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



Burying the Aborted Dead: Can Pope Francis and Spiritual Progressives Find Common Ground?

Sep22

by: on September 22nd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Across the world, gay Catholics and allies have been rejoicing over the comments made by Pope Francis in his America magazine interview. Yet looking strictly at the pope’s comments on homosexuality, I see only a more clever iteration of the Catholic church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” teaching. Frankly, as one who rejects sexual identity labels as nothing more than the social trauma-rooted intellectual residue of the twentieth century, and who embraces homosexuality as an extraordinary erotic gift from Almighty God that is available to all men and women of open mind and open heart, I think the pope’s ever-evolving cleverness on homosexuality is getting way too much attention.

Yet far more interesting and substantive are his remarks on abortion, given in his America magazine interview and subsequent sermon to a group of Catholic gynecologists.

Credit: Creative Commons

To the Catholic gynecologists, Francis said abortion was part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” Just a day earlier, the pope caused a stir stemming from his America magazine interview when he said, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.”

Reviewing the pope’s zigzaggery on this issue, at least in terms of his communication style, a legitimate question could be raised: Could Pope Francis be trying to turn a new page on the Catholic approach to abortion, specifically an approach that would uphold the fundamental sanctity of every human life from the moment of conception, while simultaneously steering conservative Catholics away from their decades-long effort to use the heavy club of state power to control the lives of women who seek elective abortions?


Read more...

“The Two-State Illusion” by Ian Lustick

Sep15

by: on September 15th, 2013 | 13 Comments »

Credit: Creative CommonsIn the summer of 1995 I had the opportunity to “intern” with the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) in Jerusalem, a think-tank devoted to Israeli-Palestinian peace. I put “intern” in quotes because I never actually did anything constructive, as I was much more in absorbing-mode than in doing-mode. Most of the time I just read the volumes of the material available on the Arab-Israeli conflict at IPCRI’s office, then in an old Jerusalem home a stone’s throw from the Damascus Gate, and observed the staffers go on about their work. One of those staffers was IPCRI founder Gershon Baskin, a man with a big mind and a big heart.

I thought about Gershon today upon reading Professor Ian Lustick’s eye-popping and already widely-discussed op-ed in the New York Times titled “The Two-State Illusion.” In addition to shortsighted politicians with petty interests in the U.S., Israel and the P.A., Lustick argues that the two-state solution, or “illusion” as he puts it, still enjoys official political backing because of the career needs of a cadre of “peace process” professionals, though he is careful not to mention names. Lustick writes:

Finally, the “peace process” industry with its legions of consultants, pundits, academics and journalists needs a steady supply of readers, listeners and funders who are either desperately worried that this latest round of talks will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, or that it will not.

Reflecting on this particular assertion, I’m so glad I once got to meet Gershon Baskin and to see him in his element: I can say I have met at least one person in the “peace process” industry who does what he does not out of a love for mere process, but for no other reason than that he simply hates human suffering, and believes all peoples are entitled to peace and freedom.

Yet there are two far more worrisome aspects to Lustick’s NYT op-ed: He is entirely rational in his larger political diagnosis of the conflict, which will give him much street cred among those in the West who are Mideast truth-seekers with no pre-existing axe to grind with Israelis or Palestinians, and yet, his political remedy amounts to a full-scale erasure of the Jewish state.


Read more...

Lift Every Voice, Scapegoat None

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

In 1998, one of my favorite public intellectuals, Lani Guinier, wrote an inspiring book titled Lift Every Voice. The book chronicled her 1993 nomination to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the subsequent betrayal by President Clinton who caved in to an onslaught of paranoid backlash, from both Republicans and Democrats, against the distinguished constitutional scholar.

While the book is not directly related to the war and peace issues now confronting the Congress, the President and the entire nation, I highly recommend reading this excellent book to all who may feel like their values are on the losing end of political debate and, ultimately, law and policy.

As Guinier so eloquently explained in the book, save for her own attempts to salvage her nomination by arguing in the media why she was the best candidate to fill a post as crucial as head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, she never got a Senate nomination hearing. Having been put in the national spotlight by President Clinton, she never got the chance to publicly and fully make her case to the United States Senate and the American people.

Lift Every Voice highlights an episode when modern American democracy simply broke down.

Regarding the attacks on AIPAC, including some here at Tikkun Daily, friends, let’s get real: When members of Congress take a pass on the ample opportunities they have to explain their values and thought processes, in fora ranging from committee hearings to floor debates, and from press releases to constituent letters to media appearances, they and they alone are responsible for their cowardice – not AIPAC.


Read more...

The World is Too Complex for a One-Note Dissent on Syria/Iran Policy

Aug31

by: on August 31st, 2013 | 16 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Yesterday, before the British House of Commons voted against British participation in any Western military intervention in the wake last week’s sarin-mustard cocktail gasattacks in the northern suburbs of Damascus, protesters gathered in London to demonstrate. The protesters indignantly shouted “Hands off Syria! Hands off Syria!”

Yet the complicated question that I would like to have answered from President Obama, which he did not address in his White House press conference, is this: How exactly can the U.S., along with the French, prevent Assad and his henchmen from committing more atrocities, capture them dead or alive, and if alive, bring them before the International Criminal Court, and all without inadvertantly empowering the Al-Qaeda affiliated Syrian opposition groups? Complicated, indeed.

The question I would like to have answered from the London protesters, and those on this side of the pond with a similar outlook, is much more basic: How would you feel if you and your family were gassed by a brutal dictator as major world powers sat back and did nada?


Read more...

Will Pope Francis Take Jewish-Catholic Relations to the Next Level?

Aug21

by: on August 21st, 2013 | 5 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

As has been widely reported, Pope Francis began his papacy with an already strong relationship with the Jewish community. Yet only time will tell if this pope will put the final nail in the coffin of Christian anti-Judaism: namely, an official end to the absurd notion that Christian faith produces more compassion and mercy in the human heart than does the Jewish faith.

It is worth noting that in addition to his expressions of solidarity with Argentina’s Jewish community, Pope Francis, while archbishop of Buenos Aires, participated in a Jewish-Catholic Tzedaka service; a charity effort where Jewish and Catholic volunteers went out – together – distributing aid to the poor and downtrodden of Buenos Aires.

Arguably, inter-faith Tzedaka-like service programs could be a template for a healthy, and I would argue very necessary, reform of Catholic religious life: specifically, the kind of reform that would help to end the utter fiction that Christians are more loving and compassionate than Jews.

Read more...

Nuns Who Commit Sexual Abuse and the Annexation of Mercy

Aug15

by: on August 15th, 2013 | 10 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons.

Steve Theisen, 61, is the Iowa director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Unlike the vast majority of men and women whose lives have been positively affected by the support SNAP provides to victims of clergy abuse, Theisen was not sexually abused by a Catholic priest: he was sexually abused by a Catholic nun.

The abuse began in the 4th grade, when Theisen was just nine-years-old. He stayed after class one day to wash the blackboards. Alone with the nun in the classroom, she showed him how the Eskimos kiss: by rubbing noses. Some weeks later, she then showed him how Americans kiss. Then a few more weeks passed. The nun then said to the boy, “This is how the French kiss.” And with that, the forty-something nun stuck her tongue in the boy’s mouth. It escalated from there. As Thiesen recalls, the nun never touched his genitals, and neither of them were ever disrobed. But from 4th through 6th grade, after school and sometimes on weekends, the nun would have him on the floor, French kissing and necking. Sometimes the nun would be on top of him, other times she put the boy on top of her.

Theisen also recalls sitting next to the nun in chapel. She would hold his hand under her religious habit so that no one would see.

It was not until well into adulthood that Theisen told someone what had happened to him: his therapist. It took 18 sessions with the therapist to finally open up about the experience that so affected his life. As Theisen explained to me, trust does not come easy to victims of child sex abuse.

Theisen’s testimony is gut-wrenching to hear, for those who are willing to listen. Not only did he live in daily fear as a child that someone would find out what was happening between him and the nun, he was also wracked by guilt. For when the school children would ask the nuns why they wore rings on their fingers, the nuns would tell the children that they were married to Christ. During the abuse, Theisen thought he was committing “the most grievous sin in the entire world because he was fooling around with Jesus’s wife.”

Read more...

On Thug Parents, Thug Generals, and Their Cannon Fodder

Jul31

by: on July 31st, 2013 | 5 Comments »

That a military judge, Denise Lind, would even have to consider a charge against American hero and truth-teller, Bradley Manning, that Manning “aided the enemy” speaks volumes about the warped institution that claims to defend our country from foreign enemies, even as it has become a collective expert in creating new enemies for the American people.

Often overlooked, however, in discussions on PFC Manning and our current military enlistment system are the warped American parents who push their adult children into the Sparta subculture called the U.S. military. In a 2011 interview with PBS’s Frontline, Manning’s father, Brian, gave a crystal clear description of his thinly veiled contempt for his child, which doubtless shaped the trajectory of Manning’s young life.

Read more...

Bishop Katharine: Seeing the Divine in All People

Jul30

by: on July 30th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Bishop Katharine, the first presiding woman bishop in the Anglican Communion. Credit: Creative Commons.

In May, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, came under blistering criticism within her own and other Christian denominations for a sermon she gave on the island nation of Curaçao. The sermon was so provocative that it led critics on the Christian right to charge that the first presiding woman bishop in the Anglican Communion was possessed by the devil.

In six sentences, the bishop upended a longstanding interpretation of an event recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, in which St. Paul is said to have delivered a young pagan slave girl from demonic possession. The slave girl was also a fortune-teller in the city of Philippi, and her craft brought great profit to her slave masters. When Paul and his companions arrived in Philippi to spread the Gospel, the girl followed them around, shouting to everyone, “These men are servants of the Most High God; they will make known to you a way of salvation.” The slave girl did this for several days until Paul finally got annoyed, turned to her and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you, come out of her!” (Acts 16: 17)

From then on, the slave girl was silenced.

Read more...

Samantha Power and the Televangelization of Human Rights

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Depiction of Edward Snowden. Credit: Creative Commons.

For the first time since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA’s mammoth, all-encompassing domestic and international surveillance programs, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a substantive hearing on the subject, which produced an unpredictable result: bipartisan outrage from legislators at the sheer scope of the surveillance. In a hearing exchange with the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, James Cole, Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, author of the now-notorious Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the Executive branch has used to justify the collection of telephone records of every American, said of that branch’s sweeping interpretation of the section, “Doesn’t that make a mockery of the legal standard…”

Sensenbrenner went on to tell Deputy Attorney General Cole, “Section 215 expires at the end of 2015. Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed. There are not the votes in the House of Representatives to renew Section 215. You have to change how you operate Section 215, otherwise in two and a half years you’re not going to have it any more.”

The dramatic turnabout of this powerful legislator’s position on a landmark U.S. law – a law that has defined the post-9/11 era – would never have come to pass but for the patriotic act of whistleblowing by one 30-year-old American man: Edward Joseph Snowden.

Read more...

On This Historic Day, Hope for True Love and True Marriage

Jun26

by: on June 26th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

In early May, Angela Davis found herself in a minor contretemps with some Chicago gay people after a lecture in which the famed former Black Panther made what some construed as disparaging remarks about the struggle for marriage equality. As reported by Yasmin Nair of the Windy City Times:

Davis also spoke of her faith in younger generations of scholars and activists, saying that they are informed by feminism, and operate from pro-trans and -Islam frameworks. But she also cautioned that as important as it was to support social movements, “we also have to struggle against the assimilationist agenda,” and pointed to the fight for marriage equality as one about attaining “bourgeois respectability.”

Ouch.

Andy Thayer, of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network responded in print to Davis’s charge:

Finally, for those who know her political history, it’s a little bit rich for Davis to lecture us about the marriage rights movement being aimed at “bourgeois respectability.” While she certainly has made valuable contributions to the movement for human freedom in other ways, when it comes to LGBT rights, for more than two decades she managed to be at peace – during Stonewall, during the height of the women’s and gay liberation movements – in a political organization which described homosexuality itself as “a bourgeois deviation.” Self-hatred indeed.

Ouch, again.

As strongly as I support marriage equality, I confess I’ve had my share of Angela Davis-ish nightmares (daymares, actually) about receiving annual Christmas letters from Ozzie and Ozzie, or Harriet and Harriet, bragging about how normal and successful their little darlings are — the kind of Christmas letter that turns the intimacy of family life into an externalized showcase. The kind of Christmas letter that not only takes the Christ out of Christmas, but supplants Jesus with the stagecraft of wholesomeness. The kind of stagecrafted wholesomeness that enables families to move up, notch upon notch, the suburban zip code totem pole.

Read more...