Monday, April 30, 2012
This story broke a couple of weeks ago and will hardy surprise anyone who knows the Catholic Church's attitude toward women and GLBT people. I'll be the first to admit that after suffering under semi-iterate nuns in grammar school who enforced party line and physically abused children, I was astounded to find a nun in my class at a Jewish-affiliated graduate school, Brandeis University. Her entire convent had voted to go out into the world, each woman studying a different subject and then, two years and a Masters Degree later, regroup and decide what major social issue (there were many in the late 1960s) in which they would work to affect change. I quickly understood that at a time of huge transformation in American culture, these women were going to be the adults in the room -- compared to the all-male Catholic hierarchy -- by doing serious, much-needed work. The following article (from Towleroad) makes it obvious that they've remained steadfast and are still working toward their various and admirable goals.
Vatican Cracks Down on American Nuns for Not Being Anti-Gay Enough
The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America's 55,000 nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women's ordination. America's Catholic nuns are getting too out-of-control for Rome, the Washington Post reports:
The Vatican called "inadequate" an explanation from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that it did "not knowingly invite speakers who take a stand against a teaching of the church when it has been declared as authoritative teaching, and suggested that the nuns are not loud enough on abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage. The Vatican announcement said that "while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church's social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death."
It added that "crucial" issues like "the Church's biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by bishops, who are the Church's authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not comparable with its purpose."
The New York Times adds:
Word of the Vatican's action took the group completely by surprise, Sister Sanders said. She said that the group's leaders were in Rome on Wednesday for what they thought was a routine annual visit to the Vatican when they were informed of the investigation, which began in 2008.
"I'm stunned," said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Cathoic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping "silent" on abortion and same-sex marriage.
Melinda Henneberger wrote a follow-up article in the Washington Post:
The response from the general public was enormous and overwhelmingly sympathetic to the sisters. The forced reform immediately sparked online petitions, tributes and T-shirts that say, "I'm with her."
And the response did not neatly break down along partisan lines. "I always see the priests at the country club," a conservative Catholic friend wrote me in response to my earlier column on the slap from Rome, "while the nuns work their heads off and eat at home."
A commenter on the Washington Post site put it this way: "The American Bishops should be washing the feet of these nuns and sisters!" And after the Jesuit writer the Rev. James Martin asked Catholics to express their support by tweeting #WhatSistersMeanToMe, his Twitter campaign went viral. "Several of my sister friends told me how saddened they were by the new document on the LCWR," Martin told me. "So I thought it would be a good time to express gratitude for the unbelievably inspiring work that Catholic sisters do and have done: For God, for the Church and for the poor . . . I couldn't imagine my life or the Church without these women."
"Thanks to the Poor Clares for praying for me when I had cancer," one man wrote. "I don't believe any bishops did that."
UPDATE: this op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times appeared on line today (Tuesday). Major excerpts :
"Even as Republicans try to wrestle women into chastity belts, the Vatican is trying to muzzle American nuns. Who thinks it’s cool to bully nuns? While continuing to heal and educate, the community of sisters is aging and dying out because few younger women are willing to make such sacrifices for a church determined to bring women to heel. Yet the nuns must be yanked into line by the crepuscular, medieval men who run the Catholic Church. How can the church hierarchy be more offended by the nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid pedophilia? How do you take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul?
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Image courtesy of Philip Mould Ltd.
"The transvestite painting, now called the "Chevalier D'Eon," is currently hanging in the Philip Mould Ltd. gallery in London and will possibly become a permanent feature in the British National Portraits Gallery, said art dealer and art historian Philip Mould, director of Philip Mould Ltd.
"We spent 30 years honing our skills at looking at British portraits, and you begin to spot anomalies," Mould told LiveScience. "Portraiture, despite the diversity of odd-looking people in the world, particularly in the 19th century, before advances in cosmetic science and dentistry and medical advances had taken place, but portraiture is always extremely straight-laced." The finished portrait was typically a compromise between the artist (who was painting what he or she saw) and the sitter (who wanted to look their best); that means anomalies of facial features can be subtle.
"Something about the "muscularity of his face" and a "suggestion of stubble" caught Mould's eye as odd. So Mould and a team of his "lost faces bureau" went to work to figure out the sitter in this painting, and along the way ended up finding the actual artist of the work.
"Once the painting had been cleaned and restored, "his masculine traits became far more manifest," Mould said, including the masculine-angled face shape and the facial hair stubble. The other thing they noticed was the signature of the artist, which had been listed as Gilbert Stuart, actually was "T. Stewart." Putting the pieces together, including the fact that Charles D'Eon spent a fair amount of time on the stage fencing, the team nailed down the painter as Thomas Stewart, who also spent a lot of time in the theatre, Mould said.
"Since the painting's unveiling this week, "we've had an interesting succession of individuals coming to pay homage," Mould said. "It's a combination of mirth and respect for a man who was bold enough, brave enough, but also extrovert enough to state his case." In fact, D'Eon apparently lived the second half of his life as a transvestite during a time when cross-dressing was essentially unheard of.
"Here's how D'Eon's transvestitism came to pass: He joined King Louis XV's secret service in 1755, had his first major military posting in London in 1763, before being appointed Plenipotentiary Minister to London. However, within months, he had a falling-out with the ambassador appointed to replace him in London, accusing the ambassador of trying to murder him. D'Eon also made public secret documents and ended up being sent to prison, which he escaped.
"Once escaped, D'Eon concealed his identity, reportedly, by dressing as a woman. Gossip about his gender began in 1770, with rumors that people were even betting on whether he was a man or a woman. "D'Eon refused all offers to confirm or deny the rumor," Simon Burrows, professor of modern history at the University of Leeds, said in a statement in 2010. "He also demanded the French government pay off his debts and they agreed, terrified he would betray state secrets, including plans to invade England."
"And after that, apparently D'Eon was forced to adopt female dress, and others accepted him as a female. So much so, that the truth was only revealed upon a medical examination after his death on May 21, 1810, which revealed his very male anatomy. Reportedly, his housekeeper did not "recover from the shock for many hours," according to the gallery. The term "eonism," which is used in psychiatry to describe male adoption of female dress and manners, was derived from D'Eon's name."
OK, so the painting was sold in New York and then shipped to the UK. Exactly on what basis the painting was declared to be the earliest transvestite portrait really isn't mentioned in the article. From reading Mr. D'Eon's biographical note on the web, however, a date for the painting in the second half of the 18th century is certain, particularly after 1770 when his cross-dressing became habitual and tongues started wagging.
BUT, there is another transvestite painting, with strong connections to New York City and also to the 18th century British government, that has been "out" for a very long time, and is on permanent exhibit at the New York Historical Society. It's subject is well-known and its story circulates at intervals as writers and reporters discover it by chance, or by historians researching the period.
Above is the portrait of The Honorable Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury (1638–1709) who was named Governor of New York and New Jersey by Queen Anne (a relative of his), from 1701 to 1708, in which position he earned a very foul reputation. His story is told in his Wikipedia biography:
The very well-known Joan of Arc who, once she began her famous mission to lead the French in ousting the English from France, renounced female clothing completely. This painting dates from 1485.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Alligator captured in Charles River
Ah, the pleasures of canoeing on the majestic Charles River. The splash of the paddle in the water, the geese flapping through the air, the turtles and fish finning their way through the water, the alligator sunning itself on a log.
Whoa, hold on there. An alligator? Yes, an alligator.
An alligator spotted Thursday by a canoeist paddling on the Charles River south of Boston was captured this morning, state officials said. The reptile was captured at about 6:30 a.m. by a specialist from Rainforest Reptile Shows in Beverly, said Wendy Fox, a spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Topher Cox, 38, of Needham, an advertising photographer, said this morning that he had bought a canoe on craigslist.org and was taking it out for a spin Thursday afternoon when he saw the alligator, which he estimated was about four feet long, on the river off of Needham Street in Dedham near the Needham line.
Cox took a picture with his cellphone, then maneuvered closer.
"I thought it was fake at first. ... But I bumped the log and, sure enough, it jumped on into the water," said Cox. Cox admitted he was a little bit afraid. "Of course," he said. "There's an alligator in the water, albeit not huge."
Cox called 911 on his cellphone and once people figured out that he was serious, the Dedham police dispatched officers, and the Needham animal control officer also responded. An expert from Rainforest Reptile searched Thursday afternoon, then returned to the spot this morning, eventually grabbing the animal with his bare hands, Cox said.
The animal slipped away, but Ralbovsky knew it would return, seeking warm sun this morning, so he was out on the water at daybreak, he said. "He set up house right in that area. I knew we were going to be able to find him," he said. Ralbovsky said he reached into the water and grabbed the alligator by the neck. The animal didn't fight much because it was cold.
Ralbovsky said somebody who owned the alligator had turned it loose illegally. The animal was healthy and will now be used in Rainforest Reptile shows until it gets too large -- it's expected to grow to 12 feet long -- when it will be transferred to an alligator farm in Texas or Florida, he said.
For Cox, who will be shooting a bank ad in Maine next week, it was a unique experience.
"I certainly wasn't expecting to see an alligator that day and I don't know that I'll ever be paddling down the Charles and see one again," said Cox. "So I feel pretty honored to have seen this animal close up."
Pollock mentions that when the rescue ship Carpathia arrived in New York City where friends and relatives of the survivors were anxiously waiting for them, the Carpathia went first to the pier of the White Star, owners of the Titanic, and dropper its lifeboats there before proceeding back south to Pier 54 to let the survivors reunite with their loved ones. The Titanic's boats were used on other White Star liners as it was obvious no other ships could ever again operate without lifeboats for every person on board.
Monday, April 09, 2012
It seems that there is at least one Muslim clergyman out there willing to break ranks with Islam’s unfavorable view of gay people.
Zahed tells France 24 TV of how he met his new partner through the gay imam:
“I was in the lecture hall when an imam, who incidentally is gay himself, introduced me to Din. We discovered we had a lot in common and a mutual admiration was cemented. I stayed on after the convention for two months, deciding to get married, since South African laws were more friendly [to same sex unions]…Zahed and Din returned to France recently, but have been having trouble getting their marriage recognized by the French government. Continues Al Arabiya:
“Being married in front of my family, was like a new start of life for me, I could have never imagined such a day would come, seeing the joy in my parents’ eyes after they had battled with my sexuality and tried with all their might to change the course of my sexual orientation.”
"Zahed wants to pursue his doctoral studies in Islam and homosexuality and he also heads an organization that researches issues relating to Islam and homosexuality. He said his absolute priority is to get a legal permit for his new spouse to stay and work in France.What an amazing, inspiring story. Zahed and Din can hold out hope that Francois Hollande will beat Nicolas Sarkozy in the upcoming French presidential election. Hollande has stated he will push the legalization of gay marriage as a priority in 2013.
The couple does not intend to travel to an Arab or Muslim nation for fear of being discriminated against. “We want to stay in France, because my husband really likes this country. However, if it becomes impossible for him to stay, we will return to South Africa to live.”
Sunday, April 08, 2012
This battered derelict was more dangerous than the rest because, drifting aimlessly, it represented a major hazard in the shipping lanes and because its fuel tanks were at least partly filled.
The American Coast Guard was afraid of the diesel oil polluting coastal waters. So, instead of towing it into a port and pumping its tanks, they shot holes in it, setting it on fire and, finally lobbed an artillery shell at it, sinking it. So, its tanks will now corrode in the salt water and all the oil will seep out directly into the very coastal waters they claimed they wanted to protect. Does this make any sense?
This interesting bit of news came from the BBC:
The Vatican owns about 20% of Italy's properties
I don't expect to see it happen, but I would love it if all church properties in the U.S. were made subject to taxation.
The America the right wing Churches and a large segment of the Republican Party would like to return to -- the American woman as some combination of indentured servant and harem wife: