Spotlight wins; Pell testifies


Last night, Spotlight took home the hardware that mattered and reminded us that a watchful eye remains on the Catholic Church and the care that it puts into repairing the wrong it has done. For many, their relationship to the church, is irreparable. Worse yet, their relationship with God and their faith is also irreparable, a point made in the film.

**Spoiler Alert**

My wife and I have been trying to get through Spotlight for the past week or so – not because we were laboring to do so, but because of scheduling issues and the three monsters that control our household, but we finally finished it last night. The most sobering moment was at the film’s conclusion when the confirmed locations of abuse scrolled through multiple screens. I walked away feeling that the movie was very well done, stopped well short of any ad hominem attacks, and left out the theatrical explosions and car chase scenes and just told the story.

At the same time, Cardinal George Pell, ‘one of Pope Francis’ top advisers testified at an extraordinary public hearing of an Australian investigative commission just a few blocks from the Vatican’.

In one of the more recent and full throated acceptance of accountability, Pell said,  “I’m not here to defend the indefensible. The church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those.” He said the church had “mucked things up and let people down” and for too long had dismissed credible abuse allegations “in absolutely scandalous circumstances.”

Many, of course, are not impressed with the Cardinal’s bluster and are looking for action. Their hesitancy to believe there will be accountability is understood, if for no other reason that when Cardinal Law fled to the Vatican in 2002,  he was appointed head of Santa Marie Maggiore, one of the most significant basilicas in Rome. He has since retired from that post and lives in a very nice building in the Vatican, where he largely enjoys anonymity, a far cry from what many believe he is due.

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Spotlight wins; Pell testifies

Why the walls at the Vatican are not the same thing

Ever since the pope made his remarks about building bridges and not walls, the world – ok, Americans, have jammed the internet with articles of papal hypocrisy. It began with Donald Trump’s social media director posting a picture of the Vatican surrounded by walls and tweeting what he must have believed was the greatest thing since Dennis Miller,  “Amazing comments from the Pope — considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls,” tweeted Dan Scavino.

If we’re being fair to Donald Trump, all politicians hate for facts to sidetrack a good story, and this is no exception. Trump just seems to have elevated his game. Well, at least to a USFL level, anyway.

The Vatican is not surrounded by walls. Are there walls? Yes. Can you freely pass through St.Peter’s Square? Yes.

The presentation that the walls of the Vatican is synonymous with the proposed super awesome Trumpian Wall shows a lack of respect for the truth, a mere talking point transferred from one mouthpiece to the next.

Pope Leo IV constructed (most of) the walls  to thwart a specific enemy and as much as you may not want to believe, Mexicans crossing the border are not our enemy. Sorry – you can throw all the tomatoes you want at me, the truth remains – they simply want a better life for their children than they received. You know, that American dream.

Don’t want to take my word for it? How about the word from tree-hugger Sean Hannity?

Leo built the walls in order to protect the city against the encroachment of “Saracens”, an early term for the Arab Muslims who were hell bent on the conquest of Christian Europe. In 846, a year before the start of Pope Leo IV’s reign, the Saracens attacked the outskirts of Rome. The Muslim raiders targeted the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul, which were located outside of the massive walls that defended Rome itself. The Saracens looted the two churches, robbing them of their relics and desecrating the tombs of two of Christendom’s most revered saints.

The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia says that shortly after the raid, “[Pope Leo IV] began to take precautions against a repetition of the Saracen raid of 846. He put the walls of the city into a thorough state of repair, entirely rebuilding fifteen of the great towers. He was the first to enclose the hill by a wall.” The walls that Pope Leo built, which were completed in 852, were nearly 40 feet high, twelve feet thick, and defended by dozens of towers that turned the site into a fortified city”.

This has not slowed the drums for those that insist the walls are one and of the same. If it weren’t enough to simply call hypocrisy to the Holy See, the funnier of the bunch have begun saying, ‘Francis, tear down that wall’. I should note that my last name is, Price, and the funny I am taking about are the people who, over my lifetime, have said to me, “The Price is Right”. “Have you heard that one before?”

For example, I read an article in the Daily Caller, written by Jennifer Ann Massey, who took this sweet joke to print. I don’t mind giving the pass on that because sometimes people just can’t help themselves. However, she asks the pope to remember the Great Siege of Malta. This example actually works contrary to the point of papal hypocrisy that she is trying to make. These walls were constructed to thwart a specific invader, the Ottoman Empire. These were not folks looking for a better life – they were looking to kill and plunder. It is also worth noting that tanks and mortars were a few years from being developed, so fortified cities were all the rage at this time. While I do believe Jennifer is an honest to goodness Catholic, I think she just missed the simple point that these are as different as 1986 Axl Rose and 2016 Axl Rse.

Peace be with you.

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Read my essay on the pope and my return to the church here:



Why the walls at the Vatican are not the same thing

The dealth penalty, Catechism, and Just War – the sad connection.

It’s hard to begin any piece on the death penalty that doesn’t call those that support it, troglodytic simpletons. In the jubilee year of mercy, however, it feels as though I should aim for a more tempered argument. Whether or not I succeed is yet to be discovered.

Pope Francis took to the pulpit to ask Catholic leaders to suspend the practice for a year to mark the Holy Year of Mercy. While this is not unchartered waters from the Vatican, some have suggested that these recent comments and his prior comments of the same, are “The new hard line against executions taken by this Argentine pope”. It is vacuous comments like this that make it hard to take the tempered tone I promised to try to take. In 1999, Pope John Paul II repeatedly called for the end of the death penalty, “”A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary”.

Even the more conservative Pope Benedict, in 2011, “Addressing a group of pilgrims gathered in Rome for an international conference on the controversial topic, the Pope said he hopes that their deliberations “will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty.”

Despite firm positions from the seat of St. Peter, the Pew Research Center, 51% of American Catholics support the death penalty. This number swells to a robust 59% for white Catholics. Presumably, Catholics that support the death penalty do so through a wormhole provided by the Catechism. The Catholic Catechism, which was grown from the Synod convened to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council and was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992 , answered many questions, including capital punishment. It read,

“Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being”.

However, it also says,

“Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent”.

The problem with cracking the window open, some will force it open. “Very rare” becomes very subjective. Florida, as an example, has killed 92 of its people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Only Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas boast higher numbers. Would you considered killing, by average, two people a year, rare and practically nonexistent? Former Governor of Florida and failed presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush, a Catholic, killed 21 souls in his time in office – a number leapfrogged in nearly half the time in office by his successor, says he is conflicted by the death penalty;

“I’m informed by my faith in many things, and this is one of them,” he added. “So I have to admit that I’m conflicted about this. But here’s the deal — this happens in rare cases where the death penalty’s given out and you meet family members that have lost a loved one and it’s still in their heart. It’s etched in their soul. And this is the way that they get closure? I get more comfortable with it, to be honest with you.”

What’s interesting with this quote, is two-fold – he evokes ‘rare’ and closes by admitting that he has grown comfortable with killing people. This is a tailor made example of the slippery slope fallacy. Killing 21 of his native sons, to Bush, is rare. It also became a duty of ease. Whether or not you believe killing people is intrinsically wrong, a moral absolute (I do) or not, we can at least get on the bus that says it should be a solemn duty, if nothing else.

If you don’t object to the death penalty on morality (you should), it seems reasonable that you object on its lack of success. It has been proven, over and over, to not be a deterrent. Since 1991, states without the death penalty have enjoyed far lower murder rates than their more vindictive brethren, from as low as a 7% disparity to a high of 22%. If these are facts that don’t entice you, maybe the bedfellows we keep in the global community of countries that utilize the draconian punishment of death to its people, will. The list includes notable friends of peace, such as Iran, China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea. If that is not enough, I posit the following question, How is that those that champion small government can also champion giving the state the greatest power? How is this reconciled?

It would seem disingenuous to exclude a brief talk about the just war theory, originally present by Augustine and refined by Aquinas, because, after all, it allows manipulators of morality to act under the banner of faith despite clear tenets and goals necessary to be deemed ‘just’. As Aquinas asserted:

First, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state. (Proper Authority is first: represents the common good: which is peace for the sake of man’s true end—God.)

Second, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than for self-gain (for example, “in the nation’s interest” is not just) or as an exercise of power. (Just Cause: for the sake of restoring some good that has been denied. i.e., lost territory, lost goods, punishment for an evil perpetrated by a government, army, or even the civilian populace.)

Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence. (Right Intention: an authority must fight for the just reasons it has expressly claimed for declaring war in the first place. Soldiers must also fight for this intention.)

Unfortunately, as with the catechism that cracks the window of the death penalty open, the just war theory has allowed many war to be waged in its name. People have become comfortable with evoking the just war and quickly dismiss the slippery slope they have long since fallen off of.

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The dealth penalty, Catechism, and Just War – the sad connection.

Sorry dude, a wall is not Christian

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian” is the quote given by Pope Francis about the ‘Wall of Awesomeness’ Trump intends to build. It is worth noting that the quote was given in-flight, a popular time for the pope to drop gems – “Who am I to judge” was delivered in this manner. For a sidebar,  it also has raised questions about translation, but for this exercise, we’ll accept the quote to be accurate as written. We’ll also accept the quote from Trump calling Francis “disgraceful” as accurate.

For posterity, we’ll say that the Letter of Jude is also accurate as written,

“In [the] last time there will be scoffers who will live according to their own godless desires.” These are the ones who cause divisions; they live on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit”.

If you create divisions, tangible, or otherwise, you are devoid of the Spirit. It’s right there. Had there been a shrewd reporter of faith with this at a tongues length, a proper #dropsmic could have been executed. You can’t have it all, though, I suppose.

Trump expounded by saying, “No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he told a packed room at a golf course resort. Trump then accused the Mexican government of “using the pope as a pawn”. Thankfully, Trump and his Republican brethren are dutiful practitioners of their words because we have to assume that if this is his position, it is also his position that no political leader has the right to question another man’s politics and beliefs. Unfortunately, the political whine-storm that ensued after Laudato Si, Francis’ encyclical which included many thoughts on the environment, seems to contradict this complimentary position.

Thankfully, the Book of James provides guidance for the confused;

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously”.

This didn’t slow support for Trump, because, of course, nothing does – and they took to the mic to offer their astute observations:

“Dan Brisker of Seabrook Island, had concerns about the pope’s statement. “I think the pope needs to get out of the political arena and stick to the religious,” Brisker said”.

“I thought the pope was a better person than that,” said Deborah Schwartz, a self-described “Trump groupie” from Round O, South Carolina.

Sorry Dan and Deborah, I hope the Book of James finds you well.

If we can spread our wings and leave the reservation briefly, this isn’t the first time a major party candidate has said absurd things in their quest for the Oval Office. It just happens be the first time an electorate has been completely hoodwinked. I remember Al Sharpton’s bid for the presidency somewhat vividly. I remember his ability to speak candidly as a result of having no shot.

Before his run burst into flames, Sharpton offered the following:

Clearly, [President Bush] lied. Now if he is an unconscious liar, and doesn’t realize when he’s lying, then we’re really in trouble”.

“I do believe the [Democratic] party has moved far to the right. I do believe that the party has a bunch of elephants running around in donkey clothes”.

To circle back around, I believe Catholic’s understand that even though there are transparent political implications with a papal visit to a Mexican border town, Pope Francis is doing the work of God, and even the DNC is not naïve to believe that they can parlay a papal visit into sinking the numbers of Trump.

Follow me on Twitter @ryandavidprice


Sorry dude, a wall is not Christian

Where are the, ‘Francis killed Scalia” articles?

I’ll be honest, as the web fills up with conspiracy theory atop conspiracy theory, each sexier than the last, I am disappointed to not be able to find a single article suggesting Pope Francis had a hand in Scalia’s death. After all, his relative proximity (just over 3.5 hrs. by Popemobile) should have at least garnered some attention from the 23 skidoo-ers of the world. But no, nothing.

If nothing else, Texas law certainly doesn’t do itself any favors to quiet the conspiracy theorist. The Judge,  Cinderela Guevara, declared Scalia dead without seeing him. You would think that observation is a requirement to pronounce death, but not in Texas. The sheriff on the scene relayed the information to the judge and she pronounced his death. If it weren’t Texas, it would be weird.

No autopsy was performed. Less inflammatory, but still has gotten its legs a bit. Seeing no evidence of foul play… sorry, having been told that there was no sign of foul play, an autopsy was not ordered. It was also not requested by his family. This is a bit of a weaker argument, but only gets its legs as a result of the judge not being present to declare death.

Some have pointed to his good health like Scalia was the next coming of Jack Lalanne instead of the more plausible scenario as a marketer of Wendy’s Baconator, or Son of a Baconator. It’s not out of the ordinary that a 79 year old man in his overall health ended up in his predicament.

That being said, let me go on record as saying that it’s just as plausible that Pope Francis was the deadliest of assassins and exacted his revenge for Scalia  not attending his speech to Congress. It makes it even more a salacious possibility for Francis to have killed Scalia and then tell the children of Mexico that Jesus does not want them to be hitmen. In the paranoid reality of the conspiracy theorist, the pope’s speech against hitmen is confirmation of him being the deadliest of all hitmen.

As a wise man once said:

It is in the humble opinion of this narrator that this is not just “something that happened.” This cannot be “one of those things”… This, please, cannot be that. And for what I would like to say, I can’t. This was not just a matter of chance. … These strange things happen all the time.

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Where are the, ‘Francis killed Scalia” articles?

Trump criticizes the pope – again.


It’s a wonder why I’m even giving the latest Trumpism towards the pope lip service, but I guess I’m a sucker for the sexy story.

In a shocking turn of events, Donald Trump does not agree with the pope’s planned trip to Mexico, including a stop at the border town of Ciudad Juarez, where he intends to pray alongside the refugees.

According to Trump, the pope is a “very political person” and that he just “doesn’t get it”. “I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico,” Mr. Trump said of Francis. “I think Mexico got him to do it because they want to keep the border just the way it is. They’re making a fortune, and we’re losing.”

Unfortunately, Donald is the one who ‘doesn’t get it’. Of course the pope is a political person. It is his duty to leverage any and all might to mitigate any and all plight – that’s a line sure to be included in the pope’s future rap album, but let’s not steer too far from the point, now – of course he’s a political person, insomuch as the politics advances the position of the church.

It becomes even more ludicrous when you consider how kettle calling the pot black this position by Trump, is. He stood at a podium, and when a man held up a copy of his book, ‘The Art of the Deal’, he quickly asserted it to be his second favorite book, behind the Bible. He did so rather disingenuously I might add in an attempt to cater to a conservative Christian base that is, at best, leery of his religious condition. After all, he’s a Presbyterian, which is interesting, because I have to wonder what Trump thinks about Calvin, who was a noted deserter and also preached to French immigrants in Geneva before until the dust had settled and he returned to lead the church. Seems to run contrary  to Trump’s machismo, but then again, he may not know too much about his religion because he’s only using it for politics.

Peace be with you.

Follow me on Twitter @ryandavidprice

Read my book on Francis and my return to the church here:



Trump criticizes the pope – again.

Wait, we’re not merciful?


2016 is the jubilee year of mercy, and in America, it could not have come soon enough. In a day where America has adopted a tenor that feels more like 1916 than 2016 – If we find out that the fizzling from the word ‘go’ campaign of Jeb Bush was a result of a renewed anti-Catholicism rather than a result of his short-sighted political intentions, we’ll know for certain we have turned back the clocks – at least to Al Smith’s 1928.

In this spirit, I happened across an interesting article about mercy and how Pope Francis’ mercy is not our (America’s) mercy. It is written by Kaya Oakes, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Her position is that America is not a merciful nation. Unfortunately, she’s right.

What is mercy in the image of the pope, though? [The] church is of one that is actively forgiving. “The church does not exist to condemn people but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy,” and in order for that to happen, it must “go outside and look for people where they live, where they suffer, and where they hope.

Oakes says, “What will American readers make of this message? Mercy is not something we discuss very often. Our rates of incarceration, the number of states utilizing the death penalty, our obsessive clinging to the Second Amendment along with its deadly consequences, ICE raids on immigrant families fleeing even worse violence in their home countries, drone strikes, the environmental violence of fracking, deforestation and coal mining, and the daily threats faced by women, LGBTQ people and people of color are all evidence that we are hardly a merciful nation. We were built, after all, as the result of a protracted war, and we grew in power on the backs of slaves”.

While I could have done without the last sentence because it’s there more as a salvo than in support of a point, I agree with what she has to say. How any religious person can reconcile supporting the death penalty will forever be beyond my comprehension. It’s not that I haven’t heard the arguments – they just don’t make sense. We protect life through all stages – that’s really the only conclusion I can arrive at that makes any sense.

It is also not in the spirit of Christ to turn away immigrants. I wrote at length about this back in November ( ) and for the pious to turn away the pious who are seeking refuge from violence is disgraceful. It is not Christ-like.  “You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lv 19:33-34). Jesus himself was a refugee – Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt from King Herod, a seemingly biblical representation of Donald Trump.

Oakes continues by suggesting that most Americans no longer get their ideas of mercy through the church. ” They get it from television and films. And in our entertainment, mercy is not something given by God, but given from one person to another”. This seems to support the growing trend of Apatheism, a ‘belief system’ made popular by a growing number of Millenials who do not care if there’s a God or not, championing a Homer Simpson theistic approach. Despite this largely being true, I do believe there to be a silver lining in all of this.

Mercy is not begotten through the trickle down effect. As we saw after the Great Depression and years later through the policies of the Great Communicator, supply side policies are ineffective at best and destructive at worst. Mercy lives on the demand side. It is a micro value, not a macro value. The mercy you live begins with you. This merciful behavior follows the demand trend and grows exponentially, or so we pray, anyway. While we want our almsgiving to go unnoticed by all but God, maybe, on the eve of the Lenten season, a merciful behavior will be seen and spark another.

In a country that is headlong into an election cycle that has brought out the darkest of our sides, behind the curtains –  stands a formidable  group of merciful people – or, again – so we pray.

Peace be with you.

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Wait, we’re not merciful?