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Category Archives: Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany

Fraud, Fake Non-profits, Tax Evaders. They’re everywhere!

They think they’re pretty slick but someone’s watching.

The Non-Profit and Not-For Profit Tax Dodgers Right Under the New York State Tax and Finance Department’s and the IRS’s Noses!!! What’s the deal? Joe Average gets fines and penalties for a mistake while the real winners get non-profit or not-for-profit status and make the big bucks. But that’s because most of the sheeple simply closer their eyes to the problem, stick their heads in the sand, and keep paying…and paying…and paying! Question: Are you one of them?


Most of us are aware of the various taxing jurisdictions which use the real property tax to raise the money needed for their operations. Every county uses this form of taxation as do the cities and towns within a county. Within towns one sometimes finds villages which also levy property taxes. The biggest property tax bite for most homeowners is the school tax.

Property taxes provide the bulk of the funds required for local government and public primary and secondary education. A large variety of services including road maintenance, police protection, libraries, deed registry, justice courts, building code enforcement, etc. are all provided for by county, city, town and village taxes. The school tax pays the salaries of teachers and administrators and maintains the buildings and equipment required by the school system.

We all know the sickening stories about General Electric and Amazon, and other US corporations and the fact that they get away without paying any taxes. Well, there are plenty like them out there and here are some local examples.

We’ve already reported on a RCS Board of Education (BOE) member and former BOE president, Mr. James Latter, an employee of the Saudi Arabian-owned company, Sabic,  who got away without paying a year’s taxes on his $300,000 + new construction in Ravena. That was because the Ravena Building Department never reported the construction to the Assessor in the Town of Coeymans, who violated the property tax laws by not assessing the in-progress improvements on the property, although you can almost see the house from the town offices. That one instance involving Mr. Latter’s ostentatious new dwelling cost the Town a couple of grand in property taxes, and Latter didn’t offer to make good on it. You can bet your life on that one. [Read our article, “Board of Education Member James “Hadji” Latter: Is he paying his fair share of property taxes?“]

[Editor’s Note: According to the NYS Real Property Tax Law, If you add a room or put in central air conditioning you would naturally expect your assessment to increase. [Note: In some states new construction cannot be assessed until it has been completed and a certificate of occupancy issued. In New York State, the assessor is required to value the property exactly as he or she finds it on taxable status date (to be defined later). Thus a partially completed garage would ordinarily receive a partial assessment.]

So, now let’s look at a local attorney and his slick operations to avoid paying his share of property taxes: George McHugh, the shyster who’s got his hands in everything from p****y to pot. Yes! He’s the same crook asking you to elect him to be Coeymans Town Supervisor so he can make things easier for his keepers, Carvery Laraway and his pot-growing Russian pal, Boris Alexei Jordan.

Did George McHugh evade paying property taxes on his Blaisdell Farm project?

We’re also wondering about George McHugh’s little housing project on the Blaisdell Farm property. Did McHugh get the same tax break on that biggie that Latter got on his property? That’s a little project we’ll be sure to look into over the next couple of weeks. Did McHugh get away with not paying his property taxes on the project because the Ravena Building Department and Building Inspector never notified the Town of Coeymans Assessor of the project?

Jason Tantra, a British subject here on a visa, claims he’s operating his business, Tantra 4 Gay Men, legally in the USA, and paying taxes. Really?

It’s going on all over the place but the real scammers are the ones who manage somehow to get non-profit or not-for-profit status by some slick tricks. One of the organizations that has recently caught our attention because of their involvement with a charlatan from the UK who managed to get a visa to operate a sex-services company in the US. The organization is located in Washington County, New York, near Greenwich, about an hour’s drive from Albany. It calls itself the Easton Mountain Retreat Community and caters for anything and everything for gay men with lots of cash to spare. What caught our eye is that it claims IRS Tax Code 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit offering  — now get this –“ religion-related” and “spiritual development” programs. You’ll have the same reaction we did when we looked at their offerings and their prices: WTF!!!

To put things a bit in perspective, the town of Greenwich in Washington County, NY has a total of 61 non-profit organizations with assets totaling $19,876,829+ and total incomes of $8,395,791. Most, if not all of that multimillion dollar figure is tax exempt, while the rest of us are paying through the nose with property taxes, sales tax, and other indirect taxes that the state calls “fees,” cleverly and sneakily avoiding any word even suggesting “tax.” Same goes for all those add-on charges to your phone and cable bills. Fees but in reality taxes. Add them up and have a coronary.

No shame. They actually ask for donations!!!

Even Albany Medical Center is tax exempt!!! Think about that when you get your next bill! Read below to see what the Tax Code calls a tax-exempt organization and then go to AMC’s profile at Albany Medical Center, and note there’s nothing about real estate development or property management. So what’s the deal with AMC’s owning a huge chunk of central Albany real estate that was once privately owned and residential? Our government at work, people, and AMC’s CPAs and lawyers ensuring that the non-profit can make the CEOs and the board of directors’ payroll.

The Albany Times Union published an article in November 2018 entitled, “Capital Region hospitals earn poor grades on patient safety,” and reported that Albany Medical Center’s grade went from a “C” to a “D”. Other Capital Region Hospitals weren’t any better; in fact, most went from bad to worse! The best performers in the report remained unchanged from the year before. Now that’s pretty crappy!

There are also reports that patients were being infected by machines that should have been junked but AMC, despite warnings and recommendations, continued using the machines, causing a number of life-threatening infections in patients.

And then there’s the horrible story of the young man, Riley Kern, killed in a pick-up truck-motorcycle accident last year by a local, Travis Hagan, that went uninvestigated by the Coeymans Police Department. The young man was transported to Albany Medical Center where he was the victim of a number of ER mistakes; he died a couple of hours after they had their way with him. The documents provided by the boy’s mother after a grueling year of questions without answers read like something out of a scifi horror script!!! We’re waiting for permission to publish what we have obtained. (Read our reports: “We Are Re-Opening the Case: Riley Kern, Young Man Killed in Coeymans Hollow, Sycamore Golf Course,” “Riley’s Song: Verse Two – Update on Our Investigations,” “Riley’s Mom Responds: A Mother’s Perspective,” and “Memorial Service for Riley.”)

Not only was the ER staff incompetent, Pathologist Bernard Ng apparently doesn’t know how to correctly complete a death certificate. Incompetence at every level. What’s even more shameful is that the hospital CEO refused to launch an investigation; swept the entire thing under the rug. 

But Albany Medical Center is the Albany Greed Center! On their website they actually ask for donations to support AMC. NO SHAME!

They actually ask for donations on the AMC website (http://www.amc.edu/)!!!

But back to Easton Mountain Retreat Center as our example of real tax scammers.

Do you really think that all of these organizations should be non-profit or tax-exempt? Click here for a list of Greenwich non-profit organizations. Greenwich Non-profits.

Easton Mountain Incorporated, NY Department of State Entity ID No.  2897573 (Initial DOS Filing Date: April 22, 2003) is a New York corporation (Employer Identification No. (EIN): 01-0778873) NTEE classified[1] as Religion Related, Spiritual Development N.E.C. and designated under the Nonprofit Tax Code as 501(c)(3) defined as:

“Organizations for any of the following purposes: religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition (as long as it doesn’t provide athletic facilities or equipment), or the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.”

Yeah. And pigs have wings, too!

But here are some of this year’s programs. Right from the start we do not see a connection with “religion related” or ”spiritual development” programs nor do we see anything that corresponds to the Non-profit Tax Code for a 501(c)(3) entity. If you do, please let us know and we’ll publish a correction:

  • Best Friends Program (One-year package for multiple “events” depending on availability: $1,995.00 – $3,495.00)
  • Summer Gay Spirit Camp July 29 – August 4, 2019. Offers men a chance to establish lasting friendships in a fun and uplifting environment
  • Spirit Deck Party – Day Pass $25.00
  • Sun Clad – A naturist gathering for men who love men You love to be naked. (4 days, $395.00 – $795.00)
  • SUMMER: Freedom Camp, Gay Spirit Camp, Bear Your Soul Summer Camp
  • WINTER: Winter Gay Spirit Camp, Bear Your Soul Winter Hibernation
  • FALL: Kink Odyssey, Singles Weekend

Incredibly, Easton Mountain claims to be a non-profit organization meeting the above IRS criteria. How does a corporation catering for an affluent segment of the gay male population – Yes! we said “affluent” because Easton Mount is not cheap. Their programs run pretty pricey. For example, a program described as Gay Spirit Camp, which runs from July 29-August 4, 2019, which Easton Mountain describes as a “6-day program” but is actually a 4-day program, since :[t]he event begins with dinner at 7:00 pm on Monday, July 29., “ends with lunch at 1:00 pm on Sunday, August 4.” You have to have some pretty hefty recreational money or disposable income because the prices posted for this particular mid-range event by Easton Mountain range from $595.00 (bring your own tent) to $1,095.00 for “semi-private” accommodation.  A so-called “5-day” event August 6 – 11, 2019, with our friend Jason Tantra, runs the same  You can browse the other programs on the Easton Mountain Site (Source: https://eastonmountain.secure.retreat.guru/programs/, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

Those prices are low compared to some of the events. Now we ask you very seriously: Should Easton Mountain be considered a tax-exempt, non-profit religion related, organization for spiritual development? Maybe you should have a look at some of the other programs offered at Easton Mountain Incorporated and decide. Then maybe you should call the New York State Department of State, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, and the IRS, or just write to them asking how Easton Mountain has finagled the tax laws to arrive at non-profit status as a religious organization of anything under IRS 501(c)(3)!?!

ORGANIZATION NAME ADDRESS CLASSIFICATION REPORTED ASSET AMOUNT REPORTED INCOME AMOUNT FORM 990 REVENUE AMOUNT EXEMPT STATUS DATE FORM 990 FILES
EASTON MOUNTAIN INC
(c/o RAYMOND NIRO)
391 HERRINGTON HILL RD
GREENWICH, NY 12834-5809
Charitable Organization; Religious Organization
(Religion Related, Spiritual Development N.E.C.)
$100,000 +* $500,000 +* $500,000 +* 500,000 +* 03/2005

(Source: https://www.taxexemptworld.com/organizations/greenwich-ny-new-york.asp, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

We obtained the Easton Mountain Incorporated IRS 990 for the Tax Year 2016  — Easton Mountain publishes only their 2014 IRS 990 form filing (the last year available on the IRS site (2016 Form 990 Filing, Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 6-Jul-2018) (Source: https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

Now you know. 

Slick operators, incompetent local public employees, fake non-profit organizations all are eating at our table and getting fat, leaving us to pay the bills. Isn’t it time we split the check? Isn’t it time we demanded state and federal government agencies, including law enforcement, to start taking a closer look at how much tax avoidance and tax evasion is going on and leaving the rest of us to pay the bill? Your tax dollars are paying those public employees to sit on their fat flabby asses doing nothing while waiting to collect fat tax-free pensions!!! Isn’t it time we demanded they do their jobs?

 

[1] NTEE = National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities codes

 

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2019 in 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 2019 Elections, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, 46th Senate District, Albany, Albany County Chamber of Commerce, Albany County Coroner, Albany County Coroners Office, Albany County EMT, Albany County Legislature, Albany Medical Center, AMC, Antonio Delgado, Antonio Delgado, Assessment Review, Assistant DA, Board of Assessment Review, Boris Jordan, Brandon LeFevre, Business, Capital District, Capital Region Independent Media, Carver Companies, Carver Companies, Carver Construction, Carver Laraway, Catholic Church, Church, Church and State, Church of St Patrick, Coeymans, Coeymans Assessor, Coeymans Code Enforcement, Coeymans Industrial Park, Coeymans Police Department, Coeymans Town Board, Columbia-Greene Media, Consumer Protection, Corruption, Daily Mail, Death Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Taxation and Finance, District Attorney, Easton Mountain, Elected Official, Elections 2019, Ellis Hospital, Emily Kern, EMR, FBI, FBI Criminal Information System, FBI Public Corruption Squad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fraud, Fraud, George Langdon, George McHugh, Government, Greed, Greene County, Greene County Attorney, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County News, Hudson Valley, Ingo Tantra, Internal Revenue Service, Investigation, IRS, IRS 990 Tax Filing, James Latter, James Latter II, Jason Tantra, Joe Stanzione, Joe Stanzione, John B. Johnson, Johnson Newspaper Group, Joseph Stanzione, Joseph Stanzione, Lafarge, Lafarge-Holcim, LafargeHolcim, Law, Law Enforcement, LGBT, Mark Vinciguerra, Men who Love Men, Men's Groups, Miami-Dade District Attorney, Misconduct, Money Laundering, Neotantra, New York, New York State, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, News and Information Media, Non-Profit, Not-for-Profit, NYS Assembly, NYS Comptroller Audit, NYS Senate, Office of the Assessor, Office of the Attorney General, Perjury, Phil Crandall, Police Investigator, Port of Coeymans, Pot, Protected Rights, Ravena News Herald, RCA, Reformed Church of America, Riley Kern, Riley P. Kern, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Cemeteries, SABIC Innovative Plastics, Sacred Sex, Sex 4 Sale, Sex Work, Shame On You, Smalbany, Smalbany Articles, Suffolk County District Attorney, Tantra, Tantra 4 Gay Men, Tax Avoidance, Tax Avoidance, Tax Evasion, Tax Evasion, Tax Law, Tax Returns, Taxation, Taxes, The Daily Mail, Times Union, Times Union, Travis D Hagen, Travis Hagen, United States Attorney, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, United States Department of Justice, United States Government, US Department of State, US Senate, Visa, Washington County District Attorney, White Collar Crime

 

Please don’t Mug Me! Just Pot Me!

Think: FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!

Curaleaf: Jordan Laraway McHugh KREMLIN !?!

We can’t produce fresh fruit or vegetables that aren’t rotten when we buy them or are rotten two days in the fridge, or we have to import them from Mexico or Canada, but we can build, maintain, and secure cannabis pot facilities all over the place!

Import Rotten Food but Grow Fresh Pot Locally.
Isn’t that just plain crazy?

Coeymans’ Very Own Russian Connection
The Alien – Jordan – McHugh – Laraway
Russky Collaborator George McHugh is running for Coeymans Town Supervisor. Will he get your vote, Komrad?

Yes! We spend billions a year on rotten fruits, vegetables, and meats and throw about 30% of it into the garbage because it rots before we can us it. But we import all of that produce and much of the meat and seafood, the meat and seafood arriving who-knows-how-old because it’s frozen. China, Mexico, Canada and other foreign economies are gobbling US dollars, your dollars, much faster than we can save our groceries from the transfer station.


Editor’s Aside: Curaleaf is the new name for the former PalliaTech. Boris Jordan is the CEO of Curaleaf. In an Albany Times Union article, the TU reports that the “Albany County Industrial Development Agency’s approval of roughly $450,000 in sales tax exemptions for equipment purchases to get the facility set for production” was OK-ed! Almost a half-million dollars in sales tax exemptions to retrofit a private company?!?!? Who approved that one, Mr Cuomo? Duh! A private company to grow What? You must all be on drugs.


In a personal communication from a local gas manufacturer in Glenmont, he tells us that his company’s major consumer of nitrogen gas is the food transportation industry. They cover the vegetables with inert gases like nitrogen or gases like ethylene dioxide while shipping them so that they don’t ripen during travel. But then, when they arrive at the destination, they go through accelerated ripening and rot faster!!! But who cares? By then they’re in your fridge. (Read about American waste in “Why Americans Lead the World in Food Waste,” — but the article doesn’t cover the additives to prevent ripening during shipping — but a trade article on how to prevent losses during shipping does cover the silent subject in the article,  “Preventing losses and preserving quality in food cargoes.”)

Canada gets the Blue Ribbon for taking care of their own.

We have to hand Canada the blue ribbon for taking care of their people. You see, Canada, with about one-tenth (35 million) of the US population (320+ million) and about the same size in terms of total area with Canada topping the USA in area (Canada 9,984,670 sq.km. vs USA 9,833,517 sq. km.).

But here’s an amazing difference: Canada has 44.5% agricultural land while the United States has 6.8%; Canada has about 17% arable land compared to the USA with about 7% Still wonder why we have to import our food? Oh, you say, most of Canada is woods and snow. Not true! Canada and the USA compare almost equally in terms of forested land: 33% and 34%, respectively. So why can’t we feed our people? Why can Canada feed their people and supply ours? Why does Canada have approximately the same land area but  only 1/3 the agriculture — but still feeds Canada and the USA —, while the US government is paying American farmers NOT to produce?  And why  Canada can produce beautiful produce hydroponically even during inclement seasons, and the US concentrates on growing pot? It’s actually a question of where government priorities are and the Big Plan for the few to control the many (only in the US, though).

You may not be able to afford these but Carver Laraway and Boris Jordan can. Smoke more pot!

They serve you rotten veggies and Chinese drugged up chicken, and provide fresh pot salad, while you’re vaping your cannabis oil they’ve sold you.

Minds like Boris Jordan’s, Carver Laraway’s and George McHugh’s and others around us function almost pathologically: Greed is a disease and excludes all other considerations. As Boris Jordan states in a CNBC interview, and we paraphrase, ‘Why stay in the Canadian pot market with only 36 million potential users when we can come to the USA and have 322 million potential users. The market growth is in the USA.’ We’re talking about pot now. Remember the stuff you’d get arrested for having just a couple of years ago?

Listen to the entire interview (about 6 minutes) at: Curaleaf chairman talks going public in a wild market for pot stocks.

Now greed mongers like Boris Jordan and Carver Laraway, with the help of the likes of George McHugh and Michael Biscone, are influencing legislators to change the laws (to make pot more accessible and put more of your money in their pockets. Don’t you see anything wrong with this picture? They serve you rotten veggies and Chinese drugged up chicken and provide fresh pot salad, while you’re vaping your cannabis oil they’ve sold you. Just listen to the interview above; Boris Jordan unabashedly talks about changing the laws!

Mug me! Pot me!

Americans want drugs; everyone knows that!
Americans are like midnight strollers in Central Park with big fluorescent letters on their backs: Mug me! Rape me!

Americans want drugs. There’s no question about that. The Columbians knew that and cashed in. The Mexicans know that and cash in. Afghanistanis know that and cash in. The Russians know that and are cashing in. Your American job-creators (That’s a joke!) are aiding and abetting the crimes against the American people. Americans are like strollers in Central Park with big fluorescent letters on their backs: Mug me! Rape me!

“All you need to do is trust us. We ask only that you trust us.”

The Russian, The Alien, The Russian-American
Is there a resemblance or is it us?

American business is based on a market economy: Give the market what it wants, that is, supply the demand. Enter Carver Laraway, George McHugh, and Boris Alexei Jordan. Remember the Twilight Zone episode, “We have come to serve you“? If not, let us remind you; watch the episode clip below:

And if that doesn’t amuse you, the clip where a Russian diplomat — interestingly Boris Jordan did his B.A. in Guess what? Russian diplomacy!!! — asks the alien: “Precisely, what are your motives for coming here quite uninvited. Are we to assume that there is no ulterior motive beyond this vast humanity you speak of?” And the alien replies: “All you need to do is trust us. Only that you simply trust us.”

The punch line comes in episode 3:

Government says: If there are laws prohibiting it we have to enforce the laws. That means we need a law-enforcement infrastructure and that costs money. This democratic market-economy so why not provide what the people want and do it legally. So we change the laws to make drugs legal that were once illegal, and government cashes in on the thing. Now if there’s no drug law enforcement, we don’t have to pay law enforcement to control drugs. Right? If it’s now legal, government and private enterprise make money. Right? If it’s legal, we don’t have to spend money on enforcing laws. Right? You don’t need so many law enforcement personnel or agencies. Right? More money saved. You make it legal and the street drug dealers go out of business. Right? WRONG!!! They create new, more potent, more deadly alternatives!!! Haven’t we learned from past failures?

We spent billions in the war on drugs…and lost the war. Now we’re joining the enemy. Nice!

Shocked? You should be.
(Figures up to 2015)

And just a couple of years ago, politicians were getting themselves elected by supporting the so-called “War on Drugs.” The stupidity of it all is revealed in the stats above and in the article, “Time to End the War on Drugs,” in which the argument is not that we should legalize drugs but should curb drug use but that we’ve been doing it all wrong for decades! Nobody in Washington or Albany seemed to read the writing on the wall.  We spent $$billions$$, NO! $$trillions$$ of taxpayer dollars in the “war on drugs.” And, like past wars, we came out with egg on our faces. Since VietNam, we’ve learned one thing: If you’re going to fight a war, make sure somebody gets rich and somebody gets re-elected. That’s the drum to which Washington and Wall Street march. So now we make marijuana legal — a drug that sent tens of thousands to prison and ruined tens of thousands of lives — but now is OK. Do we purge the criminal records of the kids that got caught? Do the convictions go away and does the stigma disappear? Maybe we should be asking questions like that.

We can’t buy a week’s supply of antibiotic to fight an infection without a doctor’s prescription but we can now get pot legally. Oh! Sorry, “medicinal pot.” We still need a practitioner’s prescription. Well, until we get beyond the “medicinal stage”, and move smoothly and legally into the “recreational stage,” like they are doing in Canada. But Hey! Boris Jordan is working on getting legislators to change the laws. All it takes is money, and he’s got plenty.

Sign on a downtown Montréal building.
(Translation: Smoking, Vaping, Cannabis Prohibited)

In a CNBC inteview of Boris Jordan, Carver Laraway’s backer and George McHugh’s financer, Jordan says: ‘In Canada there are 36 million people; in the United States we have more than 320 million people. Where do you think the market is? Where do you think the money is? The market’s in the USA.’

Don’t you feel like you’re being used? Why are the American people allowing themselves to be treated like mudroom doormats? Everybody, Chinese, Russian, Mexican gets to walk all over us. Is that right?

You’ve become the doormat and they’re walking all over you!

 

Happy Independence Day! Everyday.

No Flag-waving, Sunshine Patriotism. It’s all Phony. We are Celebrating Truth, Instead.

Our gift to our readers, followers, and supporters on this Independence Day. From the movie Idiocracy (2006), President Camacho’s State of the Union address:


Editor’s Note: Idiocracy is a 2006 American science fiction satire/comedy film. The film tells the story of two people who take part in a top-secret military human hibernation experiment, only to awaken 500 years later in a dystopian society where anti-intellectualism and commercialism have run rampant, and which is devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights. The main character, Joe Bauers, the definition of “average American”, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for the top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes five centuries in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive. Many in the media and commentators call the film a “documentary” rather than a comedy, and discuss how the theme of the film is actually coming true!


We’re celebrating the REAL America. We’re celebrating the Catskills!

Unlike most journalism and unlike most media, Smalbany is Independent, totally Independent, and doesn’t sell out for cash, ratings, future promises. Smalbany cherishes the guaranteed freedom of press and opinion, and will never abuse that guaranteed right. Smalbany is no slave to any special interest, any politician, or bribery of any kind. No other area print or online media can make that claim. That’s why we are the areas most read and most trusted journalistic source for truth and openness.

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The Smalbany a.k.a. Albany, NY, team wish all of our readers a safe and peaceful Independence Day 2019.

The Smalbany Blog again celebrates their 5th Independence Day, Yes! 5 years already serving the community and beyond. Smalbany Blog confirms and re-asserts their

  • Independence from allegiance to any political party, ideology, special interest, religion, or group; Smalbany’s only allegiance is to Truth and Fairness.
  • Independence from greed and avarice as a motivation; Smalbany does not allow advertising and does not ask for donations nor even accept donations, if offered; Smalbany doesn’t owe anyone anything but justice and fairness.
  • Independence from ignorance and lies; Smalbany never posts an article without checking the facts and looking at both sides of the story.
  • Idependence from hearsay, rumor, or gossip. What you read on Smalbany has been investigated and vetted; that’s how we keep our credibility.
  • Independence from fake loyalty to any flag or national myth; Smalbany is supranational, above any nation or national symbol, Smalbany avoids idolatry and false prophets.
  • Independence from fear; Smalbany knows more than it posts, and keeps the scoundrels and villains in the community and beyond on their guard.
  • Independence from corruption in public services, public servants, elected officials; Smalbany doesn’t ask any public servant or elected official for any favors. This means that the crooks in government can’t buy their way out of their crimes.
  • Independence from any blame or guilt; Smalbany has always maintained the highest level of integrity — and will continue to do so — and has nothing to fear from the powers to be.

And speaking of misinformation, Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed. The actual resolution of independence was made on July 2, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress in a closed session. So why July 4th? The declaration resolution was publicized on July 4, 1776. In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration. But it wasn’t until 1870 that the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees, and only in 1938 did Congress change Independence Day to a paid federal holiday; in 1941 the day was expanded to become a “national” holiday. (5 U.S.C. § 6103). (Source: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th, last accessed on July 3, 2019)

That’s the kind of Independence we at Smalbany wish each and every one of our contributors, followers, readers, and supporters. We wish you all a Smalbany Independence Day, every day!

The Hudson River represents natural freedom and independence. Keep it pure and free.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2019 in 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 19th Congressional District, 2019 Elections, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 20th Congressional District, 46th District, 46th Senate District, Albany, Albany Classis, Albany County Civil Service Department, Albany County District Attorney, Albany County Elections, Albany County Executive, Albany County Legislature, Boris Jordan, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Business, Capital District, Capital Region Independent Media, Carver Companies, Carver Companies, Carver Construction, Carver Laraway, Catskill-Hudson Newspapers, Church, Church of St Patrick Ravena, Civil Rights, Civil Rights, Coeymans, Coeymans Industrial Park, Coeymans Town Board, Columbia Greene Media, Columbia-Greene Media, Conservative Party, Constitution, Daily Mail, David Soares, DEC, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Homeland Security, District Attorney, Easton Mountain, Elections and Voting, FBI, FBI, FBI Criminal Information System, FBI Public Corruption Squad, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Freedom, Freedom of Speech, George McHugh, Government, Governor Mario Cuomo, Greene County, Greene County Board of Elections, Greene County District Attorney, Greene County Elections, Greene County Independence Party, Greene County News, Hudson Valley, Independence Party, Internet Speech, Jason Tantra, Joe Stanzione, John B. Johnson, Johnson Newspaper Corporation, Johnson Newspaper Group, Jordon J. Anthony, Joseph Stanzione, Justice and Courts, Lafarge-Holcim, LafargeHolcim, Law, Law Enforcement, Mark Vinciguerra, Mark Vinciguerra, Miami-Dade District Attorney, New Baltimore Assessor, New Baltimore Democrats, New Baltimore Elections, New Baltimore Highway Department, New Baltimore Republican Club, New Baltimore Town Board, New York, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State, New York State Constitution, New York State United Teachers, News Herald, NYSUT, Office of the Attorney General, Pledge of Allegiance, Port of Coeymans, Ravena, Ravena Coeymans Selkirk Central School District, Ravena News Herald, RCA, Reformed Church of America, Riley Kern, Riley P. Kern, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, Russians, Russians are Coming, Sabic, Sex 4 Sale, Smalbany, Suffolk County District Attorney, Sycamore Country Club, Tantra 4 Gay Men, Terry Hagen Memorial Golf Tournament, Times Union, Times Union, Times Union Blogs, Travis D Hagen, Travis Hagen, Uncategorized, United States Attorney, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, United States Department of Justice, United States Government, US Department of State, US Senate, Washington County District Attorney

 

Why don’t funeral directors just ask?

“This article is not going to endear me to many funeral directors but I’m willing to take the risk for the sake of the best care for the bereaved.” [the Author]

At a recent funeral service at one of my regular funeral homes I was working with a funeral director, who recently joined the team. We had a moment to chat and I asked him why I was not seeing any referrals or cases from him. It was very unusual because the other funeral directors on staff called frequently with requests for services. His answer was a bit shocking: “They don’t ask.” He meant the bereaved families don’t ask.

Well, when a funeral director takes the first call alerting him of a death, or when the family comes in for the arrangements meeting, they shouldn’t have to ask. Part of deathcare is asking the right questions and the religion- spirituality question”, or even “Would you like to speak to our bereavement chaplain about the service?” or “Would you like us to have our chaplain join us at the arrangements meeting?” are among the “right” questions.

Asking the right questions; giving the right answers.
The arrangements meeting.

The fact is, any funeral director should be trained and interested enough to ask all the right questions; after all, the family is coming to the funeral director to have him or her ask the right questions and give the right answers. I have never met a family facing the recent death of a loved one come in with a laundry list of Questions to Ask. Families don’t have a FAQs page when in the grip of acute bereavement! Wake up! You deathcare professionals — if I can use the term “deathcare” these days — need to re-join the care team.

Get it done and move on!

Reason No. 1: Time

One of the reasons for this conspicuous thoughtlessness and lack of real compassion is that most mortuary science programs don’t teach deathcare; they teach the business of funeral directing and how to pass the boards. When a graduate finishes his two-year course, he goes into a one-year residency program with a funeral home, where he again learns the “business.” He has to sell the funeral home’s facilities, their merchandise, the skills of the preparation team, and his time. Of course there are the other items like removal of the deceased, paperwork required by law and cemeteries, etc. But it’s all about the “product.” What the funeral director is selling is turnkey disposal of the deceased, and he’s doing that with time in mind. It’s a question of turnaround. Finish up this case, get back to the funeral home, get the messages and move on to the next removal. All of this involves time.

So the real reason most bereaved families don’t get spiritual, religious, or officiant services is because the funeral director does not ask. The funeral director doesn’t ask because such services are not part of what he sells; he has to get them from the outside, and he calls those costs “out-of-pocket” expenses, because either he has to pay them and get reimbursed or the family pays for them directly. He or she does not ask because a religious or spiritual funeral service takes time — it adds about an hour to the entire program. And those hours add up and translate into dollars, thousands of dollars for the funeral home. Keep the disposal time down to a minimum and feed the bottom line.

The regrettable fact today is that most funeral directors spend very little time with the family or the survivors, the bereaved. He probably receives the first call through a third party answering service, he makes the removal as quickly and cleanly as possible, he sits through the arrangements meeting with the family and showcases his services and merchandise, greets the family and mourners at the door, and stands by during the visitation hours (usually 3-4 hours at most), if any, and stands by and directs the final viewing and funeral (usually 2-3 hours). That’s it. The only direct contact with the family is perhaps 1 hour during removal and during the arrangements meeting. The rest of the 2-7 hours of visitation and funeral operations he’s standing by, ensuring that things go per script, and there’s little or no contact with the bereaved, much less any attempt at bereavement support. That’s the chaplain’s job but what if there’s no chaplain to do that?

Corporate and Factory Funerals Services.

The situation is even worse with the factory funeral services providers like Newcomer and Service Corporation International (SCI and their Dignity Memorial). These corporations work on volume and marketing. They offer “the lowest cost” in the area and then pick up the slack with factory-style services and nickle-and-diming the bereaved with the little “extras.” If your thought the small funeral home operator was on a tight schedule, you haven’t experienced the factory funerals. Because funeral homes work with a time-focus, they are likely to promote the easiest and quickest disposal methods to the bereaved, using the sales pitch that “it’s the least expensive” of the disposal methods: direct cremation or direct burial. Nothing between death and disposal. Grandpa dies, gets carted off and shipped directly to the crematorium, or he gets buried almost immediately. No frills, no time lost. After all, you have better things to do with your time than deal with death. Right? Funeral director gets back for the next case, and the relatives get on with whatever they think is more important than honoring their dead.

Reason No. 2:  Money

While time in the funeral services business may equate with money more than in other businesses, money and expenses factor into this dehumanizing equation.

While cutting quality of services.

But leaving the fact that time is money for a moment, a well-orchestrated funeral or memorial service can be complicated and involve additional costs. Of course, the funeral director does not have to pay those costs but he does have to persuade the family to agree to them and ultimately to pay for them. There was a time when the deceased was laid out for 2-3 viewings: the first was the family private viewing. The next evening would be the visitation viewing when friends and acquaintances would “pay their respects,” and offer condolences to the family. The third viewing, if there were one, would be a public viewing, perhaps with a prayer service, or it would be on the morning of the actual funeral either in the funeral home or crematorium chapel, or in a church or temple, followed by the procession to the place of final disposition. Those days are gone. History.

While all of this added time to the event and locked up the funeral home’s resources for the duration, such a funeral also required additional arrangements (time etc.), equipment (vehicles, transportation, etc.), personnel, and outside professionals (clergy), and even outside facilities (church, chapel). Today’s funerals are much different in terms of visitation and receiving friends and acquaintances: There may be a funeral home chapel service before processing to the place of final disposition. There may or may not be a wake or prayer service or even a public viewing the day before the actual funeral. In other words, the funeral home facilities have become one of the products sold and all other services have been cut to the absolute minimum, including any bereavement support and any spiritual or religious support.

In other words, by not asking or offering bereavement support in the form of spiritual or religious services, the funeral home is saving time and, hence, money. The funeral director saves time and effort by not asking if the family wants spiritual or religious support, and he doesn’t bring up the subject. He thus does not have to plan in the time for coordinating with the chaplain or clergyman nor does he have to tie up personnel and facilities and time for an in-house funeral service, much less an off-site church service.

The savvy funeral director is aware that if he doesn’t offer, the bereaved are unlikely to ask for spiritual or religious services.

There is an exception to this “rule:” Many funeral homes have close connections with a local church or several churches for a very special reason: when a congregation or parish member dies, he gets the body and the pastor gets the honorarium for the use of the church and for officiating at the funeral. This is the one instance where the pastor or the church administrator will promote the services of the funeral director and the funeral director ensures that the church gets the case. That’s why we most often see a funeral home sponsoring a church’s calendar and advertising in the church bulletin. Funeral director and pastor tend to partner and profit by this relationship. Funeral home gets the body and the pastor gets the honorarium. Works well for both. And at least the family gets the appearance of religion or spirituality but it’s just the appearance. We’ve all experienced the funeral service where the officiant clergyman has no idea who the person was but does the service anyway. That’s insensitive and unethical. But it apparently works for most everybody, however.

Reason No. 3: Ignorance

As I mentioned above, most graduates of mortuary science programs learn how to run a funeral services business, that is, the body disposal business. Most graduates leave the program with little or no understanding of spirituality or religion, or even of the psychology of grief and coping with bereavement. They go through the coursework and the motions but what they’re really interested in is the business. After all, it’s one of the only businesses that will always have a customer pool.

I have to ask: “How much can anyone learn about these fundamentally human aspects of deathcare in a mere two-year course that includes business studies, including business law and the legal aspects of deathcare, the basic sciences of death and post-mortem preparation of the deceased, cosmetology, etc.”

Truth be told, many young people go into the mortuary science programs with the best of intentions but then something ugly happens; they see what was once a noble profession from the inside. It’s like admiring a beautiful medieval tapestry and then looking at the back and seeing the ugly knots and strings. What’s more, at 18 or 21 years old, they generally lack the maturity to make good judgments and they have no life experience to fuel any sort of wisdom. They go in as sponges and come out saturated with misconceptions and deranged values. So now you are sitting across from an ignorant 20-something funeral director who is going to tell you all about death and grief! He could be your grandson!!!

Here’s my point: A professional chaplain will have at least a four-year undergraduate degree and then at least a professional degree at the master’s level (masters degree in pastoral studies, religion, theology, or the gold-standard professional degree, the Master of Divinity). For example, a very good friend of mine has a graduate degree in psychology with a degree in literature, and a master of divinity degree, plus formal healthcare chaplaincy training. Most masters degrees require only 12-30 credits of graduate level study; the masters degree in divinity requires at least 75-90, frequently up to 120 credits of graduate level study! In other words, the professional chaplain is likely to have as much training as a physician, and at least 2-3x more training than most graduate degree programs. A professional chaplain is also very likely better trained that the vast majority of so-called denominational clergy, most of whom get their credentials from a so-called denominational “bible school” or from some unaccredited school of ministry. The bible-school graduates are cheap but ineffectual; the real professionals are not all that expensive but are professionals and some ignorant business owners don’t like to get too involved with professionals.

So who do you think is the best qualified to provide acute, short-term, or long-term bereavement support?

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. Many funeral directors are very intelligent, skilled, and compassionate people who have chosen a very thankless, but very essential line of work. While there are some crooks and some very incompetent weasels among them as in any profession, most are very good at what they do: (1) serve the public in an essential role, (2) run a business, (3) participate in important community organizations and activities. From personal experience, I have worked with some saints but have also to admit that I have experienced some real ignorant sickos.

But today the bottom line is unquestionably business success, and that means turnover. Turnover is important in the short term because it provides the funeral director with a lifestyle; in the long-term it shows that the business can make money and, when it comes to retirement time, the funeral director wants to sell the business for as much as he can get. My point is that the funeral director is not trained to provide bereavement support or religious/spiritual support, or even to officiate or to design a funeral service; he’s trained in the business and technology of body disposal and running a funeral home.[1]

Reason No. 4: They don’t care.

While ignorance is not restricted only to the scope of training but can also be observed on the personal level in some funeral directors. It can come into play in other ways: a “not knowing” that results in “not caring” or indifference to the spiritual needs of the customer. Or, the funeral director has a more subtle agenda: he simply does not believe or does not have a connection with spirituality or religion, or he is simply anticlerical or anti-religion, and, paradoxically, he man not feel comfortable talking about the subject of death and spirituality much less even including it in their offerings. He doesn’t care what the bereaved believe, he doesn’t believe that is important.

And then you have the feminist funeral director whose main objective is to make an incursion into what was historically a male-dominated profession. Her self-loathing and hatred of being a woman blinds her to all else, including the needs of the bereaved. Like so many women who enter into previously male-dominated professions, they exaggerate everything, even the insincerity and unauthentic compassion they offer. They have an agenda, not a vocation. But that’s not limited to the funeral business.

That is a problem in many ways but the most insidious way is that they are promoting personal beliefs at the expense of individuals in a very vulnerable situation who might benefit from religious or spiritual support. Moreover, the funeral director in such situations in in a control and power situation vis-à-vis the bereaved, and is misusing that situation in an unethical manner. Again, ethics is not a hot topic in mortuary science curricula, unless it’s basic ethics to keep the potential funeral director out of legal hot water.

If a funeral director finds he does not believe or is anticlerical or anti-religion and, during the arrangements meeting finds that the family has a faith or belief tradition, whether they practice or not, he should refer the case to a colleague who can best serve that family. You can be certain that in the very policy-aligned corporate funeral homes (Newcomer, Service Corporation International, Dignity, etc.) this is not going to happen. It probably won’t happen even in a larger privately owned funeral home group.


This article was inspired by the statement of a funeral director, which in turn resulted in reflection on why an experienced deathcare provider would make such a statement. It is not my intention to indict any funeral director or to paint all funeral directors in the same color, but to make the point that regardless of the reasonable presumption that the funeral director is a business man and, for obvious reasons, must operate a funeral home as a business, there are some essential services that must be offered, even if the client does not specifically or explicitly request them, and which might require the funeral director to make the effort to ask directly, “Have you given any thought to a religious or spiritual service as part of the final arrangements?” or at least to review the death documents to ascertain whether the deceased had a religious or spiritual preference, and then proceeding on the basis of that information. It’s as simple as that.

If they don’t ask, you ask. Period.


This article is courtesy of Compassionate Care Associates, marriage celebrants and funeral and memorial officiants serving the Greater Capital District Area of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Columbia, Ulster, Greene counties in New York. Visit the website at Compassionate Care Associates.


[1] I do know some clergy who are “working clergy,” that is, they are ordained by their denomination as clergy but work in the funeral services sector as “funeral directors.” Depending on the denomination, their “clergy” training may be minimal or it may be accredited by a national or international agency, but they are denominational clergy, that is, they are trained in a specific faith or belief tradition, and are bound by that tradition. They don’t bite the hand that feeds them. A professional interfaith chaplain may be ordained or licensed but he does not serve a specific denomination, and he is most likely adept in several faith or belief traditions as well as in non-religious traditions. That’s the big difference between denominational clergy and the interfaith chaplain. To ensure the best service, the best choice is the professional interfaith chaplain.

Furthermore, the interfaith professional chaplain likely specializes in a narrow field of expertise such as bereavement, crisis intervention, healthcare, etc. Beware, though, of the so-called “board-certified” log-rollers and club members; the board-certified chaplain is no better than the denominational clergyman; both serve a master and that master is not the bereaved or the client! The majority of “board-certified” log-rollers have little or no training in ministry, theology, pastoral care, or religious studies. If you hear the words “evidence based” you know they’re robots. Membership in an organization and that organization’s “certification” keeps the organization in business but doesn’t to a thing for the bereaved. Most are narcissists and incompetent. Same generally applies to most careerist clergy.

 

 

Public Service Announcement: St Patrick’s Confirmation Date

Roman Catholic Confirmation

There has been a lot of confusion and questions in the community regarding the date and time of the Roman Catholic Confirmation ceremony to be held at St Patrick’s in Ravena. St Patrick’s have been less than open and sharing about details regarding the ceremonies and have refused to respond to inquiries about the even. Even parents whose children are being confirmed are a bit miffed about how pastor Scott vanDeveer, deacon Steven Young, and faith coordinator Christa Derosiers have handled the event and getting the information out.

Since we have been unable to get any information from St Patrick’s parish officials, we went both to the St Patrick’s website, where we found nothing but out-of-date information, and to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany website were we found nothing as well. For being such an important event, it seems incredibly hush-hush. Obviously we are more interested in getting the word out than the local Catholic Community or the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. It seems that the local Roman Catholic Church is really proud of their events. That being said, the RC confirmation will be at:

St Patrick Roman Catholic Church
Ravena, New York
Sunday, April 22, 2018
from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bishop emeritus Howard Hubbard
will preside and confer the sacrament

We realize that the day and time appear to be a bit bizarre but we have confirmed those details and it’s really from 6-8:00 p.m.

There is an article about the entire affair at What’s Wrong With You People?!? St Patrick’s Ravena, which gives vent to some of the frustration of parents, friends and relatives of the young people to be confirmed. What more can we say?

Congratulations from All of Us at Smalbany!

 

Roman Catholic Church: Collection Envelopes Determine Good Standing!

We were recently contacted by a reader asking us for an opinion about the question of whether the Requirement of Registration in a Parish and an Affidavit of Good Standing is appropriate for fulfillment of the role of confirmation sponsor. That’s a compound question consisting of two separate questions:

  1. Is a requirement for parish registration appropriate?
  2. Is an Affidavit of Catholic in Good Standing in the parish in which one is registered appropriate?

The second question necessarily follows on the first question.

The Roman Catholic Parish of St Patrick in Ravena, NY, a parish in the territory of the Diocese of Albany, NY (Edward B. Scharfenberger, bishop) has scheduled their Confirmations for April, 2018, and just recently sponsor designates were informed that they were to provide certain certifications as to their “fitness” to fulfill the role of Confirmation sponsor. We have obtained statements from sponsor designates and a copy of the form to be signed by the sponsor designates. In general, the “contract” is rather primitive and a bit late, since it appears it should have been provided to the sponsor designate right at the start of the formation period and not 2 months before the Confirmation! In addition, it contains a number of silly requirements, one of which caught our eye:

“The sponsor agrees to provide:

+ The Church of St Patrick the name and address of the Parish and Pastor where they currently worship;

+ Further provide the Church of St Patrick with an Affidavit signed by their current pastor certifying they meet these requirements:

– At least 16 years old,

– Fully initiated into the Roman Catholic Faith through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.”

The grammar leaves a great deal to be desired and it’s unclear whether the certifying pastor has to be “at least 16 years old” and “fully initiated” or the sponsor. Another problem is that it is the “Church of St Patrick” while we have always thought of the Church as being the Church Jesus Christ, and the church as used in the Church of St Patrick would clearly indicate the building and not the community, the mystical body; properly stated, it should be the “Parish” of St Patrick for obvious reasons. But the document has other flaws.

It raises the question of What business does a pastor have certifying a sponsor’s age? That’s done by way of a secular birth certificate!

In addition, the current pastor must sign an affidavit confirming the sponsor’s age AND that the sponsor has received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation, all of which are clearly proved by the respective certificates issued by the conferring parish, not necessarily by the sponsor’s territorial pastor. So we had a closer look at what’s going on here because something stinks in Ravena, and the smoke of satan is probably coming from the Albany Diocesan Offices.

Those observations are merely a further confirmation of the turmoil and confusion that reigns supreme in the Roman Catholic Church today, and are clearly visible in the parishes.[1]

First, let’s look at what the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, the collection of rules and regulations governing what and how things are done in the Roman Catholic Church, has to say about what a “parish” is — this is an important first step because most “practicing” Catholics don’t have a clue what a parish is.

The Code of Canon Law (sections abbreviated “C.”) defines “parish” in the following terms:

515 §1. A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor (parochus) as its proper pastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesan bishop. [our emphasis]

And c. 518 expressly defines the parish as “territorial,” meaning,

Can. 518 As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. When it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason. [our emphasis]

Therefore, a parish is territorial. As such it embraces all the Catholics of a given region on a map. When a bishop formally erects a parish, he establishes its specific boundaries, and all Catholics residing within those limits are ipso facto (and de jure) members of that parish, whether or not they know it. Canon law does not require anyone living within the parish boundaries to take the additional step of registering at the parish. The very fact that a Catholic lives in the territory of a particular parish is enough to make him or her member of that parish. Canon law does not require formal registration in that parish to be a member of that particular parish. Question 1 is thus moot. A dead issue. No registration is required.

The fact that parishes are by definition territorial does not mean that it is illegal under Canon Law or wrong to require people to register; it may be useful to ask them to register in their parishes for administrative reasons, such as for example, census purposes or for surveys, or for demographic purposes.

In the American Catholic Church the parish registration system has been superimposed on top of Canon Law, but parish registration is not a part or provision of Canon Law. In fact, the parish registration system must never be used in such a way as to contradict Canon Law; if there is a conflict, Canon Law must take precedence. This includes the situation where a local bishop, called the local ordinary, or his staff makes up some “local” law or rule for the diocese; that local rule cannot replace Canon Law or contradict it. Period.

But the question posed is Confirmation Sponsors. On the question of parish registration as regards confirmation sponsors, The purpose of c. 892 and its requirements are merely to make clear that the sponsor of the confirmed person is to ensure that the confirmed behaves as a true witness of Christ and faithfully fulfills the obligations inherent in this sacrament. That should be no problem in theory, but let’s move on.

In the Roman Catholic Church the requirements to be a Confirmation sponsor are the same as those for a Baptismal godparent. As regards the requirements for a person to fulfill the function of confirmation sponsor c. 893 refers back to c. 874 which lays down functions for fulfilling the function of a baptismal godparent, that is, the requirements for fulfilling the role of confirmation sponsor are the same as for a baptismal godparent. According to Roman Catholic Canon law, the requirements for both a Baptismal godparent and a Confirmation sponsor are:

Can.  874 §1. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1/ be designated by the one to be baptized, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;

2/ have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;

3/ be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;

4/ not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;

5/ not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.

In other words, the person chosen by the candidate for confirmation or the candidate’s parents, or both, must be someone who takes his or her Catholic faith seriously enough that s/he may serve as a mentor for the person to be confirmed. In essence, the first requirement then, is the trust and confidence of the candidate and his/her parents that operate in determining the fitness of a person to be sponsor. To abrogate that authority or to demean the capability of the candidate or his/her parents to determine suitability in practical terms would be an affront.

The way records are kept.

Canon Law makes no statement, provision or requirement that the proposed sponsor be formally registered in a parish, nor does relevant Canon Law set forth any criteria or system for determining fitness in terms other than that the sponsor designate be a witness of Christ and a capable mentor. Nor does Canon Law lay down a protocol on how that s/he be examined for his/her fitness to be a confirmation sponsor, but merely states to the effect that the person takes his/her Catholic faith seriously and can be a mentor for the candidate.

Scott VanDerveer, pastor of St Patrick, Ravena.

Steven Matthews, pastor, St John Baptist, Greenville.

Since the Code of Canon Law nowhere mentions parish registration, and certainly does not state or even imply anywhere that a sponsor in sacramental Confirmation must be registered at a particular parish, such requirement is being made an obstacle is canonically illicit and unlawful. In other words, the territorial parish of St Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Ravena, NY (Scott VanDerveer, pastor) is wrong to require an Affidavit of Parish Registration and the Parish of St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, Greenville, NY  (Steven Matthews, pastor) in Greenville is wrong to deny the sponsor designate a letter testifying to the fact that the sponsor designate is a member of the territorial parish of St John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church. If the sponsor designate lives in the territory of St John the Baptist parish, that person, if Catholic is a member of that parish.

While the Code of Canon Law expressly indicates that a Confirmation sponsor must be a committed Catholic, it does not provide a hint of guidance how this is to supposed to be determined, much less proved. This raises the question whether the territorial parish of St John the Baptist RC in Greenville or the territorial parish of St Patrick RC in Ravena have in place a consistent and reliable system to decide who is a suitable sponsor, and how to document that assessment. For the criteria used to test the quality of Catholics, we have to turn to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, and to the so-called Precepts. But those so-called Precepts do not possess the quality of law and are extremely difficult if not impossible to verify (the link below).

The Precepts are a classic example of unenforceable control but the gremlin gatekeepers, the so called “Faith Education” directors use them like swords, but without Church authority or common sense to understand them.

We have to ask: Do the concerned pastors know each of their flock by name and do they have intimate knowledge of what their parishioners’ lifestyle and characters are? Or can we better presume that the candidate and his or her parents are better able to make that assessment? Does the fact that someone appears every Sunday at liturgy make him or her good Catholic, and thus a better sponsor than one who does not? Or is the measure one of the magnanimity of financial contributions to the parish, or the fact that both time and treasure are determinants? Can the pastor even recognize the person by sight? Would those be applicable objective criteria to satisfy the requirement that the person takes his/her Catholic faith seriously and can be a mentor for the confirmation candidate?

Again, an example from the Cathedral Church of St Patrick (Charlotte, NC). Explicit statement that collection envelopes are used to document attendance.

Figuratively speaking, this problem can be restated in hypothetical terms as, “Is the use of collection envelopes the final arbiter of whether a person is a Catholic “in good standing” and competent to serve as a confirmation sponsor?” But that’s not even a hypothetical situation! Many parishes are using collection envelopes to decide whether or not a “practicing Catholic” is a “Catholic in good standing!”

The criterion for Catholic “in good standing”?

Here’s a depraved, reprehensible and embarrassing excerpt from the BAPTISM AND/OR CONFIRMATION SPONSOR GUIDELINES of the Cathedral Church of Saint Patrick (Charlotte, NC), which is by no means uncommon and is representative of many American parishes, in that St Patrick’s makes a number of illicit and illegal requirements:[2]

The sponsor is required to certify this information (St Patrick parish, Charlotte, NC).

and the sponsor’s parish pastor must certify

Do these administrators and pastors know their Canon Law or are they arbitrarily applying a personal interpretation of the phrase, “in good standing?” This has been known to happen all too frequently and with tragic results.

Furthermore, while we know that well-meaning Catholics may work long hours in parish offices and programs for low or no pay, and their “dedication” is commendable, they do play a critical role in the life of a typical parish but – and that’s a really big “but” because they do not hold ecclesial office pursuant to c. 145, they are not accorded by law any spiritual authority over other members of the parish.[3]

The bottom line is that the pastor is the person ultimately responsible for the spiritual well-being of his parishioners, and as Canon Law states, parishes are territorial and all Catholics in that territory are “parishioners” under the terms of Canon Law. Therefore, the pastor is responsible for the canonical, pastoral, spiritual well-being of his parishioners. If he is unaware of a problem or a situation that can transfigure into a problem, it is important that he be informed about it, and that he deal with it appropriately. By respectfully calling the pastor’s attention to such an issue, the whole parish, diocese and certainly the whole Church ultimately benefits.[4]

Figuratively speaking, this problem can be restated in hypothetical terms as, “Is the use of collection envelopes the final arbiter of whether a person is a Catholic “in good standing” and competent to serve as a confirmation sponsor?”

The answer is administratively maybe, canonically NO!

Unless the lay administrators of the Parish of St Patrick have an established system approved by competent authority for determining membership in the territorial parishes of St Patrick or of St John the Baptist, the requirement of certifying membership in any parish is served canonically by the mere provision of proof of domicile, said domicile being situated in the territory of a given parish ipso facto and de jure establishes the person as a member of that territorial parish. Canon law takes precedence over local law in the event of ambiguity, vagueness, over-broadness or arbitrariness of the local provision.

RC Diocese of Albany chief rulemaker, Scharfenberger.

In terms of the fact of “in good standing,” unless specifically stated in clear and unambiguous terms How? in practical and objective terms a pastor is to determine “good standing,” and which criteria are to be applied for such determination, as well as the specificity and reliability of such criteria when applied to an ever-changing and practically protean population of a territorial parish, made even more difficult by the mobility of today’s populations, the arbiter in the first instance must be those who are intimately familiar with the character of the sponsor designate; in the second instance, testimony or reference or direct observation my be called upon to further confirm fitness. Otherwise, any claim to system or protocol that may be proffered by pastor or lay administrator is subject to scrutiny, and likely to be found insufficient, if not illicit or even canonically unlawful.

It is our determination that the territorial parish does not have the canonical authority to require registration of persons as members of a parish, that in virtue of their residing within the territory of a given parish makes them de jure members of that parish and entitled to a letter confirming that fact, providing that they can give a showing of having been validly and licitly baptized into the Church.

As established at c. 874 §1 (CCL) the requirements for acting as a confirmation sponsor are also set forth by canon law, that is, the sponsor designate must be baptized, have received the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, and have been confirmed pursuant the terms and conditions of Canon Law. Furthermore, the sponsor designate shall be 16 years old or older, shall not be not be bound by any canonical penalty, and shall not be the father or the mother of the person to be confirmed. The law also requires that the person shall lead a life of faith but does not provide specifics.

How do you score? Do you know how to score? Are you a “Catholic in Good Standing?

Catholic “in good standing.” There then arises the question of what is meant by a Catholic “in good standing.” It is generally purported that a so-called Catholic in good standing is a baptized Catholic who claims to live by the Precepts of the Roman Catholic Church as promulgated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which derive presumably from the statements expressed or implied in §§ 2041-2043 of the said Catechism. The observation, however, obtains that monitoring those “precepts” for each parishioner is at best daunting if not entirely impossible.[5] Furthermore, even if the precepts were verifiable in any credible way, keeping those precepts would be a question of Pharisee vs tax collector (Lk 18:9-14), demonstrating more technique than disposition (inner forum).

Either the pastor or his administrators would have to take a Sunday mass, reconciliation, Eucharist attendance, and would have to have some method of verifying their ascetic (fasting and abstinence) practices as well. Some parishes have inaugurated a control of collection envelopes to keep tabs on their flocks but not everyone chooses to use collection envelopes and many simply drop cash into the collection baskets. Most persons today would object to such monitoring and auditing practices.

External observation and compliance do not testify to inner holiness by any means and one would benefit by keeping in mind the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, while admitting that the majority in the pews are Pharisees or at best ignorant of anything approximating the so-called “precepts.” Moreover, it is flies in the face of reason to even suggest that the majority of Catholics today qualify even in one or two of the precepts; accordingly, the majority, though living moral and ethical lives, would be rejected by the Church as not being “in good standing.” So, the reasonable conclusion is that the term “in good standing” is not verifiable in reliable objective terms, and that such verification would necessarily have to resort to a creation of an exclusivist, verifiable class of individuals within any parish, perpetuating an already excessively technical and legalistic hierarchical and paternalistic institution that has had its well-earned share of criticism and condemnation, and has tragically resulted in the hemorrhaging of the faithful from an ailing Church. The term “in good standing” is a farce and should be abandoned post haste.

 

The Precepts used to determine a Catholic in good standing are taken from the RC Catechism. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church is “a text which contains the fundamental Christian truths formulated in a way that facilitates their understanding” and is “a ‘point of reference’ for bishops, priests, catechists, teachers, preachers, scholars, students and authors.”   The RC Catechism contains doctrine (teachings of the Church) doctrine and some dogma (universal truths of the Church) but in itself is not dogma![6]

Furthermore, the USCCB notes that:

“By its very nature, a catechism presents the fundamental truths of the faith which have already been communicated and defined. Because the Catechism presents Catholic doctrine in a complete yet summary way, it naturally contains the infallible doctrinal definitions of the popes and ecumenical councils in the history of the Church. It also presents teaching which has not been communicated and defined in these most solemn forms.” (17)

The Catechism is a resource book and may be difficult for the “people in the pews,” to understand. According to the bishops’ statement:

“It would be helpful if the reader had some theological background, but the Catechism itself presents a considerable amount of theological background material.”[7]

Most lay ministers and parish administrators do not have theological or pastoral training; it is also true that putting important decisions in the hands of amateurs is a very slippery slope. Add to that the power dynamics and the political and social forces that are prominent in parishes and we have a very hazardous situation indeed.

Any guidelines or protocols existing in a particular parish must, of course, comply with Canon Law, as must any local law, and must be applicable uniformly and impartially to any given situation, including that of confirmation sponsor. The local ordinary and then his presbyter pastor are the ultimate authorities for determining such guidelines and protocols which clearly do not fall within the purview of persons not having canonical authority to promulgate or to interpret such guidelines or protocols.

If a question or problem should arise with regard to the provisions of canon law or to local laws, guidelines, or rules licitly, lawfully, and validly promulgated and ratified, such question or problem should be consigned to the parish pastor in the first instance for resolution. Pursuant to c. 145 and c. 519, lay persons or lay administrators do not have canonical authority in such spiritual matters.

The pastoral, spiritual, administrative procedures in the individual locales use to interview, screen, assess, guide, instruct, mentor, or otherwise prepare sponsor designates for their role as sponsor is beyond the question posed, and are thus beyond the scope of this opinion. That statement notwithstanding, the fact that they are beyond the scope of this opinion does not in any way detract from their importance nor from the responsibility of the parochial ecclesial officers to ensure that such procedures are in place and are implemented objectively and impartially, and that the associated lay ministers and administrators are adequately discerned, formed and mentored to ensure the well-being of confirmation candidates and their sponsor designates.

And the result is bad disciples!

Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger demonstrating the virtue of poverty. A bit too theatrical and ostentatious to be convincing, or to our taste. Whom does he think he’s fooling, anyway?


Notes

[1] The parish of St Patrick in Ravena has a number of problems not the least of which is their website which is an indicator of the lack of professionalism and care that one would expect. For example, there is a page entitled “We have come such a long way in a relatively short period of time!  Take a look at our History! / St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Parish began as a mission church in 1859 where the Church overlooked the Hudson River in Coeymans.  In 1917 it was rebuilt at it’s [sic] current site on Main St in Ravena / So who were our Pastors?” That page shows a series of images of a man’s headshot; apparently all the pastors were look alike clones. The Hudson River is not all that the parish of St Patrick in Ravena overlooked. Maybe pastor Scott VanDerveer should spend some time checking his minions’ work and grammar. It’s an embarrassment.

[2] Isn’t it an interesting coincidence that the local parish of St Patrick in Ravena, NY, should share the same deficiencies as the parish of the same name, St Patrick, in Charlotte, NC? What does that tell you?

[3] Can. 145 §1. An ecclesiastical office is any function constituted in a stable manner by divine or ecclesiastical ordinance to be exercised for a spiritual purpose. Further, at  §2., the Code states “The obligations and rights proper to individual ecclesiastical offices are defined either in the law by which the office is constituted or in the decree of the competent authority by which the office is at the same time constituted and conferred.”

[4] C. 519 The pastor (parochus) is the proper pastor (pastor) of the parish entrusted to him, exercising the pastoral care of the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, also with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful, according to the norm of law. [emphasis provided]

[5] Appendix I, Catholic Catechism, Precepts

[6] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “Frequently Asked Questions about the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church.cfm last accessed on February

[7] Having made that statement, I would like to ask the bishops Who is to decide or determine what is what in the Catechism? Without formation and training it is a hopeless task for the lay person to discern what is doctrine, what is dogma, what is theology, etc. The whole statement is a collection of ecclesial double-talk!

 

Who are the Thought Police in Your Community? Do you know?

“As members of a community, even as citizens of a nation, we are frequently exposed to and have to cope with what is known as groupthink, a phenomenon that may seriously compromise our image of ourselves, our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, community leaders, and may also compromise our moral rights of personal dignity and autonomy. And yet, groupthink is precisely what underlies much of our “training” in how to be good citizens and in the so-called education programs and our social organizations, and is pandemic in most of the institutions in which we work. Groupthink,  shamefully, has been a part of our religious institutions since time immemorial. Agendizing, brainwashing, programming.”

Anonymous Contributor.

We, as citizens, as members of our community, parents and educators, as human beings we are told that we have an inherent and guaranteed right to speak freely and openly about most subjects without the stigma that might apply to a person living and working in a different country. We would like to think that people, especially our elected leaders and our educators, tend to listen to us and give some weight and importance to what we have to say; consequently, we can and should play an important and proactive role in deciding how we live, work and are governed, and in order to do this, we must make our leaders aware that we are aware of the groupthink phenomenon, its dangers and risks, and implement ways of avoiding this insidious, infectious, and fatal phenomenon in our communities and in our lives. Once people are made aware of the groupthink phenomenon and ways to identify it and prevent it, we are on the path to reclaiming the efficacy and authenticity we once enjoyed but lost in the wake of the development of corporate control of our institutions and the chilling of interpersonal relations by online social media.

Groupthink.[1] It’s everywhere and it’s toxic! It’s dehumanizing. It perpetuates lies and factoids. Yet you love it! It makes things so much easier when you don’t have to use your own brain and you allow yourself to be programmed to think, speak, act, perform according to the in-group’s agenda.

Irving Janus mainstreamed the term in 1982. [2] According to Janis, groupthink

“[h]appens when in-group pressures lead to deterioration in mental efficiency, poor testing of reality, and lax moral judgment. It tends to occur in highly cohesive groups in which the group members’ desire for consensus becomes more important than evaluating problems and solutions realistically. An example would be the top executive cabinet (the president and vice presidents) of a firm, who have worked together for many years. They know each other well and think as a cohesive unit rather than as a collection of individuals.” [my italics]

We can find groupthink in our workplaces, churches, schools, social media, government, and Yes! even in our homes.

Janis identified eight symptoms of groupthink, which are noteworthy and which I will briefly describe below.[3] Persons affected by groupthink may exhibit any of these symptoms:

  1. An experience of the illusion of invulnerability. This illusion produces an unreal sense of optimism and the sense of empowerment to take risks, sometimes extreme, which the individual would not otherwise take.
  2. Acceptance of a collective rationalization. The individual ignores the red flags and warnings and refuse to reassess their biases, prejudices and assumptions regarding reality.
  3. Belief in the inherent morality of the group. The individual and members of the group are convinced of the righteousness of their beliefs and become indifferent to the ethical or moral effects and consequences of the group’s decisions and actions.
  4. Establishment and adoption of stereotypes of out-groups. Stereotypes are a facile way of dealing with the “others” and do not require thinking or decision-making. De rigueur negative presumptions and characterizations of the “enemy” render rational and effective responses to conflict unnecessary. Cookie-cutter responses are the result.
  5. The imposition of direct pressure on dissenters. Any deviation from the presumptions and dictates of the group results in sanctions. Individuals, group members are discouraged from expressing alternative views, or representing positions conflicting any of the group’s views.
  6. Requirement of self-censorship. The individual and members of the group are required to ensure that any questions, doubts and deviations from the group’s “consensus,” program, or agenda are not expressed. The individual must “watch his/her mouth” or be sanctioned.
  7. The illusion of unanimity. The views and judgments, decisions and actions of the “group” or of the group’s statutory and declared leader(s) and majority are assumed to be unanimous, justified and reliable.
  8. The presence of self-appointed ‘mindguards’. Certain members isolate and “protect” the group and its leader(s) from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions. These are the “thought police” who ensure that any information that can potentially threaten the group or its leaders is filtered out and neutralized.

In other words, the phenomenon of groupthink seems to have grown out of and fits perfectly into the framework of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” with its implications of superpower invulnerability, collective processing of carefully cooked data and information, a sense of moral superiority of the group’s decisions and actions, the facile handling of non-members by the application of stereotypes, direct suppression and sanctioning of any opposing thought or expression — the individual “watches his mouth” to avoid attracting attention to himself and possible sanctioning —, all communications and indicators seem to indicate that “everyone is on the same page” and “stands united.”  Finally, the self-appointed “mindguards,” the Orwellian “thought police,” ensure that everyone toes the mark, knows his place, and follows the “party line.” Sounds awfully much like PC, political correctness, doesn’t it?

The Thought Police or Mindguards ensure that you don’t think out of the box.

As I mentioned above, groupthink is easily observed in our schools, churches, public servants, social groups, the workplace, etc.

Here’s an example that comes from my college days when I worked as an encyclopedia salesperson. We were trained to ask potential purchasers questions that they could not disagree with, such as, for example: “You do care about your children’s education, don’t you?” or “You want your children to have the best available information for school, don’t you?” Once they answered in the affirmative, they were cooked. It was sort of like asking a veteran the question, “You do love your country, don’t you?” Or a clergyperson asking a dissenter, “You do believe in God, don’t you?” Ask those sorts of questions and you get a commitment to groupthink; the rest follows once the individual is on the slippery slope to group membership, willingly or not.

It’s certainly easy enough to self-test yourself by asking yourself if any of the above symptoms could possibly apply to you…but be aware of the sneaky symptom of “self-censorship” because you might actually be unaware that you are self-censoring; you may actually believe that what you say you believe is in fact what you believe. (Please go back and reread that last part. It’s important and you really didn’t understand it, did you?!)

Everyone connected to the same “brain”, the core-group’s!

Here’s a real example: I was at my fitness center and struck up a conversation with a guy who was working on a neighboring piece of equipment. The conversation started out on muscle groups and doping, use of anabolic steroids, doping scandals, and how natural fitness was desirable over and against taking performance enhancers. The conversation drifted to the inquiry, “What do you do?” The guy was intelligent, apparently well-read in the subject of performance enhancers in athletes, and was no dummy. He responded by telling me he was a “personal income tax auditor” for the state of New York. What followed was a textbook example of groupthink. He commenced by telling me how interesting his job was because he was making sure everyone stayed honest. Everyone should pay taxes. Not everyone was honest, some people were honest but ignorant. The tax department and auditors were there to protect the public. He was happy doing what he was doing, and he liked his work. He was protecting honest citizens from the crooks and the parasites. New York state took care of its people unlike those states with no personal income tax, states that provided sanctuary to people who want to keep their fortunes but not share by paying personal income taxes. Basically, you can’t argue with this guy because what he is saying is superficially true, ethical and moral. But, and there’s the clincher, his thinking from one subject to the other was schizoid! He was very individualized, independent, even liberal when discussing the social and personal impact of performance enhancers on non-professional vs. professional athletes, and the use of performance enhancers in the guy-next-door who works out to stay healthy or attractive. His lock-step “tax department” jargon and speech, almost soapbox preaching, was groupspeak, the product of groupthink. Can you identify the symptoms?

Here are two more examples I found on a professional networking site, LinkedIn, which is slowly morphing into a Facebook-type social media space. Whereas LinkedIn was originally intended to be a forum facilitating networking among professionals, the parasites slowly infiltrated and started their social justice preaching and religious proselytizing.

One characteristic of social justice and religion is that both are fertile ground for a bumper crop of groupthinkers. Example 1: Social Justice. This example is remarkable because it is so homogeneous in the majority responses and because of the sheer number of responses: 5,013 Likes, 321 comments! Synopsis: A young woman with Down’s syndrome appears in what is obviously a staged video, in which she receives a call from a fast-food chain, Chik-Fil-A, in which she is offered a job paying $11.50/h. It is her first real job and she is elated at the offer and accepts.

The groupthink: Actual comments: “Awesome!” “Wonderful!””Isn’t Chik-Fil-A a great company!””The story brought tears to my eyes!” “It made my day! We need more stories like this!” But many of the comments were condescending: They mentioned “learning disability” and how remarkable it was that this young woman had “won,” how employment “is a right,” and other misguided slogans associated with what we know as PC but was described by Janis as groupthink. The censorship/sanction/thought police action: A commenter posted some reasonable, dissenting, conflicting thoughts about the reality of the situation in terms of stereotyping highly functional Down’s syndrome  persons as having “learning disabilities,” a bucket term that stereotyped them unfairly. That she was hired on her merits and if she didn’t have what Chick-Fil-A needed and wanted, she would not have gotten the call. That Down’s syndrome persons are highly desirable in service jobs with customer contact because of their personality characteristics, as was pioneered by McDonald’s some time ago, and that these corporations are exploiting vulnerable persons with Down’s syndrome because they are perfect for these low-paying jobs, and it creates a very positive social image for the corporation, so-called “organizational health.” (See the McKinsey report below.)

Needless to say, the “mindguards” were quick to respond, and butchered the commentor for being “a Grinch,” for not “caring” and for his “dripping sarcasm.” Not a single comment out of more than 300 comments and replies accepted the truth of what the commenter wrote; almost all condemned him for not sharing the majority’s groupthink. (Click here to read the actual comments made by the commenter and some of the replies.)[4]

The value of hiring persons with Down syndrome is not lost on the corporations![5]

The economic benefits of hiring persons with intellectual challenges is not lost on the corporations, as is demonstrated by the McKinsey report[6], but we’re not supposed to talk about the dark side of Julia’s hiring because the group think won’t allow anyone to pop their bubble of denial or distract them from their happy, be nice, love fest by suggesting reality. That’s groupthink.

Here’s another from the same site, LinkedIn. This time it was a religious fanatic known popularly as a “Jesus-freak,” someone who posts an inflammatory statement about how Jesus is the truth and everything else is a lie. First of all, such posts are more Facebook quality and have nothing to do with professional networking, so it shouldn’t have been on LinkedIn in the first place. So the original post by one David Wood, who describes himself as the “Executive Producer Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Resurrection of Jesus Christ LLC, School Of Hard Knocks,” and his project as:

“The Resurrection Project unites the Body of Christ, to launch a global love movement, a feature length movie, and a video game, and tell the story of Jesus’ Christ resurrection and the 40 days that followed. “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” is the greatest love story ever told.” www.theresurrectionofjesuschrist.com [Author’s note: My italics; I have not undertaken any editing of Mr. Wood’s English.]

His post was simply:

That was it. My first reaction was that Islam never claimed that Muhammad was God. Nor does Buddhism teach that Buddha was a god. The name applied to God in Arabic, and hence in Islam is Allah, which is merely an equivalent of the English, God, so that point is really moot. And the fact that Wood claims that his Jesus is the “only one God” reveals a bit of tunnel vision, even religious and theological ignorance. This is groupthink at one of its worst moments!

My point is this: Approach that post as I did, with the above reasoning, and you will obtain a clear lesson in groupthink.  The post received 51 Likes and 15 Comments but was seen be hundreds, perhaps thousands who didn’t want to “offend” by responding. (Or perhaps because religion is not as popular as Down’s syndrome? Or because the message was so bizarre? Who can say for sure?)

Those three examples should suffice to convince even the hardcore groupthinkers of their affliction.

The kinds of groups that are particularly at risk for the groupthink phenomenon are, of course, groups that we could characterize as cliques, whether consisting of 3 or 3000 persons. Cliques don’t need to be small and a whole company or department may become a clique. The group or clique should be cohesive for groupthink to develop; cohesive factors may include ethnicity, similar interest, and physical appearance. Members of a clique often isolate themselves as a group and tend to view the clique as superior to anyone outside the clique.

Cliques can form in any age group but they are most associated with groups whose members have gotten stuck in an adolescent or late childhood developmental stage, the stage when individuals normally form and become members of such groups. Accordingly, groupthink is characteristic of individuals who may have gotten stuck in a pre-adult developmental stage.

Facebook is a well known huge groupthink-collective in which groupthink can be diagnosed at various levels in the interactions from the very top, where the Facebook Standards and the thought police are active censoring deviant thinkers, that is, anyone who may not agree with Facebook or its policies, to the smaller yet equally repulsive “groups,” which may be “open,” “closed” or “secret”. The problem and real danger associated with Facebook and other social media that functions by exploiting the groupthink phenomenon is the sheer numbers of people who can be and actually are affected by the clique(s).

The proven disorder of Facebook Addiction or Internet Addiction Disorder make the problem even worse because once subscribers are addicted, they are captivated by the groupthink phenomenon and cannot escape.(See our article on Facebook Addiction Disorder on this blog.)

It’s the beginning of the end of open communication, autonomy, and due process.

Another problem is what I would call the “Room 101” factor[7]:  the fact that in terms of groupthink, when Facebook decides to deactivate an account for one reason or another, whether for a period of time certain (days, weeks, etc.) or permanently, this “punishment” practice has a psychospiritual effect on the affected individual, similar to being shunned or banned froma group or a clique. It is a powerful motivator to keep people under their thumb, a control strategy, that works extremely well once Facebook has hooked a person, and the person is sufficiently invested in Facebook in terms of time spent online and digital friends collected, such that the now addicted subscriber will feel the psychosocial pain of being “deactivated.,” in a sense placed in isolation by Facebook without the benefit of due process. Yes, it’s the beginning of the end of open communication, autonomy, and due process. Similar, in fact, to “vaporizing” a dissenter in Orwell’s “1984” where the dissenter is simply made to disappear, as if he never existed. [8]

The recent reports of Facebook’s cooperation with the US and Israeli governments to deactivate certain Facebook pages because their messages are “inconvenient” is a very disturbing step taken in the direction of thought control, Thought Police and Mindguards. That’s why we’ve been trying to get through to our readers to campaign against social media like Facebook! (See our articles on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg‘s ambitious agenda to become God. Once he’s got a fifth of the world’s population addicted to Facebook and can control what they read, hear, see, and say, he’s well on his way to become the next Dictator in Heaven.)


The same “vaporizing” occurs when someone “unfriends” or “blocks” another subscriber who may have violated the group-leader’s or the group’s groupthink policies. Have you been Facebook vaporized recently? You wouldn’t know if you had been because Facebook strategically keeps it a secret; only the vaporizer and Facebook know it. Same applies when someone has a grudge against you on Facebook: they simply report you for such-and-such, and you find yourself deactivated. Groupthink à la Facebook!

The groupthink phenomenon can be avoided but only if the clique or the group is willing to acknowledge the phenomenon, to recognize it in their group, and sees the benefits of avoiding the phenomenon.

Fred Lunenburg (2012) proposes a number of possible ways to avoid groupthink in a group, including[9]:

  • Encouraging group members to state and air objections, doubts, and questions,
  • Promoting impartiality rather than stating preferences and expectations of the group at the outset,
  • The group leaders should periodically discuss the group’s policies and practices and report their transactions back to the group, inviting feedback,
  • Members should be invited to challenge the views of core members (and leaders),
  • At least one member should play the role of devil’s advocate, expressing objections or critiquing group policies and practices, and beliefs,
  • Where there is devil’s advocacy, members should spend time and effort evaluating the warning signals of developing groupthink inherent in adverse responses,
  • Alternative scenarios should be constructed by group leaders in evaluating any rivaling intentions,
  • In the case of a member who appears to consistently rival the group’s polices or practices (Red flag! Think groupthink!), the member should be asked to express as vividly as he can all his residual doubts,
  • Group leaders or core members should present the entire issue to the group to elicit feedback and insights before making any definitive choices or decisions.

Group coherence and decision making has clear benefits over individual decision making. This is especially true when a decision must be made under conditions of uncertainty.[10] Some of the benefits described by Bonito (2011) include[11]:

  • Improved decision quality
  • Higher level of creativity and creative thinking
  • Improved decision acceptance and organizational learning
  • Increased decision understanding
  • Enhanced effectiveness in establishing objectives, identifying alternatives
  • Greater decision accuracy and avoidance of errors and glitches

Admittedly, these benefits may be less related to the actual outcomes of decisions than they are to group morale and satisfaction; we can agree that groups should and probably do perform better when

  • Group members present a variety of relevant skills that differ sufficiently but do not create constraints or conflicts;
  • There is a division of labor or effort, input;
  • Individual inputs can be “averaged” in such a way as to arrive at a group “position.”

Are you controlled by the Thought Police, the Mindguards from the cradle to the grave?

By now you might be asking yourself the question: “That having been said, and while applicable to business decisions or to Facebook and other moderated social media, how does that apply to spiritual care or to our lives in our communities and the nation at large?” Well, in order to answer that question, I have to ask you to step out of your stall in the sheeple box, and think about the environment in which you live. Ask yourselves if you can identify groupthink in these situations:

  • In your church or faith community. (Hint: How do you talk about other faith or belief groups)?
  • In the Sports Association or Social Club. Do you have to toe the mark in what you talk about?
  • In your political or social club (Hint: When at a Republican Club or Democratic Club or American Legion occasion, are you careful what you say?)
  • In your children’s schools (Hint: Do you speak your mind at a Board of Education meeting or just sit simmering? At a PTA meeting what do you feel you can discuss? Do you even attend any of these?)
  • At town board or village board meetings (Hint: Do you speak your mind at a board meetings or just sit simmering? Do you even attend any of these?)
  • Have you ever avoided going somewhere or doing something because you were concerned what “they” would say?
  • Are there subjects or topics or language that you avoid specifically to avoid being stereotyped or labeled? Do you choose political correctness over truth and honesty? Do you do that out of fear of the Mindguards?

Are you being stalked by the community or social media Thought Police, the Mindguards?

At home do you have open discussions with family members or are some subjects simply avoided or off-topic? Are the Thought Police at work in your home? Or are you letting the Facebook and social media thought police do their work for you? Have you seen your kids today?

When is the last time you looked at what your schools are teaching to your children? Have you ever openly questioned what they are being taught? Or are you letting the Mindguards manage your kids’ minds?

At work do you challenge social injustice or do you simply turn your back hoping it won’t hit you next? Are you open in discussing what you feel needs to be considered for change? Do you suggest improvements? Or are you living in constant fear of being “vaporized,” “unfriended,” “blocked” by your employer or even your workmates and coworkers?

Have you been castrated by the Thought Police, the Mindguards?

Most of us will find ourselves interacting throughout our entire lives with employers, educators, community members, governing bodies, committees, or just with our families. We take these interactions for granted; that’s a big mistake..Each of these environments is at high risk of the groupthink phenomenon, and we need to start thinking about the nature and quality of those interactions. Can you identify the symptoms of groupthink in any of your relationships or interations?

We frequently say that “emotions are contagious,” but we don’t frequently admit that not only emotions but the environment created by the attitudes and thinking of leaders and core members in a group are just as contagious in the form of groupthink.

Organizations like schools, religious institutions, government, social organizations are hotbeds for the groupthink

Those of us who are aware of our lives will admit that each group or community has its own culture, and if we are to work effectively with the members and effetively serve the ourselves and our community, we have to be aware of the groupthink phenomenon as it most certainly exists in that group or community. Ask yourself if you feel your teachers, your administrators, your elected officials, local law enforcement are listening to you and your concerns and their attitude towards the “necessary evil” of your opinion must be tolerated rather than facilitated. That attitude extends to all the members of the community, including educators, elected officials, law enforcement, etc.,  and the symptoms of groupthink can be quickly and easily identified if you care to look. How do we deal with that situation armed with the awareness of the probable existence of groupthink?

Organizations like schools, religious institutions, government, social organizations are hotbeds for the groupthink phenomenon because they are founded on very clear principles of operation and program; they have their” agendas.” The objectives and goals of the group are clearly defined and the members are controlled by the assignment of specific tasks and imposing protocols. The agenda is clearly defined. You simply don’t dissent or rock the hospice boat. Groupthink.

Institutional Agendas Define the Group.

 

As “tradition” the groupthink may have developed as a response to the local culture, whether it be socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, etc. In this case, it is a response to the exigencies of doing living and functioning with that demographic mix, and is almost a requirement for survival. Is this “positive” groupthink? Perhaps, but it goes without saying that unless the establishment leaves the door open to open discussion, sharing of insights, correct interpretations of warning signs and red flags, it can quickly transmute into “negative” groupthink.

As the organization leaves the traditional, local, “family” orientation or organization and moves towards the group or the corporate systems, groupthink becomes more of a high risk than a positive stabilizing factor. This is where the culture of the group or corporation overshadows the individuals that move it as well as those who consume its products and services. Rather than being an evolving, “living” organism, it is a monolith. Again,I can’t help but cite Facebook or the federal government as outstanding examples of such a negative development.

A number of large multinational corporations like IBM, 3M, Anheuser-Busch have recognized the threat posed by groupthink and have implemented and developed processes to prevent or at least to mitigate its deleterious and prejudicial effects within the components of the organization and on the organization as a whole. Lunenburg (2012) discusses some of the ways they have approached prevention of groupthink by way of methods like devil’s advocacy and dialectical inquiry. McDougel and Baum (1997) discuss the application of devil’s advocacy to stimulate discussion and avoid groupthink in focus groups.[12] McAvoy et al. discuss how devil’s advocacy and the principles of sensemaking can be used in a method they call the “agitation workshop” as a method of challenging the false consensus created by the groupthink phenomenon.[13]

Do frequent meetings and evaluations work to avoid groupthink? More likely than not, they may actually promote groupthink when leadership reiterate at each meeting the same expectations at the outset, setting the stage for a more limited and controlled conversation that does not allow for alternative discussion. But such meetings and evaluations and be highly productive if, at the outset, the leaders or facilitators are aware of the symptoms of groupthink and some of the methods to directly avoid it, as well as the quasi-paedagogical methods of enhancing creative thinking, even improving performance by institutionalizing dissent!

We can and should play an important and proactive role in making the organizations and leaders with whom we work aware of the groupthink phenomenon, its dangers and risks, and ways of avoiding the phenomenon in our environments. Once people are made aware of the phenomenon and ways to identify it and prevent it, we are on the path to reclaiming the efficacy and authenticity we once enjoyed but lost in the wake of the development of corporate control of our institutions and the chilling of interpersonal relations by online social media.

By using your brain you can avoid the dangers of groupthink!
The Editor


Notes

[1] Irving Janis originally coined the term groupthink in 1972. (Janis, Irving L.  (1972).  Victims of Groupthink.  New York: Houghton Mifflin.)

[2] Janis, I. L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascos (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin.

[3] For a more comprehensive discussion of the eight symptoms please refer to Janis’ Groupthink, Psychological Studies, above. A brief and very helpful overview of groupthink is provided in What is Groupthink? (http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm, last accessed on January 8, 2018, 2018).

[4] The “Julia got a job!” obviously scripted video is synopsized on YouTube in the following words: “A heartwarming video shows the moment a teenage girl with Down syndrome receives her first job offer. A girl named Julia gets a phone call from a Chick-fil-A employee in Rancho Murieta, California. ‘I was just calling to offer you a position here,’ the woman says on speaker phone. ‘Your pay rate would be 11.50 per hour, would you like to accept?’ ‘I do,’ Julia says, her face overcome with emotion. As the woman tells her that she will start in December, Julia breaks down in tears of happiness. ‘Oh my gosh,’ she can be heard saying as she thanks the woman profusely. Julia’s family then encircles her and gives her a massive hug while chanting ‘Chick-Fil-A’. “ (AutoNews- Source:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5101331/Teen-girl-syndrome-cries-s-given-job.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490)

[5] According to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm that serves private, public and social sector institutions, in a report entitled, “The value that employees with Down syndrome can add to organizations,” we read “[H]owever, some companies have chosen to tackle the far more complex challenge of hiring people with intellectual disabilities. Those that have done so have found that these people can add value to organizational health (an organization’s ability to align, execute, and renew itself faster than competitors so that it can sustain exceptional performance over time). Employees with Down syndrome are a particularly interesting topic of research, as they have a number of characteristics that both increase the challenges associated with inclusion and bring added benefits.” [my italics] (McKinsey & Company (2014) “The value that employees with Down Syndrome can add to organizations” (Vicente Assis, Marcus Frank, Guilherme Bcheche, and Bruno Kuboiama), last accessed on January 9, 2018.)

[6] Ibid.

[7] I’m referring to the notorious Room 101 described in Orwell’s novel “Nineteen-Eighty-Four,” the room in the Ministry of Truth (MiniTru in Newspeak), where dissenters were taken for “processing,” most never to be heard from again. “You asked me once,” said O’Brien, “what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”  (“1984” Part 3, Ch. 5)  In “1984” the Inner Party persecutes individualism and independent thinking known as “thoughtcrimes” and is enforced by the “Thought Police.” The Ministry of Love (Miniluv), the ministry in charge of torturing dissidents.  The protagonist Smith is subjected to many forms of torture and is forced into the horror chamber known only as Room 101.

[8] Mind Control – George Orwell BBC 101 Documentary last accessed on January 9, 2018.

[9] Lunenburg, F. (2012).” Devil’s Advocacy and Dialectical Inquiry: Antidote to Groupthink”. International Journal of

Scholarly and Academic Intellectual Diversity, Vol 14, No. 1, pp 1-9.

[10] Nikolaidis (2012) defines uncertainty as “the condition under which an individual [or group] does not have the necessary information to assign probabilities to the outcomes of alternative solutions. (Nikolaidis, E. (2012).  Design decisions under uncertainty with limited information. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.)

[11] Bonito, J. (2011). Interaction and influence in small group decision making. New York, NY: Routledge.

[12] McDougal, C., F. Baum, (1997) “The Devil’s Advocate: A Strategy to Avoid Groupthink and Stimulate Discussion in Focus Groups,” Qualitative Health Research, Volume 7, Number 4, pp 532-541.

[13] John McAvoy, Tadhg Nagle and David Sammon, (2013) “A novel approach to challenging consensus in evaluations: The Agitation Workshop,” The Electronic Journal Information Systems Evaluation, Volume 16 Issue 1,  pp 45-55.

 
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