Governor Phil BryantChristianists’ persecution complex ramped up severely in light of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). They actually think it causes them injury to have to treat gays as though they’re fellow human beings. I’m not sure how or why that’s the case, but they’re convinced of it, and that conviction drives them to keep pitching fits over it.

Of course, a desire to be persecuted for their Jesus is inherent in Christianity’s psychopathology, and has been since its inception. To a large extent, they can’t help themselves. That’s especially true for fundamentalist Christians, because their fundamentalism has infantilized them to the point where they’re incapable of knowing any better.

This persecution delusion explains something Mississippi governor Phil Bryant recently said. As the Associated Press reports via the Washington Post, he made some telling comments during a Religious Right conference in Washington (locally-cached article):

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says the “secular, progressive world” vented at him for signing a bill that would let clerks cite religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Republican governor spoke in Washington as the conservative Family Research Council gave him an award last Thursday for signing House Bill 1523 this year and a similar one in 2014 called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.…

During his speech at the Family Research Council event, Bryant asked whether critics believe people of faith will abandon “freedoms that our forefathers died for,” including religious freedom.

“They don’t know that Christians have been persecuted throughout the ages,” said Bryant, who is United Methodist. “They don’t know that if it takes crucifixion, we will stand in line before abandoning our faith and our belief in our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

Yes, indeed, folks. You read that right. Bryant actually said that Christians would prefer to be crucified than treat gays fairly. Seriously. He said it. He said it proudly and gladly. Bryant spoke for all Christians as though all of them agree with him and share his deluded martyr complex … even though some churches don’t actually object to gays the way he does.

Still, that means nothing to Christianists like the governor. He’s very myopic where his faith is concerned: In his eyes, all Christians think and believe precisely as he does, and there is no variation. Should any disagree, they’re the proverbial “not ‘Real’ Christians” who — in his mind — make him and his religion look bad. In truth, Bryant is making his religion look bad, all by himself. And he’s done a marvelous job of it! Way to go, Guv! You must be so proud!

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SRL Bell Tower (St Rose of Lima church Web site)Over the years I’ve taken lay Catholics to task for their general acquiescence to their Church’s hierarchs. Yes, there are exceptions — e.g. groups like Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) — but most lay Catholics have no problem with things like priest shuffling. At least, they can’t have any problem with it, because the vast majority have done nothing about it. In many of my posts I’ve implored and/or dared lay Catholics to get off their asses, take charge of their own Church, and clean up its act. Still, it just doesn’t happen.

At least, it hadn’t. Finally, a group of Catholics in Florida actually did something about a wayward priest. As the Miami Herald explains, they hired a private investigator to check into him and presented a report to their archbishop (WebCite cached article):

The pastor of St. Rose of Lima has been asked to step down after a group from the parish presented a 129-page report to the Archdiocese of Miami filled with allegations of sexual impropriety against Father Pedro Corces.

The allegations are … well, “fascinating” is an apt word:

The Christifidelis document, titled “Dossier on the Improprieties of Father Pedro M. Corces And an Appeal to His Excellency Archbishop Thomas Wenski For Urgent Action” and dated May 16, consists of information provided by an investigator hired by the parents. It accuses Corces of improper relationships with a maintenance worker he hired and three other individuals associated with the parish, including a deacon. The investigator is not named in the report but he followed the priest for weeks, photographing him, tracking the social media account of the maintenance worker and others, and going through the church rectory trash.

The report, along with dozens of pictures, copies of receipts, and 28 appendices, claims that Corces replaced the maintenance staff with workers who included “a felon and prostitute, Santeria practitioners, promiscuous gay practitioners and people who openly mock the Catholic faith.”

It claimed that Corces became romantically involved with a maintenance worker and that the two men shared “frequent, lavish trips and dinners.”

I’m not sure how these parishioners thought Archbishop Wenski would take this report. But he did exactly as I’d have expected, lashing out against it rather than examining it thoroughly:

“This unfortunate chain of events has fractured the spirit and unity at this long established parish and school,” wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a May 26 letter (cached) emailed to parents Thursday afternoon. A printed copy of the letter was being sent home in students’ communication folder Friday.

But far from calming parents’ concerns, the letter angered the group, which calls itself Christifidelis. The Wenski letter blames the fracturing of the parish on a small group. “Slanderous gossip, calumny, detraction — all sinful behaviors — have fomented division in the parish and school communities,” he wrote.

Miami attorney Rosa Armesto, who has children at the parish school in Miami Shores, is representing Christifidelis. She met with Wenski on May 16.

“It’s such a shameful letter. The archbishop is not upset at what the priest has done but that it has been uncovered,” she said. “The church isn’t upset by the sins of their priests but by the fact that the faithful have had the audacity, the temerity, to bring this up.”

In short, Wenski isn’t concerned with the integrity of St Rose of Lima parish, nor its school, nor the nuns who’d been there, nor the parishioners, nor the children at the school. Oh no. None of that bothers him at all! What bothers him is that some insolent parishioners dared question their priest’s behavior. That — and not the possibility of wrongdoing by that priest — sent him into a tizzy.

I applaud this effort by lay Catholics to force their own Church to own up to its failings. But with that said, this seems to have gone about as far as it can go, given the nature of the R.C. hierarchy. Corces had to quit his parish and the school, it’s true, but he’ll be moved on somewhere else and will land on his feet. Wenski will remain in denial about what happened and ensconced in his palatial office. And that’s it.

Unfortunately, lay Catholics in Miami have a lot more to do. They’ll need to coerce Wenski and their archdiocese to change its tune and its policies. Many will say there’s nothing they can do, the Church is what it is and it’s immutable. But that’s bullshit. There’s plenty they can do! They have the power of the collection plate. If they withhold donations from their Church, its hierarchs will have no choice but to comply with whatever reforms they demand. They won’t have the leisure of not doing so, because their livelihoods depend on those donations. It might take awhile — some parishes and dioceses have considerable financial reserves — but eventually they will have to cave in and do as their donors instruct. It really is as simple as that.

Photo credit: St Rose of Lima church Web site.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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St Peter's Square, Vatican City - April 2007Among the defenses the Roman Catholic hierarchs have relied on, regarding their mishandling of clerical child-abuse worldwide, is the assertion that it’s something which is “in the past.” Done. Over. Finished. No longer an issue. The US bishops, for instance, used a report they commissioned to declare it a “historical” problem — as in, “it’s history.” Unfortunately for the bishops, it turns out this isn’t actually the case. Reuters reports that an audit actually showed an uptick in child-abuse incidents (WebCite cached article):

An annual audit of reports of sexual abuse by members of the U.S. Roman Catholic clergy released on Friday showed sharp increases in the number of new claims and in the value of settlements to victims.

The audit showed that 838 people came forward from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, to say they had been sexually abused by priests, deacons or members of religions orders while they were children, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

That is up 35 percent from 620 new reports of abuse a year earlier, an increase that the bishops said largely reflected a large number of claims in six dioceses that had either filed for bankruptcy or were located in states that opened windows allowing victims to sue over old cases of sexual assault.

It’s true that bankruptcies and changes to the law can bring out more reports of abuse that took place long ago, but this audit included more recent reports:

While the bulk of the reports related to cases of abuse date back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, there were 26 reports made by minors of more recent abuse.

If in fact the “priestly pedophilia” scandal truly was the “historical” phenomenon bishops have claimed, this number would have been zero, not 26. Once again, the truth rears its head and reveals the hierarchs as the inveterate liars they actually are. It’s long past time they owned up to what they’ve done — i.e. to protect abusive clergy — rather than making excuses for it or dismissing it (e.g. insisting it’s not an ongoing issue).

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Pope Francis at VargihnaAs I’ve blogged previously, Pope Francis seems to march to his own drummer. At various points — mostly in small ways — he’s pushed against Vatican orthodoxy. He recently did so once again when, as the Religion News Service reports, he said he’s examining the possibility of ordaining women as deacons (WebCite cached article):

In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women.

The order of deacons was reinstituted in the Catholic Church after the reforms of the 1960s, and while deacons cannot celebrate the Eucharist like a priest, a deacon can preach at Mass, preside at weddings and funerals, and perform baptisms.

But in restoring the diaconate, the church also restricted ordination as a deacon to “mature married men” over 35.…

“I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type,” Francis said, according to the Vatican transcript of the encounter [cached].

“So, with regard to the diaconate,” he added a bit later, “yes, I agree and it seems to me it would be useful to have a commission to clarify this well, especially with regard to the early times of the church.”

Conservative Catholics, as one would expect, are throwing conniptions over this. They say this will lead to ordaining women as priests. That this is “slippery slope” thinking, and therefore fallacious, doesn’t matter to them. They’re determined to equate this move with the ordination of women as priests, in spite of these facts: First, studying the ordination of women as deacons doesn’t mean it will ever happen; and even if women are allowed to be ordained as deacons, it doesn’t mean they’ll be ordained as priests, too. The offices of deacon and priest are very different. What’s more, that this need not lead to a “slippery slope” scenario is evident in the fact that married men have been ordained as deacons for decades, yet this hasn’t led to married men being ordained as priests.

Another point to be brought up is that Vatican study commissions often lead nowhere. For example, Francis’s own child-abuse review commission has basically imploded. So just because the Pope wants to study the matter, doesn’t mean anything will ever come from that. Conservative Catholics would do well to calm the fuck down and stop getting their panties in knots every time Francis opens his mouth.,

Lastly, Catholics need to be aware of something they should know, yet many don’t, or don’t wish to accept: For the last few decades, the Church has dealt with a shortage of priests. The post-Vatican II restoration of the diaconate was, at least partly, a way of dealing with that: It allowed some tasks to be handed off to non-priests. The “vocation crisis” remains a severe problem for the Church. Allowing the ordination of deaconesses would, essentially, double the potential pool of applicants to the diaconate. I can’t see why this can’t be a partial solution to a problem the Church faces.

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Cry-babyA couple days ago, the Friendly Atheist blogged about a guy who calls himself “the Radical Reverend” going into a Target store, loudly (and annoyingly) preaching that Target’s bathroom policy had provoked “the vengeance of almighty god.” I posted a comment there, which — at the risk of appearing to brag — got a lot of upvotes, explaining why this sort of thing happens. I thought it would be good content for my own blog, since the theme is one I address so many times here, so without further ado:

Re [a quote from the F.A. post]: “The American Family Association, whose anti-Target petition is at nearly 1.2 million signatures, may not advocate these actions but they’re also not doing anything to prevent their followers from ruining the shopping and working experiences of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the company’s policies.”

Exactly! Why should they do anything about it? This is just the sort of thing they intended to happen when they announced their “boycott.” Like a person who rolls a snowball down a hill, letting it grow as it does and hoping it becomes an avalanche, this is what they wanted to happen.

As for these militant Christianists “ruining the shopping and working experiences of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the company’s policies,” that means nothing to them. They aren’t capable of thinking rationally enough to realize they’re annoying the crap out of folks who have no power here. It all boils down to just one thing:

They are monumentally angry people. At the same time, they’ve been terminally infantilized by their religionism.

Their sanctimonious outrage, and the anger it’s engendered within them, is something they’re only barely able to control. They’re too juvenile to comprehend that throwing tantrums like this won’t get them anywhere — because, quite honestly, they don’t give a damn. They’re convinced their precious Jesus gave them clear instructions, as well as a mandate to ensure that everyone — not just themselves! — lives by them. They’re enraged that there are people in the world who refuse to abide by those rules and that there are companies like Target that enable them to defy those rules.

So they pitch fits on the sales floor of stores. Because, quite simply, they can’t help it. They’re too immature to understand why it’s wrong. And they can’t be convinced to grow up, because their religion (as they see it) entitles them to remain as infantile as they wish.

Yes, religionism and immaturity are inextricably linked! Whether we’re talking about Muslims rioting over burned Qur’ans, or Religious Rightists in the US saying asinine and/or offensive things, it all boils down to the same core impulse: Childishness which has been reinforced, justified, and perpetuated by religious belief. This is not to say that the way people express this impulse is the same; oh no. It’s not. Barging into a store and screampreaching over bathrooms is not the same as burning and killing over the Qur’an. Those aren’t equivalent behaviors at all! But they do have one thing in common: Sanctimonious immaturity.

As I said in my comment, the only solution is for these people finally to grow up and stop acting like whiney toddlers. But as I also pointed out, so long as they have what they see as a religious entitlement not to have to grow up, they never will. They will, instead, tell themselves, and each other, that they must remain infantilized, because they think their deity has told them they must. Until they do grow up, they’ll remain slaves to their own dour metaphysics.

This is the psycho-social toll religion takes on humanity. The sooner everyone understand this, the sooner we can pry the locks off these fetters and provide people with freedom — real freedom to act like mature adults.

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Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain AvenueStop me if you’ve heard this one before. A former Scientologist, who left that organization after being abused and/or exploited, and who put up with harassment from that Church even after having left, publishes a memoir of that ordeal, revealing Scientology’s depravity and the lengths it will go to in order to silence its critics.

Yeah, what I just described, sadly, isn’t new. Not by a mile. Just in the past week, this very scenario played out once again. This time the “informant” is none other than Ronald Miscavige, father of David Miscavige, who’s headed Scientology since the death of its founder, Lafayette R. Hubbard (better known as “L. Ron”). He was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 in conjunction with the release of his book (WebCite cached article):

Ron Miscavige, the father of Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and his wife Becky moved onto [Scientology’s “Gold Base” compound in California] in 2006, where he said they were forced to live under serious restrictions.

“I’m living on a compound…where your mail going out is read before its seal and sent out, where before you get your mail, it’s opened and read before you get it,” Ron Miscavige told “20/20” in an exclusive interview. “Phone calls, you’re on the phone, somebody else is listening on an extension.”

Gary Morehead, a former Scientologist turned Church critic, says he was once director of security for the Church and would go through people’s belongings at Gold Base to collect information on them.

“I would go through people’s personal belongings out of their berthing, where they slept… obtaining bank records, date of birth, passwords, any personal information, where their family addresses were,” Morehead told “20/20.”

Before he moved to the base, Ron Miscavige had joined the Sea Organization, or “Sea Org,” the clergy of the Church, in 1985 and was working as a musician and composer for the Church’s Golden Era Productions. But Miscavige said by the late 2000s, the crushing workload, rigid lifestyle and lack of sleep on the base became unbearable.…

For months, Ron Miscavige and his wife Becky said they planned what they called their escape from Gold Base by conditioning guards into letting them make regular Sunday trips to the music studio across the street. It all came to a head one day when Ron drove his car up to the security gate and pressed the button. To his relief, the gate opened.

“I drove out slowly so it wouldn’t arouse suspicion,” Miscavige said. “When I turned left, I put my foot right to the floorboard… I knew we were free. I knew they couldn’t catch us.”

“It was an escape,” he continued. “You can’t leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped.”

The Church denies that this was an “escape.” [Scientology attorney Monique] Yingling told “20/20” that Gold Base “is not a prison.”

“People can come and go as they please, and they do,” she said.

When contacted by ABC News, the Church also disparaged Ron Miscavige as a terrible musician and a disgusting pig, and that his exposé was fabricated for money. Which is pro forma for them … they vilify — on a deep and personal level — any and all critics. Their contention that what Ron reports should be dismissed, is belied by the fact that they’d hired private investigators to track him after he left Gold Base and figure out what he was up to (cached).

Here’s Ron Miscavige’s interview on 20/20:

A lot of the allegations made by Ron Miscavige are similar to those made by other ex-Scientologist whistleblowers, so they’re at least credible, and can’t be dismissed as easily as the Church of Scientology would like. It’s a very strange outfit that works in its own way and exploits its followers — beyond the abusive tactics to which Ron Miscavige was subjected. For instance, Scientologists are charged thousands of dollars over a long period to be “audited” using what’s called an E-meter, a simplistic and crude kind of lie-detector, which is — as such — bullshit. It’s probably more fair to refer to Scientology as a scam, or con game, than a religion … especially since, prior to creating it, its founder had quipped that the easiest way to become wealthy was to invent a religion.

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Sad Girl, Depressed, Unhappy, Woman / ferobanjo, via PixabayAs I’ve remarked before, religious folk have a lot of really strange, if not barbaric, notions about mental illness. They consider it a spiritual problem, not a medical one. What’s more, they’ve been known to use it as a tool to hook people and stay in their lives. Slate magazine just published an exposé of a Christian ministry which ostensibly treats troubled girls, but in reality, it does nothing of the sort (WebCite cached article).

The article is a long one, telling a number of troubling stories, and I recommend reading it through. But here’s an important passage:

[Mercy Multiplied, formerly Mercy Ministries] doesn’t require its counselors to be licensed mental health practitioners, which Christy Singleton, Mercy’s executive director, confirmed in an email. Moreover, Mercy’s licensed counselors or those in training are forbidden to practice psychotherapy, alleges one former counselor who worked for the organization between 2011 and 2012. “They say they do clinical interventions, but I wasn’t allowed to use my clinical experience,” she says. (She requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize her current employment as a secular psychologist.) Instead, the counselor said, executives in Nashville instructed her to walk each woman through the same seven-step counseling model and assign a prescribed regimen of readings, response papers, and audio sermons, which residents were meant to complete as homework before their weekly one-on-one counseling sessions.

[Mercy founder Nancy] Alcorn doesn’t describe the doctrinal origins of Mercy’s counseling in her writings, but [Baylor Univ. psychologist Matthew] Stanford says the Mercy model appears to combine two religious philosophies, Theophostic Prayer Ministry and Restoring the Foundations Ministry. (Alcorn’s original counseling model and RTF Ministry share a name and are similar but not identical.) Both are rooted in the Charismatic Christian movement, which believes in spiritual warfare, the gifts and healing powers of the Holy Spirit, prophesy, the laying of hands to anoint or empower an ailing individual, and salvation from demonic forces through deliverance. “We’re talking about demons in the literal sense,” says Stanford. “[Practitioners might say] ‘You have a spirit of depression,’ meaning an actual demon is causing you to be depressed. Or you could be experiencing depression because generations ago in your family, someone gave an opening for the demonic.”

Multiple former Mercy residents told me that staff members shouted at demons to flee their bodies. Bethany M., a 2007 resident of Mercy’s St. Louis home (who asked that Slate withhold her last name due to privacy concerns) says staff threatened to expel her from the program if she didn’t let a visiting evangelist lay hands and prophesy over her during a sermon. When mononucleosis swept through the Lincoln home, Hayley says staff blamed the outbreak on evil spirits and asked the residents to walk through the halls calling for the spirits’ banishment.

Mercy’s public statements on demons are inconsistent. Its website states that the group does “not perform or endorse exorcisms” [cached]. And Singleton says Mercy neither emphasizes Charismatic teachings nor mandates the laying of hands on residents. The enemy, she says, isn’t some evil force “but the lies we tell ourselves.” Yet in a 2008 speech at the Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Alcorn said that Mercy “deals with areas of demonic oppression.” Then she laid out her feelings on the matter: “If there’s demonic activity, like if somebody has opened themselves up to the spirit of lust or pornography or lots of promiscuous sexual activity, then we’ve opened the door for demonic powers. And secular psychiatrists want to medicate things like that, but Jesus did not say to medicate a demon. He said to cast them out. And that’s supposed to be a part of normal Christianity.”

As a former fundamentalist Christian, I can confirm that the idea that illnesses — especially of the mental variety — are of demonic, not natural, origin is very common. Obviously this ministry isn’t in the business of treating mental illnesses, they’re just using these troubled girls to extort money from their families, who often — and erroneously — think they’re being “treated.” The Slate article goes on to describe how Mercy’s so-called “treatment” methods also resemble the long-ago-debunked “repressed memory” trope that ruined so many lives just a few decades ago.

You may be asking why this outfit is allowed to operate this way, using unscientific treatment methods as they do. But answering that question leads to the most troubling aspect of all: Mercy’s facilities are unlicensed, because they are, supposedly, religious ministries. They can essentially do whatever they want. There’s no oversight, no regulation, no nothing. Because Jesus:

In 2011, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals received a call about Mercy’s home in West Monroe. The caller said the residence was operating without a license from the department, according to a DHH spokeswoman. But when DHH investigated, it determined the home didn’t actually need a license because it wasn’t providing “services for compensation.” Instead, the program was “operating in a way that is similar to a homeless shelter,” where residents receive food and lodging for free, according to the state’s DHH lawyers.

In an email last April, Singleton told me that Mercy’s three adult facilities are licensed by social services agencies in their respective states. But agency representatives at both Louisiana’s and Missouri’s departments of social services, health, and mental health could find no records of Mercy in their systems. When I emailed Singleton in April 2015 to ask for clarification, she stopped responding. When I wrote her again this month, a full year later, she said she had nothing to add.

It’s long past time for religious folk, especially of the fundamentalist Christian variety, to stop exploiting the mentally ill. Religiously-flavored pseudopsychology is not a valid alternative to the real thing. It should be obvious that it’s not ethical to target a vulnerable population and use them to one’s own spiritual — or worse, financial — gain. Yet Alcorn, Singleton and their ilk happily do so, nonetheless. It’s time for state authorities to stop giving phony treatment centers like Mercy’s a “pass” merely because they’re religious in nature. If they claim to treat mental illness, they should be evaluated, licensed, and monitored just like any other such facility — period.

Photo credit: ferobanjo, via Pixabay.

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