Category Archives: Religion
Michael D Higgins, our esteemed President, is about to convene a meeting of the Council of State to help him decide whether of not he should refer the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act to the Supreme Court for a test of its constitutionality. If the court judges that the Act is constitutional, it becomes bullet-proof and can never again be challenged on those grounds. On the other hand, the court might strike the Act down in its entirety and then we’re all back on the same merry-go-round yet again – the government’s nightmare outcome, and mine too, if I must be honest. Another six months of listening to the Iona Institute people would just about finish me off.
The President isn’t obliged to take whatever advice the Council offers him, but he must consult them before he sends an Act to the Supreme Court, so I thought it might be useful to explain how this Council is made up. According to Article 31 of the constitution, it consists of the current Taoiseach and Tánaiste, or, for those unfamiliar with ludicrously pompous feudal Gaelic terms, the prime minister and deputy prime minister. Likewise, the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court, the Chairmen of the Dáil and the Senate (soon to be abolished if Enda gets his way) and the Attorney General. All former prime ministers are automatically members, though they must be willing and able, which brings up a difficulty I’ll come back to in a minute. In addition, the President can appoint seven nominees at his absolute discretion. The current members are as follows.
|Éamon Gilmore||Deputy taoiseach|
|Sean Barrett||Chairman of the Dail|
|Paddy Burke||Chairman of the Senate|
|Susan Denham||Chief Justice|
|Nicholas Kearns||President of the High Court|
|Maire Whelan||Attorney General|
|Mary Robinson||Former President|
|Mary McAleese||Former President|
|Liam Cosgrave||Former Taoiseach|
|Albert Reynolds||Former Taoiseach|
|John Bruton||Former Taoiseach|
|Bertie Ahern||Former Taoiseach|
|Brian Cowen||Former Taoiseach|
|John Murray||Former Chief Justice|
|Thomas Finlay||Former Chief Justice|
|Ronan Keane||Former Chief Justice|
|Michael Farrell,||Presidential Nominee|
|Deirdre Heenan,||Presidential Nominee|
|Catherine McGuinness,||Presidential Nominee|
|Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh,||Presidential Nominee|
|Ruairí McKiernan,||Presidential Nominee|
|Sally Mulready,||Presidential Nominee|
|Gerard Quinn||Presidential Nominee|
The first hurdle occurs with our beloved deputy Prime Minister, Éamon Gilmore. Éamon, you see, describes himself as an agnostic, but because our constitution is so deeply mired in the confessional swamp that was the Ireland of 1937, every member of the Council must swear an oath, as follows:
In the presence of Almighty God I, Joe Soap, do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfil my duties as a member of the Council of State.
As a non-believer, Éamon found himself conflicted by this and took legal advice, but it seems he’s happy enough to swear in the presence of a deity he doesn’t believe in, and I suppose he’s right. After all, the wording seems carefully constructed to give atheists a way out, since it doesn’t require him to swear to Almighty God, as happens in the courts, unless a witness chooses the option toaffirm. It simply requires him to promise and declare in the presence of the non-existent deity. Look, he’s a politician, well-used to believing two different things at the same time. Besides, the preamble to the Constitution is far worse. How’s this for inclusivity?
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation, And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.
Nice. How does that work with Jews, Muslims, Hindus and people of no religion who also happen to be Irish citizens? The most holy trinity from whom all authority derives. That’s a theocracy, last time I checked. How does our Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, who happens to be a Jew, feel about his constitution acknowledging his obligations to our divine lord, Jesus Christ?
That’s Ireland for you, and Britain too, where the Queen is the head of the established church, lest anyone be too quick to sneer, but let’s get on with the Council of State.
Besides the atheist who’s happy to swear in the presence of a god he doesn’t believe in, we have five former prime ministers, four of whom assiduously dodged the problem of the X Case judgement. One of them, John Bruton, is already on record as opposing the current Act on religious grounds. Two others — Brian Cowen and the man in the cupboard, Bertie Ahern — are responsible for crashing our country into a gigantic brick wall while another, Albert Reynolds, declined to give evidence to a tribunal of inquiry into planning corruption on the grounds of cognitive impairment. In other words, he couldn’t remember an Irish military helicopter ferrying him to a secret meeting with a property developer and he had no memory of the government Learjet diverting to an unscheduled rendezvous in Bermuda. Poor man’s mind is gone, sadly. And yet, here he is, sitting on the Council of State.
Old Liam Cosgrave meanwhile, still hale and hearty at 92 years of age, will go down in history as the Taoiseach who voted against his own government on contraception legislation due to his strong Catholic beliefs.
There isn’t any set procedure laid down for how the meeting will be conducted, however, and Michael D is a wily old guy, so perhaps it will be closely circumscribed. He might decide simply to ask them a legal question: in your opinion, is this Act constitutional or not?
If we exclude Brian Cowen on the arbitrary grounds that he completed the crash started by Ahern, that he’s only a small-town solicitor who never practised much anyway and that I just don’t like him, we still have eight senior lawyers who should be able to advise Michael D dispassionately. What will the others advise him on? Who knows? I suppose Da Bert could give him a tip on ahorse and Cowen could offer his opinions on nude portraiture. Bruton could entertain everyone with his famous party laugh and Cosgrave could re-enact his world-renowned Crossing of the Floor, the original Riverdance but with added hypocrisy.
Let’s not forget the ferment of rage that must be taking place in this assembly of the great and the good. How does the chairman of the Senate feel about the current prime minister who supports this act and yet who wants to abolish the very House he presides over? I’m only speaking personally here, but I think I’d feel tempted to shaft Enda one last time before being abolished. Clearly, Mr Burke is a far more professional individual than I am and would never dream of sinking so low, but still, human nature is what it is. I’d knife him.
I’m fascinated by the process, since it’s not laid down anywhere that I can find. Where will they hold the meeting? What time will it happen? Will Michael D supply the drink or will they all turn up with slabs? Will they drive or come in taxis? Will they have a barbecue? Will someone make a CD mix? The weather is really great at the moment although you can’t be too careful. Lately there’s been a lot of thunderstorms but that’s to be expected with all the heat, so maybe they should set up a gazebo and everyone could huddle inside it together if there’s a sudden downpour. It would make for a cheerful atmosphere, and they’ll get along much better after getting to know each other. I’d say they’ll make burgers and maybe put out some nachos with a cheese dip. What do you think? Spare ribs? Red stuff all over your face? Send Bruton down to the off-licence for more ice. Michael D might even read them some of his poetry before leading them to the overwhelming question: what’ll we do? Ah, I don’t know. That’s why I’m not the president, the chief justice or even a spiv in a yellow suit hiding in a cupboard.
“The republic that was created from the ashes of the rising was a perversion of the human rights ideals of 1916,” the outgoing Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has said.
Addressing the first evening of the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal, she said people were not yet fully aware of what a real republic looked like. Delivering the 13th annual John Hume lecture, Ms O’Reilly said it was particularly appropriate that the lecture was named after the Nobel peace prize winner as he was a “pre-eminent human rights defender”.
She criticised the successors of the 1916 leaders, accusing them of franchising the State “to a private organisation called the Catholic Church, shedding in particular its responsibility for the education and health systems, and thereby allowing little actual space for the elected leaders of this republic to play their role in pursuing the happiness and prosperity of the nation”.
It was difficult for citizens to remind themselves that “we are actually the ones in charge”.
This was a difficulty, she added, that the executive and judiciary also struggled with. Referring to former attorney general Peter Sutherland, she said his core assertion made in a speech earlier this year, that the courts were “inappropriately forced to decide not alone what our values in this republic are or should be, but also to divine what the elected representatives of the people think about those values”.
She said that while the courts had too much unwanted power, parliament spent “much of its time ducking and diving and pretending it has no power whatsoever”. She accused the executive of “planting its boot far too firmly on the neck of the parliament and wielding power in a manner never envisaged by the Constitution.”
Quoting President Michael D Higgins, she said: “There is a deep-seated anti-intellectualism prevalent in Irish life,” and that our political and cultural life was marked by the false notion that one person’s ignorance was as good as another’s knowledge. She turned to the Constitution, quoting article 28.4.1 which states that the Government “shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann”.
“Quite clearly this is not the case. The nub of the problem is that parliament does not take itself seriously,” she said. “Our failures are essentially human rights failures and we should be particularly alive to the fact that, never more so than at a time of recession and austerity, are bodies such as a Human Rights Commission and an Equality Authority needed to make sure that in a decade’s time we won’t be weeping our way through another pitiful cataloguing of State-inflicted abuse, albeit with a modern twist.”
In his opening address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he looked to 2016 and the centenary of the Easter Rising. “To be a real republic, Ireland has to be a sovereign republic,” he said. “We will strive . . . and work even harder so that we will become the best small country in the world for business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect. This will be the republic of 2016.”
Tens of thousands of Brazilian pilgrims were left disappointed today, by the pontiff’s inability to produce a Royal Baby. Although Pope Francis promised to bring people to the ‘open arms of Christ the Redeemer’, there is a sense that the Duchess of Cambridge has ‘raised the bar’ for global figures.
While the rest of the world is gripped by baby fever, the head of the Catholic Church has stubbornly refused ‘to take one for the team’. A reproducing Bishop of Rome could allow for more youthful Popes, an hereditary College of Cardinals and lucrative reality TV shows. Many priests have been valiantly trying for to get altar boys pregnant for generations, but Pope Francis has so far avoided opening his papal womb to the public. ‘The Vatican has been ‘dining-out’ on this one miracle birth for two thousand years,’ criticised one reporter. ‘Whereas your Windsors, they’ve been popping out sprogs left, right and centre. Some of them even in wedlock!’
Crowds flooded to Rio de Janeiro, with mothers holding up babies as visual clues for Pope Francis or in some cases passing him bouquets of flowers in the hope of pollinating him. Later the Pope ironically visited Our Lady of the Conception, but completely failed to inseminate himself. Protestors began to line the streets as soon as it became known that his vestments were not concealing ‘a baby bump’. Police were forced to fire tear gas and said a homemade explosive device was discovered at the shrine. One Cardinal commented: ‘We are in the wonderment business, so the miracle of childbirth should be something any Pope can do’.
Irish Government to pursue religious orders for €250 million in unpaid compensation to abuse victims
The Cabinet of the Irish Government agreed this week to pursue religious orders for payment of the remaining €250 million needed to make up their half of the cost of €1.46 billion compensation promised to victims of horrific ill-treatment in orphanages, schools, borstals and other institutions run by Catholic monks and nuns. The amount was revised upwards from €1.36 billion after more victims came forward.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has been given the task of extracting the money from the orders.
The congregations of priests and nuns initially offered just €128 million in cash, property and counselling services as part of a controversial indemnity deal dating back to 2002. Only €106 million of this was ever realised.
Four of the eighteen orders named in the Ryan Commission that investigated the decades of abuse that was perpetrated have said they are willing to consider transferring more school buildings and other educational infrastructure on top of what has been offered.
Mr Quinn said: “The Government is obviously disappointed that the congregations have not agreed to a 50:50 share of the very considerable cost for redress. This decision represents the most pragmatic way to maximise the level of contributions to be made by the congregations and the management bodies so that the taxpayer does not bear an unreasonable burden of the costs.”
I spent the summer of 1961 behind the Iron Curtain. I was part of the US–USSR student exchange program. It was the second year of the program that operated under auspices of the US Department of State. Our return to the West via train through East Germany was interrupted by the construction of the Berlin Wall. We were sent back to Poland. The East German rail tracks were occupied with Soviet troop and tank trains as the Red Army concentrated in East Germany to face down any Western interference.
Fortunately, in those days there were no neoconservatives. Washington had not grown the hubris it so well displays in the 21st century. The wall was built and war was avoided. The wall backfired on the Soviets. Both JFK and Ronald Reagan used it to good propaganda effect.
In those days America stood for freedom, and the Soviet Union for oppression. Much of this impression was created by Western propaganda, but there was some semblance to the truth in the image. The communists had a Julian Assange and an Edward Snowden of their own. His name was Cardinal Jozef Mindszenty, the leader of the Hungarian Catholic Church.
Mindszenty opposed tyranny. For his efforts he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Communists also regarded him as an undesirable, and he was tortured and given a life sentence in 1949.
Freed by the short-lived Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Mindszenty reached the American Embassy in Budapest and was granted political asylum by Washington. However, the communists would not give him the free passage that asylum presumes, and Mindszenty lived in the US Embassy for 15 years — 79% of his remaining life.
In the 21st century roles have reversed. Today it is Washington that is enamored of tyranny. On Washington’s orders, the UK will not permit Julian Assange free passage to Ecuador, where he has been granted asylum. Like Cardinal Mindszenty, Assange is stuck in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
Washington will not permit its European vassal states to allow overflights of airliners carrying Edward Snowden to any of the countries that have offered Snowden asylum. Snowden is stuck in the Moscow airport.
In Washington politicians of both parties demand that Snowden be captured and executed. Politicians demand that Russia be punished for not violating international law, seizing Snowden, and turning him over to Washington to be tortured and executed, despite the fact that Washington has no extradition treaty with Russia.
Snowden did United States citizens a great service. He told us that despite constitutional prohibition, Washington had implemented a universal spy system intercepting every communication of every American and much of the rest of the world. Special facilities are built in which to store these communications.
In other words, Snowden did what Americans are supposed to do — disclose government crimes against the Constitution and against citizens. Without a free press there is nothing but the government’s lies. In order to protect its lies from exposure, Washington intends to exterminate all truth tellers.
The Obama Regime is the most oppressive regime ever in its prosecution of protected whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are protected by law, but the Obama Regime insists that whistleblowers are not really whistleblowers. Instead, the Obama Regime defines whistleblowers as spies, traitors, and foreign agents. Congress, the media, and the faux judiciary echo the executive branch propaganda that whistleblowers are a threat to America. It is not the government that is violating and raping the US Constitution that is a threat. It is the whistleblowers who inform us of the rape who are the threat.
The Obama Regime has destroyed press freedom. A lackey federal appeals court has ruled that NY Times reporter James Risen must testify in the trial of a CIA officer charged with providing Risen with information about CIA plots against Iran. The ruling of this fascist court destroys confidentiality and is intended to end all leaks of the government’s crimes to media.
What Americans have learned in the 21st century is that the US government lies about everything and breaks every law. Without whistleblowers, Americans will remain in the dark as “their” government enserfs them, destroying every liberty, and impoverishes them with endless wars for Washington’s and Wall Street’s hegemony.
Snowden harmed no one except the liars and traitors in the US government. Contrast Washington’s animosity against Snowden with the pardon that Bush gave to Dick Cheney aide, Libby, who took the fall for his boss for blowing the cover, a felony, on a covert CIA operative, the spouse of a former government official who exposed the Bush/Cheney/neocon lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Whatever serves the tiny clique that rules america is legal; whatever exposes the criminals is illegal.
That’s all there is to it.
Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts
Sectarian clashes between Muslim-minorities and Buddhists in Myanmar have allegedly angered the Islamic militant group, the Indian Mujahideen, and the Buddhist population and monasteries in India are at risk, according to intelligence sources.
India’s National Investigation Agency on Monday alerted the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh about a possible terrorist attack on Buddhists and monasteries across the state, according to the Indian media.
After Bodhgaya in eastern India, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was attacked by the terrorist group recently, the security at Dalai Lama temple in Dhramshala in north India has been noticeably tightened.
The National Investigation Agency has reportedly sent a communiqué to the northern Indian state police, cautioning them about possible terrorist attack on monasteries, especially in Dharamshala, the exile seat of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Plans to attack the monasteries in North India were exposed by Obedu Rehman, an operative of the India based terrorist group, according to the Hindustan Times.
Earlier this month, a series of eight blasts occurred in and around the Buddhist shrine in Bodhgaya, injuring two monks- one Tibetan and one Myanmar.
The blasts took place a day after the birthday of the Dalai Lama.
The Tibetan spiritual leader described the attacks as “very sad” while noting that it could be an act of “few individuals” and “shouldn’t be considered serious.”
“We are thankful to the Central Government and the Government of Bihar for the security provided at the Mahabodhi Temple and express our full faith in the ongoing investigation of the serial blasts,” said Lobsang Sangay.
The Dalai Lama has sent a letter to the Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi urging to find a way to end the sectarian clashes in the country.
Suu Kyi tlll date has taken no stance regarding the clashes. She recently expressed her wish to contest the 2015 presidential election. Many people hope that If Suu Kyi wins the presidential election; she might be able to end the clashes in the country.
Ali Charaf Damache (47), an Algerian with Irish citizenship, has begun to sue several Irish institutions claiming that he was not permitted to practice his Muslim religion while being held in a Cork prison in 2011.
The Irish Independent reports that Damache, who is wanted in the US on terror-related charges, has since been moved from Cork Prison to Cloverhill Prison in Dublin. He will remain there pending the outcome of the extradition request from the US.
Damache has since brought proceedings against the governor of Cork Prison, the Irish Prison Services, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General. He claims he was subjected to abuse and insults from both staff and inmates at Cork Prison and was prevented from practicing his religion.
In his claims, Damache says his constitutional rights and rights under the European Convention to practice his religion freely were violated while he was held in Cork Prison. He is also seeking damages.
Damache says he was not provided with halal meat, nor water to wash with before praying, nor an Iman for Friday prayers. He also said he had to use chamber pots in the cells and the hygiene in the prison’s toilet area was poor.
The action has been opposed by the State which denies his rights were breached. The action before Justice Elizabeth Dunne continues on Thursday.
Damache is famously connected to the ‘Jihad Jane’ case. The two reportedly conspired to kill Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist whose 2007 portrayal of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, angered Muslims around the world.
Last year, Damache unexpectedly pled guilty to placing a menacing phone call to the Michigan-based attorney Majed Moughni. He was sentenced to four years in jail with the final year suspended. Due to time already served, Damache was released from custody.
However, upon being released, Damache was re-arrested in relation to extradition charges from the US in which he is accused of providing material support to terrorists. He is still being held in Cloverhill Prison in Dublin.
The woman died in January 2012. An inquest has not yet been held into the woman’s death as the police investigation is continuing.The husband said the couple was told that treatment of the condition could involve a procedure that would leave her infertile. “We were worried about what would happen when she became pregnant again,” he said.
“She was sick, but we were told that nothing could be done in Ireland. We were left on our own to deal with it. We didn’t get any help at all,” he said.
When I was a guest on Dr. Michael Brown’s nationally syndicated radio show “Line of Fire,” our conversation focused on a chapter in my book Jesus Uncensored, entitled “The Ethnic Cleansing of Judaism in Medieval and Renaissance Art.” Here I show that classical artworks washed out all traces of Judaism in the personae of Jesus, his family, and followers–despite the fact that they were all dedicated practicing Jews throughout their lives. The process of totally Christianizing the Jesus circle placed an artificial wedge between Judaism and Christianity that remained in place for centuries.
As late as the nineteenth century a painting of Jesus and his family by British artist John Everett Millais and another of the twelve-year-old Jesus by German painter Max Liebermann met with public uproar because they were deemed too Jewish . Liebermann repainted his young Jesus, rendering him blond with no indication of his Middle Eastern Jewish ethnicity. He took the Jew out of Jesus, which soothed and pleased the critics.
Surprisingly, that legacy of bristling at Jewish Jesus representations continues to the present day. Here’s what a listener to Michael Brown’s radio show said in response to my interview:
“While I was in high school–a Catholic high school–we had a project to draw in class. I drew a picture of Jesus, but removed his golden locks and blue eyes and replaced them with a more Middle Eastern looking man with thick hair. The teacher lost her mind. All this resulted in a trip to the Dean’s office, as if I offended her. All I heard was ‘why does it matter.’ So I said, ‘You tell me why it matters. I don’t recall too many blond-haired, blue-eyed people from that region of the world.'”
In commentaries and descriptions of exhibits of artworks depicting Jesus, we never hear that these paintings, as magnificent as they are artistically, distort and falsify biblical history. Renaissance artists revolutionized art with the introduction of realism and naturalism over the earlier artificialism and primitivism. Unfortunately, naturalism and realism did not extend to who the figures were naturally and realistically in their actual lives. Art historians with whom I’ve spoken dismiss these criticisms as ignorance about the Renaissance style of contemporizing figures in painting–dressing people in contemporary Renaissance attire and picturing them in Renaissance settings as Northern Europeans in skin tone and physical appearance.
While it is true that this kind of historical distortion was commonplace in Renaissance painting, it does not explain the obliteration of Jesus’ and his family’s true identities or the pictorial conversion of orthodox Jews into latter-day Christians.
Nowhere in these artworks is there a hint of the subjects’ Jewish identities or origins. For example, Bartolome Esteban Murillo‘s sixteenth century painting The Baptism of Christ pictures John the Baptist baptizing Jesus–an act reported in the Gospels (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23). Curiously, Jesus and John are not dressed in Renaissance attire, but John is holding a crucifix staff, thus telling the viewer that this is a Christian event and a Christian conversion.
Baptism of Christ by wikimedia
The fact is that there was no Christianity at the time of this baptism, nor did John or Jesus have any intention or desire to launch a new religion. Neither Jesus nor John ever heard the word “Christian”; it does not appear in the Gospels, although the term “Jew” appears eighty two-times. Moreover, John only baptized Jews–purifying them with the ancient Jewish practice of baptism for the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
Murillo’s powerful image supports the false conclusion that Christianity was already present. Consider too that the cross was a hated symbol in the time of Jesus and John the Baptist–a reminder of the countless times Jews were brutally crucified by the Romans. Jesus and John would very likely cringe at the image of the cross in this depiction. The cross didn’t become a Christian symbol until the fourth century CE, when it was introduced by the Emperor Constantine on his military banner and shields . No wonder that it didn’t catch on promptly as an endearing Christian symbol.
What has been overlooked by art historians and other apologists is that the pervasive distortions of biblical history in misrepresenting Jesus, his family, and followers established a powerful foundation for anti-Semitism–anti-Semitism by omission. In stripping away Jesus’ Jewish identity these paintings implanted the firm conviction that Jesus was of different ethnicity and religion than the others–the Jews. This conclusion was made even more explicit in paintings like The Tribute Money , by Peter Paul Rubens (1612), and Albrecht Durer’s sixteenth-century Christ Among the Doctors (Pharisees), both of which depict a blond ethereal Jesus in contrast to the dark, menacing and ugly Jews–the others.
If we were to restore the authentic ethnicity of Jesus and others, these painting would be strikingly different, even while preserving the “Renaissance style.” Consider, for example, Michael Pacher’s fifteenth century painting The Marriage of the Virgin, which depicts the marriage ceremony (some say betrothal) of Mary and Joseph. In reality, Mary was a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl from a rural village in Nazareth. Her betrothal and marriage was to Joseph, a working-class Jew originally from Bethlehem. After their marriage they showed their dedication to Judaism by taking the arduous seven-day trip to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Jewish holidays, particularly the Passover festival (Luke 2:41).
In Pacher’s painting, Mary and Joseph are Christians, with the marriage ceremony performed by a latter-day Christian high church official in a Christian setting. Mary and Joseph’s Jewish identities are erased. Several other Medieval and Renaissance paintings of the marriage also Christianized this Jewish marriage ceremony. Similar misrepresentations of other scenes and events are typical and routine for classical artworks.
Marriage of the Virgin by WIkimedia
In writing about this “ethnic cleansing of Judaism in Medieval and Renaissance art” in Jesus Uncensored I presented a “what if?” that punctuates why artists would not dare to paint a Jewish Jesus:
“Imagine, let’s say, if the painter Raphael presented his patron with a scene of Jesus in a synagogue with a Jewish prayer shawl (tallit), wearing tassels (tstsit), donning phylacteries (tefillin) for morning prayer, and surrounded by other Jewish worshipers in similar attire–with Jesus pictured affectionately kissing his beloved Torah. “Raphael, what have you given me?” the startled patron would surely ask. “Sir,” Raphael would respond, “this is a painting of the authentic Jesus. That’s what Jesus did every morning. Don’t you want to experience the real Jesus?” The patron is unlikely to be impressed and Raphael might then be swiftly turned over to the Inquisition.” (This “what if” image is based on a description in Luke 4:16 of Jesus in a synagogue on the Sabbath.)
Bernard Starr, Ph.D.is a psychologist, journalist and college professor.His latest book, “Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew,” is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.Starr’s op-ed commentaries for the Scripps Howard News Service have (more…)
A few days after the Syrian army took Qusayr, in early June, the influential Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi described his grim vision of a Muslim world dominated by “Persians and Shia”: “The guide of the Revolution … Ayatollah Khamenei will fulfil his dream of delivering a sermon from the pulpit of the Umayyad Mosque [in Damascus] to announce that he [has] achieved Islamic unity, which he has long promised. He will descend from the pulpit with much pomp to wipe the head of a poor child to show the ‘tolerance of the powerful’ [toward Sunnis]. Then he will stand next to … Syrian Sunni scholars, with their white turbans, as there are always people like the mufti Ahmad Hassun who are ready to serve. He will [raise their hands] high, while cameras record this historic moment” (1).
In a speech the same day, Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hizbullah, justified sending fighters to Syria while recognising that although “a large part of the Syrians [support] the regime”, many were probably against it. He felt this internal conflict was secondary, since “Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and the entire region are targeted by [a] US-Israeli-Takfiri scheme” (2) that must be resisted at all costs, which meant rushing to help the Assad regime.
As a US official wrote in a report by the International Crisis Group (3), “a Syrian war with regional consequences is becoming a regional war with a Syrian focus.” A new cold war is dividing the region, like the original, which set Nasser’s Egypt, allied with the USSR, against Saudi Arabia and the US in the 1950s and 60s. But times have changed. Arab nationalism has declined, sectarian positions are hardening, and there is even doubt over the future of the states and frontiers created after the first world war.
Syria, with its tens of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, and severely damaged industrial infrastructure and historic heritage, is the main victim. The hopeful dream of the spring of 2011 has turned into a nightmare. Why have the Syrians been unable to do in Damascus what the Egyptians did in Cairo?
The Egyptians were able to overthrow Mubarak relatively easily. The elite and social classes with ties to the clique that held power never really felt their privileges were threatened, let alone their physical safety. After the revolution, businessmen, senior army officers and intelligence service directors calmly changed sides. Only a few were brought to trial, slowly and with great reluctance. And Mubarak’s departure did not upset the regional geopolitical balance. The US and Saudi Arabia were able to adapt to changes they had not wanted but which did not threaten their interests, as long as they were able to channel those changes.
Hopes of a transition faded
It is different in Syria. From the start of the conflict, unrestricted use of force by the intelligence services gained the regime precious months in which to organise. The regime encouraged the militarisation of the opposition, escalation of the conflict, and even sectarianism, in order to scare large sections of the population; minorities, the bourgeoisie and the urban middle classes were already frightened by the extremist language of some opposition groups and the influx of foreign fighters reported by the regime.
As the atrocities continued, hopes of a transition without calls for revenge faded, and relatively large sections of society rallied to the regime, fearing for their safety in the event of an Islamist victory. The West had been invoking Islamist bogeymen for years, which made that prospect all the more frightening, and lent credence to the Assad regime’s challenge to France: “Why are you helping the same groups in Syria that you are fighting in Mali?”
The regime also used Syria’s strategic position as leverage to elicit support from its main allies, Iran and Russia, which have surprised the world by intervening in the conflict with far more determination than Arab or western countries.
Syria is the only Arab ally that Iran has been able to count on since the 1979 revolution. Syria stood by it in difficult times, especially during Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980, when all the Gulf countries sided with Saddam Hussein. Given Iran’s deepening isolation over the last few years, the harsh sanctions imposed by the US and the EU, and the continued risk of military intervention by Israel and/or the US, Iran’s involvement in Syria, while not morally justifiable, is a rational strategic decision, and unlikely to be reversed by its new president, Hassan Rohani. Iran has done everything it can to rescue its ally, from granting credit to Syria’s central bank to supplying oil and military advisers.
Call for jihad
Iran’s involvement has led it — with the approval of Russia — to encourage Hizbullah to become directly involved in Syria. Hizbullah could argue that thousands of Islamist fighters, from Lebanon and other Arab countries, are already there, but direct involvement can only worsen tensions between Sunni and Shia (armed clashes have since increased in Lebanon) and embolden radical Sunni preachers.
The conference in Cairo on 13 June held in support of “our Syrian brothers” called for jihad. Mohammed Morsi took part and, though he had until then been cautious on Syria, announced that Egypt was breaking off diplomatic relations with the Assad regime. Anti-Shia rhetoric, even from moderate sheikhs, grew louder. Hassan al-Shafii, representative of Al-Azhar, the major institution of Sunni Islam based in Cairo, asked: “What is the meaning of Hizbullah’s interference [and spilling of] innocent blood in Qusayr? It is a war against Sunnis, it is Shia sectarianism” (4).
Russia’s involvement is not just a whim of Vladimir Putin, but a reassertion of its international importance. An Egyptian diplomat said: “The West is paying the price for its attempts to marginalise Russia since the end of the USSR. Despite Boris Yeltsin’s goodwill, Nato has expanded right up to Russia’s borders.” For two years, “the West has been suggesting to Russia that it should simply adopt the West’s line [on Syria]. That was not a realistic proposition.”
Wary since Libya
The way in which the UN Security Council resolution on Libya was distorted to legitimise military intervention also made Russia wary, and other countries too: Brazil, China, India and South Africa have expressed reservations over resolutions on Syria presented at the UN by the West. The fall of the Assad regime would be unacceptable to Russia: it would be a victory for Islamists and could stir up Muslims within the Federation, among whom Russia claims Wahabist propaganda is being disseminated.
Compared with the determination of Russia and Iran, external support for Syria’s opposition has been fragmented, erratic and incompetent, hardly a vast Saudi-Qatari-American-Israeli-Salafist conspiracy. Each country has been doing its own thing and helping its own clients, providing aid to some and refusing it to others. The absurdities reached a peak this April when Qatar funded the imposition of Ghassan Hitto, a US national, as prime minister of Syria’s “interim” government. Interference from rich Gulf businessmen not subject to any form of control adds to the confusion (5).
It is difficult to see what is really going on with so many different groups and combat units (katibas), all deceptively labelled “Islamists”, a term that makes it possible to ignore their strategic and political differences (6). Jabhat al-Nusra, which claims to be a branch of Al-Qaida, worries the West as much as it does Saudi Arabia, which fought a war to the death against Al-Qaida at home between 2003 and 2005. This apprehension is also felt within Salafist organisations: Nader Bakkar, the media-savvy spokesman of Egypt’s biggest Salafist party Al-Nour, wants to cut the ground from under Al-Qaida’s feet: “What we are asking for is a no-fly zone. So that the revolutionaries can win the war themselves. We are urging people in Egypt not to go to Syria; the victory must be won by Syrians alone.”
This confusion has been encouraged by the diffidence of the US, which though keen to see the Syrian regime fall, is reluctant to embark on another Middle East adventure after its failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The change in Washington’s outlook is exemplified by Richard Haass. As one of the brains behind the Republican Party’s foreign policy he worked with President George W Bush. Now head of the influential Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he has just published a book called Foreign Policy Begins at Home: the Case for Putting America’s House in Order, which argues that internal problems, from the deterioration of the transport system to the lack of skilled labour, are preventing the US from exercising global leadership.
President Barack Obama has decided to supply weapons to the Syrian rebels. The pretext is the Syrian army’s use of sarin gas — a controversial affair with no independent enquiry as yet (7) — which, according to the US, has killed about 140 of the 90,000 victims of the conflict to date. But how should the decision be interpreted?
Syria has become a regional and international battlefield, and neither camp will accept the defeat of its champion. After the Syrian army’s success at Qusayr, the US wants to prevent the regime from gaining a complete victory, though such a victory is highly unlikely since much of the population has become radicalised and, with nothing more to lose, strongly rejects the regime. But the desires of the US will probably not turn into large-scale intervention, no-fly zones or the commitment of ground troops. If the military balance is maintained, the stalemate will continue, as will the death and destruction, and the risk that the conflict will spread across the region.
Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have been caught up in the conflict; Iraqi and Lebanese fighters, Sunni and Shia, find themselves on opposing sides in Syria. The international insurgency highway (8) is bringing fighters, weapons and ideas into Syria from as far as Afghanistan and the Sahel. As long as the external protagonists continue to see the conflict as a zero-sum game, Syria’s people will suffer and the whole region is in danger of being dragged in.
As the man charged with cleaning out the stables at the scandal-struck Vatican bank, Monsignor Battista Ricca will need Machiavellian cunning, good fortune and a whiter-than-white record to have even a fighting chance.
But Pope Francis’s new banker appears to possess none of these attributes after it was reported yesterday that he was found stuck in a lift with a rent boy. Msgr Ricca, as Francis’s new primate with responsibility for the troubled financial institution, known officially as the IoR (Institute for Religious Works), is supposed to usher in new transparency and badly needed reforms after years of financial scandal.
Earlier this month, a major report from finance police and magistrates warned that a lack of checks and controls by the IoR and the Italian financial institutions it had dealings with made the Vatican’s bank a money-laundering hot spot.
It is claimed that Msgr Ricca, 57, impressed Francis with the way he ran three key residences used by cardinals, bishops and priests visiting Rome. But detailed claims have emerged detailing how in 1999, Ricca took a Vatican diplomatic posting in Uruguay and moved his lover, Patrick Haari, a Swiss army captain, in with him, to the outrage of church figures and locals in the conservative South American nation. Captain Haari was forced out by the hardline Polish nuncio Janusz Bolonek in 2001.
But there were more problems for Ricca when he was attacked in a cruising ground that year, and soon after firemen had to rescue him from a broken lift, in which he was trapped with a youth known by local police. The weekly news magazine L’Espresso claims that Msgr Ricca was able to get the position as IoR prelate because the supposedly powerful “gay lobby” in the Vatican airbrushed his colourful CV.
Gay sex scandals at the Vatican have made the headlines before. In 2010 it emerged that one of Pope Benedict’s ceremonial ushers and a member of the Vatican choir were involved in a gay prostitution ring.
Vatican spokesman Padre Federico Lombardi sought to dismiss the claims about Msgr Ricca’s private life. “What has been claimed about Msgr Ricca is not credible,” he said. Msgr Ricca himself has not yet responded to the allegations. But La Repubblica noted that the Vatican had emphasised that his appointment as prelate for the IoR was technically an interim one, thus raising the possibility that the job might not last long.