Selling Access to Pope Francis

As much as Pope Francis criticized hyper-capitalism’s cruelty to the poor and the middle class, it was business as usual for the Catholic Church bureaucracy, selling access to the Pope’s events with front-row seats going to well-heeled benefactors, notes Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

Many of you know the words: “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” So sayeth Jesus in the New Testament’s Book of Matthew, Chapter 19, Verse 24.

But if you were taking a close look at and giving a careful listen to some of those surrounding Pope Francis during his visit here in New York last week, you could practically hear joints pop and muscles groan as the super-wealthy contorted themselves to thread the needle and purchase their way into the pontiff’s good graces. Camels? These wealthy dromedaries gave a new meaning to Hump Day.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Notwithstanding his encounter with notorious Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, the Pope’s visit to the United States last week was a success, with millions turning out to get even a glimpse of him. But some had much better views than others. In fact, since before the Reformation, when the Catholic Church sold indulgences pre-paid, non-stop tickets to heaven for affluent sinners there has not often been such a display of ecclesiastic, conspicuous consumption and genuflection.

All of which, of course, is more than ironic when you think about the things Pope Francis has said and written about the rich and poor, some of which he expressed during last week’s papal tour.

Back in November 2013, the Pope wrote that, “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”

Ideas like that got Kenneth Langone, billionaire founder of Home Depot and major political bankroller of New Jersey’s Chris Christie, a little hot under the collar. You may remember that last year he created a stir when he told Politico that he hoped a rise in populist sentiment against the one percent was not working, “because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

A year before, in 2013, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan had enlisted the DIY plutocrat to help raise $175 million to restore the grand and elegant St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, but in an interview Langone gave to the money network CNBC, he said one of his high rolling potential donors was concerned that the Pope was being overly critical of market economies as “exclusionary” and attacking a “culture of prosperity incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”

So Langone complained to Cardinal Dolan, and this is how the Cardinal says he replied: “‘Well, Ken, that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father’s message. The Pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people ’ So I said, ‘Ken, thanks for bringing it to my attention. We’ve gotta correct to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father’s message properly.’ And then I think he’s gonna say, ‘Oh, OK. If that’s the case, count me in for St. Patrick’s Cathedral.’”

“Oh, OK?” Oh, brother. Wonder how Pope Francis would have responded to that bit of priestly pragmatism? After all, Francis is the one who wrote, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

But sure enough, there in the exclusive crowd at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue Thursday night, hanging out as the Vicar of Christ celebrated Vespers, was Kenneth Langone, soaking it all in. There, too, were a couple of other crony capitalists and St. Patrick’s fundraisers Frank Bisignano, president and CEO of First Data Corp., and Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO of Bank of America.

Bisignano, known as “Wall Street’s Mr. Fix-It” used to work for Citigroup and for Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and reportedly received annual compensation at First Data to the tune of $9.3 million. Moynihan was paid $13 million for 2014, down from $14 million in 2013.

Last year, Bank of America, the second largest in the country but the most hated, made a record-breaking $16.65 billion settlement with the Justice Department to pay up for allegations of unloading toxic mortgage investments during the housing boom. Nice.

But of all the fat cats suddenly in the thrall of the People’s Pope, one was the most impressive. Watching Francis on television Friday afternoon as he met with kids up in East Harlem at Our Lady Queen of Angels primary school, I noticed a well-dressed man hovering near the pontiff. A politician, a government or Vatican official, I wondered? Nope, it was none other than Stephen Schwarzman, head of the giant private equity firm Blackstone.

He was paid a whopping $690 million last year and last week, he and his wife donated $40 million to pay for scholarships to New York City’s Catholic schools. A generous gift for sure, but as Bill Moyers and I wrote in 2012, this is the same Stephen Schwarzman “whose agents in 2006 launched a predatory raid on a travel company in Colorado. His fund bought it, laid off 841 employees, and recouped its entire investment in just seven months, one of the quickest returns on capital ever for such a deal.”

“To celebrate his 60th birthday Mr. Schwarzman rented the Park Avenue Armory here in New York at a cost of $3 million, including a gospel choir led by Patti LaBelle that serenaded him with ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ Does he ever, his net worth is estimated at nearly $5 billion.”

As The Wall Street Journal reported, “The Armory’s entrance [was] hung with banners painted to replicate Mr. Schwarzman’s sprawling Park Avenue apartment. A brass band and children clad in military uniforms ushered in guests. The menu included lobster, baked Alaska and a 2004 Louis Jadot Chassagne Montrachet, among other fine wines.”

It must have seemed like Heaven to some. And what makes this billionaire’s proximity to the Pope all the more surreal is that just the morning before, Francis had spoken to Congress in reverent tones of two outspoken, radical, New York Catholics; activist and organizer Dorothy Day co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton, each of whom embraced poverty, social justice and resistance.

“We believe in an economy based on human needs rather than on the profit motive,” Day wrote, and Merton worried about “the versatile blandishments of money.” Day wished the church’s bounty to be spread among the needy and not spent on cathedrals and ephemera.

And Merton wrote, “It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God’s will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you, try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God’s will yourself.”

Whether the irony struck Stephen Schwarzman is unknown. He himself was probably in too much of a hurry for contemplation. After East Harlem, he rushed off to the White House and that state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. His plus-one was Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio, the billionaire hedge fund manager who infamously told employees they should be like hyenas stalking wildebeest:

“It is good for both the hyenas who are operating in their self-interest and the interest of the greater system because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution (i.e., the natural process of improvement).”

There you have it. In the Bible right before the camel and the eye of a needle, Jesus says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Masters of the Universe like Dalio and Schwarzman prefer the Law of the Jungle, buying proximity to holiness and assuaging guilt with cash, all the while upholding savage nature red in tooth and claw.

By the way, Schwarzman’s wife gave the White House dinner a pass. She had a better deal: an excellent, paid in advance seat at the Pope’s mass in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship.

21 comments for “Selling Access to Pope Francis

  1. Dosamuno
    October 7, 2015 at 12:56

    There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian scripture: there is Jewish scripture and there is Christian scripture—which includes bowdlerized Jewish scripture well as recycled Pagan, Mithraic, and Egyptian mythology.

    There is no such thing as a Judeo-Christian. Christians spent almost twenty centuries murdering and marginalizing Jews and wreaking genocide and ethnocide upon them as they have done to so many other cultures on every continent in the name of “evangelism”– from which you have forged your obscene nom de plume.

    Christians have even wiped out other Christians. The hideous Catholic Church declared heretical and destroyed Gnostics, Manicheans, Docetists, Marcionists, and Ebionites—to mention just a few Christian groups that deviated from the Church’s official story. Some of these groups pre-dated the Catholic Church.

    Pope Innocent III may have killed over a million people in the Albigensian Crusade, which targeted the Cathars in southern France in the 13th century. As a result, the Church “acquired” some of the best vineyards in the world.

    I’ve read and studied the bible and the apologists. I attended Christian schools where religion classes were obligatory and am glad I did. I understand Christian mythology and Jewish mythology very well, thank you.

    I prefer Ovid. His gods are more appealing. I’ll take Athena over the Virgin Mary any day. Jehovah had to send an angel with a bottle of sperm to artificially inseminate Mary; Zeus changed into a swan, descended to earth, and did the job on Leda himself without the help of any angels.

    I don’t need any condescending advice from Christians. Especially Christians who call themselves, “Evangelista”.

  2. October 3, 2015 at 08:15

    There is absolutely no reason in the world to read the Christian Bible in Elizabethan English. Those who do usually think that a modern English version isn’t the real Bible. Yep. That’s the level of smarts those drug users, who in turned are used, have. I argue with my mother about this. She gets her knowledge of the world and God from tv and pop Christian books. There’s no fixing that. But we don’t have to endorse and reinforce ignorance by quoting from Bibles that are written in an English that, if you were to read the whole thing, would yield much less information than had it been in modern English. Unless you’re a professor of Elizabethan English.

    • Dosamuno
      October 4, 2015 at 16:02

      There’s no reason to read the goddamned bible period, unless one is interested in a deranged, third hand, derivative mythology.

      Jehovah is a deranged psychopath and Jesus isn’t much better.

      Prince of Peace, my ass.

    • Evangelista
      October 6, 2015 at 22:21

      The “Elizabethan” English version of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, commonly designated the King James version, after the King who followed Elizabeth, which is based on the Lollard’s translations of books of those scriptures, is actually one of the more accurate and less ’emended’ and adulterated English versions of those scriptures. The King James version and the Oxford version are the two you should read to learn the base of what Judeo-Christian scriptures contain, which you need to know to know to talk sensibly and get along with Judeo-Christians in their own surroundings and habitats.

  3. Evangelista
    October 2, 2015 at 22:23


    The position Ms Davis found herself in is recognized and designated “Conscientious Objection”. Conscientious objection has been recognized and defined legitimate for centuries, and procedures for ontientious objectors to register their objections and withdraw to protect their consciences have been defined. The correct course for Ms. Davis to have pursued would have been to register her objections per those procedures, prior to any members of the public coming to her desk, counter, window, so that both herself and the members of the public could have been accommodated, without conflict.

    Ms Davis’s alternative, to confront members of the public making a legally proper request and deny them their due service, for Ms. Davis having had foreknowledge that the request would be made, was knowing, willful and, for alternative being available and known available, clearly malicious. For the last three elements Ms. Davis’s actions were criminal under the Constitution’s definition of ‘crime’,

    Interestingly (for those of us interested, meaning here, amused), Ms. Davis is, for the deliberateness of her confrontational action, a ‘Martyr’ in the Islamic sense, not in the correct Christian sense, where the Martyr, as Jesus of Nazareth exampled, was going about his, or her, business, only confronting by being alternative. Jesus of Nazareth is assigned to have advised servants to be good servants, and, of course, as he also is assigned to have said, in equivalent (here I paraphrase the equivalent), Render unto homosexuals what is their secular legal entitlement’.

    I presume the Pope told her he agreed with her conscientious objection, not her aggressive and confrontational action.

  4. October 2, 2015 at 20:18

    “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

    One might find some things about the Pope that are likable, especially compared with previous popes. And one might appreciate some things he has said about climate change and economic justice. But beware; he is not a progressive. He is head of a very authoritative, hierarchical, and patriarchal organization, even if he is a little “nicer” than some of his predecessors.

    Consider the following hypothetical: I am at a party. My friends approach me and speak in glowing terms about their new friend, Jim —specifically how progressive he is, despite the conservative nature of the organization he leads. When Jim arrives, my friends steer the conversation toward politics and policy. Jim joins in the conversation by explaining how men and women are not, in fact, equal and that it is only right that there are positions and opportunities available in his company to men that are forbidden to women. While on the subject of equality, he also explains that homosexuality is an abomination and to afford LGBTQQI individuals the same rights as heterosexuals is a threat to civilization. Among the things he also counts as threats to civilization are a woman’s right to use birth control or have an abortion.

    I tell Jim I disagree vehemently with him on these points and excuse myself. My friends hurry after me and urge me to wait — listen to Jim’s calls for action on climate change, his advocacy for Syrian refugees, his rhetoric in support of economic justice, the nights he’s spent feeding those living in poverty.

    While those are all noble endeavors, Jim remains a sexist, and bigoted toward LGBT folks, too. I cringe and wonder, since when is Jim what they consider progressive? Absurd.

    Now replace Jim with Pope Francis and reread.

    • Dosamuno
      October 4, 2015 at 16:03

      Good piece.

  5. Dean Taylor
    October 2, 2015 at 16:47

    before your ‘argument’ goes from tragedy to farce, when it was suggested that you confront, e.g., Phil Berrigan about the church and religious faith, it was a manner of speaking, i.e., put the question to someone who lived and died at the barricades, and yet kept the faith. Berrigan and Stang both died, both moral warriors to the righteous cause…and, despite his contentious, often heartbreaking relation to the Church, his faith (as was the case with Stang) was never misplaced: it lay within his life-long relation to God, not the Vicar of Rome…

  6. Dean Taylor
    October 2, 2015 at 15:28

    ‘The founders of the Catholic Church and the other Abrahamic mythologies were ignorant savages who believed in a Ptolemaic Universe in which the earth was at the center surrounded by concentric spheres called “epicycles” around which rotated the moon, sun, planets, and stars.’

    this is yet more hopelessly biased nonsense, stressed to the point of deceit: what you are implying here is that at the time that Ptolemy was explicating his views and theses (c. Ad 100-170 !), that the Church had
    significant, *alternative* views, underwritten by sound scientific analysis which effectively refuted the Ptolemaic view, but, nevertheless, in its unbridled, unremitting obstinacy and coarse intellect, insisted (against incontrovertible evidence and vetted data), that Ptolemy is the way to go*. is that it, Honey?

    • Dosamuno
      October 3, 2015 at 17:59

      Your logic is as deranged as your grammar. Don’t twist my words.

      My point is this: we have abandoned the obsolete physics, biology, and astronomy of the primitive people of two thousand years ago: why do some of us still take their cosmology seriously?

      The Pope is a charlatan and a clown–parading around in his beanies or court jester hats.
      He is the CEO of the oldest, most reactionary corporation in the world–and one of the richest and most dangerous.

      Jesus Christ probably never existed. If he did, we don’t know when he lived, when or how he died, what he represented, or what he thought. He left no writings and there was no Plato to summarize his teachings–if he taught anything at all.

      The Christ of Paul of Tarsus has nothing to do with the character invented by the writers of the Gospels or the itinerant cynic of the Q documents–if such a figure and such documents indeed exist. Christianity did not begin with The Catholic Church, but it was absorbed by the Catholic Church which not only destroyed all things non Christian, but declared heretical all Christianity that was non-Catholic.

      I admire, the Berrigans and their organization, and other Catholics and Christians for some things they have done. Especially those who opposed the Vietnam War. I despise their religion. And I despise Islam and Judaism.

      And I despise fools like you who keeps his head up his own backside to avoid examining the idiocy and contradictions of a system of belief that demands you take it on faith and flush your capacity for critical reasoning down the toilet.

      By the way, I’m not “Matt”. Matt Taibbi is a journalist for Rolling Stone Magazine whom I quoted in one of my missives.

  7. Dean Taylor
    October 2, 2015 at 15:09

    ‘The Pope is a charlatan in a funny hat, but there is nothing funny about the damage he and his disgusting church are doing to people–especially people in Africa and South America.’

    how can it be otherwise that when flawed humanity involves itself in a moral, worthwhile, coherent endeavor that there is going to be deviation from the orthodox view, failure to comply with the discipline as learned authorities provide, and otherwise dysfunction in large sectors of the programme? that is, we were handed something worthwhile, valid and good and it became adulterated by as, MT suggested, our own foibles and character failings.

    re the pope and his disgusting Church in South America–doubtless this considered pov of yours includes those adherents as Dorothy Stang? Doies the name ring a bell, Matt? Or, the many thousands of sincere followers of the Church who devote their lives in mission work–most we’ll never hear about, but, nevertheless, the work is quite real and the good they’re doing is unmistakeable…

    regarding the comment by the Cardinal Dolan–the pope loves the rich too…yes, he was not suggesting that the pope *likes* the behaviour of the rich–the statement was: he loves the poor–that we tend to conflate the two is more than unfortunate, it is positively destructive…’like’ is a mere opinion about something/someone…we can change our minds about someone fifteen times in one week, to no avail or purpose other than out own egos…’love’ as explicated is a fait accompli–an act of ‘patient kindness, etc. Two completely different dynamics at play here, yet, again, they’re more often than not conflated into one premise–huge mistake…

    the article ‘names names,’ re the wealthy donors to various charities–right! our lives, rich, poor, ‘evil,’ ‘good,’ etc., are inextricably intertwined, in this endlessly ailing global civilization…the article misleads in that it suggests elite access was the order of the day, re the entire point of the pope’s visit to the US–MW glosses over the visit to East Harlem (not to mention the soup kitchen in DC) thereby relegated to an afterthought those encounters…

    you’re pov is hopelessly simplistic, and biased to the point of deceit…listen: there is *no* ‘pure’ stance, ‘pure’ evil, ‘purity’ of any stripe, even (or, especialy) where humanity engages with sound doctrine and sound praxis…it is more of an existential and moral *hybrid* (think: grey area)…’twas ever thus! then too, the evils of the world may also be examined in light of the behaviour of those who denounce religious praxis (including Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.)…consider the ‘wise’ atheist fascists in the modern era…

    in two thousand years of history and praxis, the participants we’ll never hear about–and the good they accomplished in their lives having been tutored and matured by Church doctrine–actually counted for something…do we dismiss them owing to our own crypto-elitist ethic? if so, we’ve betrayed ourselves…are you actually going to insist that, e.g., Phil Berrigan was able to sustain himself for–what?–thirteen years in prison (owing to his social activism) without once drawing upon the faith he was given and nurtured by the Catholic church? tell Phil Berrigan about his ‘disgusting’ Church, Matt…

    again (for the thick headed; it is ‘obscurantist’ to those beset by ignorance of the matter): it is a moral and existential ‘hybrid’–good co-existing with evil–we’re dealing with…

  8. Dosamuno
    October 2, 2015 at 08:57

    Scientology, Mormonism, The Catholic Church, and other Fairytales:

    Some wit once observed that Mormonism was Scientology plus a hundred years. The Catholic Church is Scientology plus two thousand years.

    The founders of the Catholic Church and the other Abrahamic mythologies were ignorant savages who believed in a Ptolemaic Universe in which the earth was at the center surrounded by concentric spheres called “epicycles” around which rotated the moon, sun, planets, and stars.

    They believed that there were four elements: earth, fire, air, and water. That the human body was composed of four fluids called “humors”: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Diseases were caused by imbalances of the humors.

    They knew nothing of microbes, molecules, genes, cells, atoms, DNA, or the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter. They believed in the existence of spirits and demons; they believed that humans had souls which existed independantly of the brain.

    They invented a myth of a primordial paradise called Eden inhabited by Adam and a woman named Eve, who was made from one of Adam’s ribs. It is not explained why God needed one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve after creating Adam out of dust.

    Although God is omniscient, he did not foresee that Adam and Eve would be defiant after he gave them free will. Eve corrupted Adam into disobeying God after being persuaded to do so by a talking snake.

    This caused humanity to be contaminated by original sin. Although God is omnipotent, the clown could not figure out a simple way of forgiving humanity and liberating them from the stain of Adam and Eve’s violation of Cosmic Security. So he sent down an angel with a vile of sanctified, organic God sperm which was injected into the vagina of a virgin named Mary to spawn God’s bastard son, Jesus.

    Jesus saved humanity by getting tortured to death and nailed to a cross. He got up and walked out of his tomb three days after his death, but saw his shadow, ran back into the cave, and there were two more months of winter.

    The Pope is a charlatan in a funny hat, but there is nothing funny about the damage he and his disgusting church are doing to people–especially people in Africa and South America. As Rosa Montero, a Spanish journalist, once observed, the whole farce recalls “the old, sad question as to whether a people are ignorant because they’re Catholic or Catholic because they’re ignorant.”

    I cannot understand why a serious magazine like Consortium would publish five or six articles about this mountebank.

    Hail nothing, full of nothing, nothing be with you.

  9. Evangelista
    October 1, 2015 at 22:33

    I just skimmed through this article, so I may have missed something of substance, along with any recognizable positive or useful point or purpose. Is there any? Or is this just huffing and puffing and nattering in outrage against something common to all celebrity-gala events?

    As far as I know, all religions have secular components, buildings, charities, responsibilities, activities that cost money, and all raise money to cover their ‘worldly’ costs. And the willing rich tend to be encouraged to make large donations, by all of them.

    Does Winship demand more, or less, from Pope Francis because he perceives him nearer to God, or more aetheric, or because he is irrationally angry and full of snitt and snip? Or is Pope Francis only a jumping-off point for Winship, from which to launch attacks against high-roller contributors to the Pope’s causes?

    On another note, I, personally, see nothing wrong or snitt-worthy about the Pope meeting with Kim Davis, whether she is his flock or not, to commiserate in regard to mutually held religious convictions. Both are entitled to their convictions, and to commiserate. Ms. Davis’ failure to carry out duties of her secular office is an entirely different matter, in an entirely different realm, which has nothing whatever to do with who may think her mixing of her church and her state responsibilities right or wrong.

    Are there really people among us who would decry a condemned having a priest or chaplain attend at his hanging because the crime he committed was wrong?

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 2, 2015 at 01:12

      I seem to agree with most of what you have written here. From the Pope’s religious point of view, there is nothing wrong with his approval of Kim Davis sticking to her convictions. Although, I would like to ask the Pope if Kim Davis was wrong in the eyes of this government’s laws. Shouldn’t there be a process where Kim Davis could have relinquished her power to issue a marriage license over to another capable government employee? This whole story stinks of religiously instigated tabloid political tactics being employed to diminish the same sex marriage law. For me, (I’m not promoting anything here), but tell me why do we need a Pope? Why do we need a church? If you believe there is a God, or a Creator, then why not give thanks anywhere within this vast universe? Part of the problem is how so many of us look up too some religious leader, while handing over the very nature of our soul and being, that was born in you. The part I enjoy the most is I don’t get to judge any of you. Plus, as far as big donor seating and diner goes wasn’t there that saying how, “the first will be last, and the last will be first”? Let’s get back to talking politics.

  10. Zachary Smith
    October 1, 2015 at 20:56

    “Notwithstanding his encounter with notorious Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, ….”

    A quick google search confirmed the fact that Kim Davis isn’t Catholic. Another little thing he didn’t have to do – a bit of meddling he couldn’t resist.

    • Zachary Smith
      October 2, 2015 at 10:16

      Google News Headline: “Pope Francis’ Meeting Wasn’t an Endorsement of Kim Davis’s Views, Vatican Says”

      The Pope is a very busy man, and was on a hectic trip. The local bureaucrats scheduled his meetings, and somebody thought meeting Kim Davis was a good idea. Obviously it wasn’t, and the latest backpedaling is damage control. I’ll concede it seems to be a reasonable explanation.

  11. Dean Taylor
    October 1, 2015 at 18:20

    we are called to act on conscience–our own *informed* conscience–not obedience to authority…this is what Thomistic thought enjoins us to do…as a cradle Catholic, it must be said that the rules and religious protocols learned at an early, impressionable age benefited from re-evaluation (with maturity) after gaining experience, further insights, etc.
    …we cradle Catholics often feel betrayed when we learn that the religious comforter we donned as kids is actually something we contrived at a vulnerable age…the ‘leader’ of the Church is not the pope, then–it is the Christ–i.e., it’s His Church (‘on this rock I will build my Church…’) and the idea that in order to reach Him we must go through the institution is false, and contrary to what our reflective, mature Self advises…stop and consider how many earthly guardians of the Church fell into abject, undeniable scandal throughout its two-thousand, or so year history–even Peter, the first pope, denied three times he even knew Him!…to remain a Catholic into adulthood, it would seem, requires an inner foundation we cultivate via prayerful reflection, possibly finding a spiritual director to guide your advance…something akin to locating a general practitioner you trust and respect…but, if that is not practical all the time, be devoted in your prayer–fifteen minutes when there’s a break in the action will tend to result in spiritual anemia–you’re going to ache and suffer…I printed and posted near me the letter to Corinth by Paul:

    If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have Charity/Love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

    And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have Charity/Love, I am nothing.

    If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have Charity/Love, I gain nothing.

    Charity/Love is patient, Charity/Love is kind. It is not jealous, [Charity/Love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

    It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Charity/Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

    When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

    At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

    So faith, hope, Charity/Love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity/Love…

    • Dosamuno
      October 1, 2015 at 18:33

      What incoherent, obscurantist nonsense.
      Paul of Tarsus was a neurotic clown.

      • October 2, 2015 at 20:07

        The Bible was written by fallible human beings, and exhibits human fallibility and human prejudice just like anything else that has ever been written.

        There are many things in the Bible which reflect a pre-scientific understanding of the universe which we now know to be absurd. And there are many examples of moral atrocity that are attributed to God and condoned in the Bible.

        That being said, there are some passages of wisdom even in the Bible. The passage above about love/charity is an example.

    • October 2, 2015 at 20:01

      Kim Davis is somebody who is NOT motivated by any Charity/Love or by any altruism or any concern for others. She does not care about those people whom it is her job to serve as county clerk. And she does not care about the voters who elected her to office, and she does not care about the taxpayers who are paying her $80000 per year salary for a job which she refuses to do.

      I think she likes to fancy that she will earn a special reward in heaven for her refusing to budge about what she considers to be “God’s definition” of marriage. Or she dares not incur divine disapproval or divine wrath for violating “God’s definition” and lose her reward in heaven.

      And I am sure she likes the approval and accolades of the Religious Right bigots.

      Here are the opening paragraphs of an article about fundamentalism which describe Kim Davis to a T:

      Fundamentalism is variously described by various authors, but to me it really boils down to a rather simple test: In my view, a fundamentalist religion is a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part.

      Fundamentalist religions make this choice because they uniformly place a high priority on doctrinal conformity, with such force that it takes higher priority than love, compassion and service.

      Indeed, many fundamentalists are so caught up in doctrinal seriousness, that love, service and compassion seem scarcely to even be a part of their thinking. As one correspondent said to me regarding a certain Christian sect’s converts, “Its like they go in and surgically remove any sense of love or any sense of humor.”


  12. Dosamuno
    October 1, 2015 at 14:37

    I WAS RAISED CATHOLIC. To me the Church is just a giant evil transnational corporation operating on a dreary business model, one that nurtures debilitating guilt feelings in its followers and then offers to make them go away temporarily in exchange for donations. I realize the Church does some nice things with the money it raises and that other people have a different opinion, but this is my experience. And this pope, for all his good qualities, is to me a modern version of an old religious scam. In Tsarist Russia you’d have some wizened starets show up at an aristocrat’s estate in rags and preach to the ladies of the house about the evils of wealth in exchange for wine, pastries and a few nights in a feather bed. This version is a pope arriving in America with a gazillion-member entourage to reassure young professionals in New York how right they are about climate change and income inequality. He says a lot of very vague things about the wrongs of society that everyone is sure coincide with their own opinions. George Will is right when he says Francis speaks “in the intellectual tone of a fortune cookie,” saying things like, “People occasionally forgive, but nature never does.” Meanwhile Francis chugs along as the head of one of the most socially regressive organizations on earth, doing nothing to take on the Church’s indefensible stances on things like birth control, gay rights, discrimination against women, celibacy and countless other issues. He claims the moral authority to reform global capitalism, but he’s somehow not ready to tell teenagers it’s OK to masturbate, which seems bizarre. People have such impassioned political fights over the pope because everyone wants the endorsement of the guy closest to God. But what if he’s not closer to God, and is just a guy in a funny hat? Doesn’t that make all this fuss and controversy ridiculous? It seems strange that it’s the year 2015, and we still can’t say that out loud.

    — Matt Taibbi

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