Saturday, August 18, 2018

Traitors In Their Midst

August 17, 2018
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Dante visiting traitors in Hell by Paul Gustave Dore'
The Catholic writer and activist Austin Ruse and I go way back, though our paths separated at some point after 2002, when I started writing about the abuse scandal.Austin tells that story in a column for Crisis:
Then 2002 came, and Rod started reporting on the priest sex scandal. Many of us thought Rod was going too far, going off the deep end, pulling out his hair. Like many others, I just could not believe some of the things we were hearing. What’s more, I instinctively thought that the bishops were doing, if not the right thing, then the thing that made sense given who they felt they had to listen to: insurance companies, lawyers, and psychologists.
I just could not believe that Cardinal Law, for instance, was the bad guy. I just could not believe that such a friend to the pro-life movement was an enemy. I thought this was almost certainly the devil’s way of ridding us of such a valuable ally.
I believed the bishops had to protect the Church, that the lawyers were probably right to offer compensation to victims and require them to keep quiet so as not to scandalize the faithful.
 And so on. More:
I recall perhaps the last time I was with Rod. It was at some conference years ago, still in the shadow of ‘02. I don’t remember where. We sat at a table along with Robert Royal and David Mills, and we talked about this issue. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but it was strained. There was already an estrangement over this issue and what he was doing. At that time, as we have come to know, Rod was under severe pressure from influential Catholic laymen and from important bishops to lay off. Father Neuhaus actually yelled at him. You are hurting the Church, they told him. This will blow over. This is being handled. Handled. Yes.
Rod explained all along that he had stories, horrible and sickening stories that he could not report because no one would go on the record. We now know that one of the stories was about the crimes of then Cardinal McCarrick. When the McCarrick story broke a few weeks ago, I was surprised to discover in the New York Times that one of the heroes in the McCarrick story was one of my old spiritual directors, Fr. Boniface Ramsey, then pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Fr. Ramsey had gone to Cardinal Egan, Cardinal O’Malley, and the Vatican and no one did anything. Ramsey went to a frustrated Dreher, too, but he would not go on the record.
My casual friendship with Rod was never the same again. And at this remove, I can say this: Rod was right, and I was wrong.
Austin goes on to say that in recent years, he finally came to understand that as far as the bishops are concerned, they’re on the inside, and to hell with the Catholic laity. More:
So, all those years ago, Rod was right, and I was wrong, and now I say this to Rod: Pedal to the metal. Tell it all. Tell it loud. Tell it long. Let the chips and even the prelates fall where they may.
What an extraordinary statement. Thank you, Austin Ruse. It wasn’t necessary, which is why I’m all the more grateful for it.
At the risk of oversharing, the most painful thing about covering the scandal from 2002 until I left the Catholic Church in 2006 was losing my Catholic faith, which had been at the center of my life since my conversion in 1993. But it was also losing a world I had loved, and in which I had many friendships. Some of those friendships ended when I left the Catholic Church, and others remained intact, but weren’t what they had been. Folks felt that I had betrayed them somehow.
And then there were the Catholics who did not know me, but wrote to condemn me, often viciously. These were in some cases the same Catholics who, for the previous three years, had been e-mailing me with awful stories of clerical sexual corruption in their own parishes or dioceses, urging me to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT — but of course they wouldn’t put themselves on the line by going on the record, which is the only way that I or any journalist could have done something about it. I confess that I carried a lot of resentment back then against those people. Had they spent even one day dealing with the details of what journalists like me were dealing with, the evil would have fried their minds. I’ve often compared doing this kind of work to that scene from The Lord Of The Ringswhen Pippin stares at the Eye of Sauron through the Palantir, and it overwhelms him.
It overwhelmed me too, eventually, and my Catholic faith finally collapsed. Most of you know this story. What’s worth pointing out is that the final straw was realizing that my wife and I could not trust the institution anymore.
The particular moment, as I’ve written, was when we discovered by accident in the summer of 2004 that a priest we had come to like, Father Christopher Clay (whose name, by the way, is in the Pennsylvania grand jury report), was not who he said he was. He was not a faithful conservative priest who had been exiled by chancery liberals in the Diocese of Scranton, but was in fact a priest who had been suspended by his bishop after a complaint of sexual abuse stemming from his peripheral involvement in the homosexual traditionalist cult called the Society Of St. John. He had come to Dallas, his hometown, and been given work off the books by a priest in a conservative parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
That pastor did not tell his bishop that he had put Father Clay to work in the parish, because the bishop would not have allowed it, as it went against the Dallas charter. Neither the pastor nor the parish council informed the congregation, either. I told most of that story in this Dallas Morning News column.  That event was the final one for my wife and me, because it told us that we couldn’t trust our own judgment. We thought the charismatic Father Clay was for real, and we had come to believe that we were so worldly wise that we could spot these frauds a mile away. We had come to believe that this parish, which we drove 45 minutes to get to on Sunday morning, was a safe haven, because they were openly and joyfully orthodox. And of course we believed that the Dallas Charter would weed out the bad actors; it hadn’t occurred to us that a parish pastor would withhold the truth from his bishop for the sake of putting an accused sex abuser into informal ministry.
I received back then an angry e-mail from a young man who was a member of the parish council, denouncing me for my betrayal, saying that of course the parish council knew about Father Clay, but didn’t see why it was the business of the congregation to know too.
We had two little boys back then. The safety of our children did not matter to these people. Only the protection of their churchy façade. And because we had allowed Father Clay into our family’s life, and indeed were at the point in our developing friendship where we were planning to start having him over for dinner, my wife and I had to face the fact that for all our vigilance, we couldn’t protect the boys either. We were gullible marks too, like so many other Catholic families who wanted to believe the best. And I had seen from my work on these cases what bishops and the legal machinery working for them do to victims and their families. We would have been no different.
We didn’t leave the Catholic Church then. In fact, we went back to our old parish, but by that point we were zombies. Spiritually, we were the walking dead. Our ability to trust was gone — and within a year, so were we.
In Dante’s Inferno, the deepest level of Hell is reserved for traitors. The reason for this is that Dante lived in a time and place where cities were at war with each other. Cities like Florence, Siena, and others surrounded themselves with walls, and closed the gates at night so people could sleep in peace. Traitors were an existential threat to those cities. If they unlocked the gates at night while everyone was resting in shared trust, all would be lost. Shared trust was the thing that made common life possible. Traitors were a mortal threat to that life.
This is what finally drove us out of the Catholic Church: the treason of the clerics — especially the bishops.
It is true that the sins of the clergy do not negate the truths proclaimed by the Catholic Church, or any church. But that rigorous logic is hard to live by when you’re raising children, or at least I found it to be true. To continue as a Catholic would have meant having to live with a total lack of trust in the clergy — and not only bishops. We knew good priests, and counted them as among our dearest friends (still do), but as the Father Clay incident showed us, we were still susceptible to manipulation — and even “good conservatives” in the clergy and in lay leadership were satisfied to mislead congregations to protect what they had.
In New York, when I was at National Review, I received a phone call from Brooks Egerton, a Dallas Morning News reporter trying to interview Father Benedict Groeschel for an abuse story. Egerton wanted to get Groeschel’s side of the story, and to clarify some things. He told me that Groeschel wasn’t responding to his repeated phone messages. Egerton, whom I did not know personally, cold-called me hoping that I could convince Groeschel to return his calls. I had no relationship with Groeschel, and I had gone from having been an admirer of his, pre-scandal, to seeing him as a much darker figure, one who had recycled abusers through his treatment center. Egerton eventually tired of seeking comment from Groeschel, and published his story. 
Groeschel, in turn, had a public conniption, and wrote something denouncing the piece. Excerpt:
I did not decline to be interviewed. I never spoke to Mr. Egerton because I was not at home when he called. After this article I am grateful to God I did not talk to him. … Mr. Egerton’s article is a prime example of the hostility, distortion and planned attack on the Catholic Church in the United States by certain segments of the media.
This was a complete, self-serving lie. Father Groeschel, who died a few years ago, smeared a journalist to protect his reputation. All the errors that Groeschel claims were in Egerton’s story could have been clarified had Groeschel simply taken Egerton’s phone call. This infuriated me, in part because I knew that Benedict Groeschel, famous for his appearances on EWTN, had such a sterling reputation among conservative Catholics that they would accept his word at face value.
By no means do I believe that all priests are deceivers. I don’t believe that for a second. Some of the finest men I know are priests. My point here is simply that having to live at that level of suspicion about priests in general, and having to raise kids in a church environment in which I taught them, for their own good, to distrust the clergy in general before they learned to trust the clergy — well, it was more than my wife and I could manage.
To continue on as Catholics would have meant accepting that the bishops were going to get away with their lies, and were not going to be held accountable for what they had done. Cardinal McCarrick was the chief example for me. I had known about him since 2002, but couldn’t report what I knew to be true because none of my sources would go on the record. I knew him to be an outrageous liar. He had sicced an elite conservative friend of his to intercede with my editor at the time to get me off the story of his molesting seminarians. My editor refused, but in the end, without documents or people willing to go on the record, I had no story. Yet there was McCarrick, always in the media presenting himself as a good guy, one who could be trusted to clean up the scandal.
It was all a lie. Every bit of it. 
To immerse oneself in the details of the scandal was to confront the terrible fact that bishops lied as a matter of course, and justified it as “for the good of the Church.” Even good bishops. Even today. Anybody who believes that Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Cardinal Kevin Farrell had no idea at all about McCarrick’s depredations is a fool. Even if they happen to be telling the truth, to take them at their word is a sucker’s bet.
As I said above, it is not the case that the truth claims of the Church are negated by the wickedness of the clergy. But it is very much the case that the wickedness of the clergy can make it difficult to take those truth claims seriously, or to hold on to them. My wife and I reached the point where we no longer believed that our salvation depended on being in communion with the Catholic Church. It’s hard for faithful Catholics to imagine getting to that place. It would have been next to impossible for us to imagine at any time before 2002 that we would be in that place. But there we were. And then we weren’t.
When I am asked about this in public events, I try to stay focused on things I could have done to have strengthened myself in my Catholic faith during this trial. I am grateful to God to be an Orthodox Christian, but I wish my conversion had been “clean” — that is, made in perfect serenity and rationality, instead of being like a drowning man grabbing the only lifeline visible. My Orthodox faith would be no more secure if I made the same mistakes I had made as a Catholic. I encourage all Catholics — and Orthodox, and Protestants alike — to strengthen themselves by going much deeper into the faith through simple but habitual acts of faith. My greatest error was assuming that as long as I affirmed all the right doctrines intellectually, that my faith would be unassailable. It’s not true. My conversion was always more precarious than I realized, because while my head was converted, my heart was not, or at least not as strongly as it needed to be.
I don’t tell Catholics to leave the Catholic Church. I do warn Catholics that if you are going to hold on through this trial, you are going to have to live your faith differently. As a Catholic, I had long thought about what I was prepared to suffer for the sake of the Church, if a time of persecution came upon us. I had never once prepared myself to suffer from the Church.
To end: I’m truly surprised by my friend Austin Ruse’s column, and grateful for it — not in an “I told you so” sense, but because of the hope that it represents: hope that finally, some of the most stalwart Catholics are waking up to the fact that they have traitors in their midst, and are prepared to do something about it.
Dante has traitors encased in a lake of ice in the ninth circle of Hell. He does this to represent the severing of all human bonds effected by their treason. Theirs was not a crime of passion, but one of cold deliberation. This is why the deeds of the bishops and their abettors, including prominent priests and laymen, were more damaging to my own faith than the vile sins of the sex-abusing clergy: because bishops were not driven by demonic passions. They could have stopped these evil priests, and thrown them out of the priesthood forever. They didn’t do so. Their hearts were cold towards victims and the laity, and they made their decisions to protect evildoers with stone-cold rationality. For them, it was just business.
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Aretha Franklin’s last name explained her

August 16, 2018

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There was only one Aretha, but, in her case, the first-name recognition evoked so much more than pop celebrity. Aretha was not a manufactured image like many of today’s performers, but a sound, a supernaturally wondrous sound from this natural woman who made us all feel so alive.
If the human voice is the most glorious of instruments, Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at age 76, was the proof. Her sound came from Detroit, from the African American church, from the pulpit incantations of her father, from the blues, from jazz, from soul, from the Great Migration from Southern fields to Northern cities — and yet, exuberantly, from her own inimitable genius.
When Rolling Stone listed its top 100 performers of all time, Franklin was the first woman on the list, ninth overall. But none of the men in front of her, from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to Chuck Berry, not even Elvis Presley, possessed voices with her depth and power and beauty. To sing along with Franklin, as millions of listeners did whenever they heard her, offered a chance for the soul to explode with the full range of human emotions. Her songs even inspired legions of men to sing rapturously about female empowerment. No one could sing like her, but everyone could sing in the choir at the Church of Aretha.
The first name was enough, but the last name explained her. Franklin was not just another name in Detroit. The Queen of Soul arose from the city’s black church royalty. Her father, the Rev. Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, was once such a popular preacher that hundreds of nonobservant Sunday supplicants would gather outside his New Bethel Baptist Church on warm summer days and listen to his sermons over loudspeakers that echoed down Hastings Street. His renown as the man with the “Million Dollar Voice” extended far beyond Detroit. His sermons were broadcast on radio and recorded by the JVB record label in Detroit and Chess Records in Chicago. Several times a year, he would take his act on the road, a circuit-riding preacher who filled arenas and large churches throughout the South.
Audiences were so familiar with Franklin’s sermons that they called out requests the way people do at concerts. “Play ‘The Eagle Stirreth his Nest’!” someone would shout. C.L., as he was known, was the marquee attraction in a traveling road show that also featured the reverend’s singing daughters, ErmaCarolyn and Aretha. There was no mother along. She had left for Buffalo, N.Y., when they were young and died at age 34.
Rev. Franklin was a “people’s preacher” and was also the definition of flamboyance. His church attracted followers from the meanest streets, along with the black elite. He was a civil rights activist who invited his old friend the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Detroit for a rally in June 1963, where King delivered a variation of his “I Have a Dream” speech months before the March on Washington. Long before Aretha was singing about her pink Cadillac on the “Freeway of Love,” her father drove one. He and his children lived in a grand house on Oakland Avenue. William Robinson, who later became famous as Smokey Robinson, was the best childhood friend of Aretha’s brother Cecil, and remembered being floored when he visited his buddy’s house and saw all the “oil paintings, silk curtains, mahogany cabinets and ornate objects of silver and gold.” What impressed him more was one of Cecil’s sisters — Aretha, a “cutie pie,” as he recalled, who as a 3-year-old sat down at her father’s baby grand piano and played flawlessly.
The singing talent that emerged from Detroit from the late 1950s to the late 1960s was breathtaking, and almost all of it fell into the ambit of Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown Records:Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Mary Wells, the Supremes, and Martha and the Vandellas; also the Temptations, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. But Aretha’s sound soared above them all. She was never part of Motown. Her father thought Gordy was too small-town, and he directed her toward the Columbia and then Atlantic recording labels. It took her longer to catch on than many Motown stars, but once the larger public found her sound, she gained not only R-E-S-P-E-C-T but also a singular place in the musical pantheon. She sang for popes and presidents, but she was also, like her father, a people’s preacher.
With Aretha Franklin’s passing, time compresses, and one can flash from the image of the little girl at her daddy’s baby grand to the scene nearly three years ago when the Queen of Soul blew the roof off the Kennedy Center after she took a seat at the piano and belted out a heart-filling rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” She was singing not just for songwriter Carole King or for the president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. With her own million-dollar voice, the daughter of Rev. Franklin was singing for Detroit, for America and for the world. People die; the voice of a great singer lives forever.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Today's Tune: Aretha Franklin - Full Concert - 03/07/71 - Fillmore West (OFFICIAL)

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, Dead at 76

By Douglas Wolk and David Browne
August 16, 2018

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It was a small moment that would reverberate for decades. On January 24th, 1967, Aretha Franklin was struggling to record “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” her first project for Atlantic after several years recording more conventional material for Columbia. As Franklin would recall, something with the studio musicians wasn’t clicking until someone said, “Aretha, why don’t you sit down and play?” Taking a seat at the piano, Franklin quickly cut the smoldering track that would become her first No. 1 R&B hit. “It just happened,” she said. “We arrived, and we arrived very quickly.”
And it never stopped. For more than five decades, Franklin was a singular presence in pop music, a symbol of strength, women’s liberation and the civil rights movement. Franklin, one of the greatest singers of all time, died Thursday of pancreatic cancer, according to her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn.
“It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the passing of Aretha Louise Franklin, the Queen of Soul,” Quinn said in a statement. “Franklin … passed away on Thursday morning, August 16 at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit, MI, surrounded by family and loved ones. In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.
“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world,” Quinn added. “Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
“Aretha Franklin was one of the most iconic voices in music history and a brilliant artist,” Franklin’s record label Sony Music said in a statement. “Over the course of her decades-long career, which included many years with the Sony Music family, she inspired countless musicians and fans, and created a legacy that paved the way for a long line of strong female artists.”
Dubbed the Queen of Soul in 1967, Franklin loomed over culture in several monumental ways. The daughter of a preacher man, she was born with one of pop’s most commanding and singular voices, one that could move from a sly, seductive purr to a commanding gospel roar. From early hits like “I Never Loved a Man” and “Think” up through later touchstones like “Sisters Are Doin’ it for Themselves” with Eurythmics, there was no mistaking Franklin’s colossal pipes. As one of her leading producers, Jerry Wexler, said of her simmering gospel-pop classic, “Spirit in the Dark,” “It was one of those perfect R&B blends of the sacred and the secular … It’s Aretha conducting church right in the middle of a smoky nightclub. It’s everything to everyone.”
But Franklin was more than just a titanic vocalist who could effortlessly move through pop, jazz, R&B, gospel and disco. Known to her fans simply as “Aretha,” Franklin was an inordinately complex pop star — “Our Lady of Mysterious Sorrows,” wrote Wexler in his memoir. Although she exuded a regal, imposing presence, Franklin’s life often seemed shakier than her voice. She coped with a broken family, at least one bad marriage, a drinking problem and health and musical direction issues that made her infinitely relatable and beloved. “In her voice, you can hear the redemption and the pain, the yearning and the surrender, all at the same time,” Bonnie Raitt told Rolling Stone in 2003.
Her journey — from singing in her father’s church and tackling tasteful pop at the dawn of her career before becoming the voice of the civil rights movement — also embodied the African American experience of the 1960s. Her brawny, funked-up makeover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” based on what Wexler called her own “stop-and-stutter syncopation” idea, was more than just a Number One pop hit in 1967. “She had no idea it would become a rallying cry for African Americans and women and anyone else who felt marginalized because of what they looked like, who they loved,” Barack Obama said in 2014. “They wanted some respect.” At 16, she went on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and later sang at his funeral.
Born in Memphis on March 25th, 1942, Franklin was groomed for gospel glory from her childhood: her father was the renowned and popular Reverend C.L. (Clarence LaVaughn) Franklin, “The Man with the Million-Dollar Voice,” and she recorded her first album of gospel when she was 14 years old. Her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, was also a gospel singer. When young Aretha was two, she and her family moved to Detroit. It was there where Aretha was quickly steeped in church services (her father was the star preacher at the New Bethel Baptist Church) and music. Thanks to her father’s success, household visitors included Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.
Franklin was one of five children, but the family didn’t stay together long; when she was six, her parents broke up and her mother moved to Buffalo. A child prodigy, Franklin began singing and playing piano as part of her father’s congregation and recorded her first album of gospel when she was 14. Her idol Sam Cooke was on the verge of crossing over to the musical mainstream and Franklin hoped to do the same. In 1960, she signed to Columbia Records, with which she recorded a string of polite, generally unthrilling records, singing standards, jazz and blues. “We knew that Columbia was a worldwide label, and I think the feeling probably was that the promotion would be better than, say, a Motown,” she said later. Over the next six years or so, she had a couple of Top Ten R&B singles like “Won’t Be Long,” but didn’t make yet stand out in an increasingly crowded pop field.
Starting with “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” everything changed. Signing with Atlantic and working with Wexler, who initially paired her with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Franklin found her musical and social voice in volcanic tracks like “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” and her version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” written by Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Wexler. In the spring of 1967, her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” became an anthem for that charged moment in the history of civil rights and the women’s movement. Franklin brought those two worlds together in ways no one had done before. “‘Respect’ had the biggest impact, truly global in its influence, with overtones for the civil-rights movement and gender equality,” Wexler said. “It was an appeal for dignity combined with a blatant lubricity. There are songs that are a call to action. There are love songs. There are sex songs. But it’s hard to think of another song where all those elements are combined.”
Franklin was also one of pop’s greatest interpreters. Whether singing gospel standards or material by contemporary songwriters, she made everything she tackled her own. Her recordings weren’t simply “covers,” but makeovers. “When you heard her do something, I don’t care whose song it was, like Paul Simon’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’” says drummer Bernard Purdie, who worked with her the late 1960s and early Seventies. “Nobody knew Paul Simon wrote it. When Aretha sang it, that’s the way it was sung by everybody after. Same with ‘Respect.’ When she sang it, nobody knew Otis Redding.”
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Between 1967 and 1974, she hit the R&B Top Ten 33 times. Her 1968 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for “Respect”) was the first of eight consecutive times she would take that honor (she came back and won it again in 1982, 1986 and 1988). Franklin was a constant presence on the radio throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies. She sang her own songs, rock and R&B covers, and material written for her (like “Let It Be,” her version of which came out shortly before the Beatles), and turned it all into solid gold. In an era when radio was still heavily segregated, she crossed over to white audiences effortlessly. The subject of the songs she recorded was almost always tormented romantic love; their subtext was often about political liberation.
Franklin’s 1971 shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore West, immortalized on the live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West, were a visceral example of her crossover ability, but they weren’t a given success: “I wasn’t sure how the hippies reacted to me,” she later said. But in a sign of how she could easily cross musical fences, she blew away the counterculture crowd. When she learned her hero Ray Charles was in the crowd, Franklin pulled him out for the encore and the two wound up trading piano and vocal parts on an epic version of “Spirit in the Dark.” “She turned the thing into church,” Charles said later. “Excuse my French, but I have to say that this bitch is burning down the barn — I mean, she’s on fire.”
Franklin’s personal life was turbulent — the cover story that Time magazine ran on her in 1968 famously noted that her husband and manager Ted White had “roughed her up in public,” and they divorced the next year. But Franklin’s voice never let her down. Her 1972 live gospel album Amazing Grace returned her to her roots and went double platinum, and her ability to sing glorious pop resulted in her 1973 smash “Until You Come Back to Me.” In 1974, Rolling Stone asked her what made her happy. “My children,” she said. “And having little get-togethers and making up a whole lot of food. And gold records. And love.”
Over the course of the late 1970s, Franklin gradually fell off the charts, as her attempts to keep up with the times came off as tepid schlock. As she told Rolling Stone in 2012, “When I first started, my dad said to me, ‘No matter how good you are, and no matter how successful you are, one day, the applause is going to die down. And one day the applause is going to stop. One day the hallelujahs and the amens are going to stop. And one day the fans might not be there.’ I saw some of that come to pass, and it was absolutely true. At one point, my records were not being played, and of course that immediately crossed my mind.”
Rev. C.L. Franklin was shot in 1979 after a shootout with burglars in his home. (After one burglar shot Franklin, rupturing his femoral artery, Franklin went into a five-year coma and died in 1984; he never got to see his daughter’s comeback.) Franklin had a jubilant cameo in the Blues Brothers movie in 1980, yet her musical career remained in limbo.
Franklin’s personal life was turbulent — the cover story that Time magazine ran on her in 1968 famously noted that her husband and manager Ted White had “roughed her up in public,” and they divorced the next year. But Franklin’s voice never let her down. Her 1972 live gospel album Amazing Grace returned her to her roots and went double platinum, and her ability to sing glorious pop resulted in her 1973 smash “Until You Come Back to Me.” In 1974, Rolling Stone asked her what made her happy. “My children,” she said. “And having little get-togethers and making up a whole lot of food. And gold records. And love.”
Over the course of the late 1970s, Franklin gradually fell off the charts, as her attempts to keep up with the times came off as tepid schlock. As she told Rolling Stone in 2012, “When I first started, my dad said to me, ‘No matter how good you are, and no matter how successful you are, one day, the applause is going to die down. And one day the applause is going to stop. One day the hallelujahs and the amens are going to stop. And one day the fans might not be there.’ I saw some of that come to pass, and it was absolutely true. At one point, my records were not being played, and of course that immediately crossed my mind.”
Rev. C.L. Franklin was shot in 1979 after a shootout with burglars in his home. (After one burglar shot Franklin, rupturing his femoral artery, Franklin went into a five-year coma and died in 1984; he never got to see his daughter’s comeback.) Franklin had a jubilant cameo in the Blues Brothers movie in 1980, yet her musical career remained in limbo.
Never one to shy away from being contemporary or having pop hits, Franklin continued with the successful formula of recording with younger artists she’d influenced, cutting singles with George Michael, Elton John and Whitney Houston. In 1998, her acolyte Lauryn Hill wrote and produced the hit “A Rose Is Still a Rose” for her.
But Franklin was also up for challenges. She stepped in to sing “Nessun Dorma” at the 1998 Grammys when Luciano Pavarotti was unable to perform, a trick few other non-opera singers would even have dared.  As Franklin told Rolling Stone in 2012, “You have to give people what they want and what they’re paying for. After that, you can pretty much do whatever you’d like to do. But once you’ve given them what they’re paying for, then you can put some things in that you would like to sing, and they’re very well accepted when they’re performed dutifully.”
In her later years, Franklin was frequently sidetracked by health problems, and her recordings were slow to appear and spotty; A Woman Falling Out of Love, which she’d started recording in 2006, was finally released on her own label in 2011. In 2010, Franklin faced rumors that she was battling pancreatic cancer after canceling her scheduled performances; Franklin denied the cancer diagnosis, instead revealing she had surgery to remove a tumor. Franklin also canceled her scheduled 2018 performances after her doctor recommended that the singer rest for at least two months. Franklin last performed in November 2017 at Elton John’s annual AIDS Foundation gala.
Still, the power of her voice never left her. In 2014, her version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” a song that would have been unimaginable without her, became the Queen’s 100th R&B chart hit. (The song was part of her last new album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.) “She’s an original,” Franklin told Rolling Stone in 2012. “Love her lyrics — reminiscent of the Carole King lyrics of the Sixties. Just better! ‘We coulda had it all’! Sure you’re right, Adele!” In 2009, she sang at Barack Obama’s Presidential inauguration, a triumphant moment for the Civil Rights movement her music had influenced so deeply. “When it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her,” Mary J. Blige told Rolling Stone in 2008. “She is the reason why women want to sing.”
Over the course of her six-decade career, Franklin garnered 44 Grammy nominations, winning 18, and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Looking back in 2016 at her version of “Respect,” Franklin elucidated both her own recording and its cultural impact. “I loved it, and I wanted to cover it just because I loved it so much,” she said. “And the statement was something that was very important, and where it was important to me, it was important to others. It’s important for people. Not just me or the Civil Rights movement or women — it’s important to people. I was asked what recording of mine I’d put in a time capsule, and it was ‘Respect.’ Because people want respect — even small children, even babies. As people, we deserve respect from one another.”

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Catholic Church’s Rotherham

By Michael Brendan Dougherty
August 15, 2018
Image result for priests pennsylvania abuse
"We are deeply saddened." So begins the many perfunctory statements of many Catholic bishops today in response to the Pennsylvania grand-jury reports detailing how priests in that state abused children and how bishops shuffled these priests around. What deeply saddens these men? The rape of children, the systematic cover-up, or the little schemes to run out the clock on the statute of limitations? Are they saddened by the people who were so psychologically wounded by their abuse at the hands of priests that they killed themselves? What exactly are they sorry about? Soon the bishops are telling us about a chance for “renewal” after the promised implementation of new policies. They tell us about “overcoming challenges” in the Church. Or they use the phrase “a few bad apples.”
I find it impossible not to notice that these expressions of sorrow never arrive before the courts, the state attorneys general, or the local press arrive on the scene. That fact gives you another idea about what causes the bishops’ sorrow.
Fifteen years ago Frank Keating, the former governor of Oklahoma, resigned from a panel called the National Review Board, set up by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to monitor compliance with the Church’s new anti-abuse politics. He was under intense pressure to resign because he had offended bishops when he said some of them were acting like “La Cosa Nostra,” a reference to the Sicilian Mafia.
Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles and other prelates made a great show of detesting Keating’s remarks. Keating refused to apologize. “My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology,” he said. “To resist grand-jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church,” Keating said in his resignation statement.
Keating was dismissed as a crank. Hadn’t every consultant and auditor given the the Church’s anti-abuse policies hearty endorsements? Wasn’t it routinely described as a model of safety?

Of course, Keating was right. Mahoney was later exposed as having engaged in an energetic attempt to cover up the truth about his own diocese. He shielded predators from law enforcement and even argued that the personnel files of the archdiocese were protected by the seal of the confessional.
This season is a new round of exposure for Catholic bishops, particularly those who have sold themselves as part of the solution to the Church’s abuse crisis. Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who is supposed to have cleaned up in Boston and heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, is now trying to explain how it was that he fobbed off a credible report substantiating the well-known reputation of D.C. cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor and a former bishop of Pittsburgh, has always bragged about his record of being a no-nonsense administrator, someone who even fought with the Vatican to have abusive priests removed from ministry. The latest news paints a slightly different picture.
The Pennsylvania grand-jury report names hundreds of predator priests across seven decades of life in six Catholic diocese in the state. Some of the details in the report are so vile and lurid they would have been rejected from the writer’s room of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. They include priests “marking” their preferred boy-victims with special crosses, priests trading and compiling their own homemade child pornography. At one point in the report, a large redaction is made over what appears to be, in context, a ritualized and satanic gang-rape of a young boy by four priests.
The report implicates bishops of every persuasion. A fastidious conservative such as Bishop James Timlin of Scranton would not allow himself to be seated near the pro-choice Catholic MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews at a commencement ceremony, but in this report he is found writing a consoling letter to one of his priests, a priest who had just raped an underaged girl and arranged for the abortion of his own child. The tone of the letter would be no different if he were writing a priest grieving a deceased grandparent. There there, son, I know it hurts.
The liberal bishop Donald Wuerl, then of Pittsburgh, does seem to take a hard line in some cases of clerical abuse. But in ones that preceded him, he takes a different approach. When an abusive priest who had been shuffled out of his diocese reports back to Wuerl’s office that he has information on other abusive priests operating in the Pittsburgh diocese and will inform on them if his stipend is increased, Wuerl advises the priest to write a letter in which he disavows any knowledge of the aforementioned illegal sexual activity. In exchange his stipend is increased. Wuerl did not implement a zero-tolerance policy against clerical sexual misbehavior; what he instituted was a zero-liability policy for the diocese and a zero-responsibility policy for himself. Wuerl outlined exactly what he did not want to know, and rewarded the man who kept him in ignorance. Wuerl, who in a recent interview suggested that there was no real crisis in the Church, greeted the release of the grand-jury report with the launch of a website designed by a crisis-public-relations firm, touting his good reputation.
If the events outlined in the Pennsylvania grand-jury report had happened among Pakistani immigrants, rather than the Catholic clergy, the perpetrators would called a grooming gang. If we treated the Catholic Church the same way as the British public treated the grooming gangs of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, we would be asking tough questions about the culture that produces abuse on this scale. We would ask questions about what twisted form of political correctness dissuaded law enforcement from identifying and confronting the criminal network until now. We might be debating our immigration policy, and possibly shutting down our embassies in the countries from which this gang receives support and reinforcements.
In fact, much of that would be the correct response. The Vatican has previously tried investigating and reporting on America’s Catholic seminaries, offering recommendations on how to fix them. The recommendations were not only weak, but mostly ignored. Not a single American bishop has emerged from reviewing the records in his chancery offices and apologized before the cops, the courts, and the news media arrived to ask about the revelations. Not a single bishop has publicly demanded that one of his brother bishops resign after being exposed for playing games with the statute of limitations. They knew about the powerful cardinal who preyed upon seminarians, they know about the decadent culture of the seminaries where priests are trained. And they tell themselves there is nothing they could really have done about it.
The problem of sexual abuse and blackmail in the Church isn’t reducible to “policy,” and the promises made by bishops to make policy changes should be greeted with extreme cynicism. The problem is personnel. For a number of reasons, the Catholic priesthood has selected for sexual deviancy. Bishops have been selected for their ability to manage legal and social risk, rather than their ability to govern and lead a religious organization. As one smart canon lawyer put it, men don’t rise through the ranks of the Catholic Church, they are pulled upward by those above them. High-ranking churchmen select for men who make peace with this sexualized culture in the priesthood. They prize collegiality rather than exacting holiness, or even competence. Cardinal Wuerl was selected by the pope to sit on the powerful Congregation of Bishops, which helps recommend to the pope new candidates for the office of bishop. It’s time we ask why he was deemed suitable for this task.
Other state attorneys general should do investigations like Pennsylvania’s. As a Catholic, I’m tired of waiting for the next red slipper to drop. If the Church cannot govern itself from within, then it will be governed from without. That’s not a policy, but the iron law of history.

“We are deeply saddened,” they say. Spare us this fake public-relations drivel. We don’t need your sadness, we don’t need new policies. We need better men.