Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

Call Me Cynical, But When A Religious Leader Responds To A Scandal This Way, I Check My Pockets…

The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!

Last week the Vatican  began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”

No, the moment  highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.

Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering,  denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”

Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission”  in Italian and English.

So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.

He blamed the Devil. Continue reading

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/1/18: Ethics Is Like Making Hamburger…[UPDATED]

Hello September!

1. More fake news, future news, and “if you hate Trump, you’ll like this” news. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

Ann Althouse performs an expert take-down of an inexcusable piece of hackery by Megan McArdle in the Washington Post titled “Poll by sinking poll, Trump inches toward impeachment.”

[The wrong link to Althouse was up yesterday: it’s fixed now.]

How I love it when other do my work for me: Ann has been getting increasingly eccentric, but here she is at her best. Read both McArdle’s trash and Ann’s defenestration of it, but here are some key points from Althouse:

  • “what made me want to blog this is the first line of the column, “By any metric, Trump is in trouble,” which is followed by:

A poll out from The Post and ABC on Friday shows that 60 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, a new low. But that’s just one poll; the polling average at statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight shows Trump with a mere 53.4 percent disapproval rating, which is better than its 56.8 percent peak last December.

So there’s an obvious “metric” — the famous Nate Silver metric — by which Trump is doing better than last December, but “By any metric, Trump is in trouble”?!

  • But a presidency is not in good shape when the best spin on the new poll is “It’s an outlier! Only 53 percent of the country thinks the president is terrible.” The poll is especially ugly for Republicans with midterms looming in two months.

No. 53 percent didn’t say “the president is terrible.” They said “disapprove” when asked whether they approve of disapprove. And they might disapprove of other options too, such as impeachment or even (if it could be magically possible) Hillary for President.

  • More McArdle:

It’s all too easy to imagine a similar scenario for Democrats intent on impeaching Trump as they come up short looking for Republicans to help them make it across the finish line. But it’s not entirely impossible to picture a few Republicans going along….

We’ve gone from “by any metric” to “it’s not entirely impossible.” Come on! Were we not supposed to read this far into the column? WaPo is all headlines and first lines these days. Get your hit, and maybe you can face another day with Trump as President.

Ann’s last line is spot-on, and describes exactly what social media is like these days. Oooo! Trump flew the White House flag full-mast a couple of days early! What a monster! …What? People say Trump doesn’t like Jeff Sessions’ accent? He’s horrible!Hey! The Trump Administration is doing pretty much exactly what the Obama administration did, but it’s Trump, so now it’s wrong!”

2. More Aretha Franklin Ethics. Even a funeral of a beloved pop star can’t proceed without manufactured outrages, controversies and PC offenses. Bishop Charles H. Ellis, III, felt that he had to apologize for touching singer Ariana Grande like this after she performed during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin…

The funny thing is that this could indeed constitute sexual harassment in a workplace setting, if the singer decided that the touch—unconsented, arguably a mini-grope–was “unwelcome.” So the Bishop had to grovel, which he did, saying,

“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast. … I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her,” Ellis said. “Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize….I hug all the female artists and the male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

Continue reading

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

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Wait…Condemning A Pope’s Mass Cover-Up Of Sexual Abuse Of Children By Priests Is Partisan Now? [UPDATED*]

I saw a hint of this when I noticed this week that my 90% leftist Facebook friends scrupulously avoided commenting on my cross-posted article about the current Pope’s likely complicity in the ongoing Roman Catholic Church child sexual abuse cover-up while metaphorically foaming at the mouth because the White House flag wasn’t at half mast. Then the New York Times started spinning. An article by Jason Horowitz titled “Vatican Power Struggle Bursts Into Open as Conservatives Pounce”  argued that conservatives were “weaponizing” the scandal in order to minimize the influence of Pope Francis, who has aroused the Right’s ire by “going soft” on homosexuality and by becoming a shill for climate change. Horowitz wrote,

“Just how angry his political and doctrinal enemies are became clear this weekend, when a caustic letter published by the Vatican’s former top diplomat in the United States blamed a “homosexual current” in the Vatican hierarchy for sexual abuse. It called for Francis’ resignation, accusing him of covering up for a disgraced cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick.”

What? Heaven forfend that someone suggest that a hypocritical homosexual factor at high levels of the Church might be partially responsible for a policy of allowing male priests to continue to rape little boys! That’s minor, however, compared to the triple “What?” earned by the writer and the Times for implying that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s  a letter accusing Pope Francis of covering up Cardinal McCarrick’s abuses while also taking his counsel on appointing bishops was merely a political ploy. This is one more example of the tactic of using alleged mixed motives to delegitimize an ethical act. So what if Viganò is a Vatican dissident? The evidence is overwhelming that the Catholic Church has facilitated child abuse for at least decades (See: “Spotlight”), that this continued on Pope Francis’s watch (See: the recent grand jury report), that the Pope is accountable, that his statement was a weaselly mess of accountability-skirting platitudes, and that Viganò’s accusations appear to have validity. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

From the National Catholic Register:

In an extraordinary 11-page written testament, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has accused several senior prelates of complicity in covering up Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s allegations of sexual abuse, and has claimed that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, said that in the late 2000s, Benedict had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Archbishop Viganò said in his written statement, simultaneously released to the Register and other media, (see full text below) that Pope Francis “continued to cover” for McCarrick and not only did he “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on him” but also made McCarrick “his trusted counselor.” Viganò said that the former archbishop of Washington advised the Pope to appoint a number of bishops in the United States, including Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark.

Archbishop Viganò, who said his “conscience dictates” that the truth be known as “the corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy,” ended his testimony by calling on Pope Francis and all of those implicated in the cover up of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse to resign.

His full testimony can be read here.

Well, let’s see if the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church can duck its responsibility one more time. This particular giant, nasty ethics chicken has been trying to roost for decades, while whoever was Pope continued to lecture the rest of the world, and the United States particularly, about its moral failings. Funny thing with me: I don’t take well to lectures on morality from self-anointed authorities who habitually facilitate their pals’ child-molesting hobby.  It is telling—damning is a better word—that Pope Francis, who seldom hesitates to comment on the evils of war, capitalism and climate change cannot find words to comment on this accusation. As we discussed here last week, he did issue some Authentic Frontier Gibbersh about the re-emerging child abuse scandal as if he was just an innocent bystander.

Archbishop Viganò is a model whistleblower, although his call for the Pope and the others to resign is inadequate. The entire culture of the Church is corrupt to the core, and aa few, or many, resignations will not cure the problem.

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The Pope’s Letter On Sexual Abuse

Today Pope Francis released a letter responding to the horrific report on sexual assault involving 1,000 victims and 300 priests in the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, where I just happen to be speaking today.

I know we are talking about a religious organization, but it is still an organization, a large, wealthy, international one, and any CEO (or, if you like, Chairman of the Board) would have to issue a formal response to a scandal of this magnitude and these damning realities. There is no mystery about what such a statement has to include, if it is going to be ethical rather than defensive, sincere rather than deceitful:

1. This is unacceptable for our organization, or any organization, but especially for an organization like this one.

2. We apologize unequivocally and without qualification to the victims and their families, as well as all members and supporters of our organization who trust us and rely on us to do the right thing. We did not do the right thing. We are responsible for terrible things, things no organization should ever allow.

3. Our organization and its leadership are accountable for these acts.

4. I am personally and professionally accountable for every crime and betrayal of trust in this scandal that occurred on my watch, and there were many.

5. Therefore, I resign [OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED.]

6. It is undeniable that this scandal, which is a continuation of an ongoing scandal reaching back decades if not centuries, is a byproduct of a corrupt and pathological culture within this organization. This culture must change.

7. Here are the steps the organization will take, immediately and going forward, to change it.

The entire letter is below. My ethics verdict: it is the Papal version of  Authentic Frontier Gibberish, a tsunami of words designed to blur the issues and accountability. Prayer and fasting? Gee, why didn’t we think of that before! The Boston scandal that blew the top off of the Church’s world-wide coverup was 17 years ago: I’m pretty sure there has been a lot or praying and fasting since then. Obviously, it doesn’t work, not on this, and it is insulting and demeaning for the Pope to fall back on such reflex nostrums. Some lowlights: Continue reading

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/28/18: Expired Ethics, Sleeping Fact-Checkers, Ghosts, The Dumbest Ethics Train Wreck Of Them All…

It’s a beautiful morning!

1. When “Everybody Does it” isn’t just a rationalization. I was asked by a law firm to render an opinion as to whether particular conduct was a violation of the legal ethics rules.  A legal ethics opinion—bar associations issue these periodically to cover gray areas– in the jurisdiction said that it was, but the opinion was over 20 years old. The reasoning given in the opinion for declaring the conduct unethical was that the practice was “new to the jurisdiction” and might mislead or confuse the public.

Today, however, my research showed, the conduct is commonplace in that jurisdiction. Many, many law firms engage in it. What was new two decades ago is new no longer, and the reasoning for the opinion’s conclusion was based on conditions that no longer exist. Moreover, no firm has been punished for the conduct, and won’t be.

The firm was concerned that the legal ethics opinion had not been over-ruled or withdrawn. I said that it didn’t have to be. “Everyone” was engaged in the conduct it forbade, the bar had allowed “everyone” to do it, and if an issue was raised now, I am 100% certain that the old opinion would be withdrawn as no longer reasonable or germane.

2. One more human feature that makes ethics harder: the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory and mutually exclusive beliefs.

I was watching one of the apparently inexhaustible supply of cable shows about haunting and paranormal investigations with my wife. This one climaxed in a session with a Ouija board, and the love of my life uttered, within seconds of each other, these two statements:

  • “It’s amazing how many otherwise intelligent people really believe in ghosts and demons.”
  • “Ouija boards! I wouldn’t allow one of those things in the house. I’m not taking any chances.

I have heard many other friends and acquaintances endorse both of these positions as well.

3. It is the study of how one discerns the truth, after all. Who needs it? They no longer teach ethics in our education system, and now apparently philosophy is on the way out. Claremont Graduate University in California will be closing the PhD program in philosophy and terminating two tenured faculty. Apparently the move was dictated by budget and “market considerations.” The Claremont colleges in Southern California are a distinguished and growing batch consisting of Pomona, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont-McKenna, and Pitzer. They still have a philosophy faculty, but I wonder for how long.

I was tempted to check the curriculum of these schools to see what kinds of courses were deemed worthy of support while a graduate degree in philosophy was not, but I decided that it would make my head explode. Continue reading

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