Saturday, February 28, 2009

Santimonious: In Praise of Moron

Good thing I'm not a practicing Catholic any more, or I'd be in trouble with the Church (yes, in many ways). I had promised to give up Martino for Lent, but it's obvious that I haven't been able to keep that pledge, since this is the second time I'm writing about him this week. See The Intolerance Institute.

In addition, I usually reserve my religious rants for Sundays, in honor of that being the day set aside for worship, but the combination of agita in the Church & Scranton has caused me to make an exception.

As I wrote earlier this week, Joseph Martino (which I believe is Italian for Moron), the Bishop of Scranton, is apparently on a mission from God to seek out & eliminate any discourse within the Church. For example, he has attacked a local college because it dared allow a gay man to speak at a forum (sponsored by the Diversity Institute, of all things). See also, Sinful in Scranton. There have even been suggestions that he may punish the school by removing its Catholic affiliation, which he has the power to do. Bishop Martino could take church affiliation from Misericordia.

He has also targeted anyone whom he does not consider sufficiently "pro-life," The Evil Lurks Within, and he has anointed himself as the Decider-In-Chief of what is appropriate (sound familiar?). Maybe we need to rename the Church as the Church of the Lemmings.

In Rick Santorum's (remember him? the former Senator from PA) weekly column in the Inky, Mr. Sanctimonious is downright gleeful about Martino's attacks against Democrats (including Bob Casey, who beat him for his Senate seat), In praise of Catholic priests who dare to teach and enforce:

That's why Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino got so much national attention last fall. Martino, formerly the auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, made the welcome decision to publicly bar then Sen. Joe Biden and other abortion advocates from receiving Communion in the Scranton Diocese. Then, after the November election, he admonished his brother bishops for their reluctance to deal with the issue faithfully.

Last month, Martino took on the most influential family in his diocese, the Caseys. He excoriated Sen. Bob Casey, who claims to be pro-life, for voting to give taxpayer dollars to overseas organizations that perform abortions. He warned that Casey was "formally cooperating with evil."

Martino was not done. Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia native and St. Joseph's Prep graduate issued a strong statement of disapproval to a local, nominally Catholic college, Misericordia University, that had scheduled a speech on campus by someone advocating same-sex marriage. "The faithful of the Diocese of Scranton should be in no doubt," Martino said, "that Misericordia University in this instance is seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity."

Then, last week, Martino took on some more of the biggest guns in the diocese: the Irish clubs that organize the largest public Catholic event of the year, the St. Patrick's Day festivities. Through a letter from his Irish auxiliary bishop, Martino warned that if any of these groups went ahead with plans that in any way honor politicians who are not pro-life, he would close the cathedral where Mass is usually held prior to the parade, as well as other diocesan churches. He said he would not countenance anything that created confusion about the teachings of the church.

The reason for the letter: Scranton's St. Patrick's Day parade last year featured Hillary Clinton.

Not satisfied with the bad press & controversy he's created so far this week, Martino has issued a new salvo, by publishing a new letter against Senator Casey & ordering priests to deny Communion to any politician who does not tow the line. Bishop Martino counseling Eucharistic ministers to deny Holy Communion. As Catholic Culture explains, Scranton's Bishop Martino orders priests: no Communion for public sinners:
The official notice does not mention any individual by name. However it is impossible to overlook the fact that on the same day, February 26, the Scranton diocese also posted an open letter from Bishop Martino of Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, in which the bishop-- for the second time-- reminded the Catholic lawmaker of his moral obligation 'to oppose abortion and other clear evils.'
Martino's position, of course, is ridiculous. Senator Casey is definitely not pro-Choice. In fact, he had a very difficult time during the election (where he beat Santorum) because of his position. I can attest to the fact that many of my friends and colleagues did not want to vote for him because of his strong pro-life views. See Green is the Color of Money. Yet, Martino doesn't want to be bothered by the facts -- he "says his interpretation of the matter is 'in no way mistaken.'”

Truthfully, I'm beginning to think that what's going on here is Martino's political views are coloring his religious beliefs. I'm willing to bet that the man is a Republican, who is bent on doing whatever he can to sway voters in this traditionally conservative, but Democratic area. Clearly, the sole focus of his wrath are politicians of the Democratic persuasion. That is, the only issues he promotes as "evil" are those that Democrats hold. How about the Death penalty? Or the unjust war in Iraq? Those all impact "life" as well. Yet they are Republican issues, so he stays away from them. This theory is espoused by Bilgrimage in Collusion of the Catholic and Political Right: The Martino Story Continues and I truly believe he is correct in this. It's all part of the hard shift to the right and the elimination of the teachings of Vatican II.

And Martino's views (as well as those of the man formerly known as Ratzinger) are having an adverse impact on the Church. Despite the fact that the Catholic Church is still the largest ecclesial ministry in the US, the Church is starting to look like the economy -- in free fall. As noted by Catholic Culture: "Between the beginning and the end of 2007, the number of Catholics in the United States declined by nearly 400,000 to 67.1 million, according to the newly published 2009 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches." I'm sure the numbers of Catholics who have fled the Church in Scranton in the last year or so are also phenomenal (but we'll never know, because Martino will never release that information).

So, you may ask: why do I care? Although I have not been a member of the Church for many (many) years, I consider having been born & raised Catholic a bit like being Jewish -- for me, it's more a cultural thing than religious. In other words, I'm a secular Catholic, if that's possible. So I don't appreciate my cultural background being defiled this way. Contrary to the pontifications of this Bishop of the flock in Scranton, I am sure that the teachings of the Catholic Church are not intended to be grounded in bigotry, intolerance and harsh judgments of others.

And other people may be afraid of speaking out, but I can -- because I have nothing to lose.

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