Posts Tagged “Christianity”

Embers 01I suppose this is one of those stories that could only have come from a militantly religionist state like Alabama, where fundamentalist Christianity reigns supreme. As AL.Com reports, an agency of “the Yellowhammer State” recently invoked the Lord as the reason Alabamans must defy federal environmental regulations (WebCite cached article):

Alabama’s coal industry will lose jobs and consumers will see their utility bills increase should the EPA implement proposed regulations on coal-fired power plants, Alabama regulators said at a press conference in which they invoked the name of God in the fight over fossil fuels.

Two members of the Alabama Public Service Commission, a member-elect and an Alabama representative to the Republican National Committee said proposed EPA regulations that aim to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent represent “an assault on our way of life” and are a purposeful attempt by the Obama administration to kill coal-related jobs.

“We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama,” said PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. “We will take our fight to the EPA.”

These officials laid out their rationale for defying the Feds rather plainly:

At their news conference today Cavanaugh and PSC commissioner-elect Chip Beeker invoked the name of God in stating their opposition to the EPA proposal. Beeker, a Republican who is running unopposed for a PSC seat, said coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God’s plan.

“Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” he said.

Cavanaugh called on the people of the state to ask for God’s intervention.

“I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done,” she said.

The upshot of this, as far as I can see, goes something like this: “The Lord gave us coal; his plan is for us to burn it; therefore we must burn it all; and it’s profane for the Feds to tell us not to.” Or something like that. And Alabamans are being ordered to pray doom down on the EPA. Or something like that. (Their call for imprecatory prayer reminds me of all the “pray for Obama Psalm 109″ talk that went around a few years ago. How fucking mature.)

Alabamans largely won’t see this kind of idiocy for what it is, and I’m guessing they actually like hearing this sort of talk from state officials. They must … because otherwise they wouldn’t allow these people to run their state. All the more reason for me never to set foot there!

Hat tip: RationalWiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Vatican flag (8583012024)It seems Pope Francis’s own handlers within the Vatican are having difficulty keeping him in line. He recently had another interview with Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and today they published an article on it (WebCite cached article). (A Google translation of this article is available (cached).

This interview covered a lot of ground, but among the topics covered were pedophiles within the priesthood, and celibacy for clergy. First, on pedophilia within the Church (both quotes from the interview below are automated Google translations into English, so pardon the poor language):

Many of my co-workers who struggle with me reassure me with reliable data that assess pedophilia within the Church at the level of two percent. This finding should reassure me but I must tell you that I do not reassuring at all. I consider it very serious indeed. Two percent of pedophiles are priests and even bishops and cardinals. And others, more numerous, they know but they keep silent, punish, but without saying why. I find this situation intolerable and I intend to tackle it with the seriousness it requires.

About clerical celibacy, the Pope said:

“Maybe she does not know that celibacy was established in the tenth century, that is, 900 years after the death of our Lord. The Eastern Catholic Church has the power right now that its priests to marry. The problem certainly exists but is not of great magnitude. It takes time but there are solutions and find it.

Now, almost anyone would consider both of these remarkable. For the Pope to say that even a low-sounding 2% proportion of priests being pedophiles is “intolerable,” is certainly strong language. Also, for him to say that there may be “problems” with clerical celibacy and that he’s willing to “find solutions,” is also unprecedented. To date the Church has consistently dismissed priestly pedophilia, at best acknowledging it as an unusual and marginal phenomenon — when they’re even willing to admit it exists (they frequently deny it outright). Also, the Church has repeatedly declared there is absolutely nothing wrong with clerical celibacy and that the practice dates to the beginning of the Church. That it might cause “problems” with it, is something the Church has never once conceded.

But no sooner did the ink dry on the pages of this morning’s La Repubblica, than the Vatican machinery cranked out objections to it. The paper’s own English-language blog goes over their complaints (cached):

But a few hours after the account of Scalfari’s conversation with the Pope was published, Father Federico Lombardi, official Vatican spokesman, issued a strongly worded statement calling Scalfari’s account of the conversation into question.

“One cannot and one must not speak in any way of an interview in the usual sense of the word… The conversation was cordial and very interesting and touched principally on the themes of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and the Church’s attitude towards the mafia. However… it is important to note that the words that Mr Scalfari attributes to the Pope, reporting his words in quotation marks, are from the memory of an experienced journalist, but not a precise transcription or recording, nor have they been approved by the person to whom the remarks are attributed.”

Father Lombardi was particularly keen to undermine Scalfari’s recollection of the remarks on paedophilia and those on celibacy, even hinting that the pontiff may have been deliberately misquoted.

“The individual remarks… cannot be confidently attributed to the Pope. For example and in particular… the fact that there are paedophile cardinals, and that “I will find a solution” to the problem of celibacy.

“In the article published in La Repubblica these two affirmations are clearly attributed to the Pope, but — curiously — the quotation marks were opened at the beginning but were not closed at the end… An oversight or explicit recognition that it is an attempt to manipulate some ingenuous readers?”

An oversight by Repubblica’s sub-editors, or a sign that Pope Francis’s willingness to tackle certain controversial issues head on frightens the conservatives within the Vatican?

That’s the way to go about it, Fr Lombardi! Quibble over possible typos (e.g. the missing/misplaced quotation marks) in an effort to suggest La Repubblica published fabricated quotations of your Pope. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

If the interview, as published this morning, does accurately reflect the Pope’s own thinking — and right now, no one has any reason to think it doesn’t, Fr Lombardi’s accusations notwithstanding — then Pope Francis clearly is at odds with his own bureaucracy in the Vatican. How long is that going to last? Is he going to bend to suit them, or is he going to crack down on them and whip them into line? It will be interesting to find out, although given the Catholic Church’s vast machinery and its almost crippling institutional inertia, I suspect it’s the Pope who will have to give in, before Vatican functionaries do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ergun CanerI blogged four years ago about lying preacher Ergun Caner, who lost his job as dean of theology at Liberty University but ended up skipping immediately off to another job in evangelical academia. He and his brother had built careers on the evangelical Christian circuit, telling everyone they’d once been Islamist extremists who’d seen the error of their ways and converted to Christianity. That whole thing turned out to have been a lie.

Well, it turns out Caner hasn’t been able to avoid problems. As Religion News Service reports, the school he now heads, has come under siege (WebCite cached article):

A small Baptist college now led by Ergun Caner, the outspoken evangelical who stirred controversy over his story of conversion from Islam, has lost its accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges recently voted to remove Brewton-Parker College in Georgia from membership one year after it placed the school on probation over finances.

RNS goes over the reasons Caner had been tossed out of Liberty University (which, as I’d explained in my blog post, never managed to actually fire him … rather, the school just sort of let him drift off on his own). Three years later, Brewton-Parker decided Caner’s lies and disingenuity were, in reality, a credential:

Brewton-Parker chose Caner in 2013 because of his past controversies, saying he has endured “relentless and pagan attacks.”

Ergun Caner finds himself in good company once again, as RNS explained, since his lying brother is also having problems at a different evangelical institution he’s currently running:

Caner’s brother and co-author, Emir Caner, has also weathered controversies at Truett-McConnell College, the sister college of Brewton-Parker. The school, also in Georgia, was named by Time magazine as one of the worst “dropout factories” in the U.S. The school graduates just 14 percent of its students within six years of enrollment, one of the lowest rates in its peer group.

I guess if Brewton-Parker and Truett-McConnell colleges want to hire known liars — and specifically because they are known liars — then I guess they have no one but themselves to blame if they find themselves falling apart.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Robert J. Carlson is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. RNS image by Jerry Naunheim Jr., courtesy of Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Communications and Planning / via RNSFor the second time today, I find I must post about some news concerning the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal. It turns out to be an item that, while both sad and unaccceptable, is really not much of a surprise any more. The Religion News Service reports yet another Catholic hierarch admitted he hadn’t realized that child abuse was, like, illegal (WebCite cached article):

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson claimed to be uncertain that he knew sexual abuse of a child by a priest constituted a crime when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, according to a deposition released Monday (June 9).

During the deposition taken last month, attorney Jeff Anderson asked Carlson whether he knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson replied. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

Anderson went on to ask Carlson whether he knew in 1984, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, that it was a crime for a priest to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson said.

However, it’s not entirely clear that Carlson was as fuzzy on the matter as he’d said in the deposition:

Yet according to documents released Monday (June 9) by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul, Carlson showed clear knowledge that sexual abuse was a crime when discussing incidents with church officials during his time in Minnesota.

In a 1984 document, for example, Carlson wrote to the then-archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis — John R. Roach — about one victim of sexual abuse and mentioned that the statute of limitations for filing a claim would not expire for more than two years. He also wrote that the parents of the victim were considering reporting the incident to the police.

So maybe Carlson’s admission during the deposition … i.e. that he hadn’t known whether child abuse was a crime … is some kind of clever legal posturing. Who knows?

At any rate, as I remarked at the beginning of this post, this is definitely not the first time a Catholic hierarch has admitted being unaware that it’s illegal to harm children. Former archbishops Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee and Roger Mahony of Los Angeles have said the same thing. (Mahony, please note, has even less of an excuse than the others to have thought so, since he’d been trained as a social worker, of all things.)

At times I’ve accused the Roman Catholic hierarchy of having something of a mafiosi mentality. They tend toward secrecy and don’t feel any shame about breaking laws to do so. But I’m not sure this comparison is really apt any more. The Church and the mafia definitely differ on at least one point: Most mobsters know they break laws. But at least some Catholic bishops aren’t even aware of that much.

Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr. & Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Communications and Planning, via Religion News Service.

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Seal of the Diocese of Trenton, via WikipediaNearly 2 and a half years ago, I compiled a list of the many evasions and excuses offered by the Roman Catholic Church for why it’s not responsible for the worldwide phenomenon of child abuse at the hands of its own clergy. At the time, I’d already compiled quite a list of whiny, sniveling excuses. But the Church has added to it since, and has done so in some rather astonishing ways.

The latest excuse of this sort, as reported by Religion News Service, was spewed by a diocesan attorney in front of the Delaware Supreme Court (WebCite cached article):

Chris Naples says something snapped inside him that January day.

The New Jersey resident sat in the gallery of the Delaware Supreme Court earlier this year watching as a lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton N.J., told the justices that the Rev. Terence McAlinden was not “on duty” — or serving in his capacity as a priest — when he allegedly molested Naples on trips to Delaware in the 1980s.

McAlinden, who once headed the diocese’s youth group, had introduced himself to Naples at a church-sponsored leadership retreat in Keyport, N.J.

Yet McAlinden wasn’t officially a priest when he took a teenage Naples on trips to Delaware, the lawyer argued.

“How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty?” one of the justices asked, according to a video of the session on the court’s website.

“Well,” replied the diocese lawyer, “you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is molesting a child, for example. … A priest abusing a child is absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese.”

There you have it, Gentle Reader. The absolute, final cop-out for the R.C. Church. The Church as an organization, its dioceses, and its clerical orders can never be responsible for any crime ever done by any of its clergy, because once one of them begins a crime, s/he is automatically “off the clock” because — by definition — no “on duty” cleric can commit any crime.

I’m not sure which is worse … that some poor excuse of an attorney actually offered this defense in open court, or that the court actually bought into it:

The lawsuit comes after the Delaware courts ruled Naples didn’t have jurisdiction to sue the diocese in that state because he couldn’t prove the trips were church-sanctioned.

The RNS story relates several other examples of the Trenton diocese’s behavior:

Naples said the diocese told him in 2007 that McAlinden would be removed from the priesthood altogether, or laicized. Yet five years later, at the time of the deposition, McAlinden said he remained a priest, albeit a retired one, and drew a pension from the diocese. He augmented that pay by working as a real estate agent, he said.

Having posted this, I expect a lot of the Catholic Church’s defenders will angrily respond by saying that child abuse isn’t just a “Catholic” thing, that it happens in other churches and even in non-religious venues. Well, no shit Sherlock. Of course it does! I’ve never said it didn’t, and have even been rather explicit in pointing that out. The problem is that the R.C. Church claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet, yet it refuses to hold its own clergy responsible for their actions; protects them from prosecution by secular authorities; fiercely blocks attempts by others to learn what happened; and when the truth finally comes out, they excuse themselves from their obligation of living up to their own claimed high moral standards. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Not for a fucking second.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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Snake-handling-lejunior-pentecostal-ky2A little over 3 months ago, I blogged about a “Signs Following” (or snake-handling) Pentecostal preacher who was killed by one of his poisonous ritual charges. It appears his son, also a snake-handling pastor, didn’t get the memo about poisonous snakes being dangerous, and as NPR reports, was also bitten, himself (WebCite cached article):

Snake-handling is a tradition for the Coots family of Kentucky. But months after taking over for his father to lead a Pentecostal church, Cody Coots says he was bitten this week. His father, Jamie, died of a poisonous snakebite in February.

The fucking idiot proudly refused medical attention for his snake-bite:

He tells the Lexington Herald-Leader [cached] that after he was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday, his family sent an ambulance away.

I guess life must be pretty cheap down in Kentucky if people refuse to learn simple lessons like this one. I wonder why the Coots family is so serious about wanting to kill itself off? Is it to impress their deity or something? Or to impress their congregants? I have no idea.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Jesus Facepalm: He gave up too so please stop this foolishness (Demotivators; defunct)Sometimes when I post about a new revelation in the over-a-decade-old-but-still-going worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal, a correspondent will contact me and complain that I’m “picking on the Catholic Church.” Each time, I patiently point out that this just isn’t fucking true … as it turns out, I’ve blogged many times about the abuse of children — by personnel from other Christian sects, from other religions, and even from non-religious institutions.

Not one of those correspondents has ever replied by conceding this point. Apparently Catholic apologists don’t have the courage or maturity to admit when they’re wrong. (This is OK; I actually expect it. The experimentally-observed, and apparently powerful, psychological phenomenon called the backfire effect essentially prevents them from doing so, and even entrenches them in their lie, in spite of the fact that they’ve been corrected. They quite literally cannot help themselves, being mired as they are in their own delusional universe. It’s sad, to be sure, but quite understandable.)

In any event, it brings me no joy to post again on this subject. It’s absolutely true that child abuse — and covering up for it — is not solely a Catholic problem. The Christian Post recently reported on yet another example of the horrific combination of a child abuser and superiors in a charismatic church who shielded him from prosecution for years (WebCite cached article):

A megachurch pastor confessed to covering up sexual abuse claims during this week’s trial of a youth leader accused of molesting several boys. Nathaniel Morales, 56, was convicted Thursday of sexually abusing three young boys between 1983 and 1991.

Covenant Life Church former pastor Grant Layman admitted on Tuesday while testifying about allegations against Nathaniel Morales that he withheld incriminating information from the police about the abuse.

Public defender Alan Drew asked Layman if he had an “obligation to report the alleged abuse?”

“I believe so,” he replied.

“And you didn’t?” asked Drew, to which Layman responded “no.”

Morales’s abuse of children in his care went on for years … and so, too, did the cover-up by his superiors at Covenant Life Church:

According to Brent Detwiler, who attended the trial and is a former Sovereign Grace pastor who now runs a watchdog blog about the ministry of which Covenant Life Church was part of until 2012, Layman acknowledged that over the course of 1992 he learned that Morales had abused two boys, but did not go to authorities with these claims.

Detwiler added [cached] that the father of two of the boys “contacted the Covenant Life pastoral team again in 2007 when he learned that Morales was a pastor in Las Vegas, Nevada. The entire pastoral team talked about how to handle the situation with Morales. Layman was given the assignment to contact Morales. Layman talk to Morales by phone. During this conversation Morales admitted to the sexual abuse of boys but claimed he couldn’t remember the details. None of the pastors at Covenant Life Church reported this confession of sex abuse to the police. They knew Morales was a serial and predatory sex abuser.”

Covenant Life Church is part of a clique of apparent evangelical churches known as Sovereign Grace Ministries. The CP article goes on to describe some of SGM’s inner machinations. I can’t be sure whether or not this church is still part of SGM.

In any event, it’s clear that this sort of thing goes on in all kinds of human institutions. A desire to protect one’s associates and the reputation of one’s “tribe” — even at the risk of allowing harm to others — is a compulsion deeply embedded in human nature. It’s something a lot of folks just can’t help. That said, in the case of religions like Christianity which supposedly promote high morals, there can be no excuse for it. Anyone who claims to follow a profoundly moral deity whose teachings demand the highest moral conduct, cannot fall back on the excuse that “I couldn’t help myself” or “But I didn’t know any better.” Evangelical churches like CLF teach absolute morality. They leave no room for ignorance, evasions, or excuses.

Of course, having said that, I’m not kidding myself about this. Of course these guys will likely fall back on their old saying that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” This grants them license to do anything they want, whenever they want, maybe cry a little when they’re caught doing wrong (cached), but then claim it’s no big deal that they refused to obey Jesus’ teachings, because — after all — it’s just too hard for the poor little things to actually live according to their religion’s ideals.

For any Christian out there who might not be clear on what’s wrong with purposely allowing children to be preyed upon, for decades, may I suggest s/he shove a crowbar into the Bible s/he long ago slammed shut, and actually read some of it:

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Just stop already with the sniveling, whiny, juvenile excuses; grow the hell up; and start obeying your own claimed religion fercrissakes.

Oh, and it hardly merits mentioning to my Catholic-apologist correspondents not to take be too gleeful about this story. That other churches’ personnel have abused kids and their superiors shielded them, hardly makes it acceptable for the Catholic Church to have done the same. To think so is to fall for “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and that’s fallacious.

Photo credit: Demotivators (defunct).

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