Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop Protects Pedophile But Banishes 9 Year Old to Hell

Where in the Roman Catholic church is there any reason? Nowhere that I can see, especially in Brazil. In their efforts to, once again, protect those who have a sexual predilection for children, the Church shows us exactly where its interests lie. Read this story and weep. Notice the step-father, who has raped this girl since she was six years old, has not been excommunicated. Killing potential Roman Catholics is a far more serious sin than child rape after all. I mean really, a man has needs and religion is designed to protect those needs at all costs.

To say I’m infuriated is a gross understatement.

More here. Notice the word “alleged” in this story. Excuse me, but how else does a 9 year old get pregnant? Are they saying it was planned? Are they saying she wanted it? Is that what they are saying? Even at nine, girls are expected to protect themselves and “just say no?” The world is seriously fucked if that’s the case.

Good commentary here. And here.

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Do We Really Need Religion or Simply Pragmatism?

If I’m anything, I’d like to think I’m practical. To be precise, I like to think that I my life is ” Of, relating to, governed by, or acquired through practice or action, rather than theory, speculation, or ideals” (online dictionary). I also like to think that what follows from this state of being is pragmatism; ” Dealing or concerned with facts or actual occurrences; practical.” (ibid). You see, I love to ponder ideas and toss around theories just as much as the next person. But, I do not see how tossing about of said theories does anyone a whit of good unless it brings about some practical action. This is why politics frustrates me. This is why religion frustrates me. Both are ideals and theories that usually bring about no change at all. Why? Because no one can agree on what these changes are supposed to be AND these theories are not well practiced as a group, only as an individual choice.

I don’t believe that human beings are meant to practice group-think or that whole societies are ever going to be so in tune that they act as one. Some have this ideal, yet I don’t think it will ever happen. Why? Because evolution demands that we are concerned first and foremost with our own survival and all that entails. We are here to find food, find shelter, procreate, and stay alive and that’s about it. All else is icing on the cake, so to speak. I don’t believe in “higher purposes.” I don’t believe that we are here to “love” to “dream” or to “create.” These are merely bi-products of living a leisurely and secure life. When you are in the throes of trying to survive you may employ creativity to distract you from the meanness of life, but we are not born to do these things. Sure, sure, you can provide an example otherwise. Can’t we all? But at its heart, life is about survival. I’ve always thought it so and I’ve always operated on that premise.

So when people argue about politics or religion, they aren’t arguing about practical things. They are arguing about whose ideas are the most IDEAL for society. What should we strive for? What is the point of living. You know, that’s great to perhaps wonder that. But what about food? What about shelter? And what about those who don’t have either? What do we do with the violent of our society? How do we protect our selves, our homes, and our family? That, to me, is more important than anything else. Religion is not about survival. Religion is all about having too much time on our hands to think and ponder about the “whys” and “wherefores” of life already being lived. I think we tend to forget about that when it comes election time or when it comes to passing religion on to the young. What’s the purpose of it? Do we do it to further our life here and now or do we pass along unworkable ideals and thoughts of a life “hereafter?” Rather than be focused on “hot-button” issues that have nothing to do with our own survival and how to keep an ordered and civil society, we should be focused ideas that actually work.

In the wonderful online ‘zine Bad Subjects, John Duncan writes about secular progressives and what they think about politics and religion. He writes:

If we take progressivism, the left, etc., to embody an approach to politics in which human discourse and action are mobilized in order to struggle for social and political conditions more in accord with the legitimate claims of justice — claims which are themselves always being debated, tested, and revised — then progressives have no need for religion. Echoing the eighteenth century enlightenment, we argue that justice requires human struggle for improved conditions in the world — that is, in “this” world — whereas religions strain to find nonexistent metaphysical entities beyond the world.

Religious adherents might argue that our ability to improve conditions in the world depends on our relationship to what transcends it, a position which in the early fourteenth century Dante Alighieri famously symbolized at the end of his Purgatorio by representing the worldly paradise as necessarily empty — only by transcending the worldly as such in order to receive guidance from what lies beyond it can we hope to establish the best possible worldly existence. However, for the faithless this position is both a non-starter and a source of concern. It is a non-starter because we do not believe in metaphysical entities that transcend the world, and so we do not believe they have any bearing on the causes of justice. It is a source of concern because such metaphysical entities constitute the inspirational grounds for fundamental features of the discourse and action of our religious allies, but they are not available for rational evaluation.

One of the core values of an enlightened politics is that all stakeholders be involved in open and rational discussion that leads to policy and its implementation. If the secular progressive believes progressive politics to be a strictly secular affair, whereas the religious progressive claims to have access to extra-worldly insights that both transcend and ground his or her politics, then it is theoretically possible for the religious progressive and the secular progressive to be divided. It seems likely that metaphysical insights will trump the merely political if ever a conflict arises between them, and so we have some trouble understanding those who claim to be in solidarity with us but at the same time are capable of metaphysical suspensions of progressive politics, to borrow very freely from Søren Kierkegaard, who in Fear and Trembling (1843) famously characterized Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to kill his son Isaac as a “teleological suspension of the ethical.” The possibility of such suspensions is alive wherever religion reaches beyond the merely real world and its struggles. If a choice had to be made between God and worldly justice, our ways could very well part, for we do not believe in God.

And I would say, believing in God does not promote justice; just the opposite. More injustice has been perpetrated in the name of religion than justice has been dispensed by the same religion, and I mean ALL religions. Leave off the argument about which is “true” religion or not. Such arguments only detract from the real issues at hand. Since no one knows what will happen after death, why do so many look forward to it? Why do so many worry about it? I believe it’s because they have no real, practical solution to the problems right now and looking forward to heaven is the perfect way to relieve oneself of the responsibility of action. Prayer is not action at all, because apparently God is not listening. Prayer has not been shown to change anything except perhaps the pray-er. Great, but kids are still starving or are abused.

Look, I don’t claim to be a proponent of the “right” or the “left.” To me extremism is extremism no matter how idealistic their goals; and perhaps that’s why they are extremists. Their goals are TOO idealistic. There is nothing practical or pragmatic to be had in the world of extremist politics and extremist religions and in that respect, both are a huge burden on a society that just wants to survive, take care of loved ones, and just be left alone. Far from being depressing, I find that a practical work to change things here and now to be exciting and hopeful, far more hopeful than a fiery apocalyptic confrontation looked forward to by millions of religionists around the world. It’s truly a “Big Brother” world if Apocalypticism becomes the language of “hope and change.”

Deliver Us From Evil

I just watched this disturbing documentary by Amy Berg and, frankly, it pretty much convinces me to never set foot in a Catholic Church again. It’s not because the people are not faithful, because they are, seemingly in spite of abuse perpetrated against them physically and spiritually, they are faithful. But it’s because the hierarchy is corrupt beyond redemption in my eyes and is specifically DESIGNED–they would say (and did in the film) by “God”–to cover up their own crimes. Lay people are there to obey and never question, according to priests and Rome. Priests are God to them, making lay people doubly succeptible to these crimes and priests doubly reprehensible. What child or parent can say no when “God’s representative” so manipulates your family and wants to stick his hand down your 9 year old’s pants?

On principle, no organization should be supported that hides pedophiles. NONE. No organization should get away with producing such psychologically stunted individuals as many, many catholic priests are proving to be. Wake up people. Priests are not God! There is absolutely NO EXCUSE. If you think you have one, think again, watch the movie, talk to survivors, educate yourself. La cosa nostra catholique, however, still lives.

Interview with Amy Berg.

More here on priest abuse and survivors.

I think all this goes for Protestant “ministers” as well.

(Note: Out of respect for victims and their families, all comments that blame victims will be deleted)

When “Love Your Enemies” Goes Too Far

I’m sorry, but the writer at ThinkChristian is admirable for trying to live out an impossible injunction, but never in a million years would I say God “chose” Westboro Baptist followers! No sirree, they and their brainwashing cult leaders chose themselves to be the hatemongers that they are and if being Christian means to love those people, count me out as a Christian. I can’t do it, nor will I ever do it.

My Blog is Not Your Mission Field

Heads up to all Christians and other religionists out there. Yes YOU! You know who you are. The ones who think that the internet is a big mission field where you can evangelize to your heart’s content. Well, don’t do it here. I’ve been tip-toeing around this issue for months now, but it seems that I finally need to put my foot down. I realize that in your little prayer groups every morning the internet comes up as the main focus of prayer. I realize that you may even name my blog among those that especially need your prayers. I realize that you think it’s a prime field to “provide a witness” to Christ by showing the unwashed masses how intellectually superior you are.  But this attitude just reeks of paternalism and the last thing I need is more paternalism. Sheesh. Everyone’s free to comment here, within The Rules of course, because after all IT IS MY BLOG. I don’t care how respectfully you couch your comments in “loving” christian tones, I’ve gotten the sneaking suspicion that I’ve lost control of my own blog and I’m putting a stop to it. I have always had the suspicion that other agendas are at work by some men who post here; the imposition of male authority or “headship,” the dismissal of one’s education and experience, and a general attitude of privilege.  Whenever you find yourself on the defensive in any situation, it’s time to take the reigns back in hand and assert some control. Well, the reigns are back in hand.

The purpose of my blog has always been to highlight moments of beauty in pop culture, always keeping an eye out for those things that stifle the free exercise of conscience here on the internet. I see religion as the chief perpetrator of stifling freedom of conscience. This is why I started the blog in the first place. I wanted to call your attention to instances of “iniquity” working against the free exercise of the souls of individuals. For women this is doubly apropos, because not only are we stifled as individuals, we are stifled as WOMEN. We are automatically put two or three steps down on the ladder of hierarchy that religion imposes. Again, I firmly believe that religion is the CHIEF perpetrator of the stifling of women.

My goal was to emphasize a woman’s experience on the internet in the face of such misogyny. I wanted to try to follow the rules of a feminist ethic, one that doesn’t devalue women’s experiences in favor of men’s experiences. Others have adequately addressed and defined such ethics elsewhere,

Feminist Ethics is an attempt to revise, reformulate, or rethink those aspects of traditional western ethics that depreciate or devalue women’s moral experience.

Traditional western ethics fails women in five ways:

First, it shows little concern for women’s as opposed to men’s interests and rights. Second, it dismisses as morally uninteresting the problems that arise in the so-called private world, the realm in which women cook, clean, and care for the young, the old, and the sick. Third, it suggests that, on the average, women are not as morally developed as men. Fourth, it overvalues culturally masculine traits like independence, autonomy, separation, mind, reason, culture, transcendence, war, and death, and undervalues culturally feminine traits like interdependence, community, connection, body, emotion, nature, immanence, peace, and life. Fifth, and finally, it favors culturally masculine ways of moral reasoning that emphasize rules, universality, and impartiality over culturally feminine ways of moral reasoning that emphasize relationships, particularity, and partiality (Jaggar, “Feminist Ethics,” 1992).

Notice the term “culturally.” This means that women and men are culturally formed since birth to exhibit these traits and does NOT mean they are an automatic result of our gender. My job is to show that whereas religion believes women exhibit these traits because we are born with uteruses, this is by no means true. Religion is the culprit responsible for sexualizing every human being on the planet into two strict categories, even though we know scientifically that such bifurcation is a false dichotomy imposed from without not within. But I digress.

I want my blog to be MY blog. To be a free space in which to discuss my points of view and my interests; chiefly embracing spirituality of all varieties and feminism, along with the pop culture fun stuff like books, movies, television, art, and anything else you can name. I’ve seen so many women driven from their blogs because of the paternalism of men and of male-defined/identified women that I must insist on more strictly enforcing the rules. If you have a problem with that then email me.

Violence Against Women and Why I Won’t Shut Up About It

Lately, I’ve heard many complaints from men on the blogosphere who attempt to downplay or to minimize the issue of violent men on the internet. Many are simply ignorant of the terrorism that women live with daily. Others are just power tripping and refuse to see what’s out there because their ideologies implicitly support such violence. They are threatened by feminists because they have their whole lives invested in the status quo. But the majority of men out there are normal men, educated in a patriarchal world, who’ve never read or heard of scholarship that openly challenges or offers viable alternatives to a world they’ve always known and taken for granted. They pay no attention to the horrors that women experience daily or if they do, they see it as none of their concern. In fact they challenge us at every turn, “Come on, they say, you can’t believe THAT!” Or say, “Oh thank goodness my wife (insert female “other” here) doesn’t have to live that way.” In a way it’s not these men’s fault. They are clueless. They are sheltered by their patriarchal churches and patriarchal colleges. They learn from those who learned before them, and they never question the way things are. That’s a problem for others to solve, not them. They refuse to see. They are blind to the real world of women. Their wives may be blind to it too and they both blissfully float along, assuming those nasty feminists have axes to grind or that they hate men and authority. Those in power and privilege can’t see it any other way. Even conservative women, who should be the first to understand their own plight, blame feminists for being stronger than even they themselves are allowed to be. Oh, they know. And they are envious because they are trapped in roles defined FOR them, not by them.

But there is another reality out there that patriarchal men and women do not see, nor do they care to see it. In “What’s New About Terror, Part III” Doire Musings chronicles why she thinks it is that men do not understand women or what we live with daily in this age of watching for terrorist activities, in this age where we think terrorism is somewhere else; anywhere but right here. She writes,

We are instructed at airports to report “any suspicious behavior” and to be on the alert for any suitcase that is left alone. That is terrifying, isn’t it? A suitcase, left in the middle of the airport terminal, or on a seat in a subway car? A woman is taught to be on the alert when she is alone. And for many of us, this is often. We are taught to be suspicious of a man alone, or men in groups. The anxiety is particularly heightened on a secluded street, a park, a bar, a parking garage, a freaking Laundromat. We are taught not to GO OUT in the dark alone. NO place is “safe,” because every place has men in it and every man who is a stranger is a potential threat. And in many ways, for many days and nights, these cultural lessons curtail our activities.

But our activities are not the only things that get “altered.” Two young men recently moved into my apartment development. They sit on their stoop to smoke. Before reading Margaret Miles’ essay and before reflecting on this female condition of terror I didn’t realize how much I alter my behavior when they are outside. It is only through analytical hindsight that I see what I do; how differently I behave when they are there from when they are not there. And the alteration in my behavior is based on two facts; they know where I live and I do not know what kind of men they are. I find that as soon as I turn my car into my parking space I look to see if they are there. When they are not, I am glad. When they are, I walk like a “schoolteacher,” or how I imagine one to walk. The joyous lilt in my stride is gone lest it be interpreted as flirtatious. My walk is purposeful, with determined direction. I do not toss my hair, even if it is in my eyes, lest it be interpreted as provocative invitation. I say a quick “Hello,” but my eyes do not linger upon theirs, lest it be interpreted as interest. I must walk a tightrope between not-too-friendly, and cordial, lest I piss them off and they think me stuck-up and haughty. After all, if they turn out to be harmful, it will be my fault. When my door is closed and locked behind me, I breathe. I understand the risk of the confessional nature of these words; that there are those of you who will yet think I am paranoid. I exaggerate. I am nuts. But I assure you, this anxiety and these behavioral modifications are enacted by women in countless apartment complexes, in countless neighborhoods throughout this country (throughout the world) every day. As I think back to my interactions with female students and former students I cannot list all the reports shared with me of sexual harassment by male employers, of physical violence by building maintenance workers, fathers of childhood friends and boyfriends; of rape, physical brutality and intimidation. Failure to report is based in the same terror; that there will be violent retaliation….

And yet, we deny. We delude ourselves into thinking that these crimes are committed by individual men with abnormal psychological pathologies. We never see the violence as rooted in a systemic, institutionalized, cultural evil grounded in an ideology of national and global misogyny. But we must awaken from our sleep, like Snow White from the poison apple. My future and my daughter’s and the futures of any granddaughters I might have, depend on it.

So the man seized his concubine and put her out to them; and they raped and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. As the morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, till it was light. In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. “Get up.” he said to her, “We are going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her upon the ass and the man set out for his home. When he had entered his house, he took a knife and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. Judges 19:25-29

And he sent her throughout Israel in outrage, that the men had been so disrespectful to him and to his property. He dismembered this body that had served him and sent the pieces throughout Israel because he had been insulted. Had he loved her, he would have bathed her body in oils and wrapped her in a shroud of linen. Had he loved her, he would have buried her in the tradition of his elders. Had he loved her, he would have wept. Of course, had he loved her, had he even considered her a human being, he would not have handed her over to be gang-raped and murdered.

I do not know how this woman felt as she was betrayed by her master. I do not know how the women of the enemies of Moses felt when they became the spoils of war. I do not know how it felt to be a virgin of Shiloh, abducted and raped as strangers in a strange land. I do not know the terror of the captive woman who mourned the death of mother and father wrought by the hands of her captor who became her rapist. But I do know what it is to be a woman living among a people who consider the treatment of these women to be a part of their glorious and holy inheritance.

So what’s new about terror? Ask any woman and she’ll tell you-absolutely nothing.

Patriarchally trained men keep asking with incredulity in their voices, “You can’t believe that??!!” or “I’m a man, and I would never do that!” or my favorite, “I’ve never seen that where I go to school (work)!!” i.e. if I don’t see it personally, it doesn’t exist mentality. Well, of course you haven’t dear, you’re a man. Men do not silence other men. Men don’t realize that the fact that they are ONE man who would never do that means zilch in the real world. The fact that you’ve never seen it proves my point. It’s not that man, or this man, or that man over there! It’s the culture of masculinity that teaches men and women implicitly or explicitly that women are objects to be used as men see fit. It’s the culture that says women have their proper role, and to stray outside that role invites censure, even violence. It’s the total relegation of women to the status of “Other.” The status of “them.” It is the culture that teaches men that it is their “holy inheritance” and their right and privilege to be above women, because women are forever “sinful” beings and must forever pay for that ignominy. Yet, it’s also the culture that sexualizes young girls and turns women into dress dummies for men’s gaze and amusements. Yes, women buy into it too, in more ways than one, but it’s hurting them and the rest of us, whether they realize it or not. They are products of a culture that promotes women’s denigration whether men will admit to it or not. “But, men suffer violence every day too!” they opine. Well, I say so what? I’m not concerned with man on man violence. That’s a politically level playing field. No, I’m concerned with violence against those who have no level playing field.

This privileged and objectifying mindset runs so deep in our culture because religion runs so deep. There is nothing more dangerous than a patriarchally trained man who believes in the hierarchies of humanity where women and children are at the bottom. Why? Because a male God, born and raised in the image of a fundamentalist man, inherently denies women the right to be, the right to exist on her own, in her own right. Because, as Mary Daly says, “If God is male, then the male is God.” Master of Divinity professor, Doire Musings writes in “Dismantling the Castle (Cathedral), Part II,”

For women, the spiritual consequences of exclusive male language and imagery for God should be obvious. Whereas men are able to identify with the divine being and enjoy the full experience of truly having been “created in the image and likeness of God,” women cannot. Women’s interior lives offer a spirituality that is always characterized in relation to, but not through identification with the divine being. No matter how hard one tries, the interior experience of God is always relational/separated/distant. For women, God is always the absolute “Other.” Now it may be argued (with a nod to Martin Buber) that God should always be experienced as “Other,” but men experience this “Otherness” only by degree. God is more powerful than men, but men still share in that power. God is more perfect than men, but men still reflect the divine image. There is no passage perhaps more disturbing to the Christian feminist theologian than St. Augustine’s thoughts on the ability or inability of man and woman, respectively, to reflect the divine:

How then did the apostle [Paul] tell us that the man is the image of God and therefore he is forbidden to cover his head; but that the woman is not so, and therefore is commanded to cover hers? Unless, forsooth, according to that which I have said already… that the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that the whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman is joined with him in one. — On the Trinity

Augustine hit the proverbial covering on the head. A male God is reflective of males, a mirror in which there is no room for the female.

One giant leap forward would be to at least acknowledge that feminists have a point and that we should, as a society, try to change this culture of misogyny. The chief purveyor of this woman objectification is the church. “OH, but we honor women!” “Oh, but we’ve always placed them on a pedestal!” they all cry. That’s it right there. We are either Madonnas or whores, never just ourselves. Why must we be objectified at all? Notice that the categories themselves are all about sexuality. We are either mothers or playthings. Never a PERSON, always a uterus, a vessel, a container for something else.

Heart over at Womens Space/The Margins says it well,

I have also been devastated, over and over and over in my life, by the violence of men– sexual violence, physical brutality, spiritual, emotional, verbal violence, violence of all kinds which have often made my and other women’s lives a living hell. I want the world to pay attention to the violence that harms us all– not only little girls, but little boys, not only women, but men. This is violence we are so accustomed to, so inured to, so used to, that it doesn’t even fly across our radar as violence– the violence of pornography, the violence of female infanticide, of “honor killings,” the violence and pandemic-ness of domestic violence and rape. To get the world’s attention, those of us who have been devastated by this violence must have a voice and our voices must be heard, however raw or unforgiving or raging or angry or bitter or not-motherly, not nurturing, fearsome, and yes, powerful and unapologetically so. Women who comment to my boards and blog, all them, have their own stories to tell. All have lived through indescribable horror at the hands of men. It does not set well, it’s true, for mothers to wish their sons not born. Mothers, of all people, are expected to be endlessly loving and nurturing, even when it costs us our very lives, everything we have, are or could be. But this is wrong and it must end. And in increasing numbers, women have to be brave enough to say this is wrong. What is expected of mothers is wrong. What is expected of women — that we act in ways which harm us — is wrong.

This is what patriarchally trained men will never, ever understand; the violence we have all around us and the violence women continually live with. They will never understand the mindset of always watching your back. Our defensiveness they say is entirely unrealistic! It’s in our own imaginations. Surely we can’t believe that. Such incredulous tones drip of sarcasm and utter lack of understanding. But you know what? It happens even if the privileged men are unaware that it happens. Yes women are still harassed, harangued, and stolen from. Yes, women are beaten, raped, or tortured every minute of the day. And not just with physical violence do men wield the power. Yes women’s research and writing is still co-opted or questioned as suspect. Yes, women are still labeled too fat, too skinny, too black, ugly, a lesbian if she questions men or a whore if she loves them too much. Yes, women live in fear. Yes, yes, yes. If you think it doesn’t happen, or you wish women would focus on something else instead, then you have your head in the sand and are a very large part of the problem.