Saturday, 30 April 2016

50 years ago: The founding of the Church of Satan

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psalms 14:1 (also Psalms 53:1)

On April 30, 1966, the Church of Satan was established in San Francisco; it was founded by High Priest Anton Szandor LaVey, born Howard Stanton Levey, a former keyboard player at carnivals and religious healing services. The "church" uses the word "Satan" to mean "opposer" or "one who questions." The organization doesn't worship the fallen angel Lucifer as mentioned in the Bible, but practices a form of atheism, with Mr. LaVey's book The Satanic Bible (1969) as its "scripture." Those who are so inclined (this blogger isn't among them) can visit the "church"'s website.

The Church of Satan was regarded as the most shocking and extreme publicly flaunted example of evil in the late 1960s and 1970s, but you don't hear much about it anymore. The iconoclastic beliefs and sinful practices promoted by the "church" have passed it and its founder by. As with the sexual revolution promoted by Playboy magazine and its publisher, Hugh Hefner, the Church of Satan and Anton LaVey seem almost quaint, relics of a bygone era. Mr. LaVey died on October 29, 1997 at the age of 67, and the Black House in San Francisco in which Mr. LaVey lived and which served as the "church"'s headquarters until its founder's death was demolished on October 17, 2001. It may come as a surprise to find out that the Church of Satan still exists; its headquarters are now in Poughkeepsie, New York. Peter H. Gilmore has held the office of High Priest since 2001.

The book Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke (1993) by Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott contains an appendix titled, Reality is a Sometime Thing: A Strange Evening with Anton LaVey, an account of the book's authors acceptance of an invitation to the Black House for dinner with Mr. LaVey and his lover and colleague Blanche Barton. The article is well worth reading, a revealing snapshot of America's most famous Satanist in his declining years. The authors conclude by saying:

If our quest had been to discover the real Anton LaVey, here at last he was: a human being on the edge of eternity, grasping after immortality and significance. He seemed very alone and quite deluded...

The Black Pope, hater of humanity...worries about being forgotten, his own icon smashed by time. One had to wonder if perhaps LaVey's entire masquerade was just one long whistle past the graveyard, an attempt to tame evil and take the sting out of death by reducing them to mere objects of "kitsch." But the last laugh was coming.

Jon shook the iron gate--Blanche had insisted we make sure it was locked behind us. We waved to her on the porch, and she pulled the front door shut, securing the black house from the violent world of homicidal nuts that LaVey, with his bubble-gum nihilism, had helped to create. As we headed down California Street toward our car, my partner and I felt a great sadness for Anton LaVey. It was clear that his chain-link fence against the darkness wasn't going to hold out for much longer.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

110 years ago: The Azusa Street Revival begins

On April 14, 1906, African Methodist Episcopal Church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles held its first service under pastor William J. Seymour in what became known as the Azusa Street Revival, beginning the Pentecostal movement. This blogger regards this anniversary as one to be noted, but not celebrated. I don't have the time or energy to catalogue the legacy of the Azusa Street Revival, especially with the increasingly aberrant fruit being produced today. For a small sample of such, click on the "charismania" label for this post; a better idea is to search various blogs on my blogroll, where there's plenty of information to be found.

30 years ago: Pope John Paul II visits Rome's Great Synagogue

On April 13, 1986, Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue in Rome; it was the first such papal visit on record, and another step in uniting the world's religions. As reported by E.J. Dionne, Jr. of The New York Times, April 14, 1986:

ROME, April 13 — Pope John Paul II, embracing the world's Jews as ''our elder brothers,'' today paid the first recorded papal visit to a synagogue and condemned persecution and displays of anti-Semitism ''at any time and by anyone.''

''I repeat, 'By anyone,' '' John Paul declared to ringing applause at Rome's central synagogue, situated in what was once the Rome ghetto, established by the decree of one of his predecessors.

John Paul, seeking to heal nearly 2,000 years of strife between Catholics and Jews, also expressed his ''abhorrence for the genocide decreed against the Jewish people during the last war, which led to the holocaust of millions of innocent victims.''

Called 'True Turning Point'

The Pope's journey to the spiritual center of what is believed to be the oldest Jewish group in the Diaspora was greeted by the Chief Rabbi, Elio Toaff, as a ''gesture destined to go down in history'' and a ''true turning point in the policy of the church.''

''The heart opens itself,'' Rabbi Toaff declared, ''to the hope that the misfortunes of the past will be replaced by fruitful dialogue.''

Rabbi Toaff embraced John Paul when he arrived on the steps of the imposing Victorian synagogue overlooking the Tiber River.

Congregation of 1,000

John Paul returned the embrace and then entered the synagogue to a thundering ovation from a congregation of 1,000 people, many of them descendents of Jews who had been forced to live apart from other Romans.

As a male chorus sang the 150th Psalm, ''Alleluia, Praise the Lord in His Holy Place,'' the Pope made his way down the blue-carpeted main aisle and took his place beside Rabbi Toaff.

In a service that emphasized the equal dignity of the two faiths, the two men sat on identical gilt and brocade thrones and took turns reading from the Psalms. 'Jews Are Beloved of God'

''The Jews are beloved of God, who has called them with an irrevocable calling,'' John Paul said, speaking in Italian and, briefly, in Hebrew.

''The Jewish religion is not 'extrinsic' to us, but in a certain way is 'intrinsic' to our own religion,'' he said elsewhere in his address. ''With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.''

At no point in his address did John Paul mention Israel. Prominent Jews around the world had expressed the hope that the visit might be the prelude to establishing formal diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Israel.

But in a series of strong attacks on anti-Semitism, the Pope offered rassurances to Jews who feared he was backing away from what Rabbi Toaff called the ''revolution'' in Catholic-Jewish relations set in motion by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

Quoting extensively from ''Nostra Aetate,'' or ''In Our Times,'' the Vatican II document that rejected the longstanding belief among many Catholics that Jews were collectively responsible for Christ's death, the Pope declared:

''So any alleged theological justification for discriminatory measures or, worse still, for acts of persecution is unfounded.'' Deplores Discrimination

The Pope said ''the acts of discrimination, unjustified limitation of religious freedom, oppression'' directed against Jews were ''gravely deplorable manifestations.''

''Yes, once again, through myself, the church, in the words of the well-known declaration 'Nostra Aetate,' 'deplores the hatred, persecutions, and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews any time and by anyone,' '' he said. ''I repeat, 'By anyone.' ''

Recalling his visit to Auschwitz in 1979, the Pope spoke of ''the memory of the people whose sons and daughters were destined to total extermination.''

''The Jewish community of Rome, too, paid a high price in blood,'' he said.

And in a passage that Jewish leaders saw as particularly reassuring, John Paul declared that ''each of our religions'' wishes ''to be recognized and respected in its own identity,'' beyond ''any ambiguous appropriation.''

Refers to Pope's 'New Israel'

Tullia Zevi, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said the statement was important because of a recent Lenten sermon in which the Pope had said the ''new Israel'' of Christianity ''assumes and surmounts the former.''

The Pope's statement today, Mrs. Zevi said, ''acknowledges that Judaism has his own identity and has not been appropriated or substituted by Christianity.''

''He sweeps away apprehensions that he was moving away from the letter and spirit of Vatican II and was moving back toward a conservative theology,'' she added. ''He clearly expressed his wish to take up the heritage of John XXIII. And for Jews, this is a very reassuring fact.''

But Mrs. Zevi and other Jewish leaders made clear that they were still dissatisfied that the Vatican does not recognize Israel, and the issue was raised forcefully during the ceremony by both Rabbi Toaff and Giacomo Saban, the president of Rome's Jews.

''The return of the Jewish people to its land must be recognized as an unrenounceable good,'' Rabbi Toaff said. ''The recognition of Israel in its irreplaceable role in the plan of final redemption promised by God cannot be denied.''

Anti-Jewish Decree Recalled

In a moving address, Mr. Saban also referred to the decree of Pope Paul IV in 1555 segregating Rome's Jews. The order, he said, ''reduced those who lived in the ghetto to economic and cultural misery, depriving them of some of the most fundamental right.''

''It was only 115 years ago that this complex of restrictions, enslavements and humiliations ceased,'' he said as a pained expression appeared to cross John Paul's face.

The audience included some prominent Italian policians but was made up almost entirely of Italian Jews. They sat in rapt attention as the Pope spoke, some faces creased in smiles of astonishment at the sight of the white-robed Pope addressing the congregation.

''Behold, how good it is, and how pleasant, where brethren dwell at one,'' the Pope read from the 133d Psalm.

Rabbi Toaff read from Psalm 124: ''Had not the Lord been with us, when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive.''

After the 80-minute ceremony, the Pope attended a brief reception, where he received a gift of a menorah, the ceremonial candelabra. He, in turn, gave the congregation a copy of a Torah from the Vatican Museum.

Meets Key Jewish Leaders

He also met with key Jewish leaders here, including Settima Spizzichino, one of a handful of survivors from the roundup of Oct. 16, 1943, that sent hundreds of Jews to their deaths in Auschwitz.

John Paul also met the mother of a 2-year-old boy killed in October 1982, when Arab terrorists sprayed automatic weapons fire at worshipers at the synagogue, wounding 36 people. The Pope had met with the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasir Arafat, just a month before, and some Jews here said the Pope bore indirect responsibility for the attack.

Also receiving a warm greeting from the Pope was Eytan Ronn, the Israeli Ambassador to Italy, who called the visit ''a good step forward.''

Mr. Ronn said he had told the Pope he looked forward to further progress in relations between the two faiths. ''In my thoughts, there was my own country,'' he said.
Go here and here for other articles on the pope's visit to the synagogue. To read Pope John Paul II's address on the occasion, go here.

On October 27, 1986, six and a half months after his visit to the Great Synagogue in Rome, Pope John Paul II presided over the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy. See my post 25 years ago: Representatives of 12 religions join Pope John Paul II at World Day of Prayer for Peace (October 26, 2011).

For more on the Roman Catholic Church's official position on Jews, see my post 50 years ago: Pope Paul VI promulgates Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) (October 28, 2015).

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

10 years ago: The death of William Sloane Coffin

On April 12, 2006, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr. died at the age of 82. Rev. Coffin, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, became a Presbyterian minister, and later was a minister in the United Church of Christ. He was Chaplain of Yale University from 1958-1975, and senior minister at the liberal interdenominational Riverside Church from 1977-1987. Although Rev. Coffin had been a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1950s, he became increasingly disenchanted with the CIA and American foreign policy.

As a clergyman, Rev. Coffin was known for opposing U.S. involvement in various wars and supporting nuclear disarmament, sodomite rights, and about any other politically and theologically liberal cause imaginable, to the point that he became a caricature of a liberal Protestant clergyman. The main thing I remember Rev. Coffin for was his trip to Iran in December 1979 with National Council of Churches President Rev. M. William Howard, Jr. and Most Rev. Dr. Thomas Gumbleton, Roman Catholic Bishop of Detroit, to conduct Christmas "services" for Americans being held hostage by Iranian thugs at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The three stooges clergymen, known for their liberal views on various issues, had been invited to Iran as dupes participants in the propaganda exercise by the Islamist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. For further reading on this incident I recommend the article Captivity Pageant by Mark Bowden in the December 2005 issue of The Atlantic.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Edmonton municipal census has three categories for "gender" in 2016

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:27

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. Mark 10:6

It comes as no surprise to this blogger to find that the city of Edmonton's municipal census, held every two years, has three categories for the question on gender in 2016: male, female, and "other." At that, it's just in the interest of shortening the questionnaire that only one additional option was added. During the training session for census workers, it was stated that there are now seven varieties of "transgendered" persons. At least, that's the number this week--a new letter seems to be added every few weeks, and it will end up being Heinz 57 varieties, the way it's going. I can't keep up with all these letters, so I just refer to these people as "alphabet" freaks or perverts (yes, they're freaks, and I won't apologize for using the word).

As blogger Vox Day said in commenting on a similar news item on July 14, 2015:

One thing I didn't realize when reading about the historical collapse of empires is how damned farcical it is.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Chaldean Catholic priest in London, Ontario sentenced for gambling away money intended for sponsorship of refugees

As reported by Jennifer O'Brien of the London Free Press, March 29, 2016:

Up to eight London families, and more across southern Ontario, are reportedly out of pocket and the priest they trusted is under investigation after hundreds of thousands of dollars went missing.

The priest, Father Amer Saka of St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in London, is suspended and being investigated by police, with his bishop saying Saka told him he gambled away more than $500,000 given to him by families who thought he was holding it for refugee relatives under a private sponsorship program.

Seven or eight London families from the small church in the city are among those who trusted Saka to deposit thousands of dollars into a trust fund to be used once the refugees arrived in Canada, said Bishop Emmanuel Shaleta, head of the Toronto-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Canada.

“They deposited it for their loved ones. He was supposed to return it when their relative came.” Shaleta said Monday.

“They did not give this money as a donation for their church. Those people are upset now that money is not there anymore. There are people affected, not only in London, but Toronto, Windsor and Kitchener,” where the priest also worked, he said.

“They trusted him, this money was not for him. It was to be given back to the refugees.”

Instead, the government “has stopped all processing” of refugees wanting to come to London on private sponsorships facilitated by Saka, said one member of the London congregation.

“People are sad. There are people who are working all their life to bring their family here,” said the man, who did not want to be named.

“Some people had no money. They borrowed thousands just to get their family from Syria,” he said, adding many in the congregation have relatives in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

The man said estimates of $500,000 are low and he’d heard more than $800,000 had vanished. He said he knows of one family alone who gave more than $70,000 to the priest for loved ones still overseas.

“Everybody’s talking about it.”

Saka, who was also an administrator of the Mar Ouraha parish in Kitchener, could not be reached by phone or in person for comment Monday.

Shaleta, head of Canada’s Mar Addai Chaldean Eparchy, an Eastern Rite church that represents Catholics from Iraq and surrounding countries ,and which is overseen by the Vatican, said the problem came to light more than a month ago, when he learned the priest was participating in the federal government’s refugee-sponsorship program through the Hamilton Roman Catholic Diocese.

Saka is not a priest for either the Diocese of London or the Diocese of Hamilton.

With police tight-lipped, key questions about the case remain, including:

--Whether money was actually deposited with any church for refugee sponsorship purposes.

--Whether oversight procedures, typically tight involving private refugee sponsorships, were lacking.

--Why someone from one Catholic organization would go to another to help with private refugee sponsorships. A spokesperson for the Hamilton diocese has suggested that might be because Hamilton has a large Chaldean community and because Saka’s Kitchener mission parish is located within the diocese.

Saka had been parish priest at St. Joseph’s for about eight years, the parishioner told The Free Press. He called him a good priest who liked to do things with his flock, including play soccer with the men.

London police confirmed they’re investigating after church officials reported more than $500,000 went missing.

“I can confirm that there is a fraud investigation after we received a complaint from the Catholic church,” said London police Const. Melissa Duncan. “The investigation is ongoing. As with any fraud investigation, it can take some time because there are various components to the investigation.”

Saka’s London parish has a congregation of about 100 families, said Shaleta. They’re among about 38,000 Chaldean Catholics across the country.

Shaleta said he hadn’t known the London priest was taking part in the program to sponsor Iraqi refugees.

“I did not know that. I said to him, ‘I know this program deposits money (for refugees), where did you deposit it?’” said Shaleta.

“I cornered him. I said, ‘I need to know where is this,’” he said. “He confessed.”

The priest told him he’d been gambling, said Shaleta.

“Right away, I removed him from the parish.”

Shaleta said he contacted police, took Saka to Southdown Institute in Holland Landing, Ont., for priests with addiction and mental health issues, took over the congregation for two weeks and has since sent a priest there.

“The congregation has nothing to do with this. They are not involved with this,” he said.

Fewer than 100 people normally attend the tiny Charles Street church in London, but the day the bishop arrived to explain things there were as many as 300, said the parishioner.

Under the federal government’s private sponsorship program, people who want to sponsor refugees must raise money to support the newcomers as they get settled.

About $12,000 must be raised to sponsor one refugee, and $27,000 to sponsor a family.

Faith-based organizations often partner with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to help with the process by holding the money, making the application and essentially vouching for the sponsors. The money is used for rent and expenses during the first year after newcomers arrive.

“The diocese says ‘this is a parishioner, we know them, we trust them,’” explained Shaleta.

He said he doesn’t know what’s happening in the cases of the sponsorships that were being held by the London priest, but the bishop said he’s working to ensure the refugees make it to Canada.

“I will do my best to process those files,” he said. “Of course, as a church we will help as much as we can."
October 23, 2019 update: As reported by Jane Sims of the London Free Press, October 22, 2019:

There was no legal way that Rev. Amer Saka wasn’t going to prison for his $1-million fraud.

But, when Ontario Court Justice Allan Maclure sent the 54-year-old Chaldean Catholic priest to prison on Tuesday, he offered Saka some glimmer of hope for his future.

“While Father Saka deserves condemnation for his conduct, in my view he’s also deserving of a degree of forgiveness and hope,” Maclure said in a decision that wrestled with the conduct of “a fundamentally good man” with a wicked gambling addiction.

Saka, who came to Canada from Iraq, pleaded guilty earlier this year for one count of fraud over $5,000 for using trust money that was earmarked to bring Iraqi refugees to Canada to feed a gambling addiction.

So deep was Saka’s gambling urge that at the time he was under investigation for fraud, he was already on the radar of the OPP for his frequent visits to the Point Edward casino where he would gamble large sums of cash.

The Federal Transactions Report Analysis Centre of Canada (FTRAC) also knew of Saka’s large transactions, including using $25,525 in one swoop, and had him on their radar.

Maclure agreed with the defence that the addiction stemmed from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder that had its roots in the persecution he suffered in his home country. His brother was murdered in 1984 and his mother died in his arms in 2005 after she had been shot.

Saka maintained his faith and helped prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Once in Canada, he offered his services to the Diocese of Hamilton and its refugee sponsorship through his parishes in London and Kitchener, starting in 2011.

It appears all went well until federal quotas for refugees were eliminated in 2013 and the priest was flooded with requests from potential sponsors, many of them with cash on hand that he was to put in trust accounts.

The problems were detected in 2015 when the church’s sponsorship office became aware of irregularities in Saka’s applications.

By the time the dust settled and Saka had confessed to his bishop, the Crown estimated at least $936,497 had been gambled away.

Saka said in a letter to the court he was under the gambling addict’s view that if he played long enough, he could win back his losses for the families and for himself.

In total, 33 families and 109 family members were affected by Saka’s losses.

“For more than three or four years, I have been suffering from my behaviour regarding my compulsion to gamble,” he wrote in the letter that Maclure read during his decision. “I lost not only myself but also many of my loved ones and loyal parishioners. It was never my intention to cause others so much pain.”

Amer Saka’s lawyer Iryna Revutsky exits the London courthouse Tuesday on the day her client, a Chaldean Catholic priest, was sentenced to two years in prison for fraud. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

He wrote that he misses working as a priest and had devoted his life to helping others. “Priding myself on service to others, I would never have believed that something that started as a pleasant trip with friends to a casino would have become such a nightmare and personal shame,” he wrote.

His hope was to help others find the joy and peace he had discovered in Canada, but he hadn’t come to terms with the trauma in his life. “When I gambled, it took away some of the horror of some of these memories,” he wrote.

“I miss being a priest. I miss helping people. I worry I won’t ever be a priest again,” he wrote.

Maclure said this was “a large scale fraud. It is an egregious breach of trust.” But Maclure also pointed to Saka’s efforts to get counselling and psychological reports about his undiagnosed mental health issues.

There were also letters of support from parishioners, including one who said Saka sold his own car to help him settle in Canada. Maclure noted many witnesses at Saka’s preliminary hearing held no malice against the priest and forgave him.

“These are the true measures of this man” Maclure said.

Maclure agreed with the Crown that a prison sentence was the only possible outcome. He sentenced Saka to two years, the low end of the range suggested by the Crown.

He also agreed the victims “are among the most vulnerable, displaced people coming from a wartorn country.”

“In many of the events, he took advantage of the high regard he held in the community,” the judge said.

But Maclure also agreed the diocese should have monitored the trust accounts more closely. He was “also very much troubled” that gambling authorities knew of Saka’s gambling, “watched and did nothing.”

Maclure noated Saka’s worry he may never be a priest again. “It would be most unfortunate if that happened,” he said.

“I believe Father Saka is fundamentally a very good man who dedicated his life to others, was traumatized in a way that I doubt many of us could ever appreciate.”

Maclure ordered Saka to pay back the money, but with some hesitance. The most Saka ever made as a priest was $22,000 a year and hopes of him paying back close to $1 million is slim. But the law says there must be restitution.

Maclure suggested he give Saka 45 years to pay , but assistant Crown attorney Adam Campbell argued that would “effectively nullify the intent of Parliament.”

Maclure recalculated his decision to 10 years after Saka completes his sentence. At that time Saka can come to court and request more time.

Maclure recommended Saka serve his sentence in a minimum security prison.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Yoga has yet to bring peace to this recent convert who's now under arrest after getting violent during a plane flight

Only the Lord Jesus Christ can bring true and eternal peace to a troubled soul; let's pray that the subject of this article comes to know that peace. As reported by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher of Associated Press, March 31, 2016:

HONOLULU — A Japan-bound aircraft returned to Hawaii because of a violent South Korean passenger who wanted to do yoga instead of sit in his seat, the FBI said.

The pilot of the March 26 United Airlines flight from Honolulu International Airport to Narita International Airport turned the plane around after hearing that Hyongtae Pae was yelling at crew members and shoving his wife, the FBI said in a criminal complaint.

Pae told the FBI he didn’t want to sit in his seat during the meal service, so he went to the back of the plane to do yoga and meditate. He became angry when his wife and flight attendants told him to return to his seat. “Pae pushed his wife because she was trying to make him stop,” the complaint said. “He felt that she was siding with the flight crew.”

He tried to head-butt and bite U.S. marines who were passengers on the flight and tried to force him back to his seat, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching said at Pae’s detention hearing Wednesday.

According to the complaint, he threatened to kill passengers and was yelling that there is no god.

Pae went into a rage because he felt the flight crew was ordering him around, Ching said.

Ching said Pae shouldn’t be released because he’s a danger to his wife, himself and others. Pae urinated on himself and was on suicide watch at the Honolulu Federal Detention Centre, Ching said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang ordered that Pae be released on $25,000 bond, but with certain conditions including not leaving the island of Oahu and undergoing a mental health evaluation.

Since the arrest, Pae’s wife has been staying at the Waikiki Gateway Hotel, defence attorney Jin Tae “J.T.” Kim told the judge, who asked whether Pae had financial resources to continue staying there after his release. Kim said he’s working with the consulate to transfer more money to Pae’s wife and find alternate, temporary housing.

Chang denied Kim’s request to allow Pae to return home to Korea, because that would involve getting on a plane again.

Outside of court, Kim said his client is a 72-year-old retired farmer who travelled from South Korea to celebrate his 40th wedding anniversary with a Hawaii vacation. It was the couple’s first trip to Hawaii.

Pae only recently took up yoga to help with anxiety, Kim said, adding that he was sleep-deprived during the vacation. Pae told the FBI he hadn’t been able to sleep in 11 days.