Religion, Faith and Sprituality

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tax-Exempt NY Archdiocese Church Publicly Endorses Mitt Romney--In Writing.

We are Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, but on this question we are united in faith and in action. We urge our fellow Catholics, and indeed all people of good will, to join with us in this full-hearted effort to elect Governor Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States.
Such sentiments are not all that unusual to hear lately. The "Catholic vote" has been in the news and there has been much waxing prosaic on the partisanship of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

But these are not the words of some Catholic individual on the stump. These exhortations were published (and widely circulated) in the weekly (September 2nd) bulletin distributed after each mass at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Manhattan. Hit the link and see for yourself (Click 9/02 bulletin.) before Timothy Dolan's legal muscle forces the parish to take the online version down.

I, who have, of late, had much to say about Dolan's more subtle campaigning for Romney, am at a loss for words.

Except to say that this parish has clearly broken the law.

For those of you who do not attend Catholic mass weekly as I do, the church bulletin is a reliable constant in Catholic worship life. Even in the days of electronic connectedness, the paper bulletin remains the prime means of communicating with Catholics in the pews. Each parish has one. They have a uniform design --and Catholics read them. St. Catherine's is also available online.

So far Timothy Dolan's electioneering for Romney has been very thinly veiled. There's been a push for the appearance of partisanship of late, a push which I believe is a response to his fear that he is concerned about losing his diocese's tax-exempt status. I think also his show of non-partisanship has to do with a desire to hedge his bets and hold onto progressive Catholics.

There is nothing thinly veiled about this campaign speech which was disseminated, most probably, after each mass celebrated at St. Catherine of Sienna Church last weekend, and authored by one John Farren O.P., a priest affiliated with St. Catherine's Church, who cites a letter written by six former Ambassadors to the Holy See:
The Former Ambassadors write: "Fellow Catholics, "We are all called to advance the moral teachings of Christianity in the life of our country. Where the stakes are highest - in the defense of life, liberty, and human dignity - we have a duty to act that is greater and more urgent than allegiance to any political party. "In the election of 2012, this conviction has united all of us - each a former ambassador of the United States to the Holy See - in support of Governor Mitt Romney's candidacy for president. Whatever issues might dominate the presidential campaign from now until November, our concerns lie with fundamental rights, beginning with religious liberty.

"While the current administration has brought our first freedom under direct assault by imposing government mandates that completely disregard religious conscience, Governor Romney believes that freedom to live one's faith is essential to liberty and human fulfillment. And he has pledged himself to removing those federal mandates immediately.

"While the current administration has now put its weight on the side of those who propose to redefine the meaning of marriage itself, Governor Romney has stood firm in defending this sacred institution. In the White House, just as he did in the Massachusetts State House, he will defend the institution of marriage before the Congress, the courts, and the country.

"Where the current administration has shown its sympathy for the pro-abortion lobby, Mitt Romney will be a faithful defender of life in all its seasons. And he understands the special duty of people of faith to serve in this cause. As Governor Romney recently said, "From the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man. Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action."

"These are the words of a man we believe can be a great force for good in this nation. We are Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, but on this question we are united in faith and in action. We urge our fellow Catholics, and indeed all people of good will, to join with us in this full-hearted effort to elect Governor Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States."
Is this an endorsement for a political candidate or is it just my imagination?
Tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from endorsing candidates.
The Internal Revenue Service should investigate the Archdiocese of New York for this violation.
And the funny part is, all this risky Catholic behavior is for the benefit of a presidential candidate who won't lift a finger to revere Roe v. Wade.

Follow Michele Somerville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NYpoet

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Prelate and the Dirty Pol--Nicholas DiMarzio and Vito Lopez: Thick As Thieves


I recently posted a piece about the not quite kosher alliance between the disgraced Democratic party kingmaker Vito Lopez and Nicholas DiMarzio, the bishop in charge of the Brooklyn-Queens Roman Catholic Diocese, in the "New York" section of the Huffington Post. It's a local politics story, but, there is an alarming religious (Catholic) aspect to Vito Lopez's fall from grace--so to speak. For years Vito Lopez and Nicholas DiMarzio have been thick as thieves. In the Brooklyn and Queen Diocese, wherein I do most of my worshipping, Vito Lopez has enjoyed liberal use of at least a few of DiMarzio's priests.
No, Vito did not slide his hands up their thighs, as he did with young women in his offices, but he has been credibly accused of using Catholic priests to electioneer on his behalf in senior citizens operations he (Lopez) managed, and both DiMarzio and the monsignor who works as his "spokesman" have openly shilled for Lopez. Given the relationship that existed between Lopez and DiMarzio and the way things are generally done among priests (who are required to obey their bishops), it is unreasonable to assume that a priest instructing elderly folks living in Lopez's housing to vote for him would not do so without the bishop's blessing, so to speak. I write "existed" and not "exist" because it is now unlikely that the relationship between the prelate and the pol will survive Lopez's tribulations. DiMarzio will no longer be kissing that pol's ring.
In one case, a few years back, a pastor was informed just before the 12:00 mass that DiMarzio's spokesman/assistant Kieran Harrington, a monsignor, would be celebrating "the twelve" that day. As mass ended Harrington electioneered for one of Vito Lopez's pet candidates from the pulpit. As mass let out, parishioners were recruited to leaflet on church grounds on behalf of the candidate, whom Harrington had earlier described as being "good for our church." Obviously neither the leafleting, nor the campaigning from the pulpit were lawful. Although I did not speak with the priest about this virtual hijacking of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass those congregants in attendance with whom I did speak seemed to feel that the blind-sided priest scheduled to say the mass had been made an offer he couldn't refuse.
It is a bit ironic that this despicable incursion into a sacred space on the occasion of the Christian Sabbath was not even necessary. The candidate, Steve Levin, was a sure favorite in that race. The bishop had nothing to gain by sending his flak monsignor into the church on to commit this transgression, nothing, that is, beyond shame and distrust. DiMarzio's (unlawful) choice to publicly campaign for Lopez that same year tells us much (DiMarzio recorded "robocalls" for his strange bedfellow Vito Lopez.) about the kind of "shepherd" DiMarzio really is.
DiMarzio closed or shuttered four poor parishes in one area of Brooklyn a few years ago, due to lack of funding while simultaneously giving his imprimatur (allocating funds) to rebuild a gargantuan cathedral-sized church in a neighboring area. The restoration of this (St. Joseph's Church) is uncommonly extensive and and costly, and it has the added godawful feature of being conducted in a part of Brooklyn wherein many of the poor have been pushed out of their homes by mammoth real estate interests and gentrification. The pastor of this cathedral-esque church in the making is the aforementioned Harrington, DiMarzio's mouthpiece/assistant/accomplice, who very much hopes to be the next bishop of the diocese, and the hope is that the church will attract the new affluent young people whom the new, luxury housing in the area will attract.
Parishioners in parishes shuttered for their inability to cough up the diocesan vigorish, put money in the basket each week up until the time their parishes were closed. Some of that money found its way to the diocese where it is likely enough some of it paid for a few of the bricks and some of the mortar the bishop's new church, the church his flunky monsignor runs. All this anguish and expenditure despite the fact of the diocese's actual cathedral, St. James Basilica, which sits a mile away from where DiMarzio's colossus-in-progress is located. One priest with whom I spoke (not for attribution) explained the bishop's decision to approve this costly project while so many churches in its vicinity were closing: "He thinks the cathedral isn't big enough. Twice a year it isn't big enough. DiMarzio wants a bigger church for ordinations." It would seem the bishop of Brooklyn learned well from his long collaboration with Vito Lopez.
In one dispute between a community organizer priest and Vito Lopez, DiMarzio threw his support to Vito, and his priest under the bus. Lopez attempted to develop real estate in poor the community (not far, again, from the de facto-cathedral in the remaking) wherein the priest, Reverend James O'Shea ministered and worked as a community organizer. Father O'Shea challenged team Lopez-DiMarzio and wound up without a church; shortly thereafter the tag team Lopez-DiMarzio closed the church he had run.
With help from Vito Lopez, the passage of the Child Victims Act in the Assembly was blocked. Knowing what we know now, it is easy to conclude that Lopez was probably soft on abusers and not merely trading favors with the bishop. DiMarzio's decision to collaborate with Lopez in fighting legislation (for a price, on the basis that it would "bankrupt the diocese") that would protect the lives of people who were violated as children by priests is its own latter-day variation on Judas and his thirty pieces of silver, and tells us a good deal about who the man governing Roman Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens really is.
As a Catholic and a Christian who puts credence in the teaching of Jesus, I find it hard to square strong-arming tactics with Christian teaching. In most cases, cozying up to developers at the expense of the poor flies in the face of everything for which the Jesus of the Gospels stands.
My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!
(Matthew 21:13) 
For more information on Lopez and DiMarzio, read "Grabby Vito Lopez and the Bishop in His Pocket" and"Bishop DiMarzio Wants Your Lunch Money" on Huffington Post.


Follow Michele Somerville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NYpoet