Martin Gugino is a Catholic peace activist, not an ‘Antifa provocateur,’ friends say

(RNS) — Is Martin Gugino an Antifa provocateur?

Or a beloved Catholic peace activist who was the victim of police brutality in Buffalo, New York?

A Tuesday morning (June 9) tweet from President Donald Trump suggested the former, drawing a wave of shock and outrage from friends of the 75-year-old activist who was shoved to the ground by Buffalo police during a protest last Thursday outside City Hall.

The incident, captured on video, went viral and has become symbolic of the kind of police brutality that has sparked calls for fundamental reforms to American policing. In the video, an officer is seen shoving Gugino, who falls to the sidewalk, hitting his head. As Gugino lies unmoving and bleeding, the officer who pushed him is seen hurrying away.


RELATED: Click here for complete coverage of the George Floyd protests on RNS


Gugino remains in the Erie County Medical Center in serious condition, though he is no longer in intensive care, a friend said.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?

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Buffalo’s police commissioner suspended two Buffalo police officers involved in the incident without pay, prompting dozens of other officers to step down from the department’s crowd control unit in protest. On Saturday two of the officers were charged with felony assault.

The president referred to the conservative news site One America News Network in making his unfounded claim.

“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump wrote. “75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Friends of the retired computer scientist described Gugino as a devout Catholic and a graduate of Canisius High School, a private Jesuit school in Buffalo, who is a passionate advocate for multiple causes on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Gugino spent his retirement lending a hand to multiple causes, among them Black Lives Matter.

Martin has a passion for social justice,” said Mark Colville, who runs Amistad Catholic Worker  in New Haven, Connecticut, and has known Gugino for years. “When he sees wrong he wants to be involved in making it right.”

Colville said Gugino made multiple trips from his home in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst to New Haven — a six-and-a-half-hour drive — to help prepare and serve meals at Amistad, a house of hospitality that describes its mission as “follow(ing) Jesus in seeking justice for the poor.”

Gugino never wanted to draw attention to his work, Colville said. He’s a private person who lived alone. He cared for his mother until she died, and he recently lost his sister, too.

In this 2016 photo, Martin Gugino, right, holds a sign reading “Resist Racism,” in Washington, D.C., as part of a protest over the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, an African American boy from Cleveland. Photo by Mark Colville

On Saturday, Colville drove up to Buffalo to see if he could visit his friend in the hospital. He was not allowed past the reception desk but instead did the next best thing. He went downtown to take Gugino’s place at a protest on the street where videos had captured police knocking Gugino to the ground while clearing protesters away from City Hall.

“ trump-twitter-outragous-martin-gugino,” Colville said. “He likes his privacy. He doesn’t make a spectacle of himself. He likes to show up and be present. He likes to be involved in these movements for justice. But he doesn’t do it in a self-promoting kind of way.”

The two have worked for years to advocate for the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. detention camp in Cuba where terrorism suspects could be detained without process.

Gugino is active in Witness Against Torture, an organization formed in 2005 to protest the treatment of detainees on the base. Each January, group members travel to Washington, D.C., to fast and hold vigil outside the Department of Justice.

Much of the work was done on behalf of Muslim prisoners, many of whom were picked up by the CIA and taken to Guantanamo after the 9/11 terrorist strikes.

People, including Martin, made connections between their own faith and the faith of people detained because of their own faith,” said Matt Daloisio, a New York state public defender and one of the organizers of Witness Against Torture.

Daloisio and several others say they’ve been texting Gugino in the hospital and he’s been responding with emoji hearts rather than texts.

Guigino’s Twitter account and YouTube videos have been deactivated. He is represented by lawyer Kelly Zarcone, who said Tuesday:  “We are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted in response to Trump that “there’s no greater sin than the abuse of power,” and Biden mentioned that he, like Gugino, is a Catholic.

Joe Biden

@JoeBiden

My Dad used to say there’s no greater sin than the abuse of power.

Whether it’s an officer bloodying a peaceful protester or a President defending him with a conspiracy theory he saw on TV.

I’m a Catholic – just like Martin. Our faith says that we can’t accept either.

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Tom Casey, a retired civil engineer from Buffalo and a local coordinator for Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement, said the idea that Gugino is a provocateur is ludicrous. Gugino was certainly opinionated, Casey said, but always respectful of others.

I have never heard him use a vile or angry word against anybody and I spent a lot of time talking to him,” Casey said.


RELATED: Judge sentences 80-year-old Catholic activist for breaking into nuclear submarine base


Gugino was also active on behalf of Black Lives Matter. After the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy who was shot by a police officer, Gugino traveled to Cleveland to meet with Rice’s parents. In 2016, Gugino participated in a protest in front of the Justice Department in which demonstrators called for murder charges against the officer who shot Rice.

Gugino’s presence at the Black Lives Matter protest last week was typical of his activism. He is also active with the Western New York Peace Center and PUSH Buffalo, a coalition working on affordable housing.

This fall, Jericho Road, a community health clinic in Buffalo, featured Gugino in its newsletter’s “donor spotlight.” Asked why he gives, Gugino wrote: “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty.”

Martin is consistent,” said Mary Anne Grady Flores, an Ithaca New York Catholic Worker who participated with Gugino in multiple protests against Hancock Field Air Force Base’s use of remotely piloted drones to kill insurgents in Afghanistan and elsewhere. “He’s a gentle giant, who is so articulate, so thoughtful.”

Why Celibacy Matters

How the critique of Catholicism changes and yet remains the same.

The rhetoric of anti-Catholicism, whether its sources are Protestant or secular, has always insisted that the church of Rome is the enemy of what you might call healthy sexuality. This rhetorical trope has persisted despite radical redefinitions of what healthy sexuality means; one sexual culture overthrows another, but Catholicism remains eternally condemned.

Thus in a 19th-century context, where healthy sexuality meant a large patriarchal family with the wife as the angel in the home, anti-Catholic polemicists were obsessed with Catholicism’s nuns — these women who mysteriously refused husbands and childbearing, and who were therefore presumed to be prisoners in gothic convents, victims of predatory priests.

Then a little later, when the apostles of sexual health were Victorian “muscular Christians” worried about moral deviance, the problem with Catholicism was that it was too hospitable to homosexuality — too effete, too decadent, too Oscar Wildean even before Wilde’s deathbed conversion.

Then later still, when sexual health meant the white-American, two-kid nuclear family, the problem with Catholicism was that it was too obsessed with heterosexual procreation, too inclined to overpopulate the world with kids.

And now, in our own age of sexual individualism, Catholicism is mostly just accused of a repressive cruelty, of denying people — and especially its celibacy-burdened priests — the sexual fulfillment that every human being needs.

The mix of change and consistency in anti-Catholic arguments came to mind while I was reading “In the Closet of the Vatican,” a purported exposé of homosexuality among high churchmen released to coincide with the church’s summit on clergy sexual abuse. The book, written by a gay, nonbelieving French journalist, Frédéric Martel, makes a simple argument in a florid, repetitious style: The prevalence of gay liaisons in the Vatican means that clerical celibacy is a failure and a fraud, as unnatural and damaging as an earlier moral consensus believed homosexuality to be.

The style of Martel’s account is fascinating because it so resembles the old Protestant critique of Catholic decadence. Instead of a tough-guy Calvinist proclaiming that Catholicism’s gilt and incense makes men gay, it’s a gay atheist claiming that the gays use Catholicism’s gilt and incense to decorate the world’s most lavish closet. Instead of celibacy making men deviant, celibacy is the deviance, and open homosexuality the cure. Celibacy used to offend family-values conservatism; now it offends equally against the opposite spirit.

The book is quite bad; too many of its attempted outings rely on the supposed infallibility of Martel’s gaydar. And yet anyone who knows anything about the Vatican knows that some of the book’s gossip is simply true — just as the other critiques of Catholicism have some correspondence to reality.

Inside Brett Kavanaugh’s personal finances: Credit card debts and a $92,000 country-club fee

Kavanaugh has reported credit card debts that exceeded $15,000 for six of his 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. At the end of 2016, those debts ranged between $45,000 to $150,000 and were spread among three credit cards, before being paid off sometime last year.

There was never a hint of anything irresponsible about anything that he did,” said Bob Bittman, a Washington lawyer who worked with Kavanaugh in the Kenneth W. Starr-led independent counsel’s office. “But apparently he was in debt. I believe it was temporary or there was a plan to get out of it, or he was going to be repaid by friends. He’s not the type of guy who does things to keep up with the Joneses.”

.. The same year he accumulated the highest debts of his judicial tenure, Kavanaugh also joined the Chevy Chase Club — an elite country club that counts Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. among its members and, as of 2017, required a $92,000 initiation fee and annual dues of more than $9,000.

“It’s a place where your children can be on the swim team, learn to play tennis and play in an ice hockey league. It’s a family-focused environment,” said Helgi Walker, a Washington lawyer and friend of Kavanaugh’s who also belongs to the club.

..  “Certainly living in the D.C. area there is a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality. People who you may think are quite wealthy based on their spending or how they carry themselves are not actually that wealthy. And it all comes down to, are you continually saving?”

.. Several friends of Kavanaugh described him as frugal.

.. At the same time, as Kavanaugh established his legal and family reputation, he went about adopting the trappings of a 1-percenter — and accumulating large amounts of debt in the process.

.. The same year he became a judge, Kavanaugh and his wife purchased a $1.2 million home in the Village of Chevy Chase Section 5

.. Despite living in a top public school district, Kavanaugh views the price tag of a Catholic education as a necessary expense, those close to the family said. He has publicly said that his Catholic school upbringing played a significant role in shaping his values.

Viktor Orbán Is Europe’s Future

I have formulated five tenets for the project of building up Central Europe. The first is

  1. that every European country has the right to defend its Christian culture, and the right to reject the ideology of multiculturalism. Our second tenet is that
  2. every country has the right to defend the traditional family model, and is entitled to assert that every child has the right to a mother and a father. The third Central European tenet is that
  3. every Central European country has the right to defend the nationally strategic economic sectors and markets which are of crucial importance to it.
  4. The fourth tenet is that every country has the right to defend its borders, and it has the right to reject immigration. And the fifth tenet is that
  5. every European country has the right to insist on the principle of one nation, one vote on the most important issues, and that this right must not be denied in the European Union. In other words, we Central Europeans claim that there is life beyond globalism, which is not the only path. Central Europe’s path is the path of an alliance of free nations.

 

..  a pattern in which matters in Europe have effectively been decided by competition between two camps: on one side, communities based on the continuing foundations of Christian tradition – let us call them Christian democratic parties; and, on the other side, the organisations of communities which question and reject tradition – let us call them left-wing liberal parties.

..  a situation can arise in one country or another whereby ten per cent or more of the total population is Muslim. We can be sure that they will never vote for a Christian party. And when we add to this Muslim population those of European origin who are abandoning their Christian traditions, then it will no longer be possible to win elections on the basis of Christian foundations.

Those groups preserving Christian traditions will be forced out of politics, and decisions about the future of Europe will be made without them. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the situation, this is the goal, and this is how close we are to seeing it happen.

.. we must demonstrate that there is an alternative to liberal democracy: it is called Christian democracy. And we must show that the liberal elite can be replaced with a Christian democratic elite.

.. Christian democracy is not about defending religious articles of faith – in this case Christian religious articles of faith. Neither states nor governments have competence on questions of damnation or salvation. Christian democratic politics means that the ways of life springing from Christian culture must be protected. Our duty is not to defend the articles of faith, but the forms of being that have grown from them. These include

  1. human dignity,
  2. the family and
  3. the nation

– because Christianity does not seek to attain universality through the abolition of nations, but through the preservation of nations

.. The bait for this trap is hanging right in front of our noses: it is the claim that Christian democracy can also, in fact, be liberal. I suggest we stay calm and avoid being caught on that hook, because if we accept this argument, then the battle, the struggle we have fought so far will lose its meaning, and we will have toiled in vain. Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal. Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal.

  1. .. And we can specifically say this in connection with a few important issues – say, three great issues. Liberal democracy is in favour of multiculturalism, while Christian democracy gives priority to Christian culture; this is an illiberal concept.
  2. Liberal democracy is pro-immigration, while Christian democracy is anti-immigration; this is again a genuinely illiberal concept.
  3. And liberal democracy sides with adaptable family models, while Christian democracy rests on the foundations of the Christian family model; once more, this is an illiberal concept.

.. Liberalism, he says, has become a system and a way of looking at the world that destroys nations and traditions, especially the Christian tradition. He’s right about that: it’s not a bug of liberalism, but a feature. It’s something that’s very hard for Americans to see, because we were founded as a liberal nation, and unlike contemporary Europe, we have not yet faced mass migration from non-Christian civilizations. For traditional Europeans, this is not an abstract discussion. They are fighting to save their civilization. If that requires illiberal democracy, fine.

.. they recognize that the kryptonite they’ve been able to use so effectively for so long to paralyze opposition no longer works on people like Orbán.

.. Americans rarely stop to ask if the people there actually want liberalism, at the expense of the things that make them a people.

.. Who is a more trustworthy contemporary steward of European faith and culture:

Viktor Orbán, or bishops who preach more immigration and more gay pride parades?

Wanted: Justice Amy Coney Barrett

The fight over Barrett’s confirmation would almost certainly build trust between President Trump and social conservatives. It would energize Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.

The facts of Barrett’s life — that she is a mother of seven children, and that when she speaks about her Catholic faith, she speaks about God as if she really believes in His existence — will provoke nasty and bigoted statements from Democratic senators and liberal media personalities. Again.

.. Professor Barrett’s qualifications become stronger by virtue of her willingness to write candidly and intelligently about difficult and sensitive ethical questions: Our universities, our judiciary, and our country will be the poorer if the Senate prefers nominees who remain silent on such topics.”
..  the fight to confirm her will contain edifying political lessons. We don’t have religious tests for public office in this country, and having a republic that does not have an established religion does not require excluding sincere believers from positions of authority.
.. they should be able to compel religious people to conform to liberal moral norms — which just so happen to track exactly to doctrinal developments in the once dominant Mainline Protestant churches. 
.. The ACLU would compel Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
.. Evangelicals at a crisis pregnancy center will be made to advertise for abortion... contain an even deeper lesson, one that is salutary for both liberal secularists, who once indulged in triumphalism, and conservative believers, who have been tempted to despair: Believing Catholics and Evangelicals will continue to make their contributions to the common good of this country. You will live with us. If we’re going to have peace, we’re going to make it together.

Richard Rohr Meditation: Marriage

From the Aristotelian perspective, “human sexuality is defined as a biological capacity for the procreation of human life. It is a biological imperative, existing solely for one purpose, namely human reproduction.

.. O’Murchu continues:

The ensuing sexual morality considered all other forms of sexual expression to be contrary to nature and sinful in the eyes of God. And since procreation was the primary goal, any suggestion of pleasure or human fulfillment from sexual intimacy was considered an aberration.

From a Catholic perspective it is worthy of note that marriage was not elevated to the status of a sacrament till the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

.. During and after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Catholic Church seemed to realize the inadequacy of the Greek view of marriage—solely for procreation—and began to recognize another obvious element to the definition of marriage: intimacy and mutual support.

.. Conservatives are so afraid of false expression (and they are right), and liberals are so afraid of unhealthy repression (and they are right), that it is going to take us a while to discover our sexual center and balance.

Greta Gerwig Takes On Mother-Daughter Love (And Angst) In ‘Lady Bird’

GROSS: So when you went to Catholic school in high school and you were not Catholic, did you feel like you were more Catholic than a lot of the Catholic kids in the school because you were actually interested in the rituals (laughter) and in the saints?

GERWIG: Yeah. Well, I think because it wasn’t my background, I was allowed to love it in a way that if maybe it had been, you would seek to reject it.

GROSS: Because it couldn’t oppress you because it had no power over you. You could just take what was beautiful from it.