OPEDS | CONTROVERSIES
By Steven Argue
With Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, many people are attracted to what seems to many like a voice for reform both within society as a whole and within the crisis ridden conservative institution of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis widely speaks out on issues of poverty and global warming and is apologetic for the Catholic Church’s long international history of secretly condoning and covering up sexual abuse by its priests against children.
The Catholic Church has even lost much of its firm grip on Ireland. This is partly due to child sex-abuse scandals, where the Catholic Church all the way up to the highest posts in the Vatican knowingly subverted the law and even allowed known pedophile priests to continue their abuse. Ireland was once a profoundly Catholic nation, in part as a reaction to the anti-Catholic discrimination and oppression carried out by the British occupation. The Vatican has, however, lost all the good will they once gained as supposed defenders of the oppressed Catholic people of Ireland. As my friends in Belfast say, “Home rule, not Rome rule.”
For the Catholic Church hierarchy, Pope Francis is the necessary new face that the Catholic Church sought out in the face of its growing irrelevancy and the ugliness of its scandals. Yet, has real change come to one of the world’s largest religions? In this article I will explore this question alongside the question of whether or not Pope Francis is actually offering any real solutions.
At the United Nations, Pope Francis declared, “The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.” This is a welcome message against climate change that I myself have been delivering since the 1980s along with other revolutionary Marxists such as Fidel Castro and other scientists such as Carl Sagan. Despite the Catholic Church’s recognition of this fundamental issue, perhaps too late in the game, it is good that the Catholic Church has finally, at least partially, caught up with us atheists, scientists, and Marxists on the science of global warming. In a society like the United States where massive amounts of money from oil, coal, gas, and auto capitalists is infused into the mainstream media and mainstream politics, causing far too many people to question even the very science of climate change, Pope Francis’s messages and encyclical on climate change to Catholics does have progressive features. This is especially true in light of the fact that in the United States the Catholic Church claims 69.4 million believers (22% of the population).
Yet, in science and in the vanguard for revolutionary change, the question of the realities of global warming were resolved long ago. Quite frankly, that ship has sailed and those too dumb to see it are not worth the time of those of us who are working to build a revolutionary vanguard. More people will wake up to the realities of global warming as the disaster intensifies, but far more pressing is the question of “what is to be done”. This is especially true as humanity itself is now dangling on the edge of a precipice by two fingers staring into an abyss of an irreversible future of climate change that is more and more likely to end human civilization and, as opposed to real action, this world ruled by capitalists continues to talk and do almost nothing positive to even slow this impending catastrophe. In this article I will explore the fundamental differences between revolutionary Marxists and Pope Francis on this and other important questions.[dropcap]T[/dropcap]oday, in a world of growing poverty, Pope Francis’s message of solidarity with poor people strikes a chord with many disgusted with the status quo. His concern for poor people resonates in a capitalist world dominated by exploitation, imperialism, war, and climate change where poverty, homelessness, hunger, and starvation is a growing reality for much of the world’s working class. Pope Francis’s concern for global warming resonates in a world where real action to slow this catastrophe has been wanting throughout the entire 20th and the 21st centuries. Likewise, Pope Francis’s forgiveness of women who have had abortions, if they show proper “contrition”, is seen by some as a step in the right direction, despite the Vatican’s continuing misogynistic and homophobic opposition to birth control, contraception, ordination of women, and same sex marriage.
"...it is good that the Catholic Church has finally, at least partially, caught up with us atheists, scientists, and Marxists on the science of global warming."
With the Pope’s visit to the United States, the corporate and state run media have knelt down before the Pope presenting an embarrassingly biased dog and pony show in favor of all “wisdom” coming from the mouth of Pope Francis. From that coverage, it does appear that the facelift the Vatican hierarchy has presented with Pope Francis is working to build a far better public perception than the scandal ridden papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. For many, the Catholic Church appears to be breaking from its past crimes. Yet, what are the realities?
The Canonization of California’s Junipero Serra
One of the Catholic Church’s many crimes against humanity was their participation in the genocide against Native American people. Native Americans remain deeply oppressed and impoverished due to continuing racism, land theft, and exploitation throughout the Americas. Recognition by Pope Francis of the crimes of the Catholic Church against the Native peoples of the Americas would be a useful step towards recognizing the humanity of Native peoples and recognizing the holocaust committed against them. Yet, Pope Francis has done the opposite by canonizing the genocidal Franciscan priest and father of California’s mission system, Junipero Serra, as a saint. The American Indian Movement (AIM) Grand Governing Council asked Pope Francis not to take this step, stating:
“The Mission system set up by Serra was both a Catholic Mission and a military garrison, by the Catholic Church’s own admission. To be clear, Serra’s goals in life were to spread Catholicism to the Native population and enslave them to work the land on the behalf of the Spanish Crown. According to California History, “Men were taken away from their families and hopelessly forced to work for the Franciscans while their wives were raped and abused, and their children were imprisoned.” …Junipero Serra did the indigenous people no favors. The Mission system was the structure that made the genocide possible.
“The American Indian Movement calls for Pope Francis to abandon his efforts to canonize this man who ushered in the demise of indigenous people of California.
“The American Indian Movement stands alongside AIM Southern California, and all the tribes and nations, and indigenous organizations who have called for the Pope to abandon his plan to grant Sainthood to this man who enslaved, starved, and facilitated the rape and murder of so many indigenous people. If we are to reconcile our differences there has to be admission of the abuse of colonial history. To grant Junipero Serra sainthood would be to not only condone those atrocities listed, but to glorify them and enshrine genocide.”
Yet, on September 23rd, 2015, Pope Francis did exactly what the American Indian Movement asked him not to, canonizing the genocidal Junipero Cerra as a saint.
The Vatican’s Support for Hitler and the Ustashe[dropcap]B[/dropcap]orn Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis adopted his new name after being selected Pope. This name is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis explained this choice saying St. Francis was “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation with which we don’t have such a good relationship. How I would like a church that is poor and that is for the poor.”
Among the things St. Francis is credited for is trying to negotiate an end to the crusades that Catholic run Christian Europe was carrying out against the traditionally Muslim world. The publication “Courage Apostolate” in their article “Atheists are Idiots, What You Never Knew about St. Francis of Assisi” argues this fact as their one two punch against atheists, boasting, “Yeah…a Christian tried to bring an end to the Crusades…try wrapping your mind around that one, atheists.” Never mind the fact that it was the Catholic Church itself that was carrying out those wars against the Muslim world. In addition, the attempts to bring a program for reform and peace to the Catholic Church by St. Francis of Assisi failed.
Similar Catholic arguments to the crusades and St. Francis can be found in apologists for the Catholic Church attempting to cover up the Church hierarchy’s support for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. These Vatican apologists include David McReynolds, a former leader of the Socialist Party USA, who militantly opposes my Marxist advocacy of atheism. McReynolds argues that specific nuns and priests stood up to Hitler. While it is true that some nuns and priests opposed Hitler, the Vatican hierarchy itself backed Adolf Hitler.
The Vatican’s support for Hitler was especially direct and cruel in Croatia where the Nazis imposed a Catholic Croat government that carried out the mass murder of nearly a million people. Among the victims were 750,000 Serbs, 60,000 Jews, and 26,000 Roma. Communists and others opposed to fascism and genocide were also, of course, killed. Of this genocide, John Cornwell states in his book “Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII” (Viking, London, UK, 1999):
"[It was] an act of 'ethnic cleansing' before that hideous term came into vogue, it was an attempt to create a 'pure' Catholic Croatia by enforced conversions, deportations, and mass exterminations. So dreadful were the acts of torture and murder that even hardened German troops registered their horror. Even by comparison with the recent bloodshed in Yugoslavia at the time of writing, Pavelic's onslaught against the Orthodox Serbs remains one of the most appalling civilian massacres known to history." (p 249)
Leading the extermination of non-Catholics was the Nazi imposed Ustashe government of Ante Pavelic. Working for Rome in Croatia, Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac directed the Croatian Catholic Church to back Hitler and Pavelic. He also arranged a meeting between Pope Pius XII and Pavelic which was part of the Vatican's overall support for Hitler. Of these matters, Archbishop Stepinac was very clear, for instance stating:
"God, who directs the destiny of nations and controls the hearts of Kings, has given us Ante Pavelic and moved the leader of a friendly and allied people, Adolf Hitler, to use his victorious troops to disperse our oppressors... Glory be to God, our gratitude to Adolf Hitler and loyalty to our Poglavnik, Ante Pavelic." –From “Catholicism and Fascism in Europe, 1918-1945” (Published August, 2015), by Jan Nelis, Anne Morelli, and Danny Praet (Pgs. 62-63).
Under this “blessed” Catholic government, Serbs, Jews, and Roma were hung up on meat hooks in factory assembly lines and butchered. Many children were starved to death in concentration camps and executed in other ways. Eyes and other body parts were strung up in necklaces and worn around executioner’s necks. One Serb family, including husband, wife, and children, was arrested. The wife and children were starved for several days. Then the Ustashe jailors brought them a roast which was ravenously consumed. After eating, the Ustashe informed the Serbian family that they had just eaten their beloved father and husband.
Not only did Archbishop Stepinac back Hitler and the Ustashe regime under the employ of the Vatican, he directly headed the committee responsible for the conversion of Serbs to Catholicism under the threat of pain of death. With the victory of the communist revolution in Yugoslavia which defeated the Nazi occupation, collaborators with the Nazi imperial death cult were executed or sent to prison. This included Archbishop Stepinac who was put on trial in 1946 for his crimes. Eyewitnesses who testified included numerous Serb victims of conversions to Catholicism at gunpoint. In 1946, Archbishop Stepinac was convicted of high treason and war crimes. For these crimes he spent 5 years in prison and was released under conditions of house arrest or leaving the country. The Nazi Stepinac chose house arrest, a condition under which he died in 1960.
HIDDEN FACT: Incredible, but in the US there's even a High School in New York honoring Archbishop Stepinac.[learn_more] Archbishop Stepinac High School is an all-boys Roman Catholic high school in White Plains, New York, that was operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York until the 2009-2010 school year when it became independent. Wikipedia Address: 950 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains, NY 10605. (914) 946-4800 [/learn_more]
In their typical fashion of meddling against anti-fascist justice in the internal affairs of foreign countries, the western imperialists and the Vatican backed Nazi Archbishop Stepinac. The U.S. corporate media denounced his treatment, pointing to it as an example of the supposed typical religious persecution found under communist systems. Pope Pius XII elevated the Nazi’s position within the Church to cardinal and excommunicated all Yugoslav Catholic jury members who found him guilty of war crimes. In 1998 Pope John Paul II declared Cardinal Stepinac a martyr and beatified him, putting the Nazi cardinal one step away from being a Catholic saint.
Today, the U.S. backed counterrevolutionary president of Croatia, Grabar-Kitarovic, is also pressuring Pope Francis to canonize Cardinal Stepinac as a saint. The Vatican under Pope Francis has appointed a commission to potentially carry out the deed. This has sparked strong protests from Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić and Jewish groups. Yet, so far, Francis has done nothing to distance himself from the Nazi war criminal Stepinac or his potential canonization.
"Cuba, a tiny country that has stood up to the brutality of CIA terrorism since 1959, including the CIA bombing of Cubana Flight 455 killing all 73 people on board, is the true 'home of the brave'."
While the slogan of all progressive forces in the world in regards to the Nazi and Ustashe holocaust has always been “Never Again!”; the slogan of Catholic Church and western imperialists in their backing of the likes of Cardinal Stepinac has been “Ever Again!!’. In the 1980s they got their wish. The United States in their fight to destroy the successful socialist economy of Yugoslavia successfully pressured Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo to declare independence from Yugoslavia. The pro-capitalist government of Tudjman that came to power in Croatia then immediately raised the Ustashe flag of Nazi occupation as the official Croatian flag and immediately began a western backed campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting Serbs. This campaign included mass murder and a mass exodus of Serbs from Croatia. Deafening silence covered these crimes in the western corporate media until the Serbian government responded with its own harsh retaliation. NATO then became involved backing all genocidal forces from Croatia to Bosnia and Kosovo that fought against the Serbs because these forces suited western purposes of breaking Yugoslavia to pieces and destroying Yugoslavia’s socialist economy.
During Nazi occupation, the Catholic Church backed Hitler and participated in the ethnic cleansing in what would become Yugoslavia. It took the popular communist revolution led by Tito’s Partisan forces to unite the nationalities of Yugoslavia and defeat the Nazis and their puppet Croatian government. This in turn established a planned socialist economy where everyone was guaranteed a job, education, and healthcare. It was a society where Ustashe death camps were abolished, genocidal criminals of the Catholic Church were punished, and the soup kitchens and hospitals of the Catholic Church were no longer necessary because these needs of the people were met by a secular state and socialist economy.
Is Pope Francis Any Less of a Misogynist Counterrevolutionary?
Today, due to the failures of capitalism, many poor people in the world depend on the Catholic Church for food and healthcare. This is extremely unfortunate on many levels. The worst abuses occur in the field of healthcare. By being the only provider of healthcare for many people in the Philippines, Latin America, and elsewhere, the Catholic Church is able to intervene against women’s reproductive freedom opposing contraception and abortion. It is also through their opposition to the distribution of condoms that the Catholic Church helps spread painful death and disease caused by HIV / AIDS. Pope Francis’s directive to allow women back into the church who have had abortions, but only if they show proper “contrition”, is no real change. Instead, the Catholic Church’s policies, carried out by their hospitals around the world that deny women access to abortion, birth control, and condoms are the true face of the Church’s continued hatred of women. In fact, Pope Francis explicitly opposed family planning in his encyclical on global warming.
While the Catholic Church helps make birth control and abortion difficult to obtain, socialist Cuba, on the other hand, established with its 1959 revolution free healthcare that has included access to contraception and free abortion on demand. Despite Cuba being a traditionally poor country with a long history of exploitation by Spanish and American imperialism, Cuba has a slightly longer life expectancy than the United States, a country that built up its great wealth through slavery, genocide of Native Americans, land theft from Mexico, and imperialist exploitation of the world. In fact, tiny Cuba also puts the United States to shame with its medical aid to other countries, including medical teams sent in during disasters. For instance, Cuban doctors outnumbered all others from foreign teams battling Ebola in Africa. Likewise, Cuba had 300 doctors on standby to send into the United States after Hurricane Katrina, but the Dimwit W. Bush refused the offer. Through Bush’s lack of action in New Orleans and his denial of the entry of Cuban doctors into the United States, he sentenced innocent U.S. citizens to death.[dropcap]P[/dropcap]ope Francis, who opened up his speech to the U.S. Congress by calling the United States “the home of the free and land of the brave”, has, along with the Catholic Church in general, long promoted capitalist counterrevolution in Cuba while backing murderous U.S. imposed capitalist dictators throughout Latin America. Cuba, a tiny country that has stood up to the brutality of CIA terrorism since 1959, including the CIA bombing of Cubana Flight 455 killing all 73 people on board, is the true “home of the brave”. President Obama, despite opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba, has not ended the U.S. imperialist war against revolutionary Cuba which includes an economic blockade and the U.S. occupation of Guantanamo. To the U.S. imperialists we say: “End torture in Cuba by giving Guantanamo back to the Cubans!”
What would Pope Francis know about bravery anyway? During the U.S. imposed military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and 80s he sided with that capitalist dictatorship that tortured and murdered 60,000 leftists and suspected leftists. This included the present day Pope at that time expelling two liberation theologists from his own order for their desire to live and work among the poor. The Argentine military dictatorship saw these expulsions as a clear indication by his ultra-conservative leadership that the two were fair game for repression. The two religious leaders were kidnapped, held captive, and tortured by the dictatorship without a peep of protest from the future Pope Francis or the western imperialists who showed so much concern for Nazi Cardinal Stepinac in Yugoslavia.
The Catholic Church’s overall role in backing the dirty war of the Argentinian government against the Argentinian people is well known. Yet, in his trip to Cuba, Pope Francis symbolically handed Fidel Castro a book of writings by the Cuban capitalist counterrevolutionary Armando Llorente. Armando Llorente was part of the far right Catholic movement in Cuba in 1960 that was aligned with CIA terrorism and the former Batista dictatorship. Batista led a U.S. backed capitalist government that murdered at least 20,000 people over a 7 year period. While Pope Francis aligns himself with terrorist “dissidents” like Llorente whose crimes forced him to flee Cuba, upon the Pope’s meeting with Mr. Obama, there was complete silence by Pope Francis of legitimate political exiles forced to flee the United States and living in exile elsewhere. These include Assata Shakur in Cuba and Edward Snowden living in Russia.
The fact that the Cuban leadership of both Fidel and Raul Castro have, despite their own personal atheism, done so much to promote Pope Francis as well as the two Popes before him, helps give lie to far right claims of a lack of religious freedom in Cuba. Yet, by promoting these extremely reactionary figureheads, the Castros are also doing a huge disservice to the good name of socialism by showering counterrevolutionary popes with dignitary welcomes, praise, and embarrassing platitudes like Raul Castro’s statement to Pope Francis that he may start praying again.
Marxism, in all its roots, is profoundly atheist. As Karl Marx wrote in “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” (1843):
“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. …. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
“Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.
“It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.”
The rapprochement between the leadership of Cuba’s deformed workers state [this is the author's Trotkyist interpretation, not this publication's.—Eds] with the Vatican coincides with their recent adoption of more market inroads into Cuba’s planned socialist economy similar to those adopted by the [Stalinist] leaderships of China and Vietnam several decades earlier. Meanwhile, the fact that the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cuban socialist revolutions were deformed from birth under Stalinist models of socialism means that the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cuban working classes and farmers have no direct legal means of opposing the capitalist inroads being imposed from above. This is one of several reasons why Leninist-Trotskyists advocate political revolution in these countries that establishes legitimate workers democracy, an end to capitalist inroads, a Leninist-Trotskyist understanding of promoting world revolution as a the means of breaking out of economic isolation, a defense of the socialist system from foreign and domestic counterrevolution, and an end to the glad handling of reactionary imperialist representatives of capitalist counterrevolution like the Pope and President Obama.
Is Pope Francis Really Standing Up For Poor people?
I have compared the dignified pro-woman socialist healthcare system of revolutionary Cuba with the anti-woman healthcare provided by the Catholic Church. Food distribution by the Catholic Church is less problematic, but it brings with it anti-socialist poison pills in favor of the capitalist status quo and in opposition to class polarization and class struggle. Here in Santa Cruz California, like many places in the world, the best regular meal offered to poor hungry people is given every weekday noon by the St. Francis Soup Kitchen. This is a program that does have several problems including openly working with the police, occasionally forcing the hungry to participate in short prayers, and having a history in the past (now corrected) of turning away people who looked like “Dead-Heads”. Yet, this program in and of itself is largely good in the fact that it feeds hundreds of people a day who would mostly otherwise would go hungry. That plus is partially negated by the fact that the Catholic Church has worked for a status quo for nearly 2,000 years that keeps people poor and hungry.[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Catholic Church’s Band-Aids for poverty are at best the extreme minimal program in a world full of gaping wounds and gushing blood. Marxists have always instead promoted a program of systemic change based on the polarization of capitalist society between the struggles of the working class majority versus the wealthy capitalists who own industry and own the ruling capitalist government. While we see solutions to most of our problems as coming from proletarian socialist revolution, we see all progress as coming about through different types of polarization and class struggle. For instance, in the United States in 1934, three different major strikes, all led by reds, greatly changed the United States. These three strikes, two of them general strikes, were led by the Communist Party in San Francisco, the Trotskyist Communist League of America in Minneapolis, and the left socialist Workers Party in Toledo. These three strikes were the beginning of a labor upsurge that greatly improved the lives of the working class of the United States through collective bargaining. It also forced the ruling class to begin giving us the New Deal which was largely enacted between 1935 and 1938. The New Deal included a minimum wage, an end to most child labor, the eight hour day, Social Security, and jobs programs. While this was only a beginning to what we deserve, they were still victories. Those victories in turn, were won through militant industrial actions, class polarization, and the essential leadership of communists.
Pope Francis opposes this kind of action so desperately needed again. As Pope Francis told the U.S. Congress, “The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization.” While Marxists see class polarizations as an essential ingredient to breaking the brutal dictatorship and exploitation that is imposed on us by the wealthy, Pope Francis sees all polarization (except that of the Nazis) as an evil to be fought. Ultimately, the reason for this can be seen in the fact that Popes Francis is a firm defender of capitalism itself, the system that is the root cause of poverty in today’s world.
Pious Cover for Obama’s Failure to Act on Global Warming
During Pope Francis’s joint speech to the United States with Mr. Obama, Pope Francis declared:
“Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. (Applause.) Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation. (Applause.)”
Pope Francis is encouraged by Obama’s proposals. Yet, for those of us who have watched President Obama’s failures to act in a constructive manner on global warming over his two terms in office are not in the least bit encouraged. Quite simply, Obama has sabotaged international agreements and is now proposing far too little too late.
It took until the summer of 2015, the middle of the sixth year of Obama’s presidency, for Obama to attempt to take any real action to cut global warming emissions by the United States. That is, his presidency presided over 6 and a 1/2 years of massive and irreversible environmental destruction when he could have taken action in his first year in office. During that time, this author continuously kept up the pressure on Obama to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to use the 2007 court recognized right of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In the summer of 2014 Obama, through the EPA, finally promised to study the question and potentially take action in a year. Most of the corporate media reported this as if Obama had taken action. I instead denounced it as a promise to consider potentially taking action when real action needed to be started yesterday. Likewise, Al Gore, the supposed mouthpiece on global warming, was voluntarily the vice president in the Clinton Administration, a presidency that took no real action on global warming in its eight miserable years of existence.
Before 2015, despite Obama being portrayed as concerned about global warming in the corporate media, he has in reality done much to increase carbon emissions. Obama's only real action in the opposite direction so far has been a 2012 agreement with major car manufacturers that will require cars sold in the United States to get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon of gasoline by 2025. In reality, this is less than 49 miles per gallon when one includes air conditioning credits, and even less when actual driving conditions are accounted for. The U.S. finally reached an average of 24.6 miles per gallon in 2013 while the Chinese average was 35.8, the European Union's was 43.3, and the Japanese was 42.6. Those other countries, especially China, are also far more serious about public investment in public transportation.
Regarding airplane emissions, the EPA has recently announced they plan to regulate them, but they only announced this after being pushed on the question through legal action by environmental groups. Still, no actual action has yet been taken and the EPA says they are waiting to study a report by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a body in which environmental groups rightly have no confidence due to their past insufficient recommendations.
In the summer of 2015, Obama, through the EPA, started to attempt to take some action in regulating the carbon emissions of the coal industry. The EPA attempted to cut carbon pollution from the United States’ 600 coal heated power plants by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030. This may sound significant, but due to fracking and increased use of natural gas, official U.S. carbon emissions in the generation of electricity already dropped by 15% between 2005 and 2012. This is according to Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. In addition, since these emission standards would be applied on a state by state basis, a number of states, including New York, Georgia, Washington, and Virginia have already met the so-called “30%” reduction standard. Those states would not need to take any action to be in compliance. The use of this 2005 base line rather than current emissions is a transparent attempt to make the regulations appear far larger than they really are. What was actually attempted then was a 15% reduction nationally in one sector of the economy that produces only 40% of U.S. carbon emissions, a sector where emissions are already on the decline.[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ven that limited and pathetic action was too much for the powerful coal industry which intervened through the U.S. Supreme Court. The EPA’s move was, unfortunately, overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled at the end of June, 2015 that the EPA did not properly consider the cost to the industry when it decided to limit coal emissions and that the monetary cost saved in improving human health was not high enough to warrant the action. Obama, whose squandering of time included the first two years of his presidency when there was a Democrat majority in Congress, is now unable to pass legislation that could bypass this undemocratic decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. If, as the U.S. Commander and Chief, Obama had so greatly failed in his world defense of U.S. imperialism through wars, coups, economic blockades, and backing friendly dictators, Obama would have been impeached long ago. But when it comes to the protection of the environment, Obama talks one political line and delivers a completely different one in reality.
A good indication of Obama’s real positions can be seen in his conduct in Copenhagen in 2009. Obama, while he was betraying campaign promises and taking no action on global warming in the United States, sabotaged the Copenhagen negotiations on climate change. He did this largely using the developing economies of China and India as his excuse. The extent to how far the U.S. went to sabotage that conference was revealed by whistle blower Edward Snowden. Snowden, now a political refugee living in Russia where he escaped from Obama’s political repression, released information on how the U.S. had spied on the international negotiators at that conference. As a result of spying, the U.S. was aware in advance of Denmark's contingency plans to try to save the conference. The Obama administration used this information to torpedo any agreement ever coming from the conference.
Both Ruling Parties Bought and Paid For
With the Pope’s visit to the United States, listening to the biased coverage on National Public Radio (NPR), one would think that the United States has adopted an official state religion despite the democratic gains of the first American Revolution of 1776. Coverage from all angles of the Pope’s visit is glowing. Supposedly, the Pope is making everyone happy. Everyone from believers to non-believers, conservatives to leftists, and misogynists to supporters of women’s reproductive rights. NPR managed to even find a Native American who was happy about the Pope’s visit despite the Pope Francis’s canonization of Indian killer Junipero Cera to sainthood. As NPR participated in the Pope’s dog and pony show, they of course also pretended that Pope Francis and Obama are in fact addressing the issue of global warming in reality.
The Pope, lacking any frank evaluations of how to bring change, except when it comes to his support for anti-communist repression and capitalist counterrevolution, leaves a lot of leeway for both U.S. ruling capitalist parties to claim Pope Francis as their own. As with the Bible itself, representatives can cherry pick the portion of the message they like to fit their agenda. This is equally true with the Pope’s platitudes to the far right with his opposition to family planning and same-sex marriage as with his platitudes to the left by recognizing the realities of global warming and advocating compassion for poor people. Meanwhile, those of us advocating a better world really have nothing to gain by backing Pope Francis.
An underlying problem with both the Democrat and Republican parties is the fact that these parties are bought and paid for by the American ruling capitalist class. To win in the elections held under the farce of American “democracy”, candidates must have the support of America’s major capitalists who own America’s corporate media, banks, and major industries. Among those industries are of course oil, gas, auto, and coal.
In the 2008 election cycle Obama’s campaign got a whopping $884,000 from the oil and gas industry. This despite Obama’s campaign ads where Obama claimed, “I don’t take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I won’t let them block change anymore.”
Technically it is true that Obama didn’t take money directly from oil companies. Yet, the underlying reality was that this statement was a deliberate deception. By law, direct corporate contributions were not allowed for any candidate in that election, so Obama’s claim that he was different was an outright lie. Obama, like all of the other mainstream corporate candidates, got contributions from corporations that bypassed this law through funneling major contributions from the oil and gas companies through employees of the industry.
While the oil and gas industries do give the climate change deniers of the Republican Party more money than the Democrats, the Democratic Party does get sizable contributions from these industries. The Republican Party gets roughly 75% of the contributions of the oil and gas industry while the Democrats continue to receive 25%. This is because the Democrat Party’s program, while admitting to the reality of climate change, is one of generally still siding with the big polluters against the future of humanity and the planet. For the oil and gas industries, giving the Democrats some support makes big sense. For them it is good to offer the American public two meaningless political alternatives, one party of climate change deniers and another party that admits to the reality of climate change but generally works against real action on the issue. In the most immediate sense, this money buys influence with both parties. In addition, in their cold profit driven calculations, it is surely far better to back a party that falsely claims to be on the side of doing something about global warming than to allow a vacuum to develop where a meaningful grassroots political alternative may more easily emerge.
As a political alternative, the Revolutionary Tendency, to which this author belongs, stands in total opposition to both the Democrat and Republican parties. We are part of the struggle in demanding immediate change on global warming, including EPA regulation of carbon emissions, more subsidies to public transportation, and building publicly owned sources of renewable energy. We support and build these types of movements, but as we see it, meaningful change on global warming in the United States is unlikely to happen until capitalism itself is overthrown. We argue this for two reasons. The first is that the corrupting influence of capitalist money in bourgeois elections is preventing any meaningful democratic control of the United States from below. The second is the fact that private ownership of the economy for private profit prevents a centralized socialist planning that could easily move production in directions away from fossil fuels towards higher energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric automobiles, and free public transportation.
In addition to slowing carbon contributions to global warming, the planned socialist economy will also easily provide everyone with a job, free healthcare, housing, and a free education. The establishment of a planned socialist economy in the United States will also immediately eliminate the corrupting influence of the capitalist class because we will expropriate all of the holdings of the capitalists and put industry and the banks under public control. They will no longer have the wealth they use to corrupt and own the politicians who pretend to regulate private industries. As we plunge into a disaster of human making, the entire future of Earth, its people, and the plants and animals that make our planet so special are at stake. It is in socialism, materialist philosophies, and science where our potential for successes lie, not in the enlightened spiritual institution that punished Galileo for discovering the Earth revolves around the Sun and took 350 years to admit their mistake.
Steven Argue is a biologist, a long-time member of the California Native Plant Society, and atheist and writes as a representative of the Revolutionary Tendency Revolutionary Tendency (Trotskyist). http://www.facebook.com/RevolutionaryTendency This is an article of Liberation News, subscribe free: http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/liberation_news Also from this author, check out: Of Extinctions, Extirpations, and the Future of Human Civilization by Steven Argue https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/08/01/18740766.php All True Revolutionaries Are Environmentalists http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/06/21/18738767.php[/su_box]
A second view on the Serra controversy, as covered by the Guardian (UK). It must be noted that, in general, we have little use for the Guardian's coverage of world issues, but, nothing is perfect, even imperfection itself, so from time to time, being a large enterprise, some materials get printed that make sense. This is one.
Junípero Serra's brutal story in spotlight as pope prepares for canonisation
Many have condemned [the] decision to elevate the 18th-century missionary to sainthood after violence suffered by Native Americans he was said to be protecting
Wednesday 23 September 2015 07.30 EDT
[dropcap]G[/dropcap]enerations of American schoolchildren have been taught to think of Father Junípero Serra as California’s benevolent founding father, a humble Franciscan monk who left a life of comfort and plenty on the island of Mallorca to travel to the farthest reaches of the New World and protect the natives from the worst abuses of the Spanish imperial army.
Under Serra’s leadership, tens of thousands of Native Americans across Alta California, as the region was then known, were absorbed into Catholic missions – places said by one particularly rapturous myth-maker in the 19th century to be filled with “song, laughter, good food, beautiful languor, and mystical adoration of the Christ”.
What this rosy-eyed view omits is that these natives were brutalized – beaten, pressed into forced labour and infected with diseases to which they had no resistance – and the attempt to integrate them into the empire was a miserable failure. The journalist and historian Carey McWilliams wrote almost 70 years ago the missions could be better conceived as “a series of picturesque charnel houses”.
Junípero Serra's road to sainthood is controversial for Native Americans
Little wonder, then, that Pope Francis’s decision to elevate Serra to sainthood during his visit to Washington this week has revived longstanding controversies and enraged representatives of California’s last surviving Native American populations. There have been protests outside some of California’s most heavily visited Missions, petitions, open letters written both to the pope and to California’s political leaders, and even an attempt by members of the state legislature to have Serra replaced as one of California’s two representative figures in Washington’s National Statuary Hall. Natives travelled to California and Washington this week to protest against Serra’s elevation in person.
Opponents point out that, from the time Serra arrived in 1769, the native population was ravaged by European diseases, including syphilis spread by marauding Spanish soldiers. Indians brought into the missions were not allowed to leave, and if they tried they were shackled and severely beaten.
They were used as forced labour to build out the Mission’s farming projects. They were fed atrociously, separated from close family members and packed into tight living quarters that often became miasmas of disease and death.
When the Native Americans rebelled, which they did on at least two occasions, their rebellions were put down in brutal fashion. When Native American women were caught trying to abort babies conceived through rape, the mission fathers had them beaten for days on end, clamped them in irons, had their heads shaved and forced them to stand at the church altar every Sunday carrying a painted wooden child in their arms.
Passions are riding high on both sides. While Serra’s critics say he was responsible for the near-eradication of California’s native peoples, the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, has defended him as “a very courageous man”, an innovator and a pioneer, and vowed that his statue will stay in Washington “until the end of time”.
In many ways, the issue is reminiscent of the Vatican’s campaign a few years ago to canonise Pius XII, the wartime pope accused in many quarters of failing to stand up to the Nazis and helping in their rise to power, but defended in others as a holy man who did his part to save many hundreds of thousands of Jews.
The push to canonise Pius XII (now on hold) came in the wake of a 1998 papal document that sought to atone for the church’s silence in the face of the Holocaust. Likewise, Serra’s sainthood follows an apology issued by Pope Francis in Bolivia this summer for the “grave sins … committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God”.
That, however, has only further raised the hackles of Serra critics, who say the apology means nothing if the Vatican simultaneously seeks to canonise a person exemplifying the actions for which the apology was issued. “Apologies that aren’t followed by a change of behaviour, in general, don’t carry a lot of weight,” Deborah Miranda of Washington and Lee University, who is of California Native American descent, said in a recent magazine interview.
Even mainstream Catholics have been surprised that Pope Francis has championed Serra without going through the usual four-step review process, including verification of two miracles. Serra has been credited with only one.
The cause of his sainthood, which was first proposed in 1930, was long ago assumed to have stalled because of the controversies surrounding his legacy.
But Francis, as the first Latin American pope, has an obvious interest in creating a role model for Latinos in the United States and the rest of the American continent – an interest echoed by the state of California, which can now look forward to a global wave of Serra-related tourism. The pope also appears to have an interesting theological take on Serra’s imperfections. Kevin Starr, widely regarded as California’s pre-eminent state historian, summarised the Vatican’s view this way: “Saints do not have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect. Sanctity is just another mode of imperfection.”
The pope should not grant sainthood to a brutal missionary
In other words, it is enough to state that the good outweighs the bad. José Gómez, the first Latino archbishop of Los Angeles and an enthusiastic Serra champion, wrote recently: “Whatever human faults he may have had and whatever mistakes he may have made, there is no questioning that he lived a life of sacrifice and self-denial.”
Gómez also argued that we cannot judge 18th-century behaviour by 21st-century standards – a form of historical relativism that the Serra critics find particularly galling. John Cornwell, a British journalist turned academic who has written extensively about the Vatican, including an acclaimed book about Pius XII, said the argument also clouded the important question of whether Serra was an appropriate exemplar for today’s faithful.
“For those who argue that we should not judge the values of the past by those of the present,” Cornwell told the Guardian, “one could, and should, object that it’s important to learn the lessons of history.”
To Native Americans like Valentin Lopez, the chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band based in Sacramento, those lessons are not complicated. Serra, in his view, was part of a colonial enterprise whose goal was the complete subjugation of California’s native peoples. The mission system he set up was based on coercion, punishment and indifference to Indian suffering, against which his expressions of piety were no more than window-dressing.
“It’s amazing to me this is even a debate,” Lopez told the Guardian. “There is no debate – it’s like debating the pros and cons of the genocide of the Jewish people in world war two. The only reason this is not treated as a black and white issue is because of the lies that the church and the state of California have perpetuated from the time of the missions.”
Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 bestselling novel Ramona set the tone for a mythologised history of the Missions, giving the impression Spanish colonialism had been an idyll for settlers and Native Americans alike and that the natives only suffered after the gringos began arriving. Even the most ardent Catholic historians now accept this is flat-out wrong.
A flurry of recent Serra scholarship, however, suggests the politics of the Spanish conquest were complicated. Missions were established with much greater success and lesser suffering in other parts of the American continent – particularly by the Jesuits. Serra’s mandate only arose because the Vatican temporarily disbanded the Jesuits in 1767, and many of the mistakes he and the Franciscans made were the result of inexperience, according to Professor Starr.
“The perspective of Franciscans and Dominicans of that era was: God will punish us for the way we treat the Indians, so we’ve got to protect them as some kind of atonement,” Starr told the Guardian. “Serra knew he couldn’t keep California a Franciscan mission protectorate forever. He hoped that by the time Spaniards came in large numbers, Native Americans would be educated and competent to deal with it. That was the dream, but the dream never came true.”
The biggest philosophical divide among serious historians is whether Serra’s initiative was worth undertaking in the first place. Catholic scholars – including Professor Starr – tend to take an indulgent view of the church’s evangelizing mission, while Native American advocates like Lopez view the imposition of Catholicism as a violation of the Indians’ longstanding spiritual traditions, just as the Spanish conquest disrupted and violated their way of life more generally.
The Vatican would like to believe that Serra and the missionaries were somehow separate from the Spanish colonial enterprise, and that the army’s abuses should not in any way be laid at Serra’s door. Pope Francis said in May that Serra was one of a generation of missionaries “who … defended the indigenous peoples against abuses by the colonisers”.
Most historians, however, dismiss that interpretation as fanciful. While it’s true that Serra was often at odds with military commanders in the region, he travelled to the New World at the behest and direction of the same Spanish crown in command of the army. He couldn’t be against the colonisers, because he was one himself.
“The church and the army were partners,” Lopez said. “Junípero Serra’s own handwriting details the cruelties. His policy was to enslave the Indians – he didn’t let them leave the missions. You can’t blame that on Spanish soldiers.”
Out of deference to the papal visit, the push to have Serra’s statue in Washington replaced with the late astronaut Sally Ride – championed by LGBT advocacy groups as well as fans of space exploration – has been deferred until after Francis is back in Rome. But the sponsors of the measure, including a Latino state senator from Los Angeles and the speaker of the state assembly, have vowed to reintroduce it thereafter – paving the way for yet more showdowns over Serra in the foreseeable future.
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