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Timothy Villareal
Timothy Villareal
Timothy Villareal, a Miami-based writer, is a privately-vowed Christian monk. His website is http://timothyvillareal.wordpress.com.

Building Upon Nostra Aetate: Fraternity Over Collaboration


by: Timothy Villareal on June 17th, 2016 | Comments Off

Abraham Joshua Heschel and Thomas Merton

Abraham Joshua Heschel and Thomas Merton

In April, news reports surfaced that the Vatican was on the verge of granting canonical status to a far right breakaway movement within Roman Catholicism that rejects the Second Vatican Council: the Society of Pius X (SSPX). Most Catholics became familiar with this group’s existence in 2009, when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, though not granting it canonical recognition, lifted the excommunication of its members, including an infamous bishop of the Society, Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier since expelled from the group. Sadly, the removal of that bishop has not, as documented by the Anti-Defamation League, done anything to cleanse the SSPX of its anti-Semitism.

In January 2013 – just two months before Pope Francis ascended to the papacy – the leader of the Society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, blamed the Vatican’s refusal to grant his group canonical recognition on the Jewish people. As reportedby the ADL:

In his remarks, Fellay accused Jews of lobbying the Vatican to accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. “Interesting, isn’t it?” Fellay said. “People from outside the Church, who were clearly during centuries enemies of the Church, say to Rome, ‘if you want to accept these people (SSPX) you must oblige them to accept the Council.’ Isn’t that interesting? Oh it is. I think it’s fantastic, because it shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s. They see, the enemies of the Church see, their benefit in the Council. Very interesting.”

Fundamentally, what Fellay was referring to when he said that Vatican II was “their thing, not the Church’s” was the landmark Vatican document, Nostra Aetate: a document which revoked the charge of deicide against the Jewish people, and which paved the way for the following 50 years of positive Catholic-Jewish relations.

Indeed, without that so-called “Jewish interference” at the Second Vatican Council generations of Catholics would have likely been imbued with the same anti-Semitic, or at least anti-Judaic, religious mindsets that plagued pre-Vatican II Catholicism.Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the greatest Jewish theologians of the twentieth century, was the lead representative for the American Jewish Committee on the Council text addressing Catholic-Jewish relations in this post-Holocaust world, helping to shape its outcome for the better.


Dissolving Tyranny Instead of Voting For It


by: on June 16th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

According to the masters of the moral universe who have housed themselves in the Democratic Party, that bedrock foundation of all human wisdom and enlightenment, I shall forever wear a Scarlet B on my chest. B for Bush.

I was one of the “Nader Spoilers” of 2000, one of the 97,421 Floridians who cast a vote for Ralph Nader.  If those of us in this group – the “Scarlet B Community” – had voted for Al Gore instead, George W. Bush would never have been president of the United States. I don’t dispute that math. But I do roll my eyes at the partisan emotions behind it, as if Al Gore had the political heft to save this country’s early 21st century descent in proto-tyranny.  Barack Obama’s magnetic persona and persuasive ability – and I would say his intellect too – far surpasses that of Al Gore, with all due respect to the former VP, and even he could not stop it.

Let’s be clear: At present, we have probably the most corruption-free, morally-minded, intellectually-disciplined president to ever occupy that office in U.S. history. And here we are.

Lest there be any doubt that we are at a chilling point in the American democratic experiment, consider these words of University of Texas law professor, Sandy Levinson, who writes at Balkinization:

This really and truly may be the most important election in our lifetimes if, as I fear, it will call into question basic issues of political stability within the US. We really are looking more and more like Weimar in the late 20s, where parliament is basically beneath contempt because of an inability to respond to the challenges facing the country, and the political parties increasingly view their opposition as Schmittian enemies to be crushed…

Indeed, as far Congress goes, what could be more “beneath contempt” than the fact that U.S. soldiers are now deployed in Iraq and parts of Syria operating under the same AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) that was passed in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, 2001, before ISIS even existed.  As Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said last fall about his failed bill to require congressional authorization for any deployments to Syria to fight ISIS, “I get it, members of Congress are afraid to cast a vote on war.”


President Obama & Hiroshima: A Pathway to National Atonement


by: on May 27th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

President Obama’s speech today in Hiroshima did not contain the word “atonement.” Nevertheless, the spirit of atonement was carried throughout. It was not only the most remarkable speech of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is arguably the most remarkable speech given by any U.S. president, ever.

In concluding his speech, President Obama said:

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

There are so many areas in which to critique President Obama’s tenure in office, and yet there are times, like today, that I am grateful to have a sitting president whose core intention is to seek the greater good of all humankind.  Yes, it is disappointing that he has presided over a wholly corrupt military system and has done nothing to change it: namely, a military system that lures young men and women with financial and emotional enticements to fight the nation’s wars, all while the rest of the nation, whatever their politics, goes about the charade of “supporting the troops,” as if morally tolerating the corrupt military machine that has and is devouring their lives can remotely approximate the notion of loving fraternity.  We have a long way to go as a nation, from President Obama to the men and women of Mainstreet, to atone for our toleration of this ongoing assault on the sanctity of human life.

Yet I give President Obama credit for at least endeavoring throughout his presidency, and the last two years in particular, to create the emotional space for the American people to atone for our sins as a nation.  Politicians do not succeed at their primary craft – winning elections – by creating that emotional space, and that largely holds true for Barack Obama as well.  Yet that space, that space for genuine national atonement, has been carved by this president.  It may be a small space for now, but it is something that we can, I believe must, expand upon.


New Developments in the Catholic Church’s Stance on Homosexuality


by: on October 22nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Edgar Jiménez

Many years ago, as I walked back to the pew after receiving Communion, I saw the outline of a man kneeling in another pew, his head in his hands. As Catholics often do when they see someone during Mass that they have not seen for while, I wordlessly tapped him on the shoulder to say the silent hello. I was not prepared for the sight of his face. As he looked up, his face was gaunt, and there were dark circles under his eyes that I had never seen before, not even the time he cried in front of me.

Several months prior to that, I drove him back to his condo after Mass, where he finally opened up to me why he was refraining from receiving Communion: having recently had sex with men, he believed he was not in a state of grace, and therefore not worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.


Don’t Blame President Obama for Telling Lies About You


by: on June 3rd, 2014 | 10 Comments »

Arriving today in Poland on his four day trip to Europe, President Obama declared to the Polish people and other NATO countries:

I’m starting the visit here because our commitment to Poland’s security as well as the security of our allies in central and eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct…we stand united together and forever.

President Obama’s assurances that we, the American people, are the geopolitical equivalent of BFFs with European NATO countries came with his announcement of an increased U.S. troop presence in Eastern Europe, with a starting price tag of $1 billion from the U.S. treasury. This increase of a U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe, of course, is connected to the recent events in Ukraine. Protecting your friends from democracy-loathing tyrants like Putin is what geopolitical friends are for, right?


Cindy McCain: Instead of Attacking American Artists, Enlist in the Army


by: on May 29th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

If you have not heard by now, actress Gwyneth Paltrow has been subjected to a Twitter attack by Cindy McCain, wife of Senator John McCain. Paltrow recently made a casual, off the cuff remark about being in the public eye, and dealing with vicious comments from internet commenters. Here’s what Paltrow said:

You come across (Internet comments) about yourself and about your friends, and it’s a very dehumanizing thing. It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it. My hope is, as we get out of it, we’ll reach the next level of conscience.

Yep, that’s it: A stellar American film star, who made a not so stellar, yet totally innocent, comparison between her own emotional experiences and the horrors of war. Yet apparently Cindy McCain, who herself is not enlisted in the U.S. military, has a “zero tolerance policy” for American actresses who employ war analogies to describe their emotional lives, something that millions upon millions of people probably do everyday. Taking to Twitter, McCain wrote about Paltrow:

Gwyneth Paltrow is a joke. Her life is like taking bullets for a soldier. What a joke! My 2 sons serving in the military should talk to her.

Perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow should go out on patrol with some soldiers. Kind of like a Red Carpet in her mind I guess!


Human Life is More Precious Than Rocks


by: on May 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Last month, as the world began the remembrance of the twentieth anniversary Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were hacked to death over a 100 day period, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon plead with the international community to send more peacekeepers to another African nation on the brink of genocide: the Central African Republic. Speaking recently in that country, where some 640,000 people have fled their homes for fear of being slaughtered, the Secretary General said, “The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago…And we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of the C.A.R. today.”

Subsequently, the U.N. Security Council authorized more U.N. peacekeepers to the C.A.R., who are due to arrive by September. None of those peacekeepers are slated to be Americans.

The absence of any Americans on the U.N. peacekeeping force for the C.A.R. might be a good “gut check” moment for the nation, especially when weighed against the militaristic message that President Obama is sending to another part of the world: the Asia Pacific.

For example, on his recent visit to Japan the President said of the China-Japan territorial dispute over uninhabited rocky islands in the East China Sea – a dispute which may result in a China-Japan military confrontation – “What is a consistent part of the alliance (U.S. – Japan alliance) is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expressed relief that America will militarily defend those rocky islands, said of Obama’s military reassurance, “On this point, I fully trust President Obama.” Needless to say, not expressing relief over Obama’s promise to take America to war over those uninhabited, rocky islands was the Chinese government. Indeed, as mentioned today in a New York Times editorial, this week’s water cannon spat between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies over the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea may be a direct geopolitical consequence of President Obama’s assertive – and official – military posture of collective defense, his own editorializing about America’s war-weariness notwithstanding. According to the New York Times editorial board:

Some experts say the Chinese deployed the rig because oil and gas reserves were recently found nearby. But the move could also be pushback against President Obama and his increased focus on Asia. On a recent trip to Asia, Mr. Obama said America would defend disputed islands in the East China Sea under its security treaty with Japan and reinforced a treaty commitment to the Philippines.

So here we have the President of the United States – again, publicly telegraphing to the American people that he “feels their pain” about stupid wars – simultaneously telling China and Japan, explicitly, that he is prepared to take the United States of America to war over those uninhabited, rocky islands that are disputed by China and Japan, and those two respective nations responding accordingly: Prime Minister Abe of Japan with relief, and the Chinese military with an upping of their ante in other disputed waters of the region.


Time for a National Diaper Policy


by: on May 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

MSN has posted an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about poor families struggling to provide diapers for their babies. It’s a heartbreaking article packed with crucial information, and ultimately one that begs an overarching question: Do we need a national clean diaper policy?

‪As mentioned in the article, there are about 100 operational, locally-based “diaper banks” around the nation. Yet the need for clean diapers is far greater than the currently available supply and distribution systems, causing some parents to look to local food banks for assistance. This section from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article sums up the problem:

 Although formula purchases can be federally subsidized, diapers are not covered by food stamps through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC.

As a result, some food pantries are inundated with requests for disposable diapers. But the pantries don’t get steady donations of them and don’t always have them on the shelves. When they do, they fly out of the door, said Marcia Mermelstein, coordinator of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in St. Louis.

“We’re giving people four to six diapers when in reality when most people buy a box of diapers, they’re getting 24 or 48. It’s like giving one tiny bar of soap a month. It’s not enough, it’s a token gesture,” Mermelstein said.

Families will take what they can get, she said.

“They’re taking diapers that are clearly too small and taping them together and using whatever they can.”

Although charitable agencies see the diaper need, they can’t make collecting and distributing diapers their first priority because it takes away energy and donations from their main services.

“Yes, we need diapers,” Mermelstein said. “But in the great scheme of things, we are a food pantry and the highest priority is to give food for survival.”


America’s Fork in the Road: Endless War or Democratic Reform?


by: on April 16th, 2014 | 13 Comments »

Today, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, issued the following statement about NATO’s military response to increased Russian government manuevering in eastern Ukraine:

Today, we agreed on a package of further military measures to reinforce our collective defence and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity.

We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land (read boots on the ground).

For example, air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required. Military staff from Allied nations will deploy to enhance our preparedness, training and exercises. Our defence plans will be reviewed and reinforced.

We will start to implement these measures straight away. More will follow, if needed, in the weeks and months to come.

The NATO Secretary General’s announcement will be music to the ears of those who have been calling for more U.S. troop deployments to eastern Europe in response to Putin’s provocations. Last month in the National Interest magazine, for example, Dick Kirckus, a former “Chair of Warfighting Strategy at the U.S. Marine Corps University” wrote:

Today, the most vulnerable members of NATO in the East Baltic Sea region share a common border with Russia and desperately want American boots on the groundnot combat engineers constructing an antimissile system in Poland to evaporate Iranian rocketsto deter a reckless Russian military provocation. The prospect that U.S. troops will die should Russian troops cross their borders will give meaning to Washington’s pledge to honor Article Five guarantees. After all, the Americans have demonstrated on numerous occasions that if challenged, they will fight.

Got that? No mere missiles and rockets will suffice to deter Putin, only people willing to sacrifice their lives in European military chess matches will be enough to deter Putin’s westward aggression. The glaring flaw in Kirckus’ thesis is that Americans of our generation have by no means demonstrated a willingness to fight and die in pointless wars. On 9/11 our nation was attacked by a ruthless criminal gang, which for a period of time found sanctuary under the ragtag rule of the Taliban. Eventually, most Americans, as evidenced by their refusal to enlist in the military, came to see the demise of the Taliban’s governance and going after the terrorists as the appropriate response to those horrific attacks on our own country; to shed our own blood in pointless wars, most Americans have concluded, is wrong.


Regular Citizens Should Decide Who Gets to Be a Military Officer, Not Professional Warmongers


by: on April 14th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

The U.S. needs a defense apparatus, not a taxpayer-funded culture of death. Credit: Creative Commons

The New York Times has published a chilling article about the greatest anxiety for this year’s West Point graduates: the newly-commissioned officers won’t get to see any combat action, owing to the end of the Iraq war and the winding-down Afghanistan war. Times reporters Tom Shanker and Helene Cooper write:

For as much as military commanders will publicly say differently, men and women with combat experience are bound to be taken more seriously in today’s military than those without it, defense experts say.

The last time this happened was after a different war, Vietnam, and in an Army different from today’s volunteer and more career-oriented force. But even after Vietnam, the return to peace came with unexpected anxieties.

“As Vietnam was winding down, young officers were begging to go there so they could get the coveted combat infantry badge,” said Col. Robert Killebrew, a defense expert at the Center for a New American Security in Washington and a Vietnam veteran. “It’s not so much a thirst for glory as a professional impulse. When you’re a soldier, if the game is going to be played, you want to be there.”

That’s right, these young men actually want wars to continue – not to end wars which is what most people want – so they can get their ribbons, medals and badges of honor which will help them advance their military careers, which begs the question: Why the heck are we, the American people, continuing to enable these people who are quite obviously willing to embroil our country in wars for their own personal glory?