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General Audience with Pope FrancisA month ago, Pope Francis told his Church to be more welcoming toward divorced-&-remarried Catholics. The Church’s doctrines are an incentive to bar them; Catholics who remarry without having first getting an official annulment aren’t allowed to receive Communion, among other things. Annulments can be difficult to get, though, to the point where some divorced Catholics don’t even bother trying to get them.

Pope Francis is taking steps to change this. As the AP reports via ABC News, he’s making changes so that annulments are much easier to get (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis radically reformed the Catholic Church’s process for annulling marriages Tuesday, allowing for fast-track decisions and removing automatic appeals in a bid to speed up and simplify the procedure.

Francis issued a new law regulating how bishops around the world determine when a fundamental flaw has made a marriage invalid. Catholics must get this church annulment if they want to remarry in the church.

But the process has long been criticized for being complicated, costly and out of reach for many Catholics, especially in poor countries where dioceses don’t have marriage tribunals.

In the document, Francis insisted that marriage remains an indissoluble union and that the new regulations aren’t meant to help to end them. Rather, he said, the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the process so that the faithful can find justice.

The overall aim of the reform, he said, “is the salvation of souls.”

The upshot of the changes are that uncontested annulments can be “fast tracked” and handled entirely by the local diocese, without “automatic appeals” being invoked unnecessarily. It seems an obvious move for Francis to make, in order to keep divorced Catholics in the fold.

On this issue, I must admit being impressed. As I noted a month ago, the Church’s treatment of divorced-&-remarried Catholics has, historically, amounted to slamming the door in their faces. Its policies have effectively driven people right out of the Church. Telling the Church to be more welcoming of such folks — which the Pope did a month ago — is one thing, but actually greasing the ecclesiastical skids to make it easier to do, could make a material difference.

Of course, these changes can’t alter the attitudes of conservative Catholics, many of whom comprise the Church’s hierarchy. It’s possible they could still throw impediments in the path of divorced Catholics, and it certainly won’t immediately reduce their prejudices against them. Still, this is a tangible change that could have a positive effect.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan (9613477263)Europe is in the throes of a migrant crisis — due to refugees fleeing the intractable morass of Syria’s long civil war — which doesn’t show any signs of letting up. I blogged a couple weeks ago about Slovakia refusing to accept any migrants who aren’t Christian (and updated that post today to note Hungary’s position is the same). But leave it to Pope Francis to lead in the opposite direction. As the New York Times reports, he instructed all the Catholics of Europe to take in the migrants (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis on Sunday called on every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary in Europe to shelter refugees fleeing “death from war and hunger,” adding that the Vatican’s two parishes would lead the way by taking in two families.

In a speech to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said it was not enough to say “have courage, hang in there” to those marching toward what he described as “life’s hope.”

Note that the Pope didn’t just give a blanket instruction to Catholics to embrace the migrants; he said that “every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary” should do so. That’s remarkably specific … and remarkably clear. The various arms of the Catholic Church collectively have a tremendous presence in Europe and, I’m sure, could do a lot to assist the migrants. This is a great opportunity for it to put those resources to good use.

Slovakia — as I noted previously — is a majority-Catholic country. I wonder what they’ll make of their own Pope’s orders? Will they follow them? I have no idea.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Baby boy crying sad mad / Alice Keeler, via FlickrChristofascists are nothing if not consistent, as well as fiercely tenacious. When they get into a conflict over something, they don’t let go — ever. They just dig their heels in harder and jam their spikes into new turf, even as they’re being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Nothing that happens fazes them; they never relent for any reason.

A case in point is Mat Staver, who runs the Christianist legal outfit known as Liberty Counsel and attorney for Kim Davis, the Rowan county KY clerk who’s now in jail because she defied court orders to issue marriage licenses. This morning, without her present to prevent it, her assistants issued a license to a gay couple. I wondered then if Staver would say or do something about this. He’d previously said no one in her office had permission to issue them. Well, as the Washington Post reports — and true to the consistency inherent in his Christofascism — he ended up wading into the subject (WebCite cached article):

An attorney for jailed Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said that the marriage licenses issued Friday to a series of same-sex couples here are not valid.

“They are not worth the paper they’re written on,” Mat Staver said outside the Carter County Detention Center, where Davis is being held on a contempt charge.

“Our position and the position of the clerk of Rowan County is that those licenses are void,” Staver said at an afternoon news conference in Grayson, about 35 miles from the Rowan County Courthouse.

Staver said the licenses issued Friday aren’t valid because they were issued under the county clerk’s authority — but Davis hasn’t granted that authority.

This is exactly what I predicted would happen. It shows Staver and his client aren’t done fighting this battle. They’re furious that gay marriage is legal nationally and plan to pitch fits as long as that’s the case.

Oh, and just so we’re clear on it: As I’ve said many times, Staver’s group’s name is a misnomer. They don’t really want “liberty” for anyone except militant Christianists like themselves. Their goal is to force the entire country to have to live according to the terms of their own dour metaphysics.

Photo credit: Alice Keeler, via Flickr.

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Rainbow Flag / Karl Schultz, via FlickrUpdate: As it turns out, sanity might not be returning to Rowan county, yet. See the next blog post for more.

This is a brief follow-up to a few recent blog posts. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports a gay couple finally got a marriage license from the Rowan county clerk’s office in Kentucky (WebCite cached article):

William Smith and James Yates obtained a marriage license in Rowan County from Deputy Clerk Brian Mason around 8:15 a.m. Friday.

Some of the many folks standing by outside the office, supporting the couple, were actually Christians:

Marsha Moors-Charles, pastor of Bluegrass United Church of Christ, stood with gay-rights supporters and said she was willing to perform marriages if any couples asked. Across the walkway, other ministers shouted damnation.

While new civil rights are often slow to be accepted by some, she said, the “onslaught of bigotry and prejudice” that has followed the Supreme Court ruling has been “heartbreaking.”

This demonstrates the Religious Right is lying when it says gay marriage is an attack on “Christianity” and part of an atheistic effort to eradicate Christianity from the country. It’s not. It’s something some Christians — and perhaps even most Christians — oppose. But it’s not something all Christians oppose. SO the idea that gay marriage will wipe out Christianity is just plain fucking bullshit. A steaming load heaped straight out of the back of the barn.

Based on one of Mat Staver’s statements during the trial — that Ms Davis hadn’t granted any of her deputies permission to issue marriage licenses — I’d wondered yesterday if he might try to interfere, but it seems he didn’t. At least, he hasn’t yet. Time will tell, I suppose, if he somehow raises a legal objection.

Photo credit: Karl Schultz, via Flickr.

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Perpetua, Felicitas, Revocatus, Saturninus and Secundulus (Menologion of Basil II)I’ve already blogged about Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses because she’s afraid it would somehow entangle her in people’s gay marriages, which she (erroneously) says her Jesus forbid. A legal case followed from her refusal to obey court orders given her. Today, as Reuters reports, she was held in contempt and jailed for her childish defiance (WebCite cached article):

A county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on religious grounds was held in contempt of court by a U.S. federal judge on Thursday and sent to jail.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, 49, was led away by U.S. marshals who confirmed she was under arrest.

Davis’s assistants are now the judge’s targets:

Davis’ deputies still face their own reckoning as [District Court Judge David] Bunning assigned each of them attorneys and said their fate would be determined at a hearing later on Thursday. He warned they could face fines or jail.

We’ll see whether or not they comply with Bunning’s orders to give marriage licenses. I suspect Davis’s attorney, the dour and angry Christofascist Mat Staver, will try to prevent them from doing so, if any are willing, on the grounds that Davis herself never gave them any authority to do so.

And with that, Dear Reader, the Religious Right has a new martyr! Ms Davis will sit in prison, looking as wan and pathetic as she can, while her attorney and other champions run around telling everyone she’s being “persecuted for Jesus.” It’s not clear what will happen if this drags on. It’s possible she might be removed from her job, but the only mechanism for that — which I’m aware of — is for the Kentucky legislature to impeach her … but since that’s dominated by other Religious Rightists, odds are that won’t happen.

Of course, that’s the real solution here: For Davis to resign from a job whose duties she no longer wants to perform. But she won’t do that, because … let’s face it, folks! … this whole case is all about her! She set herself up to become a martyr for her Jesus and she plans to cash in on that. Imagine what will happen once this case is over — however it gets resolved. Ms Davis will at the very least go on the evangelical Christian lecture circuit and publish a memoir of her supposed persecution. She’ll make a fortune just on those two moves. She could also establish a ministry, likely an anti-gay one, and that also will gin up a pretty solid income. She might also land a gig as a radio or television host, which will be all the more lucrative. A run for public office is also very possible, if not likely. Her friend Mat Staver and his organization will also profit from this, in the form of massive donations which I’m sure he’s been reeling in for the last few weeks over this.

In short … as of today, this woman is set for life. And her friend Mat Staver and his outfit are, too. Her time in jail — and his legal work on her behalf — will end up being small investments with a colossal return.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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A Youtube video shows a mass baptism at Villa Rica High School from August 17th. (Photo: YouTube, via WXIA-TV)Note: There’s been an update on this story; please see below.

America’s Christianists have a lot of trouble with separation of church and state. To be blunt, they don’t fucking want it. They despise court decisions like Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington S.D. v. Schempp (1963) which took religious instruction out of public schools … because, quite obviously, kids can’t get that kind of instruction at home, in church, or in Sunday school.

Oh wait, they can. Woops. I forgot. Christianists need to make sure their religion saturates everyone’s daily existence, because without it … well, I guess everything goes “poof.” Or something.

Anyway … Christianists aren’t about to let little things like the Supreme Court get in the way of doing their deity’s bidding. They consistently and repeatedly violate the law and act as though there’s nothing wrong with it. Because Jesus.

An egregious example of this, as WXIA-TV in Atlanta reports, happened a couple weeks ago in western Georgia (WebCite cached article):

A Georgia school district is investigating after video of a mass baptism was posted on YouTube.

The video, posted by First Baptist Villa Rica, was shot on school grounds just before football practice. “We had the privilege of baptizing a bunch of football players and a coach on the field of Villa Rica High School! We did this right before practice! Take a look and see how God is STILL in our schools!” the caption with the video reads.

By Tuesday evening, the video had been removed from YouTube.

Someone, apparently, thought better of having stuck evidence of this SOCAS violation on the Internet … but it wasn’t enough. The cat’s out of the bag.

Note the church’s language (i.e. “God is STILL in our schools!”). Thus, this baptism was an act of Christianist defiance. The church may have deleted it from Youtube, but others associated with Villa Rica High School football haven’t shied from their fierce public-school religionism; this post from the Villa Rica Touchdown Club’s Facebook page makes that evident (locally-cached version).

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the school district to investigate and remedy the situation. It’s possible the school district will do the right thing, firing any staff who may have arranged this baptism, and prevent them from happening again. But then, this is the Bible Belt Bobble Bay-elt, and for all we know, the school district doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Who knows?

Update: It turns out the school district does see something wrong with this. They concede this baptism violated procedures (cached). As for whether anyone will be fired because they knew damned well something happened that shouldn’t have … well, I don’t plan to hold my breath waiting for that.

Photo credit: YouTube, via WXIA-TV.

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Crying baby / a4gpa, via FlickrI blogged about Kim Davis, county clerk for Rowan county KY, who’s launched a legal war over gay marriage. In order to avoid granting licenses to gay couples she has refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision came down from the Supreme Court.

Things ratcheted up when the Supreme Court refused to grant Ms Davis any relief from lower court orders yesterday, and couples showed up this morning to get licenses. As the Washington Post reports, like a little child, she still refuses to do her job and obey court rulings that directed her to grant licenses (WebCite cached article):

Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite a Supreme Court ruling against her request to be excused from doing so, said at the Rowan County Courthouse on Tuesday that she was acting “under God’s authority.”

WaPo relays a defiant rant she issued via her collaborators at Liberty Counsel run by Christofascist Mat Staver, who’s acting as her attorney — but who, in all likelihood, is calling the shots for her. (To be clear, Staver and his militant outfit do not want “liberty” for anyone but themselves. What they want is to force each and every American to have to live according to the strictures of their own dour metaphysics, whether they wish to or not.)

This rant — which I won’t dignify here by quoting it or linking to it — claims Ms Davis has authority from God to defy even the US Supreme Court; implies she will go to Hell if she obeys court orders; and asserts she’s doing what she did because she loves Jesus (who, she says, died for her), and that in turn happened because she went to church to please her then-dying mother-in-law. Yes, it’s a pathetic, sappy, sentimental, self-pitying diatribe which his sure to tug at the heartstrings of her fellow Christianists but really says nothing of importance.

One of the claims in her piteous whine is the assertion that gay marriage violates Jesus’ teachings as recorded in scripture. That is absofuckinglutely untrue. The Bible does not report that Jesus ever said a single fucking word about gay marriage. Those words are not there. At all. I defy anyone to cite chapter and verse from the gospels that says otherwise. For her to say so is a lie. This places the sanctimonious Ms Davis in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Oh, and the kicker here is that, while she’s refusing to issue any marriage licenses in an effort to uphold what she says is Jesus’ injunction against gay marriage, Ms Davis has, herself, violated Jesus’ teachings about divorce. Buzzfeed reports she’s been divorced not just once or twice, but three times (cached):

According to Rowan County records obtained by BuzzFeed News, Davis has been divorced three times. When she married Joe Davis on Aug. 24, 2009, it was her fourth marriage — and her second to Joe, whom she previously married on the same day 13 years earlier. After her first marriage to Dwain Wallace in 1984, she married Thomas McIntyre Jr. in 2007 in between her marriages to Joe Davis.

The curious thing about this is, while Jesus is not reported in the pages of the Bible to have issued any prohibition against gay marriage, he did condemn divorce:

It was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Mt 5:31-32)

Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery. (Lk 16:18)

Trying to block gay marriage while having divorced, all in the name of her Jesus, makes Ms Davis a flaming hypocrite. Unfortunately for her, hypocrisy is something her Jesus explicitly also forbid her to engage in. Woops!

The AP reports via Yahoo News that Ms Davis and her staff have been summoned to federal court on Thursday (cached). A contempt citation is certain. I doubt that will change this Christofascist woman’s mind. I suspect she’ll continue this legal war until she’s somehow driven out of her job … but how long that might take, I have no idea. It’ll depend on the amount of patience the federal courts have.

Photo credit: a4gpa, via Flickr.

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