Monday, March 18, 2013

Popes and Snopes

Thanks to our commenter democommie for calling my attention to a hoax, an urban legend, an error.

Snopes discovered that a quotation attributed to the new Pope Francis was not strictly accurate.  That quote, attributed to the Argentine news service, said:
"Women are unfit for political office. Both the natural order and facts show us that the political being par excellence is male; the Scripture shows us that woman has always been the helper of man who thinks and does, but nothing more."
While it is true that there is no apparent quote, no failure of translation or transcription, this appears to be a very accurate reporting of actions that speak louder than words, and more clearly, on behalf of the establishment of conservative religion - which appears quite thoroughly to include the past and the current pope.

As I write these words, in the background Scott Pele on 60 minutes is doing a segment on the Vatican, their representative in the U.S. who has been sent to bring the nuns in the U.S. to 'heel', and the Nuns of 'Nuns on the Bus' fame in their "American Nuns struggle with the Vatican for change" segment run on March 17, 2013:

It would be fair to say that the conflict with the nuns reflects a greater conflict within the Roman Catholic church and the 'women religious' of more than just the United States -- and the church is losing.

The church is losing, because the church is wrong, unjust, and not particularly godly, pious, or holy in their condescending and dismissive, condescending and authoritarian patriarchy and hierarchy. This is a church which puts their authority - and wealth - ahead of all other considerations, and which values and gives authority to men, at the expense of women, and children. One cardinal, Cardinal Napier of South Africa, was even quoted as asserting that pedophilia was not a crime, as reported by Reuters.

Calling pedophilia an illness - it is more correctly a psychiatric disorder - IS a mental health issue for the perpetrator.  It is a CRIME for the victims. There is nothing about pedophilia which precludes it being BOTH a mental disorder AND a crime. Mental illness is ONLY an excuse in committing a criminal act when it precludes the perpetrator understanding what they are doing AND being unable to distinguish right from wrong. It is a terrible mis-statement of fact to claim that pedophilia is not a crime, but this seems to reflect the attitude of the Roman Catholic church in their failure to adequately and willingly compensate the victims of clergy who molest and sexually abuse children, as well as engage in other sexual misconduct, and who have obstructed criminal investigation and prosecution.

I'm not aware of any priest or religious figure, or other pedophiles, who was unaware that their actions were wrong, were illegal, or most of all, an abuse of their authority and trust. Certainly, there are groups of pedophiles, who are more often heterosexual than homosexual or bisexual, that try to justify what they do by denying that it is harmful or sick. We should expect AND DEMAND better from powerful religious institutions.

Unfortunately, this appears to be part of the problem with male dominated patriarchal institutions. They consistently justify protecting and excusing male abusers, while failing to protect women and children, and by re-victimizing the victims in doing so.

The bizarre and unreasonable opposition to renewing the Violence Against Women Act was a perfect example.  There has been opposition to that legislation from the beginning, from the hard right conservatives, both men and women, including the religious right who support dominionism. They promote the idea as a traditional value that women should be submissive and subordinate to men in every way, and that to oppose that is to be in opposition to the dominance of god.  Their 'natural order' is that as God stands to everything, men - and religious institutions - are superior and dominant to women and children, and that to object to any bad or abusive behavior by men is to challenge that superiority and dominance of men, the church and GOD. The VAWA has been opposed from the beginning, not just the last year or two, by groups like the Family Research Council, and the Eagle Forum.

To boil down the position of the far right and the religious right, women should just suck up the abuse, and be more submissive to the dominance of their abusers; leaving an abuser leads to divorce and the break up of the family.  The put the blame on the victims, not the abusers for that failure of the marriage and family, despite the number of women killed and injured every year from such abuse.  Staying with abusers has a very low success rate for women -- but objective reality has never been a strong point for the right when it collides with political ideology or religion.

Our own Michele Bachmann, a dominionist who has supported women being submissive to men, was the only member of the Minnesota delegation to Congress who voted against reauthorizing the VAWA.  While she now tries to backpedal that vote, she is on record too many times stating her position for that to be credible.  It is ironic that in her campaign for the presidency, the old, male-pale-and-stale good ol' boys network told her that she couldn't be president because women shouldn't be in that kind of position of authority over men.  (Serves the popsie right; too bad the voices in her head she attributes to God didn't explain that to her when she dumped serving her constituents for her ambition - not that they noticed, since she has never particularly served them well anyway.)

These problems of abusive patriarchy are not unique to the 'RC'; we have seen that in the recent Baptist scandals. There have been organizations formed to combat sexual Baptist predators that closely parallel the organizations for survivors of Roman Catholic abuse. Like the Roman Catholic church, the Baptists have a long-standing problem with covering up their criminal conduct as well, as uncovered in this article by
Perhaps the biggest thorn in SGM’s side has been the spate of former members’ blogs that have cropped up since 2007, starting with SGM Survivors—a site where ex-members have shared numerous accounts of SGM’s cult-like atmosphere, including cover-ups of spousal abuse and sexual abuse of children as young as two.
And in October 2012, three people whose stories were first shared on SGM Survivors formalized their complaints by becoming the first plaintiffs in the current class action lawsuit, charging the ministry and its past and present clergy for complicity in the abuse.
The original lawsuit listed SGM, Mahaney, Tomczak, and six other pastors from CLC and Sovereign Grace Church as defendants. The amended filing added five new plaintiffs and CLC, as well as CLC’s day school, the Fairfax church, and two more pastors as defendants. One new plaintiff, “Paula Poe,” alleged that a pastor and church volunteer together operated a “pedophilia ring” at CLC and its school, and that one of their suspected victims, a pastor’s son, went on to molest a seven-year-old boy in the Fairfax church.
The suit has been filed not only on behalf of the individual plaintiffs, but also on behalf of a much larger class of people allegedly abused as minors in SGM, who do not wish to come forward with their stories. The suit alleges that the potential additional victims are too many to be included as individual plaintiffs in the suit because SGM’s leaders have cultivated an “environment conducive to and protective of physical and sexual abuse of children.”
The stories from plaintiffs who are included describe a church culture where pastors’ sympathies routinely lay with male perpetrators of sexual abuse, particulary married fathers, who were allowed continued access to victims and other children in the church. Victims’ families were deliberately misled to keep them out of legal proceedings, while pastors provided perpetrators with legal support. And families were pressured not to report abuse and to “forgive” perpetrators, with even children as young as three being forced to meet their abusers for “reconciliation.”
Women and children who came forward were threatened and ostracized if they resisted efforts to “restore” their abusive husbands and fathers to a position of “leadership” in the family. One plaintiff, “Robin Roe,” whose sister was sexually abused by their adoptive father, reports that their mother was advised by CLC pastors to send the victim away so the abuser could return as “head of the household.” When Roe’s mother refused to submit to this and other pastoral “attempt[s] to obstruct justice,” the family was kicked out of the church.
Looking at the emphasis on obedience to their authority from the Roman Catholic church, the parallel that puts saving priests from accountability after they have abused women and children, including sexual abuse of their priestly authority, it is no surprise to see the same emphasis in the Baptist churches, quoting again from Salon, where violence is not sin - but sex is, but only for women apparently:

The larger context for corporal punishment is the belief that Christians must cultivate a lifelong attitude of submission to God-given authority. Parents are one such authority; male leadership over women in the family, church, and society is another.
Both women and children are taught that submission is part of a divine plan that should be embraced joyfully, and that even submitting to abusive men is noble and Christ-like. CLC pastor Joshua Harris quotes 1 Peter on this score, praising slaves who obeyed the masters who beat them as following Jesus’ example. Harris interprets this to mean that all Christians are called to submit, even when “suffering” under “unjust” leadership. Therefore wives are called to resist the “sinful” impulse to “fight back” against or even criticize husbands who misuse their “authority.”
These teachings are not unique to SGM. Evangelical leader John Piper—a friend to SGM—has taught that women must maintain attitudes of submission even toward abusive husbands. Wives may, he says, have to,“endure… being smacked one night” if abuse is “simply hurting [them]” and “not requiring [them] to sin” in some way like “group sex.”
If children are taught that assault is divinely sanctioned, and that their bodies belong to adults, girls in particular are trained to see their bodies as male property, starting with their fathers. These lessons come from the top. C.J. Mahaney and his wife Carolyn, herself a popular writer on “biblical femininity,” teach that every piece of clothing girls and married women purchase should be inspected for “modesty” by fathers. And Mahaney encourages his followers to confront girls and women in their congregations whose clothing they find immodest.
Girls grow up under the sexualizing gaze of men who are free to comment on the sexual response female bodies “provoke” in them. This early training in feminine responsibility for the sexual response of men makes it difficult to recognize and name abuse, and causes further trauma with the implication that being a victim of sexual violence makes a woman “impure.”
These are the same churches which have problems with their missionaries conduct in foreign countries, but which have exported the concepts of execution for same sex relationships to Africa.  When investigations into that conduct don't conform to what they want to hear, it is the investigators who are terminated, not the abusive sexually predatory clergy, as reported by 'Stop Baptist Predators'.
Only a few weeks before the release of a final investigative report on allegations involving a missionary's sexual abuse of kids, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) has fired the investigative team, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).
The investigation had been on-going for nearly two years, and GRACE had interviewed approximately 100 witnesses. At issue in the investigation was not only the missionary’s alleged acts of sexual abuse, but more broadly, questions related to how ABWE responded to allegations. In other words, the investigation was also concerned with who at ABWE had knowledge about the accused missionary’s conduct, and with what they did or did not do.
Read GRACE's February 11th letter in response to ABWE’s termination – a letter that sets forth some of ABWE’s conduct during the investigative process – and decide for yourself what you think about this. Personally, I think ABWE’s termination of GRACE gives the appearance that there were likely some officials at ABWE who feared that GRACE’s report would implicate them in a keep-it-quiet cover-up in much the same way that an independent investigation of the Penn State scandal implicated others at the institution in addition to the child molester.
Protecting men from accountability for criminal conduct is given more overwhelmingly more importance, justified on the basis of religious authority, than the well being and safety of women.  This reflects an inherent misogny, a failure to share power, an undervaluing of women, and a profoundly sick misunderstanding of sin and sexuality.  The problem is not sin, the problem is not 'illness', the problem is a deep and profound corruption of institutions, both governmental and religious, that follow right wing deeply conservative 'values'.  These are failed values, in the same way that conservativism is deeply failed.  The two go hand in hand inextricably in the ways that right wing power is reflected in BOTH religion and government, and it needs to be overturned, repudiated, rejected, and exterminated, eradicated. 

This kind of thinking and belief, this kind of misogyny masquerading as any kind of faith or 'values' has no place in the 21st century, any more than human slavery does.


  1. So J.O.B. and I actually agreed on something? Well, weirder shit happens!

    This piece is much better than the "bite".

    Three of my aunties were nuns, three different orders. The youngest, Mother Patricia (my mom's younger sister) died at 35 and I never knew her except as a cypher. My dad's two older sisters, Dolores and Beatrice, became sisters Maureen and Callista respectively. Sister Maureen was always a little bit, no, a WAY LOT, too authoritarian for me. Sister Callista was a great gal. She taught in inner city schools and knew "where the cate was buried". She was devout and obedient and would not publicly applaud "Nuns on the bus.". She would, I am sure, pray for their safety and success.

    As hard as it would be for them to do so, the nuns should all simply leave their orders and let the church deal with the fallout. Fuck the RCC.

  2. Actually, Democommie - I was wrong, and should have credited you with that correction (although JOB may agree anyway). That error has been corrected!

  3. What did I miss? What may I agree with?