Showing posts with label Catholic Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic Church. Show all posts

Monday, September 17, 2012

Catholic Bishop Conlon Reinstates Priest Who Abused a 14-Year-Old, Because According to the Vatican That Was OK in the 70s

Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, chair of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, has once again shown that he and the bishops are failing to correct past mistakes and crimes surrounding the handling of sexually abusive priests.  The Vatican backs them up on this.


Bishop Conlon's spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that the decision to reinstate Rev. F. Lee Ryan "had been difficult."  I wonder how difficult it's been for Ryan's victim to hear this news:
"He will not return to (full) ministry, but he is being permitted (a) very narrow ministry," the statement said. "This was a very difficult decision. I believe it respects the law of the Church and protects children."  (Chicago Tribune)
Father Ryan's (partial?) ministry that "protects children" will be visiting the homebound parishioners of two parishes in Watseka and Crescent City, IL.  Apparently in Bishop Conlon's universe, children don't live in the homes of sick people.  

Church officials said the man's complaint was assessed by a local review board, then sent to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Catholic officials in Rome decided that because of church law in the 1970s, which stated that 14 was the age of consent, Ryan did not commit a serious crime by the church's standards and could not be permanently removed from ministry, a spokesman for Bishop R. Daniel Conlon said.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized the diocese for allowing Ryan to return to some of his duties as a priest.  "This is a shocking and dangerous move by Bishop Conlon," SNAP said, noting that the bishop leads the U.S. Catholic bishops' committee on sexual abuse. "What part of 'one strike and you're out' do Catholic officials not understand?"
Apparently, every part.

The age of sexual consent in the Vatican is 12.  Yes, 12, but there are some exceptions that bump it up to 15.  Here's a link to The Daily Dish that expounds upon this absurdity.

How convenient for the Catholic hierarchy that a U.S. District Court recently ruled that the Vatican is not the employer of Catholic priests.  The Vatican can't be held accountable in U.S. courts for its priests' perpetration of sexual abuse against minors.  But when it comes to reinstating sexually abusive priests, the U.S. bishops determine whether a crime really took place using the Vatican's outdated age of consent.  How sweet it is for the Catholic hierarchy to eat its cake.

Next up, reinstating those priests found guilty of child-porn charges before May 3, 2011.  That was the date the Vatican allowed the USCCB to apply the federal legal age defining child pornography (under 18) to local church law, as opposed to Vatican child-porn, which is under 14.  You can read about this in the bishops' inappropriately named Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  



Boston Archdiocese Continues to Pay Salary to Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse; Vatican Unwilling to Defrock

This is an interview on Radio Boston concerning Rev. James Foley, who was accused of sexual abuse in 1999.

Over the past thirteen years, Foley has received his priestly salary, even after the Archdiocese of Boston settled the abuse suit and another victim came forward.

Meanwhile, those of us priests, who were whistle-blowers over the past decade, were turned out without pay.

Foley remains a priest.  This interview discusses how the Vatican and the U.S. bishops have not yet removed Foley from priesthood.  I wonder how many priests, who left to get married since 1999, have been successfully laicized by the Vatican?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Catholic Bishop, Robert F. Finn, Found Guilty of Shielding a Pedophile Priest, But the True Winner in the Case Is the Catholic Church

Last week, a Catholic bishop was finally found guilty for covering-up sexual abuse. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was found guilty of: 
failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls. The counts each carried a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation. (New York Times)
It's about time that a criminal Catholic bishop was held accountable.  But in the long run, the Catholic Church won this case.

Win Number One.  The church's defense team avoided a long and drawn out, public trial by jury and its unrelenting media scrutiny.  NBCNews.com reports:
Lawyers for Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph released the following statement after the verdict:  "Bishop Finn is grateful that the court and prosecutor have allowed this matter to be resolved. This could have been a lengthy and emotionally difficult trial for all persons affected. The bench trial, with a stipulation of testimony, has avoided the need for live testimony from diocesan employees, parishioners and others. This process has also resulted in the charges against the Diocese being dismissed by the state. The diocesan process and procedures as previously existed failed to adequately identify the necessity to inform the Children's Division of Shawn Ratigan's behavior in a more timely manner. For this, the bishop is truly sorry."
Who wants to hear witnesses rehashing the dirty deeds of the bishop and diocese?  Who wants the media  printing testimony that details the process of how abuse allegations are covered-up, ignored, and kept from civil authorities?  The church can thank its god that the details of this case will now quickly sink into the Google Sea.

Win Number Two.  As indicated in the previous statement, the charges against the Diocese of Kansas City were dismissed.  How wonderful for the church.

Win Number Three.  The judge let Finn off easily; he should have given Finn the maximum penalty of one year in jail.  Finn protected a Father Shawn Ratigan for five months after learning Ratigan had taken pornographic pictures of hundreds of girls.  Finn didn't report the crime, even though he knew of previous accusations made against Ratigan.  Would not one month of jail time for each month that Finn kept information from civil authorities be justified?  The pedophile priest's crimes went unreported until church officials contacted civil authorities without Finn's permission.  How the judge didn't see this as grounds for a maximum sentence will remain on the judge's conscience.

Win Number Four.  The Catholic theology of forgiveness, confession, and a fresh start is strengthened.  Finn can now retreat to the confessional and release the guilt he carries for his actions, if he harbors any.  His courtroom apology indicates that he might not:  
Before being sentenced, Bishop Finn, 59, his jaw quivering, rose in court and said: “I am pleased and grateful that the prosecution and the courts have allowed this matter to be completed. The protection of children is paramount.” 
He added, “I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt that these events have caused.” (NYT)
According to Catholic theology, contrition is necessary for forgiveness to be granted during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Finn's "apology" is not sufficient for the sacrament, because Finn displayed no contrition for his part in the crime and resulting scandal.  Finn said he was sorry for the hurt caused by "these events," not, I'm sorry that I protected this pedophile from civil authorities and in doing so betrayed the children this priest abused, their families, the people I've sworn to shepherd, and the society in which I present myself as a law-abiding citizen.  No.  Bishop Finn took the easy way out.  

He admitted being "pleased and grateful" -- pleased that he's not going to jail and can get back to his phony, "paramount" "protection" of children.  For that is his immediate future, as The Washington Post reports:
But even as he became the first U.S. bishop ever convicted in criminal court for shielding an abusive priest, Finn’s standing inside the church appears uncertain, and the subject of intense debate.  Should he stay or should he go? Finn has indicated that he wants to tough it out.
“The Bishop looks forward to continuing to perform his duties, including carrying out the important obligations placed on him by the Court,” Finn’s spokesman, Jack Smith, said in a statement to Religion News Service on Friday.
Pope Benedict XVI is the only one with the authority to force a bishop from office, and the Vatican said nothing on Friday about Finn.
While waiting for the pope to act or commit yet another sin of omission, Catholics throughout the Diocese of Kansas City will continue to pray before the "Real Presence" of their savior Jesus Christ at every Mass in the Diocese of Kansas City, "for our bishop, Robert."  

In spite of the church's wins in the Finn case, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has once again shown that it's incapable of responsible leadership when confronting the institutionalized culture of covering-up sexual abuse.
The point man on the abuse crisis for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., was circumspect about Finn’s conviction.  Conlon, who recently acknowledged that the hierarchy’s credibility on abuse was “shredded” in part because of cases like Finn’s, said that he did not know the details of the trial. (The Washington Post)
Bishop Conlon is the chair of the USCCB's Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.  One would think he has a responsibility to be familiar with the details of the first case involving one of his brother bishops being tried for covering up sexual abuse.  For the Catholic bishops ignorance continues to be bliss, and ecclesiastical justice for the victims of sexual abuse is again cast into the sea.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Response to Father Benedict Groeschel's Apology

     I have another piece on The Huffington Post:
The condemnations and apologies have been forthcoming since Father Benedict Groeschel, a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, told the National Catholic Register that some teenage victims of sexual abuse seduce their priest perpetrators. He also referred to convicted sex felon Jerry Sandusky as "this poor guy" before implying that Sandusky's victims should have spoken out sooner.
The National Catholic Register removed the interview from its website and posted an apology explaining the publication of Groeschel's "comment was an editorial mistake." In addition, the Register "sought clarification from Father Benedict," as if Groeschel's 468 word "comment" wasn't clear enough.

     Read the rest on The Huffington Post by clicking here.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Archbishop-Elect Salvatore Cordileone (Co-Creator of CA Proposition 8) Arrested for DUI

What a fascinating development!


When Father Peter Petroske was recently arrested in Michigan for a DUI, he was immediately suspended from his duties.  (He also happened to be driving naked.)  It will be interesting to see if +Cordileone is suspended from his duties and sent off to detox or whether bishops on the fast track to cardinal, who author anti-gay constitutional amendments, get a free pass.  

ABC reports that Archbishop-elect Cordileone was arrested at 12:30 AM Saturday morning in the College District of San Diego State University.  Why was a drunken +Cordileone cruising at that hour?  I doubt he was canvassing against gay rights.





Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oregon Priest Arrested for Sexual Abuse After Pursuing His Victim Dressed Only in His Underwear

In recent years, I've heard Catholics say, "I believe in the Catholic Church.  I mean, we're all sinners."  "The bishops have taken care of the sexual abuse crisis."  "The pedophiles have been weeded out.  They were just old priests, who went to seminary decades ago."  "Why won't the media leave us alone?  Can't we just move on?"  

No, we can't just move on.  Sexual abuse by Catholic clerics continues.  

Perez was arraigned in Marion County Circuit Court on Tuesday, appearing via video from Marion County Jail, wearing a black V-neck top with his hands secured in front of his waist. He faced allegations of first-degree sexual abuse, abuse of a child in the display of sexually explicit conduct, furnishing alcohol to a minor and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Father Perez was arrested after he chased a twelve-year-old boy down the street at midnight wearing only his underwear.  The priest had told the boy's parents that he was taking him on a trip to the mountains.  Instead, the priest took the boy to his rectory, got the boy drunk, waited for the boy to fall asleep and then assaulted him.  Thankfully, the boy was able to run away and find help.

Father Perez is not the product of some seminary past.  Like me, he was ordained in 2002, which as you might recall, was when sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church was on the front page of nearly every U.S. publication.  We baby priests were under a great deal of pressure.  We needed to be the new life, the new hope that the church needed.  We needed to provide people with the assurance that our generation would change the abusive culture that had been exposed.  We would make things right.  

In 2002, Father Perez was interviewed by The Oregonian.  He was praised for being the only priest ordained by the Diocese of Portland that year.  The following excerpts from that article show how Mount Angel Seminary formed Father Perez well.  He knew the right things to say in order to distract Catholics from smelling the predator in their midst: 

The sex scandals trouble him, but Perez says he is confident bishops are dealing with the problems. His new duties come first... "There are rules. There are so many rules," he said, walking back to the parish. "They taught us at the seminary -- we are not supposed to touch. I don't have any problems with that. I know my boundaries."
Rev. Angel Perez, in 2002 (via  The Oregonian

The 2002 article provides an accounting of Father Perez's Mass of Thanksgiving -- the grand Mass newly ordained priests celebrate in their parish.  Again, Father Perez said all the right things:


The new priest's hands were shaking. In the cavernous sanctuary of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Corvallis, hundreds of college-town Catholics waited to hear what the Rev. Angel Perez would say. In heavily accented but fluent English, he assured them he would be a priest for all, not just for the Latino parishioners. I will need your help, he said. "I said to them, my faith is very strong," he recalls. "That even though we have these problems in the church right now, these sex scandals, I really believe the Holy Spirit sustains us.  God is with us," he said, and stopped to look at his notes. Silence. In the pews, he heard one parishioner applaud. Then another, and another, until they all were clapping. For a moment, the anxiety that accompanies a new Catholic priest in 2002 went away.
Ten years later, that anxiety lives on in the communities of Woodburn and the victim's hometown, Salem.  

After losing the boy to a couple of good Samaritans, who took the boy to the police, Father Perez went to the boy's home at two in the morning and told his victim's parents, "I am just one who serves in the church, and I have sinned; don't stop believing in the church."

I won't stop believing in the Catholic Church.  I still believe that it is incapable of protecting its children from its priests.

The police report goes on to state that Father Angel Perez refused to leave his victim's home until "the mother forgave him and 'gave him her blessing.'"  

How Catholic of him: Go to confession.  Be forgiven. Go out and sin again.  I can only hope that no other parents have granted this same "blessing" to Father Angel in the past.

Rev. Angel Perez, Today.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Catholic Seminary's Website Contains Picture of Priest Removed for Alleged Sexual Abuse of Minors

     When recently visiting my alma mater's website, I discovered that St. Mary's Seminary and University of Baltimore is still using pictures taken during my first semester in 1998.  One photo includes a classmate of mine, who was removed from ministry in 2002 after he was accused of sexually abusing children.


     Very classy, St. Mary's.


     Perhaps the Catholic Church should divert some of the funds that it's using to fight LGBT rights into procuring pedophile-less pictures for its seminaries' websites.


St. Mary's Seminary and University
(Photo taken by me.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

On My Ten-Year Anniversary of Ordination to the Catholic Priesthood


On June 22, 2002, I was ordained a priest. 

Minutes before the ceremony, a squirrel met its demise at the intersection of a power line, junction box, and the cathedral’s roof.  The ensuing explosion left those in attendance in the dark.

Everything in the Catholic Church seemed dark in 2002.  Accounts of bishops concealing sexual abuse perpetrated by priests inundated the news.  Daily, revered clerics fell in shame.  Victims came forward, their long-suppressed pain and anger finally being given voice.  Those on the left blamed the pre-Vatican II, conservative and sex-suppressing seminary system that had formed the elder generations of priest-perpetrators; they blamed mandatory celibacy.  Those on the right made the post-Vatican-II progressives and their sex-embracing psychology their scapegoats; they blamed gay clergy.  Being both a victim and gay, I was angry, hurt, heartbroken, shamed, and frightened.  I'd wanted to run. 

But trusted others dissuaded me: "Don't make decisions in desolation." "The church and god have affirmed your vocation for eight years; you can't run from that now."  “Doubt is the vehicle to deeper faith and commitment.” "You don't need to come out of the closet; that's just pride tempting you." "It's not lying if those asking don't have a right to the information." "Your sexuality is a gift from god, in god's image, but if you act upon it’s 'disordered,' sinful." 

I dissuaded myself: "Jesus will work through my wounds, if I sacrifice everything."

During the ordination rite, an endless succession of priests passed on the priesthood by laying their hands upon my bowed head.  I knelt before them.  My kneecaps pressed through the thin cotton of my alb and ground against the hard floor.  After a few dozen hands had pressed upon my scalp, spasms began to shoot down my back.  I focused on the residual scent of incense in the air.  I breathed into the pain, the depression, for I deserved it.

Ruled by shame, I begged god for the strength to resist my "depraved" homosexual "urges."  Ruled by fear, I did nothing as the priest, who had assaulted me during confession and then sexuallyexploited me in college, placed his hands upon my head.   Ruled by redemptive suffering, I nailed my anger at him and all the corrupt priests and bishops to the cross.  There were no other options.  I accepted the only path prescribed to gay Catholic men: silent celibacy.


Thankfully, I no longer owe obedience to these clerics.  Ten years later, I am no longer a priest, no longer a Catholic.  The collective clerical closet in which I once lived is eight years abandoned. 

Others continue under that yoke.  I understand their plight, their fear.  It’s difficult to turn your back on the institution that “formed” you.  It’s terrifying to speak out against your superiors’ abuses.  It’s mindboggling to imagine a future beyond your career and community. It’s painful to witness cherished relationships end, as those, who cannot accept your truth, shun you. 

To those of you remaining, it is possible.  There is a life of health, peace, balance, joy, purpose, communion, love, and truth that exists beyond the Catholic church. 

Ten years after being ordained a priest, eight years after leaving the priesthood, and seven years after evicting the guilt imposed by my old religion, I can tell you that it does get better.  You can speak out about the abuse you endured.  You can build a new career.  You can make gather new friends and communities.  You can regain your mental health.  You can protest on the steps of your cathedrals.  You can find a creed or philosophy that brings you peace.  You can marry the man or woman that you love.  You can give of yourself to the world.

Not a day goes by that I regret leaving the priesthood and the church.  Ten years makes a difference indeed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann Get to the Heart of the Hatred Involved in Religious Homophobia

     In the video below, Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann get to the heart of how religion conditions gay persons to hate themselves.  So much of what Savage says speaks true to my past experience of being trained to hate myself as "God created me." 

     An example of this is in an Advocate article by John Becker, a married gay man, who went undercover and experienced the "ex-gay therapy" offered at Michelle Bachmann's husband's "clinic."  So much of what they told Becker is what I was told in Catholic seminary "formation."  I'm so grateful that I escaped.

     Back to Savage and Olbermann.  Savage is brilliant at turning homophobic arguments on their heads.  (The first half of the interview is about the Tony-winning The Book Mormon and marriage equality in New York.)  Start the video at minute 11:00 to get the point about the homophobia preached by many religions, Christianity in particular.


Here's a little bonus video: "I Believe" from The Book of Mormon.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Response to Archbishop Dolan's "Afterthoughts" and "Apology" Concerning the Same-Sex Marriage Battle in New York

Hello, readers.  I apologize for the long absence.  For my own well-being, I had to take a break from confronting the hatred out there.  That said, much has happened in New York where same-sex couples will now enjoy the state-level civil rights that opposite-sex couples enjoy.

Image Credit:   CBS News/Mike Segar
Archbishop Timothy Dolan just posted his "Afterthoughts" on his experience of being the mouthpiece for the anti-gay side of the New York marriage equality battle of the past few months.  In the response, which you can read in full here, he compares himself to John the Baptist and Thomas Moore, who were both beheaded.  He also "apologizes" to any gay persons who may have been offended by anything that he said.  (If you recall, he compared same-sex couples marrying to marrying his mother and that polygamy would follow gay rights.)

Here is my response.

Dear +Tim,

You are correct about one thing: "Finally, last point, for us in the Church, not much changes." Exactly, because in the U.S.A. there is a separation of church and state. You can discriminate as much as you want to in your churches and sacraments. That's what you purchase with your tax exemption. But know this: when you come after people's civil rights, you give up your claim to tax exemption. We will continue to fight you to retain our civil rights.

Those of us who are fighting for equal civil rights for LGBT persons are not "theophobic" or anti-religion; we're anti-theocracy. We don't care about your sacramental rights or rites.

I would think you would be anti-theocracy as well, since that's the real reason Thomas Moore was beheaded--he lived in a state where the King believed he was the hand of his god and not the pope's god. World history and your Old Testament show that there is a great danger marrying church and state; it always ends very bloody.

As for your "apology" to those of us who were "unintentionally" hurt by your "defense" of marriage, now you just dilute yourself. You said so many things that were based on unscientific, outdated and historically-abused stereotypes about homosexuals (i.e. the way you linked same-sex marriages to incest, polygamy, and such). You calculated your responses to hit below the belt and to stir the fears of your followers. You stoked hatred against LGBT persons who have been historically repressed and even tortured and murdered (see the Inquisition) in the name of your church.

Your "apology" is as hollow as the arguments you made against marriage equality. How do you look yourself in the mirror in the morning? How do you look gay priests and youth in the eyes? Do you have any idea how hurtful, demoralizing, and harmful your characterizations of homosexuals are? Your "apology" shows how out of touch you are with the virtue of compassion.

Yours outside of Christ,

Heretic Tom


Postscript: In case you forgot, +Tim, here's what the church did to gays in the Inquisition.
Source: Woodcut. Published in the 'Speculum in oculis Domini abominatium' by Franziscus Grotius, Leipzig,1474.  Reproduced in 'Inquisition torture instruments from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Age, "Qua d'Arno, Florence, 1985.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jesus Was Just as Wrong about the Rapture as Quack Harold Camping

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

     Fundamentalist Christian and multi-millionaire Harold Camping's doomsday prophecy was wrong.  Again.

     We're still here. As if there was any doubt.

     Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired transportation agency worker in New York, said he had spent more than $140,000 (£86,000) of his savings on advertisements in the run-up to 21 May to publicise the prediction. After 1800 passed and nothing had happened, he said: "I do not understand why... I do not understand why nothing has happened. I can't tell you what I feel right now. Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here." 
     "I had some scepticism but I was trying to push the scepticism away because I believe in God," said Keith Bauer, who travelled 4,830km (3,000 miles), from Maryland to California, where Mr Camping's Family Radio is based, for the Rapture. "I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this Earth," said Mr Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver, who took the week off work for the voyage. 
     Other followers said the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith. 
     [Camping] has predicted an apocalypse once before, in 1994, though followers now say that only referred to an intermediary stage.
     How did other "mainstream" Christians respond?  According to the BBC, "Many Christian groups however dismissed Mr Camping's ideas, with some describing him as a 'false prophet.'"

     Here's the thing.  The "god is testing our faith" and "false prophet" arguments have been used by Christians for two-thousand years to justify the delay of the parousia -- $140,000 word for "the rapture," ArmageddonApocalypse Now (and Later), Judgement Day, the end of the world, eschatology or whatever you want to call it. 

     Mainstream Christians--you know, like Catholics--much like some of Camping's followers, believe that the world is in an "intermediary" stage.  But the Catholic Church has a fancy two-thousand-year-old "Tradition" to pimp up its explanation with "accepted" and "scholarly" theology.  

     Catholics believe in an "already, not yet" realization of their god's "Kingdom" here on earth.  Let me dust off my Master of Divinity from the oldest Catholic seminary in the United States to explain this.

     Jesus, his disciples, and Paul believed that the end of the world was going to happen in their lifetimes.  They instructed people to leave their jobs and families, to stop marrying and having children, and to give away all possessions.  This is in the scriptures --"the Kingdom of God [sic] is at hand," "Anyone who does not leave father, mother, sister and brother behind has no place in my Kingdom," and so on.  Harold Camping's doomsday claims were a time-tested Christian incentive to trick vulnerable people into draining their bank accounts and children's college funds or to leave their fishing boats rotting on the shores.

     Early Christians believed that the world would end within a generation of Jesus' death.  But, when it didn't, they had to revamp their eschatology.  The shock and fear of this realization is evident in the New Testament, as "believers" struggle to understand and accept the not-so-immanent coming of the "Kingdom."  Over the centuries the Catholic Church developed it's "already, not yet" understanding of the coming of the "Kingdom." When Jesus died and "rose" from the dead, the "Kingdom" was made known in the world, but was not yet fully realized.  That will happen when Jesus "comes again" and the end of the world.  

     There will be "false prophets" who will predict the end of the world, but believers should not give into the temptation to believe them.  (It seems the Church learned from the mistakes of its founders.)  All of this is one big "god is testing our faith" argument.  

     But today's mainstream Christians call Camping crazy.  They are revolted by these modern day quacks who predict the end of the world.   They need to take the "Kingdom come" plank out of their own eyes and look at the failed predictions of their Jesus and saints.

     Christianity has been wrong for two millennia about the end of the world.  One reason that Harold Camping made headlines is to justify the denial that Christians have about the inconstancies, fallacies, and failure of their own scriptures and savior.  If Harold Camping is a quack, then so was Jesus of Nazareth.

     I feel sorry not for the adults that were scammed by Camping, but for their children.  Frightening your children into believing the world will end, now that's child abuse.


     Perhaps instead of Harold Camping and his saved followers disappearing, it's time that the world's many gods disappeared.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Visual Aid: If Marriage Equality Becomes a Reality What Will Happen?

     Here's visual aid concerning all those nasty claims and myths from right wing Christians, Catholics and Mormons concerning same-sex couples' civil-marriage rights courtesy of Political Ironing at the PBH Network.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia Suspends 21 Priests for Sexual Abuse, Is It 2002 Again?

     Here's the NPR report from Philadelphia  (My comments are interspersed.):
     The archbishop of Philadelphia has suspended 21 priests connected to allegations of child sex abuse, the latest in a series of actions by the archdiocese to deal with findings in a disturbing grand jury report released last month. The grand jury report accused a monsignor, three priests and a parochial schoolteacher of abusing kids or failing to prevent abuse by others. It also said that as many as 37 priests remained in active ministry with allegations or reports of inappropriate behavior or sexual abuse of minors...    
     I'm  relieved that these 21 abusive priests in Philadelphia have been removed from ministry and will not have access to children.  But it's been over nine years since this iteration of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church broke into national headlines from Boston.  What took Philadelphia so long to act?
Cardinal Rigali, Serious about Pedophiles 
     Cardinal Justin Rigali said in a statement that he's sorry for the harm done to the victims of sexual abuse and is determined to work for a solution that deals effectively with the issue in the church.  Rigali added that he knows many people's trust in the church has been shaken, and that he prays that the efforts of the archdiocese to address these cases and re-evaluate how it handles such allegations will help rebuild that trust in truth and justice.
     It's been nine years since Boston and nearly 30 years since the media started widespread reporting of Catholic priests sexually abusing children in the early 1980s.  The church has had thirty years to, as Cardinal Rigali stated, "work for a solution that deals effectively with the issue in the church."  They have failed miserably.

     The Dallas Charter, which the US Catholic Conference of Bishops promulgated in June 2002, was touted as to be the church's greatest response to prevent sexual abuse, remove abusive clerics from ministry, and prove to the nation that they were trustworthy.  Since its implementation, this charter has been consistently ignored and violated by bishops throughout the nation.

     So today, when a story breaks that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has suspended 21 more priests due to allegations of child sexual abuse while leaving "as many as 37 priests with allegations" in active ministry, why anyone, Catholics included, would believe that the church is effectively protecting its children is beyond me.  

   Here's a bit more more the NPR article:
     The archdiocese's move is a "long overdue and welcomed step," says David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. But "it's only a very partial first step. It would be incredibly naive for anybody to think that a mere suspension of these men somehow signifies a new day in the archdiocese," Clohessy says. "Anytime a credibly accused child molester is publicly identified or suspended, kids are safer. However, it's crucial to remember that the grand jury found widespread fault and deceit and recklessness by church officials."
      But Patrick Wall, a former Roman Catholic priest who is now a canon lawyer in California, says the grand jury report and the moves by the archdiocese mark a historic moment. "This report takes it to another level because they go after the vicar for clergy — that person who has the authority of the Archbishop Justin Rigali to handle priest affairs and priest assignments, and that person now is being called to justice," says Wall, who has worked on priest sex abuse cases across the country.  He says the situation in Philadelphia could have ripple effects on litigation nationwide. "It really does change the face of things, because not only can we look to the bishop or the religious superior, but now we can specifically look at how different lower, midlevel managers could be charged with child endangerment," Wall says.
     We can only hope that some of the "princes of the Church" will finally face the criminal charges they deserve.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine, Patron Saint of Gay Marriages

     Happy feast day of the god Lupercalia!  He's the reason for the season of love that we celebrate today.  Back in ancient Rome (before Christianity), February 13-15 were spent in festival, performing rites to purify the city for health, fertility and love.  In ancient Greece, Lupercalia was known as Pan.  Of course once, the Christians took over, this "pagan" feast was eventually syncretized into St. Valentine's Day.  And thank goodness, because flogging one's self bloody is not very romantic.

     As straight Christian couples around the world glorify their heterosexual love in name of St. Valentine's Day, homosexual couples continue to fight for their right to be civilly married.  The financial disclosure of political donations has shown that the vast majority of the funding for the campaigns to crush same-sex couple's civil rights comes from Catholics, Mormons, and Fundamentalist Christians.  What these "good" Christians don't realize is that they are repeating the history of their very own St. Valentine.  But now, they are the oppressive majority.

     Contemporary celebration of St. Valentine's Day is associated with the romantic legend of a third century Christian priest named Valentine, who broke the Roman marriage laws by performing banned marriages for young Christian men and women.  Yes, he was fighting for the the rights of his young flock to be married.  But don't blame the Roman majority.  Emperor Claudius II's Defense of Marriage Act was only trying to preserve the sacred and historically-founded unions of those who worshiped within the established Roman pantheon (and to keep those peace-loving Christians from dodging the draft).  

     Thus, when Christians gained control of the Roman Empire and usurped the right to marry, they changed what they now claim is the unchangeable institution of marriage.  [If you don't believe me or if you disagree, that's okay.  This is all according to Christian legend, and as I learned in my Catholic scripture classes, it doesn't matter if the scriptures are historically accurate, its the interpretation of the truth within the myth that matters.]

    For losing his life in the name of marriage equality and giving "straight" men everywhere an excuse to wear pink, St. Valentine should be the patron saint of marriage equality.  

Plus, the name, Valentine, is so gay.

Image Credits
  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Adults Are Also Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

     A recent Religion Dispatches' article, "Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church: When Adults Are Victims," tells a story that I know all too well from my own experience of being sexually assaulted, exploited, and abused by my priest while I was in college.  The article tells the story of Katia Birge, who at 25 was raped by a charismatic lay minister in her Denver parish only to be bullied by church officials when she came forward and sued.  (Click here to read the full account, which because of it's length I will not repost.)

     This particular quote from the article sums up what I learned in therapy after seeing my case covered-up:
     To Jeb Barrett, Denver Director of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a peer counseling group that Birge turned to after the attack, her story follows classic lines of abuse of authority. “There are many cases where very charismatic men develop very close and controlling relationships with the people given to them for pastoral care. There’s a kind of intimacy that’s of a different level than the grooming of a child. You groom a child with favors and candy and strokes and get their trust. With an adult, it’s different.”
     Adult victims could comprise up to 25% of all clergy abuse cases, estimates David Clohessy, National Director of SNAP, but often face considerable skepticism about their stories. “In the eyes of the law, victims like Birge are adults. But that doesn’t mean that emotionally, psychologically, in the presence of a trusted, powerful, charismatic clergy person, that in fact they can function like adults.” Considering the abundant ethical and legal prohibitions against doctors or therapists having even consensual sex with patients, in recognition of coercive power imbalances in play, Clohessy notes, “none of us have been raised from birth to think that a therapist is God’s representative or that a doctor can get me into heaven.”  [Another estimate is that over 95% of the victims of sexual exploitation by clergy are adult women.]
     In my case, I was completely groomed by my perpetrator.  Like Ms. Birge, who's perpetrator (Hernadez) called her a "whore" and told her that no man would want to be with her, after he'd just raped her, I was told by my confessor/priest/perpetrator that I was "seductive," "manipulative," and "sinful."   Because he was "God's representative," I believed him.  I believed that I was was the depraved sinner who had corrupted a holy priest.  This dynamic gave him more power over me by increasing my dependency upon him for his spiritual insights and sacramental graces, including forgiveness.  After I escaped his grasp, it took years of therapy and the recognition that my perpetrator was continuing to groom other barely-legal students--who my friends at the time referred to as "the new Tom"--for me to find the strength to come forward.

     Here are a few more paragraphs from Ms. Birge's case that ring true to my experience of coming forward:
     To victims’ advocates, this level of intimidation, and the attempt to recast Hernandez as an insignificant volunteer, is par for the course across the country, and especially in Denver, where Church lawyers have used increasingly aggressive, victim-blaming tactics as part of a brutal Church defense industry, composed of attorneys, insurers and the bishops who hire them. 
      “That’s been our experience here,” says Jeb Barrett, “that people who have gone to the Archdiocese have found their families scrutinized and questioned. It’s revictimizing, and it discourages other victims from coming forward.”
     I was told by the powers-that-be to be extremely careful with whom I spoke about my accusations and that reputations were at stake.  They asked "Why would you want to hurt your parishioners by scandalizing them with this?"  Those in power refused to speak to my parents and to respond to my sister's emails, even though my family was reeling in the face of the abuse and in need of pastoral care.  My counselor's advice and prescriptions were summarily dismissed, for she was a woman, and a lay woman, at that.  (This wasn't 1950.  It was 2004.)
     If anything, adds David Clohessy, “I think Church officials are even more reckless and callous when a predator exploits adults.”
      This is very true.  A priest exploiting an adult is almost a relief to some bishops: "Well, it's not like he raped an altar boy."  But the psychological/spiritual damage to the victimized adult is horrendous.  Like Ms. Birge, I also suffered depression and panic attacks.  After church officials covered things up, I became suicidal.  While I left the priesthood, my job, my community, and the church, losing everything I knew, my perpetrator was given a promotion to be in charge of "Catholic Identity" for the diocesan schools and remained in his campus ministry position, where he continued to have an ongoing supply of handsome, naive, and malleable young men fresh out of high school; gay boys like me, who were closeted, feeling rejected by the church's anti-gay teachings, in need of acceptance and love by God and his ministers, and ripe for exploitation by a known predator allowed to remain in power.

     Thank you Ms. Birge for coming forward.  May your witness inspire other adult victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to speak out.  The scandal doesn't end at the age of consent.


If you or anyone you know has been abused by clergy, here are some resources:

Another (Conservative) Priest from My Alma Mater Goes Down

     Another priest, with whom I was in seminary, has been removed from ministry because of scandal.  And, I'm not surprised.  After seeing a classmate removed for having sexually abused minors decades ago, hearing about one of the most conservative fellows going down in an assault/adultery case, and seeing another one die after drinking himself to death, nothing surprises me anymore.  I'm just thankful that I got out when I did.

     Delaware Online reports:
     A Roman Catholic pastor of two city parishes -- including one that counted Vice President Joe Biden as a past congregant -- is being accused of embezzling more than $350,000 from the parishes.  
     The Rev. Cornelius J. Breslin, 59, who had been pastor of the parishes of St. Patrick and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception until Wednesday, turned himself in at the New Castle County Courthouse and entered pleas of not guilty to the charges.  Breslin faces two felony charges of theft over $100,000 -- one for each parish -- and two misdemeanor charges of falsifying business records.  If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 32 years in prison, but likely would face far less -- including a sentence of probation -- given his lack of a criminal record and state sentencing guidelines.
     Adding insult to injury:
     St. Mary's, meanwhile, is one of the 28 parishes in the diocese facing a priest sex-abuse lawsuit. The plaintiff in the case is an anonymous "Jane Coe" who charges she was molested as a 13-year-old by the Rev. Edward Carley, who has since died.
     But the "good" news is:
     Krebs said Wednesday that he did not believe the alleged thefts by Breslin would have any effect on the diocese's bankruptcy proceedings -- because they involved parishes, not the diocese -- or the ongoing efforts by diocesan officials to reach a "global settlement" to resolve all outstanding priest-abuse lawsuits against both the diocese and its parishes. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Catholic Church Unveils 12-Step Program for Homosexual Addiction and So Much More

     It was really only a matter of time.  When I was a priest/seminarian, I was formed to believe that my (homo)sexuality was an addiction and prescribed so many "more natural" ways to "deal with" my "depraved" nature that was a "gift" from a loving god.

     The Catholic Diocese in Colorado Springs has adopted a 12-step program that offers "support" for homosexuals.  Despite striking similarities to Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step program for recovering addicts, proponents claim that the program is less about therapy than it is about support for people experiencing homosexual thoughts that they consider "a burden."
     Sure it is.  And it has nothing to do with a closeted clergy projecting their own crap onto the rest of the world.

     Here are the actual Twelve Steps as reported in The Huffington Post via The Gazette (and my comments):

      1. We admitted that we were powerless over homosexuality and our lives had become unmanageable.

     When I was parked at the edge of a frozen river with the plan of driving on the ice until it broke and I died, I admitted that I was powerless against Catholicism.

     2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

     So, I guess, those of us who are out of the closet are obviously insane.  

     3.  We made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God as we understood Him.

    Clarification: as Holy Disfunctional Mother church taught us to understand "Him" [sic].

     4.  We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

     As a gay Catholic, my greatest was going to hell because god made me gay.  

     5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

     Exact nature?  According to Catholic teachings, their god makes people gay.  How can one's exact god-given nature be wrong?  Unless your god's a vindictive ass hole.

     6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.


     7. We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

     Pray away the gay.  And you'll soon discover that nothing fails like prayer.

     8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.

     Someone, who claims to have been injured by someone else's homosexuality, is the person who needs to be making amends for their bigotry.

     9. We made the direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.

     I'm still waiting for Father Mustache and those who covered his tracks to apologize.  But maybe their apology would hurt me too much.

     10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

     Yes, just as Pope Benedict XVI, the Slapping Pope, has promptly admitted his wrongdoings in the sexual abuse scandals.

     11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of God's Will for us and the power to carry it out.

     "Conscious contact"?  I guess that is in opposition to the unconscious contact that being gay implies.  

     12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

     So I guess that makes Rev. Larry Brennan, diocesan director of priest formation, who defended this program to the paper a liar, for The Gazette quoted him: “It’s not about therapy and not about activism.”  Yes, and the Catholic money, DVDs, and pamphlets that support the suppression of gay rights is totally not about activism either.

     And for those of you who just can't stop harping about the penile focus of the Catholic Church , don't worry.  The Gazette reports:
     A 12-step program for lesbians may also be created if there is demand for it, Brennan said.
    Fight on, my feminist lesbian sisters! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1997 Letter Exposes Vatican's Refusal to Report Pedophile-Priests to Irish Civil Authorities (and a Trip Down Memory Lane: Benedict XVI, the Slapping Pope)

     As Pope Benedict moves towards beatifying John Paul II, the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church continues to balloon.

     The latest news out of Ireland is that a 1997 letter from the Vatican reveals how the John Paul II/Ratzinger-led Vatican resisted the Irish bishops' adoption of mandatory reporting to civil authorities of pedophile-priests.


     A newly disclosed document reveals that Vatican officials told the bishops of Ireland in 1997 that they had serious reservations about the bishops’ policy of mandatory reporting of priests suspected of child abuse to the police or civil authorities.  The document appears to contradict Vatican claims that church leaders in Rome never sought to control the actions of local bishops in abuse cases, and that the Roman Catholic Church did not impede criminal investigations of child abuse suspects.
     A documentary to be aired tonight reveals the contents of the letter and also claims that, on at least two occasions, the Vatican stepped in and stopped attempts by Irish bishops to defrock abuser priests.
     Last month, details of one of those occasions was made public when a High Court order finally allowed the full publication of a previously censored chapter in the Murphy Report on the Dublin Archdiocese.  That revealed that when bishops made moves to dismiss paedophile priest Tony Walsh, the Vatican instead sought to send Walsh to serve 10 years in a monastery.
     Tonight’s RTÉ programme, Unspeakable Crimes, shows Walsh went on to abuse another child after a Church court recommended that he was laicised because Rome insisted on a long, drawn- out appeal of his case.
     Watch the documentary by clicking here and then clicking on RTÉ's January 17, 2011 episode of Would You Believe?  The revelation of the letter's content comes at 0:12:00.  The connection to Benedict XVI/Ratzinger comes around 0:23:00, when he refuses to defrock pedophile-priests in both Ireland and the U.S.A.  The documentary's lack of sensationalism is damning.

     "The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of the human rights watchdog Amnesty International.
     The January 1997 letter is from papal nuncio Archbishop Luciano Storero to the Irish hierarchy. It states that the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, which oversees policies for the more than 400,000 priests around the world, said the bishops' new policy of mandatory reporting of suspected sex crimes by priests to police "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature."
     Storero (who died in 2000) wrote that canon law, which governs abuses and legal matters within the church, "must be meticulously followed" and any bishop who took actions that did not follow canon law would face the "highly embarrassing" position of being overturned on appeal in Rome. Such a result would be "detrimental" to the bishop in question, the Vatican warned.
     The letter closes with a stern admonition to the bishops that Vatican policies must be "meticulously" adhered to.
     How the folks in the pew can continue to disassociate themselves from the overwhelming evidence of their "Holy Father's" collusion in such heinous crimes against children and humanity is beyond me.

Postscript:

     And, in case you forgot, here's a news report from last spring on Benedict XVI's and John Paul II's protection of Legionaries of  Christ founder and serial pedophile, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.  (At 4:00, watch Ratzinger/Benedict slap the hand of the ABC reporter that questioned him about Maciel.  How's that for humbly turning the other cheek?)