Posts Tagged “christians”

The former archbishop makes his first remarks since resigning in June. Glen Stubbe – Star TribuneI’ve blogged a few times about recently-resigned Twin Cities archbishop John Nienstedt and his various specious behaviors. These were significant enough that — at his own direction — his archdiocese launched an investigation into his dealings a year and a half ago. He ended up trying to derail it once he learned it was going places he’d preferred it wouldn’t (WebCite cached version).

Well, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, it seems Nienstedt had more than a little reason to be embarassed by what that investigation had found (cached):

Former Archbishop John Nienstedt said he remains “dumbfounded” by the allegations of personal misconduct that emerged last year during an internal church investigation of his behavior — a report that the archdiocese now is considering making public.…

Commissioned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the probe looked into claims that Nienstedt had engaged in behavior that was inappropriate for a priest. The Star Tribune has learned that investigators collected affidavits from priests, former seminarians and a former priest alleging actions, some dating to the Detroit area in the early 1980s, that range from inappropriate touching to visiting a gay nightclub.…

The archdiocese declined to answer questions about the investigation. Last year, it hired the Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis to look into allegations of clergy misconduct involving Nienstedt and adults. The law firm’s work ended last summer, and the chancery hired Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Peter Wold to complete the probe.

Greene Espel has publicly disputed claims by the archdiocese that Nienstedt did not intervene in the investigation.

The firm conducted interviews and collected affidavits, or sworn statements, from people who worked with or knew Nienstedt. The Star Tribune has confirmed that five Catholic priests, one former priest and a former seminarian were among those who provided affidavits.

In one affidavit, a priest in Harrison Township, Mich., reported seeing Nienstedt at a gay nightclub in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit in the 1980s. “I recall seeing John — and there is no doubt in my mind that it was him based on my prior interactions with him — at the Happy Tap,” the Rev. Lawrence Ventline wrote in his affidavit. “He appeared to wave me off as I was coming — and I backed off because I did not want impose on him.”

Another affidavit from a Michigan priest said that Nienstedt pulled up to his car in an area frequented by gay men one December in the early 1980s and asked him if he had any “poppers,” an inhalant used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure. When he got into Nienstedt’s car, and Nienstedt recognized him as a former student, he changed the subject, the priest told the Star Tribune.

A former seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, James Heathcott, also filed an affidavit. He said that Nienstedt — who was the seminary’s rector — expelled him after he refused an invitation to join Nienstedt and two other seminarians on a private weekend at a ski chalet in the late 1980s.

In addition, the Star Tribune obtained a 2014 letter sent by a former student at Sacred Heart Seminary to former auxiliary bishop Lee Piché, who oversaw the Nienstedt investigation, alleging that Nienstedt touched his buttocks after a dinner together one night between 2000 and 2002. Joseph Rangitsch said he protested and Nienstedt replied he could “make things unpleasant for you very quickly.”

As I said, and as the Star Trib reports, Nienstedt categorically denies it all, and offered excuses for some of these encounters, which oddly enough tends to lend them a little credibility. It’s odd that such a vehement anti-gay crusader might turn out to have been a closeted gay … or, maybe it’s not so strange after all, given that it seems to happen now and again.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune.

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Ted CruzA few days ago the Faith & Freedom Coalition held a conference, and most of the GOP presidential candidates showed up to promise this Christofascist collective that they’ll be dutifully Christofascist presidents, if elected. This is normal stuff, so it hardly merits much notice.

One of those Christofascist candidates, however, used this event to announce that the rest of the field isn’t sufficiently Christofascist. And he added a claim that’s so preposterous and idiotic that I just can’t avoid remarking on it. As the National Journal reports, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz actually thinks Democrats want to enact “mandatory gay marriage” (WebCite cached article):

“More than a few Republicans, sadly, even more than a few Republicans running for president in 2016, chose that moment somehow to go rearrange their sock drawer,” Cruz said. “I’ll tell you this, I will never, ever, ever shy from standing up and defending the religious liberty of every American.”…

He said religious liberty is no longer a priority for both Republicans and Democrats. “The modern Democratic Party has decided their commitment to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any willingness to defend the First Amendment,” Cruz said.

Yes, folks, you read that right. Teddy thinks Democrats want to force each American to marry a gay partner. I mean, what else could “mandatory gay marriage” be? Isn’t that what the word “mandatory” means? How can he say that’s what Democrats want? If he or anyone else can offer any evidence this is Democrats’ goal, I’d love to know about it. But I suspect nothing of the sort is going on, and Teddy fabricated this notion in order to terrify his audience.

It’ll help to understand the truth about Ted Cruz. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a popular and fanatical preacher, and has preached dominionism, a Christian theocratic movement. His son Teddy is not much less extreme. Also, no one who belongs to the Faith & Freedom Coalition actually wants anyone other than themselves — i.e. conservative fundamentalist Christian white men — to have any “freedom” at all.

At any rate, the whole idea that gay marriage might become “mandatory” is so childish and laughable, it’s unbelievable that a sitting U.S. Senator would claim it’s coming. But Teddy did just that. Be afraid, folks … be very, very afraid.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in April 2015 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Jennifer Simonson | MPR NewsHere’s a follow-up to my last blog entry. Archbishop John Nienstedt is out, Religion News Service reports, as the head of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican on Monday (June 15) launched a major housecleaning of the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accepting the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt along with that of a top Nienstedt aide, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche.

The moves come a little over a week after authorities charged the archdiocese for failing to protect children from an abusive priest and days after Pope Francis unveiled the first-ever system [cached] for disciplining bishops who do not act against predator clerics.

As noted in the article, not only has Nienstedt had trouble dealing with allegation of abuse by his priests, including the possibility that someone on his staff may have destroyed evidence in a criminal case, he’s engaged in some questionable behaviors of his own.

Nienstedt’s resignation, therefore, has been a long time coming … too long, as it turns out. Although some have praised Pope Francis for this and other similar moves, the cold fact is that it’s too little, too late. The Pope finally got around to closing the barn door only after nearly all the horses got out.

The time for the R.C. Church to have taken strong and decisive action against abusive clergy and their enablers in the hierarchy, was a dozen years ago or so when the abuse had been known and the worldwide scandal really began to snowball, with various countries’ investigations coming in and demonstrating just how extensive it was. The abuse happened for decades — if not centuries — and by virtue of the hierarchy’s (until-recently) successful cover-ups and resistance to doing anything, a lot of the perpetrators and their enablers managed to evade punishment. For every cover-up artist like Nienstedt who’s now forced to resign, a dozen predecessors had already managed never to be held accountable for what they did. It’s a travesty — especially in an institution that claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet. The truth about them is that they wouldn’t know morality if smashed them in the face and knocked them out.

Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson / Minnesota Public Radio.

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Newport Patch / Stain Below Jesus Painting in Newport Church Seen as a Sign from GodYet another miracle has the Ocean State all agog. This time it’s inside a church in Newport. The Providence Journal, among a number of media outlets, reports uncritically on a stain on the wall beneath a painting of the crucified Jesus (WebCite cached article):

For years, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church didn’t say much about the rust-colored stain running beneath the 12th Station of the Cross painting of Jesus.

Some never noticed it.

Others, without knowing what was causing the mark, didn’t want the 140-year-old Episcopal church to become a roadside curiosity or tabloid headline.

But this spring the church has turned a spotlight on the odd little stain, which in the right light appears to have trickled like blood directly from a painting of Jesus’ crucified feet onto the plaster of the church wall.

On Sunday, the Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey’s sermon addressed the “mysterious red mark,” suggesting that, whether of earthly or divine origins, it was evidence of Jesus’ presence in the church.

So this thing’s been there for no-one-knows-how-long, but suddenly — because the church’s minister mentioned it in a sermon — it became news? Why? I have no idea. I guess Rhode Island must have had a slow news day or something.

For the record, it looks to me as though it’s a rust stain from plumbing in the wall behind the painting or from the frame itself. Parishioners shouldn’t have to keep cleaning it up; instead, they should take down the painting, fix whatever causes this stain, clean the stain that’s already there, and paint over it. But why do I doubt they’ll do that, when this is attracting interest in their church?

The idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with his/her/its time than plant a rust streak in the wall beneath this painting, is just flat-out fucking ridiculous. I mean, seriously. S/he/it has an entire universe to run, fercryinoutloud. It’s arrogance of the highest order for this Newport church to presume to have this much of the Almighty’s attention. Besides, there are a lot better ways for the Christian God to make himself evident to people, than this, if s/he/it actually wished to make him/her/itself evident.

Photo credit: Newport Patch.

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Hypocrisy: No one does it better than Christians / MotifakeNote: There’ve been some updates to this story since I first published it; please see footnotes below.

I haven’t blogged about the reality-TV show originally named 17 Kids and Counting, the Duggar family who stars in it, or the Quiverfull movement to which they belong (WebCite cached article). Honestly, there hasn’t seemed to be much point in it. To begin with I don’t even give a flying fuck about any so-called “reality” shows (they aren’t “real,” they’re scripted). And the Quiverfulls are just a freakish evangelical Protestant collective of insane wing-nuts to which I’d have preferred never to call anyone’s attention. But given this latest bit of news, I don’t think it can be avoided any more. As In Touch Weekly reports, one of the Duggars’ sons, Josh, had molested a number of girls as a teenager (cached):

Josh Duggar of the TLC hit reality show 19 Kids and Counting was named in a police report as the “alleged offender” in an underage sexual abuse probe, In Touch magazine is reporting exclusively.

The charge being pursued while Josh was a minor was sexual assault in the fourth degree, multiple sources who have seen the police report and are familiar with the case told In Touch. According to the report, Josh was brought into the Arkansas State Police by his father, Jim Bob, who said he caught him leaving a young girl’s bedroom and “learned something inappropriate happened,” one source said.

These charges were never dealt with at the time:

A bizarre turn of events prevented police and prosecutors from finishing their investigation and possibly prosecuting. The state trooper who originally took the report about Josh shortly before 2005 never followed up. That state trooper was later convicted on child pornography charges and is serving a 56-year prison sentence.

When the state trooper ran into trouble, someone from the Arkansas State Police alerted the Child Abuse Hotline about the Duggar situation that had been sitting inactive. That’s when the Crimes Against Children Division and Springdale Police Department got involved. By then the three-year statute of limitations had passed and it would not have been possible to pursue prosecution of Josh if the allegations warranted, so the investigation was discontinued. “A technicality prevented any further action,” a source familiar with the case told In Touch. “That’s been the biggest regret in all of this.” (The statute of limitations has since been lengthened.)

Hypocritically, this erstwhile pervert worked for the Family Research Council, a Christofascist outfit which sanctimoniously rages about what it perceives as “immorality,” especially of the sexual sort. He’s resigned already (cached), and the FRC insists it never knew about this. I admit that’s possible, but even if it’s true, it doesn’t excuse Josh having taken a job with them, knowing his own past.

In the meantime the usual suspects are lining up to support the teen child molester. Among them is presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had this to say (cached):

“Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” Huckabee said in a statement posted on Facebook Friday [cached]. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

Shucksabee is, of course, wrong to claim that the problem here is that this is “sensationalism.” Not at all. Nor is Josh Duggar’s status as “forgiven” relevant to anything. No, the actual problem is that this guy was a pervert as a teen, but was never prosecuted for it because the trooper who would have done that was, himself, a pervert! A secondary problem is that Josh Duggar was a fucking hypocrite to have taken a job with a Christianist morality-force in spite of his own far-less-than-moral background.

Oh, and … I note that Shucksabee has all sorts of sympathy for the Duggar family, and is sanctimoniously outraged on their behalf that this story was even reported, but he has no fucking sympathy for any of Josh Duggar’s molestation victims (at least one of which, stories suggest, was one of his sisters). I get why Shuckasabee is defending them: They’re militant Christianists like himself, and they’re extremely well-known, by virtue of their TV show. He cannot — and will not — concede any possibility of anything being wrong with this.

But it’s not just Shucksabee railing at the insolence of the media reporting this. Raw Story has cataloged many other examples of other Christians supporting Josh and the other Duggars (cached), many of them excusing what he did as no big deal, or with the old adage that “boys are curious.” Fuck that shit — and I mean that. Those people all need to go fuck themselves.

For the last time, let me be clear: Militant Christianists like the Duggars and their defenders, including Mike Huckabee, are damned fucking hypocrites — every single last fucking one of them. They scream and rail and bluster and fume over the “immorality” of things like gay marriage, and demand that it be outlawed, but when one of their own was caught behaving immorally, it’s nothing to be concerned about, shut up about it, everyone go home, there’s nothing to see here, etc. Christianists bellyache about something they call “moral relativism” and they almost always condemn it — loudly! But here’s a rather brazen example of them actually engaging in moral relativism.

Update 1: TMZ reports that the Duggars’ cable network, TLC — after running silent for a while — finally pulled their show from its schedule (cached).

Update 2: The center young Josh was sent to after his molestation was discovered, was founded by a guy who, it turns out, has a checkered history of his own with women (cached). What a wonderful crew! Their pretensions, lies, disingenuity, dissembling, and hypocrisy are now more apparent than ever. (Hat tip for this: Friendly Atheist).

Update 3: Officials in Arkansas are falling all over themselves to defend Josh Duggar and sing his praises, and the state’s courts are wiping his record clean (cached). Well done, Christians! You must be so proud!

Update 4: It’s the end of the road for this oversized Christianist brood. After hemming and hawing for far too long, TLC finally managed to kick the Duggars and their phony puritanical act off the air for good (cached).

Photo credit: Motifake.

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SiegeOfAcre1291For years now I’ve blogged about a Right-wing movement in the US I’ve called “the Great Neocrusade.” It’s a modern incarnation of the medieval Crusade, during which western European Christians ventured to the Levant in an effort to drive Muslims out, under the principle that their presence there was an affront to their Jesus which couldn’t be tolerated. (At least, that’s what the Crusade became. Its origin was in Pope Urban’s approval for Latin Christians venturing east to assist the Byzantines, but that scenario didn’t last long and the Crusaders embarked on their own mission, distinct from Byzantium’s, soon after their arrival. And about a century after the Crusades’ launch it would become a campaign against Byzantium itself).

As it stands within the American Right, the Neocrusade is an effort to drive Islam from the new Christian “holy land.” Neocrusaders are predominantly Christians — most of them being of the evangelical Protestant sort — but there are some Jews who’re part of the movement too. Their effort is predicated ostensibly on the threat posed by Islamist terror, which to be sure is horrific and should be fought using every means at our disposal to do so. That said, the Neocrusaders’ main contention — i.e. that Islam is inherently violent and all Muslims therefore are potential terrorists — is quite simply not true. What’s really going on is that these folk view Islam as the chief rival of their own religion, are incensed that it exists at all, and want to get rid of it in order to show the power of their own faith. All the crap about terrorism is mere pretense. That’s not to say Islamist terror isn’t real — just that they know better than to stomp around claiming every Muslim is a terrorist; they just say that in order to rationalize what they’re doing.

For the most part this Neocrusade manifests itself in the form of rhetoric and occasionally votes (such as outlawing “shari’a law” even though it’s not now, nor will it ever become, the law of the land in the US).

So it’s rare that Neocrusaders actually take up arms against Muslims in the US, but it nearly happened just in the last few months. The Web site Heavy.Com reports a Right-winger and failed Congressional candidate from Tennessee named Robert Doggart admitted he’d planned to stage an attack on a mosque and schools in Hancock, NY (WebCite cached article):

A Tennessee man, who made a failed bid for Congress last year as an independent with extreme right wing beliefs, has admitted in federal court to planning an attack on a Muslim community in New York.

Robert Doggart, 63, was recorded on a wiretapped phone talking about his plan to travel along with members of a private militia to an area near Hancock, New York, known as Islamberg, to burn down a mosque, school and cafeteria, while gunning down anyone from the community who tried to stop them.

“Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God,” Doggart said in a Facebook post, according to court documents. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

Doggart was arrested April 10 by the FBI on charges that he solicited others to violate civil rights, attempted to damage religious property because of the religious character of the property and made threats through interstate communication.

Two weeks later, Doggart pleaded guilty to interstate communication of threats. A judge has not yet signed off on the plea agreement. He was released on $30,000 bond to home confinement after the agreement was made and faces between 0 and 5 years in federal prison, along with a possible fine of up to $250,000.

The Heavy article describes Doggart’s plot in detail and includes court documentation of the case as well as of Doggart’s background. There’s a lot of detail there and I can’t hope to do any of it justice; I’ll just suggest you check out the article and find out what happened.

There are two things about this case I find disappointing: First, the judge has let Doggart out on bond, in spite of the fact that he’d admitted, in court, to having planned a terror attack. That decision is mind-blowing. Had Doggart been, instead, a Muslim who’d admitted involvement in a terror attack, there’s no fucking way he’d be free right now. Second, the mass media haven’t picked up this story, not even (to my knowledge) news outlets local to Hancock NY or southeastern Tennessee. I hadn’t heard of Heavy.Com before finding this story, and ordinarily wouldn’t have used them as a source for a blog post, but primary-source material is included, so the report is substantive. The other outlets mentioning this are all Left-wing in nature.

Maybe all the good ol’ boys back in Tennessee would prefer not to mention this, so that might explain why Doggart’s local media are running silent, but I can’t imagine how or why the New York state or eastern Pennsylvania media don’t consider this news (Hancock is in Delaware county, abutting the Pennsylvania state line). Unless this story turns out to be untrue — which I admit is possible, but given the evidence contained in the story it seems extremely unlikely — the media are doing a disservice to ignore it as they are. Perhaps they’ll finally pick up the story … I certainly hope so. The reality of Christianism in the US is that it definitely is capable of terrorism, and this is one example of it (albeit one that was nipped in the bud). There have been other Christian terror attacks, such as the rampage in Austin TX last December by a member of the Phineas Priesthood (cached).

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Self-Delusion: On good days I can hear the snap of the sails and the rope stretching; I can feel the wind and smell the sea. On bad days, it’s just the rope. / DemotivationalPosters.NetNote: I have some additional news on this item; please see below for more information.

There are times when one can only be dumbfounded by the kind of idiocy and lunacy that people spew when they’re defending and/or promoting their religionism. It’s natural this can happen, because religions — all of which are forms of metaphysics — are inherently unsupportable using objective and rational standards. By definition, then, only standards that are subjective and irrational can fit the bill. It’s the irrationality that often gets out of hand.

A great example of one Christian running his mouth off like a total moron, as the Christian Post reports, is the case of one Dr Tony Evans, who actually thinks African-Americans were better off under slavery than they are now (WebCite cached article):

Dr. Tony Evans, the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, chided black Americans recently for not taking responsibility for the breakdown of their families, declaring that “the white man is not making you do that.” He also charged that black families were a lot stronger and made more progress during slavery.

Evans made the comments during a discussion with DTS scholar Dr. Darrell Bock on the issue of biblical racial reconciliation last month [cached].…

“The biggest problem in black America today is the breakdown of the family…the breakdown of the family is unraveling us as a community. When 70 percent plus of your children are being born out of wedlock and the fathers are not there to tend to them, you’ve got chaos in the community. That’s crime, that’s unemployment and most of these kids are going to be raised in poverty. And that’s something we control,” explained Evans.

He then made the reference to slavery to highlight the dire condition of the black family.

“The White man is not making you do that. He’s not forcing you into that position. That’s a convenient out. In slavery when we did not have laws on our side, the community on our side, the government on our side, the broader community on our side, our families were a lot stronger. We were a lot more unified and we made a lot more progress. We’re going through regression right now and a lot of that is because of decision-making we are responsible for,” said Evans.

As the article notes, is African-American himself, making this all the more astoundingly asinine. I have no idea where this clown learned his history, but slaves’ families weren’t really very stable or “unified”; their owners could buy and sell them freely. Parents and children were often separated, and for the most part, slaves weren’t allowed to marry, at least not in a full legal sense, so “spouses” could easily end up separated, too. “Unified”? That’s just a flat-out lie.

Now, as insane as Evans’s laughable spew sounds, it’s not really his own invention. The Religious Right has been kicking around the idea that America’s southern slaves lived paradisiacal lives with strong nuclear families for years. In fact, I found an article in the New York Times back in 2011 which addressed this very notion (cached). In spite of how counterfactual it is, though, this idea persists. It’s all part of the Right’s obsession with rolling the clock back, even to times in which customs now considered heinous were the norm. They just can’t handle modernity and want to destroy it, so they whip up their own false versions of history to justify how great things were back then. This is a recipe for delusion, of course, but none of them realize it, nor do they care to hear they’re wrong (because telling them they’re wrong, means you want to kill them or something).

If you needed any more help understanding how and why the Religious Right is downright fucking insane, the idea that African-Americans were better off as slaves ought to help make that crystal clear.

Update: This morning in my email I received this from Steve Yount of A. Larry Ross Communications:

A Statement by Dr. Tony Evans
Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
Founder and President of The Urban Alternative
May 9, 2015

“Slavery was ungodly, unrighteous and unbiblical. During slavery, the family was broken up by force by unspeakable atrocities even though African-Americans struggled to preserve it.

“To offer clarity on both my intention and meaning, the black population was largely unified in fighting against the breakup of the family being forced on them due to the evil system of slavery. Black unity was a powerful force, to the greatest degree possible within the limitations of slavery, in seeking to keep the family intact.

“My comparison to today is that we have lost some of our unity and the shared goal of keeping our family units together, and we are often making choices that are dismantling our own families and also hurting our own communities. We do not want to do to ourselves voluntarily what slavery did by force (i.e., destroy our families).

“I have always and will always stand on behalf of justice, and do not condone oppression in any form. I condemn racism on all levels, whether personal or systemic. I am saddened that my remarks were removed from the context of my entire discussion.”

This response sounds all well and good, but it doesn’t address Evans’s chief original contention that African Americans had been better off as slaves than they are now. I still submit that trope — which, as I pointed out, is not Evans’s own invention, being a rather common notion among the Right — remains absolutely not true. Even if Evans disapproves of African Americans “destroy[ing] their families” “voluntarily” rather than “by force,” and even if one assumes this is precisely what’s happening to them, there’s still a fundamental difference between then and now: Neither the slaves’ owners nor government can do so “by force,” at the moment.

Photo credit: DemotivationalPosters.Net.

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