Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Another Coverup

Pope Francis’s big sex summit is over and the reviews are coming in. National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty says: “The pope’s summit is trash and a coverup.” The National Catholic Register described a quintessential question asked by a reporter: “At the press conference on Feb. 22, longtime CNN Vatican reporter Delia Gallagher pointed out to Cardinal Cupich of Chicago and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston that in 2002 the American Cardinals were in Rome working to implement a zero-tolerance policy, and the main figure in that was then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Why, she asked, should the American people trust them again?”

O'Malley and Cupich
Why indeed? Ms. Gallagher didn’t get an answer. She got the runaround and so did faithful Catholics the world over. Cardinal Cupich was appointed a cardinal by Pope Francis on the recommendation of the now-disgraced former-Cardinal McCarrick, then designated by Francis as coordinator of this newest coverup of deviant sexual escapades by clergy at all levels, not just priests. As expected, Cupich dodged Gallagher’s question with still more nebulous platitudes just like McCarrick used seventeen years ago.

McCarrick and Cupich
The sex summit never mentioned Cardinal McCarrick, yet he loomed large anyway — the proverbial elephant in the room. Pope Francis still denies prior knowledge of McCarrick’s predatory homosexual behavior or that McCarrick had been confined to a secluded life of prayer and penance by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Immediately upon assuming the papacy in 2015, however, Pope Francis reversed Benedict’s action and greatly increased McCarrick’s influence — until last summer when proof of his deviant behavior emerged. The week before last week’s the sex summit Pope Francis defrocked McCarrick, evidently thinking the whole affair would go away by doing so.
It didn’t. Catholics still want to know why Francis hasn’t released documents in the Vatican and in Washington, DC where McCarrick was archbishop which would prove one way or another whether Francis knew about McCarrick’s deviant behavior and his suspension by Benedict XVI. None of that was addressed and the McCarrick affair remains a festering boil. So does last summer’s testimony by Archbishop Vigano who identified a homosexual network permeating the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.

Media asked questions about the “gay” network too, but Cupich and other favorites of Pope Francis deflected them. At the summit was Robert Royal, president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. who wrote: “So, was it dealing with the full truth of the current problem within the Church not even to mention the element of homosexual predation — to sidestep the greater problem… [and] making it appear that the problem is the abuse of young children and not basically homosexual grooming? And isn’t it undeniable at this point that there were and are “gay” networks of mutual cover-up, not least in Rome, even at the very highest levels?”

None of that was on the agenda. It wasn’t discussed. Bandaids were applied to those festering boils too. To lance them would have been painful, yes, but then healing could have begun. Instead, they were covered up yet again in hopes that the anger of faithful Catholics out there would dissipate yet again as it did after the 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight series. Remember, it was then-Cardinal McCarrick using his soothing words to convince us all that everything would be okay, that he would fix it. I fell for it then but I won’t this time, and either will millions of others out here in the pews. This is not going to go away. It’s going to get worse. That’s how infections are.

So now what? What will “get worse” look like? Will there be another schism? Another Reformation? Will faithful Catholics zip up their wallets when the collection plate comes around? NBC News reported last October that: “Thirteen states now investigating alleged sexual abuse linked to the Catholic Church.” They include Florida, Arkansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania (again), Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont. The US Justice Department is investigating possible RICO violations by various dioceses as well.

Oh yeah?
Cupich calls for transparency at Sex Summit?
He's Archbishop of Chicago
Media will be all over press conferences when each state reports out, just like they were last August in Pennsylvania. American Catholics will cringe again, and again, and again… Doesn’t the pope know that confession is good for the soul? Catholics call it “Reconciliation” these days, but it’s not being practiced at the Vatican, not in any real sense. There was an opportunity last week, but the highest officials in the Roman Catholic Church let it pass. So what’s next? As Bette Davis said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Lonely Maine Winter

Lovell after freezing rain
Maine can be dreary in February and March, especially for women. Ladies’ Delight Hill in Lovell, Maine “was not named for the view. Nor because it made a delightful walk for ladies to take on a Sunday afternoon or because it was covered with wonderful blueberries . . . [It was] named in sarcasm because women who tried to live in two houses built there could not endure the loneliness and isolation.” So says a history of Lovell called Blueberries and Pusley Weed.

View from my office
The hill isn’t far from me as I type this. In summer I can hear loons crying on Lower Bay of Kezar Lake on which Ladies’ Delight Hill borders, but in winter there’s not much happening over there. The road is plowed and some of the waterfront cottages are used year-’round. Caretakers go in and shovel roofs during snowy winters like this one.

I remember shoveling one over there forty years ago. Park on the road, climb over the snowbank, trudge through deep snow lugging a ladder and a shovel, and get on the roof. It was so quiet the only sound was the “whoomp!” of a big cube of snow I carved out dropping into deep snow on the ground below. I would think of those lonely ladies who lived here generations ago. Women need the company of others more than men do. They need to talk and have someone listen. Lovell Village wasn’t far away but there was no bridge over the Narrows back then. One had to take a ferry in summer or walk over ice in winter to get there.

Stone wall behind my house in Lovell
A hundred fifty years ago this part of Maine wasn’t “Vacationland.” There were no summer cottages on the lakes and ponds or on the hillsides either. There weren’t many trees because farmers had cleared them off, pulled the stumps, and rolled stones to the borders of their property to make the now-gray stone walls around which trees have grown up again in most places. Old timers told me you could travel up Route 5 all the way through town and see Kezar Lake constantly in view because it was treeless clear to the New Hampshire border in the west.

Maple Ridge Road in Harrison last weekend
Though Lovell is nearly all forested again, parts of western Maine still look like they did back then. Last Sunday I drove to Harrison along the Maple Ridge Road. It goes for over a mile with long fields on both sides. It starts just off Route 117 just beyond Crystal Lake and rises through woods to the height of land where it opens up. Fields slope off from the road but not steeply. Big old wooden farmhouses still stand along the road, but the snowbanks were so high I couldn’t easily see over them from my car and I wished I’d taken my pickup instead.

Maple Ridge Road looking west
Those big homes would have been built in the early 1800s, a generation or two after the first settlers cleared their tillable land, sold crops for cash, and their children or grandchildren became prosperous enough to build them. A couple are now horse farms which may bring in a little money here and there, but are probably hobbies for the most part. There was so much snow on the ground I couldn’t tell what the other farms were used for but it was nice to see long fields with unbroken snow cover surrounding them. 

Maple Ridge Road Schoolhouse
Some areas had become overgrown since I was there about thirty years ago. The old wooden schoolhouse was still standing but it’ll need work if it’s going to last another thirty years. I’d liked to have looked in the windows but didn’t want to trudge through deep snow to go up to them. Across the street I could see an old windmill still standing in what had been a field but is now overtaken by new growth. There were the faint outlines of old building further back in the bare trees. I would like to have explored that but the deep snow prevented.

Separate doors for boys and girls
I can only imagine what it took two centuries ago to travel any distance during a winter like this one. It would have been an all-day affair: feed and water the livestock first; hook up the horse to the sleigh; break the runners out of the ice; head to the store or to a neighbor’s farm across town all bundled up and shivering on the seat. Then head home again; unhitch the horse; wipe it down; put it back in its stall; feed and water the livestock again; then go into the house and stoke up the stoves to warm things up — all that just so you could pick up some necessary items and the wives could visit.

Woman ice fishing alone last weekend

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Left and Right February 12, 2019

Gino starts talking about a dead goose that he loved, which had been hit by a car in Jackson, NH. He wrote a letter to the editor about his grieving and got lots of feedback. We go next to the battle for Trump wall funding. Do we think he will declare a state of emergency? I say yes. Gino doesn't declare exactly what Trump may do. We go on to European immigration by Muslims and how politically destabilizing it is. George Soros is concerned that conservative backlash moving European nations rightward -- because of immigration which he has financed, both here in the USA and in Europe. He is worried the EU may disintegrate and wrote an op-ed about it. I describe the expansion of no-go zones in Europe where Muslims let no one in, where they have their own police and courts. Demographers forecast the trend to accelerate because Muslims have five or six times as many children as native Europeans -- and they're harassing Jews. Muslim Democrats elected to US Congress recently are increasingly anti-Semitic as well. I introduce Alexandria Occasio Cortez's proposed "Green New Deal" and read specific items from her FAQ released last Friday. It was endorsed by five announced Democrat presidential candidates and it's painful to read. After reading four or five specific items in the proposal, Gino acknowledges it's crazy and it will never happen. Then he actually blames the right for it. Why? He offers no evidence. We travel over a lot of territory. As I make points Gino doesn't like, he quickly introduces red herrings. He changes the subject so as not to respond to my arguments -- especially about the newly-elected, radical-leftist, Democrat members of Congress and takes things in a different direction. I go along, struggling to keep my tone moderate, and countering with facts. Ultimately, he plays the racist card again, and again with no evidence, because I criticize statements from newly-elected Muslim, Democrat members of Congress.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ancestral Stones

Bug Light Park
Though it was still very cold last weekend, I felt the hope of spring. Maybe it was the angle of the sun, the heat from which was melting snow and ice even when the air temperature was well below freezing. As I ran along the waterfront at Bug Light Park Sunday morning there was no activity in Portland Harbor. Only one ferry to Peaks Island was moving and that had docked by the time I began. There was a quiet I seldom perceive down there. Very few people were stirring, only a couple dog owners out for a walk. It was cold, but the air wasn’t moving and the sun felt warm on my face. That hope of spring is an ancient thing for people in northern climes.

Stone circle in County Cork
I just booked my fourth trip to Ireland, the land of my ancestors, which is amply sprinkled with prehistoric stone formations everywhere going back five millennia. No one knows for sure who built them but archaeologists are slowly piecing bits of evidence together which indicate that many if not most of the curious structures are oriented according to the solar calendar — to confirm that yes, the sun is getting higher each day and spring will indeed return. People around the world are familiar with Stonehenge, which is the largest of numerous other stone circles all over England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Atlantic coast of France.
Human remains, sometimes cremated, have also been found around these stones in Ireland. Some such formations are enormous like Newgrange in the Boyne River Valley which predates Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. We don’t know for sure who built Newgrange, but whoever those people were, they were skilled at working in stone. As with Stonehenge, they moved stone from many kilometers away to build and we don’t understand how they did so. Unlike Stonehenge, Newgrange (and two other huge mounds near it) was also a passage tomb built with corbeled stones and covered with still more stones to make a tumulus covering more than an acre. Like Stonehenge, it was oriented to sunrises on the solstices.

Other stones the size of automobiles are arranged all around Newgrange and inscribed with spirals and concentric circles the meanings of which no one knows. When I visited there I was told by officials on site that they were close to an understanding and a report would be issued within months. I’ve been waiting ten years and there’s been no report.
Isle of Doagh
There are similar concentric circle designs carved into stones on the Isle of Doagh on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal which is the northernmost part of Ireland. When I was there on my first trip, I wasn’t aware of those stones, but I’ll be spending several days on Inishowen again because it’s the land of the McLaughlins where my great-grandfather was born. I’ll be sure to look for them this time.
Another in County Cork (photo by John Banagan)
My great-grandfather, James whom I never knew, was born in a little village called Cloontagh but he emigrated to Boston from the nearby Isle of Doagh. My brother Paul and his girlfriend will be with us for a few days. He’s going to Scotland first and we’ll meet up in Donegal after he flies in from Edinburgh. It’s his first trip to Europe.

Enforced by the British in Ireland
After Paul flies back to the USA my wife and I will head south to County Cork where other branches of my family originated — the Sullivans and Mahoneys, also on my father’s side. I’ve discovered where and when some married and where and when some died, so if I have time maybe I can find their homes. Maybe not though, because they were Roman Catholic and, as such, they wouldn’t likely have inherited real property since it was illegal for a Catholic to own property in Ireland until 1792. They were born in the early 1800s.

On the way south from Donegal to Cork, I can pass through Limerick where John Fitzgerald, great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was born July 4, 1836. That information should be specific enough to perhaps find data on his parents, Patrick and Catherine, about whom I know nothing but their names. The further back I go the more names there are, but records become harder to find, so perhaps I will reach dead ends during this trip. Knowing a few things about ancestors who lived and died there will help me feel connected to the land as I explore it.

The ancestors I’ve learned of so far were all poor. The McLaughlins couldn’t afford stones to mark their graves in Donegal and I may not find any for the Sullivans or Mahoneys in Cork either. However, I will see plenty of the standing stone circles erected five thousand years ago to mark passing seasons — and the graves of more distant ancestors. Those are everywhere.

Monday, February 04, 2019

The Power of Images

Pictures and words: Both are powerful. Governor Ralph Northam’s remarks about an abortion bill last week put him on the hot seat, but pictures from an old yearbook released a couple of days later left him hanging by a thread. He began the week describing how a newborn baby would be kept comfortable while parents and doctors discussed killing it. Two days later he tried to explain two of his old pictures: one in blackface; another of a figure wearing a KKK hood. If he has to resign, it’ll be the pictures that force it and not his talk of killing babies after they’re born.

The Congressional Black Caucus knew a 2005 picture they had of then-Senator Barack Obama smiling with Black Muslim Minister Louis Farrakhan would make his election to the White House difficult, so they buried it for twelve years. It only came to light in 2018 when his second term was over. "I do believe that it would have had a very, very negative effect in that given moment as far as the candidacy of candidate Obama at that time," says Dr. Shayla Nunnally, president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

As I’ve reported before in this space, my students often debated abortion in my classes. During one of the first debates, pictures of aborted babies were introduced by the pro-life side and it was all over. The pro-choice side conceded immediately. After that, I made a rule against using them. The purpose of debating was expressing ideas, making coherent points and counterpoints, and stimulating thought. The pictures were so powerful they prevented that exchange and rendered mere words superfluous.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) knows the power of images. Shortly after announcing her candidacy for president two weeks ago she took on the gun lobby. Referring to a failed gun control bill following the Sandy Hook massacre, she said: "This is going to sound very harsh, [but] I think somebody should have required all those members of Congress to go in a room, in a locked room with no press and nobody else, and look at the autopsy photographs of those babies.”

However, when at least one video image of a baby murdered at an abortion clinic was revealed during Harris’s tenure as Attorney General of California, she worked to suppress it, claiming it was deceptively edited. Together with videos of abortionists discussing how they try not to crush heads and other body parts so they could sell them later, those images threatened government funding of Planned Parenthood and exposed it to prosecution for trafficking in aborted babies’ body parts. Dozens of undercover videos had been recorded at public events attended by David Dalieden and abortionists, then released online.

Planned Parenthood was a major contributor to Harris’s US Senate campaign. In April 2016, her office sent eleven agents to raid Dalieden’s home and seize all his equipment and remaining videos after which Dalieden released a statement saying:

Today, the California Attorney General’s office of Kamala Harris, who was elected with tens of thousands of dollars from taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood, seized all video footage showing Planned Parenthood’s criminal trade in aborted baby parts, in addition to my personal information. Ironically, while seizing my First Amendment work product, they ignored documents showing the illicit scheme between StemExpress and Planned Parenthood. This is no surprise–Planned Parenthood’s bought-and-paid-for AG has steadfastly refused to enforce the law against the baby body parts traffickers in our state, or even investigate them–while at the same time doing their bidding to harass and intimidate citizen journalists. We will pursue all remedies to vindicate our First Amendment rights.

President Trump felt the power of images while campaigning for president in 2016 after NBC released a video of him talking to someone about grabbing women by their genitals. While he squeaked by in the November election, the video definitely cost him support among women. The day after his inauguration, hundreds of thousands marched wearing “pussy hats” in Washington, DC. Tens of thousands more marched in cities and towns across the country.

A dorky-looking picture of Governor Michael Dukakis wearing a helmet in a tank may have contributed to his loss against George H. W. Bush in 1988. An image of John Kerry crawling around in a spacesuit at NASA hurt him in his campaign against George W. Bush in 2004. Richard Nixon reinforced voter impressions of being too stiff when a picture emerged of him walking on a beach in San Clemente wearing his wing tips.

How many words is a picture worth? Sometimes it seems like way more than a thousand.