Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Word of Advice From a Relativism-Loving Heathen, Pope Benedict

Last Thursday started out like any other morning, got to work, sat down, and immediately logged onto Twitter (five points to hard working me). For whatever reason, as it seems every other day there’s another Catholic abuse scandal, I opened this link. In this article was what really was the usual Catholic child abuse scandal story; predatory monster of a priest, children abused, abuse being discovered and then covered up by the Church. What shocked me was my reaction to it which put mildly, was utter rage. Of course anger is the kind of reaction that one should feel at the mere mention of child-abuse however after these numerous child abuse scandals, I hate to admit it but I had become jaded.

This article lays out the story of Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy (accused of abusing over 200 deaf boys), though it never outright make the accusation, certainly makes the implication that in 1996, Murphy on the verge of getting a canonical trial was let off after interference from the then Cardinal Ratzinger or his office. This occurred after Murphy wrote to Ratzinger pleading that he was old and had repented. The NYTimes is at pains to point out that in these documents (that were compelled from the Catholic Church through a court order) there is no reply from Cardinal Ratzinger. Even if somehow I could overlook this instance this is not the only case to come to light recently in which the Pope himself is implicated in a cover-up. Perhaps even more damning, is the German case . However, it was this case which ignited my fury.

What shocked me about my reaction was that recently I have had a chance to get to know a rather staunch Catholic, Mpumi Nqgula, who’s really spoken honestly, fairly & (surprisingly for me) calmly about Catholicism & the Church. After speaking to her, my opinion of the Catholic Church had slowly come to change. From being rather anti-Catholic, mainly because of the churches handling of abuse cases, Mpumi, (to borrow from marketing speak) having been the perfect ‘brand ambassador’ had, if not entirely changed my mind on the Church, then certainly softened my attitude towards it.

My views on the Pope though never particularly developed, were vaguely distrustful. With the title of ‘Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’ when still Cardinal Ratzinger, or the more popular monikers, ‘The Panzer Cardinal’ or ‘God’s Rottweiler” which hardly lent him a more cuddly air, could I be blamed? However Mpumi explained a lot to me about what the Pope’s former role entailed, introduced me to some of his writings; essentially rehabilitating the Pope’s image to me. So when the Pope released his letter of apology to the Irish Catholics (which in my mind, could be seen as an apology to the wider world), I was receptive to it and saw it in a generally positive light.

However in that one article, whatever little faith I had in the Catholic Church to clean its own house up was totally lost.

This case, made everything that the Church had previously said on these scandals, particularly the Pope’s ‘apology’ to the Irish congregation, strike as disingenuous. In that apology, he essentially utterly & totally absolved Rome of any and all charges that itself was involved in these cover-ups, chiefly when he wrote, addressing Irish Bishops in particular, “It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.”

Let me make it clear, not for a second am I saying that the Pope himself made the call to have the would-be trial against Rev. Murphy called off. As the Times points, out his former office, tasked with dealing with clerical sexual misconduct, received thousands of cases over the years he was in charge. However, clearly, within that office, in 1996, the prevailing view, regardless of official policy, was that this is a private matter for the Church to deal with.

A view that these actions should not be dealt with as the odious crimes that they were, but rather as sins; sins to be absolved by penance.

A view that would have had to had to have been signed off of by the man in charge; the man who is now known as, “His Holiness The Pope, Bishop of Rome & Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of Saint Peter, Prince of The Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of The Universal Church, Servant of the Servants of God, Primate of Italy, Archbishop & Metropolitan of The Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City State, Benedict XVI.”

What I ask is, how can we be expected to take the Pope’s apology to be sincere, when it would seem to be clear that Pope Benedict himself was complicit in these cover-ups as a matter of policy either actively, or, by allowing his office to let priests off, passively? In my view, there is more than enough evidence that this rot, and that is what it is, rot, went beyond the Bishops (as Rome would have us believe) and went right up to the top, to the Churches highest echelons.

The Vatican has already accepted the resignation of one Irish Bishop over his being implicated in the cover-up of abuse with numerous others offering there’s. Perhaps it’s time for Pope Benedict, to take a moment, forget the titles, the pomp and ceremony, and look at his Church. Besides the victims of these abuses, the other true victims of these scandals are your everyday Catholics, your Mpumis, who day in and day out have to defend their church from what are undeniably fair charges. Perhaps the Pope should forget the hierarchy and take an example from those below him, and resign. If not as an apology to those who have been harmed because of his actions, then to save whatever credibility his Church, still has.

The plain fact is this. With him still in power, no matter how much the Church apologises, no matter how many Bishops resign, no matter how many abusers are defrocked and jailed, this stench, this pall, will remain over the Church for perpetuity.

Note: Thanks must go out to Mpumi for helping me in explaining some of the Church structures, terminology etc. Oh yes, and there’s no need to excommunicate her for doing this as she did not know what I was writing about.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Attack Journalists, & You Attack A Vital Foundation of Our Democracy #SpeakZA

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu(see here). This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa. We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic
safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but a insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.
We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

Written By Sipho Hlongwane.(whose blog can be found here)
If you wanna know more about this, you can read the following.
Chris Roper, Editor of the Mail & Guardian Online wrote this.
And the Daily Maverick wrote this
Blog Roll


Friday, March 19, 2010

In Defence of My Representatives

So yesterday finally saw what many in South Africa had been talking about for a while now being debated in parliament, our confidence in Jacob Zuma to be President. My choice to use ‘our confidence’ is no mistake. Quite often in pulling our hair out, shouting at politicians on television (okay, maybe that’s just me) & lamenting over the state of politics in South Africa we tend to forget that many of these people we decry, are elected by us, are our voices, are our representatives. Anyone with the scantest knowledge of South African politics can understand why we choose to forget this fact. At the best of times, they’re merely boring, but at the worst, which is sadly quite often, they’re an unmitigated embarrassment; nevertheless our representatives they are.

This debate, a vote of no confidence, was tabled by COPE backed by the DA and supported by supported by 25% of the house, Lindiwe Sisulu kindly informed us (whilst trampling over the principles of the parliament she professed needed to be protected from ‘frivolity.’) In tabling the motion, Mvume Dandala, the parliamentary leader of COPE said, “The President of our country has let us down. He has let Africa and the world down…” Now as for letting Africa & the world down, I don’t know, but with regards to us, I know many would have to agree with that, we have been let down.

I look at my father, a 100%, proudly card-carrying member of the ANC; even he, when I needle him on Zuma, has taken to answering me with nothing more than a despairing sigh.

Alternatively, I think on how I have viewed the man myself. Views which have moved from ardent supporter (yes, you read right, ardent supporter), to disappointment as the scandals began piling up, to sad resignation at his election in Polokwane and finally to sheer anger as he happily danced and sang his way out of court without ever answering to charges of corruption.

Somehow, despite all that, upon his election as our President I was able to believe with tentative hope that perhaps, just perhaps, Zuma would prove to be the President that South Africa needed. And my hope was bolstered; the early signs seem to signify that Zuma, the most unlikely of sources, would be what we needed. All the early signs pointed that way, a largely admirable cabinet was assembled, an inauguration which to me echoed that of Mandela’s was held with an inaugural speech that seemed to have tones of both conciliation with his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, whilst also signaling a change away from the politics of the Mbeki-era.

Despite all this, here we are, roundly being mocked around the world, at times unfairly as was seen in that odious Daily Mail piece (so vile that even our 10th, 11th & 12th provinces, Putney, Wimbeldon & Australia must have balked at it). But increasingly even the most ardent supporters find themselves struggling to defend us against pieces such as this New York Times article, which a Facebook friend said (maybe slightly unfairly to journalists) commenting on a link to it, “You know your country has problems when journalists don’t have to exaggerate.” With all this, can one blame me for feeling nothing but utter despair at what a laughing stock we have become because of this man?

So when I heard that COPE was tabling a motion of no-confidence in our dear President (a first in South Africa’s democratic dispensation) I immediately was heartened. I struggle to find another word to describe it besides ‘heartened’ as this action by COPE did just that. It brought something that had sadly come to be missing in their party, a little bit of hope.

It cannot be denied, COPE is a house beset by numerous issues and has made innumerable blunders; blunders more to be expected from the ANC, and truly needs to look to these issues if they are to not follow the path of every other ANC splintering. However, despite this COPE is in my view, first truly viable attempt at a multiracial political party. You’ll be hard pressed to find many South Africans who would deny that the politics of race and identity if not curbed quickly will be the death of our democracy (well unless you should poke your head into the ANCYL’s office after a few bottles of Veuve & Johnny Walker have loosened their tongues, I’m sure they don’t mind).

When I say COPE’s move yesterday heartened me what I mean is that, for a moment, I saw a glimpse of what I had hoped COPE would, and still believe could, be when I placed my X by their name last year. A party that would stand against ANC excess, corruption & impropriety without the racial undertones that any such attempts that the DA had (and still has) when doing the very same thing.

Something that I have seen said as a critique of the vote is, to paraphrase, “the ANC has ultimately been strengthened by it, they’ve rallied together.” I will be the first to state that the splitting up of the ANC from the broad church it is into each of its varying factions would be the one of the best thing for our democracy and yes the no-confidence vote brought an increasingly divided ANC some severely needed cohesion. But I would say, that this cohesion, will at the very best be fleeting. History has always shown attack from the outside by anyone (COPE in this instance), in no way diminishes the problems within the attacked group or nation. (How long did the Allies last after Germany was defeated? See what I mean…) Essentially, the issues within the ANC that have caused this divisiveness are still there, and will surface again soon enough.

Ultimately though, my primary point against that argument would have to be, would we be have been happy had we in a week or two been happy to find out through some leak, that a proposal within COPE’s parliamentary caucus on whether Jacob Zuma is fit to lead us had been shelved for the case of political expediency? Somehow, I think not.

Ultimately, was the vote of no confidence yesterday, political grandstanding and headline grabbing? Is COPE a party that has major issues that need urgent addressing? The answers to these particular, and many more critiques & questions would undoubtedly have to be yes. However, should COPE & yesterday’s vote be viewed in a negative light or termed, “the misplaced audacity of COPE?”

This is where I would have to disagree in the strongest of terms. For the simple reasons that for a while yesterday, something very rare happened, our parliament became just that, OUR parliament, and I for one, was proud to stand and call the COPE members, MY representatives.

NOTE: Yes, I voted for COPE, but I am not a member, nor will I ever be. To see a different point of view read the blogpost that caused me to write this post.