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Retired RC Bishop Calls for Complete Re-examination of Teachings on Sex & Gender

Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia. (Graham Crouch/Daily Telegraph)

Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia. (Graham Crouch/Daily Telegraph)

I posted a photo and notice about this yesterday on my Daily Office sites, but it deserves wider attention: a retired Roman Catholic bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, has emerged as a thoughtful, constructive critic of Vatican policies in light of the worldwide sexual abuse of children by priests and some religious.

He knows what he’s talking about, because he was the Church’s lead investigator when the scandal hit Down Under. That has led him to question the Church’s entire approach to sex and gender issues.

To me he speaks with the voice of an insider who loves his Church. It’s lost its way, he knows it and he says so publcly.

The Vatican, including this new Pope, who’s been yammering lately about a “Gay lobby” inside the hierarchy, will probably dismiss him as just another publicity-seeking turncoat. That’s their first response to all criticism; the real pressure comes later.

An absolute monarchy is the same thing as a dictatorship. But Jesus of Nazareth never ruled with a pope’s iron fist; Christ left people free to choose, because that’s God’s way.

Joshua J. McElfee of the National Catholic Reporter had a great article on Robinson last year, reprinted on The Huffington Post. Read it here.

McElfee wrote:

Among the other aspects of Catholic culture Robinson said contributed to the abuse crisis are mandatory celibacy for priests, a “mystique” some attach to the priests as being “above other human beings,” and a “creeping infallibility” of papal decrees, which is used to protect “all teachings … in which a significant amount of papal energy and prestige have been invested.”

The application of the church’s teaching on infallibility is a “major force in preventing a pope from making admissions that there have been serious failures in the handling of abuse,” Robinson said.

I took particular interest in Robinson’s critique of homophobic and simplistic “natural law” theory, which states that since human reproduction occurs due to sexual intercourse, Gay people are “outside of nature” and “intrinsically disordered.” These concepts, endlessly repeated by popes and prelates, have led to murders and suicides all over the world.

I think God made Gay people expressly because we’re less likely to reproduce. But the Roman Church has made a total fetish out of the Stone Age line, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Heterosexuals multiply too well; that’s their problem. They need some birth control!

On Easter Island in the South Pacific, the heterosexuals reproduced so well they went extinct. The island can't support human life anymore, no matter how many gods they made for themselves.

On Easter Island in the South Pacific, heterosexuals reproduced so well they went extinct; no matter how many gods they made for themselves, the population dropped from 15,000 to 111. (It’s rebounded in modern times.)

The Roman Church isn’t the only group to make this mistake; evolutionary biologists do it too. But bee-keepers don’t; they know that asexual drones keep a queen bee’s colony going.

I call GLBTs “caregivers for communities.” That’s why there are so many Gay guys among Roman Catholic clergy—and so many Lesbians leading those churches that allow women to function.

But patriarchy dies hard, especially in dictatorships.

I have little hope that Pope Francis is going to change much. But he would do well to listen to Geoffrey Robinson. So would you. Patriarchy is killing the Church – it’s killing all religion everywhere. Sexism is patently unjust. It breeds violence and therefore cannot be of God.

Geoffrey Robinson doesn’t come across to me as a partisan. He comes off to me as a thinker. Go now, click the link and see what he says.++

Forgiving the Murderers, Part 2

Leon Bonnat: Jacob Wrestling the Angel, 1876 (Dahesh Museum of Art)

Three weeks ago I had a knockdown dragout fight with God, which naturally God won. Undefeated, that God; see previous post. Undisputed World Champion with the belts and trophies to prove it.

Whew. I feel so much better!

On December 21, 2010, I watched a documentary film on Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor who lives in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she founded a small museum called CANDLES, Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors – a memorial to twins who were subjected to medical torture by Dr. Josef Mengele. Eva and her twin sister Miriam were two of the kids Mengele infected with deadly bacteria.

No one who wasn’t there in Auschwitz can really know what this experience was like; our brains can barely comprehend the evil – and how much worse it was for children of little understanding, ripped from their parents’ arms. It’s the kind of ongoing trauma that scars a kid for life, like being the victim of pedophilia, child abuse, domestic violence.

Forty, fifty, sixty years later, the child keeps wondering, “Why?” “Why did no one stop him? Why does no one want to hear about it today?”

“Why did I survive? What do I do now?”

Mrs. Kor, who’s now quite elderly, has made the most remarkable response imaginable, in the face of unmitigated evil.

She remembers the abuse; in her museum she tells the story she and her sister and hundreds of other children underwent; she speaks to school groups in high schools and universities; she’s written a couple of books; and finally she came to the realization that to truly survive and thrive, she had to forgive her abuser.

The film “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” is the result.

A film by Bob Hercules and Cheri Pugh.

My mother, brothers and I were/are survivors of domestic violence. My father wasn’t the same as Dr. Mengele, although we have a few things in common with those twins. We didn’t know there was worse evil in the world, though of course there was. Somehow we got through it. And though my life was horribly twisted for many decades by the experience, I did eventually grow wise enough to forgive my parents.

I thought that would be the end of my need to grieve, and to claim my right to exist. But it wasn’t; I had more forgiving to do, which I only found out once I saw Mrs. Kor’s movie.

I had to forgive the homophobes too – the kids who terrorized me in high school, the criminals who tortured Matthew Shepard, the despicable president Reagan who refused to utter the word AIDS until his friend Rock Hudson came down with it years later; the Falwells and Robertsons and other professional hatemongers who drive GLBT kids to suicide.

I had to forgive them all, so in my boxing with God, I was the one who was knocked down and dragged out.

I waited for several days before I wrote about this in my last post. I was exhausted from the fight. I wasn’t sure my brain could properly understand what I went through in those days just before Christmas; I didn’t know if I could communicate clearly to you.

I also had to wait a couple of weeks to tell my spiritual director Marcia about it. When you need to see your therapist it can be hard to wait for your next appointment. But I did wait and she responded wonderfully. I also lent her my copy of the video, which she showed to her friends, and soon we’re all headed to Terre Haute to visit Mrs. Kor. If the timing works out we’ll take my pal Leonardo with us, and if not, I’ll drive him there myself.

In the meantime, have I been healed? It’s early yet, but the preliminary results are quite striking. I have almost no desire to destroy myself with alcohol.

That is a huge advance, because I’ve been fighting booze for decades. Whether I was drunk or sober or cycling between the two, I have always had a constant impulse toward the slow suicide. Alcoholism killed one of my brothers; our mother died of lung cancer from smoking. I never had much desire to jump off a bridge, but the longer I lived the more entrenched the motive became to show “the world” how damaged I was by my childhood traumas.

Of course, the world pays no attention to such scripty messages and will cheerfully let you jump off a bridge or land on Skid Row if you must, but I was caught up with something to prove. Because of this, a simplistic approach like AA never did me any good, though God bless ’em for all the people they do help.

Instead I had to deal with my version of Dr. Mengele – and ultimately walk away from him, stop fighting and accept that This Is What Homo-Haters Do.

“Father, forgive them for they know not.” I’m quoting Jesus here, people.

Besides being joyfully sober, I am eating up a storm these days; I’ve always been one of those people who doesn’t eat when he drinks, which is a guaranteed way to make yourself pathetically, disgustingly sick. I’d go days without a morsel, then I’d pay and pay and pay.

As I write I’m eating a ham and cheese sandwich. I’ve gained ten glorious pounds just since Christmas and am up to 125!

My sleeping schedule is still screwed up; a drunk doesn’t sleep, he passes out. But I’m paying attention to my body now, sleeping when I feel a need no matter what the hour, not regulating myself with drugs. Eventually I’ll get back to a normal schedule as my body rights itself.

I still have an enormous backlog of postponed work to do; my bedroom office is a huge mess of papers I avoided deciding what to do with. The garage has more recycling in storage than Oscar Winski & Co. I have stacks of books I haven’t started, much less finished.

BUT the dog is doing good; my sidewalks and porches are clear of snow; the dining room positively sparkles, and my Daily Office websites have been up to date no matter what; 1.1 million served!

Best of all for my mental health, I’m back to working on my next novel, a ten-year project almost. I have three new chapters since the first of the year. It’s really hard to create something at the same time you’re destroying yourself.

So I have a bit of a personal miracle to live through in this my 60th year. I have been or am being healed, not from my own act or decision but from being visited by a junior-grade angel from Terre Haute.

Eva Kor doesn’t like it when people praise her; she isn’t a hero, she’s just a survivor of evil, a person who learned, over decades, what healing would actually be like and what it takes to get there.

She says it doesn’t have anything to do with religion. So while mine does (I was writhing on the floor in front of a crucifix), hers doesn’t. Fine with me.

She is still a bit of an angel to me because she has the courage to live her life in public, for others, as well as privately for herself and with her family. She has always understood that she and Miriam weren’t the only ones the monster tried to murder. Therefore her remembrances and her working it out have had to be public too.

When Hercules and Pugh wanted to make a movie, she went along with it, in case it would help someone else.

This hasn’t prevented public criticism or repeated anti-Semitic attacks, but she is stronger than her seeming enemies. The funniest scene in the movie recounts her attempts to get a job as a real estate agent. She went to Realtor school, studied hard, graduated easily, then no one in Terre Haute would hire her; they’d hire less qualified people, but not her. And they’d lie about it; they’d give excuses. She has an Eastern European accent, but really it was more that she was damaged goods, a Holocaust survivor and public about it, which broke the rules about how to be Invisibly Jewish in smalltown Indiana. So all the real estate companies threw up roadblocks—which she took one look at and finally knocked down. “I survived Auschwitz,” she tells her interviewer. “They think I can’t sell real estate?”

You could say she has an iron will, but I think her quest has always been more personal than that; how she can survive, and especially how to honor her twin sister Miriam, who died several years ago of the lingering effects of Mengele’s Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments.

How does a victim of pedophilia, child abuse, rape or domestic violence—or organized racism-for-profit—hang onto life, cope, grow and eventually come to terms with it all, so she can become her own true self?

Mrs. Kor’s answer is that she found a way for herself through forgiveness. She doesn’t say everyone has to (and there are plenty of people who utterly refuse), but she does tell the understanding she came to.

I am the one who hears echoes of Jesus in her gospel: “Love thine enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.”

If you still have an old giant hurt in your soul that you cannot escape, ask yourself a simple question: Who else do I have to forgive?

I thought I’d let go of my big trauma, but it turned out I was wrong, I still had big work to do. Three weeks later, without conscious effort on my part, I happily report that I am becoming free.++

On October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts shot and killed all ten girls in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. The chief mourners at his funeral were his Amish neighbors.

Bishop Eddie Goes Down Flaming

Clue #1: that's him up there on TV, not Jesus. (Jessica McGowan/The New York Times)

You may have heard that self-proclaimed Bishop Eddie Long, of a megachurch in suburban Atlanta called New Birth Missionary Baptist, has been sued by four young men who claim he sexually molested them.

You may not know that Bishop Eddie Long is an outspoken opponent of Gay people who: a) has a cure-the-homos ministry at his church; b) once led an angry march against same-sex marriage; and c) is so wealthy and politically prominent in north Georgia that Coretta Scott King’s funeral was held at his church.

You may not be shocked by much of this; who can be shocked anymore, when so many anti-Gay pols are caught tapping their toes in the men’s room or hiring rentboys to “carry their luggage” across Europe?

Still, The New York Times tells the whole sordid story of what is being alleged.

As just another sex scandal, this isn’t worth my time or yours, except that if The Times story is correct, everything about this man has screamed scandal for years. And still he has a congregation of 25,000, including MLK’s widow!

His message that God wants people to prosper has attracted celebrities, professional athletes and socialites

Ah, the good ol’ prosperity Gospel; “come to my church and get rich!”

Millions of people fall for this all over the world. It is a staple of life in third world countries, but you’d think educated, sophisticated people in Atlanta would see through it.

But they don’t.

When you come to my church to get rich, the only person who gets rich is me!

The rapid expansion of the church — often called “Club New Birth” because it attracts so many young black singles — has also made Bishop Long a powerful political player, especially in DeKalb County, home to one of the wealthiest black communities in the country. The church has become a mandatory stop for many politicians — local, state and national — and Bishop Long supports candidates of both parties.

Thus a sexual undercurrent has been running in Bishop Eddie’s church for quite some time; no one’s ever called my parish “Club St. John’s.”

Picture all the young, affluent Black professionals in Atlanta joining the church so they could cruise the opposite sex. Not even MCC at its worst was ever that bad – and in MCC’s early days some people did treat it as if it were a Gay bar, since there were so few Gay places to go.

Four former members of a youth group he runs have accused him of repeatedly coercing them into homosexual sex acts, and of abusing his considerable moral authority over them while plying them with cash, new cars, lodging and lavish trips.

Well, who paid for the cash, new cars, lodging and trips, but 25,000 greedy professionals at the church?

Bishop Long has denied the accusations in a letter sent to a local radio station and has promised to address them from the pulpit on Sunday. He declined, through his lawyer, to comment for this article.

A local radio station? When the story’s on the front page of The New York Times?

CNN headquarters is 30 miles away, but he’s denying this in a letter to a radio station?

If you were aggrieved and internationally famous, would you write a letter to a radio station to protest your innocence?

I’d load up my black SUV with bodyguards and entourage and storm the world media citadel, I wouldn’t write a letter. (And if you think newspapers are hurting these days, you should see how bad radio’s doing.)

The accusations are all the more explosive because Bishop Long styles himself a social conservative, rails against homosexuality and calls for a ban on same-sex marriage. His church even holds seminars promising to “cure” homosexuals.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Wm. Shakespeare

(By this measure half of Viagraville must be downloading pictures of guys in Speedos when they’re not trying to destroy the Episcopal Church.)

The accusations center on the LongFellows Youth Academy, an exclusive group of teenage boys handpicked by Bishop Long for spiritual mentoring.

The boys went through a bonding ritual, known as a “covenant ceremony,” in which Bishop Long gave them jewelry and exchanged vows with them while quoting from Scripture as ceremonial candles burned, according to court complaints filed against the pastor. Reciting Bible verses, the pastor promised to protect them from harm and called them “spiritual sons.”

But four former members of the group now say the real purpose of the academy was to provide Bishop Long with young men whom he could lure into sex.

This is what greed’ll getcha, fellas. While you had bling on the brain, he allegedly had something else on his mind.

Bishop Long cuts a flashy figure in Lithonia, the Atlanta suburb where he lives and has built his church. He is often seen in a Bentley attended by bodyguards. He tends to wear clothes that show off his muscular physique. He favors Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches.

Oh yeah, I want to contribute to that guy’s church!

The man drives a Bentley and even Coretta couldn’t see what was going on?

His lavish display of wealth is in keeping with his theology. In his sermons, he often tells his congregation that God wants them to be wealthy and asserts that Jesus was not a poor man.

That isn’t theology, it’s ripoff-ology.

That quote is what pissed me off so much I wrote this post. Because here’s what Jesus actually said (Matthew 25:34):

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'”

And these “missionary Baptists” never heard of that? Coretta Scott King never heard of it?

Puh-lease. There wasn’t a bit of “missionary Baptist” about Bishop Eddie until he started getting bad press.

So what did he do? He hired a PR guy.

The Times again:

In 2005, for instance, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published tax records showing that from 1997 to 2000 Bishop Long had accepted $3 million in salary, housing, a car and other perks from a charity he controlled.

(snip)

After the article about his compensation, Bishop Long hired a public relations firm and went on a campaign to improve his image, Mr. McDonald said. He began charitable programs to feed the poor, help struggling people with mortgages and even offer haircuts to the homeless.

From there The Times explores Bishop Eddie’s background.

He studied business at North Carolina Central University, then went to work as a sales representative for the Ford Motor Company, but was fired over inaccuracies in his expense accounts.

From here on Bishop Eddie’s story turns banal. Thieves aren’t interesting, they’re common. Yes, Christians believe in forgiveness, but we still keep an eye on our wallets.

These “missionary Baptists,” though, kept hoping that Bishop Eddie would miraculously make their wallets fat while he was emptying them right in front of their eyes.

Christians believe in miracles, too, but those mostly happen with loaves of bread, not wads of cash. Prayer cloth, anyone? Reverend Ike used to send you one if you gave him a “sacrificial gift.”

Now back to Bishop Eddie’s ideas about sex:

He also adopted what has become known as “muscular Christianity,” a male-dominated view that emphasizes a warriorlike man who serves as the spiritual authority and protector in a family. His books on relationships suggest that men get in touch with their inner “wild man” and channel their fighting instincts into taking responsibility for their lives. Women are to submit to their husbands, he says.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was not a “wild, warriorlike” man. He wasn’t a milquetoast, he wasn’t a fool, and he broke every religious law on the books talking things over with a Samaritan woman. Indeed, women were (and still are) his most faithful followers.

B. J. Bernstein, a lawyer for the four young men who claim to have been coerced into sexual affairs with Bishop Long, said the pastor exerted a paternalistic and, at times, autocratic influence over young men.

The four complaints filed in court describe how Bishop Long arranged for the church to provide cars to the young men and put them on the church payroll. Two of them also said they received free lodging in church-owned houses, where, they said, Bishop Long visited them for sessions of kissing, oral sex or masturbation. He also took them on trips to other cities and abroad, sharing rooms with them, with the knowledge of several church officials, the complaints say.

“There are biblical and spiritual passages that were given to them to make them comfortable and make them believe that they were not gay,” Ms. Bernstein said.

He must be quite the salesman, if he can make you believe you’re not Gay even when you’re sucking his d—.

I admit, he must have gifts that leave me in the dust. I could never convince any guy of that when his mouth was full.

Finally there was this, which just made me livid.

“We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation,” he told the newspaper in justifying his compensation. “We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.”

An “international corporation.” Yes, let’s entrust our souls and bodies to one of those. Say, British Petroleum or Halliburton or Blackwater USA. Let’s all worship at the international corporation.

I’m not shocked that Laura Bush might be induced to do it, but I never expected it out of Coretta Scott King.

(Alan S. Weiner/The New York Times)

“We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk…”

Apparently the gift of gab is all this guy’s got. Apparently that’s all it takes and there’s a sucker born every minute.

“…and all we’re doing is baptizing babies.

Baptism is the single most important thing that will ever happen in your life. But here this guy is, trashing it as unimportant. I suppose it’s not the way to get ahead as he has done.

While Bishop Eddie is going down flaming, he’s taking 25,000 affluent, educated professionals down with him, all so he could drive a Bentley, flash his Rolex and suck some d—.

I’m appalled at the Biblical illiteracy of his wealthy and educated congregation. I presume none of them went to Morehouse, Spelman, Georgia Tech or Harvard to study the Bible; I guess they all majored in Rolex.++

Bishop Eddie in an arena, with a Hooters ad over his shoulder.

Cardinal: John Paul II Approved Secrecy for Molesters

Dario Castrillon Hoyos in 2002. (Associated Press)

Here’s a new, overlooked item in the ongoing soap opera of the Catholic Child Molesters’ League: a Spanish cardinal wrote to a French bishop in 2001, praising him for not reporting a serially abusive priest to the cops.

Now the cardinal says he showed his letter to Pope John Paul II, who approved of it and ordered him to send a copy to every bishop in the world.

William Wan of The Washington Post reports:

At the center of the debate is [Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos], the former head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, who made headlines last week when a 2001 letter he wrote to French Bishop Pierre Pican surfaced in the French press. In it, he praised Pican for not reporting the pedophile priest to police, despite being mandated to do so under French law.

“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Castrillón wrote, after Pican was convicted of failing to report sex crimes against children. “You have acted well, and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”

At the time the letter was written, the priest, the Rev. René Bissey, had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for repeatedly raping a boy and for sexually assaulting 10 other children.

On Saturday, Castrillón ignited another firestorm when he claimed that Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, not only approved of his letter but also instructed him to send copies to bishops worldwide.

I’ve taken this out of context slightly, in that The Post’s Wan is all a-flutter because Castrillon’s upcoming appearance at a long-scheduled Latin mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is being verbally protested by the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests. Wan seems to think this is an unfortunate coincidence, and that the museum-piece mass should go on as scheduled; it’s been three years in the planning and he’s sympathetic to the sponsors. Okay, fine, let them have their mass with someone else. But to explain why this Latin mass is now in doubt, he had to describe the controversy; thus my pulled quote above. Wan is not the only source of this information; it stands on its own, but his article is quotable. It doesn’t matter that he’s more sympathetic to the Paulus Institute, sponsors of the upcoming mass, than to SNAP; that’s his problem.

The story of Castrillon’s letter to the French bishop, who was himself convicted of failing to call the cops, and Castrillon’s claim that the late pope approved his letter and ordered it cc’d to every bishop in the world, is by far more important than one olde-tyme mass in D.C.

SNAP couldn’t be more right in this case. It clearly shows that the Catholic Church puts its own secrecy above protecting children, and that it does so as a matter of policy from the pope on down.

It also proves that the Church’s actions go way beyond “being tone-deaf” or “having a poor public relations response” to the crisis. Some commentators like to minimize the controversy with phrases like these.

The news about Bissey, Pican, Castrillon and John Paul II is totally outrageous. But my point goes beyond the usual anger, hurt and indignation; those responses are getting to be routine, the more the saga unfolds. I want to examine what Cardinal Castrillon was saying to Bishop Pican, and why he said it, to see if we can get beyond the outrage to understand why the Church has taken the position it has.

It goes beyond our usual high-pitched accusations—”the pope is a dictator, the Church is a criminal conspiracy”—to something else: this is a matter of theology, strange as that must seem.

The pope really is a dictator, and the Church really is a criminal conspiracy, but why? Because of their tragically flawed theology of the nature of the priesthood.

“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Castrillón wrote, after Pican was convicted of failing to report sex crimes against children. “You have acted well, and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”

That’s as opposite an apology as you’re ever going to see. Castrillon is claiming that Pican did the exact right thing according to God. John Paul II agreed with him.

in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world

Any idiot—any parent—can see the moral depravity of this. It’s breathtaking that the Church cannot. But let’s remember, this is not the first era, nor is child molesting the first type of crime, in which the Church has taken this position; it was precisely this same phenomenon which led to the Protestant Reformation. Back then the issue was priests who commit murder, as well as lesser corruptions like selling indulgences. For at least 500 years of history of the Church in England, the Church claimed a right to try clergy accused of crimes in its own Church courts, not in the government’s courts.

People rioted over this question; kings went to war over it. Archbishops were beheaded over it. Thomas Becket was killed at the altar in Canterbury Cathedral because of it; he insisted that the Church, not Henry II’s government, discipline his priests. Becket’s a saint because of this—even in the Church of England.

Becket murdered in the cathedral.

When Henry VIII finally got control of the English Church so he could marry Anne Boleyn and prevent another civil war over the royal succession, ecclesiastical vs. civil courts was one of the main issues he cited.

And however ridiculous it was that Henry’s sexual and romantic appetites were the immediate cause of the break with Rome, the English Church has been purified of this deadly theology of priesthood ever since. Anglicans worldwide thank God for it.

Henry and his many wenches.

So what’s the theology? Why did Cardinal Castrillon praise the French bishop for “preferring prison to denouncing his son and priest”? Why did John Paul II endorse Castrillon’s position and order it distributed to every bishop of the Church?

What is a priest? Here’s how Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, explains it on his website:

Every Catholic priest is an icon of Jesus Christ and acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”). At every Mass, we not only remember the Last Supper and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we also live them again in the present, and God becomes flesh and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. In other words, the Mass, through Jesus Christ who acts in his priest, is always much more than a ritualized memory of something that happened a long time ago. It’s a living sacrifice, a mystery and a sacrament – a sign of God’s continuing, tangible presence among us.

(This comes after Chaput’s patted Protestants on the head. The italics are his.)

Castrillon praised the French bishop (himself a convict, remember) for not turning in the serial molester-priest (who got 18 years in the slammer) because a priest is the very successor of Christ, and you wouldn’t turn in Jesus to the government of Pontius Pilate, would you?

When a priest celebrates mass, Catholics believe, not only is the crucifixion of Christ re-enacted, it takes place again at that very moment.

The sacrifice of Jesus is not only then, but now. Thus the sacrament of Holy Communion the priest celebrates turns the bread and wine into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, to be reverently consumed as he ordered, “Do this.”

It’s not a huge leap of logic to go from there to “every priest is Jesus” or “every priest participates in Jesus.” (The rest is theological gloss, frankly.)

In ordination the priest was grafted into Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit, or so they believe.

Benedict 16 explained all this in 1990 when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in a speech On the Nature of the Priesthood.

You wouldn’t turn Jesus over to Pilate, would you? That’s why the Vatican’s done everything it’s done.

The theology has a certain plausibility, a certain Scriptural grounding; it’s even perhaps revelatory of the loving nature of God. But look at the results: priests committing murder and getting shielded by the Church; priests molesting children and getting shielded by the Church.

We human beings, mere mortals, unwashed laypeople, cannot allow this to go on. We demand that government overrule the Church.

Jesus said, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” You can tell who’s worth following, and who’s not, by the results of their behavior.

Matthew 7:16-30 (NRSV)

You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit—but the Catholic Church bears bad fruit all over the place, and always has, because of this horrible error in its theology of priesthood, and its creation of ecclesiastical courts that set priests apart when they go bad.

The Church didn’t intend for any of this to happen, but it has.

Most priests bear great fruit, but the ones who don’t mess it up for everyone else—including kids.

Until Rome recognizes that its theology is wrong, nothing much is going to change. It will forever make excuses and coddle the priests who go bad, because it over-identifies its functionaries with the person of Jesus.

My mentor Howard Galley once said, “Heresy takes a truth and over-emphasizes it, so that the truth it upholds gets out of balance with other truths.”

That’s exactly what’s happened time and again in the Catholic Church—because of its polity, its decision-making process, which is always top-down, never bottom-up.

It’s true, I believe, that Jesus is really there in the Holy Communion. It’s true, I believe, that a priest acts and re-enacts the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in the breaking of bread. It’s true that a priest is grafted onto and into the person of Christ in ordination. But that’s not the end of the story, it’s the beginning.

Societies have a right to protect themselves from noxious theologies, and parents have a right to protect their children from priests.

There’s something grievously wrong when the Church thinks its theology is more important than human beings. God doesn’t think so; God thinks the opposite.

God couldn’t care less whether you believe in the “immaculate conception of Mary,” for which there is zero Biblical evidence; that theology is pure extrapolation invented by overreaching systematizers trying to reconcile the contradictions of someone else’s theology. You can pray to God in Latin if you want to, or English or Chinese; what matters is that you pray.

Meanwhile the pope’s shit stinks; the priest’s shit stinks; and if you think Jesus pooped vanilla ice cream you’re denying that he was a man, which is grievous heresy.

But even heresy isn’t a crime; a man imposing himself on a child while claiming to act for God is the very definition of crime. Let’s have a toast to the French police.++

AP Finds the Smoking Gun on Ratzinger

Ratzinger's signature, allowing a priest-abuser to go free.

Read it here.

Pray for the Church. For the children; for the safety of the faithful; for those whose faith is wounded or destroyed. Only Jesus can save us from the monstrous acts of men.++

UPDATE, 3:15 pm my time:

Of course, my declaring this AP report a “smoking gun” doesn’t make it so, but it’s been interesting to watch the story move up and up and up in prominence on the websites of major newspapers.

I first saw it in abbreviated form (5 paragraphs) on the website of my hometown daily in Lafayette, Indiana. Then a much bigger version appeared in the second spot up top in the Chicago Tribune.

The dateline says Los Angeles, but the last time I checked the L.A. Times hadn’t even posted it.

The New York Times first made it subsidiary to its original reporting that the pope is offering to meet with more abuse victims to repair the damage to the Church’s reputation. Meanwhile The Times, which prioritizes stories according to their professional judgment about what readers need to know (unlike my local paper), stuck with the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens as the most important news of the day.

But then this AP story got moved up on nytimes.com. An editor moved the AP report above the Vatican’s more conciliatory stance (“Pope offers to meet with more victims”) after a week of combat in which the Church claimed it was being victimized by all the crime reports. The AP exclusive is now the second lead in the middle, a more appropriate placement in my view.

I don’t see how the pope can survive this. The drums have started; he’s got to go.

Of course if anyone can survive a crisis it’s the head of the Catholic Church. But here we have evidence that Ratzinger himself put the Church’s reputation above the damage a priest caused to children.

Ratzinger’s signature is on the letter. He was worried that laypeople would complain if a “young” priest (age 38) were removed from the ministry.

The bishop in California said, “No, it’s not like that, this guy’s dangerous!” But Ratzinger sat on it for years and years.

The priest then went on to molest every child he could get his hands on. He lost count of how many kids he raped. “Tons,” he said in a jailhouse interview.

I would think the laypeople are going to have to take matters into their own hands. They’re not automatons or robots, no matter how much the Church tries to put them in that role. They’re thinking, feeling human beings — and many of them are parents.

If they believe the old cliché that “The hierarchy isn’t the Church, the People are the Church,” it’s time they started acting like it. Because the hierarchy is headed straight for the cliff.

I may yet be surprised by the resilience and tenacity of the Old Guard, which knows nothing if not How to Survive. But I don’t see how Ratzinger can survive this. His signature is at the bottom of the letter.

Written in Latin; isn’t that precious? May Peter himself strike him down!++

Vatican Blames Jews, Gays, Women for “Hate” Campaign

Riot police take aim in Kyrgyzstan.

The Catholic Church is looking a bit like Kyrgyzstan today — that former Soviet state where riot police are killing protesters, who now appear to have ousted the government.

It’s looking like Thailand, where protesters have forced government ministers to flee by Black Hawk helicopter.

It’s looking like Afghanistan, where corrupt President Karzai, who recently threatened to join the Taliban, is doing everything he can to hang onto power.

Just days after the pope’s personal preacher compared criticism of the hierarchy to anti-Semitism, on Good Friday no less, and the Vatican secretary of state interrupted Easter services (!) to deliver a ringing endorsement of Benedict, his boss, the Vatican has launched a new offensive, claiming that all-powerful lobbies for the pro-choice and same-sex marriage movements hate the Church and are trying to destroy it.

Funny, I thought it was pedophile priests and paranoid prelates who were trying to do that.

When they’re not blaming Jews at The New York Times.

AP reports:

By FRANCES D’EMILIO
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 6, 2010; 5:57 PM

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican heatedly defended Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, claiming accusations that he helped cover up the actions of pedophile priests are part of an anti-Catholic “hate” campaign targeting the pope for his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Vatican Radio broadcast comments by two senior cardinals explaining “the motive for these attacks” on the pope and the Vatican newspaper chipped in with spirited comments from another top cardinal.

“The pope defends life and the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, in a world in which powerful lobbies would like to impose a completely different” agenda, Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the disciplinary commission for Holy See officials, said on the radio.

Herranz didn’t identify the lobbies but “defense of life” is Vatican shorthand for anti-abortion efforts.

I’m a former reporter on the Gay rights movement; I’ve seen it from the inside. I’ve covered feminist issues, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women — and I have to laugh at the notion that these people could fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

LGBT and feminist leaders spend a lot more time arguing with each other than they ever do with their opponents. Who is it that gave the world “political correctness” but Gay people?

One incident captures this in a nutshell: the 1993 “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.” (Notice, no Trans.) I’ve still got the T-shirt, hokay?

A gaggle of progressive, non-Gay celebrities were there to support the cause — and were denied the platform to address half a million marchers because they weren’t queer. Jesse Jackson, Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas, Cesar Chavez, people of renown and accomplishment, were permitted to address 5000 early birds at a pre-march rally at the Washington Monument; while the big crowd that afternoon got lectured to by a disabled Lesbian from Fiji, who harangued everybody for not caring enough about… people like her.

I kid you not. The memory still makes me laugh. Lesbians and Gay men can’t coordinate a bowel movement, much less a human rights movement.

But the Vatican says… oh, brother.

At least they haven’t shot anybody like the riot police in Kyrgyzstan.

The New York Times, April 3:

Last week, the center-left daily newspaper La Republica wrote, without attribution, that certain Catholic circles believed the criticism of the church stemmed from a New York ‘Jewish Lobby.’

Without attribution. “Certain Catholic circles.” “New York Jewish lobby,” an apparent reference to The Times itself. It is in fact owned by a Jewish family, and it has been active in reporting about Catholic pedophilia scandals in Wisconsin, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland and elsewhere. The Church doesn’t like having its secrets exposed.

When the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury noted rather mildly that the Catholic Church in Ireland has “lost all credibility,” he was barraged by attacks from Irish Catholic archbishops, who suddenly pretended to be great friends with Anglicans who “betrayed” them, despite the pope’s efforts a few months ago to steal conservative Anglicans and make them Catholics.

I’ve written previously that the Vatican’s problems are structural and have nothing to do with the all-male priesthood, clerical “celibacy” or any other issue of sex and gender. The problems originate in trying to run a church as a dictatorship, where the Big Man gets to decide everything while claiming to be God’s human mouthpiece. It’s a massive error in governance, which is why hundreds of millions of non-Catholic Christians refuse to follow the man.

It doesn’t mean we hate him; it means the system he fronts is obviously and fatally corrupt.

God created all of us; no one is better than anyone else. If you don’t get that, you don’t get anything.

God touches the souls of janitors and scholars alike; if you want to find Christ, visit the homeless, the marginalized, the despised. Queers even, intrinsically disordered though we might be.

The Church’s current crisis, which finds the Vatican lashing out in every possible direction, has nothing to do with abortion, masturbation, contraception, same-sex marriage, the priesthood of “celibate” men or the dignity of women. It has to do with priests molesting children. Period.

What the Catholic Church has done is indefensible. It’s facilitated crime against the least powerful of God’s beloved people.

If the Pope had any brains, which he apparently does not, he would have appeared in St. Peter’s Square on Good Friday in sackcloth and ashes, begging the forgiveness of all humanity for the actions of his priests.

We’d have wept at such a sight; we’d have praised God for him.

Instead he listened to a sermon by his own official preacher, claiming that criticizing the pope was somehow equivalent to the Jew-hating that killed six million souls in concentration camps.

My father was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He fought and nearly died to free people he didn’t know from the clutches of hatred.

It is profoundly disrespectful to millions who suffered like him to equate a public outcry against the pope and his minions with a campaign of “hate” by feminists, Jews and Gay people.

Stop crucifying children, Benedict; resign and never show your face again. In the Name of Jesus, do the right thing for once.++

Vatican’s Good Friday Message: Pope Is Victim, Not Kids

Raniero Cantalamessa, the pope's official preacher.

Some things just make me ashamed of being a Christian. Here’s one, from The New York Times:

By DANIEL J. WAKIN and RACHEL DONADIO
Published: April 2, 2010

ROME — A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.

The remarks, on the day Christians mark the crucifixion, underscored how much the Catholic Church has felt under attack from recent news reports and criticism over how it has handled charges of child molestation against priests in the past, and sought to focus attention on the church as the central victim.

Anti-Semitism kills people; ever hear of the Holocaust? Child molesting scars a kid for life. But here’s the pope’s own preacher claiming Ratzinger’s the real victim, because of… criticism. Words.

On Good Friday, no less. Lord have mercy upon this earth.

If this needs to be said (it shouldn’t), The Times found this guy to say it:

A leading advocate for sex abuse victims in the United States, David Clohessy, called comparing criticism of the church to persecution of the Jews “breathtakingly callous and misguided.”

“Men who deliberately and consistently hide child sex crime are in no way victims,” he said. “And to conflate public scrutiny with horrific violence is about as wrong as wrong can be.”

Later the Vatican tried to distance the pope from his preacher’s remarks a few feet away. However, AP adds this nugget:

Although the Vatican said Cantalamessa wasn’t speaking as an official of the Holy See, its official daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano ran the text of the homily in full.

It’s my sad belief that the Vatican is irredeemable, in human (not theological) terms. It can’t be saved. There are no reforms that will fix it. It’s a hopeless case. The Protestant reformers were right, you have to kill it altogether; walk out and never go back.

Awww, poor papa. Being persecuted ‘n’ everything!

In the Philippines young men crucify themselves. In Rome, they hammer the nails.

What can one expect from Rome’s twisted control freakery? That it will continue to try to manipulate the public to the Vatican’s last dying day.

The Roman Church’s claim that fiction is fact isn’t just a public relations ploy in the media; it’s their bedrock principle of perverse “evangelism”: we’ll make you believe, by using fear. We’ll kill you if we have to, but you’re going to believe. We’ve killed before and we’ll do it again.

Inquisition; Ratzinger was in charge of it 1981-2005.

Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor.” In his name, nuns beat schoolchildren with rulers (or worse) in a hundred thousand classrooms.

You can’t beat love into a child.

If you try to manipulate a child into obedience through guilt, you may get some obedience but you’ll also get resentment and a complete loss of respect from that child, whose psyche you have ruined.

You can get impoverished peasants to throw money at a statue of the Virgin Mary paraded through the streets, but no one listens when you claim to love the poor.

Down is not up; criticism is not violence; criminals are not victims. The pope is not a Christian.

Jesus is worth devoting your life to; the Roman Church is a toxic dump.

Jews, forgive us; but the pope knows exactly what he’s doing.++

SNAP demonstration, San Francisco, March 29, 2010. (Paul Sakuma/AP)