Thursday, May 26, 2011

Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope's Adviser

Notice that in the course of this article, the victims are not even addressed by the Church. It is the "great pain in seeing a priest who is not faithful to his vocation."
All things done in secret will come to light. This reads like a movie script in the sense that I cannot fathom the predatory evil. These are the most dispicable acts that could be perpetrated by such a person in power and trust upon innocents...and in the alleged service of God. Hypocrisy of this scale has never been so outrageous and cummulatively damaging. Faith and God has nothing to do with the Church anymore, it seems.
I was speaking with a friend about this article and he pointed out that one of these days a dad will take vengeance on his child's predator, and that predator will be a priest. I'm actually surprised this has not happened more often.
The AntiChrist works from within the flock, that's for damn sure. And there are so many of them in all tiers of the Catholic Church. Too bad morality in the "church government" cannot be federally regulated, eh? Lots of Madoffs would surface there, too.
Priest Sex-Abuse Case Hits Church of Pope's Adviser

Thursday, May. 19, 2011 - Original Source
By Alessandra Pieracci and Giacomo Galeazzi / La Stampa / Worldcrunch
This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in the leading Italian daily La Stampa.

(GENOA) — The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. "I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues," he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse. (Read "Vatican Gets Tough on Child Abuse but Not Tough Enough.)

Bagnasco said that when he met the Pope this weekend, he "asked for a particular blessing for my archdiocese" in light of the alleged crimes, adding that "like every father toward a son [feels] great pain in seeing a priest who is not faithful to his vocation."

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi praised Bagnasco's handling of the Sastri Ponente case, lauding its "timeliness and competence." On Saturday, May 14, the Cardinal visited the Santo Spirito church, where Seppia was the parish priest.

According to investigators, Seppia told a friend — a former seminarian and barman who is currently under investigation — that the town's malls were the best places to entice minors. In tapped phone conversations the two cursed and swore against God. The priest is charged with having attempted to kiss and touch an underage altar boy and of having exchanged cocaine for sexual intercourse with boys over 18. (See inside Benedict XVI's daily life.)

Seppia's defense lawyers are expected to argue that those conversations — monitored since Oct. 20, 2010 — were just words, sex games that were played by adults. It was just a game even when he claimed to have "kissed on the mouth" a 15-year-old altar boy, according to the defense.

On Monday, May 16, during formal questioning by Genoa's investigating magistrate Annalisa Giacalone, Seppia chose not to respond. The magistrate decided to keep him in custody to avoid a risk of relapse or tampering with evidence. Defense attorney Paolo Bonanni said the defense wants to evaluate all the charges, reserving the right to respond to public prosecutor Stefano Puppo in the coming days.

Questioned by the investigators, the altar boy reportedly confirmed the attempted kiss. Another male minor who, according to the investigators, was stalked with messages and pressing invitations, will be questioned soon. Psychologists are helping Carabinieri police officers obtain testimony from the alleged victims. "The boys are ashamed to talk and to admit what happened," says one of the investigators. The evidence amounts to at least 50 messages and phone calls. In the tapped phone conversations, the drug dealer contacted the boys and gave their phone numbers to the priest, who paid them with cocaine or 50 euros each time for sexual intercourse. (Read "Controversial Study Links Catholic Abuse to '60s Culture and Church Hierarchy but Offers Few Solutions.")

"[The investigators] made us listen to that man saying terrifying things about our children. Things so terrible that I cannot repeat them," a father of one of the boys said.

Investigators are also examining three confiscated computers: the priest allegedly looked for partners via chat as well.

Seppia is currently being kept in a confinement cell in a Genoa prison. He met the jail's priest and psychologist. "He has read the newspapers, and he is pained by his parishioners' comments," says his lawyer. The investigation is ongoing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Post Rapture Levity

So, here we are and the "Rapture" has come and gone. How am I ever to survive in this post-apocalyptic world?
= )

Here is a little levity from Martin Zender, whom I am connected with on Facebook. He is very funny in his portrayal of God.

Here, he talks about Rob Bell's book, Love Wins.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's The End of the World As We Know It?

Rapturists absolutely salivate at the thought of others not being chosen, of others not being flown up to heaven with them to be with God. They love the idea of looking down on others in peril because they alone did what was right and just. It's what makes them feel special. It is utterly childish and unloving to smile upon your brethren who are allegedly going to be left on earth. That is not Christ's love. That is not what Christ taught. And most importantly it scratches out the idea that God's love is unconditional. It makes God look like a selective bastard who conducted this whole world experiment knowing that a fraction of a fraction would make the cut, willing to scrap a berjillion people because they exercised the free will He gave them in a way unpleasing to him. Numerous biblical parables (not to mention common sense) contradict this. Oh, and the bible specifically states that "no one knows the day or the hour". Not even these people. I think they do a disservice to Christianity and believers in general. Their credulous declarations cast a pall over all believers as being "nutters".

End of the world? I call bullshit.

I'm halfway through Barbara Rossing's book The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. It is a worthy read and one that knocks any rapturistic attempt at logic in the dirt.

About the Book:

The idea of "The Rapture" --- the return of Christ to rescue and deliver Christians off the earth --- is an extremely popular interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation and a jumping-off point for the best-selling "Left Behind" series of books. This interpretation, based on a psychology of fear and destruction, guides the daily acts of thousands if not millions of people worldwide. In The Rapture Exposed, Barbara Rossing argues that this script for the world's future is nothing more than a disingenuous distortion of the Bible. The truth, Rossing argues, is that Revelation offers a vision of God's healing love for the world. The Rapture Exposed reclaims Christianity from fundamentalists' destructive reading of the biblical story and back into God's beloved community.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blame Woodstock: Church Report Cites Social Tumult in Priest Scandals

I may be off my rocker here, but when an organization wants to REGAIN credibility through statistical studies wouldn't they be better off hiring an impartial, unbiased outside source to conduct a study? Yeah, thought so. Goal not achieved.

Blaming the sexual revolution in America for the sexual crimes of priests is as good as saying everyone should go back to the Victorian sensibilities of being ashamed of sex, their bodies, and homosexuality. Women should stay home and endure sex and no one should ever be nude or talk about sex, eroticism or any of those naughty sinful things. Placing blame is what I expect the Catholic Church to do. It becomes comical when they do it this overtly, though.

I'd like to point out a laughable moment in this report:

In one of the most counterintuitive findings, the report says that fewer than 5 percent of the abusive priests exhibited behavior consistent with pedophilia, which it defines as a “psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviors about prepubescent children. “Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as ‘pedophile priests,’ ” the report says.

And all this time I thought pedophilia behavior was exhibited by adults having sex with children.

Actions speak louder than any psych eval, folks. This report is a crock of shit, if I may be so bold. Since the beginning of priesthood in general there have been abuses. I personally feel as if celibacy is and always has been the problem here. By the very nature of our biological design, we're programmed to want sex...hetero, homo, or otherwise. God designed us to copulate. It ranks right up there as one of the most powerful forces in the universe. So remind me again why this ridiculous deprivation continues? To ensure that church property doesn't fall into the hands of offspring? Yeah, maybe it is time to rethink that business model.

The raping of innocent children by a priest - someone who the whole family is taught to trust with their darkest sins in the confessional - is the ultimate violation of human decency.

Hormones often take precedence over the mind's will, and in these tragically numerous cases will continue as long as one "vice" is stifled - it will cause another to be indulged. This goes for anything. Why do you think so many priests can drink you under the table?

Church Report Cites Social Tumult in Priest Scandals
New York Times - May 17, 2011 - Original Source

A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.

Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.

Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church’s hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.

The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010.

But this study is likely to be regarded as the most authoritative analysis of the scandal in the Catholic Church in America. The study, initiated in 2006, was conducted by a team of researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City at a cost of $1.8 million. About half was provided by the bishops, with additional money contributed by Catholic organizations and foundations. The National Institute of Justice, the research agency of the United States Department of Justice, supplied about $280,000.

The report was to be released Wednesday by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, but the Religion News Service published an account of the report on its Web site on Tuesday. A copy of the report was also obtained by The New York Times. The bishops have said they hope the report will advance the understanding and prevention of child sexual abuse in society at large.

The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance. Priests who abused minors have no particular “psychological characteristics,” “developmental histories” or mood disorders that distinguished them from priests who had not abused, the researchers found.

Since the scandal broke, conservatives in the church have blamed gay priests for perpetrating the abuse, while liberals have argued that the all-male, celibate culture of the priesthood was the cause. This report will satisfy neither flank.

The report notes that homosexual men began entering the seminaries “in noticeable numbers” from the late 1970s through the 1980s. By the time this cohort entered the priesthood, in the mid-1980s, the reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests began to drop and then to level off. If anything, the report says, the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving the church.

Many more boys than girls were victimized, the report says, not because the perpetrators were gay, but simply because the priests had more access to boys than to girls, in parishes, schools and extracurricular activities.

In one of the most counterintuitive findings, the report says that fewer than 5 percent of the abusive priests exhibited behavior consistent with pedophilia, which it defines as a “psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviors about prepubescent children.

“Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as ‘pedophile priests,’ ” the report says.

That finding is likely to prove controversial, in part because the report employs a definition of “prepubescent” children as those age 10 and under. Using this cutoff, the report found that only 22 percent of the priests’ victims were prepubescent.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies a prepubescent child as generally age 13 or younger. If the John Jay researchers had used that cutoff, a vast majority of the abusers’ victims would have been considered prepubescent.

The report, “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2002,” is the second produced by researchers at John Jay College. The first, on the “nature and scope” of the problem, was released in 2004.

Even before seeing it, victims advocates attacked the report as suspect because it relies on data provided by the church’s dioceses and religious orders.

Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of, a Web site that compiles reports on abuse cases, said, “There aren’t many dioceses where prosecutors have gotten involved, but in every single instance there’s a vast gap — a multiplier of two, three or four times — between the numbers of perpetrators that the prosecutors find and what the bishops released.”

David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that while the report contained no surprises, it had nonetheless been a disappointment because it did not include recommendations for far-reaching reforms, including limiting the power of bishops. Mr. Clohessy said this was critical because bishops had covered up many instances of sexual abuse by priests in the past.
“Predictably and conveniently, the bishops have funded a report that says what they’ve said all along, and what they wanted to hear back,” he said. “Fundamentally, they’ve found that they needn’t even consider any substantive changes.”

Robert M. Hoatson, a priest and a founder of Road to Recovery, which offers counseling and referrals to victims, said the idea that the sexual and social upheavals of past decades were to blame for the abuse of children was an attempt to shift responsibility from church leaders. Mr. Hoatson said he had been among those who had been abused.“It deflects responsibility from the bishops and puts it on to a sociological problem,” he said. “This is a people problem. It wasn’t because of the ’70s, and it wasn’t the ’60s, and it wasn’t because of the 1450s. This was something individuals did.”

Kristine Ward, the chairwoman of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition, said the cultural explanation did not appear to explain why abuse cases within the Catholic church have shaken places from Australia and Ireland to South America. “Does the culture of the U.S. in the 1960s explain that? It’s hard to believe,” she said.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a conservative Catholic group, however said he believes permissiveness in the church in the 1960s and 1970s - particularly at seminaries - had been a significant reason for the rise in sexual abuse. Mr. Donohue said that while he generally supported the report’s findings, he believed that the study seemed to have purposefully avoided linking abuse cases with the increase in the number of gay men who became priests during the 1960s and 1970s. “The authors go through all sorts of contortions to deny the obvious - that obviously, homosexuality was at work,” Mr. Donohue said.

In Philadelphia, where a grand jury in February found that as many as 37 priests suspected of behavior ranging from sexual abuse to inappropriate actions were still serving in ministry. The archdiocese initially rejected the grand jury’s findings, but soon suspended 26 priests from ministry.

An essay in the Catholic magazine Commonweal last week by Ana Maria Catanzaro, who heads the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s sexual-abuse review board, which is supposed to advise the archdiocese on how to handle abuse cases, said that the board was shocked to learn about the dozens of cases uncovered by the grand jury. Her essay raised questions about whether bishops provide accurate data even to their own, in-house review boards.

Still, the John Jay report says that when it comes to analyzing the incidence and causes of sexual abuse, “No organization has undertaken a study of itself in the manner of the Catholic Church.”

Because there are no comparable studies conducted by other institutions, religious or secular, the report says, “It is impossible to accurately compare the rate of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church to rates of abuse in other organizations.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Googling God & eSpirituality

I think the blog post below is long overdue. I've been consuming spiritual e-content for years and it has really helped me flesh out what it is I actually believe outside of the dogma I had been programmed to believe by the Catholic Church. It all started with Martin Zender's whole catalog of podcasts and progressed through NPR podcasts about spirituality (all the time burning through stacks of traditional books - many listed under my "Recommended Resources" on the side, there).

My search was not only internal but external, not only analog but digital.

I think many people are disenfranchized with religious institutions feeling that they have the monopoly on God and are seeking answers online. Because it is such a personal issue, it can be risky to conduct open dialogue about one's beliefs on forums like Facebook or Twitter. God knows I have been in the midst of word wars on Facebook before. However, I am connected with other like-minded Christian Universalists on Facebook and enjoy reading posts and notes covering the obviously touchy topic that binds us. I'm also suspicious that I was recently unfriended by a close high school friend because I had this site linked to my Facebook profile and she found my beliefs to conflict with hers to such a degree that she couldn't even open up a discussion with me. She just...unfriended me. I accept that. I just find it a shame that fundamentalist Christians who are so engrossed in their own answers refuse to ask any questions in order to grow spiritually. They are stunted.

Technology as a means of information and spiritual support reveals in spades the unnecessary function that church buildings will play going forward. Yes, I think real personal interaction is necessary. I think shaking hands and hugging and speaking to one another in fellowship is needed. However, the structure of the physical church has morphed into 1s and 0s and new online communities are developing to hold online masses and services. People from all over the world are being connected through mouse clicks soaked in the teachings of Christ. Through YouTube and Skype, podcasts and blogs, God has infiltrated social networks and online forums offering us seekers the "Gutenberg Moment" in curating spiritual information for ourselves.

And today I just feel like ending my two cents worth with this statement that is in my mind today:

Unconditional love means you don't have to do anything to earn it. Not even believe.


My Take: How technology could bring down the church

By Lisa Miller, Special to CNN
May 15th, 2011 - Original Source Link

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, and Bible publishers are ostentatiously commemorating the landmark by producing an abundance of gorgeous doorstops. Leather bound Bibles. Two-volume sets. Replicas of the 1611 version complete with “original” illustrations.

The hoopla is entirely justified, since the King James Bible revolutionized Bible reading, bringing Scripture into a common vernacular for the first time for the English-speaking world.

It is not too much to say that the King James Bible - mass produced as it was, thanks to a new technology called the printing press - democratized religion by taking it out of the hands of the clerical few and giving it to the many.

Today, another revolution in Bible reading is underway – one that has nothing to do with gilt-edged paper. If the King James Bible brought the Bible to the English-speaking masses, today’s technology goes a giant step further, making Scripture - in any language and any translation - accessible to anyone on earth with a smartphone.

Just like the 500-year-old Protestant Reformation, which was aided by the advent of the printing press and which helped give birth to the King James Bible, changes wrought by new technology have the potential to bring down the church as we know it.

In the face of church leaders who claimed that only they could interpret the Bible for the common people, Reformation leaders like Martin Luther taught that nothing supersedes the authority of the Word itself.

"A simple layman armed with Scripture,” Luther wrote, “is greater than the mightiest pope without it."

In that vein, digital technology gives users the text, plain and simple, without the interpretive lens of established authorities. And it lets users share interpretations with other non-authorities, like family members, friends and coworkers.

With Scripture on iPhones and iPads, believers can bypass constraining religious structures - otherwise known as “church” - in favor of a more individual connection with God.

This helps solve a problem that Christian leaders are increasingly articulating: that even among people who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and savior, folks don’t read the Bible.
According to a 2010 survey, more than a third of born-again Christians “rarely or never” read the Bible. Among “unaffiliated” people - that is, Americans who don’t belong to a religious congregation - more than two thirds say they don’t read the Bible.

Especially among 18-to-29 year olds, Bible reading has come to feel like homework, associated with “right” interpretations and “wrong ones,” and accompanied by stern lectures from the pulpit.

Young Christians “have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive,” the Christian demographer Dave Kinnaman told the Christian magazine Charisma in 2009, “that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships.”

This yearning for a more unmediated faith - including Bible verses live in your pocket or purse 24/7, available to inspire or console wherever and whenever they’re needed - has met an enthusiastic embrace.

For growing numbers of young people, a leather-bound Bible sitting like an artifact on a stand in the family living room has no allure. It’s not an invitation to exploration or questioning.

Young people want to “consume” their spirituality the way they do their news or their music. They want to dip and dabble, the way they browse Facebook.

Thus the almost-insane popularity of Youversion, a digital Bible available for free on iTunes and developed by a 34-year-old technology buff and Christian pastor from Oklahoma named Bobby Gruenewald. He conceived of it, he told me, while on a layover at Chicago O'Hare International Airport, wishing he had a Bible to read.

“What we’re really trying to address is, how do we increase engagement in the Bible?” he said.

Now available in 113 versions and 41 languages, including Arabic, Youversion has a community component that allows users to share thoughts and insights on Bible verses with friends. It has been installed on more than 20 million smartphones since 2008.

On May 2, Youversion staged its own King James commemorative event: for 400 seconds, starting at noon, more than 10,0000 users logged on and read a portion of the Bible – King James translation, of course - a kind of 21st century Bible-reading flash mob.

Traditionalists worry that technology allows young believers to practice religion without committing to what in the south is called “a church home” - and they’re right.

I did a public Q&A with Michigan pastor Rob Bell on the eve of the publication of his new bestseller "Love Wins" and was astonished, during the book-signing that followed, at how many acolytes felt they knew Rob through his sermons, which they regularly downloaded off the internet, even though they had never met him. They hailed from places like Australia, South Africa and New Jersey.

They listen to Bell while they’re working out, or commuting to work. They get their religion - like their meals – on the run.
It is now possible to imagine the extinction of the family Bible, long given as a gift on graduation day or other big occasions and inscribed with special dates: births, marriages, deaths.

Instead, the Bible may someday exist exclusively online, with features that allow for personalization: Link to photos of weddings and baptisms! “Share” favorite verses!

When Bible study can be done on Facebook as easily as in the church basement, and a favorite preacher can teach lessons via podcast, the necessity of physically gathering each week in the same place with the same people turns remote.

Without a doubt, this represents a new crisis for organized religion, a challenge to think again about what it means to be a “body” of believers.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lisa Miller.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wife Beating According to the Quran

Just as I frown upon misogyny in literalist Christianity, I ABHOR the violence towards women in literalist Islam. This makes me sick to my stomach. I just want to wrap all of these abused women in my arms to comfort them. Isn’t that what a loving God would do?

This is the glaring work of the proverbial antichrist.

“Do unto others…”