Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Newly Released Documents Show Bishop Egan’s Chilling Disconnect

December 3, 2009

Source: Catholic_Kids.com

12,000 pages documenting the 2002 investigations into sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport CT were released last week, after the diocese lost a seven-year legal battle to keep them sealed. The documents include memos, administrative records, and testimony surrounding twenty-three lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by seven of the diocese’s priests. 448 of these pages transcribe the testimony of the diocese’s bishop at the time – Edward Egan.

Egan admitted to shielding accused priests, often relocating, and, at times, promoting them. The lawsuits were settled in 2002 and Egan was subsequently promoted to cardinal and then archbishop of New York.

In 2002, news of the lawsuits broke and, in the wake of the ensuing scandal, then New York Cardinal Egan released a  letter to his current parishioners expressing regret.

”Over the past 15 years, in both Bridgeport and New York, I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists. ‘It is clear today that we have a much better understanding of this problem […] If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

Victims, dubious of his sincerity, regarded the letter as an empty PR maneuver. Paul Mones, attorney for several victims, was especially unimpressed, (as quoted in the New York Times), ”It is getting off easy to say the behavior of the church was a mistake. It was not a negligent, unthinking action; it was a conscious plan to prevent scandal and to protect the interests of the church.” [Em. mine]

In another statement released in 2002  Egan vows, “I will do everything in my power to ensure the safety and security of each child.” Yet, there is no sign Egan has done anything at all to bring truth to light, punishment to criminals, and safety to potential future victims. Justice to past victims seems not even on his radar.

And then there is Egan’s testimony, which was never supposed to come to light, and in which he unflinchingly defends his decision to repeatedly shield and relocate accused priests, neglect to alert authorities, and his disbelieve accusations as a matter of course.

Sound bites include:

Incidentally, these things don’t happen, and we are talking about ifs.”

And when challenged on this,

“These things happen in such small numbers.”

And when questioned about Rev. Raymond Pcolka, who was accused by 12 former parishioners of abuses including forced oral and anal sex and beatings,

“I am not aware of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things. I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth.” [Em. mine]

He seems to regard prevalence of sexual abuse by clergy as minimal at best. The Times article summarizes:

“Bishop Egan, the fact that 19 individuals have come forward and made claims,” [attorney for plantiff] asked about Father Pcolka’s case, “you don’t consider that to be a significant number of individuals?”

The bishop waited while his lawyer quibbled over the number 19, then answered that considering there were 360,911 registered Catholics in the diocese, “I do not consider that a significant segment or factor.”

“Would you agree with me, Bishop Egan,” the lawyer pressed, “that if one person, one individual, has been affected by the sexual abuse of a clergy member, when that person was a child, that that’s far too much to accept in any diocese?”

“It would not be a significant portion of the diocese,” he replied.

He goes further to self-congratulate the diocese for such low rates of abuse

“It’s marvelous, when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.” [Em mine]

How can you prove something that is never investigated? Such deeply twisted logic, denial, and chilling disconnect from reality appears to be shared by Egan’s Bridgeport predecessor, Bishop Curtis, who admitted to keeping, then destroying records on accused priests and who asserted his belief that pedophilia isn’t a a disease, but a “more incidental” condition.

So how does Egan reconcile his promise that “Should any priest sexually abuse a child, he will be removed from pastoral ministry,” with his continuing penchant for uniformly turning a cold ear to the pleas of victims and their families and allowing such soul-crushing abuses to continue?

Copious amounts of skewed logic and denial.

The Washington Post did a piece on the videotaped testimony from a 1997 lawsuit against the diocese when a former parishioner,  Frank Martinelli,  testified that Fr. Laurence Brett had sexually assaulted him three times as a teenager in 1962 and 1963, including biting him during oral sex. Brett was transferred.  In his testimony, Egan seeks to absolve himself (Bishop of the CT diocese at the time) by claiming – incredulously – that under the strict hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church

“…diocesan priests were “self-employed” and not the bishop’s responsibility”

In further testimony

Martinelli’s attorney asked Egan if he would suspend any priest who was discovered to have sexually assaulted a minor.

“I would have to know the complete circumstances,” Egan replied.

The lawyer then laid out a hypothetical case with a fact pattern identical to the Martinelli case. (By this time, Egan was aware of church files showing that Brett had admitted assaulting Martinelli.)

What if this priest was a teacher, the lawyer asked, and sexually assaulted a student and bit the student’s penis?

“That would be sufficient cause [for suspension], I’m sure, in many bishops’ minds,” Egan responded.

Would it be sufficient cause in your mind?

“I would have to know all of the details,” Egan replied.

Egan admits that he met with Brett in 1990, knowing that Brett had admitted to sexual abuses. In a memo immediately after that meeting he wrote that Brett “made a good impression on me, he spoke with grace,” and “I’ll be inclined to write [him] a letter encouraging him to go on with his work.”

Eventually the diocese was flooded with so many accusations involving Brett that Egan was forced to remove him from duty. It is not clear how many children were abused in the interim.

On an encouraging note, although pervasive and far-reaching, this inexcusable minimalization  and denial isn’t quite institution-wide. An op-Ed in the Times last week contrasts Egan’s response with that of Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, following the release of a recent report detailing years of abuse and cover-ups in Ireland:

“The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the report is that while church leaders — bishops and religious superiors — failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what was involved.”

Martin speaks to what Egan appears to avoid all thought of – the children, the victims, the now-adults who try to refit the pieces of lives that have been shattered.


”A priest’s collar will protect no criminal,” – Dublin Report Reveals Decades of Abuse

November 30, 2009

Last Thursday a 750-page report was released on the secrecy and coverup of  sexual  abuse by clergy in the Dublin archdiosese. This report comes just six months after the groundbreaking  Ryan Report (spearheaded by Irish high court judge Sean Ryan) released last May. The Ryan report revealed endemic, long-term abuses by nuns and clergy against children in Ireland’s catholic institutions including schools, orphanages, and reformatories. Children were frequently sent to these reforming institutions for such crimes as petty theft, truancy, unwed pregnancy, and dysfunctional family life. Chronic beatings, molestation, rape, and humiliation were the norm for more than six decades. The last of these facilities closed in the 1990’s.

The Ryan report found that when confronted with evidence of such abuse, the sole response of Catholic authorities was to  promptly and discreetly relocate offenders.

“There was evidence that such men took up teaching positions sometimes within days of receiving dispensations because of serious allegations or admissions of sexual abuse. The safety of children in general was not a consideration.”

By providing an evidence-based portrait of the sexual, emotional, and physical damage wrought on thousands of children the Ryan report forced the church to acknowledge the reality of sexual abuse. Survivors formerly silenced for fear of being branded as liars by their catholic community, could tell their stories,  in many cases for the first time,  to investigators.

However, although the Ryan Report shed much needed light upon these crimes, many, including the organization Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA), were angry that no persecutions would result from the findings. In 2004, when news of the investigation surfaced, the Order of Christian Brothers, which was involved in the running of most of the institutions, filed and won a lawsuit that guaranteed all of its members, dead or alive, would remain anonymous in the report.

The latest report, issued this week, focuses specifically on the parish of Dublin – home to four million of Ireland’s Catholics – and the fact that not a single instance of abuse was reported to police until 1995, despite the shocking and long-term pervasiveness of the crimes.  From the NY Times article:

Thursday’s report detailed ”sample” cases of 46 priests who faced 320 documented complaints, although the investigators said they were confident that the priests had abused many more children than that. They cited testimony from one priest who admitted abusing more than 100 children, and another priest who said he abused a child approximately every two weeks for 25 years.

It examines the cover-up and consequential perpetration of these abuses by Catholic authorities, singling out four archbishops in particular: McQuaid, Ryan, McNamara, and Connell, and concludes that each of them sought:

”the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities.”

No apology yet from the Pontiff in Rome, although he was reportedly “visibly upset” upon hearing the findings of the latest report. The lone comment came from Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi who stated, appallingly, that this was “a matter for the local church.”

The Irish government, on the other hand, issued an immediate apology to the public. Justice Minister Dermot Ahern promised that never again would the government treat the Catholic church with deference. “A priest’s collar will protect no criminal,” he said.

My question is this – why haven’t we made a similar pledge in the United States? If this were happening in any other type of institution – school, day care, boy/girl scouts, little league… – there would be no secrets, no privilege of keeping files from the court, no opportunity to dole out punishment “from within.” Is it the political entanglements of those in power that keep them from pulling rank on the Catholic Church?  Why did Speaker Pelosi let a call from the Vatican inform her decisions regarding the new health care bill? Why do most states still have a statue of limitations that uniformly prevents most victims from ever seeking justice (as they would do as an adult who has had years to come to terms with, or even so much as admit, what has been done to them)?

A papal apology is nice, but justice, accountability, and the prevention of further abuse matters so much more.

Prop 8 & Gay Marriage – A Point by Point

December 18, 2008

I have a hard time understanding the current fervid “defense of traditional marriage” position. How is marriage being attacked, again? As Jason Linkins pointed out recently on Huffingtonpost:

…it’s a lot like saying that my preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla threatens the sanctity of dessert. Must we have these conversations over harms that are entirely imaginary?

But way too many Americans voted for Prop-8 or similar legislation, so what did they tell themselves to make that okay? I’m trying to understand. I am. Which is why when Jon Stewart managed to have a civilized discussion about gay marriage with Mike Huckabee this week, I sat up and paid attention. Huckabee speaks for the core of social conservatives, right? What did he have to say when Stewart questioned him?

…um, that’s all he’s got? Sadly, I was expecting more. If you look closely at what he asserts, you find merely age-old rhetoric without an ounce of logic or demonstrable fact.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:

  • Marriage between a man and a woman should be the only marriage because “it’s always been that way.”

Since when has this been a vaild reason for anything? Earlier in this country it had “always been” that a woman had no right to enter into a contract of any kind and she legally held no possessions. First she was a dependent of her father and then a dependant of her husband and held no legal rights to make life choices that might go against their wishes. (See Debran Rowland’s awesome book,  The Boundaries of her Body.)

In 9th century Europe, and for centuries before, it had “always been” that a woman who learned to read was sinful, dangerous and very likely possessed.

Things that had “always been” but were eventually changed for the betterment of society are so numerous you could dedicate a book to the topic.

And besides that, it HASN’T always been that way. Far from it. Although Huckabee boldly asserts that it was one man one woman for “the past 5000 years of recorded history,” it’s just not true. In a 2006 article historian Stephanie Coontz writes:

Pundits and politicians love to pontificate about strengthening traditional marriage. But as someone who has studied marriage forms and family life for more than three decades, I wonder how many of them have the faintest idea of what they’re talking about.

I suppose they mean the “traditional” marriage of one man and one woman.

But through most of human history and in most cultures the most widely accepted tradition of marriage has been polygamy — one man and multiple women. We’re not just talking about exotic island cultures or lost tribes in the African jungle. Polygamy is the family form most often mentioned in the first five books of the Old Testament.

In some societies, traditional marriage meant one woman wedded to several men. In others, a woman could take another woman as a “female husband.” In China and the Sudan, when two sets of parents wanted to forge closer family ties and no live spouse was available, one set sometimes married off a child to the “ghost” of a dead son or daughter of the other family. Among the Bella Coola and Kwakiutl native societies of the Pacific Northwest, two families who wished to become in-laws but didn’t have two sets of marriageable children available for a match might even draw up a marriage contract between a son or daughter and a dog belonging to the desired in-laws. Most traditional marriages were concerned with property and wealth, not love or sex.

But what about the sanctity of marriage in the Christian tradition? It is true that Jesus, contradicting Moses, forbade his followers to divorce. But Jesus was not very keen on having them marry in the first place, holding that it was better to abandon worldly ties and dedicate oneself to building the faith. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke, 14). The Apostle Paul thought that getting married was better than burning in hell for unmarried fornication, but that the truly good thing was to remain a virgin and devote oneself to spreading God’s word. [Em. mine]

  • Marriage is all about making babies and hey, they just ain’t got the plumbing for it…

We’re talking about the law here. What part does procreation play in the law of marriage? Barren couples can marry. A couple can marry who has no intention of ever having children. A couple can marry and then proceed to adopt the offspring of others. All perfectly up and up. So the feeling is basically “As long as you’re having sex the way we expect you to, your marriage doesn’t have to be about procreation at all!”

And seriously, what does he mean by

“But even anatomically- let’s face it, the only way that we can create the next generation is through a male female relationship.”

So… gay marriage would replace heterosexual marriage and therefore lead to our eventual extinction?

  • If you “open up” the definition of marriage to include same sex couples, then you “have” to open it up to include everything else – (with multiple spouses, children, and animals ostensibly the first in line.)

Really? Why? Because you need to equate two men falling in love, getting married and spending their lives together with the profound abuse of children and animals? (assuming the animal marriages were, uh…consummated.) Sadly the equating of “grave sins” with whatever he disagrees with is not new territory for Huckabee.

Let’s look at other groundbreaking moments of  “redefinition” over the past 60 or so years.

* When “free man” in the US was redefined to include all races, were children suddenly emancipated from parents? Live stock emancipated from owners? Pets roaming the streets? Zoos emptied?

* When the definition of a legal voter changed to include women, did the floodgates open so that children, animals, and immigrants suddenly lined up at the polls?

* When an interracial couple could legally marry – did that immediately pave the way for marriage between homosexuals, children, animals, and next of kin?

Then why? Why would gay marriage lead to everything else you propose? Never once has anyone elaborated on this. Why.

  • It says so in the bible.

This one is so flawed that even Huckabee didn’t touch it during his Daily Show chat. First of all, contrary to the opinions of some, the bible does not inform our laws. Cheating on your spouse, disrespecting your parents, shouting “Goddamnit, Jesus Christ!” and lusting after another dude’s wife are all perfectly legal. Rather, our laws are explicitly informed by the US Constitution and the Separation of Church and State is in its oldest amendment.

That really is all that needs to be said to on the topic. Separation of Church and State. Yet, it’s only the beginning of why this “reasoning” is flawed. So although I don’t have to go here, it’s so much fun, why the heck not?

Yes, the bible says a man shall layeth with a woman, etc… The bible, in fact, says a lot of things. Deuteronomy Books 21 and 22, for example, have an awful lot to say…

  • You must stone to death a disobedient child. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
  • “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whomever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5
  • Any man whose bride has not shown sufficient evidence of virginity upon the wedding night must publically stone her to death upon her father’s doorstep. You know, to “purge the evil from the midst of [him].” Deuteronomy 22:13-21
  • If a married man cheats with another woman “both of them shall die.” Deuteronomy 22:22

(The previous culled from the wonderful Michael Shermer in his book Science Friction.)

Sure, there are lots of positive “do unto other” sentiments in the bible, especially once God has a son and everyone mellows out. But if you proclaim that what is written in the bible is the word of God, how can you dismiss some points while emphasizing others as absolute truth?

As Shermer says:

The problem here is consistency, and selecting ethical guidelines that support our particular or social prejudices. If you are going to claim the Bible as your primary (or only) code of ethics, and proclaim […] that homosexuality is sinful and wrong because the Bible says so, then you’ve got to kill rebellious youth and nonvirginal premarried woman.

Instead, the social conservative culture chooses to target homosexuals (no marriage!) while going easy on equally offending sexually active single women (please marry!…Oh, and have babies as soon as possible…)

Prop 8 proponents also spew another attack line, which again Huckabee was smart enough to avoid in his tete a tete with Stewart – Gay marriage defiles children. How?

The official Prop 8 site has this cute video (I’ve linked to it before, I know…) where a couple fears for the well being of their child because a teacher spoke about same-sex marriage in class. How the child would be harmed is never delineated.

This woman, gets more specific with

If you look at homes where one parent abuses the other parent, especially if the child is a girl, she will grow up to pursue guys who abuse her. My prediction is that if two lesbians raise a little girl/boy, the child will have a very high chance of either committing suicide or turning homosexual himself. Especially if one of the parents has been artificially inseminated.

She also happens to believe

…homosexual lifestyle leads to high rates of suicide, depression, HIV, drug abuse, STDs, and other pathogens.

What kind of koolaid has she been drinking? I don’t even feel the need to rebut this, as it’s a sentiment that has never been substantiated in any way – not even in theory.

Random House defines homophobia as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.” Now, explain to me how actively supporting Prop 8 (or similar legislation) doesn’t make you homophobic.

Go on , Huckabee. I’m listening…

Feminist or “Fetalist”? Feminism in Light of the ’08 Campaign

September 18, 2008

Feminism has become the new buzzword this presidential election cycle. First Hillary fought hard to shatter that ultimate glass ceiling, then Sarah Palin emerged as a “new face of feminism“, despite holding views that are antithetical to those of most self-described feminists.

Hillary was criticized by Palin herself for pointing out gender-bias during the primaries, yet feminists are being regarded as hypocritical for not supporting the potentially first female Vice President of the United States.

Which got me wondering – what is a feminist?

Palin’s beliefs on sex education, birth control, abortion, and GLBT issues make her decidedly un-woman friendly to the majority of feminists. Yet Palin considers herself extremely woman-friendly and thinks the other side has everything all wrong.

What’s going on? Can there be a Christian conservative feminist?

I struggled with this one. Does believing abortion is murder and that the government isn’t responsible for enforcing gender equality mean that you are against the empowerment and equality of women?

Palin is a member of Feminists for Life. It’s a group that believes “women deserve better than abortion” and strives to “systematically eliminate the circumstances that drive women to abortion.” The latter sounds pretty good. Except they don’t.

The group lobbies for a program of federal grants for pregnant or new parents (or those preparing to adopt) who are students so they don’t have to sacrifice their education in order to support a child. They also oppose family caps for women on welfare. However it seems that, in FFL’s world, financial burden is the only circumstance that provokes women to choose abortion. The site speaks nothing of sex ed or contraception, except when it condemns them. In an article on rape and incest, it mentions birth control:

“birth control counseling and abortion often indirectly contribute to the victim’s sense of shame, guilt, and blame for what is happening, since she is told to “take control” and “be responsible” for her “sexual activity,” implying that this situation is indeed within her power to control.”

Who tells a victim of incest or rape that they should have used birth control? Or implies that she “take control” next time by carrying rubbers around just in case? That’s so offensive, it’s sickening.

A 2005 piece by Kathy Politt in The Nation investigates FFL and interviews its president, Serrin Foster. Foster advocates a ban on abortion in all circumstances, including rape, incest, deformity, or when the life or health of the mother is at stake. She makes the thoroughly debunked assertion that an abortion ban would stop abortion altogether and make women safer overall, she ensures her members are “medically informed” by erroneously telling them that abortion causes breast cancer, feels the contraceptive pill is an ” abortifacient” and birth control in general “doesn’t work” for teenagers or swing-shift nurses who lose track of their body clock.

Feminsts for Life isn’t actually about improving the lives of women, nor even addressing the circumstances that lead to abortion. It sounds great to say women need more help juggling babies and education and careers, but in what practical way does FFL represent feminism?

Politt concludes her piece with the answer:

Exposing the constraints on women’s choices, however, is only one side of feminism. The other is acknowledging women as moral agents, trusting women to decide what is best for themselves. For FFL there’s only one right decision: Have that baby. And since women’s moral judgment cannot be trusted, abortion must be outlawed, whatever the consequences for women’s lives and health–for rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart attack or stroke, women who have all the children they can handle and women who don’t want children at all. FFL argues that abortion harms women–that’s why it clings to the outdated cancer claims. But it would oppose abortion just as strongly if it prevented breast cancer, filled every woman’s heart with joy, lowered the national deficit and found Jimmy Hoffa. That’s because they aren’t really feminists–a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists.

Feminist historian Estelle Freedman told NPR that conservative women (have been known to) appropriate the term for political gain. If you say you’re a feminist, but the nice, family-oriented kind, people hear what they want to hear. Without examining too closely, women believe you’re one their side.

Yet even this can backfire. To the right even of Palin the tag “feminist” is raising some disapproving eyebrows. Olivia St. John of World Net Daily writes that Palin’s decision to work outside the home is a direct contributor to her teenage daughter’s pregnancy. She is accused of gauchely “(stealing) the spotlight” as her husband and children look on from the shadows and further reprobated as “legitimizing the societal phenomenon of the career-centric absentee mother.” I guess you can’t please everyone.

Palin is an accomplished, intelligent, successful woman. She manages a career and a family in a way that appears enviable. She could even become the very first female Vice President of the United States. But Sarah Palin will not make the country better for women. No matter what she says, or what FFL wants you to believe, Sarah Palin is not a feminist.

Under Palin, Victims Charged for Their Own Rape Kits

September 9, 2008

Haven’t had much time to blog lately, but this was too stunning to pass by. Thanks to this piece at Huffington Post, we learn what shouldn’t be so surprising coming from an evangelical in power – and yet it is. Palin was mayor of Wasilla Alaska from 1996-2002 and, until a state law banned the practice in 2000, Wasilla charged victims of rape for their own rape kits.

In case you’re not aware, a rape kit is the physical exam and collection of bodily evidence taken from the victim in the hours following a rape; it allows for the forensic testing essential to pursue prosecution in a crime whose prosecution is already stacked in favor of the defense. A traumatized woman brave enough to make it to an ER following her attack in Wasilla would be granted the examination only if she could pay anywhere from $300-$1200. (It was billed to her insurance where possible.)

Did Wasilla charge for fingerprint dusting at the scene of a burglary? Special fees for bagging evidence at the scene of a mugging? When someone was murdered, was the victim’s family billed for the bodily exam? Did the Wasilla police department charge a victim for examining any scene of a crime? Only when that crime scene was a live woman’s body and only when the crime involved sex. This can be rationalized only considering an unspoken assumption that the victim is somehow to blame. Something she said, something she wore, someplace she was.

Not such a jump for an evangelical who is a huge supporter of “abstinence only”. Palin has said that “explicit sex education programs will got get my support.” Explicit? What kind of education do you give by being vague? Palin also spent twenty years at the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church where they speak in tongues, believe in the imminent rapture, and pray to cure homosexuality. Although Palin switched to the more moderate Wasilla Bible Church several year ago (no tongue-speaking at least) she since, as governor, renamed the street on which the Wasilla Assembly of God sits after its founding pastor, Rev Riley.

Okay, maybe Palin wasn’t fully aware of the policy to charge victims of sexual assault for their own rape kits. Maybe it wasn’t on her radar?

Not likely.

When Palin took office as Mayor, she ousted the sitting Police Chief (a move so contested it brought about clamor for a recall) and replaced him with Charlie Fannon. Fannon would become the most vocal opponent to the legislation, passed by Governor Tony Knowles in 2000, that made it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims for the costs of examinations conducted to collect evidence of a sexual assault. He went on the record saying the law “unfairly burdened the taxpayer.” Again – why not charge for the investigation of other crimes? Why just rape?

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) 60% of all sexual assaults go unreported. What’s one more hurdle to speaking out? RAINN also reports that, factoring in the unreported assaults, only 1 in 16 offenders go to jail.

So how much rape reporting is happening in one of the least populated states in the country? In 2000, the year Knowles’ legislation passed, Alaska had 497 arrests for rape. This post at Daily Kos does a great job of contrasting the “burden to the taxpayer” against Alaska’s exhorbitant earmarks during Palin’s term as governor.

Fannon argued that the

“new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases,”

as if collecting evidence for sexual assault isn’t already the responsibility of the police.

There are many disturbing things about Palin – more specifically about McCain’s decision to choose Palin as his running mate. As others have said, this isn’t about Sarah Palin; it’s 100% about John McCain.

There has been a lot of talk about the McCain camp not vetting Palin enough – instread pouncing on her after one breif meeting because of her selling points. I worry that the campaign has been aware of a lot more than we suspect and just didn’t care. McCain has issues with his ultra-conservative base, many of whom wouldn’t recognize victim blaming in regard to rape if victims were emblazoned with bright red letters. There will also be those swayed by the image of hockey-mom, loving wife, god-fearing citizen: conventional in many ways Clinton was not. And let’s not forget those desperate for a way to rationalize voting for McCain when they had been planning to vote for Clinton while being loathe to broach the subject of race.

That law in Wasilla was the epitome of the repression of women and backward thinking about sex. The question is…will anyone really take notice?

If you’re pro-choice you can’t be Catholic?

April 28, 2008

Image from www.messagesfromgodthefather.com/During the Pope’s recent NYC visit, Rudy Guiiniani, along with 2500 fellow worshippers, took communion. The former NYC major was then sharply criticized by NY Archbishop Cardinal Edward Egan who felt Guilani should have abstained because of his pro-choice politics. Earlier this year St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke vowed to deny Giuliani communion should the presidential candidate attend a mass over which he presides, and has further asserted that, “anyone administering Communion is morally obligated to deny it to Catholic politicians who support an abortion-rights position contrary to church teaching.”

Other Catholics have criticized Giuliani’s recent partaking of the sacrament on the grounds of his divorces.

This select proscription seems arbitrary and difficult to understand. If Giuliani’s unworthy to receive communion, is he worthy to be a member of the church? If he has defied the church laws to such an extent, should he be excommunicated? Too harsh? So he’s allowed to remain a practicing Catholic – but no communion. What of other sacraments? Confession? Last rites?

Then again, if the church shunned every pro-choice parishioner, or every woman who once had an abortion, or every man who condoned a female’s right to choose, it would end up with a severely diminished congregation – a problem it faces as it is.

And upon closer inspection, moral distinctions become even murkier. What about parishioners who vote for a pro-choice candidate not because of an abortion stance but because he or she offers more affordable health care for their children, or because the candidate vows to end a senseless war?

And what about pro-life politicians who, almost without exception, rigorously endorse the death penalty, another “mortal sin”? Or those who advocate torturing suspected enemies? While we’re at it, I don’t know of any admitted pedophile clergyman who has been denied communion – or those who continually abetted them, either.

Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan was a Catholic, and his vote helped decide Roe v Wade in 1973. Pope Paul VI had nothing to say about him, as far as I could dig up, nor did D.C. Archbishop Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle. Brennan retained his right to take communion, and presumably also last rites since in 1997 his funeral mass was held at St. Mathew’s Cathedral in Washington D.C.

And what about those who have sex before marriage or use contraception? Pope John Paul II deemed both acts “intrinsically evil“, and Pope Benedict XVI has since conceded the teaching to be “unchangeable.”

Those lines could become pretty short at communion time.

Yet Pope Benedict didn’t refuse to serve communion to Giuliani. How could he? Although Giuliani took communion at St. Patricks, during a mass attended primarily by clergy, the following day the Pope held mass for 60,000 at Yankee Stadium. Should everyone have been asked their stance on abortion before the Eucharist was lifted to their mouths?

If believing in the legality of abortion – or further, propagating this belief and working to one individual or whole communities gain or maintain access to abortion – is such a deal-breaker, again – why is this spoken of only in select instances, and only during an election cycle?

Because to consistently condemn congregants based on this criteria-even if possible-would decimate the church. Its prevalence and power would shrink. And that, above all else, cannot be allowed.

So it’s a mortal sin. Just like contraception. So much so that we will block reproductive health measures to fight AIDS in Africa in order to prevent the use of life-saving contraception. However, it’s not so much of an issue that we will risk losing much of our flock over it.

Then again, why should someone be turned away from a religion for sinning? Isn’t that the whole point? If someone, especially someone engaged in what your religion considers to be sinful life choices, wants to be an active member of your church, to listen to your clergy’s sermons, to worship with you, shouldn’t that be a good thing? If you really want to change someone’s mind or behavior, keeping that person in the fold should be the best way to do so. Wasn’t that what Jesus was all about, embracing the sinner?

Or maybe it’s not about casting out mortal sinners, maybe it’s the public chastising that’s important. The standing on a chair in a dunce hat humiliation – giving satisfaction to those who see themselves as morally superior, as those who truly deserve communion.

After all, how many behaviors can be criteria for removal from the church without disseminating the church itself?

And if you want to talk about human acts that would deign one unworthy of partaking in something holy…well, the Pope himself is hardly exculpable.

Catholics for Free Choice, a self described “independent not-for-profit organization engaged in research, policy analysis, education, and advocacy on issues of gender equality and reproductive health,” conducted a poll during the 2004 US presidential election and found that 53% of Catholics identified themselves as pro-choice and 61% believed abortion should be legal.

The organization’s splinter group, Catholics in Political Life: Challenges to Faith in Democracy uses the church’s own teachings to open the debate about abortion and gender issues:

1. Catholic teaching regards the well-formed conscience, not catechism or statements by bishops, as the final arbiter in moral decision making.

2. Recent teachings of the church acknowledge that it does not know when a fetus becomes a person so it cannot state explicitly that abortion is murder. However, there is no doubt about the personhood of a pregnant woman, and the protections that the hierarchy would grant to fetal life should be extended to include women facing difficult or unsupportable pregnancies. Not only that, but for those who do think that abortion is killing, the church does permit killing in certain instances, some military conflicts being a prime example.

3. The church has not made its teachings on abortion infallible. As recently as 1995, in Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II and his advisers considered and rejected the inclusion of the adjective “infallible” to describe its teaching on abortion.

4. The Catholic system of probabilism supports Catholics’ right to dissent from church teachings if there is a solid probability that the teaching is wrong and that this belief is supported by theologians or that the dissent is informed by prayerful and thoughtful discovery.

Read the rest here.

Go into any mass on any Sunday morning across the US, and you’ll see a group of flawed individuals, most of whom haven’t been cleansed by confession in a long time, step forward and take “the body of Christ.”

If Cardinal Egan really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, even without advocating contraception use or extramarital sex, there are plenty of ways he could have used his tenure as NYC Archbishop to do so. As it is, he will likely retire within the year, having submitted his resignation to the Pope, as required, upon his 75th birthday.

His legacy is marked by improving the archdiocese’s financial standing by closing 15 schools and 21 parishes, having an imperious demeanor, and weathering a nasty 2006 lawsuit alleging sex abuse cover-up and a closeted (sexually active) Egan.

According to Rocco Palmo, an American-based writer for The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly published in London, priests under Egan had serious problems with his leadership:

Long-simmering tensions among a broad cross-section of the archdiocese’s priests broke into the open today with the circulation of an anonymous letter under the authorship of a group calling itself “A Committee of Concerned Clergy for the Archdiocese of New York.” Saying that, “At no time has the relationship between the Ordinary and the priests of the Archdiocese been so fractured and seemingly hopeless as it is now,” the authors have urged their confreres to lodge “a formal vote of ‘NO Confidence‘” (emphases original) in Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who became archbishop in 2000. Using strong language throughout the 950-word missive, the authors allege a widespread finding that Egan’s relationship with his priests has been “defined by dishonesty, deception, disinterest and disregard.”

Running his mouth about which Catholic is worthy of communion does little for his supposed cause and, in my opinion, nothing for to rectify his reputation or improve the good he might leave behind him.

Pontifical Secret: Update

April 18, 2008

In my former post I wrote about Pope Benedict’s comments on sexual abuse in the Catholic church and remarked that the Vatican refused requests for the Pope to meet with victims. Yesterday, Pope Benedict held an unannounced and private meeting with “five or six” Boston-area survivors.

Those who met with the pontiff spoke on CNN last night about the experience, and all felt the Pope to be both sincerely concerned and deeply apologetic. This includes Olin Horne who, abused as an altar boy, remained skeptical prior to the meeting. According to Reuters he said

I am not kowtowing. I will not kiss his ring. If we walk in and we’re served a large plate of platitude, I can be guaranteeing you that I will be the first person to say that this man does lack the moral authority to manage the Catholic Church. I expect more than an apology when I leave that room.

Speaking to CNN after the meeting Horne said

My hope was restored today from what I heard. And I believe we received a promise.

It is unclear what that promise was, however. Joelle Casteix, regional Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), recognizes the significance of the meeting, yet feels that, more than words, action is most needed.

“This is a small, long-overdue step forward on a very long road. We’re confident the meeting was meaningful for the participants, and we’re grateful that these victims have had the courage to come forward and speak up.

But fundamentally, it won’t change things. Kids need action. Catholics deserve action. Action produces reform, and reform — real reform — is sorely needed in the church hierarchy.”

The very secrecy of the event itself has drawn criticism. An NPR piece notes

…some of those who were abused said it would hurt more to find out about a private meeting after the fact. One victim said it had been secrets and closed doors that allowed the clergy sexual abuse to happen in the first place.

For those survivors who’ve trekked to Rome in failed efforts to meet John Paul II, (none of whom were invited to the meeting) the event must have seemed momentous. However, as stated by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who has represented hundreds of victims, “He certainly will need more than a half hour to understand the pain victims are feeling because of being sexually abused by priests.”

SNAP director David Clohessy is distressed by the way the Pope’s meeting and statements are being applauded by the community. Responding to comments by Bishop William Murphy, Clohessy stated

How utterly tragic that even now, after 5,000+ priests have molested tens or even hundreds of thousands of children, Murphy can’t even admit that he and his colleagues have engaged in a decades-old, horrific, deliberate cover up of these devastating child sex crimes.

His remark that ‘there may have been some bishops that mishandled’ this on-going crisis is perhaps the most distressing public comment uttered by a Catholic official in recent years.

In a way, this meeting may have done more for the pontiff’s image than it did in any practical sense for the current survivors and future victims of this unforgivable crime. SNAP recommends a “prudent vigilance” on the part of parents and parishners. Time will tell if the Vatican is “ashamed” enough to do what is right.

Further Reading:

“Pontifical Secret” Why the Pope Isn’t Ashamed Enough Blackbird post from 4/17/08

Deliver Us From Evil – Award-winning documentary on “the most notorious pedophile priest in the modern history of the Catholic church.” Hundreds of victims. Covered up for 40 years. WATCH this trailer!

Hand of God – Documentary on one family’s journey of healing in the wake of sexual abuse and widespread cover up in Boston. Watch online for free.

SNAP Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests – The nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.

Letter from SNAP to UN General Assembly outlining the damaging actions & inactions of Pope Benedict XVI.

Bishop Accountability – Documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Info on over 3,000 priests.

“Pontifical Secret” Why the Pope Isn’t Ashamed Enough

April 15, 2008

Image from FunDraw.com

Today Pope Benedict XVI made a statement to reporters aboard the papal plane “Shepard One”, on its way to Washington D.C. for the first of a six-day US visit. Speaking about the sexual molestation, assault, and rape perpetrated by clergy upon children he said

[i]t is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen. If I read the stories of these victims, it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing, to give love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.

There are several reasons why this statement is inadequate, insulting, duplicitous, and injurious.

  • “…the church in the United States,” implies that the abuse is isolated. As the US endemic has generated the most publicity and causes the most legal threat, the pontiff has taken the opportunity to suggest that only American priests commit such crimes. Actually at least 17 countries have reported multiple cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergymen.
  • “…it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible…” Really? This implies a lack of prior awareness. However, it is well documented that in 2001 the Pope-to-be, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, sent a confidential letter to all of the church’s Bishops. In it he asserted the right of the Catholic church to handle all matters of pedophilia internally (no law enforcement) and to keep all information about said inquiries sealed from the public for exactly ten years after the victim reaches his or her 18th birthday.

According to an article in The Observer, who obtained the letter in 2005,

[i]t orders that ‘preliminary investigations’ into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger’s office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the ‘functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests’.

‘Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,’ Ratzinger’s letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.

Ten years past the 18th birthday? Decades after the abuse? Thanks to most statute of limitations, this seemingly arbitrary time frame is more than sufficient to prevent any legal action or criminal investigation into the crimes. It also prevents innumerable congregations from recognizing the potentially dangerous and predatory nature of their trusted clergy and ensures that every day children around the world will be at risk of suffering sexual molestation, assault, or rape by a man who they’ve been taught to revere, a man beyond reproach, an unquestioned authority, a supposed exemplar of God’s loving grace and Christ’s compassion.

More selective phrasing appears in the letter’s description of pedophilia as “a delict against morals…with a minor below the age of 18 years.” With? Although this could denote a lack of understanding about the true violation of sexual abuse, given many other factors it’s far more likely that the carefully-crafted word choice was calculated to imply consent, however remotely, and minimize culpability.

  • …we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.” Yeah, how? Although seminary enrollment has recovered a bit from the sharp decline of the 60’s and 70’s, the church concedes that the number of those studying for the priesthood is not enough to replace the number of priests who die or retire each year.

Are they suddenly going to introduce some magic could-you-be-a-pedophile quiz that weeds out the bad ones so “this cannot happen” again? What about the functioning pedophile priests already out there? Are the secret inquiries supposed to ferret them out? How do you banish a priest without the publicity?

The only sincere and ethical way to “do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future” is to guarantee that any clergyman who has abused a child will be removed from the ministry and subject to criminal charges, and any member of the church found to ignore or cover up knowledge of abuse will be similarly punished. Yet this is something the church refuses to do.

And what about the children who have already suffered? The church seems to assume that suffering ends when the abuse is over, when in fact it has only begun. The long and uphill battle to heal is greatly entwined with the ability to speak about it, to finding others who’ve suffered, especially at the hands of the same abuser, to witness some sort of accountability. As the church clutches its secrecy, it denies survivors the needs of basic healing.

For most victims, this type of abuse shapes the rest of their lives. Alcoholism and drug abuse are common, psychological issues, psychosomatic symptoms, and suicides have all been linked to sexual abuse. Many victims are chained with a secret shame that they intend to take to their graves. Yet it is only when there are no more secrets that healing can begin. Part of that healing involves facing the perpetrators and the officials who allowed this to occur. It is of this last that the church truly deprives its victims – the right to be acknowledged, the very right to heal.

Yet in the face of this, the Pope pretends to be dumbfounded by the issue, feigns deep shame, and supplies useless utterances of how this won’t happen again.

The Vatican refused to comment on the 2001 letter or its internal policies regarding this issue, on the basis that the document “was not public.”

A statement by Peter Isley of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) addresses the Pope’s comments, pointing out that condemning church officials for what happens on their watch is the only way to instigate any real change.

Fixating on or condemning the ‘bad apples’ (predators) doesn’t fix the ‘barrel’ (a secretive, self-protecting clerical culture overseen by largely timid, passive, secretive, compromised bishops, who often still refuse or delay suspending predators, calling police, telling the truth).

[…]

Sadly, regardless of good intentions, there will always be predators who gravitate toward ministry. The question is “How quickly can we identify and oust them?” In many institutions, that happens quickly. In the church, it happens slowly. The reason, in part, is that virtually no bishop suffers negative consequences for shielding predators, stonewalling prosecutors, shunning victims, and deceiving parishioners.

Until that changes, predatory priests will continue to be removed after molesting 33 kids, instead of after molesting 3 kids.

In fact, even as I write this, and as Shepard One lands at Andrew’s Air Force Base, survivors gather in protest at a D.C. church where recent abuses occurred. According to the release

Catholic molestation victims to hand out fliers & hold 3 hour vigil. As Pope lands, they gather at church where recent pedophile priest worked. Despite credible sex abuse reports, they kept accused predator working for 2 years. Then, even after being suspended, priest abused a 3 year old & a 6 year old in 2004-05. Case shows that little has changed despite bishops’ claims to have reformed themselves.

The respectful request to meet with the pontiff by moderate survivor group Voice of the Faithful was scoffed at by top church officials.

According to an article in the UK’s Telegraph

The Vatican insists that any meeting with the victims would reopen old wounds, and several senior aides have indicated that they felt the matter was “now closed”.

[…]

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s second-in-command, said the church had already “responded with great dignity” to the situation, and added that the “clamour created in the US around this scandal is really unbearable”.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, said the media had “exaggerated” the issue of paedophile priests. [Em Mine]

The Pope will visit the UN on Friday and, as he is expected to chastise countries with human rights violations, SNAP has requested that the UN investigate the Vatican’s failure to provide documents in concordance with the U.N. Charter on the Protection of the Rights of Children. It is unclear yet whether they will do so.

Further Reading:

Bishop Accountability -“Documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.”

Catholic Hierarchy – Current and historical information about bishops and dioceses.

Boston Globe Spotlight Investigation Coverage of the 2002 breaking news in Boston.

Jim Hopper, PhD – Professor at Harvard Medical professor has an extremely comprehensive site with in-depth reports on child abuse, sexual abuse effects on males, research and statistics, and professional services in the MA area.

Bill Maher outrages Catholics with his “New Rules” segment in which he compares the Catholic Church to the recently raided polygamist sect in Texas. It’s extreme, pointed, and incendiary. It’s also funny and makes a good point. If you’re easily offended, don’t watch it here. And stop reading now…

From HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher April 11, 2008:

And, finally, New Rule: Whenever you combine a secretive compound, religion and weirdos in pioneer outfits, there’s going to be some child-f*cking going on. In fact, whenever a cult leader sets himself up as “God’s infallible wing man” here on earth, lock away the kids.

Which is why I’d like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult. Its leader also has a compound. And this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. [photo of the Pope shown]

That’s right. The Pope is coming to America this week, and, ladies, he’s single! Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Bill, you can’t be saying that the Catholic Church is no better than this creepy Texas cult! For one thing, altar boys can’t even get pregnant.”

But, really, what tripped up the “little cult on the prairie” was that they only abused hundreds of kids, not thousands all over the world. Cults get raided. Religions get parades. How does the Catholic Church get away with all of their buggery? VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME!

If you have a few hundred followers and you let some of them molest children, they call you a cult leader. If you have a billion, they call you “Pope.”

It’s like if you can’t pay your mortgage, you’re a deadbeat, but if you can’t pay a million mortgages, you’re Bear Stearns, and we bail you out. And that’s who the Catholic Church is, the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia. Too big to fail.

When the – when the current Pope was in his previous Vatican job as John Paul’s Dick Cheney – he wrote a letter instructing every Catholic bishop to keep the sex abuse of minors secret until the statute of limitations ran out. And that’s the Church’s attitude: “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

Which is fine. Far be it from me to criticize religion. But, just remember one thing: if the Pope was, instead of a religious figure, merely the CEO of a nationwide chain of daycare centers where thousands of employees had been caught molesting kids and then covering it up, he’d be arrested faster than you can say, “Who wants to touch Mister Wiggle?”

Scientists Plead – “No More Ab-Only Funding!”

November 29, 2007

Abstain_2 President Bush has proposed increasing funding for abstinence-only education to $204 million in 2008, despite the fact that the programs promote marriage as the only acceptable family structure, stigmatize and encourage silence in sexually abused youth, deny information to sexually active youth, and ostracize and condemns LGBT youth based on views that are entirely religious in origin. (This is not to mention all the studies, surveys, and reports that follow, which demonstrate the danger and sheer ineffectiveness of the AOE programs…)

In fact, abstinence-only programs have such freedom with the federal dollar that they recently broadened their target base to include all unmarried adults under the age of thirty! The escalating nature of this climate prompted a group of scientists to rally against Bush’s proposal with a hard-hitting, fact-filled response backed with plenty of scientific documentation.

(more…)

Ruling for Transgender Rights in MD – Christian Conservatives Seriously Freaking Out

November 17, 2007

TgLegislation passed in Montgomery County Maryland this week that protected transgender rights “when it comes to housing, employment, accommodation, and taxi service”. As you might guess, an uproar quickly ensued. Much indignation seemed to be about (well, on top of the fact that transgender individuals deserve rights in the first place) the issue that transgenders have legal access to the restroom of their choice. From here, it was a short step to “Co-Ed Locker Rooms in Our Schools!” Co-ed? They’re um, missing the point…

Given that transgenders got shafted in last week’s proposal of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, this is somewhat heartening.

And even better, watching conservative groups go apeshit. Ooh, the outrage!

“Let Me Live Free While You Live Like I Tell You” – The Misplaced Morals of the Christian “Libertarian”

November 9, 2007

Statue_of_liberty_800_2Thanks to Suricou Raven at Moronality, I came across Vox Day’s blog, Vox Popoli, by way of his pro-Coulter post “Ann Is Crystal Clear”, which contends that

 

…women’s suffrage is completely incompatible with human liberty…

Vox backs this with the vague reasoning that “emotion” always leads to fear, which always leads to heightened preoccupation with homeland security. At least I think that’s what he means from the single sentence he devotes to the point:

“One cannot defend freedom on the basis of emotion, as fear always runs to promises of security, however nebulous.”

He slams-home his point of women-wreck-democracy-with-their-emotional-voting with the astute realization that

“…no bald politician has been elected in either the United States or the UK with the exception of Eisenhower and Churchill.”

I guess he means elected since women’s suffrage. I’m also guessing that baldness is preferable because less hair means more brains (which would actually give most women an advantage) – or it could be because the youngish Vox is, in fact, ah-hem...balding? – (and oh the irony that Vox’s email is “Vday“)
But this is so ridiculous, it hardly merits mention. What I want to speak about is this emerging trend, apparently known as Christian Libertarianism. Vox’s site has the brash sub-head of “Live Free or Die!” Denying half the population the right to vote is certainly on the right track.

True Libertarianism holds the noble principals of individual freedom and self responsibility. It advocates individuals making and accepting responsibility for their own social and economic decisions.In other words, you’re free to life your life the way you want as long as doing so doesn’t impinge on the rights of others to do the same…even when they do things you personally find depraved, dishonorable, or just plain dumb. And here’s the problem. I’m not saying you can’t be a Christian and a Libertarian, of course you can. But the moment you attempt to force others to live by the principals outlined by your religion, you are a Libertarian no longer.

In Steven Yate’s lengthy essay “How I Became A Christian Libertarian” he chronicles his intellectual journey and attempts to rationally synthesize the two disciplines.

Although Yate’s admits that “Libertarianism is rooted in a philosophy of natural rights that inhere in individuals, not groups,” and goes on to say the tenets of Christianity are not the opinions of a group but rather… well, simple truth. So it’s okay.

As far as I can tell, most Christian Libertarians explain their stance by first quoting scripture illustrating that god approves of a hands-off government and then point to a handful of bible stories that may be viewed as representing individual freedom and culpability. Right about now doubts will be cast as to whether non-Christian individuals can possibly handle this type of freedom without an overriding moral compass to keep our “appetites” in check. Instead of the government, which in the least usually forms laws based on consensus and is morphable over time, we instead have the vastly superior authority of Christ dictating allowable and prohibited behaviors. Great.

So while Christian Libertarians believe in liberty and that we all should be free to make our own choices, women should be denied reproductive rights, sex education is for the (preferably married) 21+ crowd only, and the deviancy of homosexuality should not be recognized, condoned or rewarded by the state. The fact that homeowners and straight married couples are rewarded by the government, while not exactly libertarian, is not so much of an issue.

To be fair, I did find one somewhat moderate stance. Michael Bindner, author of the site “The Christian Libertarian Party Manifesto” makes the astonishing realization that

“As Libertarians, criminalizing abortion is forever off the table.”Weigheddown

Hey, does this guy actually understand and embrace the principals of liberty? Well, no but he at least sees the hypocrisy so many others of his kind piously discount. Bindner basically says that abortion is morally wrong and we must work to stop it, but instead of outlawing the practice he wants to incentivize child-bearing and give special sliding-scale tax breaks based on the number of children in one’s family. Unfortunately, this too goes against the foundation of Libertarianism by putting the government in the role of encouraging a large-family lifestyle and once again we have the government enacting procedures that effect all of its citizens based on the views of a particular group.

He also has the idea that businesses should be forced to advance and reward women who take a year off to have a baby in the same way they would for someone who worked that year. How this could ever be measured or implemented is unclear, and if it’s good or not is not the point. This move makes him more Democrat or Socialist than anything else. The point is – it’s not Libertarian!

Like I said, this is the”moderate” CL view on non-Christian-friendly social issues.

The more common stance? Vox himself wrote an article for the Christian Conservative World Daily News in 2003, in which he explains

“The basic principle of Libertarianism is not anarchic. There are real limits. My free will ends where yours begins. Neither the community nor I have any claim whatsoever on your property or your life, and a libertarian legal system would be structured around that principle.”

So far so good. And then…

“Do not be misled by the false “pro-choice” rhetoric of the infanticidal abortionettes; when one individual decides the fate of another, it is nothing more than the ancient law of tooth and claw. Still, their very terminology is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

All the more disturbing because I basically agree with the first two-thirds of his article, which talks accurately about Libertarianism. And then he wallops you with this craziness at the end.

For some real self-contradiction and clumsy scramble of logic, check out Bindner’s section on gay rights, where he tries to find cohesion with “everyone should have personal liberty” and “but gays are abhorrent and really shouldn’t do those things.”

Why did they even come into the Libertarian camp at all?

This is my point. “Yes, freedom. Freedom, except…” We all have our personal exceptions, and they are all different. If you allow any one person’s, or group of people’s exception to form a law restricting others, you are not for true freedom and liberty.

Okay, assault, theft, murder, fraud, personal violation, all these are punishable because they intrude upon the liberty of another. However, whether I wear a seatbelt in my car, or someone says fuck on the radio, or two women marry and raise children, or whether my doctor and I (or my clergy and I, or my boyfriend and I, or just me alone) decide that I don’t want to continue my pregnancy… The Libertarian stance firmly holds that none of it should be in the hands of a government that can take your money and/or lock you up not living the way it decrees.

Allowing Jesus to dictate the “exceptions” to liberty does not make the exceptions inherently okay. Your god is not my god so keep him out of my life!

So, Christian Libertarians, find a new term, you’re corrupting what was once a perfectly legitimate political stance and sullying it with god. Damn it.

One more guy – I can’t resist…

Okay, this guy is a nut-job, although reasonable enough to admit he doesn’t speak for every Christian or every Christian Libertarian.

The self-delusion goes so far that The Fountain of Truth founder Doug Newman will talk all about liberty and individual freedom, and then detail all the ways that Bush has been too lenient on abortion and homosexuals. In fact, he seems to think Libertarianism means not wanting to pay your taxes and the “the government screws everything up.” Inexplicably, though wanting to outlaw abortion and gay marriage, he seems to think the Branch Davidians should have been left alone

In the midst of a nauseating number of pages of essays, quotes, and personal rants, I found this lovely poem called “The Old Paths” (anon), with stanzas such as:

I liked the old paths, when
Moms were at home.
Dads were at work.

Brothers went into the army.
And sisters got married BEFORE having
children!

Moms could cook;
Dads would work;
Children
would behave..

Women wore the jewelry;
and Men
wore the pants.

Women looked like ladies;
Men looked like gentlemen;

and children looked decent.

Cursing was wicked;
Drinking was evil;
and
divorce was unthinkable

The flag was honored;
America was
beautiful;
and God was welcome!

We read the Bible in public;

Prayed in school;
And preached from house to house
To be
called an American was worth dying for;
To be called a Christian was worth
living for;
To be called a traitor was a shame!

Sex was a
personal word.
Homosexual was an unheard of word,
and abortion was
an illegal word.

Laws were based on the Bible;
Homes read the
Bible;
and churches taught the Bible.

If you believe no one should tell you how to live but others should be made to live the way you do – you’re NOT Libertarian! YOU’RE A CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST WHO DOESN’T WANT TO PAY TAXES!

Stop using liberty as your premise, and make up a new damn term for your political leanings.

1st Amendment Be Damned – Save the Troops From Playboy!

November 5, 2007

Pinup1

Did you know that men and women fighting for our country are not allowed to obtain pornography while on military property? No porn. They can kill and maim and torture and risk plenty of the same, but we must spare them the real evil of viewing sexually explicit images – or at least having them readily available.

I’m not surprised that fundamentalist groups lobby for this, but I am shocked that it was ever enacted. In 1996 Congress passed the Military Honor and Decency Act, which prohibits

(1) the Secretary of Defense from permitting the sale or rental of sexually explicit material on property under Department of Defense (DOD) jurisdiction; and

(2) a member of the armed forces or a DOD employee acting in an official capacit
y from providing such material to another person.”

The legislation was justified by the need to protect the “military’s image of honor, professionalism and proper decorum,” and to foster character and moral principal in the armed forces. (Vaessen, 1999)

The ban’s sponsors, Reps. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Robert Dornan (R-CA), have argued that pornography represents “an assault on military families” who use the stores regularly. The availability of pornography to troops, they claim, “undermines the well-being of [military] families” and “can also compromise [America’s] defense readiness.” Interesting.

Once the bans passed Bartlett concluded

“We’re one day closer to an end to the disgraceful and indefensible practice of the Defense Department distributing smut on military bases.”

Even today, ten years later, when we’re at war in a country for questionable motives, using questionable wartime practices, Christian groups are up in arms (so to speak) because the DoD’s pornography restrictions are not strict enough. Dear God, our troops have access to Playboy! This USA Today article deArmypinuptails current arguments about the ban.

But really, how did this ever get passed and why is Congress wasting time debating it?

I found an informative breakdown of the ruling by Robert L. Vaessen, TSgt in the US Air Force with more than 20 years of military experience, who was plenty irritated by the bill at the time. He renamed it The Military Dishonor and Indecent Act of 1996, and chronicled the legislation’s passing.

The bill was never opened for vote on the House floor, but was instead referred to the House Committee on National Security, where it was later attached to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget and expenditures for the Defense Department. The only way to defeat the legislation on pornography would have been for President Clinton to veto the entire NDAA.

The constitutionality of such legislation has since been questioned by Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin who, in response to proposed legislation in 1997, asserted that

our Constitution has effectively protected us for over two centuries from living in a society where the Government intrudes on our individual rights by deciding what consenting adults can read or view.’

Nevertheless, the ruling went through and remained unchanged until 2006, which saw the introduction of DoD 410570, an amendment that allowed for an item-by-item review to assess the degree of pornographic content. (Wonder who served on that committee?)  This led to magazines like Playboy and Penthouse reemerging on military bases.

…which of course led to the current uproar. This, in turn, led me to wonder…

So, who really cares?

Who, specifically, is so incensed over this? The answer was not difficult to discover. At the top of a rather short list is the American Family Association and its founder Rev. Donald Wildmon.

Wildmon. Sound familiar? He’s been brandishing the long arm of censorship since the 70’s when he took to task indecencies such as Three’s Company, Phil Donahue, and the heartwarming Tony Randall series “Love, Sidney.” (Love, Sidney!). The full list (1972-1992 from a report by Christopher M. Finan and Anne F. Castro) is worth checking out. It runs from the predictable: SNL, Soap, Dynasty, The Simpsons, The NewlyweFacts_of_life_girlsd Game (all that Whoopie!), to the head-scratching: Mr Belvedere, Alf, Doogie Houser, Johnnie Carson, The Wonder Years, Gimme A Break, Love Boat, Matlock, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN?

Hell, I’m pressed to think of a show from the 70’s-80’s that didn’t make the list. What an evil, evil world.

Speaking of, a wikipedia article reveals Wildmon “has been accused of antisemitism for his views on the role of Jewish people in the media. In 2005 Wildmon threatened that if the Anti-Defamation League criticizes the religious right “we just won’t support Israel anymore.” He has also claimed that “Jews favor homosexual rights more than other Americans.” I’m guessing that’s supposed to be a negative.

AFA Press Release on the Current Good Fight Against Porn