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Posts from the ‘Catholicism’ Category

The Bill Donohue Show!

Just for fun, here’s my appearance on the “Bill Donohue” show ;) Enjoy!

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(If you’re not familiar with Bill, be sure to check out some of the articles and posts that I’ve written about him.)

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More on the USCCB

As I mentioned in my previous post:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful, wealthy, and dangerous organization. They wield a great deal of influence over many politicians, affect the outcomes of various aspects of the legislative process, and pose a direct threat to the basic human rights of many Americans. Their priorities are skewed, their claims are frequently baseless, and they protect the Catholic Church over all else, no matter the cost. They get away with this because no one holds their feet to the fire and makes them answer the tough questions. Let’s ask those questions. Let’s shed some light on their tactics and actions and raise consciousness about the harm that they cause. They’ve gotten away with this for far too long.

Well, someone in the media is asking the tough questions, shedding light on their tactics and activities, and raising consciousness about the influence that they wield and the dangers that they pose. Rose Aguilar, an author, journalist, and the host of “Your Call“, a daily call-in show on San Francisco public radio, has been doing much-needed and important work on this issue, and is calling out the USCCB in a way that most in the media have refused to.

Last Monday’s episode of “Your Call” asked the question “How did the US Conference of Bishops become so powerful?”. It was an excellent episode, and I highly recommend listening to the podcast. And today, Rose’s op-ed, “The birth control bishops“, was published on Al Jazeera English. I’m honored and so happy to have been quoted/used as a source in it:

Speaking of damage control, over the course of my research, I ran across an analysis of a May 2011 USCCB 143-page $1.8m report [PDF] analysing the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church titled: “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010”. The report was compiled by the research team at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

“It is important to note that, although the research was carried out by the John Jay College, the UCCSB had the final say on whether or not to authorise publication of the report,” writes Miranda Celeste Hale, an English professor at North Idaho College, who writes about politics and the negative effects of childhood religious indoctrination.

Hale spent her spring break reading and analysing what she calls a worthless and dangerous report, which blames the cultural revolution of the 1960s for the abuse.

Hale says one of the most egregious aspects of the report was that the researchers arbitrarily redefined paedophilia as sexual abuse of victims that were ten years old or younger at the time, despite the fact that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) sets the cut-off age at 13.

Redefining paedophilia allowed the researchers to claim that 22 per cent of sexual abuse victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or post-pubescent, but Hale points out, if the researchers had used the DSM’s definition, that percentage would jump from 22 per cent to 73 per cent.

“The redefinition of paedophilia was really shocking,” she says. “Normally, a high percentage of priests would have been considered paedophiles and suddenly it’s fewer priests. No media outlet bothered to mention that or the fact that the report was funded almost solely by Catholic affiliated organisations.”

Hale believes the report is a “major setback in the movement towards church accountability”. She writes: “No, we must not shut up. We must not allow the Church to dominate the discourse. Speak out in whatever ways you can. On its own, what you or I say or write may not have any effect on the Church or the discourse surrounding this issue. Taken as a whole, though, our words provide a clear indication that there are many of us who will neither blindly accept the Church’s domination of the conversation nor quietly sit by while they evade justice time and time again.”

Rose is doing really great work, trying to keep media attention & scrutiny on the USCCB and their destructive activities and attitudes, and I’m really grateful for that.

Anyway, please go read her article– it’s excellent & I hope that it (and all of her work on this issue) gets the attention that it deserves. ♥

The dangers posed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

New video discussing the various dangers posed by the unchecked privilege, power, influence, wealth, bigotry, and bullying tactics of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The description that I posted at YouTube:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful, wealthy, and dangerous organization. They wield a great deal of influence over many politicians, affect the outcomes of various aspects of the legislative process, and pose a direct threat to the basic human rights of many Americans. Their priorities are skewed, their claims are frequently baseless, and they protect the Catholic Church over all else, no matter the cost. They get away with this because no one holds their feet to the fire and makes them answer the tough questions. Let’s ask those questions. Let’s shed some light on their tactics and actions and raise consciousness about the harm that they cause. They’ve gotten away with this for far too long.

& My analysis of the USCCB’s “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” can be found here.

Please adopt me, Bill Donohue

The Catholic League has started an “Adopt An Atheist” campaign.

Bill Donohue explains:

[Let] them know of your interest in “adopting” one of them. All it takes is an e-mail. Let them know of your sincere interest in working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.

If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

I hope that Donohue will consider adopting me as his personal atheist. Fingers crossed, you guys!:

According to Bill Donohue, the Catholic Church is the real victim of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State

I try to ignore Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, trolls extraordinaire. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to feed trolls. Donohue is a professional bully with a completely unwarranted persecution complex who can spin anything into supposed “anti-Catholic” bias/”hate speech“/discrimination. He viciously bullies while simultaneously playing the victim. His arrogance and bigotry are galling and disturbing.

Far more dangerous, though, is his absolute conviction that the Church can do no wrong. It is this unwavering commitment to the Church and its leadership that gives rise to his cruel and shockingly callous victim-blaming rhetoric, a tactic that he employs when discussing the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis and the Church’s subsequent coverup and institutionally-sanctioned protection of child molesters and rapists. Donohue has shown time and time again that he will do anything, no matter how cruel or hateful, to avoid acknowledging that the Church, and only the Church, is to blame.

There’s always a scapegoat. Always an excuse. Someone is always out to get him. And there’s always a red herring, a diversion, an attempt to focus attention on anything other than the Church itself. One of Donohue’s favorite red herrings is his claim that the “liberal” “anti-Catholic” media focuses on the actions (and inaction) of the Church while deliberately ignoring the transgressions of other institutions. This diversion fails for two reasons: 1) in general, media coverage of occurrences of molestation and rape is proportional to both the scale and the shock value of the story, traits that the Catholic sex abuse scandal has in droves, and 2) no other institution has engaged in such a prolonged and widespread institutionally-sanctioned coverup of the horrendous actions of its members.

So, try as I might to ignore Donohue and the Catholic League, I’m sometimes so thoroughly disgusted by Donohue’s callousness and cruelty (particularly when it’s directed towards children) that I feel compelled to draw attention to his arguments and to the ridiculous and hateful rhetoric that he uses to defend them.

This is one of those times.

Yesterday, Donohue used the “liberal anti-Catholic media” red herring in a manner that would be laughably ridiculous if his accompanying argument and attitude weren’t so vile, cruel, and disingenuous. In a Catholic League press release (“Penn State Analogies Evince a Bias“) about the horrifying acts of sexual abuse and subsequent coverup at Penn State, Donohue barely discusses the Penn State issue; instead, he throws around red herrings, uses false analogies and homophobic insults, distorts facts, and makes unsubstantiated accusations against organizations and groups he despises, all in an attempt to support his argument that Catholics and the Vatican are the true victims of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. No, really. That’s his thesis. Really. I can’t even wrap my head around the staggering amount of arrogance and callousness on display in Donohue’s argument. He will use anything, even a situation in which children have been victimized in unspeakably horrific ways, as an excuse to claim that society, particularly the media, are out to get Catholics. In Donohue’s mind, the Church is always the victim. That’s nothing new. What’s especially shocking here is his disgustingly cruel appropriation of a situation in which children have been victimized.

Some excerpts from that press release:

In the case of the Catholic Church, most of the problem took place between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s; almost all of the allegations being reported today extend back decades. Therefore, the popular Penn State-Catholic Church analogy seems a bit dated. Why not discuss Penn State’s most salient rival, namely, the public schools? That’s where “passing the trash”—moving molesting teachers to new school districts—is still a major problem.

Two issues: 1) the support for his claim that most of the Church’s “problem” (in this context, his use of that word makes me cringe, as he’s discussing child molestation and rape and the coverup of these activities, a situation that is far more than a mere “problem”) occurred between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s comes from self-reported data provided by various Catholic dioceses. This data is limited, flawed, and inherently untrustworthy. 2) Donohue provides zero evidence to back up his assertion that American public schools are in the habit of protecting child molesters or are engaged in a widespread and institutionally-sanctioned coverup of the sexual abuse of children. This is both a baseless smear and a blatant red herring.

More Donohue:

Planned Parenthood is notorious for covering up cases of statutory rape, yet no one is fingering them. That’s because they have the support of many in the media, most of whom are pro-abortion.

Huh? What does this have to do with the situation at Penn State? How is this relevant in the least? If Planned Parenthood indeed does cover up cases of statutory rape, where’s the evidence?  And where’s the evidence for his claim that the media ignores this supposed cover-up of statutory rape cases, and that they supposedly do this because they are “pro-abortion”? Donohue’s arrogance is on full display here: he obviously believes that, no matter how outrageous the claim, we should just unquestioningly accept what he says. Facts? Evidence? Donohue doesn’t see the need for such things.

He goes on to claim that “‘Occupy Wall Street’ gatherings are rife with sexual assault” and that the media are ignoring that “fact”, but, yet again, he provides no evidence to support these assertions.

Perhaps there is some truth to one or more of Donohue’s claims. I don’t know, and, you know what? It’s not my job to find out. If he wants us to take him seriously and to accept his arguments, then the onus is on him to present the evidence. Until he starts to do that, his claims can be dismissed out of hand.

Donohue ends on a very disturbing note:

Similarly, why isn’t anyone talking about the Penn State issue, and the one at the Citadel, as involving homosexuality? Male-on-male sex, involving mostly postpubescent guys, constitutes most of the abuse on both campuses.

I’m not exactly sure what he’s getting at here (partly because it’s so awkwardly phrased), but, based on his track record, I have a pretty good idea, and it’s very disturbing indeed:

  1. The Citadel situation, like the situation at Penn State, involves an adult male authority figure sexually abusing boys.
  2. Donohue has repeatedly claimed that priests who prey on children are homosexuals, not pedophiles.
  3. Donohue also agrees with the USCCB/John Jay study’s arbitrary and self-serving redefinition of “pedophilia”. The John Jay researchers, for no apparent reason, decided to define pedophilia as the sexual abuse of a child aged ten or younger, despite the fact that the almost-universally accepted DSM definition of pedophilia is the sexual abuse of a child aged thirteen or younger.
  4. The victims in the Citadel case were between 13 and 15 years old when they were sexually abused. And, according to a grand jury statement, all but one of the victims in the Penn State case were over ten years old (you can read the grand jury statement here (.pdf), but keep in mind that it’s very graphic and horrifyingly disturbing. I just read it in its entirety and I feel ill now).

Taking all of this into account, I think it’s fair to presume that 1) Donohue believes that the perpetrators in each of these cases are gay men, not pedophiles, and 2) the victims are, according to Donohue’s skewed logic, “mostly postpubescent guys” who engaged in “male-on-male sex”, not innocent children who were raped by men they trusted. Thus, in Donohue’s mind, both of these situations can and should be blamed on “the homosexual lifestyle”, as he often puts it (it’s one of Donohue’s (and the Catholic League’s) favorite phrases).

This is vile. It is disgustingly homophobic and is yet another example of the vicious victim-blaming rhetoric Donohue is so fond of.

To cap it all of, Donohue says (immediately following the above-quoted excerpt):

But everyone is afraid to mention the obvious [that this is supposedly an issue of homosexual “deviancy”, not pedophilia]. Better to blame the Vatican.

Yes, you read that right: according to Donohue, 1) homosexuality, not pedophilia, is to blame for the abuse that occurred at Penn State, 2) as such, considering that it’s a homosexual issue, the children who were molested and/or raped aren’t really victims. Remember, their abuse was just “male-on-male sex”, after all, and 3) ultimately, the Church and its leaders are the real victims of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.

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As I said, I usually do my best to just ignore Donohue and the Catholic League. But sometimes I can’t and I won’t.

Donohue certainly has (and should continue to have) the right to make these arguments and to use whatever type of rhetoric he likes. But when he sinks this low, someone needs to call attention to it, to bring it to light, to feed the troll, if only just to point out that the Catholic League and its supporters will use any excuse (even if it means co-opting a situation in which children have been sexually violated) to play the victim and to garner support and sympathy for the Church.

I wish that, for once, someone in the mainstream media would call attention to Donohue’s hateful victim-blaming rhetoric. Someone with a real platform, someone who has a much bigger audience than I do. But, for whatever reason, it never happens.

It needs to happen, though. It really, really does.

John Haught, Jesuit education, and the real-life consequences of Catholic teachings

When an educational institution prioritizes adherence to a religious ideology over rigorous academic inquiry and intellectual development, students suffer. They are not only deprived of the opportunity to develop and utilize critical thinking skills, they are also, to varying degrees, actively discouraged from doing so. True academic and intellectual growth cannot occur in an educational institution in which a specific ideology and its associated tenets are actively protected from questioning and scrutiny.

These arguments are widely-known and widely-accepted. There’s another important aspect of this issue that is rarely discussed, though, and a recent event made me realize that it’s also worth consideration. Like students, some members of the faculty of religious schools, particularly religious universities, are also deprived of the opportunity to engage in legitimate and rigorous academic inquiry and intellectual growth. However, while I feel a great deal of sympathy and empathy for the students who attend these schools, I feel no such compassion for the faculty, particularly those who actively and vociferously discourage both their students and their colleagues from questioning, critiquing, scrutinizing, or applying their critical thinking skills to the ideology in question.

Through their actions, these faculty members create a comfortable, insular, and safe little bubble for themselves, one in which both their religious beliefs and their pedagogical/andragogical/scholarly actions are protected from scrutiny. Jesuit educational institutions are a textbook example of this. Jesuits believe that they are called to educate. And, to be fair, their educational institutions often do a wonderful job of educating students on the subjects that pose no threat to Catholicism. My first-hand experience with Jesuit education was at the high school level. The school I attended is a “preparatory school” for a Jesuit university (most Jesuit universities have one or more affiliated “preparatory” high schools). In many ways, this school provided me with an outstanding education, offering academic opportunities unavailable to students at most public high schools. However, the critical thinking skills and intellectual abilities that I developed in certain courses and areas of study were not welcomed in the (mandatory) courses that focused on Church history, doctrine, tenets, or teachings. This was extremely jarring. It forced me to develop of a particular form of cognitive dissonance and it further reinforced what I had been taught from a very early age: Catholicism must never be questioned.

While the actions of these high school teachers is motivated by a desire to indoctrinate children, professors and other educators at Jesuit universities aren’t as concerned with indoctrination. They don’t have to be: their students are adults who have, most likely, attended Catholic schools and/or participated in Catholic religious activities since they were small children. The indoctrination is done. Free from that responsibility, these professors can instead focus on creating and maintaining that insular academic bubble, one in which they can express their opinions and beliefs without facing scrutiny or rigorous academic inquiry. This bubble is an echo chamber, filled with “yes-men” who are fully committed to a religious ideology that is not only their personal belief system, but also their livelihood. And there is no better example of this phenomenon than a professional theologian, for they are the ones who have the most to lose. A theologian’s primary job is to produce faux-sophisticated nonsensical apologetics intended to distract from the actual teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Their work is so utterly and transparently meaningless that it cannot stand up to even the mildest of scrutiny.

As long as these theologians remain within their echo chambers, they are safe from criticism. Within their protected bubbles, they never have to acknowledge the true harm done by the Catholic Church. They are coddled, surrounded by yes-men who ensure that they will never have to face true academic scrutiny.

But when they step outside of that comfort zone and are confronted with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the real-world consequences of those teachings, all bets are off. The bubble bursts and their “sophisticated theology” is quickly exposed for the obfuscatory nonsense that it is.

Enter Catholic theologian John Haught of Georgetown University (a Jesuit institution). Long story short: recently, at the University of Kentucky, he debated Jerry Coyne on the question of whether or not science and religion are compatible, a debate in which Haught performed poorly. Then, a few days ago, Dr. Robert Rabel, the head of the institution that sponsored the debate, the Gaines Center for the Humanities, informed Jerry that Haught had demanded that the video recording of the debate not be posted online (Jerry had been eager to post the video on his site). Rabel, for whatever reason, decided to give in to Haught’s demand. Further, Rabel refused Jerry’s request for a copy of the video with Haught’s parts edited out, and, together with Haught, proceeded to deny Jerry’s other reasonable requests. Haught’s reason for refusing to release the video? The debate: “failed to meet what [he] consider[s] to be reasonable standards of fruitful academic exchange”. Back to that in a minute.

Yesterday, Jerry posted about Haught’s refusal and Rabel’s enabling of that refusal. This post received a great deal of attention, put Haught and Rabel under scrutiny, and gave both men a crash-course in “Streisand effect“-ology. After engaging in blackmail of a sort, Haught has apparently now agreed to release the video. Anyway, be sure to read Jerry’s two posts (1, 2) on this for a more detailed explanation of the whole mess.

Haught’s claim that the debate wasn’t a “fruitful academic exchange” is very telling. Although I imagine that it’s primarily an attempt to “save face”, it’s also indicative of Haught’s warped notions of academic standards. Haught’s experiences in the echo chamber of Jesuit higher education have led him to conclude that rigorous academic inquiry is acceptable and “fruitful” if and only if it presents no real challenge to his beliefs or to the career that he has built around those beliefs. Remember, theologians have the most to lose.

He wasn’t prepared. He didn’t realize that Jerry was going to confront him with examples of the real-life harm that the Catholic Church causes. Haught was forced to acknowledge the fact that all Catholics must eventually face: whether or not they personally adhere to the most damaging dogmas and practices of the Catholic Church, their support of the institution makes them at least somewhat complicit in the harm that it causes. And Haught has a lot more to answer for than the average Catholic, for he supports and defends the institution much more publicly and vociferously than most of his fellow laypeople. Haught is angry because Jerry provided a clear explanation of the horrible consequences of various Catholic beliefs and actions. In other words, when Haught claims that the debate “failed to meet what [he] consider[s] to be reasonable standards of fruitful academic exchange”, what he’s really saying is that “Coyne dared to question me. He had the gall to question my Church. I didn’t want to be challenged. I shouldn’t have to be challenged. Such scrutiny is unacceptable”.

Haught’s warped view of what constitutes “fruitful academic exchange” is the direct result of the Jesuit echo chamber in which he and so many other educators reside. The Jesuit motto is Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, “all for the greater glory of God”. And it’s more than just a maxim, for when academic inquiry and Catholicism come into conflict, Catholicism wins every time. In the Jesuit world, God trumps all. Over the past few weeks, Haught has learned the hard way that when he ventures too far outside of his protective bubble, he will be confronted with the dangerous beliefs and actions of the Catholic Church, the institution that he has dedicated his life to promoting and defending. Many of the Church’s actions aren’t pretty, and, until Haught is willing to acknowledge that, he shouldn’t be surprised or angered when he gets thoroughly trounced in a debate.

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