Nel's New Day

February 17, 2019

A Wall to Protect People from Religion?

If we used the same standards for religious figures that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to use for undocumented immigrants, the United States would build a wall between the country and all churches. Another former archbishop and cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse with no chance for appeal, Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power” and “solicitation” during confession. A study completed in 2002 found almost 11,000 cases of sexual abuse by almost 5,000 priests. Far more have emerged in the past 17 years, including the uncovering of over 300 priests in just one state who abused over 1,000 children.

Catholics aren’t alone in sexual abuse by their leaders: at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced charges of sexual misconduct against over 700 victims in the past 20 years—more in Texas than any other state. The church urged many of the victims to forgive the offenders and for becoming pregnant. Sometimes churches shunned the victims. Some sexual abusers returned to their churches to preach. Southern Baptist Convention officials shielded the predators and refused any reforms.

The above are just two examples of denominations in which people are sexual abused by their religious leaders. The stories go into the tens of millions, unlike DDT’s concerns about undocumented immigrants.

The Roman Catholic diocese has exonerated the male white students from Covington (KY) who appeared to invade the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. after they attended an anti-choice March for Life. The bishop claimed that their students were being threatened can called their behavior “laudatory.” The opinion was based on online video and interviews with 43 students and 13 adult chaperones. No one from the Indigenous Peoples group was interviewed. All of them are quite pleased with themselves.

Wyoming has failed to repeal the death penalty, and state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) is grateful because Jesus also got the death penalty. Without his execution, he could not have absolved the sins of mankind. Therefore, retaining the death penalty is vital. I’m a bit confused about her logic. Does she compare all executed people to Jesus? Self-identified on her FB as “your only true Conservative, Christian, Pro-Life Candidate,” she also made this argument for her homophobia while speaking to students from Cheyenne Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance:

“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Frustrated by two Muslim women in the newly-elected House, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has accused her of being anti-Semitic because she pointed out that Israel gets its power with the U.S. government because of its donations to legislators. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is right in her claim, but she left out the money that anti-Semitic evangelicals donate to conservative legislators while lobbying them to support Israelis and destroy Palestinians. It all comes from the Christian belief that Christ must convert the Jews after he returns to Israel before the great millennium, the golden age, can begin. Thus their obsession with strengthening Israel for Jesus’s return. Eighty percent of evangelicals viewed Israel’s new state in 1948 as a vital piece of the Second Coming, and 52 percent say they support Israel because of its role in the End Times. VP Mike Pence is one of these people.

The Center for Religion and Civil Culture at the University of Southern California divides evangelical Christians into five different sects since DDT developed power:

Trump-vangelicals:  Primarily white with a few Latinx or black pastors; DDT’s base who want access to political power with the belief that God picked DDT to “make America great again.”

Neo-fundamentalists: DDT supporters who try to keep some Christian values and separate themselves from DDT’s “moral failings.”

iVangelicals: Conservative but pretend to be non-partisan; ministering in big churches to mostly white, financially well-off suburbanites.

Kingdom Christians: Separate from evangelicals but with similar beliefs; keep to smaller, urban churches, sometimes rented spaces.

Peace and justice evangelicals: The left-wing with origins in the 1973 “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” urging evangelicals away from prosperity gospel and toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows that religious fundamentalism comes from a functional impairment in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage results in diminished cognitive flexibility and openness—a loss of curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness. Religious beliefs, socially transmitted mental representations of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real, differ from empirical beliefs based on the appearance of the world and updated with new evidence and new theories. People with lesions in the prefrontal cortex rate radical political statements as more moderate than people without the damage possibly caused by brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetic profile. Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas.

Conservatism is connected with religious beliefs because they are not updated with new evidence or scientific explanations. Fixed, rigid beliefs promote predictability and rules of evidence in the person’s tribe. Religious fundamentalism discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues—anything that challenges their beliefs. People can become aggressive toward others who are perceived because they don’t share their anti-science and supernatural beliefs.

Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas. Dr. Marlene Winell, daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and a human development consultant, addresses the problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) in her counseling and in her book Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She explains that emotional and mental treatment by authoritarian religious groups causes RTS from teachings such as eternal damnation, religious punishment and guilt, and neglect when people are denied information and opportunities. Indoctrination leads to fear and anxiety, and some people suffer from nightmares and panic attacks throughout their lives. The syndrome can also cause depression, cognitive problems, and difficulty in social functioning because the core message of fundamentalist Christianity is that people are wrong and deserve to die.

To control people, fundamentalists tell them that they are weak and dependent, keeping them from making decisions because they must follow the Christian leaders. Leaving can be almost impossible because of religious shunning if people don’t conform.  Departure from a church requires a complete change of one’s self of reality and belief systems. Traumas other than RTS are built into society because of an understanding about the horrors of domestic abuse and war-related PTSD. A person needed counseling because of issues related to RTS are sent back to religion.

One of the goals for fundamentalist Christians is to block marriage equality, and seven Kansas GOP legislators are using the concept of religion to accomplish their mission. Their proposed bill would eliminate all rights for sexual minorities because being LGBTQ is “a religion that does not fulfill any compelling state interest.” They maintain that secular humanism was recognized as a religion in the 1961 unanimous Supreme Court decision when the decision merely determined that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government prohibits a religious test for public office. The legislators’ proof is that the LGBTQ community is organized and has “a daily code by which members may guide their daily lives” along with its religious symbols, i.e., a rainbow-colored flag, and the creed of “love is love”—a shibboleth to oppress those outside their denomination.

Perhaps we need a wall to protect people.

September 16, 2018

Sexual Abuse: Religion Wants Silence

Pope Francis wants silence about the Catholic Church’s leaders sexually abusing members, but more information about the epidemic is pouring into the media. New York has issued subpoenas against the state’s eight dioceses, and New Jersey created a task force to investigate allegations of clergy sexually abusing minors and any attempts of the church to hide the abuse. In charge of the New York investigation, the state’s AG Barbara Dale Underwood also encouraged the state legislature to pass the Child Victims Act that would permit civil suits until victims are 50 years old and seek criminal charges against abusers until age 28. Pennsylvania prosecutors who recently concluded that 300 priests in the state had sexually abused over 1,000 children during the past 70 years. New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri have already started investigations or inquiries.

In West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, whose diocese covers the entire state, resigned after allegations of sexually harassing adults. Bransfield is a close associate of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick who left his position after allegedly molesting an altar boy and coercing seminary students to sleep in his bed. McCarrick was elevated to cardinal despite warnings over many years.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington since 2006, told his parishioners that he is leaving because of poor judgment when he was bishop of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania investigators named Wuerl over 200 times in its report about the systemic abuse of more than 1,000 children by over 300 priests when bishops and other church officials concealed crimes and protected predatory priests. Wuerl allowed an accused abuser to stay in his ministry and banned victims from speaking during a settlement agreement.

The bishop of Buffalo, Richard J. Malone, has thus far ignored calls for his resignation after an investigation from a local radio station revealed he kept priests in ministry who might be threats to children. When Malone pretended transparency and released the names of priests accused of abuse, he omitted dozens of names.

Four U.S. cardinals went to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the problems of Catholic leaders’ sexual assault. One, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, has been accused of knowing about a priest’s sexual abuse and allowed him to remain in his ministry. DiNardo had appointed the priest, arrested last week on charges of indecency with children, to a leadership role as episcopal vicar for Hispanics after he met with accusers at two separate times.

Knowledge about sex abuse by Catholic Church leaders has erupted around the world with revelations of abuse and cover-ups in Australia, Ireland, Belgium, France, Chile and other countries. A leaked report from Germany included information about 1,670 church workers—over four percent of the clergy—were involved in the abuse of 3,677 children over seven decades. Researchers said that many more cases probably existed because they were not allowed access to confidential records.

A Dutch newspaper found that 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops, and their auxiliaries are accused of covering up the sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010, four of them accused of sexually abusing children. The report stated that the church destroyed files of accused clergy.

As states ponder dealing with Catholics abusing children, the evangelicals have decided that AG Jeff Sessions’ virulent anti-LGBTQ policies and “religious liberty” discrimination aren’t enough for their approval. Fundamentalist Christians are throwing him under the ever-growing bus because he recused himself from investigation into the Russian scandal after meeting with Russians during the campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Jerry Falwell Jr., is calling on DDT to fire Sessions because Sessions “really is not on the president’s team, never was.” Never mind that Sessions was the first senator to endorse DDT when he looked like a loser, agreeing with DDT’s hardline immigration policies. To Falwell and other evangelicals, the only real leader is the serial liar who attacks women.

At the “state dinner” with evangelicals, DDT told them that Democrats will “overturn everything that we’ve done … quickly and violently” if they get elected and called the election “a referendum on your religion.” To evangelicals, VP Mike Pence, the real believer, is invisible because they want power, not religion.

Evangelicals are also calling for parents to shun their LGBTQ children. “Ex-lesbian” Assemblies of God pastor Janet Boynes published an article on Charisma News, a Christian website, urging parents to refuse to meet their children’s partners and cut the children out of their life. Her solution:

“As pastors, people look to us to take the lead on showing love and hospitality, embracing those who do not know Christ…. You are willing to throw God under the bus because this is your child or loved one. What does that say to God about where your heart is?”

Last November, Ralph Shortey, an anti-LGBTQ former state senator in Oklahoma who served as DDT’s state GOP chair, was charged with felony child prostitution, child sex trafficking, and possession of child pornography. The 35-year-old father of four girls resigned from the state legislature last March after he was found in a hotel room with a 17-year-old male. Both were naked. Shortey cited his Christian beliefs as the reason that he voted against a transgender “bathroom bill” and for other anti-LGBTQ bills including a measure allowing business owners to discriminate against LGBTQ people. He pled guilty to child sex trafficking and appeared in court last week, seeking leniency. In his 14 Craigslist ads, he sought a “boy,” offered sex with his wife, and requested group sex with strangers. On the message app Kik, some with usernames referencing child pornography, Shortey wanted interaction with children, listing his background as work as church bus driver and activities with the state YMCA Youth and Government programs and the state American Legion leadership week Boys State.

In Ohio, Wesley Goodman, a GOP first-term representative and proponent of “natural behavior,” resigned the week before Shortey’s fall after Goodman engaged in sexual activity with a male visitor in his legislative office. During his campaign years earlier, a father had gone to Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, to complain after Goodman sexually fondled his son. Perkins promised action but did nothing, and Goodman won his next election because evangelicals protected the sexual predator.

Another anti-LGBTQ “Christian” minister has resigned because of sexual misconduct and “undesired physical displays of affection.” Father Eric Dudley, married and father of three, left the Tallahassee St. Peter’s Anglican Church after complaints followed by an inquiry by senior priests. Dudley had left St. John’s Episcopal Church after ten years because of the Episcopalians’ pro-LGBTQ position and founded a church associated with the Anglican Church of Uganda. He called marriage equality a “well-oiled political scheme involving the media and Hollywood” that caused people to accept bisexuality, polyamory, and identification as “any gender.”

The Mormons also failed to refer cases of sex abuse allegations after investigating missionaries and a stake president. The leaked document read, “The missionary department is reluctant to send this elder home where he may face prosecution for a felony.” When a missionary accused of sexually abusing a child in a foreign country was sent back to the U.S., the Mormon leadership “determined no action would be taken.”

These sexual predators are only a few of the people who take the moral high ground in their war to make the United States a theocracy while abusing others.

Dylan Charles writes:

“Of the world’s two major religions, one is engaged in a generations long campaign of torture and murder of non-believers, and the other is always mired in sex scandals involving child rape, pedophilia, molestation and high level cover ups.”

These authoritarian religions control behavior from fear, forcing people to follow the leaders without doubt, without evidence. These rigid patterns eliminate the opportunity for open minds and education because dogmatic religious leaders don’t permit questioning. The superiority of conservative religious leaders—usually males—is rapidly taking over the United States. The leadership in the federal government, consumed by making more money, will do anything to get their own way—cheat, lie, abuse, cover up wrong doings. The result is a class society of haves and have nots in which people constantly experience more and more abuse—physical, sexual, and emotional.

August 26, 2018

Religious Leadership, Abusive and in Control of the U.S.

The Nuns on the Bus are traveling again in October, this time from Los Angeles through 21 states with 54 events during their 27 days and aimed directly at Mar-a-Lago, where they finish with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.” For the sixth time since Sister Simone Campbell, leader of a Catholic social justice lobby, fired up her followers, the nuns plan to protest, this time the GOP tax plan just in time for people to pick their candidates at the 2018 general election. Critics of the $1.2 trillion tax cut, mostly going to the richest people and biggest corporations, point out that it increases the budget deficit and income inequality. Even worse, Republicans plan to use the tax cut’s deficit from giving money to the wealthiest Republicans to eliminate or at least reduce Social Security and Medicare.

After Pope Francis addressed a letter to the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, lamenting the horrific sexual abuse by church leaders in Pennsylvania, Sister Simone spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The sister called on the pope to go beyond writing a letter and take action.

Goodman pointed out that she and the nuns, who fought for social justice, “were investigated more than any of these priests, who preyed on children and adults, seminarians as well.” “When attacked, let’s deflect it,” Sister Simone said to explain the Catholic approach toward the abuse. “We certainly see that in politics right now in our nation,” she added. Sister Simone called on “serious change” in the leadership in a church that ignores women in leadership positions.

“We have all this pious talk about how men and women are created in complementarity and all that, but then we leave women out entirely….”

Sister Simone and her small network was criticized by the Catholic church for “being a bad influence on Catholic sisters in the United States, because we worked too much on the issues of poverty.” The leadership’s focus on abortion and sexual orientation focuses its perspective on sex, “and they become the righteous judgers. And this is wrong. This is wrong.”

Asked if women should be priests, Sister Simone described the “priestly functions” that she performs and “should be acknowledged.” She also thinks that priests should be able to marry, the way that they could before 1200. At that time, a wife might be able to inherit a cathedral if she were married to a bishop. The solution was mandating celibacy.

Pope Francis’ letter promised that “no effort” will be spared to change a church culture that allows both the abuse and the conspiracy to hide it. In Ireland, where the pope is visiting, he may have trouble convincing people after his recent appointment of Philip Boyce as bishop. With only 160,000 residents, County Donegal has the worst record of sexual abuse in Ireland. Four of the 14 accused priests were convicted, including the Rev. Eugene Greene who was imprisoned for nine years after raping and molesting at least 26 boys between 1965 and 1982. Boyce refused to defrock Green in the late 1990s. Residents said that the pope’s appointment of Boyce belies his words, as Francis continues to shuffle along those who protect abusers.

In another case, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Pope Francis ignored his information about Theodore Carrick by removing sanctions that Pope Benedict XVI placed on McCarrick in 2013. McCarrick, a long-time successful fundraiser for the Vatican, had been aged out of his position of Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Benedict’s sanctions limited him from leaving his residence at a seminary and performing public Mass. Francis repealed the sanctions and “continued to cover” for McCarrick, making him “his trusted counselor” who advised Francis on several bishop appointments in the United States. The Catholic Church made several settlements to McCarrick’s sexual abuse traced back 47 years, but the Church always covered for his activities until he was blocked from public ministry on June 20, 2018.

Viganò calls for Pope Francis and others involved in the coverup of McCarrick’s abuse to resign, adding that complicity of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s respective Secretary of States, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone had led to the delay of the sanctions.  Benedict had ignored both of Viganò’s memos about McCarrick from 2006 and 2008 until Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and specialist in clerical sexual abuse, sent Benedict a statement about McCarrick’s abuse. Viganò also reinforced the record of cover-up in Honduras by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and his record of cover-up in Honduras, saying the Pope “defends his man” to the “bitter end,” despite the allegations against him.

In the past three decades, the Catholic Church has paid out over $3.6 billion to settle abuse case.

During his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis largely addressed the “family” with no specifics about stopping the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor, called the pope’s remarks an “extraordinary deflection.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar spoke about actually doing something rather than merely express regret and sadness. Colm O’Gorman, a clerical abuse survivor and the director of Amnesty International Ireland, called the pope’s remarks on Saturday morning an “extraordinary deflection.” He also said that the pope’s statement that Catholics should share the shame were an “insult to faithful Catholics, who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institution church.”

Francis received a far more lukewarm greeting than the one for John Paul II in 1979, and thousands of protesters gathered in Dublin.

More deflection came from Cardinal Raymond Burke who blamed homosexuality for the child abuse, ignoring the science that this abuse is a sexual disorder, more common in men,that has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Men have more access to boys than girls, especially in the Catholic Church where women have few leadership responsibilities.

High profile U.S. Catholics such as Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington, canceled their trips to be with Francis in Ireland. O’Malley has been accused of concealing sexual abuse among clerics, including a 2015 report about McCarrick, and Wuerl, bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, granted reassignment and retirement requests to priests accused of sexual abuse without reporting their behavior. Current bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, claims that there are no confidentiality agreements about sexual abuse, but he offered a victim money for his children’s college tuition and some counseling in return for his silence.

A letter calling for the resignation of all U.S. bishops is gaining traction since massive reports of sexual abuse coverup; last May, Chile’s 34 bishops all resigned after a sexual abuse scandal. The letter declares:

“The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of ‘a few bad apples,’ but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill.”

The Irish Catholic Church has a long history of abusing children and women. In a Catholic program that finally ended in 1996, at least 10,000 unmarried mothers or “morally wayward” women were enslaved against their wishes in Magdalene laundries where they worked for no pay, no pension, and no social protection—sometimes for their entire lives—to wash clothes and linens for major hotel groups and the Irish armed forces. The report begins only in 1922; they may have a much longer history.

Many of the women were sent to these laundries after they gave birth in homes run by nuns, one of the most infamous in the small town of Tuam. An investigation found a number of tiny skeletons on the grounds after an historian raised an alarm, who reported that almost 800 children, mistreated at the home are buried there. Her evidence comes from 800 death certificates found at the home, some of them with malnutrition as the cause, but records of only four burials. Conservative Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, ranted against any accusations against Catholic abuse, but Ireland has failed to continue its investigations after discovering the first 35 skeletons. Children who lived were all sent off to foster families.

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as Supreme Court justice, Catholicism will continue to dominate the high court with two-thirds constituency. Meanwhile, DDT is packing the other courts and the government agencies with radical fundamental Christians—almost all male and many of them also abusers. Running the U.S. House are a Catholic and a fundamentalist Christian—both male. Over 45 percent of Congress is Catholic—twice as many as the Catholic percentage in the U.S. Over half the U.S. population is female, but only 20 percent of Congress are women.

Most conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians don’t object to DDT’s sexual misconduct, cruelty, lies, and illegal activity. Until the conservative religious and male control of the United States changes, the nation will continue to be run by people who are obsessed with sex and have no interest in social justice.

August 19, 2018

DOJ Protects Discrimination, Sexual Assault by Christians

Hypocritical evangelist Franklin Graham brought his religion that supports sexual assault and serial lying to Oregon in an attack on Gov. Kate Brown in an address to 12,000 people in Canby (OR). Because Brown practices yoga, an exercise used for health and relaxation, Graham accused her of not being a Christian and called on the crowd to pray for her to “come to know your son Jesus Christ as her lord and savior.” Graham’s speech, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” claimed that “secularism and communism are one and the same.”

[According to Christian thought, the sins of Sodom are gang rape, violence, inhospitality, pride, arrogance, inhospitality, and failure to help the poor and needy—not exercise. Note Matthew 6:1 – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”]

Following Graham’s determination to make the United States a mandated Christian nation, AG Jeff Sessions has created a “Religious Liberty Task Force” to enforce his mandate that federal agencies take the broadest possible interpretation of Christian “liberty,” which he calls “religious liberty.” Sessions’ action prevents the IRS from removing the tax-exempt status of churches that actively promote political candidates, prohibited by law. Grants from any agency for sex education and reproductive care will require an abstinence-only approach, workers can be denied insurance for contraception, and employers can hire only Christians.

As the number of Christians in the United States shrinks, their rights increase through their Supreme Court wins in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) and Trinity Lutheran v. Comer (2017), the latter forcing taxpayers to give funds to Christian churches. Last May, Sessions created a new office to watch for “any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law.” In July, he tried to use the bible, Romans 13, as justification for his cruelty in separating immigrant children from their families. Sessions personal religious group, the United Methodist Church, formally censured him, including his misrepresentation of the Christian faith.

Sessions’ speech announcing his new task force emphasized the need to eradicate secularism, calling it a “dangerous movement.” He claimed that “courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law” and people can label religious groups as a “hate group,” possibly referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center designation of the Christian Family Research Council that constantly lies about and attacks LGBTQ people and Muslims while it supports white nationalists. Sessions also reassured the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that he believes that they are not a hate group for their hate attacks against LGBTQ people and claimed that the DOJ does not “partner with any groups that discriminate.”

Rev. Dr. Barber said:

“The rationale that is used to say businesses ought to be able to deny an LGBT person, is the same rationale that segregationists used.”

In his announcement speech for his task force, at the DOJ “Religious Liberty Summit,” Sessions said, among other falsehoods,“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives.” Nuns had been required to sign a form refusing to include contraceptives in insurance for employees. Other accusations concerned a confirmation question to HUD Secretary Ben Carson about supporting LGBTQ rights and questions to judicial nominee Wendy Vitter about her anti-reproductive rights activism. Sessions also referred to “the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” whose case refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple was decided by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission this past June. (Phillips may be back; he has now refused to serve a transgender woman.)

Another speaker at the announcement, Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote discrimination against LGBTQ workers and same-gender couples who want to legally marry. Kurtz advocated for state-funded adoption agencies’ permission to reject prospective LGBTQ parents.

Sessions and Kurtz want to put everyone in the United States under control of Christian religion including the Catholic Church that protected over 300 leaders sexually abusing over 1,000 victims during the past 70 years— just in one state. If a secular institution were in charge, the sexual abusers “would have been arrested under the RICO federal laws [and] considered organized crime,” according to Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi. Instead, the Catholic Conference spent millions of dollars to block any legislation to protect future victims and still continues to fight laws to prevent further victimization. Sessions’ actions in his leadership of the DOJ helps protect the sexual abusers in any church.

How the Church and law officials protected sexual abusers, according to the grand jury:

  • Those with information about sexual abusers were told, “Never say ‘rape’; say ‘inappropriate contact’ or ‘boundary issues.'”
  • Fellow clergy members who investigated were ordered  to “ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations” about their colleagues, with whom they lived and worked.
  • Clergy members were sent to church-run psychiatric treatment facilities “for an appearance of integrity.”
  • A priest’s removal was explained as his being “sick” or having “nervous exhaustion.”
  • Priests who raped children were still provided with housing and living expenses.
  • If communities learned about the priests’ abuses, the clergy stayed in the priesthood but were moved new to locations where no one knew about their crimes.
  • Child sex abuse was not treated as a crime.
  • Law enforcement who learned about the abuses “simply deferred to church officials.”

Stories about protected crimes committed by Catholic priests that came out from the grand jury are horrifying:  

  • “A priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The bishop expressed his feelings in a letter—[to the priest]: ‘This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.’” The priest remained in his position.
  • The bishop in the Diocese of Erie heard a priest confess to anal and oral rape “of at least 15 boys, as young as seven years old” before he called the priest “a person of candor and sincerity,” and congratulated him on “the progress he has made” in handling his “addiction.”
  • In the Diocese of Harrisburg, a priest abusing five sisters in one family “collected samples of the girls’ urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood,” but the diocese “remained unwilling” to confront the priest after finding his “collection.
  • The Diocese of Pittsburgh dismissed a priest’s abuse because he said he was “literally seduced” by a 15-year-old boy despite his admitting to “sado-masochistic” activities with several boys; the diocese said that the sado-masochism was only “mild” and at least the priest was not “psychotic.”
  • A boy was forced to stand naked, posing like Christ on the cross, while priests took pictures and added them to a collection of child pornography that they produced and distributed on the church campus.

As horrific as these revelations are, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been known for decades—perhaps even centuries. And Catholics are not alone: the evangelical Christian churches, those now running the United States, also conceal their sexual abuse, largely with impunity. High-profile leaders such as Paige Patterson and Bill Hybels fell from their pedestals, but a decentralized church structure ignores sexual abuse. Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson said, “Sexual abuse is the most underreported thing—both in and outside the church—that exists.” A former Florida assistant state attorney, he saw dozens of sexual assault victims unprotected by church leadership and church constituents who abused members of their flock.

Tchividjian said that sexual abuse in evangelical churches is worse than that in the Catholic Church, adding that the Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers. Columnist Dan Savage found over 100 instances of youth pastors who, between 2008 and 2016, were accused of, arrested for, or convicted of sexually abusing minors in a religious setting. The tip of the iceberg, these cases are just those publicized. Wade Mullen, director of the M.Div. program at Capital Seminary & Graduate School, found 192 cases in 2016 and 2017 of leaders in an influential church or evangelical institution charged with sex crimes involving a minor, including rape, molestation, battery and child pornography —and these didn’t include those committed by other than leaders or against adults and those who weren’t charged.

Of 166 people at Bob Jones University who reported being victims of sexual abuse, the school discouraged half of them from going to the police, and one BJU official told a victim who reporting sexual abuse by his grandfather that he “tore your family apart” and “you love yourself more than you love God.”

Those who claim that sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is in the past refuse to see how religious leaders block any laws against sexual abuse in Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant. While Sessions promotes discrimination by Christians against all others, he fails to protect victims of sexual assault,many in the name of Christianity. Evangelicals who rant against consenting same-gender relationships and same-gender couples trying to adopt unwanted children should clean their own house before attacking others–but they won’t. It’s all a matter of power over others.

February 17, 2013

First Pope in Almost 600 Years Quits

My question on this Sunday: did lightning strike the Vatican because the pope quit? Everyone else wants to know why the pope quit. [image] Hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, a bolt of lightning struck the rod atop St. Peter’s Basilica. Agence France-Presse gave the photo credit to Filioppo Monteforte, who has photographed the pope extensively for over a decade.

lightning

Although the photo’s authenticity has been questioned, Fairfax Media Nick Moir said, “It’s probably not that rare for St Peter’s to get hit.” He added that there’s no way to verify when the photograph was taken. It can be verified, however, that the pope is leaving, the first time that a live pontiff has done so since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII resignedto resolve which of three people should be the pope.

The timing of his departure on February 28 is peculiar, coming during Lent before Palm Sunday and Easter, two big days of celebration for the Catholic Church. He gave his advanced age, 85, as the reason, saying that the changing pace of the modern world has left him unable to “adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.” Despite physical and mental decay, most other popes stayed until death. Only four others have left the office, believing that their prayer and suffering as they approach the end are a part of their position. None of those who resigned gave cited health as the reason.

One reason for the pope’s resignation could be the increasing connection with cases of sexual abuse by priests under the charge of Cardinal Roger Mahony, then Archbishop of Los Angeles. When he first tried to evade the law after covering for his priests’ crimes, the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, oversaw Mahoney’s actions. In an unprecedented move, Mahoney has been publicly rebuked by current Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez, and stripped of any public duties. The records, including letters from Mahoney to Ratzinger, are becoming public record because of a recent court order

For instance, in a 2003 letter to Ratzinger, Mahony says of Father Lynn R. Caffoe that between the priest and one boy, there were 100 “instances of masturbatory and copulative acts,” according to an account in the Los Angeles Daily News.But Mahony never reported Caffoe’s alleged crimes to police, and Ratzinger apparently never instructed him to.

Mahoney’s lack of ethics continued after he hid the priests’ illegal behavior. In trying to find money to pay the settlement with victims abused by priests, he stripped the cemetery maintenance fund. The $115 million that he took comprised 88 percent of the fund contributed by families of dead Catholics into an account used for the care of graves. Although his move, approved by the Vatican, was not illegal, his secrecy indicates that he knew how angry Catholics would be.

The pope has scheduled a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano for Saturday, February 23 to discuss securing protection and immunity from prosecution from the Italian government. This action may have been caused by a diplomatic note sent from an undisclosed European government on February 4, stating the intention to issue an arrest warrant for Ratzinger. He resigned less than a week later.

The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) has asked President Napolitano to refrain from assisting Ratzinger in evading justice. In part, the letter states, “Under international law and treaties that have been ratified by Italy, you and your government are forbidden from granting such protection to those like Joseph Ratzinger who have aided and abetted criminal actions, such as ordering Bishops and Cardinals in America and elsewhere to protect known child rapists among their clergy.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based non-profit legal group, has requested an inquiry on behalf of the Survivors Network, arguing that the global church has maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators. The complaint also accuses Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population. Vatican officials have announced that Joseph Ratzinger will remain a permanent resident of Vatican City so that he will have legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him.

The pope will leave legacies other than the sexual abuses of children. In his push for prescribed gender roles Benedict’s legacy, he described moves toward egalitarianism as “a violation of the natural order.” On his watch, the church equated the ordination of female priests with child sex abuse. Under the pope’s leadership, the Catholic Church has fought against U.S. regulations to provide reproductive health care for all women. He set up an investigation of nuns in the U.S. because all they did was care for the sick and the poor.

Also on the pope’s agenda is his opposition to equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender individuals. Less than a year ago, he said that Catholics should oppose marriage equality and defend opposite-sex marriage against “every possible misrepresentation of their true nature.”  He also used his Christmas speech to denounce marriage equality, saying that it destroyed the “essence of the human creature.”

In a meeting with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga of the Ugandan Parliament, a primary supporter of a bill that would kill people for homosexual acts, he blessed her although the Vatican later denied such a blessing.

The pope stated that the Islam Quran urges that religious faith should be imposed by force. It does not.  In fact, the Quran states:

“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians–any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. “

He angered Jews when he lifted the excommunication of a British bishop who denies that Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers. Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops who belong to the Society of Saint Pius X were allowed back into the fold.

Under his rule, the Catholic Church maintained the lack of equality between men and women, the sins of LGBT people, and importance of its priests over the victimization of children.

With the pope, for all intents and purposes, gone, the world is guessing about his replacement. Those in Latin America, comprising almost 40 percent of the 1.2 Catholics in the world, think that it’s time for a pope to be from one of their countries after three decades of German popes. Catholics in the United States hope for the first pope from our nation, with some of the U.S. cardinals having held important positions at the Vatican.

The choice will be made by 110+ cardinals under the age of 80, over half of them appointed by the current pope and over half of them from Europe. Of the 11 from the United States, two of them, Mahoney and Cardinal Justin Rigali, lost their positions because it was found that they kept clergy on assignments after indictments for child molestation.

On his most recent show, Bill Maher said that he doesn’t care who becomes pope. The shredded separation between church and state in the U.S., however, demands that everyone who cares for equal rights should care about the positions of the pope selected by the Catholic Churth. Over half of our nation’s population are Catholics and Evangelicals, many of whom try to oppress the rest of the population with their religious beliefs. Those of us who want freedom from religion will be affected by the new pope, especially if he continues to eradicate rights for women and LGBT people.

October 21, 2012

Ain’t Some Religions Grand!

Less than a year ago, prominent Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress condemned Romney’s faith, calling it a “cult.” Now he’s “made peace” with Romney’s Mormonism because he opposes President Obama more. Jeffress told Janet Mefferd on her radio show that it is still better to vote for Romney, even though he is a member of a “cult” and “false religion” that believes in a “multiplicity of god,” than President Obama because of his stances on marriage equality and abortion rights.

Another religious leader scrubbed away the cult, this time on the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Other religious groups haven’t caved yet: the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, lists the LDS Church as a theological cult, and the Catholic Church does not recognize Mormon baptisms as being theologically compatible with its own.

In another church-based sex scandal, 30-year-old Sovereign Grace Ministries with 80 congregations is being sued for sexual abuse against, failing to report these, and discouraging members from law enforcement cooperation. The plaintiffs allege a conspiracy of than two decades while church representatives permitted suspected pedophiles to interact with children, supplied them with free legal advice to avoid prosecution, and forced victims to meet with and “forgive” their molesters.

After Dinesh D’Souza accused President Obama of “attacking the traditional values agenda” and “traditional morality” in his best-selling “documentary,” 2016: Obama’s America, the president of an evangelical Christian college in New York, resigned from his position after it was reported that he shared a hotel room with his mistress at a religious conference. D’Souza is still married although separated from his wife. As for the film, the New York Daily News judges the material in the film as having “no evidence” and wrote that many of D’Souza’s opinions “don’t hold water.”

Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan’s atheist and anti-charity mentor, would be proud of the Catholic vice-presidential candidate. First he fights a safety net for disadvantaged people, saying that this will make them “victims,” and then almost single-handedly cuts donations to a non-profit, nonpartisan soup kitchen for the poor. Ryan went to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society (Youngstown, OH) soup kitchen last week without permission after people had finished most of the cleanup and washed a few “dirty” dishes that volunteers had saved for him.

Brian J. Antal, president of the facility, told the Washington Post that he feared Ryan’s political theater would jeopardize donations to the foodbank that annually serves over 100,000. Antel was right. Donations to the all-volunteer charity are down, but Ryan got his photo-op.  Donations to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society can be sent to P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501 or online. Donors should specify that their donations are for the Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen.

In trying to explain away his disregard for women’s rights, Ryan has compared them to “left-handed Irishmen.” (Yes, he did say that the war on women was as fictional as war on left-handed Irishmen. But he still used the comparison!)

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has had to apologize—again!—after he accused his opponent, Elizabeth Warren of using paid actors in her advertisements defending the legal work she did on asbestos-related lawsuits. At least three people in the ads have complained about Brown’s offensive statements. Ginny Jackson, whose husband died of mesothelioma after working at a Quincy shipyard that was filled with asbestos, said, “What Scott Brown said today is so offensive to me and my family after what we went through. He’s sunk to a new low.” John F. English was more direct than Jackson. “Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a paid actor, and I’ll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death,” English said. Nate Silver gives Warren a 89.1 percent chance of winning.

Also sinking to a new low is Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL). After his debate with opponentTammy Duckworth, Walsh said that women never die from childbirth. He claimed that pro-choice advocates use the possibility of maternal death “to make us look unreasonable.” In fact, pregnancy-related deaths have increased  in the US, climbing to a rate of 15.1 deaths for every 100,00 live births . For black women the rate is 34.8 percent.

One poll has Duckworth leading by 54 percent to Walsh’s 39 percent. The super PAC Now or Never, which has already put $2 million behind Walsh plans another $2.5 million to “bury Duckworth” (the PAC’s words). Duckworth is a veteran who had both her legs amputated after a helicopter crash in Iraq.   

First Paul Ryan has yet to bring home his own state for the Republican presidential ticket, and now the Salt Lake City Tribune, Utah’s biggest newspaper, endorsed President Obama and attacked Romney. I’ve provided a few quotes, but the entire editorial is well worth reading.

“Who is this guy [Romney], really, and what in the world does he truly believe? The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

“And what of the president Romney would replace? For four years, President Barack Obama has attempted, with varying degrees of success, to pull the nation out of its worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, a deepening crisis he inherited the day he took office. In the first months of his presidency, Obama acted decisively to stimulate the economy. His leadership was essential to passage of the badly needed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Though Republicans criticize the stimulus for failing to create jobs, it clearly helped stop the hemorrhaging of public sector jobs. The Utah Legislature used hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to plug holes in the state’s budget.

“In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

“Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.”

The last presidential debate is scheduled for tomorrow. The subject is foreign policy, and the format the same as the first one although the participants will be seated at a table. Moderator Bob Schieffer, like his close friend Jim Lehrer, has a reputation for being fair and balanced, but also non-confrontational. Lehrer described dealing with the candidates’ aggressiveness as a “form of hell.” He said, “That aggressiveness is new, that sense of, ‘I’ve got more to say, and to hell with the rules. I was surprised by that. I didn’t expect it. No pair of candidates have ever done that before,” added Lehrer who has moderated more presidential debates than anyone else.

The 90-minute debate divided into six segments seems to concentrate on the Middle East and thus terrorism: America’s role in the world; the war in Afghanistan; Israel and Iran; the changing Middle East; terrorism; and China’s rise. Once again, Romney will lie. He will accuse the president of single-handedly reducing the military budget a year ago because the bipartisan sequester will force this issue if Republicans remain intransigent—which they are sure to do.

Romney will lie about his position on China, failing to remember (because of his Romesia) that three years ago he protested Obama’s decision to slap tariffs on cheap Chinese tires flooding the United States:

“Long story short, the wrong answer for America’s workers and for the wealth of every citizen of this nation is to try and put up barriers to stop competition, either domestic competition or competition from abroad. The right answer is always to see competition as an opportunity and a necessity for investment, innovation, technology and becoming more productive.”

Later in his book, No Apology, Romney wrote, “President Obama’s action to defend American tire companies from foreign competition may make good politics by repaying unions for their support of his campaign, but it is decidedly bad for the nation and our workers. Protectionism stifles productivity.”

By the primary debates in 2011, Romney had reversed his position: “The actions a president can take are, No. 1, to declare China a currency manipulator. And under our law, that allows the president to apply tariffs in places where the president believes that China’s practices are killing American jobs.” When asked if this would harm jobs in this country, Romney said that you just had to forge ahead and do it and everything would be okay.

As for Libya and the death of four people there over a month ago, Rahm Emanuel declared Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) “reckless” for releasing Libya documents, thus endangering the lives of people still there. Romney will attack President Obama on the basis of veracity and competence, but he has to be very careful to not let his ignorance show as he did in the last debate. Instead he may concentrate on other areas such as Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia. This debate is a toss-up depending on how hard Romney hits, how people react to the hits, and how many missteps he has.

 

Today’s Good News: District Court Judge Neil Wake has blocked Arizona from applying a new law preventing Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving money through the state to provide medical care. Wake was a George W. Bush appointee based on the 2004 recommendations of both Arizona Republican senators John McCain and Jon Kyle. Can’t you just hear Fox news damning those liberal judges?!

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