Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mandela and Baby Jakes

So good to hear the reflections of my friend Xana McCauley on the passing of Nelson Mandela and of the boxer Baby Jake Matlala in South Africa:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recipe for Christmas Zest

If your Christmas spirit lacks zest, add a dash of Judaism.

1.  Listen to the prayer Jesus taught sung in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.  It's on the CD Scriptures by Covita Moroney from Renewal Records, cut three.

2.  Learn to count to ten in Hebrew, thinking especially about the number one, ahat or ehad.  Reflect on Jesus' words to Martha: "Only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:42).

3.  Memorize the Shemah, the most important prayer in Judaism, which begins, Shemah Israel: YHWH ehad (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Listen to it sung on the album above, cut two.

4.  Watch the sunrise looking east toward Jerusalem.

5.  Visit Bethlehem--online if not in person.  Reflect on the Hebrew meaning of the town's name Beit Lechem (House of Bread because it is in a grain-growing area).

6.  Visit Nazareth--online if not in person.  Remember that Jesus was originally called a natzrati, which is still the Hebrew word today for a Christian.  Practice saying, "Ani Natzrati"--"I'm a Christian."

7.  Learn to gamble for chocolate coins using a dreidel.  Learn why the letters gimmel, nun, heh, and shin are on the dreidel. (Gadol nes haiyah sham - "A great miracle occurred there.")

8.  Visit the Holocaust Museum nearest you.  There are currently 41 in the US and more in 24 other countries.

9.  Ask a Jewish friend to help you find someone who observes the Shabbat meal on Friday evening and would let you attend.  Participate in lighting the candles and welcoming in the Shabbat (day of rest and remembering the presence of God).

10.  Memorize Psalm 27:4 and listen to it sung in Hebrew: "One thing have I asked of YHWH, that will I seek after: that I may live in the house of YHWH all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of YHWH and to seek in God's temple."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Front Pages: Mandela

There's one thing everyone on earth agrees on: Mandela's importance.

Here's a compilation of front pages today from around the world as noted on the website of The Week, a British weekly news magazine:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mandela: 1918-2013

What a lifetime--born in rural Transkei in 1918, herding sheep as a child, fighting against racial oppression, imprisoned 27 years, dying in a world filled with cell phones and Twitter feeds.

A map of South Africa showing the state of Transkei on the southeastern coast:

I was moved to watch President Obama's tribute to him this morning.  The depth of Obama's feeling for his friend and role model was apparent.

He chose these words of Mandela to remember: "I'm not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."

Concluding, he paraphrased the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., to describe Mandela as "a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."

In his death we all continue to learn from the retrospective accounts of his life. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Taj Mahony

I have never visited Ex-Archbishop Roger Mahony's fancy new cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, and I never will.

It opened in 2002 while Mahony was still covering up the names and specific criminal acts of priests accused of sexual abuse of children.

Not until January of 2013 did a court order force the archdiocese to make public "thousands of pages of priest personnel files" that had forced Mahony to settle litigation in 2008 with a payoff of $720 million to 500 persons who had been abused as children.

That cathedral reeks with Mahony's pride and echoes with the whispers of church officials trying to silence adults pursuing justice for their stolen childhoods.

Thank you to Harriet Ryan, Ashley Powers, and Victoria Kim for putting together a powerful retrospective on the ambition and cover-up of Mahony as archbishop.

One anecdote stood out to me, when Mahony was meeting with wealthy parishioners from La Canada/Flintridge to raise money for the $720 million settlement.

One woman challenged him to resign for being in essence a CEO who had mismanaged his business causing a loss of three-quarters of a billion dollars.

It's about accountability, another woman said.
Mahony slammed his hand on the table, scattering his charts.  You self-righteous... he began.  Keep your money, he told them.

That's what journalism is about--research and interviews that report the truth about and behind current events.

In 2013 Mahony enjoyed traveling to Rome for the conclave to choose a new pope, despite calls for him to stay home instead as penance for his role in covering up child sexual abuse.  

During the nearly nine years I taught at a Catholic college in Los Angeles, Mahony was the leader of the church in Los Angeles.  He spoke up for immigrant rights but clamped down against any suggestion that women should be allowed to become priests.  

In 2000 he and other California bishops joined with the Mormon Church to raise financial support and votes for Proposition 8, the effort to enshrine marriage as "only between a man and a woman."

That hypocrisy--defining marriage and priesthood while protecting child abuse by priests--was part of my decision to leave my job as a tenured professor at Mount St. Mary's College.  

Another part was American bishops' plan to enforce Ex corde ecclesiae, "The Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II on Catholic Universities."  The goal was to preserve the heart of the Roman Catholic Church by firing professors and college presidents who did not toe the Church's line on social issues.

I was not going to continue taking a paycheck while professors in theology and religious studies had to ask Archbishop Mahony for a mandatum--permission to continue teaching, perhaps granted only to those who did not speak out on contraception, abortion, married priests, women priests, and other issues.

I sent Mahony a letter explaining my reasons for resignation.  

He never answered, too busy with his new cathedral and with fending off police investigations of priests who had abused children.