Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Catholic”

We Catholics Have a New Popo – Roger Ingalls

“popo” –  California slang for police or authority

I feel comfortable using Popo in place of Pope; it’s a term of endearment. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned, it’s been a bazillion years since my last confession.” As a youth, I did my time in the church, going to Mass, Catechism and was even an altar boy for a day so I’m entitled to a little fun. Yes, I carried The Body of Christ, in the form of a host, down the aisle to the Priest. The altar boys nicknamed the hosts Tortilla Seeds because they looked like little baby tortillas…ah, the imaginative mind of a kid.

Strange day, I found my ear glued to the radio for over an hour waiting for the Latin announcement naming the new Pope. The good Catholic boy doesn’t practice anymore so why was I so interested? For historic reasons, I guess.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Cardinals selected Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope; a humble, soft spoken Priest known simply as Father Jorge in his community. He’s the first Pope born in The New World (Buenos Aires, Argentina), it only took 500 years!


Considering the stagnation of the three main monotheistic religions, the selection of Bergoglio is a progressive move. I was hoping for a more liberal choice that would potentially move to align the Church with the realities of today’s society but I do praise the selection, it’s a step forward. Father Jorge, now known as Pope Francis, is 76 and may not be around too long so perhaps this was a calculated transitional choice by the Church as it moves to modernize.

By all accounts, Pope Francis is a man of the people so I look forward to seeing what he does as the most powerful religious leader in the world, especially since he’s from outside the Old World power zone.

Pope Benedict XVI and Politics – Tom Rossi

It was just announced that Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down, due to health concerns. And while he’s certainly no John Paul II, he’s a decent guy (although he didn’t resolve the molestation issue to anyone’s satisfaction, to say the least) and I hope he isn’t suffering too much from his arthritis and whatever other afflictions he may have. However, in thinking about his tenure as Pope, I couldn’t help but think about how involved in politics he and the Catholic Church have become (again) lately.


The Catholic Church was, for centuries, the beginning, the middle, and the end of the political story in Europe. But in more recent times, the church had actually settled in to look more like, well, a church. But during the term (as it turn out) with Pope Benedict XVI (formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) as the leader of the Church, politics have again come to the forefront, even if to a lesser degree than in the Middle Ages.

Of course,the Catholic Church is far from the only large, religious organization playing politics (while enjoying tax-exempt status) – the Southern Baptist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) are also well known in the political arena.


What these groups (and many others) share, is the desire to impose their brand of morality on others. For example, it’s not enough that Catholics and Southern Baptists and Mormons be prevented from entering into a same-sex marriage, they don’t want anyone in a same-sex marriage. These same groups often work for the suppression of science, also.

As I write this, as usual, I can’t help but think, “Well, how am I different?” I want people to follow certain rules of society. I want people to be polite and considerate. I want them to make tiny sacrifices in order to grease the wheels of a pleasant community. I’d sure like it if, when a driver sees a car in the next lane on the freeway put her turn signal on, he would let her merge into the lane unobstructed instead of speeding up to make it more difficult. I think I’ve uncovered the reason nobody uses their turn signal, anymore.

I’d also like it if, when someone goes through a door, he or she would make sure it’s not going to slam right in another person’s face. Life would be nicer if people were just nice to each other. And what if no country or group waged war on another? We could do away with the military altogether, and either keep our tax dollars or spend them on constructive things instead of things whose purpose is to blow up and disappear.Church-and-State

It would be great if owners of businesses paid their employees a fair, living wage instead of concentrating on making enough money to buy a new yacht. It would be great if nobody polluted our air and waterways in order to save the money it would take to clean up their messes the right way. It would be great if everyone just stopped whining and paid their fair share of the taxes that are needed (if sometimes abused) to keep our country running. It would be great if nobody littered the streets with their cigarette butts or Starbucks cups.

But these principles won’t really work (especially the war part) if only a part of the population adhere to them. It would be much better if everyone did.

So there it is.

I think my way is right or better, just like the various Christian groups think their impositions are perfectly reasonable, while the same phenomenon in Islamic nations is so terrible. But I wish people would ask themselves one thing before taking a political stand based on any kind of morality… Is this a principle that will improve our lives, or just some ancient custom that we superstitiously cling to as a proxy for actually understanding the world around us?

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.


Good from Bad – Roger Ingalls

I read an article a few days ago and it gave me hope so I’m going to redirect this post to that story after just a few short sentences. It’s a story about devotion to faith. It’s a story about inner development over outer beauty. It’s a story about ignorance, remorse and enlightenment.

It’s about an open mind and tolerance.

I hope these links below make you feel good and give you hope too.




Religion and Education Don’t Mix – Roger Ingalls

Usually I avoid making negative comments about religion and try to minimize my opinions on various religious teachings. However, I do not believe religion should mould the minds of the young in ways that diminish objective thinking. We should teach children how to think, how to question and how to judge without bias. Unfortunately, religion is taught on the backbone of faith, without question and without compromise. Young minds should be expanded with possibility and not bound into narrow unsubstantiated beliefs.

We need to keep the teaching of creationism out of schools. Let kids learn by experimentation and observation so they can evaluate and then select their beliefs, later in life, with an open and smart mind.

I’m not discrediting religion and do consider myself to be religious, perhaps unorthodox but, nonetheless, religious. I just happen to believe scriptures written thousands of years ago – by men – were an admirable attempt to explain the architecture of the universe in a way that was comprehensible for uneducated people of that time. The “just have faith” aspect was added through the ages to keep the populous under control which carries through to this day.

Organized religion does have its place. It creates community and a sense of comfort and that’s why I still visit a Catholic church every once in a while. It gives me peace even though I don’t subscribe to the naive teachings. Most places of worship are filled with good hearted people.

Religion does not belong in fundamental education; it’s too narrow-minded and inflexible.

Here’s a message from Bill Nye the Science Guy.

The Right to Respond pt. 2

Yesterday, I mentioned the controversy surrounding a negative book review given by a blogger and the reaction of the author, which kicked up a lot of dirt on the Information Highway.

A good friend of mine,  author Lloyd Lofthouse, has an interesting personal story that touches on this. When he received a bad review from a religious critic who didn’t like the sexual connotations in his first novel, My Splendid Concubine, it made Lloyd reflect on what his Catholic mother would have said. You can read his five short posts here – My Mother Would Have Burned My Book.

Lloyd Lofthouse

I found this fascinating, how we can all live together but in such different worlds. My mother-in-law helped to edit Unwanted Heroes (currently in the 1/4 finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) and actually worked on a sexual explicit chapter while she and I sat opposite each other in a coffee shop. Let the record show that the cool, sophisticated one at the coffee table was not the uptight, British author!

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).



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