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Trump Nominates Mark Esper As Next Defense Secretary; What It Takes To Run The Pentagon; Ash Carter, Author, "Inside The Five-Sided Box," Is Interviewed About The Pentagon; Mavis Staples Turns 80 And With A New Album, "We Get By"; Why The Catholic Church Should Abolish Priesthood. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 1, 2019 - 13:00:00 ET
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[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. This week, we're dipping into the archives and
looking back at some of our favorite interviews from the year. Here's what's coming up.
Former Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, tells me what it takes to run the Pentagon and why he believes China and Russia are the Trump
administration's biggest foreign policy challenges.
Then, celebrating 80 years of gospel and soul, music legend, Mavis Staples, on why she's still using song to unite America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CAROLL, CATHOLIC SCHOLAR/JOURNALIST: Why aren't more Catholics enraged, protesting?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And the Catholic Church should abolish the priesthood to save itself, that's the radical proposal from a former Catholic priest, James
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The horizon is crammed with security challenges, not least the escalating tensions with Iran. And the United States is sending ever more military
forces while still having no defense secretary, following General Mattis' resignation in January.
In May, President Trump nominated the acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, for the job. But this week, he withdrew his nomination due to a
domestic violence incident and he's being replaced by Mark Esper, secretary of the army.
Now, the need for strong leadership at the Pentagon is something my next guest understands all too well. Ash Carter served as secretary of defense
under President Obama and he's worked inside the Pentagon on and off for the past 35 years. His new book "Inside the Five-Sided Box" sheds light on
the complex inner workings of the organization and it offers a blueprint for defense in ever changing world. And he joins me from New York to talk
Secretary Carter, welcome back to our program.
CARTER: Good to be here with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, you got this new book out and it's really looking at leadership and particularly, concentrating on your time at the Pentagon.
And you make a blanket declaration so that we all know where you stand, I love this Pentagon. I love this organization, warts and all.
Why do you feel the need to say that and what are the warts?
CARTER: It's got 240 years old. So, it's got traditions and people tend to think of the place as stogie (ph) but -- and there's a certain part of
tradition that is really good. But, also, the Pentagon is something I was proud of, and this is not a wart, a learning organization.
Let me give you a couple of examples. Counter insurgency and counter IED. Obviously, we were caught flatfooted on them initially and we had to learn
how to do better, we got really excellent (ph). It does have warts. There some ways in which we are still haven't made the transition strategically
where we need to go from the era of our preoccupation with counter- terrorism and counter-insurgency to our -- the need to focus on China and Russia and the high end.
We haven't yet linked ourselves to the tech community completely, which is an important part of our future in continuing to be the most
technologically advanced military in the world. We have -- we're not -- we haven't dipped into all the pools of talent that we need and all volunteer
You may not know, Christiane, for example, that a large number of our recruits come from just six states in the United States.
CARTER: And it means that there are 44 states where we haven't got enough presence yet. So, there are a lot of things and this is what I -- one of
the things I describe in the book, there are a lot of managerial issues. And, you know, you think about the secretary of defense being in the
situation room or helping the president make decisions, that's a piece of the job but it's just a piece of the job.
CARTER: You're running the largest organization in the world and your secretary of defense, not only of today but of tomorrow, I got make sure I
leave to my successor the excellence that I received from my predecessors.
CARTER: So, you're working against the future all the time.
AMANPOUR: But I wonder, you are a theoretical physicist, I believe, by training and background.
AMANPOUR: So, you are thoroughly steeped in the fact-based world. And I guess you make your decisions on facts and evidence. How difficult is it?
Because you write about this in your book. You talk about how difficult it is to make informed and fact-based decisions and matters of policy in these
highly emotional, as you call them, vitriolic political times. What are the key issues that you see?
CARTER: Well, you know, you've got to make it clear to all of your subordinates.
You have to set an example that I expect from you not only good conduct and professionalism but also the truth. And you need to, therefore, stick up
for your subordinates when they do the right thing or say the right thing.
I was lucky, all the times I was involved in Republican or Democratic administrations that there were presidents who were all very smart and they
took their responsibilities seriously and they would read and study.
I remember Bill Perry coming back from a meeting when he was secretary of defense with Bill Clinton and he said, it's so embarrassing, he says,
Clinton is always the best prepared person in the room. And I had President Obama also, when I was actually secretary of defense, as somebody
who was demanding and didn't suffer fools easily at all.
So, you need the appetite at the top. And I don't -- I haven't worked under their current president. I don't quite see that appetite. And, of
course, he talks casually about the truth and whether it matters or not.
AMANPOUR: Would you serve the current president?
CARTER: I don't -- no. I don't think I could. It's completely hypothetical, I haven't been asked. But I think not because I -- you have
to believe you can help. Your first duty as cabinet member is to help the president to succeed. This is a president who doesn't seem to listen to
his cabinet members. And so, it doesn't look like I would be getting in a situation where I could be helpful.
I also have to say, and this is a separate matter, I don't like all of his conduct.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because the idea of being a loyal soldier, so to speak, and being a helpful constructive member of a cabinet is an
interesting line and interesting needle to thread. So, you, when you were in the Reagan administration, you criticized quite publicly the center
piece of Reagan's military in the Cold War, which was to Star Wars Program.
What was the reaction to you for doing that and how does a secretary of defense thread the needle between disagreeing and dissenting and being
accused of treason and either -- you know, and shutting up?
CARTER: Well, there was a little of that when I published my report on Star Wars, people say, well, this is the president's policy. How can you
say it's not scientifically correct? Which just wasn't. I would like to build a missile defense based on lasers, but we didn't know how. By the
way, we still don't know how.
But there was another side to it. It wasn't considered partisan death for anybody. The scientific community stayed loyal to me and supportive of me.
But more importantly, I worked after that for Paul Nitze who is President Reagan's arms control negotiator. It wasn't regarded. That dissent was
regarded, provided it was based on fact and truth that it was done respectfully, as a respectable contribution. It didn't disbar you from
So, that was a time that I hope is not bygone where partisanship didn't matter in that sense and people who are running national security
understood there would be a debate.
AMANPOUR: And I guess I want to ask you, then because you bring up Russia and China and these other issues as real strategic threats for the future.
Let's talk about Russia. Under President Obama and clearly under President Trump, it's been a ban major issue. I want to know how you assess what
consumes and motivates President Putin. You've written about it in your book.
CARTER: Yes. Well, I -- as it turns out, I met him for the first time in 1993. So, I've had the opportunity to observe him. He was a note taker
for Boris Yeltsin in the summit and I was an assistant secretary of defense. But I've observed him in all those years.
And one thing, Christiane, about Vladimir Putin is he says what he means and says what he's thinking. So, you can read what he says and you
probably do that, as well. And I understand where he's coming from. He laments the end of the Soviet Union. He thinks the United States has made
mistake after mistake by toppling governments without any idea what is going to replace them afterwards. So, he says all this stuff. And I don't
agree with all those positions but I understand them.
Where it's hard to work with Vladimir Putin is he sets it as a Russian goal to frustrate the United States. Now, how do you hold talks with somebody
over their desire to frustrate you? That's not a place. That's not Syria. It's not arms control. It's not nonproliferation. We can discuss these
issues and, you know, agree to disagree where we disagree, work together where we agree. But it's hard to build bridge to a guy who is out to
AMANPOUR: When you say frustrate, I think you mean, in fact, challenge America's presence and its influence around the world.
CARTER: Act as a foil.
AMANPOUR: Act as a foil, exactly. And I wonder whether this is even doubly troubling because you also, and other actually, have said that even
though they're not bosom buddies and they don't always view the world through the same lens, China and Russia are having these same thoughts
CARTER: They are. I don't, myself, really buy the prospect of them working all that closely together. We've been afraid of that for a long
time. Russia and China are very different, they have very different interests, very different futures. The only thing they agree on is the
desire to challenge the United States, but they do it for different reasons.
And so, they'll -- you know, they'll both be challenging us. I don't see them forming a block or phalanx. But you're right, China has an agenda and
you can talk to them about their agenda. I understand where they want to go.
They're a communist dictatorship, number one, they want to keep that going. And number two, they want to spread their economic and maybe increasingly
political influence around the world, which I don't want to see happen, but it's certainly an understandable objective.
They don't set themselves the goal of screwing the United States, per se. They set themselves the goal of establishing themselves as an equal and
maybe someday superior to the United States. They're a little bit easier to work in those objectives. They're both competitors. But it's that
aspect of Putin that is kind of spiteful that makes it particularly difficult.
AMANPOUR: That's interesting because clearly China, though, has been the main big power in the cross hairs of this administration, tariffs, the
trade war, pulling out of the TPP, all those things. I mean, obviously angry about the theft of intellectual property, worried about Huawei,
worried about the territorial ambitions in the South China Sea, et cetera.
You have said that you regret pulling out of the TPP because in some way, to you, it's as valuable, if not more than an aircraft carrier in the
CARTER: Yes. It had strategic importance. I mean, let's remember, importantly, everything you said about China is right, I agree with that.
China is, however, only half the economy and half the population of Asia. So, there are a lot of countries there that collectively are very important
to us and TPP was an effort to, first of all, enlist them with us in establishing trade rules with China. And by abandoning TPP, you leave the
world to a network of bilateral trade relations.
Now, think of how that feels if you're a small Southeast Asian country and you're negotiating with China bilaterally and there's no rules, it's all
about force, and you have a communist dictatorship against you that is huge and that can bring like communistic dictatorships can, the political, the
military and economic, all to bear down on you, you don't stand a chance in that environment. And that means that these trading partners, which are
half of Asia, are put at a disadvantage with respect to us. So, that's why TPP was a good thing.
And, you know, it's gone now. So, we can't cry over spilled milk. But it's why some multilateralism has to go along with bilateralism in trade
relations. Bilateralism is the Chinese playing field. It's not our playing field. You don't leave the playing field to the opponent or the
AMANPOUR: Would you agree that, in fact, it was under the president you served, Barack Obama, that the idea of deterrence and red lines has been
rendered meaningless no matter what you think about intervention not in Syria, putting a red line by the United States of America and then not
enforcing it reduces your credibility and your deterrence?
CARTER: Now, I think if we could go back and do it over again or if I had been secretary of defense and been able to advise President Obama at the
time, even if he decided to accept this Russian deal where they get rid of the chemical weapons, which was the issue, without us having to carry out
the strikes that we had planned, by the way. I was deputy secretary of defense. So, I wasn't in a decision-making mode but I was all ready to go
and I thought we were going to go that night, down in size (ph), down at the engine room.
CARTER: But if you're not going to do that, in order to not suffer the strategic harm that you're talking about, the loss of reputation, you have
to go out and explain. And one of the things President Obama was great in many, many ways, and I don't want to be too negative or give the wrong
impression, but this was not his strength. When he thought he had done something right, he thought explaining that to somebody who didn't get it,
was kind of a waste of his time.
And I think that in this case, you had -- you know, you had just done something that really surprised the rest of the world, you better have a
good explanation for that. Otherwise, the surprise -- it's not going to be judged on the merits, it's going to be judged on the appearance. And he is
a very merits-based kind of guy. And that's respectable. But in public life, sometimes you have to worry about appearance as well.
AMANPOUR: Wow. That's fascinating insight. It really is. I just want to sort of end in the Middle East. We understand the tensions with Iran, who
knows what is going to happen there. But I want to ask you about Saudi Arabia because you've been in the room around the current crown prince,
Mohammad bin Salman.
CARTER: Many times.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And so, I would like you to tell us, the U.S. under President Trump seems to put all its eggs in this Saudi basket right now in
terms of Middle East security and Middle East policy. And you have said that you feel that they haven't proved themselves to be reliable or
competent military allies and that he himself doesn't seem to be massively prepared.
CARTER: Well, yes. They -- Saudis will constantly say, you know, what a wonderful thing it is to have them as friends and allies. And it's nice to
have them as friends and allies but, first of all, oil isn't what it used to be. Second of all, I appreciate that they buy our arms, but
realistically, they have no other choice. And they pay for them and we give them. It's a transaction. It's equal. It's not a favor to us.
And when it comes to us asking them to do something as a partner, I'm sorry to say, they haven't come through. For example, I asked Mohammad bin
Salman, I met with him many, many times and many conversations with him and tried to have a good working relationship with, would he do something about
ISIS and they never did anything about ISIS.
Instead, they -- if you remember, they declared a coalition one day without telling anybody else in the Islamic world that they were starting an
Islamic coalition, which was a good idea, but this was a ready, fire, aim kind of initiative. And so, their performance hasn't always been what they
suggest it's been. And I'm not trying to be too hard on them, I'm trying to be realistic.
Don't tell me that this is a relationship in which they give much more than they get. That's just not the case. And I think we ought to reset the
relationship a little bit and ask more and demand more of Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: Here you are again going back to your theoretical physicist background. I just want to ask you what you make of the miniseries
"Chernobyl," which is taking the world by storm. And we're seeing in real time how the Soviet Union lied about what was going on, how these people,
from the firemen to the scientists to the reactor personnel to civilians, didn't know what was happening and then tried to do everything they could
to mitigate what was an enormous catastrophe. Just talk about that.
CARTER: Well, I remember those days. A friend of mine, who was Yevgeny Velekoff (ph), who is the guy that Gorbachev put in charge of the clean-up,
I remember them flying helicopters over it, dropping boarded concrete and so forth. And I remember the lies and the cover up. But that was the
Soviet Union then. You spent time in the Soviet Union back in those days. And I think this documentary is so realistic.
And so, all the sets and everything are so Soviet. It takes me back to those times. And I remember and I knew a lot of those people who did that.
I was pretty young yet but I had relationships with their scientific community.
And there's one moment I'll never forget that was reported in the "New York Times," where a "New York Times" reporter goes out on the train station,
(INAUDIBLE) in Kiev. And there's a guy with his whole family and all their belongings packed up waiting for the train.
And the reporter goes up to him and says, why are you leaving Kiev? The government says everything is OK and the Politburo is arriving today in
Ukraine. And the guy looks at the "New York times" reporter and says, if it's bad enough for them to come, it's bad enough for me to go. That was
the Soviet Union.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Amazing. Ash Carter, former secretary of defense, thank you so much for joining me.
CARTER: Good to be with you, as always, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And now, something to soothe the soul, Mavis Staples has been singing gospel music since she was eight years. She's performed in front
of America's most iconic leaders like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, and her powerful vocals provided a soundtrack to the Civil Rights
In 1999, she and her family band, The Staple Singers, were inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. And in 2016, she became a Kennedy Center
lifetime honorary. It's one of the highest accolades in American culture. [13:20:00]
This year, as Mavis gets ready to turn 80, she's out with a new album "We Get By." She's had an extraordinary life and career. And as I heard, she
has no plans to slow down.
Mavis Staples, welcome to the program.
MAVIS STAPLES, GOSPEL AND R&B SINGER: Well, thank you for having me. It's an honor.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. You're about to turn 80 years old. Nobody would tell by looking at you, by the way. And you've been a professional
musician all your life just about. Was there ever a time that you doubted the course your life has taken?
STAPLES: Well, no, not really. I've had a few stumbles, you know, but I always kept the faith that everything would be all right. So, I've been
AMANPOUR: And tell me how it all began for you, before you became famous and being -- you know, singing with your family. Where was the first Mavis
Staples performance for instance?
STAPLES: The first performance was at my uncle's church in Chicago. Actually, my father started us singing because he was disgusted with the
group that he was singing with. Well, he was singing with all male group, the "Trumpet Jubilees." And these guys, there were six of them. They
wouldn't come to rehearsal. Pops would go to rehearsal. There might be two of them there. The next time he go to rehearsal, it might be three.
So, he was so disgusted. He came home one night and he went in the closet, pulled this little guitar out of the closet and called us children into the
living room, set us on the floor in a circle and begin giving us voices to sing, that he and his sisters and brothers would sing when they were in
STAPLES: And -- yes, yes. One night, my Aunt Katy (ph) lived with us and she came through and we were on the floor rehearsing and she said, shucks.
You all sound pretty good. I believe I want you to sing at the church on Sunday. And, oh, we were so happy we were going to sing someplace other
than our living room floor.
AMANPOUR: It just sound so nice. What about your -- the family? Who are -- let's meet the Staples, for instance. Who were the family kids around
STAPLES: The family was my father, Pops Staples, my sister, Cleotha Staples, my sister, Yvonne, and my brother, Pervis, and of course, me.
That was the "Staples Singers." Pops taught us the song -- the very first song he taught us was "Will the Circle be Unbroken."
We sang that at my uncle's church that Sunday and the people wouldn't let us sit down. We didn't know what encore meant. They kept clapping and
somebody told us, they want to hear you again. So, we ended up singing that song three times because it was the only song that Pops had taught us
all the way through.
You know, so, Pops says, shucks. We're going home and learn some more songs. These people like us. And that was the beginning of the "Staples
AMANPOUR: It's pretty amazing. But just tell me, also, how you became the lead. I think it has something to do with your brother and his voice
STAPLES: Yes, indeed. My brother, Pervis, he sang the lead. Pervis's voice was like Michael Jackson's voice, real high but he could really sing,
you know. And I was singing baritone. And my father -- overnight, it seemed that Pervis's voice changed and got really heavy.
So, Pops, says, Mavis, you're going to have to sing the lead. For some reason, the lord blessed me, where my voice, I could sing high and low.
And I told Pops, I said, no, daddy. I don't want to sing lead. I think I want to sing baritone. I thought baritone was the most beautiful voice in
the group. He kept telling me, he said, Mavis, you have to sing lead because Pervis can't get up there high anymore. You have to sing. And he
-- I kept saying, no, no, no, no, Pops.
He had a little piece of leather about the length of a ruler he had cut, you know, and that was to get my little legs when I was bad, you know. And
I saw him reaching for that piece of leather and I said, OK. OK, daddy. I'll sing. I'll sing lead. And that -- from that time on, I was singing
AMANPOUR: Let just me play a little bit of a gospel song you sang, "Uncloudy Day." Let's play a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Mavis, it's really incredible and I can [13:25:00] see you rocking and swinging there. I mean, it sounds like a very, very
professional mature voice. How old were you?
STAPLES: I was 13 years old then.
STAPLES: I had just turned 13. Yes.
AMANPOUR: I mean, that sounds like a much more grown up voice.
STAPLES: Yes. I was -- well, I get my voice too from my mother's side of the family. My mother and her mother, my grandmother, they had very strong
voices. As you know, Pops -- now, I get the music ability from Pops because Pops' voice was really high and smooth, you know, and -- so, I was
blessed. That's my gift, my voice.
But, you know, we would fool people. The people -- when we started traveling, the disc jockeys would say, that's little Mavis Staples singing
that part of that song, and people would say, that's not a little girl. That's got to be a man or a big fat lady. That -- no little girl has a
voice like that.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you, you grew up in Chicago but your father's roots were in Mississippi, right?
AMANPOUR: How did Mississippi enter your repertoire?
STAPLES: My father would send Yvonne and I to Mississippi to stay with my grandmother so he could have some help, you know. And we would go to
Mississippi, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, an all-Black town, you know. And I went to school. I was the May queen. I would fight a lot in Mississippi
because the kids would tease me a lot. You know, they tell me I sounded like a boy. My voice was so heavy. And I would get into fights.
But Mississippi, we would walk every Sunday to my grandmother's church in Merigold, and that had to be about eight miles from her house. And
Mississippi was -- meant a whole lot to me. My father would take us back down there to Dockery Farm and show us -- he showed us where he proposed to
my mother and he would show us where he grew up as a boy.
AMANPOUR: And just I want to ask you about that sort of period of your life. I mean, you toured the segregated south a lot, and that must have
been quite difficult and very challenging. And your father said that your mission, as a group, was, our aim is to get across a message while we're
entertaining people. Tell me how that mission statement, you know, played out, especially in some of the really difficult areas during the Civil
STAPLES: Oh, we were -- you know, the songs, the people, when we would sing, they loved it. They needed that. They needed those messages that we
were singing. And the Civil Rights Movement -- we started singing freedom songs and writing freedom songs because we had heard Dr. King's message.
And my father told us one day, you know, if he can preach this message, we can sing it. Our voices were like the soundtrack of the Civil Rights
Movement. We would march, we would sing. And Congressman John Lewis, he told me -- he wrote my line of notes for my freedom album that I made with
Ry Cooder. He said, baby, your family kept us going. Kept us motivated. By singing your songs, you all inspired us to keep going. You know, we
were just happy. We were happy doing what we were doing.
AMANPOUR: You know, you say that you were the soundtrack, and that's indeed right, that's what so many people say. But your father himself
said, if you want to write songs for the "Staples Singers," well, just look at the headlines. So, one of them you did, "Why Am I Treated so Bad."
Watching the news one night --
AMANPOUR: -- you saw the "Little Rock Nine," which was that tragedy of the nine children locked out of Little Rock Central High School during the
desegregation times. He wrote a song.
AMANPOUR: We're going to play a little bit of it, OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, the video, obviously, is from a later performance. But nonetheless, that song came from that time. What was it like? Did you
feel, I don't know, any responsibility? You played, I think, for Dr. King, right?
STAPLES: Yes. And that particular song was Dr. King's favorite. We would sing before he would speak. At all of the meetings, we would sing before
Dr. King would speak.
And every night that we were on our way to the church or the auditorium, wherever we would be, he would tell Pops, he's saying, "Now, Staple, you're
going to sing my song tonight, right?" And Pops would say, "Oh, yes, doctor. We're going to sing your song." And that was "Why Am I Treated So
I felt very sad for a lot of times for people like the Little Rock Nine. Watching those children try to go to school and board that bus.
These children walked every day. Every morning, they would have their books in their arms.
They would walk into a crowd of people who would throw rocks at them. They were spat upon and calling them names but they kept their heads high and
they walked with their books to that bus that they wanted to board.
It went on for so long, the mayor of Little Rock, the governor of Arkansas, and the president of the United States to let those children go to school.
And this particular day that they were going to board the bus, we were watching and all of a sudden they get all the way up to the bus and the
policeman put his Billy club across the door and wouldn't let them go.
And that was when Pops said, "Now, why are they doing that? Why are they treating them so bad?" And he wrote that song that evening, "Why Am I
Treated So Bad."
I've had the opportunity to meet some of the Little Rock Nine. In fact, in Detroit, I remember two of them came to our concert and they have followed
us just like we were following them.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Mavis, I wonder what it is about your music and the music of that era, what is it about the lyrics and the beat and the rhythm that
was so absolutely suited the Civil Rights Movement?
STAPLES: Yes. Well, you see the lyrics, the lyrics are truth. When you're singing the truth, people when they're hearing truth, they'll
respond to it.
That's what they want. They want to hear songs of truth. They want to hear it.
And we get told all the time of our harmonies. We were sounding like -- a lot of people when we first went on the road, they thought we were old
We were little kids. We were a little stair steps. But people thought we were old.
And I guess it kind of reminded them, too, of when they were young and they were hearing these sounds. Sister Mahalia Jackson was just the -- sister
Mahalia Jackson was the very first female voice that I heard.
And her voice moved me into the living room where my father was playing it. And he told me who she was.
I just fell in love with her. And she was my idol. She inspired me.
So sister Mahalia, Ruth Davis from the Davis Sisters and Dorothy Love Coates from the Gospel Harmony. These were three ladies that inspired me.
AMANPOUR: Fast forward a few years, you also eventually formed sort of a professional relationship with Bob Dylan. You entered a different group of
singers and musicians.
How close were you to Bob Dylan? Tell us.
STAPLES: Well, Bobby and I, we were very close. We were in love with each other but we had to -- Bobby wanted to get married. He desperately wanted
to get married.
And I had to keep telling him -- turning him down because we were too young. I knew I was too young. He didn't think we were too young but I
was too young.
I wasn't 20 years old. And he just -- that was the very first day that I met him that he proposed, you know, but he had been hearing us all the
Because his manager told them, "Bob, I want you to meet the Staple Singers." And he said "I know the Staple Singers. I've been knowing the
Staple Singers since I was 12-years-old."
So my father said, "How do you know us so well?" He said, "I listen to Randy." And Randy was a station -- 50,000 watts station that everybody
listened to Randy.
And he even quoted a verse of a song that I was singing. He said, "Mavis, she sings rough. You know, Pops, you have a velvety voice, a smooth
velvety voice." But Mavis, she gets rough sometimes."
Mavis -- he quoted the verse. He said, Mavis young to come on David when there's rock and slain. I don't want immediately."
He's a dangerous man. And boy, we just couldn't get over Dylan. And, you know, finally they went into the concert, he was singing and Pops said,
wait you all, listen to what that kid is saying.
And Bobby was saying how many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? And Pops would tell us stories about how he would walk down the
street in Mississippi and if a white man was coming toward him on the same side of the street, he'd have to cross over. He couldn't walk on the same
So he said we can sing that song. And we went back home to Chicago. We bought Dylan's albums and we learned "Blowing in the Wind."
AMANPOUR: There's quite a lot of crossover between the freedom songs you were singing and the freedom songs that he was singing in another
generation. So it's actually really interesting.
STAPLES: That's right.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I wonder what you feel like that you have continued and even in your latest album, you're singing about faith, you're singing about
freedom and love. And whether that will continue, I mean you don't sound like you have any intention of slowing up at all.
STAPLES: Oh, no. No. I still have plenty of work to do.
Things are worse today than they were in the '60s. So no, I can't slow down. I can't stop.
I've got work to do and I've got a lot of messages to deliver and I intend to as long as I can. That's what I plan on doing.
AMANPOUR: We'll all be listening. Mavis Staples, thank you so much, indeed.
STAPLES: Oh, you all are going to be listening? Thank you. Thank you.
And now we move on to the Catholic Church, almost two decades after the sex abuse horrors were brought to light, a new Pew poll finds almost 70 percent
of U.S. Catholics say abuse by the clergy is an ongoing problem. The poll also found more than a quarter say they're skipping church more often and
pulling back on their donations because of this scandal.
Author James Carroll is one of the disillusioned but he is no ordinary churchgoer. He is a former priest and he now has this radical idea for how
the church can save itself, abolish the priesthood altogether. Our Michel Martin digs in.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: James Carroll, thank you so much for talking with us.
JAMES CARROLL, CATHOLIC SCHOLAR/JOURNALIST: My privilege, Michel.
MARTIN: Your piece, "Abolish the Priesthood", posted a couple of weeks ago now, and almost immediately there was this very emotional and angry
reaction. And I was wondering what you make of it.
CARROLL: Well, I'm not surprised. I'm proposing something that sounds radical. I'm calling for a fundamental change in the structure of the way
the Catholic Church is organized, understands itself, in a way that focuses on the single most central figure in the church, the priest.
And to call for the abolition of the priesthood, by which I mean the dismantling of the structure of the priesthood as we know it, seems
especially to priests to be a kind of assault on them individually. So, a good bit of the pushback was from priests who felt insulted by what I was
MARTIN: This notion, the central notion of your piece, that the priesthood must be abolished in its current form, what was the breaking point for you?
CARROLL: Well, the breaking point came last summer when there was an avalanche of fresh new wave of scandalous revelations about the church, the
grand jury findings in Pennsylvania. There were civil actions against the church in Germany.
There were U.S. attorneys and district attorneys and attorneys general bringing charges against the church in diocese around the United States.
And then for me, there was the climactic visit of Pope Francis to Ireland which took place at the end of last summer.
Ireland is ground zero of the church abuse scandal. Almost every family in Ireland has some intimate connection with a victim. The Catholic Church
has been devastated in Ireland.
When Pope Francis went there, I expected a kind of major signal of reckoning with this. Why go to Ireland and pretend that's not -- that's
not what's been happening?
And he went to Ireland and expressed what felt like bromides of shame and sorrow but no signal of reckoning, no indication of a new structure of
accountability, no looking hard at the ways in which cover-up bishops are still not held accountable, no looking hard at severe and real and lasting
penalties for predator priests.
So, Pope Francis's failure to reckon with this scandal in Ireland was the breaking point for me because I so admire Pope Francis. He has been the
center of my hope as a Catholic now for most of a decade.
And when a revolutionary figure like him shows signs of being in the grip of clericalism, which I identify as the problem, that tells you how deeply
into the imagination of the church clericalism goes. Francis, too, is at the mercy of it.
And when I realized that, when I saw it in a way I couldn't deny, I began this journey into what I'm calling my own fast and abstinence from normal
practice of the church as a way of refusing to go on with business as usual as a Catholic.
MARTIN: You write that clericalism, with its cult of secrecy, its theological misogyny and its hierarchical power is at the root of Roman
Catholic dysfunction. Talk to me about that, if you would.
What is clericalism for people who are not familiar with it? Why is it at the root?
CARROLL: It's the basic idea that priests are in a different category of being. They're above us.
When a priest is defrocked, what do they say? He's reduced to the lay state. He's brought down to be like the rest of us.
This notion of priests as a caste apart, especially when it's built on the denigration of sexuality, the symbol of that is mandatory celibacy, as if
sexual activity on the part of priests would somehow make them impure. And clericalism is also built on the all-male character of the priesthood,
which is especially outrageous because it's a grievous offense against justice.
It's a way of essentially denying the equality of women in the church, in the human species. Why aren't more Catholics enraged, protesting this
unjust exclusion of women from the priesthood?
If the Catholic Church said that black people can't be priests, what would the world reaction be? The world would not tolerate it. It's not the same
to say women can't be priests but it's akin to it.
And the world deflects that. Essentially, the Catholic Church deflects it and priests deflect it. Women are equal to men.
Hello? Is this a moment when we can reckon with that in a new way? I hope so. Why does the Catholic Church exempt from that reckoning?
MARTIN: Well, I think then, some might argue then the answer is not to abolish the priesthood but to include women, right, but that's not what
CARROLL: Well, if you include women, if you include married people, if you remove the identification of clerical power from sacramental ministry,
these are elements of a reconstituted priesthood, a dismantling of the priesthood as we know it.
I'm not calling for the end of sacraments. I'm not calling for the end of the mass. These are the central, core elements of the Catholic faith.
There will always be the mass. There will always be someone enabling the mass to take place. Does it have to be a member of this pyramid of power
that is by definition denigrating of women, denigrating of people who are not clergy?
The pope at the top, bishops at the next level, priests at the next level, and down here, the population of lay people? No, the church is the people.
And a priesthood that reflects that basic truth would look very different from the priesthood we have now.
MARTIN: So, I want to go to some of the criticisms of your piece. Your theology is flawed. You're mad because people don't listen to you, et
But there was this argument that look, if -- as you've said yourself, a small minority of people, even though the number is large in the aggregate,
the harm is very large in the aggregate, it's a minority of priests. So, one argument is that if the problem was a structural, as endemic to the
priesthood as you say, it would be larger. What would you say to that?
CARROLL: Well, I'm not saying that priests are more inclined to abuse children than other people. The most dangerous place in the world for
children is their family, uncles, boyfriends, parents abuse children.
So, I don't want to be understood as saying priests are especially dangerous. The signal of dysfunction comes, yes, from the misbehavior, the
predatory behavior of priests, which is, frankly, in a category of its own because of the claims we Catholics make for priests.
But the real signal of dysfunction is what happens when abusive priests are uncovered and when the vast majority of bishops, a minority of predators,
the vast majority of bishops protect the predator instead of the children. Look, if it weren't for the press and now law enforcement, the abusive
behavior of that minority of priests would still be going on. It would still be covered up and the bishops would still be enabling it.
That's the signal of a grotesque dysfunction of the whole structure of clericalism, that pyramid I'm talking about.
MARTIN: I do understand your argument but if you'll indulge me --
CARROLL: Sure, sure, sure.
MARTIN: -- I do want to hear a little bit more about you for people who aren't familiar with you.
CARROLL: Of course.
MARTIN: You were born a Catholic. You embraced the church through your entire childhood and frankly, you made the very specific and difficult
decision to join the priesthood or maybe it wasn't a difficult decision. I was wondering what attracted you to the priesthood, to begin with.
CARROLL: Well, I was a religious boy, raised in a -- I hesitate to use the word devout, make it sound like my parents were pious, they weren't. But I
was raised in a solidly Catholic family, Irish Catholic.
The church was at the center of our family life. For God and country, that was my father's motto and I took it in.
It was very natural for me as a child to look up to the priests. The priest was the source of consolation, encouragement, affirmation, meaning,
especially for us Irish Catholics.
I loved being a Catholic priest. I was lucky because I was a priest during the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement. I was recruited into it,
challenged in my conservative and racist upbringing. It was the heyday of the Peace Movement.
I grew up in the military. My dad was in the military. I became a part of the Peace Movement.
All of that because I was in the seminary and the priesthood. The Catholic priesthood gave me my stance on life to which I am trying to be faithful
And when I left the priesthood after a mere five years, I found it possible to embrace my Catholic identity in a new and equally firm way and I've been
a Catholic all these years.
MARTIN: Would the Catholic Church be Catholic without priests?
CARROLL: It would be different. The form the priesthood will take after this crisis is unpredictable in some ways.
There will still be people presiding at, enabling the sacraments. There will -- they will be, in my own view, they will come from the community,
but they won't be bureaucrats in the power structure of a futile and monarchical church.
That's what the priesthood has become. That's what the priesthood is now. The priesthood as we know it owes more to the middle ages and to the Roman
empire than it does to the Gospel.
Look, one of the ways in which I'm criticized is to say, well, he just wants the church to be a democracy. Well, actually, that's true.
I think that -- I don't mean by that it has to go by majority rule but the values of liberal democracy need to be brought into the life of the church,
transparency, accountability, radical commitment to the equality of every member of the community. None of those three things are characteristic of
the Catholic Church today.
MARTIN: Other denominations, if I may say, that are more democratic than the Catholic Church are also struggling.
MARTIN: And they are struggling with people who have abused the vulnerable. They are struggling with impulses that many people consider
anti-LGBT, OK? So what I'm saying is democracy doesn't necessarily lend itself to a more humane, inclusive approach, right?
CARROLL: No, but it lends itself to structures of self-criticism and ways of reckoning with the flaws that are part of every institution. I'm not
foolishly calling for a perfect institution.
There would be no place in it for me if it were perfect. Believe me. I'm calling for an institution that is capable of correcting itself.
Three weeks ago, the Vatican issued the long-awaited new policy on how to deal with the abuse by clergy of children and it's yet another failure of
self-correction. Most powerfully symbolized by the fact that it requires the reporting of allegations of abuse but to church officials, not to civil
I beg your pardon. This is the end of this long process we've been going through for years. The bishops are finally going to tell us how they're
going to do it and the way they're going to do it is report allegations to other bishops, bishops looking after bishops.
I beg your pardon. This is an institution that still is not showing signs of being able to be self-critical and change and that's what I'm looking
MARTIN: How do you feel now that you put this before the public? I know that you have been sort of grieving, privately, for some time.
CARROLL: I feel two things. I'm quite distressed to have come to this place because I am a practicing Catholic or I have been.
I'm insisting now on my Catholic identity but in a new way. It's -- there's a kind of loneliness of the exile. That's what I feel.
But I feel something else, more powerfully. I feel that this is a turning point moment in the history of the church. This is a moment of full
revelation of the dysfunction.
It's blatantly obvious. And one of the signs of that is the way in which so many people are walking away from the church.
I think those people are still Catholics. And I think they're walking away as an affirmation of value and I'm inviting them to continue to think of
themselves as Catholic even if they don't want to submit to the disciplines of the bishop or the clericalists.
MARTIN: And you said yourself --
CARROLL: In other words, I feel like this is a moment of grace for the church because the truth is that -- is the beginning of real authentic
change and we're seeing the truth of the church's condition now.
MARTIN: I'm reminded of --I don't know who was the author of this. I sort of think of it as the underdog's creed.
First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Do you envision that in your lifetime, things will change?
CARROLL: Well, I don't see winning. But even the priests and the critics who are pushing back at what I'm saying have to reckon with the problem I'm
lifting up and to which I'm responding, however imperfectly.
They have to reckon with it. And the fact that the Vatican has yet to fully begin to reckon with this problem only is going to force the issue
The single largest reason I have hope for institutional change is the power of the feminist revolution. I wouldn't presume to speak for women. But I
am a feminist and I have been brought through feminists to understand the urgent importance of affirming the equality of women in every sphere.
And clericalism is built on the affirmation of the inequality of women. Clericalism is an institution of male supremacy.
The Catholic priesthood is an institution of male supremacy. That's the single largest point about it.
And my hope, of course, is that the Catholic priesthood will not be the only institution on the planet that is able to push back and stand up
against the feminist revolution. Women are simply too powerful for that to happen.
MARTIN: There are those who would say, join another religious group, become an Episcopalian.
CARROLL: Yes, it's true.
MARTIN: There are women priests. There are women bishops.
CARROLL: It's true.
MARTIN: And there's a --
CARROLL: And I fully respect the impulse to move to another denomination and many Catholics I know have quite happily. My wife's an Episcopalian.
I've often worshipped with Episcopalians.
I have a kind of home feeling for the Episcopal Church which does embody many of the values I'm calling for with Rome but my Catholicism is in my
marrow. If I had left the church and was hurling my criticisms from outside of it, they would mean something different.
I'm declaring my loyalty to this institution, but I'm a conscientious objector to it. That's different than someone who's left the country. So
that's my largest reason for not leaving the country.
MARTIN: James Carroll, thank you so much for talking with us.
CARROLL: Thank you. It's my pleasure.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: That's it for the program tonight. But join us again tomorrow for my conversation with Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's minister of state
for foreign affairs. We spoke just after a U.N. report was published saying there's sufficient, credible evidence the country's crown prince
bears responsibility for the murder of our colleague journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIAN MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: We have never had an instinct like this in the history of Saudi Arabia. This
is not how we operate. The (inaudible) happened, the president of the United States knows about it. The Iran-Contra happened, the President
Reagan know about it.
People exceed their authorities unfortunately and this was a great tragedy and a painful tragedy for Saudi Arabia and for Jamal Khashoggi's family.
The investigations are ongoing. The trial is ongoing. And those who committed this crime will be punished.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That really important conversation coming up.
Thanks for watching this special edition. And remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com. And you can
follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Goodbye from London.