of seeing the chosen part of things.” He writes about the changing and unchanging teachings of the church, a concept that seems to elude the likes of Burke, Dolan and Cordileone. Leach concludes, “The church has changed. It is changing. It will change. After the dust settles, the gold will remain.”
On a personal note, when I lost my son I found myself raging at God, wondering what kind of god could be so incompetent as to allow this to happen. CS Lewis, writing after the death of his wife, offered this: “Not that I am in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him.” For some time, in his rage after her death, Lewis referred to God as the “Cosmic Sadist.” My point is this: if I can believe in a God that allowed my son to take his life, then it’s not much of a stretch to believe in a flawed, dysfunctional church.
So what’s the solution for staying and not going crazy? Here are my thoughts for whatever they’re worth:
Pray and try to be in God’s presence.
Go to Mass where there is a vibrant liturgy.
Seek out and find Church. For me Church is in the chapel at San Quentin with a bunch of lifers, but I also have experienced Church at my son’s funeral, at Lenten Vespers at Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro, in a gathering of people from all around the world in Medjugorie, a small town in the mountains of Bosnia where the Blessed Mother has been appearing. And Church can be found in many different settings where we serve the poor, vulnerable and marginalized among us.
Speak out against the leaders of our church when you think they are wrong, or hypocritical and when they are not representing Jesus’ message. And speak out against the nonsense.
Trust in the Holy Spirit, because if you don’t believe that the Spirit of God is in the Church, then it’s all nonsense.
I want to emphasize the need to speak out. Jim Purcell wrote a powerful piece about Cordileone in the San Jose Mercury News. Some of you could try to get a piece in the San Mateo Times, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the Marin Independent Journal, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Those of you who are adept enough to be on social media have the opportunity to speak your truth about the Church. You can speak out within your parish. My point is that for those of us who stay and dissent, we have an obligation to speak out.
I’ll close with one of my favorite spiritual writers, Fr. Ron Rolheiser. In The Holy Longing he wrote, “To be connected to the church is to be associated with scoundrels, warmongers, fakes, child-molesters, murderers, adulterers and hypocrites of every kind. It also at the same time, identifies you with saints and the finest persons of heroic soul within every time, country, race and gender. To be a member of the church is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of the soul…because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves.”
NEAVE TRIO CONCERT — The Neave Trio has been hailed by critics for their “bright and radiant music making.” On March 15 the trio will perform Cecile Chaminade's Trio in A minor, Op 34, Dmitri Shostakovich's Trio in e minor, Op 67, and “Estaciones Portenas” by Astor Piazzolla. Their concert will be held at Preston Hall, Mendocino at 3 p.m. Advance tickets ($20) are at Harvest Market and Fiddles and Cameras, Fort Bragg, and at Out of this World, Mendocino. Tickets are also available at the door for $25. The performers are violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov and pianist Toni James. In the Fall of 2012, they were named the first ever Fisch/Axelrod Trio-in-Residence at San Diego State University. Trio members hail from the United States, Scotland and Russia. They are graduates of the Eastman, Manhattan and Longy Schools of Music and the Chopin Academy in Moscow.
A VISITING WRITER asked me if I thought the Santa Rosa Press Democrat was “in bed with the wine industry.” In fact, the paper's editors are on 24-hour speed dial to perform whatever sex acts the industry demands at whatever hour of the day. The two parties seldom get all the way into bed, but, yes, of course the paper's in bed with the wine industry, as any reader of the Rose City daily knows. I'd say the papers is even more generally craven since former Congressman Bosco and his high flying pals bought it from the New York Times.
WHICH IS ONLY ONE REASON you won't read anything about Mendocino County in the Press Democrat contrary to the interests of Mike Sweeney and his friends, especially his friend Richard Shoemaker, a former supervisor who represented the Westside of Ukiah a few years ago. Shoemaker, natch, now holds a nebulous public job.
SWEENEY is Mendocino County's top trash bureaucrat and, like the guy in the Dos Equis commercial, he's by far the County's “most interesting man.” Which may be why the PD's Glenda Anderson lives with the cunning little sociopath, but love is blind, as they say. A former Stanford cult communist whose group of left fascists killed people, including a cop, during the 60s, Sweeney, In 1980, and married to Judi Bari of later Earth First! fame, blew up a hangar at the old Naval air field west of Santa Rosa, nearly killing a young man who was asleep on the premises. These adventures of Sweeney are best described in a documentary film called Who Bombed Judi Bari? by Steve Talbot, a producer for public television. Bari, before she died in 1997, told Talbot she was convinced that Sweeney blew her up with a car bomb that detonated in downtown Oakland in 1990.
GLENDA ANDERSON, the PD's one-person “Ukiah Bureau,” has run journalo-interference for Sweeney for years, all the way back to her days at the Ukiah Daily Journal where she got his press releases printed as “news” and generally keeping the interests of Sweeney and his friends, friends like Richard Shoemaker, boyfriend of the current Fort Bragg City Manager, Ms. Ruffing, out of the Press Democrat, her subsequent employer.
WHICH IS WHY you won't read anything in the PD about the Old Coast Hotel controversy, and you certainly won't read about Coast opposition to a $5 million trash transfer station Sweeney is attempting to foist off on the Mendocino Coast and for which, preliminarily, Sweeney has commissioned an utterly corrupt 870-page EIR, the mother of all EIR's, for a project this size, that raises more questions than it answers to justify the transfer station, although there's a perfectly adequate existing transfer station at Pudding Creek.
THESE DAYS, SHOEMAKER describes himself as “Principal at RMS [Richard M. Shoemaker, get it?] Consulting & Project Management.” Which boils down to a handsomly-paid gig as boss at the Alex Rorabaugh Gymnasium & Recreation Center, “an inclusive place which welcomes and serves all members of our community. Youth are the future of our community and deserve a safe and secure environment to develop mind and body,” says ARC board president Dr. Marvin Trotter.
AND SO ON, another of the many County non-profits where the Nice People get big paid to do good. (Trotter, some of us may recall, paid a huge wrongful-death civil judgment in the death of a Ukiah youth who died from the prescription narcotic drug patches Trotter had left unsecured in his home. Trotter's drug-addicted son passed them on to a high school friend who died from an overdose.)
WHILE WE'RE PASSING out the bouquets to our favorite public figures as we put them in proper historical context, the Rorabaugh family got their money when a 19th century, Rorabaugh, a nephew of George White, “King of Round Valley,” inherited White's vast ranch for lying for the murderous old man when White was charged with trying to kill his wife. A national figure for all the wrong reasons, White either owned or controlled everything north and south of Covelo, from Hull Mountain to the south almost to Weaverville in the north. He killed anyone who got in his way, including at least one wife. Natch, Ukiah names a youth center after this most dubious family. There's a contemporary Rorabaugh who writes Fox News-like letters to the Ukiah paper.
AND SO IT GOES in Mendocino County where every day history starts all over again and you are whatever you say you are.