Vatican Intrigue: Imagine This In Paperback!

I suspect many of my readers would pick up a paperback if the back jacket had this as a plot. I need to state the following are the actual underpinnings of a Vatican trial starting this week.

A cardinal who allegedly induced an underling to lie to prosecutors. Brokers and lawyers who pulled a fast one over the Vatican No. 2 to get him to approve a disastrous real estate deal. A self-styled intelligence analyst who bought Prada and Louis Vuitton items with the Vatican money that she was supposed to send to rebels holding a Catholic nun hostage.

Vatican prosecutors have alleged a jaw-dropping series of scandals in the biggest criminal trial in the Vatican’s modern history. The once-powerful cardinal and nine other people are accused of bleeding the Holy See of tens of millions of dollars in donations through bad investments, deals with shady money managers and apparent favors to friends and family.

But the prosecutors’ case also suggests that Pope Francis and his top lieutenants were not only aware of some of the key transactions, but in some cases explicitly authorized them, even without full documentation or understanding the details.

When it comes to intrigue and crimes the Vatican has always been a source of plots and strange characters making deals and mayhem. This trial is but the latest public example of that fact.

Pope Francis Takes Step With Gay Rights, Akin To Bill Clinton

It is clearly a sign of either how much weighty news or bombastic rhetoric is created each day when the words of Pope Francis expressing support for same-sex civil unions is not the event that would create continuing top-of-the-fold conversations. While following the news of a pope creating a major and truly significant break from his predecessors regarding gay people, a correct position for religion, and all of society, I was aware of just how hard it is to steer headlines away from the chaos of this year. That, in and of itself, is a story we need to ponder.

But the words from Francis are powerful and very important. He made a public statement that the world-wide church needed to hear. “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” Francis said in the documentary, “Francesco”.

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

As a gay man, but not a Catholic, I have a range of feelings about the pope’s words. While many in the world have moved far beyond civil unions for gay people to the socially responsible and correct legal construction of gay marriage there is still much work to be done for allowing freedoms with sexual identity. In regions of the world where bigotry still has a grip and the Catholic hierarchy is less tolerant of homosexuality, this message was most important to be planted by a pope.

Words matter, as I often note on this blog when talking about leadership. I have long approved of the tone and focus of Francis, knowing the Vatican requires more light and less dogma. But it also needs to be stated that until church doctrine is changed the words of a pope will not alter the harm that is done to gay members of that faith.

Traditional Catholics are wedded to the idea a smaller church that holds to never-changing doctrine is better than a larger church that wishes to adapt to a modern world. As a person of faith, I can grasp the over-arching argument traditionalists hold, but know the best path taken comes down to applying Jesus’ teachings in our lives.

I view the opposition to bigotry as more powerful and uplifting than the harsh restraints and words of damnation. I am inspired by those in religious callings who speak about income disparity, racism, or poverty, as this pope has done continuously. The old and worn-out tropes about contraceptives, abortion (and gasp!) homosexuality are not connecting to younger people who do not live in the cloistered world–and have no desire to do so.

I thought of President Bill Clinton this week when this news of Pope Francis was reported. In the 1992 presidential campaign, he spoke about the need to not dismiss or undermine gay people in our military. From his promise the Clinton administration moved to enact ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. It was not a President Truman type moment regarding the military, but it was a start. From there larger steps were taken as the years progressed. That is how governments and large institutional changes begin and evolve.

With a first step.

When tolerance is too often threatened and marginalized in the world there is really only one way to greet the words of Pope Francis. With a smile and two-thumbs up.

Now step two……

Infection And Idiocy Long Aligned


I was troubled by yet another frivolous lawsuit that is making news in Wisconsin. A coalition of Catholic schools, parents, and wealthy benefactors plan to hire a law firm to challenge an order issued late Friday to close all schools in Dane County to in-person instruction for students in grades 3-12.  The reason for such an action by the county to stem the pandemic and further infections meets the demands of science and data.  The move towards a lawsuit is yet one more example of how far removed some are from not only science but also history.

The combination of infections and idiocy go hand-in-hand over the far reaches of recorded history.  This weekend I was reading about the bubonic plague which struck Moscow in 1770.  The death toll reached as high as 800 cases per day in the city, and yet the inability of people to adhere to what was then known about the plague is not so hard to believe, given what we witness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The imposition of medical precautions was then scorned, and many even thought physicians and medicines had brought forth the plague.  Conspiracy theories are nothing new.

The city residents refused to obey orders forbidding them to gather in market places and churches and to stop kissing supposedly miraculous icons.  People would gather to kiss and slobber over an icon of Mary.  Crowds swarmed around her feet and history proves this became the deadliest center of the contagion in the city.

Today we know how to stem infections and the spread of a virus that has, of this posting, killed over 175,000 Americans.  Our nation has 4% of the population and 25% of the cases.  But last night I read some of the comments on twitter regarding the state health department’s releases of Saturday case numbers of COVID and was reminded once again how citizens can be so removed from facts, data, and science.  It was as if they sat down at the computer and tried to spin a narrative that all was fine if only those pesky leaders in the state would stop talking about a pandemic. If we do not talk about it all goes away!

The residents of Moscow in 1770 can be forgiven, up to a point, for behaving in ways that are illogical and run counter to medical facts. Today we know rats and fleas led to the ways people were the first infected.  But in 2020 with our wealth of knowledge and insight, there is no way to rationalize the willful disregard for science and data with COVID-19.

Ex-Pope Benedict XVI Still Proving His Absurdity


Readers know the Catholic Church does not get many accolades on Caffeinated Politics.  It is not hard to fathom why that is the case.  One only needs to follow the news.  And have a dose of common sense.

Former pope Benedict XVI has once again launched into one of his mentally-detached wanderings.  He has now accused opponents of wanting to silence him while associating gay marriage with the Antichrist.   This is also the same knuckle-dragger who called homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil” and said pro-gay groups promote “deceitful propaganda.”  That is such a rewarding line coming from the Vatican!

The former Prada-wearing pontiff was never a part of the modern world.  His glee over kneeling before a rotting body part from ‘a saint’ is far more to his liking then seeing the smiles of a couple who are able to carry a baby home following a technological conception procedure.  His pleasure comes far more from the memories of indulgences and the infallibility of a pope than knowing gay couples can wed.

His latest rants are further proof as to why he is a living relic.  He also proves why there needs to always be a dead pope before a new one is elected.  Benedict XVI’s back-seat driving and desire for relevance are causing headaches for his successor. Pope Francis might read some of the history of the Catholic Church to see how the matter might be resolved.

And so it goes.

Catholic Herald: Hispanics Not ‘Invaders’ Or Taking ‘Our’ Jobs

While I do not read all the newspapers, as Sarah Palin once claimed, I do read a lot of varied publications.  I do that to come in contact with varying perspectives.  Such reading allows me to either slightly alter my views about an issue in the news, or further confirm the positions which I currently hold.

One of the publications I read is the Madison Catholic Herald.  Though not Catholic I am taken by the professional nature of the publication and the journalism behind it, even though it obviously skewers towards a certain direction.   I always respect a well written and argued publication, which is why I have read the Herald for over a year.

Over the weekend I was reading the Sept. 5th edition and came across a column by Moises Dandoval regarding the El Paso shooting and Hispanics in our nation.  It made points that too many Americans wish to ignore when it comes to Hispanics in our nation.  It was a powerful read.

Richard Parker, author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America,” wrote in The New York Times: “My last name is Anglo, but I am the son of a Mexican immigrant.” He wrote that he spoke to a young soldier, Pfc. Richard Riley, whose eyes welled with tears as he viewed the white crosses of the victims and said: “I just can’t believe it. I’m Hispanic too. And I can’t believe that these people were killed because they were.”

The assailant allegedly complained about “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The word invasion connotes the intention to conquer, seize control, subjugate the current inhabitants. But we cannot call the immigrants who cross the border invaders.

They are more like the people described by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” They come, first, to survive; to find work to support their families, and in the process contribute to the nation.

Moreover, Hispanics take jobs no one wants — and there are millions of them. At the end of June 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7.3 million job openings, a figure largely unchanged from month to month. You find them in poultry processing plants in Mississippi where immigration authorities recently arrested over 600 Hispanics suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Where both parents worked, both were arrested, the children coming home traumatized to find no one there. In one place, a Catholic parish was left with the daunting job of caring for the children.

My belief is the nation is better off when we have not only diversity but also people in our land who really wish to be here.  Too many of my fellow citizens take for granted the freedom and security we enjoy.  But those who flee dangerous places and severe economic hardships are the very ones who best know what our ideals are about.  They may not be able to articulate it like a wheat farmer in Kansas but they are very able to feel it. The least the rest of us can do is to better understand immigrants who seek our shores and recall our own family beginnings were not much different.

And so it goes.

“Day Of Confession”

Out and about on a mostly cloudy Saturday in Madison and while browsing came upon a book by Allan Folsum published in 1998. Day Of Confession seems most promising for an escape read later this year with Vatican intrigue taking center stage.  I have long contended that nothing is more political and at times sinister, than the workings of the Vatican and the Catholic Church.  History shows that to be true.

And it seems like Folsum knows that too as the tease on the jacket cover reveals.

Four days after Cardinal Rosario Parma is assassinated in Rome, hotshot L.A. entertainment lawyer Harry Addison gets a frantic phone message from his estranged brother, Danny, a Vatican priest.  Shortly thereafter, Harry hears that Danny has died in a bus explosion. When he flies to Rome to claim the body, he discovers that Danny is the prime suspect in Parma’s murder and that he’s still alive. The novel then follows two parallel plots. Harry tries to find Danny and clear his name; meanwhile, the sinister Cardinal Umberto Palestrina, who thinks he’s the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, plots to make China the site of a new Holy Roman Empire.

Some day when all the real headlines of the day are making me wonder if sanity still exists in Washington I will turn to read a story which starts with the cardinal vicar of Rome being assassinated on the pope’s birthday.

Can that storyline be any crazier than the latest tweet?



Here We Go Again, Vatican Spits In Face Of Science

Here we go again.  The Vatican and science are at odds – this time over gender.

The Vatican office that lays down the official line for Roman Catholic educational institutions released a new document Monday that dismisses the scientifically accepted idea that gender identity is fluid as “nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants.”

Calling the current thinking an attempt to “annihilate the concept of ‘nature,’” the Congregation for Catholic Education insisted that biology decides what is “constitutive of human identity” and called for the reaffirming of “the metaphysical roots of sexual difference.” The 31-page document was released as LGBTQ people around the world are celebrating pride month.

The Vatican has not lost its zeal to fly in the face of science.   Let us recall another bruising example of how afar adrift from logic the Catholic Church has been.

The Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei was trialed and convicted in 1633 for publishing his evidence that supported the Copernican theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Oh NO!!

His research was instantly criticized by the Catholic Church for going against the established scripture that places Earth and not the Sun at the center of the universe. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” for his heliocentric views and was required to “abjure, curse and detest” his opinions. He was sentenced to house arrest, where he remained for the rest of his life and his offending texts were banned.


Do Catholic Parishioners Ever Ask For A Refund? (And Why The Hell Not?)

This is rich.


It was reported today that a West Virginia bishop spent millions on himself and sent cash to cardinals and young priests before his ouster.  This comes from a Vatican report…can you image how bad it really was to warrant the truth?

In the years before he was ousted for alleged sexual harassment and financial abuses, Bishop Michael Bransfield gave cash gifts totaling $350,000 to fellow clergymen, including young priests he is accused of mistreating, and more than a dozen cardinals in the United States and at the Vatican, according to church records obtained by The Washington Post.

During his 13 years in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, much of it personal, that included flying in chartered jets and staying in luxury hotels, according to a report prepared for the Vatican. Bransfield or his subordinates spent an average of nearly $1,000 a month on alcohol, the report said.

“Bishop Bransfield adopted an extravagant and lavish lifestyle that was in stark contrast to the faithful he served and was for his own personal benefit,” they wrote in the final report.