Thursday, November 29, 2012

Petraeus and Broadwell: They Cheated on their Kids Too


It is easy to see why the Petraeus affair persists in the news. Salaciousness sells. That national security might have been compromised ups the public scandal quotient and renders the mistake made by a former general and woman who thought bedding one might score her a little power.

One hardly need be a libertine in order to imagine that a man with a zipper problem might betray his wife's trust without forsaking the nation's trust -- but such men are exceptions. Most skirt-chasers are not Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Nor even are they President Clinton. Honorable men and women do not, for the most part, cheat on their husbands and wives.

Nor do they cheat on their spouses alone; they also cheat on their children.

In her November 24th New York Times essay "After the Affair," Judy Wachs describes her former husband, who was the father of four children under the age of 10 at the time of his catting around with a waitress, as having been a "wonderful father." One can applaud Wachs' generosity while recognizing that wonderful fathers keep theirs in their pants.

The somehow popular and thoroughly erroneous notion that a treacherous spouse can be a good parent is malarkey. In a relationship in which sexual fidelity is expected, a cheating wife is rarely much of a mother, and a cheating husband is generally a lousy father. Adultery imperils the psychological welfare of the children of parents who cheat. When men cheat on pregnant or nursing women they even endanger the physical health of their children.

Parents who commit adultery cheat on their families.

We know that when spouses who must separate do so before adultery pulls them apart they achieve far more harmonious separations. We know that most cheaters don't fall in love with their paramours, that most cheaters trade down, that most cheating is not even about sex and that some cheating is a facet of mental illness. We also know that the most meaningless adulterous sex often dashes families to smithereens.

We also know that children who grow up in intact homes fare better in all aspects of development. Children who grow up with cheaters, on the other hand, learn to cheat. They learn distrust. Children who see their parents use and discard lovers in the course of extramarital affairs learn thoughtlessness and selfishness.

A father who treats his wife with respect gives his daughter the gift of learning to seek out men who respect women. He offers his daughter the optimal lesson in how to command respect from men in an anti-woman world. Conversely, a philandering father teaches his daughters to attract schmucks. Which is why the daughters of philandering fathers are more likely to be promiscuous, self-destructive and distrustful of marriage and men.

Sons who watch their fathers betray their mothers learn that misogyny is tolerable and permissible, and when a mother cheats on her husband and children, she exchanges the very heart of her family for a little on the side.

A cheating spouse essentially "turns out" the husband or wife he or she betrays, making him or her theoretically at least, in some ethical sense, available to seducers. Yet it is rare to find the adulterer who first offers his or her partner the kind of license he or she seizes clandestinely.

Indeed, most cheating spouses find it unthinkable to imagine the duped husband or wife in question enjoying his or her own extramarital romp, and once caught, most adulterers will strenuously  challenge the betrayed partner's right to a revenge affair. Most cheaters are "in love" (so they say) with their spouses, and cannot bear to think of those mates (they so love) in bed with others.

Children who grow up in marriages in which their two parents are trusting and trustworthy learn to seek and sustain satisfying nurturing loving relationships. Children who grow up seeing sex as a means of injury and betrayal, on the other hand, wind up cheated of the ability to view sex as a unitive, radiant and exciting aspect of abiding love. Cheating parents rob their children of innocence.

A man who would lie to those he most loves will lie to the world. David Petraeus was a traitor. He conspired with an enemy (Broadwell) of his family in a campaign to injure his wife and grown children. A man who can not be trusted to protect his family from the kind of anguish Petraeus bestowed can not be trusted to protect anyone.

The spawn of Paula Broadwell are too young to read about her betrayal of them and their father, but they will learn of it, and in the apprehension be wounded to the core. They will one day know that the mother whose job it was to teach them integrity was a liar. They will know she forgot all about them -- that they were nowhere near her heart -- when she traded their psychological well-being for the privilege of making the beast with two backs with a general. So much damage just so Mom could get some on the side.

Men and women who honor their marriages by either choosing to work out problems or electing to separate before infidelity desecrates their marriages, teach their sons and daughters that vows matter.

Parents like David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell teach their children that promises are meant to be broken.

Thinking of going for a drink with that lonely co-worker who's been stroking your ego at the office? Think again. Try thinking of your kids.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Prelate and The Dirty Pol (Vito Lopez and Nicholas DiMarzio): Thick as Thieves


I recently posted a piece about the not quite kosher alliance between the disgraced Democratic party kingmaker Vito Lopez and Nicholas DiMarzio, the bishop in charge of the Brooklyn-Queens Roman Catholic Diocese, in the "New York" section of the Huffington Post. It's a local politics story, but, there is an alarming religious (Catholic) aspect to Vito Lopez's fall from grace--so to speak. For years Vito Lopez and Nicholas DiMarzio have been thick as thieves. In the Brooklyn and Queen Diocese, wherein I do most of my worshipping, Vito Lopez has enjoyed liberal use of at least a few of DiMarzio's priests.
No, Vito did not slide his hands up their thighs, as he did with young women in his offices, but he has been credibly accused of using Catholic priests to electioneer on his behalf in senior citizens operations he (Lopez) managed, and both DiMarzio and the monsignor who works as his "spokesman" have openly shilled for Lopez. Given the relationship that existed between Lopez and DiMarzio and the way things are generally done among priests (who are required to obey their bishops), it is unreasonable to assume that a priest instructing elderly folks living in Lopez's housing to vote for him would not do so without the bishop's blessing, so to speak. I write "existed" and not "exist" because it is now unlikely that the relationship between the prelate and the pol will survive Lopez's tribulations. DiMarzio will no longer be kissing that pol's ring.
In one case, a few years back, a pastor was informed just before the 12:00 mass that DiMarzio's spokesman/assistant Kieran Harrington, a monsignor, would be celebrating "the twelve" that day. As mass ended Harrington electioneered for one of Vito Lopez's pet candidates, Steve Levin, from the pulpit. As mass let out, parishioners were recruited to leaflet on church grounds on behalf of the candidate, whom Harrington had earlier described as being "good for our church." Obviously neither the leafleting, nor the campaigning from the pulpit were lawful. Although I did not speak with the priest about this virtual hijacking of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the consensus among congregants who attended the service was that the blind-sided priest scheduled to say the mass had been made an offer he couldn't refuse.

It is a bit ironic that this despicable incursion into a sacred space on the occasion of the Christian Sabbath was not even necessary. Levin was a sure favorite in that race. The bishop had nothing to gain by sending his flak monsignor into the church on to commit this transgression, nothing, that is, beyond shame and distrust. DiMarzio's (unlawful) choice to publicly campaign for Lopez that same year tells us much (DiMarzio recorded "robocalls" for his strange bedfellow Vito Lopez.) about the kind of "shepherd" DiMarzio really is.

DiMarzio closed or shuttered four poor parishes in one area of Brooklyn a few years ago, due to lack of funding while simultaneously giving his imprimatur (allocating funds) to rebuild a gargantuan cathedral-sized church in a neighboring area. The restoration of this (St. Joseph's Church) is uncommonly extensive and and costly, and it has the added godawful feature of being conducted in a part of Brooklyn wherein many of the poor have been pushed out of their homes by mammoth real estate interests and gentrification. The pastor of this cathedral-esque church in the making is the aforementioned Harrington, DiMarzio's mouthpiece/assistant/accomplice, who very much hopes to be the next bishop of the diocese, and the hope is that the church will attract the new affluent young people whom the new, luxury housing in the area will attract.

Parishioners in parishes shuttered for their inability to cough up the diocesan vigorish, put money in the basket each week up until the time their parishes were closed. Some of that money found its way to the diocese where it is likely enough some of it paid for a few of the bricks and some of the mortar the bishop's new church, the church his flunky monsignor runs. All this anguish and expenditure despite the fact of the diocese's actual cathedral, St. James Basilica, which sits a mile away from where DiMarzio's colossus-in-progress is located. One priest with whom I spoke (not for attribution) explained the bishop's decision to approve this costly project while so many churches in its vicinity were closing: "He thinks the cathedral isn't big enough. Twice a year it isn't big enough. DiMarzio wants a bigger church for ordinations." It would seem the bishop of Brooklyn learned well from his long collaboration with Vito Lopez.
In one dispute between a community organizer priest and Vito Lopez, DiMarzio threw his support to Vito, and his priest under the bus. Lopez attempted to develop real estate in poor the community (not far, again, from the de facto-cathedral in the remaking) wherein the priest, Reverend James O'Shea ministered and worked as a community organizer. Father O'Shea challenged team Lopez-DiMarzio and wound up without a church; shortly thereafter the tag team Lopez-DiMarzio closed the church he had run.

With help from Vito Lopez, the passage of the Child Victims Act in the Assembly was defeated. Knowing what we know now, it is easy to conclude that Lopez was probably soft on abusers and not merely trading favors with the bishop. DiMarzio's decision to collaborate with Lopez in fighting legislation (for a price, on the basis that it would "bankrupt the diocese") that would protect the lives of people who were violated as children by priests is its own latter-day variation on Judas and his thirty pieces of silver, and tells us a good deal about who the man governing Roman Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens really is.
As a Catholic and a Christian who puts credence in the teaching of Jesus, I find it hard to square strong-arming tactics with Christian teaching. In most cases, cozying up to developers at the expense of the poor flies in the face of everything for which the Jesus of the Gospels stands.
My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!
(Matthew 21:13) 
For more information on Lopez and DiMarzio, read "Grabby Vito Lopez and the Bishop in His Pocket" and"Bishop DiMarzio Wants Your Lunch Money" on Huffington Post.

Follow Michele Somerville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NYpoet

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Grabby" Vito Lopez And The Bishop In His Pocket


I wasn't surprised to read this morning that the conduct of Democratic power broker Assemblyman Vito Lopez has finally landed him in hot water. I have been paying careful attention to Lopez, mostly in the context of his alliance with the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. (I write opinion pieces about the Church and I worship in DiMarzio's diocese. See "Bishop DiMarzio May Not Want Your Lunch Money..." on Huffington Post. ) Nicholas DiMarzio and Vito Lopez have long been (to put it aptly) "thick as thieves." So tight are Lopez and DiMarzio that in 2009, the latter was willing to play fast and loose with the tax law that prohibits tax-exempt churches from electioneering. DiMarzio recorded endorsements of Lopez and these were transmitted throughout Lopez's election district as "robocalls" just before Election Day in November of 2009. (See "Heaven-Sent Robocalls..." in the November, 2009 NY Post.)
Vito Lopez has lobbied at DiMarzio's behest, to block the passing of A5488, Assemblywoman Marge Markey's Child Victims Act, which DiMarzio opposes on the grounds that it would bankrupt Roman Catholic dioceses. (The Child Victims Act will expand, slightly, the statute of limitations for reporting incidents of sexual assault perpetuated by adults against children.) Lopez et al have been successful in preventing the passage of A5488, and Bishop DiMarzio has expressed his appreciation by campaigning for Lopez's political protégés within his diocese.
Maybe now hat the bishop's man in Albany is out of commission, A5488 will become law, allowing victims of juvenile sexual assault to be better able to seek just outcomes.
Lopez, himself, now stands credibly accused of sexual misconduct. While such accusations are easy to make and often impossible to prove, the choice made by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Charles Schumer, New York Speaker of the House Sheldon Silver and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to call on Lopez to step down suggests that there's pretty good evidence Lopez sexually harassed women in his workplace.
It's election time. Naturally Democratic office-holders, candidates and party members fear that a dirty assemblyman-- especially one as powerful as Lopez happens to be-- will prove a liability to the party. If the charge that Lopez sexually harassed women in the workplace can be substantiated, his fellow Democrats certainly will want him gone, but really they've been waiting for the flagrant and colossal sleaziness of Vito Lopez to finally catch up with him.
According to a September 22, 2010 New York Times report, Lopez was investigated by both the State Attorney General and the FBI for a range of possible violations.
The New York Daily News reported, on June 30, 2011, that Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council was "the subject of "two criminal corruption probes by the FBI and the city's Department of Investigation." Lopez founded Ridegwood Bushwick, and his live-in female companion who earns a salary that exceeds $300,000.00 a year working for the council which is designed, in theory at least, to help senior citizens secure affordable housing.
In October 2010, the New York Post reported allegations that Lopez had relocated election sites within properties he ran as a means for manipulating voting among senior citizens residing therein.
Vito Lopez has been credibly accused of fiscal impropriety, mismanaging funds, election fraud (via the duping of senior citizens, with the help of at least one Catholic priest). He pays his female companion an uncommonly high salary at a non-profit operation he founded. He stands accused of being "grabby" with young women working alongside him in his Albany office. He appears to have established a a substantive and long pattern of sexual harassment which, if the groping allegations are true, could even result in his being charged with sexual assault.
It looks as if Vito Lopez has been shown the door. It's about time. I'll be glad to see this big little man disappear from the political landscape of Brooklyn where I live. I'm also glad his long overdue departure will result in the dissolution of his most unholy alliance with the top priest in the diocese in which I worship. Who knows? With one of the guys in that keep-the-world-safe-for-predators partnership out of the picture, maybe A5488 will have a clear shot at becoming law.


Follow Michele Somerville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NYpoet


Monday, August 20, 2012

The Al Smith Dinner: Why Dolan Should Have Snubbed POTUS and Why I'm Glad He Didn't He Didn't


About four years ago I caught the last 20 minutes of the 2008 Alfred E. Smith dinner on CSPAN. Senator Barack Obama's bit was funny, and his comedic timing was impeccable. But I found myself distracted from full enjoyment of the future president's performance by the man seated beside him, who chuckled so hard at Obama's jokes he seemed like he'd cry. Later on in the evening, that same man would characterize Barack Obama as "exemplary." That man was Edward Egan, Cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York.
How was it possible that a Roman Catholic cardinal might find the jokes of a crusader for what he and his fellow hierarchs view as the mass murder of (what the Catholic anti-abortion advocates call) "babies" in utero so hilarious? How could a Roman Catholic prelate so revel in feasting at a table with a popular pro-choice presidential candidate while knowing that in parishes throughout the United States priests were barring pro-choice politicians from "the table of Our Lord?" How? The answer may be that such a thing is possible only if the cardinal doing the chortling doesn't quite believe everything he preaches.
Hence the concern on the part of the many Roman Catholics who have criticized the choice made by Timothy Dolan, Cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York and President of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) to invite President Barack Obama to the Al Smith Dinner.
I am glad the President Obama will attend the Al Smith dinner. I think the mere fact that Obama was invited at all will win him Catholic votes. However, Reverend Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, who objects strenuously to Dolan's choice to invite Obama to the Al Smith Dinner is right to feel betrayed by this Dolan in this: 
The Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, a leading abortion opponent based in Staten Island, said Monday (Aug. 6) that "the polite putting aside of differences for a while amounts to scandal."
"There comes a time when enough is enough and we can no longer afford to give people a reason to doubt our position as a Church," Pavone wrote in an email. "So no, I don't think the invitation is appropriate at this time."
"Better to cancel the event than have it become another cause for scandal in the Catholic Church,"

If Timothy Dolan breaks bread with Barack Obama, laughs at his jokes, or extends any words of graciousness that might wind up construed as praise, Dolan will siphon out some of the urgency out of his "religious freedom" and "defense of marriage" positions. He will give Catholics cause to doubt his positions on same-sex marriage and contraception. He will cause many Catholics to wonder whether the cardinal's talk of Catholic conscience and religious freedom is genuine--or just politically driven cant. 

As I watched Timothy Egan delight in Obama's performance roughly four years ago, I remember thinking: Maybe the cardinal and his ilk don't really believe what they preach. Maybe obedience, and not belief, fuels their promulgating. They submit to the Magisterium the way soldiers do generals. Maybe they just have to toe the Vatican party line, and belief is not always required.
Does Timothy Dolan truly believe what he says about same-sex marriage, artificial contraception and abortion? Of course there's no sure way to know. Roman Catholicism has an enlightened approach toward doubt. It is no sin to doubt. There can be little doubt, however, in any any Roman Catholic camp, that regarding the president as some perfectly good guy with whom Catholics just don't quite seem to see eye-to-eye poses a threat will to Dolan's already dragging and tenuous credibility.
If Timothy Dolan believes, for example, that an embryo is a child, he views Barack Obama as a man militating (even if with good intentions) with considerable rigorousness, to ensure that the mass murder of "babies" remains legal in the United States. That most Catholics don't hold this position is immaterial. It's what Dolan teaches.
Dolan did not have to invite Obama to the dinner. Cardinal John O'Connor excluded Bill Clinton; Cardinal Edward Egan excluded John Kerry. That precedent exists for excluding pro-choice candidates from this event makes it all the more difficult for Dolan to put the kind of spin he needs on his decision to invite the president to the dinner. That in his putative outrage over the Health Care mandate, Dolan moved to sue the Obama offers all the more reason for Dolan to leave the President of the United States off the Al Smith dinner guest list.
Timothy Dolan's choice to break bread with the President Obama will cast an entirely new light on the religious freedom campaign, a campaign much predicated on demonizing the incumbent. Catholics and non-Catholics alike will have all the more reason to question Dolan's challenges to "ObamaCare" in the aftermath of the gala at the Waldorf.
Staten Island priest Frank Pavone and others who share his view of Dolan's decision are right to criticize Timothy Dolan for inviting the president to attend the Al Smith dinner, but pro-Obama Catholics are likely to wind up grateful for the blunder. Dolan's decision will cause many Catholics who had been seeing Obama as somehow anti-Catholic to look again at the incumbent. Obama will come away from the Al Smith affair looking like a good guy who just disagrees with the bishops on a few negotiable matters, and Dolan will come looking soft on sin. The entry of Paul Ryan into the race changes things too. Even the most conservative Catholics--most of the USCCB included--have a strong commitment to serving the poor and it is possible that the US bishops not pleased with the Catholic running mate Romney selected.
Many conservative Catholics, especially those who have been most loyal to Dolan in the context of his own scandals, will see Dolan's decision to "wine and dine" the president as a self-serving betrayal. If Dolan entertains POTUS at the Waldorf on October 18th, he will betray the Knights of Columbus who have advocated tirelessly for DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). He will betray the many parishes throughout the U.S. which have scheduled Voter Registration drives designed to facilitate the ousting of Obama. And he will betray the rosary-intoning Catholic extremists who conduct vigils outside women's medical care facilities that offer abortions. They've stuck with him through his tirades and scandals. These very conservative Catholics are Dolan's base.

Dolan recently posted a three-fold defense of his choice on his blog. He provided threefold reasoning for this decision. He claimed that the dinner would not offer Obama a platform for outright electioneering. This is, technically speaking, true. Dolan offered the following second reason:
Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

The truth is that many conservative Roman Catholics will think Timothy Dolan is showing the church at its venal worst in his failure to act in solidarity with those in his church who make great sacrifices in order to remain uncompromising in the context of their religious beliefs and values.
Dolan's choice not "meet with" but celebrate with Obama (There's a big difference between the two.) reveals the kind of situational morality both Roman Catholics and the world beyond the church have come to detest. It is unlikely that those who started the Al Smith dinner, could ever have anticipated the attendance of a president of the United States who supports same-sex marriage, and legal abortion; but if they had, it is improbable that they would have seen the conflict at hand as a mere Republican versus Democrat partisan one. 2012 is a unique in this.
Dolan's third reason pertaining to an interest in engagement and dialogue would be a one if only it did not so lack the ring of truth: 
Two the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

The US bishops' lack of interest in dialogue and penchant for muzzling dissident members of its own church makes Dolan's claim look like blarney. Dolan isn't interested in "dialogue" on matters of religious doctrine and his supporters don't want him to be.
Dolan goes on to point out that the "Holy Father" has received the president. As much as Dolan aspires to be "the Holy Father," (He never will) the pope is the head of a sovereign state. The pope doesn't invite parties in lawsuits he initiates to televised festive gatherings, and a brief "audience" with the pontiff is neither a media event nor a banquet. The "Holy Father" is unlikely to put politics aside for one magical non-partisan evening for the chance to hoist a few with, and deliver fond speeches about, a presidential candidate who has been branded an enemy of Catholicism by his own Roman Catholic hierarchs.
All Catholic eyes will be on Dolan as he plays the gracious host to Obama at the October 18th dinner at the Waldorf. Further complicating the quandary in which Dolan finds himself is that those monitoring his movements have not forgotten that the Al Smith dinner raises funds for some of the same Catholic organizations Dolan has threatened to shut down in the wake of the Health Care Mandate, and are the kind of social programs President Obama strenuously supports.

I find the talk of pushing politics aside for one night both refreshing and ironic. For the past year, Timothy Dolan et al have led a campaign that calls on Catholics to recognize the folly in drawing the line between political and religious belief. The bishops deny they do so, but it's a no great secret that they have long told Catholics how to vote. They have emphasized the importance of bringing religious feeling to bear when voting in secular elections. They have, in a sense, exhorted Catholics to "render to God what is Caesar's." Dolan's choice sends the opposite message: "Render to Caesar to Caesar what is Caesar's..." But the choice of, say a Roman Catholic politician to push for Dolan's readiness to invite Obama to the Al Smith dinner legitimizes the efforts and positions of Roman Catholics who oppose DOMA or push to preserve Roe v. Wade. Dolan has invited Catholics to view the kind of compromise Dolan claims to be seeking in the context of the Al Smith affair as a variation on (Dolan's) "leaving the door open." By this logic Obama becomes a president with "different political loyalties," and opposition to DOMA and support of the Health Care mandate and Roe v. Wade become (for Roman Catholics) ever-so-slightly more negotiable. That's why conservative Roman Catholics are view Dolan's graciousness of the moment toward our nation's president as corrosive.
The go-to defense for Timothy Dolan's decision to extend an Al Smith dinner invitation to Obama is the "Jesus, Himself, ate with whores and tax collectors." One can set aside the utter arrogance in Dolan's own use of this analogy long enough to see that it might fly if only Obama were a whore and Dolan were anything at all like Jesus--or if, perhaps, it were Obama's defense for saying "yes."