Maine Writer

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Roman Catholic predicament ~ 16 years without confessing the clergy abuse sins

Catholic Church must confess its sins. All of them.

Echo opinion published in The Week, by Edward Morrissey

In the 16 years since The Boston Globe conducted an award-winning investigation into child abuse in the local Catholic diocese, the church has found itself in a constant and recurring crisis over sexual abuse of children and seminarians. 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl
In fact, the crisis has stretched across three pontificates, numerous countries, and has involved an ever-expanding number of priests, bishops, and even cardinals. And it's only getting worse.

Over the last two weeks, we have seen why. Three responses from the church's leadership, in the U.S. and in the Vatican, paint the 2,000-year-old organization as still blind to its predicament — more caught up in politics than in resolution, and its ordained and laity more interested in fighting an ideological war than in demanding accountability at every level of the church.

The latest episode of this crisis started with a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that identified hundreds of alleged abusers within the Catholic Church, and the failings of leadership to put an end to it. The report itself is damning but complex, with outright villains and others who failed to confront evil forcefully enough. Cardinal Donald Wuerl came under particular criticism for failing to act, a charge that Wuerl decided to rebut at his current assignment in the archdiocese of Washington — by publishing a website called "The Wuerl Record." The website extolled Wuerl's efforts to curtail child abuse while serving as the bishop in Pittsburgh and his "work as a longtime advocate and voice on this issue."

Nevertheless, that effort didn't last long; a chorus of criticism over Wuerl's public-relations efforts forced the archdiocese to withdraw it. While not inaccurate, it failed to respond to specific allegations involving priests that were allowed to remain in public ministry despite credible accusations of abuse, even as the grand jury noted other occasions where Wuerl responded more assertively. 

Wuerl's name comes up more than 150 times in the grand jury report, and few of those references are positive.

Then, over the weekend, the former Vatican nuncio to the United States accused Pope Francis of knowingly reinstating Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to his ministry despite evidence that he had corrupted seminarians during his career. Archbishop Carlo Vigano, who has found himself at odds with the pontiff over his career track, openly called for Francis to resign. 

Rather than respond directly to the accusation, Pope Francis told reporters that the "statement speaks for itself," and that journalists should "read the statement attentively, and you make your own judgment. I will not say a single word about this."

And why not? Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago explained that Pope Francis has a "bigger agenda" to handle than the sexual abuse scandal. "He's got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church," Cupich told NBC News. 

"We're not going to go down a rabbit hole on this." Furthermore, Cupich claimed that Francis was being persecuted "because he's a Latino." (Francis, it should be noted, is the son of two Italian immigrants to Argentina ...)

In the wake of all these statements, fights erupted between different factions of the Catholic Church, and of the media as well. Conservatives lined up behind Vigano and declared this to be an indictment of Francis' leadership. Liberals accused conservatives of attempting a coup.

It's hard to imagine so many people missing the point at the same time, but here we are. The issue isn't one of conservatives against liberals, either within the church or outside of it. It's not about Francis' agenda, or even strictly about Francis at all. It's not about pursuing political goals about immigration or the environment. It's about the credibility of the Catholic Church and of all Catholics within it, a problem that few people seem to want to discuss.

This crisis keeps getting deeper because the Catholic Church refuses so far to deal honestly with it. 

If the Vatican and the bishops wanted to confront this crisis, all of the dioceses around the world would have been ordered to release all their documentation on abuse cases to the public, or at least to law enforcement. Instead, 16 years after the Boston Globe series of reports first exposed the crisis and the reach of its cover-up, we need grand juries to conduct investigations to get around the silence of church leadership. We hear from people like Cardinal Wuerl that new procedures have been put in place to deal with abuse, and then find out later that known abusers remain in public ministry — and in cases like Cardinal McCarrick, continue to occupy positions of power.

That didn't start with Francis. It started with St. John Paul II, extends all the way through the pontificate of Benedict XVI, and the five-plus years in which Francis has been in charge. It involves liberal and conservative bishops, liberal and conservative priests, and liberal and conservative dioceses. This scandal infects every corner of the church, and will until it gets fully exposed.

This is why Cardinal Cupich's statement gets the problem exactly backward. Sixteen years of dithering and half-hearted reforms following decades of abuses and moral depravity have sapped the church's credibility on all of the issues Cupich mentions, and more. It's no accident that Ireland, once considered the most Catholic of nations in Europe, overwhelmingly voted for legalized abortion this year over the objections of the church. Argentina, the pope's native country, may yet pass its own bill legalizing abortion. This follows decades in which the church has lost ground on any number of moral issues especially in the West — euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and others.

The Vatican does not have massive armies, nor does the Catholic Church command a massive economy. The only influence it has comes from its credibility as a church serving as a pillar of morality and reliable rectitude. 

In essence, the Catholic Church has disarmed itself.

The church needs to rearm itself by following its own teachings. It starts with a full confession of all transgressions in order to finally pull the inadequate bandages that the Catholic Church keeps applying to this scandal, full repentance, and a new commitment to sin no more. We Catholics understand how difficult that can be. However, it is the only path to redemption — and thus far, it has the novelty of having not yet been tried over the last 16 years.

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What happened in Florida? Primary surprise: Andrew Gillum

Echo analysis reported for by By Li Zhou

Andrew D. Gillum (born July 26, 1979) is an American politician serving as Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida since 2014. At age 23,Gillum became the youngest person ever elected to the Tallahassee City Commission.  
He will compete against Republican U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis in the general election.
Going into the Florida governor’s primaries, the top-line polls had the eventual Democratic winner Andrew Gillum in fourth place (!), with most showing him getting just 12 percent of voters’ support on average. 

Gillum is Florida's first African-American gubernatorial nominee — ended up pulling off a major upset and taking the nomination with more than 34 percent of the vote.

The unexpected outcome led to many observers wondering how exactly the polls — which consistently favored a victory by establishment candidate Gwen Graham — could have gotten it so wrong, again. Polling experts say there are likely a few factors at play, including the heightened volatility of polling in primary elections, when it can be more challenging to identify likely voters.

“Only a small percentage of the electorate actually vote and that electorate is not stable from election to election,” said Chris Jackson, a vice president at Ipsos, a market research firm. Because of this, “it’s tougher sometimes to get a representative sample [during primaries],” Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown said. The sample of people polled may not have fully captured what the ultimate electorate ended up looking like.

Young voters and African-American voters — who ended up turning out heavily for Gillum — were potentially among the groups that were underrepresented in these polls, Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, said. Undecided voters, who accounted for more than 20 percent of the folks who were surveyed, on average, and whose preferences were likely masked in earlier surveys, appeared to go heavily for Gillum on Election Day as well, according to Florida-based political consultant Doug Kaplan.

Here’s what eight experts had to say about the polling disconnect in the Tuesday primary.

These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

1. African-American voters and younger voters were among the groups to give Gillum a boost. They may have been underestimated by the polls.  (Celinda Lake, Lake Research Partners, president)

2. Polls missed youth turnout, and that happened in other races like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (an emerging Democratic star). The campaign also targeted campuses that just got back [in session]. Polls missed the enthusiasm and solidification of the African-American vote and the base Andrew had there. (Doug Kaplan, Gravis Marketing, president)

3.  The race was very close. The undecided voters on Election Day broke toward Gillum. [Philip] Levine and [Jeff] Greene collapsed on Election Day, along with an increased turnout. [Compared to the 2016 primary], the GOP saw increased voter turnout by 13.5 percent; Democrats saw increased voter turnout by 35 percent. (Jay Leve, SurveyUSA, president)

4.  SurveyUSA’s poll had Gillum leading among African-American voters, leading among urban voters, leading in northwest Florida, and tied for the lead among voters age 35 to 49. Our published analysis — written two weeks before the primary and well before late liberal cash poured to Gillum — called the contest a “free-for-all,” which it was. Ours (SurveyUSA) was the only poll that did not show Gwen Graham as a clear frontrunner.

5. That said: there were a total of nine polls released by five different pollsters in the four months leading up to yesterday’s primary, and eight of the nine polls had Gillum in fourth place; 1 poll had Gillum tied for third. No poll gave Gillum more than 16 percent of the vote — less than half the 34 percent he won with.

6.  Gillum pulled together a broad coalition of liberals and progressives, many of whom were white and Hispanic. He consolidated young voters from one end of the state to the other. For a Tallahassee mayor to win Broward County by more than 20,000 votes over a Miami Beach mayor speaks to the depth and breadth of his primary support.

7.  While his better-financed opponents were roaming about the state, Gillum resonated with African-American voters as the first potential black Governor of Florida. He won every county with a significant number of voters and an African-American population that exceeded the national average.

8.  In counties with very large African-American populations, he absolutely destroyed Graham. While all of the Democratic nominees made their rounds with African Americans, the big ones were basically fighting over white and Latino voters, leaving Gillum to dominate among African Americans and pull off the surprise win.

9.  In a state where the Democratic Party is heavily dependent on nonwhite voters, a candidate that connects strongly with a minority bloc can win in a crowded field that spreads its energy across all blocs more evenly. This isn’t to say every Democratic voter that pulled for Gillum was black, but most black voters did so.
Primary polling is volatile and proper methodology is crucial
(Chris Jackson, Ipsos Public Affairs, vice president)

10.  In the Florida Democratic primary, about 1.5 million votes were cast or about 15 percent of the total Florida population. For a poll to accurately identify the correct 15 percent of the population is a significant undertaking.

11.  The public polls that were conducted in the Florida primary either had small samples — less than 500 interviews — or were conducted by computer interviewing, or both. These methods of polling, while quite affordable, can really struggle with identifying small populations. These two points appear to have combined in Florida with polls understating the support for Gillum. (
Jay Leve, SurveyUSA, president)

12.  Primaries with more than two candidates on the ballot — there were seven candidates in Florida — can be volatile, with complex dynamics that are too subtle for pollsters to pick up. In Florida, all pollsters missed the fact that liberals who said in May, June, and July that they were flirting with Graham or Levine were, in fact, just waiting for the real thing to come along. In late August, it became clear that the real progressive was Gillum, and that’s who voters went home with. (Patrick Murray, Monmouth University polling, director)

13.  Turnout for both parties was significantly higher than in prior Florida gubernatorial primaries, with the “populist” candidate doing better than projected in both contests. It seems highly likely that the 2018 primary electorate included a large number of voters with a history of only turning out in general elections.

14.  Only Mason-Dixon used a full telephone frame (live calls to landlines and cell phones) drawn from a voter list. The others used an online panel for all interviews (SurveyUSA), or a hybrid of an online panel to “replace” cell phone calls and interactive voice response (IVR) calls to landlines either drawn from a voter list (FAU) or randomly dialed from all phone exchanges in Florida (Gravis).

Obviously, every poll missed the performance of Gillum, and to a lesser extent DeSantis, regardless of their methodological approaches. (Larry Sabato, University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, director)

15.  Because there is no party cue to nudge voters a certain way [in a primary] — all candidates have a D next to their name — people depend on other cues to push them to the polls. These cues can kick in late, and not just because the primary is held in brutally hot late August. Voters mainly do not feel urgency to solidify their primary choice, again because in November they’ll vote for any Democrat nominated.

No doubt the [Sen. Bernie] Sanders endorsement did help Gillum, and it came late. Gillum didn’t air many TV ads compared to the others, so primary voters may have learned what they needed to know about him only in the last couple of weeks.

This was a big candidate field, relatively, and with a lot of moving parts in a primary, there can be fluctuation, right up to Election Day.

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Florida is sinking - political climate deniers treading water

This echo opinion was published in The Week:

Republicans will let Florida drown

Echo opinion by Ryan Cooper

Andrew Gillum won a stunning upset victory in the Democratic primary for the Florida governor's race on August 28th . 

Gillum will face off against Ron DeSantis, an unhinged Trump lickspittle who subtly referred to Gillum (a black man) as a monkey the very next morning. 

It's anybody's guess who will win — Gillum was down by 14 points in the final primary polls — but it's sure to be a heated, bitter race.

But in other Florida news, Bloomberg Businessweek published a large investigation into the water supply system in the state's second-largest city, Miami. In brief, the situation is dire. It's a good demonstration of the partisan stakes in American politics — because Republicans will let Florida drown.

Gillum — though he is an experienced politician, winning his first race in 2003 — ran largely on the cutting-edge suite of lefty policies, including Medicare-for-all, the overhaul of ICE, and strong climate policy. His issues page attacks President Trump and current Gov. Rick Scott (R) for having "failed to take action against climate change, with Florida having the most property at risk in the nation" and suggests a big investment program to protect the Florida environment and transition quickly to clean energy.

That last priority would be perfectly natural not just for a lefty, but for any Florida resident whose head is not cross-threaded onto his spinal column. 

As the Bloomberg article lays out, Miami (and by extension the whole southern Florida coast) is facing an existential emergency whose slow-moving nature only makes it more threatening.

The upper range of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's sea level-rise scenarios would permanently inundate vast swathes of Miami by 2100, and especially its even more exposed neighbor Miami Beach, parts of which already flood every time there is a big "king tide" — and that's leaving aside preliminary studies on the possibility of much greater rise due to a rapid collapse of the ice sheets of Greenland or West Antarctica. 

Sea levels will continue to rise for hundreds of years after that. What's more, it would be nearly impossible to build seawalls around Miami or any of its neighbors, because it is built on highly porous limestone — absent foundations going down hundreds of feet, the water would just come up out of the ground.

That limestone foundation makes for the most immediate threat: groundwater contamination. Rising seas are gradually pushing salt into the aquifer that the cities tap for drinking water, while associated flooding washes toxic materials from contaminated locations and swamped septic tanks into the aquifer as well. All this is also disrupting the region's incredibly elaborate water management system, worsening both problems:

The permeability that makes the aquifer so easily accessible also makes it vulnerable. "It's very easy to contaminate our aquifer," says Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, a local environmental protection group. And the consequences could be sweeping. "Drinking water supply is always an existential question." [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Meanwhile, every inch of sea level rise increases the vulnerability to hurricanes — which is already high. Hurricane Andrew inflicted catastrophic damage on South Florida in 1992 mainly with high winds, but if Miami gets dead-centered by a strong hurricane pushing a big storm surge (which is certain to happen sooner or later), it would cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage at a minimum.

Just to stave off the worst effects of climate change that are already locked in (the huge inertia of the climate system means the effects of today's emissions won't be felt for decades) is unquestionably going to take massive help from the federal government — as it did to make Florida even remotely habitable in the first place.
Moreover, even if Gillum wins and somehow changes the entire state to 100 percent renewable energy overnight, that will only slightly dent America's greenhouse gas emissions — and won't touch world emissions as a whole, which is mainly about China and India at this point. 

Climate change is an inherently international problem — but a solvable one, because both of those countries will be harmed even worse than the United States if warming spirals out of control and because both countries are already doing something about it.

A national government with even a slight grasp of science and elementary reasoning would conclude the following: Florida (and most other states) needs a crash investment program from the federal government to both transition to zero-emission energy and ruggedize its built environment to withstand climate disasters. Second, the federal government must pursue an international climate bargain as its number one foreign policy priority. For the Miami community, it is quite literally a matter of whether it will be allowed to exist in the future.

Donald Trump and the Republican Party, naturally, are doing the precise opposite of this, withdrawing from the Paris climate accords and (among other things) doing all they can to maximize not just greenhouse emissions, but seemingly even the number of people who die from respiratory diseases caused by filthy coal power pollution. 

Ron DeSantis — who has a 2 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters — has questioned the reality of climate science and signed on a letter of protest against international climate funding.

If the right has anything to do with it, Florida will drown.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Yemen and Donald Trump's deteriorating intellectual capacity

Yemen devastation
I don’t care what Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may have done for Donald J. Trump or Israel; this time, what the Saudis are doing in Yemen, is way beyond what the United States should tolerate.

The two Sunni Muslim states have, first, added U.S. 9/​11-vintage enemy al-Qaida to their and our allies in the war in Yemen, putting us and the terrorists who attacked us at home on the same side in the war against the Shiite Houthis there. 

Moreover, the war in Yemen has basically nothing to do with us in any case. Second, the Saudis and their allies carried out yet another brutal air attack in Saada in the north of Yemen on Aug. 9 that killed among others at least 29 children in a school bus in a marketplace.

On top of all that, because the Canadians criticized the Saudi government for having locked up two members of its nonviolent opposition, Raif and Samar Badari, the Saudi government kicked out the Canadian ambassador, Dennis Horak, withdrew the Saudi ambassador from Ottawa, and decreed that there would be no more Saudi business or investment relations with Canada, consistently America’s No. 1 ally. In response to this development, the United States has so far taken a position between the two countries morally comparable to Mr. Trump’s neutral reaction to last year’s Charlottesville confrontation between America’s extreme right and counter protesters.

Continued U.S. collaboration with the two Sunni Muslim states, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in what is essentially an Islamic religious war between Sunnis and Shiites, may have already crossed the line into American participation in war crimes. The latest massacre of children in Saada must be put alongside previous Saudi and Emirates’ bombing of civilian facilities in Yemen, including hospitals, clinics and schools. The United States is directly complicit in the air attacks. We sold them the planes, provide maintenance, spare parts and munitions, and may even have pilots and co-pilots in the cockpits. The United States also has forces fighting on the ground in Yemen, alongside UAE and, astonishingly, al-Qaida forces who are fighting against the Yemeni Houthis.

The war in its humanitarian impact has made upward to 80 percent of the 29 million Yemenis dependent on foreign food aid to avoid starvation.

The Houthis, no angels themselves, are backed by Iran. The Saudis argue that the Houthis are firing Iranian-provided rockets across the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border into the Sunni kingdom. A United Nations envoy, Martin Griffiths, is trying to get the Sunni and Shiite sides to stop fighting and is seeking to schedule a meeting in Switzerland for September.

The Yemen civil war, now having been waged for more than three years, is an outgrowth of long-standing internal Yemeni quarrels and is also in part a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran for dominance in the Middle East. The Israelis favor the Saudis and the Sunnis in general, who, in spite of the fact that most Palestinians are Sunni, have found the Saudis, especially under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to be much less challenging to them than the Iranians, even though at one time the Middle East lined up as Israelis and Persians opposed to Arabs.

Yemen, the poorest of the Arab states, although Syria is comparably ravaged now, has been a scene of conflict for many years. At one time it was two states. The British, trying to hold on in the Middle East, fought Egyptian-backed Yemenis there at one point. The Sunni-Shiite schism is one fault line in the place, although not the only one.

The best thing that could happen at this point is that, starting with the United States, now, all foreign players walk off the bloody field of play, leaving it to the Yemenis themselves to work it out. Nobody, starting with the U.S., helps the Yemenis or themselves by remaining engaged.

Saudi Arabia, in spite of its brave new world of women drivers and the crown prince, will only get itself into deeper trouble by continuing a war it cannot win, even with U.S. and Israeli help. Eventually the Iranians and the Houthis will take the Yemeni conflict deeper into the archaic monarchy, inevitably revealing its fragility and vulnerability in the 21st century.

Iran definitely has other fish to fry. Its economy is shaky. Israel is still busily trying to egg on the United States to attack Iran. Its economic problems, accentuated by Mr. Trump’s having withdrawn the United States from the agreement with China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, are producing conflict between its reasonable president, Hassan Rouhani, and its more extreme supreme leader, Ali Khamanei.

The UAE will drop out if Saudi Arabia and the United States walk away. Russia doesn’t care much and is still licking its wounds from the expensive Syrian conflict. Israel is too far away to play in Yemen directly, independently or decisively.

As far as America is concerned, bombing a busload of children in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and fighting on the same side as al-Qaida, the Saudis’ ally, our 9/​11 attacker, requires a greater lack of principles than the majority of Americans can muster. As far as staying neutral between Canada and Saudi Arabia because Mr. Trump prefers Crown Prince Mohammed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that position is way beyond silly, suggesting, instead, deteriorating intellectual capacity on his part.

Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (

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"He perfectly loved his country" ~ Senator John McCain

Annelies Marie Frank was a German-born diarist. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously with the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl

A decade ago, on one of his seemingly countless visits to Iraq, John McCain, who was generally immune to the charms of introspection—“Stop trying to get me on the couch, you shit,” he once said, smiling, when I tried to encourage him toward self-analysis—talked about the dominion of human cowardice, and the story of Anne Frank, in a way that I found startling.

We had been discussing the American war in Iraq, which he supported steadfastly, even after everything went sideways. 

McCain said the cause was just. The execution, at least until the troop surge of 2007, was a disgrace, but this didn’t move him off his principles. “I hated Saddam,” he said. “He ruled through murder. Didn’t we learn from Hitler that we can’t let that happen?” His hatred of Saddam Hussein, like his hatred for all dictators, burned hot; his contempt for Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s first defense secretary, was ice-cold. It was Rumsfeld’s arrogance and incompetence, McCain believed, that helped discredit the American invasion. “He was the worst,” McCain said.

I offered a qualified dissent in response. I supported the invasion for more or less the same reason McCain did—I wanted to see the Kurdish people, the preeminent victims of Saddam’s genocidal fury, suffer no more.

But unlike McCain, I had come to believe that the theory of the American case was no match for heartbreaking Middle East reality. I wasn’t sure that even the most perspicacious secretary of defense could successfully lead an effort to renovate a despotic Middle Eastern country. I suggested to McCain that this sort of grandiose undertaking was not necessarily a core competency of the United States. “But genocide!” he said. “Genocide!” His argument was not only concise, but morally superior. Not analytically superior, but morally, no doubt.

We spoke every so often about the Holocaust, and its supposed lessons (one lesson, he told me once, in a mainly, though not entirely, devilish way, was that Jews should be well armed). He said that, in the post-Holocaust world, all civilized people, and the governments of all civilized nations, should be intolerant of leaders who commit verified acts of genocide. That, he suggested, is the most salient lesson of all.

I told him then that he would most definitely pass the Anne Frank test. He was unfamiliar with the concept (mildly surprising, given that his best friend was Joe Lieberman). The Anne Frank test, something I learned from a Holocaust survivor almost 40 years ago, is actually a single question: Which non-Jewish friends would risk their lives to hide us should the Nazis ever return?

McCain laughed at the compliment. Then he became serious. “I like to think that in the toughest moments I’d do the right thing, but you never know until you’re tested.” I found this to be an absurd thing for him to say. Few men had been tested like John McCain; few men have passed these tests in the manner of John McCain. 

Of all the many stories of McCain’s heroism in Vietnamese captivity, the one I’ve always found most affecting is this one: When presented with the opportunity to be freed—he was the son of an important admiral, and his release would constitute a propaganda victory for the North Vietnamese—McCain demurred; it was not his turn (prisoners were generally released based on their time in captivity), and he would not skip to the head of the line. When he rejected the Vietnamese offer, he knew that intense torture would be his reward. And he did it anyway. His sense of honor would allow him to do nothing else.

I pressed him on this point. “I’ve failed enough in my life to know that it’s always an option,” he said. “I like to think I would do what it takes, but fear will make you do terrible things.”

I couldn’t stand it anymore. “I’m pretty sure you’d kill Nazis to defend Anne Frank,” I said.

He smiled. “It would be an honor and a privilege.”

John McCain possessed many sterling qualities; two of the most admirable were on display in this conversation. The first was his visceral antipathy for powerful men who abuse powerless people. A few years ago, I asked him about a fight he was then having with President Barack Obama. McCain wanted Obama to supply Ukraine with weapons it could deploy against Russian invaders. Obama, quite logically, believed that these weapons would be ineffective against the Russian juggernaut, and might actually provoke Vladimir Putin into even more aggressive action. McCain understood the possible ramifications of a decision to arm the Ukrainians. But his sense of honor—and his Hemingway-influenced romantic fatalism—led him to a different conclusion.

“When people want to fight for their freedom, we have to be there with them.” As one of his aides later explained, “He believes it’s better to die fighting than just die.”

I asked McCain, Is this the American way? “It should be,” he said. “It always should be.” (McCain’s amanuensis, his former chief of staff Mark Salter told me recently, when I asked him if McCain is more frustrated by Putin’s existence or by the fact that some Americans—I had in mind one American in particular—don’t seem to understand Putin’s nature, “There’s always a Putin somewhere in the world, and you’re meant to oppose them with all the skills God gave you.”)

The second quality on display in our conversation was self-doubt—or, at the very least, self-knowledge. It is almost impossible, in our era, for politicians to keep from becoming hollowed out (assuming they weren’t hollow to begin with). There is no reward in American politics for public displays of self-awareness or self-criticism. And yet, John McCain understood human nature, and his own nature, enough to state the plausible: that in moments of great testing, it is possible for any human, including the bravest human, to fail.
McCain, of course, failed in various ways, large and small. I think that many of his failures will be forgotten by history, except for the fact that he tended to catalogue them himself, and then recite them publicly.

Once, on a lightning-fast trip to Hungary (all of his trips seemed lightning-fast; as The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin recalls, McCain’s aides would refer to his overseas adventures as Bataan Death Marches), I raised the subject of imperfection—not his, but America’s. McCain was visiting Budapest to buttress the democratic opposition there, and to fire a warning shot at the country’s autocratically minded president. I asked him if it ever felt hypocritical to argue for a set of values that we live in America only aspirationally. “We get things wrong all the time,” he said. “It’s true. But the ideals are great, they’re perfect. They’re something to aim for.”

John McCain was far from perfect. But as his former campaign adviser Steve Schmidt said Saturday night, shortly after McCain died, “He perfectly loved this country.

A man apparently devoid of any redeeming qualities currently occupies the Oval Office. It is important to remember that America is also capable of producing leaders like John McCain.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Echo from United States Air Force Chief Master Sargent - Senator John McCain

Celebrating Senator John McCain's long and extraordinary life

An opinion writer says he served over 30 years on active duty in the United Sates Air Force. "I look back on the time I spent with the Senator as one of the highlights of my career."

Three months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I deployed as a member of a leadership team to support combat operations in Afghanistan. We had several VIPs visit our classified location to get an idea of how things were going — almost all were exceedingly forgettable. That is until the day a C-130 descended out of the sky with a small group of United States senators on-board. When the door opened, out stepped Sen. John McCain.

I spent the next several hours, one-on-one, with him and in small groups discussing our mission. Even though he was visibly exhausted from the long trip, I remember fondly how he treated me like the only person in the world and he wanted to hear what I had to say.

As we toured the facilities, we entered a small hospital set-up in an aircraft hangar. There was one patient — a wounded soldier that we had evacuated from Afghanistan. Senator McCain wanted to meet him. The compassion on his face during the visit melted my heart. He knew from agonizing experience exactly what that young soldier was enduring.

During a short break when we were alone, I asked about his health. I knew he had recently undergone facial surgery for skin cancer. The scars were clearly visible. He replied in his famously stoic way and with a twinkle in his eye that he was just fine. I’ll never forget how he was genuinely touched that I would care enough to ask about him.

The time for the senator’s departure came much too soon. After the group departed, I realized what a choice experience I had just had. 

I knew of McCain’s conduct in the Vietnam War. Observing him during that visit drove home to me the fact that I was in the presence of a genuine American hero.

I am sad that Senator McCain has passed (died on August 25, 2018, in Arizona), but happy in knowing that he had a long and extraordinary life. 

I served over 30 years on active duty in the United Sates Air Force. I look back on the time I spent with the senator as one of the highlights of my career.

Rest in Peace, Senator John McCain.

Russell L. Wilson  Chief Master Sergeant

United States Air Force (Retired)

Martinsville, Indiana

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Cruelty in the family separation policy by the Donald Trump administration

Trump's family separation program wasn't only evil and cruel, it was also  incompetent

Echo essay: By Scott Martelle* published in the opinion section of The Los Angeles Times

Two persistent themes mark the Trump administration: Spontaneity, and cruelty. 

U.S. District Court Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego ordered the government to end one product of those two themes – the separating of innocent migrant children from their parents. The judge also ordered the government to reunite the families within 30 days, or within 14 days for minors under the age of 5.

That government officials ever thought that inflicting such trauma and cruelty on people would be a good idea shocks the conscience, to invoke a legal standard, while exposing – again – the coldness that lies at the heart of this Trumpzi administration. The case, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, was brought initially on behalf of a mother from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who, as a Catholic, faced persecution in her home country. So she did what she was allowed to do under international treaties and U.S. law: She showed up at the San Ysidro border crossing and asked for asylum.

After passing an initial “credible fear” interview with a border agent, the mother and her 6-year-old daughter were detained together for a few days before, and without explanation, the girl was spirited away to Chicago because, the government said, they were uncertain whether the woman was actually the child’s mother. That was an unconscionable act that, according to court documents, has been repeated many times over with other asylum seekers.

It is unacceptable that the government’s response to a lawful application for asylum led to the incarceration and separation of children from their parents.

The government eventually released the mother and, following a court order, conducted a DNA test that affirmed the family relationship, and the mother and daughter were reunited – five months after they were torn apart.

It’s astonishing that the government took away the child based on a suspicion that it had the means to investigate, but did not bother do until a court ordered it to.

Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the government’s separation of families that it detains after catching them crossing the border without permission between ports of entry; the government has charge of some 2,000 minors it took from parents who crossed illegally into the country.

But note that the incident that sparked this case, and injunction, did not involve an act of illegal entry. It was in response to a plea for sanctuary.

It is unacceptable that the government’s response to a lawful application for asylum led to the incarceration and separation of children from their parents.

Another thing this sorry episode exposed is the administration’s functional incompetence. The policy to separate families was put in place without a plan for how to effect it.

The government’s reasoning is that people who enter the country between ports of entry without permission commit a misdemeanor, which is true. Past administrations have used prosecutorial discretion and rarely filed the misdemeanor charge in such circumstances, but under Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy, nearly everyone caught gets charged.

The government also chooses to hold those defendants in detention rather than giving them appearance tickets for later court dates.

And because the parents are incarcerated, the government removes their children and treats them as though they were unaccompanied minors and turns them over to the Office of Refugee resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services pending deportation proceedings.

But the government has no system for those two departments – Homeland Security and Health and Human Services – to keep track of the family relationships.

As Sabraw wrote, “[T]the practice of separating these families was implemented without any effective system or procedure for (1) tracking the children after they were separated from their parents, (2) enabling communication between the parents and their children after separation, and (3) reuniting the parents and children after the parents are returned to immigration custody following completion of their criminal sentence. This is a startling reality.

The judge pointed out that “the government readily keeps track of personal property of detainees in criminal and immigration proceedings” but failed to do so with detainees’ children.

“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property,” Sabraw wrote.

The government, of course, has the right to appeal the judge’s ruling. It shouldn’t. It also should move even faster than the judge ordered in reuniting these families, and must free them from detention. There are other methods for ensuring they will show up for court than imprisoning them.

*Scott Martelle spent more than 30 years in newsrooms before moving to opinion writing. He has covered presidential elections, books and publishing, and countless other topics in a career given mostly to general assignment reporting. Martelle is the author of several history books, and previously worked as a journalist in Western New York and Detroit.  A native of Maine....

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Donald Trump and fervent Republican incivility

We've seen civility when President Barack Obama was our American national leader......Trump is not's not Trump

Echo letter to the editor published on the opinion page of The Oregonian newspaper.  

Extremists existed during the previous eight years of Barack Obama's presidency. Nobly, Obama never demonstrated a lack of civility. The right wing was mostly civil as well during those years (ahhhh...MaineWriter opinion.....not so much!), except for standing up at the state of the union address and horribly calling Obama a liar during his speech. (IMO Republican overt evil racism!)

The right wing is now owned by Donald Trump, who on a daily basis commits egregious acts of incivility. I need not list them, there is not enough time or paper. These acts empower the racist white supremacists and other far rightists who were out there, but who were mostly silent before. What Trump says, demeaning anyone who criticizes him, is simply disgusting. Except for a few retiring legislators, the Republican party, not just the "right wing," is totally complicit.

Yes, America needs more civility. The lack thereof is not an equally-sided solution. "The truth is the truth." The truth is, that having lived through presidencies since Harry S. Truman, I have never seen a level of public discourse so bereft of moral integrity and human kindness. The blame lies mainly at the feet of Trump and his fervent Republican base.

Tim Martin, Southeast Portland Oregon

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Idaho echo opinion letter: Where is Patriotism?

Donald Trump followers fail to show patriotism because they clearly are not supporting democracy.  An echo letter to the editor published in the newspaper Idaho Statesman.

Like Richard Nixon supporters before them, most who supported Trump were just supporting their party’s nominee. But as compelling criminal evidence unraveled, America realized that it was time for Nixon to go. Even Nixon himself was patriotic enough to step down, sparing America further humiliation.

As Donald Trump’s inner circle of power brokers fall one by one for serious crimes, all patriotic Americans must face the compelling evidence that it’s time for Trump to step down (note: historically, mob bosses have always maintained several layers of protection from prosecution ... they simply have all their subordinates carry out the crimes ... exactly what happened with Nixon and now Trump).

Look at the people who show up at Trump rallies en masse — neo-Nazis, white supremacists — intolerance peddlers of every persuasion. Is this really what American patriotism has been reduced to?

Don’t count on Trump being as patriotic as Nixon. As impeachment looms, his vindictive, vengeful nature will manifest. Remember Saddam Hussein setting Kuwait’s oil fields aflame as he went down? Trump will go after the environment, too ... and humanity’s most vulnerable citizens.

Trump has literally flipped Kennedy’s renowned refrain to (sic): “Ask not what you can do for your country; ask what your country can do for you ....”

Michael Howard, Boise

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Minimum wage, homelessness and latch key kids

Good paying jobs are hard to find and, therefore, it's no wonder the homeless population continues to grow!

In this opinion published in the Reno Nevada Gazette Journal, a full time employee must earn at least $21+ per hour to be able to afford paying for a place to live. This echo letter to the editor describes the situation from the writer's personal experience, by Valerie Truce*:

US workers need living wages, not a social safety net: Truce

To rent a 2-bedroom home, on average, you would need to earn $21.21 per hour as a full-time worker in the United States. Depending on the location, the hourly wages required for housing range from $9.68 (in Puerto Rico) to $35.20 (in Hawaii), for people working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Wochit

In 1968 I became an emancipated-minor a few days before I graduated from high school. Within days I went to work for Pacific Bell, making minimum wage. My job afforded me a studio apartment. I had sick leave, health care, a pension and worked 40 hours a week. I accrued a week of vacation time a year. I even managed to save from every paycheck. I needed no safety net.

Today a high school diploma will still get one a minimum wage job, but not a living wage, no health care and no ability to save for a rainy day. In the wealthiest country on earth, we have enabled a new slave class, the working poor, dependent on the government to survive.

In 1968 our country believed a minimum wage should be a living wage. We hadn’t developed into a place where CEOs profit at the expense of fair wages for their workers. For example, a typical Mc Donald’s employee makes minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. Steve Easterbrook, the CEO of McDonald’s, was paid $21.8 million last year — a raise of $6.4 million, or 42 percent over his 2016 pay. Forty-two percent! If a McDonald’s employee receives an increase it’s generally 5 percent, about $2 a week.

Minimum wage is not only a hardship on the worker, but our social services as well. If workers made a living wage, they wouldn’t qualify for social safety nets, like Food Stamps, Medicaid and income assistance, "Welfare".

When I read that the Nevada Governor Sandoval vetoed an increase in minimum wage from $7.25 to $12, I was dismayed. Once again we have marginalized the needs of the working poor. 

Why do we prefer to honor the outlandish desires of CEOs and their corporations, the true welfare queens? It’s to our own detriment.

Maintaining the current minimum wage exacerbates the enormous social issues. Many work two or three jobs to make ends meet — too many hours to be home with their families. We now have a subculture of latchkey children, and children who are institutionalized in schools and after-school programs for as much as 11 hours a day. These children often don’t benefit from family outings, have no idea nature is just a few miles away, and, ironically, McDonald’s is their go-to for a meal. For them there is no vision of what the world offers. Our country is not only creating poverty, but failing those impacted by poverty.

It maybe argued this is how a capitalist society works, but other developed nations haven’t allowed such a huge divide between classes to be created. Come November I will vote for a person who realizes how important it is to increase the minimum wage to a living wage. I will vote for someone who appreciates the cold-hearted disparity between the top 1 percent and the less fortunate.

I am not a socialist. I am a citizen who realizes with a bit of American ingenuity we can fix this disgrace.

*Valerie Truce, M.Ed., is a Reno resident.

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Feeding the homeless by supporting Robin Hood restaurants

Reported in FastCompanyNews

The Latest Trend In Restaurants Is Serving The Homeless

A new Spanish restaurant called Robin Hood is the latest: Paying customers at breakfast and lunch foot the bill for three-course dinners for those who can’t afford to pay.

By Ellie Anzilotti*

Through the door of a small brick building in Madrid, customers sit down to dinner at tables covered in white cloth. Drinks are poured into crystal glasses, and a three-course meal of mushroom consommé, roast turkey and potatoes, and vanilla pudding fills the plates. The restaurant welcomes around 100 guests a night, but none of them pay. They are homeless, and crowds who dine at the Robin Hood restaurant for breakfast and lunch foot the bill so dinner guests can eat free of charge. For paying customers, shelling out a little extra for basic ham, croquetas, and juice earlier in the day is kind of the point: They’re drawn to the restaurant knowing that their meal will help to feed the hungry.

In early December, 80-year-old Catholic priest Ángel García Rodríguez opened the Robin Hood restaurant with the idea that homeless people should be able to eat “with the same dignity as any other customer,” Rodriguez told NPR

García Rodríguez founded the charity Mensajeros de la Paz (Messengers of Peace), of which the Robin Hood restaurant is a part, 54 years ago; his organization, like many others, has worked to accommodate a need exacerbated by the Spanish recession, which, though ended, has left overall unemployment hovering around 20%.

Many of the customers at the Robin Hood restaurant are those who stumbled upon hard times during the financial crisis. NPR (National Public Radio) spoke to one man, Luis Gallardo, who lost his home after his accounting firm went bankrupt. Since then, he’s been on the streets, but said that meals at the Robin Hood restaurant remind him of Christmases in easier times.

The Robin Hood restaurant is part of a trend that’s been transforming access to good and healthy food in a number of cities. In October, the EAT Café in West Philadelphia opened with a similar philosophy: that everyone should be entitled to a full-service, sit-down dinner in the neighborhood, regardless of whether they can afford the bill. Diners can choose to pay $15 for a full-course meal, donate a little extra, pay whatever they want, or eat for free. Though still operating as a nonprofit, the EAT Café (which stands for “Everyone at the Table”) aims to become self-sustaining over the next several years, with 80% of its customer base paying full-price; it’s already adding a much-needed dining option in an area of the city where non fast-food options are scarce.

Los Angeles’s Everytable takes a slightly different approach: At the café, which opened last summer, guests pay fast-food prices for healthy food like kale salads or Jamaican jerk chicken. Everytable scales its prices to local incomes, so that they will cost $8 in downtown L.A. location (opening this year), but only $4 in less affluent South L.A. The restaurant aims to make good food available in any neighborhood; so far, its South L.A. location has drawn people who may not have time to cook but can’t afford to shell out $12 for a nutritious meal. The founders hope to add more than 10 locations in L.A., then expand to other cities.

In Madrid, García Rodríguez hopes that the Robin Hood restaurant, still in the early phases, will be successful enough to remain open as a permanent fixture. That depends, of course, on its popularity, but for now, that doesn’t seem to be an issue: García Rodríguez is working on getting celebrity chefs to come in and cook dinner once a week, and NPR reported that breakfast and lunch reservations—for paying customers—are completely booked up through March.

*Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies.

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Message from Hanoi - Senator John McCain

Former Vietnamese jailer says he respected Sen. John McCain

Echo article published in the Arizona newspaper

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink writes a note in a book of condolences for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Aug. 27, 2018. Vietnam has been paying respect to McCain who died on Saturday. (Photo: Tran Van Minh/AP)

HANOI, Vietnam — Senator John McCain's Vietnamese jailer said he respected his former inmate and felt sad about his death, as others in Vietnam paid their respects to the former U.S. Navy pilot who became a prisoner of war and later was instrumental in bringing the wartime foes together.

McCain's Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and he was taken prisoner and held in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison for more than five years.

Former , who ran the prison at the time, said he met with McCain many times while he was confined there.

"At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance," he told the newspaper Vietnam News, published by the official Vietnam News Agency.

"Later on when he became a U.S. senator, he and Sen. John Kerry greatly contributed to promote Vietnam-U.S. relations so I was very fond of him," Vietnam News quoted Duyet as saying Sunday.

"When I learnt about his death early this morning, I feel very sad. I would like to send condolences to his family. I think it's the same feeling for all Vietnamese people as he has greatly contributed to the development of Vietnam-U.S. relations," Duyet was quoted as saying.

Vietnamese honor McCain

Meanwhile, scores of people in Hanoi paid their respects to McCain at the U.S. Embassy and at a monument by Truc Bach lake, where he landed after parachuting from his damaged plane.

Speaking to reporters after writing in a book of condolences, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said McCain was "a great leader and real hero" who helped normalize relations between the former enemies.

"He was a warrior, he was also a peacemaker and of course he fought and suffered during the Vietnam War, but then later as a senator, he was one of the leaders who helped bring our countries back together and helped the United States and Vietnam normalize our relationship and now become partners and friends," Kritenbrink said. 

McCain and former Sen. Kerry played important roles in the normalization of bilateral relations in 1995.

The Vietnam News Agency said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan sent messages of condolence to McCain's family and U.S. Senate leaders, while Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh paid respects to McCain at the embassy.

Pham Gia Minh, a 62-year-old businessman who signed the condolence book at the embassy, said he witnessed Vietnamese civilians being killed by the U.S bombings of North Vietnam, including the Christmas bombing of Hanoi in 1972, but he admired McCain for overcoming the difficult past to build better ties between the two countries.

"War is losses and suffering," he told the AP. "But the will of a brave nation is to go beyond that to look to the future. The Vietnamese people have that will and Mr. John McCain has that will. ... We both have that will to overcome the painful past, overcome the misunderstanding to together build a brighter future."

Hoang Thi Hang, a Hanoi resident who also signed the condolence book, said he had great respect for McCain's compassion. "He had compassion for everyone, whether they were rich or poor, whatever their background. And that is important in life."

The U.S. Embassy announced it will launch a McCain/Kerry Fellowship in which a young Vietnamese leader committed to public service will be chosen each year to travel to the U.S. on a study tour to deepen ties between the two peoples.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Fair winds and following seas to Senator John McCain- Farewell letter

Senator John McCain (1936-2018) farewell letter
My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for 60 years, and especially my fellow Arizonians: Advice for challenging times.

(Published in Magazine)

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I've tried to serve our country honorably. I’ve made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

I've often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I’ve loved my life, all of it. I’ve had experiences, adventures and friendships, enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life in good or bad times for the best day of anybody else’s.

I owe this satisfaction to the love of my family. No man has never had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America's causes—liberty, equal justice, and respect for the dignity of all people—brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth were not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

'Fellow Americans'—that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world's greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the progress.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening. I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties. We believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.


Immigrants are our neighbors - echo opinion from Ocean City Maryland

Letter to the Editor of The Dispatch ~ a newspaper serving the greater Ocean City Maryland coastal communities:

Echo reader response to wrong minded opinion:
Alliance for Immigrant Neighbors logo
A wrong minded letter from Richard Ruzika’s (“Illegals Must Go Home” in the June 29 issue) begins by falsely claiming that nobody knows how many “illegals”, undocumented immigrants, are here in the United States. Actually, there’s quite a bit of information about undocumented residents, if one is interested in facts. Studies report there are about 11 million residing in the US as of last year, down from the peak year of 2007.

Who are they? They are our neighbors. Contrary to the assertions in the letter (and tirelessly insisted on by our prevaricating president), very few of them are criminals or violent. Again, data show immigrants commit fewer crimes than non-immigrants. The vast majority are here to work and support their families. They pay taxes and do jobs others won’t do. Again, data show that after the first generation immigrants are net contributors to the economy.

And it’s not just dry numbers. I know well several families of undocumented residents on the Eastern Shore. They are hard-working, church going, lovely people, honest and reliable. 

The hate expressed toward people like them by some people (who no doubt are - most likely- themselves, descendants of immigrants, with papers or not) is unfair and presumably based on ignorance.

Terry Grogan, Ocean City Maryland

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"shocking and horrifying, and I have felt myself close to weeping at times" - Sister Simone Campbell

NPR's Scott Simon spoke with Sister Simone Campbell* about the Catholic Church's reaction to this latest sex abuse scandal. 

Sister Simone Campbell
She leads NETWORK, a "progressive voice within the Catholic community."


Pope Francis is in Ireland this weekend as part of the Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored gathering of Catholics. Today in Dublin, the pope addressed the crisis of sexual abuse among clergy around the world. In prepared remarks of his speech, the pope said the failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share those sentiments.

Nuns are also speaking out. We're joined in our studio now by Sister Simone Campbell, who was part of the ministry of the Sisters of Social Service and executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group. Sister Simone, thanks so much for being with us.

SIMONE CAMPBELL: Great to be with you.

SIMON: I have to ask - how do you feel this week about the church to which you've devoted your life?

CAMPBELL: Well, I have to say over the last few weeks, it's been really shocking and horrifying, and I have felt myself close to weeping at times. This week, I took a little solace in the letter from Pope Francis to the world saying - acknowledging the extent of the horror that has existed and a commitment to change. And I take heart in these remarks in Ireland as his very first statements that it is included because there was a worry he would not include this in his very first statements. So what this says to me is that the Vatican is beginning to get it in all its departments that this is not just those concerned with clergy, but the whole church needs to be changed. And I think that's what we're beginning to see.

SIMON: I note you said close to weeping but not leaving. What keeps you in the church and what kind of changes do you think are mandated?

CAMPBELL: Well, the thing is for me church is not about the institution. It's about the Gospel and Jesus, and that's much more powerful - 2,000 years of history of the contemplative life. And we've had all kinds of scandals and all kinds of horror in the structure, but it's the faith that's deeper than that. But it's the community that makes the difference. And this was the hard part in Pope Francis' letter is he acknowledged clericalism and clericalism as being the righteousness on the part of the ordained clergy, that they were always right, that protected them as opposed to caring for kids or for the others who were abused by the clerics. And so Pope Francis attacked clericalism and said that had to change. I totally agree. It's part of the problem with - as men have approached women in the church. It's the lack of access to everybody to power. That's true. But then in the end of it, he said, well, we all need to do prayer and fasting. Well, that part kind of made me mad, quite frankly, and - because I thought that was tone deaf for the fact that I think our leadership has some special responsibility. But in the end, for me, it's about Jesus and the Gospel. It's the way I find the fullness of life in community together, that we're not individualistic, we're not isolates. I can't do this without you, without everyone else. And so it's the place where I find people who nourish me.

SIMON: Should there be a greater role for women, religious sisters, in the church? Should nuns be made bishops and cardinals, for example?

CAMPBELL: (Laughter) Well, I actually am kind of worried about that. I mean, unless we change the system - if you just made us cardinals or bishops in the same system, we'd probably get as arrogant as they are. This is what we have to change - the culture of arrogance.

SIMON: And I'm sorry we only have half a minute left, but when you say talking about changing the culture of arrogance, you mean letting - not making clergy the moral arbiters that they seem to be right now.

CAMPBELL: Well, I don't know that they seem to be that right now. But yes, it's changing who are the deciders? Where do we share that insight into the depth and the meaning of the Gospel now? How do we make community together? It's up to us together.

SIMON: Sister Simone Campbell, thanks so much.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

*Simone Campbell, SSS (born October 22, 1945), is an American Roman Catholic Religious Sister, lawyer, lobbyist and executive director of NETWORK. She belongs to the Sisters of Social Service.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Faithful priests who are sickened by the despicable abuse and scandals

Father Seamus Griesbach: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland Maine

At the end of his earthly life, Jesus’ body was the victim of great abuse and crucifixion. The Church is the body of Christ, his continued presence in the world. And when one of its members suffers abuse, no one is more a member of the Church or more at the heart of Christ’s crucified body than that victim.

On the other hand, despicable and wicked clerics who prey on the innocent and betray everything that they are called to serve remove themselves from the communion of the Church through their actions. Yes, they reside within the Body of Christ, but they are as much members of the body as a pile of cancerous tumors would be. Yes, they share the same priesthood as many good and holy priests, but they betray everything that it is and should be. They are Judas priests. Judas bishops. Their presence around the supper of the Lamb is a scandal and an outrage and an abomination.

Good bishops and priests must stop implicitly placing themselves on the side of the clerical perpetrators and enablers of abuse by apologizing for their actions. We are not on their side. We are on the side of the victim. Everyone who is a perpetrator or who covers for a perpetrator is an enemy of the Church, an enemy of Christ. Those who are with Christ do not apologize for criminals and perverts: they condemn and fight them and bring them to justice and they work to heal and restore those who have suffered from their abuse. A natural father would not apologize for the abuse that his child suffered at the hand of another, so why should a spiritual father apologize for abuse that another has perpetrated against his spiritual children? No – whatever hurts his child hurts him. An attack against a child is an attack against him. He does not apologize. He defends and attacks and heals and restores.

To you clerical abusers and despoilers who have used your position within the Church to harm others and to you liars and cowards who have covered for them: watch your back. By the grace of God, the faithful spiritual fathers of the Church, the priests and bishops who are true to Christ the High Priest, will not suffer to watch their spiritual children suffer any longer. They are coming for you. They will root you out. Every lie will be brought into the light. Every perversion will be made manifest. Every effort to protect or advance yourselves at the expense of the innocent will be revealed. Our children have suffered long enough from your crimes and ambivalence, and the fact that you wear the same roman collar that we do fills us with a righteous indignation that blazes in our hearts and drives us to cleanse the sanctuary of your filth. We will ensure that you are exiled far from the flock of Christ, that the sacred collar you have used for cover is stripped from your neck, and that you are punished to the full extent of every earthly law we can bring down upon your head before you face the wrath of God. Our love for Christ and his flock demands it. Your immorality has rendered your clerical collars millstones around your necks. The Barque of Peter has a plank, and it is time for you to walk it.

And to you victims: you are children of God and you are our children. Your presence in the Church is sacred because you share in the suffering of Christ in a way that none of us can understand. We love you and stand ready to assist and help you in any way that we can. We need your voice in the Church and your offering at Mass. We understand that many of you may have a hard time even stepping foot inside of a Church after what has happened, and we do not blame you. We promise to pray for you and to demand from the shepherds of the Church what you have longed to receive for so long: justice.

Lastly, to my brother priests: many of us who sought out the priesthood imagined lives of loving service characterized by domestic routines of sacramental, pastoral, and catechetical care. Perhaps you identified more with the "lovers" than the "fighters." Well, more is needed from you today. It is time to strap on the armor of God and put on the helmet. If your own dignity and the dignity of the priesthood does not compel you, than for love of your spiritual children. They sit in the pews and they wait - they wait for us to defend and encourage them. They wait for us to fight for them. They need us to be strong and courageous. Brothers - as Bishop Robert Barron recently said in a homily: it is time to get off the bleachers on this issue and to get onto the field.

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