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Maxine Beneba Clarke is the Saturday Paper’s Poet Laureate and a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris April 2019

Maxine's Poem

-Maxine Beneba Clarke 2019 

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CARDINAL

In June of 2017, the best-selling book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell

 written by investigative journalist, Louise Milligan, was withdrawn from sale in bookshops across Victoria. Cardinal George Pell had just been charged with multiple historical sexual offences against children. The publisher, Melbourne University Press was concerned that the book could prejudice the case and be in contempt of court.

George Pell has since been convicted of child sexual abuse and is currently in custody awaiting sentencing on the 13 March 2019. Pell continues to maintain his innocence on all charges. His appeal hearing has been set for June 7-8, which critics claim is unfair as most inmates usually have to wait a year or longer before their challenging of a court verdict is heard.

Now that CARDINAL is available for sale again, I can finally post my review. This is a book that is even more relevant then ever, because Pell is now a convicted paedophile. His crimes are no longer just allegations.

One of the complainants Milligan interviewed for the book, whose criminal trial was recently dropped by prosecutors (due to insufficient evidence) has now elected to take the matter forward, via a personal civil action against Pell and other church and state entities, including the trustees of the Sisters of Nazareth (formerly St Joseph’s), the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the State of Victoria.

In another case, the father of one of two St Patrick’s Cathedral choirboys sexually assaulted by Pell and whose allegations Milligan has also documented in CARDINAL, has announced that he intends to sue Pell and the Church following the death of his son due to an accidental drug overdose.

These victims’ accusations, along with many more against Pell and other Catholic clergy, and the resultant cover-ups, are also detailed by Milligan and her research is thorough; searching and reading through hundreds of documents, tracking down and interviewing victims and their families, Catholic clergy, teachers and principals.

So much of what Milligan writes about in CARDINAL is heart-breaking. e.g. Several generations of children abused by the same paedophile priest, children raped by priests at their school.  Pell’s Melbourne Response, which he established to compensate victims of Catholic clergy abuse is heavily criticised and considered dangerous. In one case, the victim was forced to confront her abuser, alone with him in a room with the door closed, before the Church would even consider compensation. And most critics say that compensation is woefully inadequate to pay for psychologists, psychiatrists, medication, etc.

It is very interesting to read about Pell’s rising authoritarianism and adherence to strict orthodoxy which enabled him to make the changes he carried out at Corpus Christi seminary in Clayton. When he was first appointed as rector, he sacked all the staff, and dismantled the strict screening processes for those young men wishing to join the priesthood. Vocations for the priesthood were plummeting so there was a worldwide shortage of parish priests.  All who wished to enter the seminary in Victoria were from then onwards accepted at face value! Someone who spoke to Milligan stated that Pell’s ‘exercise of power was ruthlessly destructive.’ The ‘veritable tsunami of child sexual abuse claims coming at the nation’s Catholic Church’ revealed that Victoria had more paedophile Catholic clergy, and victims, than in any other place in the country, and most of the paedophiles operated during Pell’s time as priest or bishop.

Yet Pell is persistent in his claims that his Melbourne Response procedures were the first to respond to help victims of clerical paedophilia, but this is hotly disputed by several critics of Melbourne Response in the book. The percentage of Catholic clergy in Australia, including Christian brothers and priests, accused of sexually abusing children, as revealed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse, is staggering.

Another aspect of Pell’s governance of the Church which Milligan explores is Pell’s obsession that the Australian Catholic Church would disappear into obscurity because of its ‘egalitarian nature’ and he agreed with Pope John Paul ll that this egalitarian nature would undermine the authority of the clergy! Pope John Paul ll, Pope Benedict  XVl and George Pell,  are now suspected of having covered up thousands of cases of sexual abuse of children by paedophile Catholic clergy worldwide. None-the-less, by the year 2002, Pell had become a true Catholic celebrity; wined and dined by media and politicians, including Liberal prime ministers, by which time he had gained the epithet ‘a brilliant conversationalist’. But so rigid was Pell in his determination to keep the Australian Church within his parameters of strict orthodoxy, that many priests called him ‘Captain Catholic’; the Church’s reputation always came first above all else, including the safety of children. Pell had finally succeeded in making ‘his’ Australian Catholic Church in his own image. Meanwhile, hundreds of children around Australia had been raped and brutally abused by Catholic clergy, indeed were still being abused, and the Church was by this time well skilled in covering up that abuse.

Then in 2013 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established. The worm was turning.

During Cardinal Pell’s testimony at the Royal Commission, he repeatedly denied that he knew about paedophilia in his Church. The Commission’s Chair, Justice McClellan interrupted; ‘We have heard from others that paedophilia has been understood by some in the Church as sexual activity with prepubescent children but not adolescent children’. Pell said he was aware of the distinction.

‘It is not unknown, of course for priests to have engaged in sexual activity with adolescent boys, is it?’ McClellan asked. Pell replied that that was correct. So, although a priest having sex with prepubescent children was a sin and a crime of paedophilia, a priest having sex with adolescent boys was merely homosexuality? The people in the courtroom were reported to have responded with horror at this revelation. ‘So’, Milligan writes:

‘the Catholic Church that lectured to people that sexual intercourse was not permitted outside the bounds of marriage, that had railed against the contraceptive pill and condoms, this same Church had made granular distinctions between how it viewed sexual relations of whatever complexion, between adult priests and boys, depending on their age? Well, yes, it seems that it did.’ This is so very disturbing and goes some way in explaining how the Church has managed to trivialise and cover up the abuse and rape of children across the world, for decades.

The pomposity and arrogance of Pell is evident for all to see. His answers to questions during the Royal Commission, and at other public hearings, were evasive, with deliberate obfuscation and ‘I don’t recall’ replies. This can be attributed to a form of ‘mental reservation’ or ‘mentalis restrictio’ in the Latin; essentially a Catholic loophole in the truth. Many of Pell’s victims are convinced this is how he evades answering questions truthfully, even under oath. It is a theological strategy dating back centuries which involves the idea of truths ‘expressed partly in speech and partly in the mind’. Lying is considered a sin but it is a Christian’s ethical duty to tell god the truth …restricting part of that truth from human ears is okay if it serves the greater good i.e. protecting the Catholic Church’s wealth and its reputation.

The book also focuses on Pell’s propensity to blame others for the Church’s failings in protecting children from paedophile clergy. He appears to readily blame other bishops and priests, whenever he is questioned too closely. Although he often uses the phrase ‘I can’t recall’ when reminded of some particular episode or answer he has given in the past, he always has rapid recall of a name he can use to accuse another bishop or priest of negligence in using their powers to protect children e.g. bishop Mulkearns, who it is alleged frequently asked for Pell’s assistance to deal with serial paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale from ‘Catholic Ballarat’. Mulkearns even travelled to the Vatican to consult with Pope Benedict XVl. When Mulkearns sat down with the pope, Mulkearns asked him for help to deal with Ridsdale. The pope stood up, turned his back on the bishop, and walked out of the room. That’s strict Catholic orthodoxy in practice!

Could Pell have devised and upheld the strict orthodoxy of the Australian Catholic Church in order, not only to augment his own power to protect the Church and its wealth and assets, but also to keep hidden his own dark secrets?

Reading this book shines a bright light on the extreme suffering of the child victims of clerical abuse, and the breach of trust; absolutely no empathy for victims is displayed by the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. There are many people within the Church who do not believe that Pell is guilty of paedophilia, and are certain that the victims are lying and are intent only on destroying the Church. Do these supporters of Pell not realise that they are enabling paedophiles?

In May 2015, child psychiatrist and associate professor from the University of New South Wales, Carolyn Quadrio, gave evidence at the Royal Commission. She is arguably Australia’s most experienced practitioner on the impact of childhood sexual abuse throughout a victim’s life. Milligan writes that the Commission had such confidence in Quadrio’s expertise that it devoted an entire day to her evidence.

Quadrio tells Milligan during an interview that ‘when a member of the clergy abuses a child it can be more profoundly unsettling for the victim than when it is an ordinary member of the community.’ She goes on to say that the ‘trauma of betrayal itself can be more traumatic than the memory of the physical act of sexual abuse.’ Quadrio explains at length in CARDINAL, the reasons for this.

Through her many years of practice, and intense study of local and international research, Quadrio has discovered that there is a distinct difference between the way that boys respond to abuse, compared to that of girls. As Quadrio states in her evidence to the Royal Commission: ‘There needs to be a huge amount of awareness that children who are troubled, are troubled for a reason.’

I recommend this book to all parents and families, whether Catholic, or any other faith, or indeed atheists, because it will not only instruct readers on the evil of paedophilia within the Catholic Church, but it will ensure that sexual abuse of children on this scale, never happens again. That children will be safe at school and families will be more aware of the signs that their child is being sexually abused.

– Anne Frandi-Coory 12 March 2019

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Update 13 March 2019: Today, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced by Judge Kidd to six years in prison with a non-parole period of three years and eight months for historical sex offences against two choirboys. His name has been added to the Sex Offenders’ Register.

I have posted this letter on my blog because it encapsulates so much that women like me, who spent all of their formative years in Catholic Institutions, want to say.

Anne in convent clothes

Anne Frandi-Coory  in Mercy Orphanage clothes aged about eight years old

Letter dated 27 August 2018.

Dear Nicola,

Thank-you for your email asking me to donate a ‘voucher, product or service’ to the Holy Virgin Mary Primary School fete.

Unfortunately I am unable to help as, unlike you, I do not support wealthy powerful corrupt international child sex rings. Supporting an organisation that promotes misogyny, homophobia, racism, violence, discrimination, sex negativity, body shaming and hypocrisy is also something I find morally repugnant. But each to their own.

It’s curious you did not mention the words ‘Catholic’ ‘Christian’ or ‘religious’ in your email asking for donations. One would assume these core tenants of your school’s values would be proudly promoted, not excluded, in order to attract donations from businesses that align with abusing children, shaming victims, protecting child rapists and other ‘traditional Catholic values’.

Supporting an organisation that has systematically and unapologetically sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abused children and adults for thousands of years would damage my reputation and impact negatively on my business. Unlike the Catholic Church, I pay tax, rates etc and have not lied to the poor, manipulated the ignorant, stolen from the the powerless, and sucked up to the powerful in order to accumulate immense wealth.

May I suggest if you are running low on funds you approach the Melbourne diocese for cash. Despite grossly and intentionally undervaluing its property portfolio (under oath) to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Catholic Church is valued at over $9 billion in Victoria, over $30 billion in Australia and more than $200 billion worldwide.

These figures are not surprising considering the average pay out to the handful of brave child sex abuse victims who have had the courage to speak out is only $45,800. As you know this pathetic and pitiful amount is due to skilled, expensive and determined lawyers and a victim blaming culture that has indoctrinated followers with a culture of fear, shame and secrecy, which you enable, and are asking me to support. I’m afraid it’s a no from me.

As a feminist I most definitely could not in good conscience donate anything to a school that bases it’s values around a book that considers women only virgins, whores, martyrs, slaves and incubators, but instructs them clearly “Wives, submit to you husbands as to the Lord” Ephesians 5:22.

I won’t keep you because I’m sure you are busy tending to your dozen or so children as a consequence of not using contraception or fertility control, keeping in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Although it’s likely you have slaves to help you run your household, considering not only does the the Bible approve of owning people but clearly instructs how slaves should behave; “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel” – Peter 2:18.

I assume you don’t work either as I can’t imagine it would be easy to find paid employment when the Bible says  “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent” – Timothy 2:12. But perhaps you work as a presenter on Channel Nine.

Your offer to promote ‘kind contributions through our Facebook pages, our newsletters (school and parish) and our sponsors’ honour board where business flyers and promotional material can be displayed’ would bankrupt me over night.

As for your assertion that donating to your fete ‘is a great way to get your business’ name out there further in the local community’;  having my support would look great for you but would lead to a total collapse of my business and self worth. I rely on my values and reputation to run my business and sleep peacefully at night.

May I share with you one of my favourite psalms that I am sure, as someone who has read the Bible, you’ll be familiar with,

“Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” – Psalm 137:9

Peace be with you.

Yours in the fellowship of Satan Prince Of Darkness,

-Catherine Deveny

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More about Catherine Deveny here: http://www.catherinedeveny.com/gigs-classes-books/

download

Tony Abbott

 

Dear Mr Tony Abbott,

former prime minister of Australia (2013 – 2015) you’re also a former Catholic priest,  who is still a devout Catholic, who has defended Catholic paedophile clergy, and who has not once stood up and denounced the Catholic Church for its failure to protect children! Shame on you, you hypocrite!

You have stated that “we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people [Africans] who are difficult to integrate.” It takes at least three generations for immigrants to truly assimilate in my experience and in the meantime we should give them all the help they need to settle in!

I put it to you Mr Abbott, that if African Australians had raped and destroyed as many children as your Catholic clergy have done in Australia, you’d be out there with the rest of your Catholic controlled LNP government either locking them up or deporting them asap! But instead your own government even refuses to deport an Irish paedophile priest because he might get a hard time back in Ireland.

Irish-born Catholic priest Finian Egan was transferred to Australia in 1959, and he soon began committing sexual crimes against Australian children. The Catholic Church protected him in Australia for the next five decades until some of his victims (with help from Broken Rites) succeeded in getting him convicted. A Sydney court sentenced Egan to a minimum of four years in jail, and this sentence expired on 19 December 2017, when Egan was released, aged 82. According to church law, Father Egan still retains his priestly status (but is retired from parish work). In 2018, the Australian immigration authorities tried to deport Father Egan back to Ireland but Egan is contesting this order with support from church sources, including support from his previous superior in Sydney, Bishop Peter Comensoli. In 2018, Bishop Comensoli has become the new archbishop of Melbourne. – Broken Rites.

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Saying sorry to all those thousands of Australian children raped by paedophile Catholic priests and brothers just does not cut it prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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Malcolm Turnbull, current prime minister of Australia

It is Catholic clergy who find it so difficult to integrate into normal Australian society; who instead have been sexually abusing Australian children unabated for decades. Catholic dogma decrees that once a child is baptised a Catholic it is owned by the Church, to do with as it wishes! And for centuries the Catholic Church has ripped babies from mothers’ arms, sold babies, kidnapped children from native families whose countries they have invaded, forbidden  “fallen women” (unwed mothers) to have any contact with their children! Give me African immigrants any day over Catholic clergy, Mr Abbott.

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UPDATE: As of the 24 August 2018 Scott Morrison deposed Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister of Australia in a coup led by the far right faction of the LNPGovt  which includes Tony Abbott, , Peter Dutton, Kevin Andrews, and Eric Abetz. Time now for Tony Abbott to resign from Parliament, or better still, for him to lose his seat at the next election in 2019.

Also here on Anne Frandi-Coory’s Facebook page 

https://www.facebook.com/myhomelibrary/

 

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Updated 5 June 2017 

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A must read for anyone interested in the background of the three monotheistic religions spawned in the Middle East:

Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Christopher Hitchens’ quotes from the book:

“There would be no such churches in the first place, if humanity had not been afraid of the weather, the dark, the plague, the eclipse, and all manner of other things now easily explicable. And also if humanity had not been compelled, on pain of extremely painful consequences, to pay the exorbitant tithes and taxes that raised the imposing edifices of religion.”

“What is religion, if not political in terms of governing the people?”

“As far as I am aware, there is no country in the world today where slavery is still practiced, where the justification of it is not derived from the Qur’an.”

Read about the blatant plagiarism by Christianity and Islam from ancient Judaism and Paganism, and the violence perpetrated by all of these religions against non-believers. Christopher Hitchens is a gifted writer, historian and philosopher; I could not put this book down once I began reading it. Now more than ever, this is a book for our times, with our world in jeopardy because of the war being waged between the Christian West and Islam.

There can no longer be any doubt that the religious indoctrination of children is child abuse.

– Anne Frandi-Coory

“Merciless…quite comical…trenchant and witty… God Is Not Great is a treasure house of zingers worthy of Mark Twain or Mencken.” – Daniel C. Dennett, Boston Globe

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Are USA, Australia, Secularist or Theocratic Countries?

Although the following discussion refers to USA, it could easily refer to

LNP far right conservative  government of Australia in 2017: 

The Catholic Church, Jesus, Religion in State Schools, Nazi alliance with the Vatican, Islam, Jihad, Christianity

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dawkins_hitchens in conversation photo Newstatesman

Richard Dawkins’ last interview with Christopher Hitchens in 2011 (photo; New Statesman)

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“Never be afraid of stridency”:

Richard Dawkins’ interview with Christopher Hitchens

Is America heading for theocracy?

How worrying is the rise of the Tea Party?

Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins discuss God and US politics.

Transcribed by Richard Dawkins

RD: As an Orwell scholar, you must have a particular view of North Korea, Stalin, the Soviet Union, and you must get irritated – perhaps even more than I do – by the constant refrain we hear: “Stalin was an atheist.”

CH: We don’t know for sure that he was. Hitler definitely wasn’t. There is a possibility that Himmler was. It’s very unlikely but it wouldn’t make any difference, either way. There’s no mandate in atheism for any particular kind of politics, anyway.

RD: The people who did Hitler’s dirty work were almost all religious.

CH: I’m afraid the SS’s relationship with the Catholic Church is something the Church still has to deal with and does not deny.

RD: Can you talk a bit about that – the relationship of Nazism with the Catholic Church?

CH: The way I put it is this: if you’re writing about the history of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism, you can take out the word “fascist”, if you want, for Italy, Portugal, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Austria and replace it with “extreme right Catholic party”. Almost all of those regimes were in place with the help of the Vatican and with understandings from the Holy See. It’s not denied. These understandings quite often persisted after the Second World War was over and extended to comparable regimes in Argentina and elsewhere.

RD: But there were individual priests who did good things.

CH: Not very many. You would know their names if there were more of them. When it comes to National Socialism, there’s no question there’s a mutation, a big one – the Nazis wanted their own form of worship. Just as they thought they were a separate race, they wanted their own religion. They dug out the Norse gods, all kinds of extraordinary myths and legends from the old sagas. They wanted to control the churches. They were willing to make a deal with them. The first deal Hitler made with the Catholic Church was the Konkordat. The Church agreed to dissolve its political party and he got control over German education, which was a pretty good deal. Celebrations of his birthday were actually by order from the pulpit. When Hitler survived an assassination attempt, prayers were said, and so forth. But there’s no doubt about it, [the Nazis] wanted control – and they were willing to clash with the churches to get it. There’s another example. You swore on Almighty God that you would never break your oath to the Führer. This is not even secular, let alone atheist.

RD: There was also grace before meals, personally thanking Adolf Hitler.

CH: I believe there was. Certainly, you can hear the oath being taken – there are recordings of it – but this, Richard, is a red herring. It’s not even secular. They’re changing the subject.

RD: But it comes up over and over again.

CH: You mentioned North Korea. It is, in every sense, a theocratic state. It’s almost supernatural, in that the births of the [ruling] Kim family are considered to be mysterious and accompanied by happenings. It’s a necrocracy or mausolocracy, but there’s no possible way you could say it’s a secular state, let alone an atheist one.

Attempts to found new religions should attract our scorn just as much as the alliances with the old ones do. All they’re saying is that you can’t claim Hitler was distinctively or specifically Christian: “Maybe if he had gone on much longer, he would have de-Christianised a bit more.” This is all a complete fog of nonsense. It’s bad history and it’s bad propaganda.

RD: And bad logic, because there’s no connection between atheism and doing horrible things, whereas there easily can be a connection in the case of religion, as we see with modern Islam.

CH: To the extent that they are new religions – Stalin worship and Kim Il-sungism – we, like all atheists, regard them with horror.

RD: You debated with Tony Blair. I’m not sure I watched that. I love listening to you [but] I can’t bear listening to . . . Well, I mustn’t say that. I think he did come over as rather nice on that evening.

CH: He was charming, that evening. And during the day, as well.

RD: What was your impression of him?

CH: You can only have one aim per debate. I had two in debating with Tony Blair. The first one was to get him to admit that it was not done – the stuff we complain of – in only the name of religion. That’s a cop-out. The authority is in the text. Second, I wanted to get him to admit, if possible, that giving money to a charity or organising a charity does not vindicate a cause. I got him to the first one and I admired his honesty. He was asked by the interlocutor at about half-time: “Which of Christopher’s points strikes you as the best?” He said: “I have to admit, he’s made his case, he’s right. This stuff, there is authority for it in the canonical texts, in Islam, Judaism.” At that point, I’m ready to fold – I’ve done what I want for the evening. We did debate whether Catholic charities and so on were a good thing and I said: “They are but they don’t prove any point and some of them are only making up for damage done.” For example, the Church had better spend a lot of money doing repair work on its Aids policy in Africa, [to make up for preaching] that condoms don’t prevent disease or, in some cases, that they spread it. It is iniquitous. It has led to a lot of people dying, horribly. Also, I’ve never looked at some of the ground operations of these charities – apart from Mother Teresa – but they do involve a lot of proselytising, a lot of propaganda. They’re not just giving out free stuff. They’re doing work to recruit.

RD: And Mother Teresa was one of the worst offenders?

CH: She preached that poverty was a gift from God. And she believed that women should not be given control over the reproductive cycle. Mother Teresa spent her whole life making sure that the one cure for poverty we know is sound was not implemented. So Tony Blair knows this but he doesn’t have an answer. If I say, “Your Church preaches against the one cure for poverty,” he doesn’t deny it, but he doesn’t affirm it either. But remember, I did start with a text and I asked him to comment on it first, but he never did. Cardinal Newman said he would rather the whole world and everyone in it be painfully destroyed and condemned for ever to eternal torture than one sinner go unrebuked for the stealing of a sixpence. It’s right there in the centre of the Apologia. The man whose canonisation Tony had been campaigning for. You put these discrepancies in front of him and he’s like all the others. He keeps two sets of books. And this is also, even in an honest person, shady.

RD: It’s like two minds, really. One notices this with some scientists.

CH: I think we all do it a bit.

RD: Do we?

CH: We’re all great self-persuaders.

RD: But do we hold such extreme contradictions in our heads?

CH: We like to think our colleagues would point them out, in our group, anyway. No one’s pointed out to me in reviewing my God book God Is Not Great that there’s a flat discrepancy between the affirmation he makes on page X and the affirmation he makes on page Y.

RD: But they do accuse you of being a contrarian, which you’ve called yourself

CH: Well, no, I haven’t. I’ve disowned it. I was asked to address the idea of it and I began by saying it’s got grave shortcomings as an idea, but I am a bit saddled with it.

RD: I’ve always been very suspicious of the left/right dimension in politics.

CH: Yes; it’s broken down with me.

RD: It’s astonishing how much traction the left/right continuum [has] . . . If you know what someone thinks about the death penalty or abortion, then you generally know what they think about everything else. But you clearly break that rule.

CH: I have one consistency, which is [being] against the totalitarian – on the left and on the right. The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that’s absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquise the divine and tell us what to do. That has secular forms with gurus and dictators, of course, but it’s essentially the same. There have been some thinkers – Orwell is pre-eminent – who understood that, unfortunately, there is innate in humans a strong tendency to worship, to become abject. So we’re not just fighting the dictators. We’re criticising our fellow humans for trying to short-cut, to make their lives simpler, by surrendering and saying, “[If] you offer me bliss, of course I’m going to give up some of my mental freedom for that.” We say it’s a false bargain: you’ll get nothing. You’re a fool.

RD: That part of you that was, or is, of the radical left is always against the totalitarian dictators.

CH: Yes. I was a member of the Trotskyist group – for us, the socialist movement could only be revived if it was purged of Stalinism . . . It’s very much a point for our view that Stalinism was a theocracy.

RD: One of my main beefs with religion is the way they label children as a “Catholic child” or a “Muslim child”. I’ve become a bit of a bore about it.

CH: You must never be afraid of that charge, any more than stridency.

RD: I will remember that.

CH: If I was strident, it doesn’t matter – I was a jobbing hack, I bang my drum. You have a discipline in which you are very distinguished. You’ve educated a lot of people; nobody denies that, not even your worst enemies. You see your discipline being attacked and defamed and attempts made to drive it out.

Stridency is the least you should muster . . . It’s the shame of your colleagues that they don’t form ranks and say, “Listen, we’re going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements.” If you go on about something, the worst thing the English will say about you, as we both know – as we can say of them, by the way – is that they’re boring.

RD: Indeed. Only this morning, I was sent a copy of [advice from] a British government website, called something like “The Responsibilities of Parents”. One of these responsibilities was “determine the child’s religion”. Literally, determine. It means establish, cause . . . I couldn’t ask for a clearer illustration, because, sometimes, when I make my complaint about this, I’m told nobody actually does label children Catholic children or Muslim children.

CH: Well, the government does. It’s borrowed, as far as I can see, in part from British imperial policy, in turn borrowed from Ottoman and previous empires – you classify your new subjects according to their faith. You can be an Ottoman citizen but you’re a Jewish one or an Armenian Christian one. And some of these faiths tell their children that the children of other faiths are going to hell. I think we can’t ban that, nor can we call it “hate speech”, which I’m dubious about anyway, but there should be a wrinkle of disapproval.

RD: I would call it mental child abuse.

CH: I can’t find a way, as a libertarian, of saying that people can’t raise their children, as they say, according to their rights. But the child has rights and society does, too. We don’t allow female – and I don’t think we should countenance male – genital mutilation. Now, it would be very hard to say that you can’t tell your child that they are lucky and they have joined the one true faith. I don’t see how you stop it. I only think the rest of society should look at it with a bit of disapproval, which it doesn’t. If you’re a Mormon and you run for office and say, “Do you believe in the golden plates that were dug up by Joseph Smith?” – which [Mitt] Romney hasn’t been asked yet – sorry, you’re going to get mocked. You’re going to get laughed at.

RD: There is a tendency among liberals to feel that religion should be off the table.

CH: Or even that there’s anti-religious racism, which I think is a terrible limitation.

RD: Romney has questions to answer.

CH: Certainly, he does. The question of Mormon racism did come up, to be fair, and the Church did very belatedly make amends for saying what, in effect, it had been saying: that black people’s souls weren’t human, quite. They timed it suspiciously for the passage of legislation. Well, OK, then they grant the right of society to amend [the legislation]. To that extent, they’re opportunists.

RD: But what about the daftness of Mormonism? The fact that Joseph Smith was clearly a charlatan –

CH: I know, it’s extraordinary.

RD: I think there is a convention in America that you don’t tackle somebody about their religion.

CH: Yes, and in a way it’s attributed to pluralism. And so, to that extent, one wants to respect it, but I think it can be exploited. By many people, including splinter-group Mormons who still do things like plural marriage and, very repulsively, compulsory dowries – they basically give away their daughters, often to blood relatives. And also kinship marriages that are too close. This actually won’t quite do. When it is important, they tend to take refuge in: “You’re attacking my fundamental right.” I don’t think they really should be allowed that.

RD: Do you think America is in danger of becoming a theocracy?

CH: No, I don’t. The people who we mean when we talk about that – maybe the extreme Protestant evangelicals, who do want a God-run America and believe it was founded on essentially fundamentalist Protestant principles – I think they may be the most overrated threat in the country.

RD: Oh, good.

CH: They’ve been defeated everywhere. Why is this? In the 1920s, they had a string of victories. They banned the sale, manufacture and distribution and consumption of alcohol. They made it the constitution. They more or less managed to ban immigration from countries that had non-Protestant, non-white majorities. From these victories, they have never recovered. They’ll never recover from [the failure of] Prohibition. It was their biggest defeat. They’ll never recover from the Scopes trial. Every time they’ve tried [to introduce the teaching of creationism], the local school board or the parents or the courts have thrown it out and it’s usually because of the work of people like you, who have shown that it’s nonsense. They try to make a free speech question out of it but they will fail with that, also. People don’t want to come from the town or the state or the county that gets laughed at.

RD: Yes.

CH: In all my tours around the South, it’s amazing how many people – Christians as well – want to disprove the idea that they’re all in thrall to people like [the fundamentalist preacher Jerry] Falwell. They don’t want to be a laughing stock.

RD: Yes.

CH: And if they passed an ordinance saying there will be prayer in school every morning from now on, one of two things would happen: it would be overthrown in no time by all the courts, with barrels of laughter heaped over it, or people would say: “Very well, we’re starting with Hindu prayer on Monday.” They would regret it so bitterly that there are days when I wish they would have their own way for a short time.

RD: Oh, that’s very cheering.

CH: I’m a bit more worried about the extreme, reactionary nature of the papacy now. But that again doesn’t seem to command very big allegiance among the American congregation. They are disobedient on contraception, flagrantly; on divorce; on gay marriage, to an extraordinary degree that I wouldn’t have predicted; and they’re only holding firm on abortion, which, in my opinion, is actually a very strong moral question and shouldn’t be decided lightly. I feel very squeamish about it. I believe that the unborn child is a real concept, in other words. We needn’t go there, but I’m not a complete abortion-on-demand fanatic. I think it requires a bit of reflection. But anyway, even on that, the Catholic Communion is very agonised. And also, [when] you go and debate with them, very few of them could tell you very much about what the catechism really is. It’s increasingly cultural Catholicism.

RD: That is true, of course.

CH: So, really, the only threat from religious force in America is the same as it is, I’m afraid, in many other countries – from outside. And it’s jihadism, some of it home-grown, but some of that is so weak and so self-discrediting.

RD: It’s more of a problem in Britain.

CH: And many other European countries, where its alleged root causes are being allowed slightly too friendly an interrogation, I think. Make that much too friendly.

RD: Some of our friends are so worried about Islam that they’re prepared to lend support to Christianity as a kind of bulwark against it.

CH: I know many Muslims who, in leaving the faith, have opted to go . . . to Christianity or via it to non-belief. Some of them say it’s the personality of Jesus of Nazareth. The mild and meek one, as compared to the rather farouche, physical, martial, rather greedy . . .

RD: Warlord.

CH: . . . Muhammad. I can see that that might have an effect.

RD: Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?

CH: No, in a funny way, I don’t worry that we’ll win. All that we can do is make absolutely sure that people know there’s a much more wonderful and interesting and beautiful alternative. No, I don’t think that Europe would fill up with Muslims as it emptied of Christians. Christianity has defeated itself in that it has become a cultural thing. There really aren’t believing Christians in the way there were generations ago.

RD: Certainly in Europe that’s true – but in America?

CH: There are revivals, of course, and among Jews as well. But I think there’s a very long running tendency in the developed world and in large areas elsewhere for people to see the virtue of secularism, the separation of church and state, because they’ve tried the alternatives . . . Every time something like a jihad or a sharia movement has taken over any country – admittedly they’ve only been able to do it in very primitive cases – it’s a smouldering wreck with no productivity.

RD: Total failure. If you look at religiosity across countries of the world and, indeed, across the states of the US, you find that religiosity tends to correlate with poverty and with various other indices of social deprivation.

CH: Yes. That’s also what it feeds on. But I don’t want to condescend about that. I know a lot of very educated, very prosperous, very thoughtful people who believe.

RD: Do you think [Thomas] Jefferson and [James] Madison were deists, as is often said?

CH: I think they fluctuated, one by one. Jefferson is the one I’m more happy to pronounce on. The furthest he would go in public was to incline to a theistic enlightened view but, in his private correspondence, he goes much further. He says he wishes we could return to the wisdom of more than 2,000 years ago. That’s in his discussion of his own Jefferson Bible, where he cuts out everything supernatural relating to Jesus. But also, very importantly, he says to his nephew Peter Carr in a private letter [on the subject of belief]: “Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and the love of others which it will procure you.” Now, that can only be written by someone who’s had that experience.

RD: It’s very good, isn’t it?

CH: In my judgement, it’s an internal reading, but I think it’s a close one. There was certainly no priest at his bedside. But he did violate a rule of C S Lewis’s and here I’m on Lewis’s side. Lewis says it is a cop-out to say Jesus was a great moralist. He said it’s the one thing we must not say; it is a wicked thing to say. If he wasn’t the Son of God, he was a very evil impostor and his teachings were vain and fraudulent. You may not take the easy route here and say: “He may not have been the Son of God and he may not have been the Redeemer, but he was a wonderful moralist.” Lewis is more honest than Jefferson in this point. I admire Lewis for saying that. Rick Perry said it the other day.

RD: Jesus could just have been mistaken.

CH: He could. It’s not unknown for people to have the illusion that they’re God or the Son. It’s a common delusion but, again, I don’t think we need to condescend. Rick Perry once said: “Not only do I believe that Jesus is my personal saviour but I believe that those who don’t are going to eternal punishment.” He was challenged at least on the last bit and he said, “I don’t have the right to alter the doctrine. I can’t say it’s fine for me and not for others.”

RD: So we ought to be on the side of these fundamentalists?

CH: Not “on the side”, but I think we should say that there’s something about their honesty that we wish we could find.

RD: Which we don’t get in bishops . . .

CH: Our soft-centred bishops at Oxford and other people, yes.

RD: I’m often asked why it is that this republic [of America], founded in secularism, is so much more religious than those western European countries that have an official state religion, like Scandinavia and Britain.

CH: [Alexis] de Tocqueville has it exactly right. If you want a church in America, you have to build it by the sweat of your own brow and many have. That’s why they’re attached to them.

RD: Yes.

CH: [Look at] the Greek Orthodox community in Brooklyn. What’s the first thing it will do? It will build itself a little shrine. The Jews – not all of them – remarkably abandoned their religion very soon after arriving from the shtetl.

RD: Are you saying that most Jews have abandoned their religion?

CH: Increasingly in America. When you came to escape religious persecution and you didn’t want to replicate it, that’s a strong memory. The Jews very quickly secularised when they came. American Jews must be the most secular force on the planet now, as a collective. If they are a collective –which they’re not, really.

RD: While not being religious, they often still observe the Sabbath and that kind of thing.

CH: There’s got to be something cultural. I go to Passover every year. Sometimes, even I have a seder, because I want my child to know that she does come very distantly from another tradition. It would explain if she met her great grandfather why he spoke Yiddish. It’s cultural, but the Passover seder is also the Socratic forum. It’s dialectical. It’s accompanied by wine. It’s got the bones of quite a good discussion in it. And then there is manifest destiny. People feel America is just so lucky. It’s between two oceans, filled with minerals, wealth, beauty. It does seem providential to many people.

RD: Promised land, city on a hill.

CH: All that and the desire for another Eden. Some secular utopians came here with the same idea. Thomas Paine and others all thought of America as a great new start for the species.

RD: But that was all secular.

CH: A lot of it was, but you can’t get away from the liturgy: it’s too powerful. You will end up saying things like “promised land” and it can be mobilised for sinister purposes. But in a lot of cases, it’s a mild belief. It’s just: “We should share our good luck.”

RD: I’ve heard another theory that, America being a country of immigrants, people coming from Europe, where they left their extended family and left their support system, were alone and they needed something.

CH: Surely that was contained in what I just . . .

RD: Maybe it was.

CH: The reason why most of my friends are non-believers is not particularly that they were engaged in the arguments you and I have been having, but they were made indifferent by compulsory religion at school.

RD: They got bored by it.

CH: They’d had enough of it. They took from it occasionally whatever they needed – if you needed to get married, you knew where to go. Some of them, of course, are religious and some of them like the music but, generally speaking, the British people are benignly indifferent to religion.

RD: And the fact that there is an established church increases that effect. Churches should not be tax-free the way that they are. Not automatically, anyway.

CH: No, certainly not. If the Church has demanded that equal time be given to creationist or pseudo-creationist speculations . . . any Church that teaches that in its school and is in receipt of federal money from the faith-based initiative must, by law, also teach Darwinism and alternative teachings, in order that the debate is being taught. I don’t think they want this.

RD: No.

CH: Tell them if they want equal time, we’ll jolly well have it. That’s why they’ve always been against comparative religion.

RD: Comparative religion would be one of the best weapons, I suspect.

CH: It’s got so insipid in parts of America now that a lot of children are brought up – as their parents aren’t doing it and leave it to the schools and the schools are afraid of it – with no knowledge of any religion of any kind. I would like children to know what religion is about because [otherwise] some guru or cult or revivalists will sweep them up.

RD: They’re vulnerable. I also would like them to know the Bible for literary reasons.

CH: Precisely. We both, I was pleased to see, have written pieces about the King James Bible. The AV [Authorised Version], as it was called in my boyhood. A huge amount of English literature would be opaque if people didn’t know it.

RD: Absolutely, yes. Have you read some of the modern translations? “Futile, said the preacher. Utterly futile.”

CH: He doesn’t!

RD: He does, honestly. “Futile, futile said the priest. It’s all futile.”

CH: That’s Lamentations.

RD: No, it’s Ecclesiastes. “Vanity, vanity.”

CH: “Vanity, vanity.” Good God. That’s the least religious book in the Bible. That’s the one that Orwell wanted at his funeral.

RD: I bet he did. I sometimes think the poetry comes from the intriguing obscurity of mistranslation. “When the sound of the grinding is low, the grasshopper is heard in the land . . . The grasshopper shall be a burden.” What the hell?

CH: The Book of Job is the other great non-religious one, I always feel. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Try to do without that. No, I’m glad we’re on the same page there. People tell me that the recitation of the Quran can have the same effect if you understand the original language. I wish I did. Some of the Catholic liturgy is attractive.

RD: I don’t know enough Latin to judge that.

CH: Sometimes one has just enough to be irritated.

RD: Yes [laughs]. Can you say anything about Christmas?

CH: Yes. There was going to be a winter solstice holiday for sure. The dominant religion was going to take it over and that would have happened without Dickens and without others.

RD: The Christmas tree comes from Prince Albert; the shepherds and the wise men are all made up.

CH: Cyrenius wasn’t governor of Syria, all of that. Increasingly, it’s secularised itself. This “Happy Holidays” – I don’t particularly like that, either.

RD: Horrible, isn’t it? “Happy holiday season.”

CH: I prefer our stuff about the cosmos.

***

The day after this interview, I was honoured to present an award to Christopher Hitchens in the presence of a large audience in Texas that gave him a standing ovation, first as he entered the hall and again at the end of his deeply moving speech. My own presentation speech ended with a tribute, in which I said that every day he demonstrates the falsehood of the lie that there are no atheists in foxholes: “Hitch is in a foxhole, and he is dealing with it with a courage, an honesty and a dignity that any of us would be, and should be, proud to muster.” – Richard Dawkins

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The 2011 Christmas issue of the New Statesman was guest edited by Richard Dawkins. 

It was to be Christopher Hitchens’ final interview; he died as it was published.

Christopher Hitchens was  a former journalist at the New Statesman

***

-Anne Frandi-Coory  3 September 2015

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The Vatican has advised bishops around the world  of the importance of co-operating with police if complaints have been laid about specific priests raping and molesting children. Bishops were asked to develop guidelines for preventing sex abuse by May 2012.

How can Bishops prevent sex abuse by following ‘guidelines’ unless the priest under suspicion is reported to police immediately and is barred from performing official duties while under investigation?  Neither of these necessary actions have been insisted on by the Vatican.

The communique from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly Office of the Holy Inquisition) made no provision to ensure the bishops actually follow any guidelines, and victims groups immediately denounced the recommendations as “dangerously flawed” because they stress the exclusive authority of bishops to determine the credibility of abuse allegations.  And we all know where that has led.  It seems that this is another release from the Pope to lull the faithful into a false sense of security regarding their children in the hands of priests, while nothing has changed!

“There’s nothing that will make a child safer today or tomorrow or next month or next year,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the main U.S. victims group Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests.

The sexual abuse of children continues:

The communique is being issued at a time when the sex abuse guidelines of the U.S. bishops have been put into question after a Philadelphia grand jury earlier this year indicted a high-ranking church official on child endangerment charges for allegedly transferring predator priests. Four co-defendants — two priests, an ex-priest and a former Catholic school teacher — are charged with raping children.

The grand jury found “substantial evidence of abuse” committed by at least 37 other priests who remained in active ministry at the time of the report. Philadelphia’s archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, initially insisted that no archdiocesan priests in ministry had an “admitted or established allegation” against them. But he later suspended two dozen of the 37 priests. The archdiocese says many of the 37 were accused not of actual molestation but of so-called “boundary issues,” including inappropriate touching or sharing porn with minors — the latter a canonical crime in and of itself.  These are mere “boundary issues”??

How about this for a pathetic excuse: It was explained by a spokesman that the Vatican didn’t make reporting abuse cases to police mandatory because different countries have different laws which bishops must abide by. The Vatican states such a binding  rule would be problematic for priests working in countries with repressive regimes.  Who would the leaders of repressive regimes be more harmful to, the abusive priests or the abused children?

If this is the Vatican’s idea of a ‘transparency drive’, perhaps the Vatican hierarchy needs to look up the meaning of transparency in the dictionary, that’s if they possess one.  The newly published guidelines also outline the different ways that abusive priests can be disciplined by the church’s internal courts [my emphasis]. In “very grave cases”, (aren’t they all grave?) the pope may issue a decree dismissing a priest from the clerical state.   You mean the ‘E’ word?  But this has never yet happened, has it?

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The Vatican Speaks

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The following statement has to be the most idiotic the Vatican has ever released in relation to paedophile priests:

The pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone risked new controversy by claiming that paedophilia was linked to homosexuality. “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia,” he told a news conference in Santiago.   Can we please have the names of these many psychiatric experts, and are they all Catholic?  What about the thousands of ‘celibate’ priests who have raped hundreds of thousands of girls and boys?  Still more questions than answers.

Perhaps The Church’s fantastical teachings has made it easy for priests to delude themselves into believing that they weren’t really having sex with their victims.  It was women, those evil temptresses they had to avoid, as I write in  Catholic Dichotomy of Females.  I cannot believe that the problem is solely down to paedophilia or homosexuality.  It is much more psychologically complicated than that.

More…Vatican, Is It The Gay Men’s Club?

&   Celibacy and Sexual Abuse

&    Paedophilia In Italy

&    Kiss Of Betrayal

(Reuters) – Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest on sexual assault charges removes the toughest rival to French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the 2012 presidential race, bumping up his chances of re-election to a second term.

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Strauss-Kahn greets Sarkozy

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By Liliana Franco, from Washington DC:
‘I admit I’m surprised since within the Fund’s board there are some members that pretend to be more Catholic than the pope by taking a fundamentalist position’, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn said during his first conversation with the press since the beginning of the IMF’s Spring Assembly. Why does this happen? he wondered. ‘For decades this organization said that capital control was like the devil. We don’t want this. We’re fighting against it’.
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The IMF currently admits the existence of some capital controls, even though it staunchly rejected them in the past.

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As acknowledged by the Argentine delegation, countries should take advantage of Strauss-Kahn’s time in office, since there are changes currently taking place within the organization that suggest that the IMF really is interested in working alongside member countries instead of just imposing its own recipes. Of course, Strauss-Khan’s changes are not happening because of personal beliefs. Long ago, he conducted a survey in countries at odds with the IMF in order to listen to their complaints and hear their suggestions. Many people in the organization believe that the recent changes within the IMF have taken place due to the confidential report redacted after the survey.

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“Power Corrupts – Total Power Corrupts Totally”  Do these aging politicians think they are bullet proof?

World News Item:

On 14 May 2011, NY police removed Strauss-Kahn from an Air France  flight to Paris at JFK Airport  moments before takeoff, and arrested him for allegedly sodomising a hotel maid in his room at the midtown Sofitel NY hotel shortly before leaving for the airport. He was held at a police precinct overnight and charged with “a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment”. The maid is reported to be a single mother from Ghana who has worked at the hotel for four years and is said to be well liked.Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer said he will plead ‘not guilty’.

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz, an associate professor at Old Dominion University wrote that the IMF’s limited form of diplomatic immunity known as ‘acts immunity,’ probably doesn’t apply inasmuch as it ‘only covers actions taken in the course of his duties.’

NOT THE FIRST ALLEGATIONS:

In 2007, 22 yr old  Tristane Banon accused Strauss-Kahn of having attempted to rape her in 2002. Banon, a French journalist and writer, did not press charges.  (However, an older Ms Banon is now pressing attempted rape charges against DSK in 2011)

In 2008 Strauss-Kahn was involved in a scandal at the IMF over his affair with a subordinate, economist Piroska Nagy, who was married at the time.   Wikipedia.

World News 17 May 2011:

In February 2007, Tristane Banon was a guest on a television chat show and recounted how a senior politician had lured her to a virtually empty apartment in the guise of agreeing to give an interview and then assaulted her.

In the broadcast version of her comments the name of the politician, whom she branded a “rutting chimpanzee”, was bleeped out, but a year later Banon confirmed to the AgoraVox website that she was referring to Strauss-Kahn.

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn, often referred to in the popular press as DSK, is  a French economist, lawyer and politician, and is a member of the Socialist Party of France.  He became the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in September 2007, with the backing of his country’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy.  Dominique Gaston André Strauss-Kahn  was born 25 April 1949 in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine. He is the son of Gilbert Strauss-Kahn, a legal and tax advisor and Russian/Tunisian journalist Jacqueline Fellus. His family is of mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewish origin.

He is full professor of economics at the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

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Official portrait of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

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Radio Islam:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a leading French Jew that sees the building of Israel in his political actions as proven in his own statement above, has both had positions of influence in France – taking part in the contest to be the new French President – but has since risen to the absolute highest of positions that are attainable; since 2007  this man is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Getting such a devout Zionist in such a sensitive top position must surely have generated celebrations with champagne in crystal glasses among the Zionist circles in Israel and elsewhere. In 1987 Dominique Strauss-Kahn led a delegation of the Socialist Party to Jerusalem, the city he considers is the capital of the Jewish state. And in 1991 he was part of solidarity delegation to Israel, organized by the Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF), in the middle of the First Gulf War on Iraq.

Among his later acts of support of the Jewish state we can note that Strauss-Kahn, among  others, was a speaker at the Annual Meeting of the American Jewish Committee (April 29-May 3, 2008). And when Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008, Strauss-Kahn was one of the dignitaries invited to celebrate the Jewish state.

Political outcomes in France

Strauss-Kahn has a long history of engagement in French politics, he has for instance been Minister of Finance and Economy.

In 2007 Strauss-Kahn mounted an unsuccessful political campaign to secure the presidential socialist nomination ahead of the general election of this year. His challengers were former Prime Minister,  Laurent Fabius and Ségolène Royal. Strauss-Kahn finished second, behind Royal. Here it is interesting to note that Ségolène Royal was married to the Secretary General of the Socialist Party, François Hollande.

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See Sarkozy is a Gaul

Catholic Dichotomy of Women

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