Quote of the Weekend: Here’s the part of the COVID Relief Bill we’ve all been waiting for (in case you nodded off listening to it being read aloud in the Senate):
“subsection (a)(1) of such section 314 shall be applied by substituting ‘91 percent’ for ‘89 percent’” and “without regard to requirements in sections 658E(c)(3)(E) or 658G of such Act (42 U.S.C. 9858c(c)(3), 9858e).”
Those are actual excerpts from the Covid relief bill.
Just about every day, Facebook pops up on my personal page a post & photo from this date some year in the past, as a memory.
The other day, a photo came up on FB of me, taking nap recliner, while mischievous granddaughter, seven, piling stuffed animals and stuff on my torso to see how much she could stack up on me before the weight woke me up.
This happened one year ago during a family reunion over an extended weekend in Las Vegas, where my daughter works as a nurse. It was silly scene, but showed we were having a fine time, so it was worth a passing remembrance.
Then I realized something else about it. That trip and gathering marked the end of the world.
Well, not the end of THE world, but surely the end of A world: the pre-pandemic world, the demise of what can be called the Good Old Days. And so that silly photo of me asleep with odds and ends piled on my belly in late February 2020, also marked the anniversary – better say the first anniversary — of the era of Covid.
After that family weekend, within just a few weeks, schools were closed, unemployment swept through us like a tornado, markets crashed, toilet paper disappeared and lockdowns were coming, and the last time I was able to worship in person at our meetinghouse until – when?
And on this unwelcome anniversary, I realized a couple other things: one is that it’s not over; far from it. The other is a strong suspicion, that even when it’s declared to be over, it may be impossible to go “back to normal.” At least not entirely.
I knew it would happen, and knew I wouldn’t like it, but I did it anyway.
The third “it” above was start a Facebook group called “Quakers,” about a month ago, after a previous one abruptly folded up: some internal hassle among the admins had spun out of control.
I wasn’t involved in the hassling, and didn’t like that there was suddenly no Facebook group called just “Quakers.” I wondered if Facebook (FB for short), in its ineffable internet majesty, would permit the name to be taken up again; surprisingly, it did.
I didn’t really want to start the group, because I knew I’d need to be the admin (aka Pope), and would have to take up “moderator” duties there (the second “it” above).
I’d been asked a couple times to join moderator teams on other FB groups, and had declined. Too lazy, but also it seemed like a big distraction, and I already had enough of those. But whatever.
And a couple days ago, that first “it” arrived, as the predictable, inevitable outcome of the other two. It was the social media syllogism in action:
February is not only Black History Month, it’s also Lincoln’s month: birthday (the 12th); holiday (the 15th, tho he currently shares it with some old & about-to-be-canceled slaveholder named Washington).
Lincoln is an endlessly fascinating and enigmatic character. (And speaking of canceling, he just got tossed as namesake of San Francisco high school by a “progressive” school board.) And I’ve been learning some more about him recently from historian David Blight.
Lincoln is a major figure in the middle section of Blight’s Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography last year, and deserved it.
The book is deeply researched, consistently insightful, splendidly written, and blessed with an endlessly quotable subject. Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to finish it.
This week, while many American Quakers (& others) wait anxiously to see whether a new civil war is about to break out, the question of what Quakers can or should do in response to such events continues to linger.
I don’t have answers to that question; or rather, there is a surplus of answers, and sorting them out is “above my pay grade.” But I have studied how Quakers faced the (first?) U. S. Civil War. And these studies have been both reassuring and challenging, Perhaps they are worth reviewing briefly.
“Your people–the Friends” he wrote to a Quaker minister, “–have had, and are having, a very great trial. On principle, and faith, opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war. In this hard dilemma, some have chosen one horn, and some the other.”
To be sure, Lincoln was a politician, skillfully framing the choice in a way biased toward the war he was waging as the “only” way to “practically” end slavery.
A few days ago, a post on a Quaker Facebook group asked what the Quaker position was on dealing with insurrection.
An excellent and, er, disturbingly timely question. To which, of course, there is not a single Quaker answer.
To my mind, the best way to approach it is to look at live examples in our history. And here is one:
In the decade before the U.S. Civil War, many of the strong abolitionist Quakers (who were, we must note for the sake of truth, were then the radical fringe, loudly despised and marginalized by the Quaker Establishment) formed groups under the banner of Progressive Friends.
The largest of these groups gathered in Longwood in Chester County, southwest of Philadelphia, in an area now known as the “Mushroom Capital.” There they soon built a meetinghouse which still stands.
Once underway, the Longwood Progressives quickly got down to business, launching a many-pronged assault on the recalcitrant status quo: on one side, they sent out volunteer “missionaries” to spread the Progressive gospel by organizing meetings wherever way opened.
On another, they adopted stirring resolutions, called “Testimonies,” denouncing a catalog of evils and calling for government and other action to end slavery at once; grant equal rights to women; challenge the disparities of wealth; abolish the sale of alcoholic drinks; reform the prison system.
And not least, they called for an end to war & war preparations. Twice they urgently petitioned to the federal government about this, noting that:
“. . . impressed with the awful sinfulness of War, and its demoralizing tendencies upon the human race, we are impelled, by the spirit of our religion, to propose to you, the legislators of our beloved country, that in accordance with the progress of the spirit of the age, an arrangement be entered into to settle all disputations with Foreign Powers, by reference to an Arbitration of Nations. We also earnestly desire the abandonment of all fortifications and preparations for war, the abolition of the army and navy, and of all military schools, over which the Government of the United States has jurisdiction.” (1853; 1855)
A mere six years later, on April 12, 1861, the newly-formed Confederate artillery opened fire on the federal Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
That bombardment in South Carolina did more than breach the outpost’s defenses. Its fallout also landed hundreds of miles away: In particular, the war it started blasted holes in the “walled garden” of a then-Quietist and separatist American Quakerism.
Mark Schwartz is a civil rights attorney and a friend of this blog. He was the attorney for two women teachers at Friends Central School, who were fired in 2017 after inviting a Palestinian-Quaker pacifist professor from Swarthmore College to speak at the school — a case reported on in depth here.
Now Schwartz has issued an open letter to the federal attorney for Washington DC, in the matter of potential charges in the wake of the U.S. Capitol invasion of January 6.
A long, long time ago — Wednesday morning — I thought January 6 would be a historic day of celebration.
After all, when I finally fell into bed, well after Tuesday midnight, Democrats were on the cusp of flipping the U. S. Senate, and that was Big with a capital B.
And sure enough, I heard somewhere yesterday that the flip had come to pass, and it was, or should turn out to be, Big.
But even tho it’s still true, and Big, and the sun has since crossed the sky and faded in dusk behind bare trees, I’m not yet in a celebrating mood.
It’s been, to put it mildly, a distracting, eventful day. A day that has, as Winston Churchill once said of the Balkans, produced much more history than it could comfortably consume. And as I write, it’s a day that’s far from over.
Shortly after 1 PM, while the flip was still wrapping up, I looked up and something else had begun, something that drove it completely out of my awareness.
For Updates, scroll down . . .
Guns were drawn . . .
3:40 pm . . . . A cop was reported among the injured so far . . . No numbers yet. . . . Chaos continues. National Guard from DC & VA reported on the way . . . DC mayor sets curfew for 6 PM . . .
But the White House Grift Never Ends . . . . Even as the coup proceeded, another White House fund appeal went out
The cops & national guard finally showed up in force and reclaimed the capital and its grounds, at least for now. Then shortly after 8 PM, Congress got back to work, certifying the 2020 presidential & vice presidential election results.
If they get that done, peaceably, then maybe that will be something to celebrate.
Or maybe not. The coup attempt was incited by more than one high official. And as the mob at length began to scatter and Representatives and Senators emerged from hiding, more than one was quoting from the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, a section not often repeated. Here it is:
I admire the dogged liberal Catholics at the National Catholic Reporter. (NCR)
NCR occupies an outpost besieged on practically all sides by the forces of Catholic clerico-fascism, which are older than Trump but have eagerly leaped into bed with his movement. Their outlook predates Trump, though, and will likely survive him.
NCR’s main inside ally is Pope Francis; which from an external perspective, ought to be enough. I mean, this is Catholicism, and he’s the pope That makes him the boss, right?
But close up, the reality is more complex and discouraging: the Catholic hierarchy is vast & complicated, and political scheming & internal conflict, including violence within its upper levels is as old as— well, Judas.
Given that the incoming U.S. President is is not only a lifelong Catholic but an honest-to-God practicing one, simpleton outsiders like me might imagine that politically-minded Catholics & their bishops might be thrilled.
And to be sure, some are.
But not all that many. The American hierarchy is overall a branch of the swamp, and hatred of Francis, along with obsessions about abortion, homophobia and the gospels of PPP (pedophile priest protection) & PPR (Perpetual Protection of the Rich), not to mention hanging on to church money, appear to be their abiding priorities.
Here are excerpts from the wrapup of 2020 in American Catholicism, by Michael Sean Winters, NCR’s church columnist. Given the institutional weight and influence of Catholicism (e.g., 21 U. S. Senators — Baptists only have 11 — six of nine Supreme Court justices, etc.), and still the largest denomination in the country, etc., this is a review worth the attention of even small sects like my own Quakers. My comments are in red.
Michael Sean Winters: The dominant fact of ecclesial life in the United States the past several years has been the resistance to Pope Francis among large sections of the faithful and even the bishops. The pandemic briefly brought Catholic leaders together, but by year’s end, the opposition to Francis was as strong as ever.
Yet 2020 began with that great act designed to deepen communion with the Holy Father, the ad limina visits in which all the bishops go to Rome for meetings with the pope and with the different dicasteries that help the pope exercise his ministry. Various bishops said they enjoyed the frank conversations with the pope, with whom they met in small groups for a couple of hours, rather than the 10-minute, one-on-one sessions at which not much was accomplished during previous ad limina visits.
It didn’t take. Some bishops used the visits to put words in the pope’s mouth, saying he agreed with their decision to name abortion “our preeminent priority” in the election, even though the key distinction was whether or not the issue is “a” priority (with which we can all agree) or “the” priority, which is more problematic. . . .
Comment: Even for clerico-fascists, abortion is, while first-among-equals on their list of evils, more complex than it appears. Part of the background is that their outlook is still rooted in a conviction that our culture will only be “saved” by a huge outburst of fertility, to fend off “The Great Replacement,” by non-Christian — especially non-Catholic & non-white — foreigners), so besides outlawing the practice, they want women back home, gestating. Such a shift would involve a lot more than simply outlawing abortion, locking up (or hanging) the clinic doctors & nurses.
Michael Sean Winters: By the time the visits were concluded in February, the coronavirus had begun to change the way the entire country went about its business and by March, the entire country went into a shutdown. I was pleasantly surprised that the bishops did not rush to the offices of the Becket Fund to complain that the government had ordered public Mass services suspended and prepare for another religious liberty battle.
By May, however, the common good took its first assault when the Minnesota bishops announced they would defy their governor’s restrictions on worship. I will grant that not every governor or mayor implemented sensible regulations: Attendance caps that treated large churches the same as tiny ones made no sense. Still, comparing church worship to shopping made less sense and appealing to religious liberty misrepresented church teaching entirely.
Sadly, the religious liberty caucus at the bishops’ conference is merely an arm of the culture warriors at the Knights of Columbus and the Federalist Society. As I have noted before — and it held true this year — they do not preach Christ and him crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2) but James Madison and him justified.
Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory (above) expresses thanks after employees at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, surprised him Dec. 3, 2020, with a banner and red balloons to welcome him home from the Nov. 28 consistory at the Vatican during which Pope Francis created him as one of 13 new cardinals. (CNS/Catholic Standard/Andrew Biraj)
One bright spot this year came at the Knights of Columbus’ expense when Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory criticized them in no uncertain terms for hosting President Donald Trump for a photo-op. The event was held at the Knights’ St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington the day after the president’s henchmen had cleared peaceful protesters away from St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square so that the president could pose for the cameras holding a Bible.
“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said of the Knights’ hosting the president. “Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”
Comment: EWTN stands for Eternal Word Television Network, based in Birmingham, Alabama, is a very right-wing Catholic broadcaster. Michael Warsaw is its Chairman and CEO.
Michael Sean Winters: Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, always manages to put the “lie” in “outlier,” endorsing a video made by a ranting Wisconsin priest who claimed no Catholic could vote for Joe Biden. Still, it could have been worse, much worse.
At the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting after the election, it did become worse. The leadership of the bishops’ conference overlooked its own bylaws to establish a task force on how to deal with the incoming Biden administration; Francis called to congratulate President-elect Biden.
It is clear that on most issues, Biden will be much closer to the mind of the church than was his predecessor. Yet, former Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput became the public face of a campaign to deny Communion to the president-elect with a poorly reasoned essay at First Things. If you want to sum up the sad state of the U.S. hierarchy today consider this fact: Our president-elect, whom many bishops think is not a “real Catholic” and who should be denied communion, is more likely to favorably quote Francis than many bishops.
The U.S. bishops’ conference meeting also featured elections for committee chairs, and the results confirmed the degree to which the conference will remain a Francis-free zone. The most illustrative contest pitted conservative darling Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, against Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer of Atlanta for the chairmanship of the Committee on Education. As one bishop told me before the vote, “That contest will show if there is room for a moderate in the conference.” There isn’t. Daly won 139 votes to 103.
It has become clear that conservatives organize and campaign for these committee chair elections and liberals note that there is not supposed to be any campaigning. Guess who will keep winning?