Catholicism

American Nuns Hope For Sister-Friendly New Pope

“There were two investigations of Catholic sisters undertaken during Pope Benedict’s era,” Sister Florence Deacon, the current president of the [Leadership Conference of Women Religious], told The Daily Beast after Pope Benedict’s resignation announcement. One damning report quoted Pope John Paul II’s gratitude for the sisters’ “deep love of the church and generous service to God’s people” but then lashed out at the sisters for not toeing the Vatican’s party line. “While we appreciate this expression of gratitude, we found the whole process of the investigation flawed and question the findings and the mandate given to LCWR,” Deacon says. “We hope a new pope would be open to dialogue with the U.S. Catholic sisters and work with us to support our mission.”

Laudable optimism, but the Vatican doesn’t exactly have a rich history of proactively empowering under-represented or oppressed groups. I’m guessing the first papal retirement in nearly 600 years doesn’t indicate impending upheaval; you can bet that someone with the pope’s power and responsibility only retires voluntarily if he has an ironclad succession plan in place, and people generally want their successor to behave as much like themselves as possible.

Swearing: For Boys Only

A Catholic school asked their girls to take a pledge against using profanity at school. They asked nothing of the kind from the boys.

But some boys at the school felt snubbed, [a teacher] said, when they weren’t asked to take part.

“It was supposed to be a really sweet, innocent, special treat for the ladies specifically for the month of February kind of thing,” [she] said. “And I guess it made the boys feel a little slighted.”

I think this teacher needs to look up the definition of the word “treat”.

Also, this idea that girls (or women) are supposed to be the innocent, polite ones, while boys and men will naturally exhibit crass and rude behavior actually dehumanizes women. Unjustifiably glorifying women serves us little better than unjustifiably denigrating them.

LA Cardinal Relieved of Duties For Covering Up Sexual Abuse

In a move unprecedented in the American Catholic Church, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez announced Thursday that he had relieved his predecessor, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, of all public duties over his mishandling of clergy sex abuse of children decades ago.

Gomez also said that Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry, who worked with Mahony to conceal abusers from police in the 1980s, had resigned his post as a regional bishop in Santa Barbara.

The announcement came as the church posted on its website tens of thousands of pages of previously secret personnel files for 122 priests accused of molesting children.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez wrote in a letter addressed to “My brothers and sisters in Christ.”

I’m sure PR at least partly motivates Gomez’s decision, but it’s still the right one. The Catholic Church has a massive problem with this sort of corruption, and the only way out is through; they have to start being open about their abuses and making sure the culprits are visibly punished.

Via the Feminist Majority Foundation Blog.

Problematic Equality

Mary E. Hunt at Religion Dispatches isn’t quite dancing in the streets over women being allowed in combat, and she feels pretty ambivalent over pushing the Catholic Church to ordain women, too:

Celebration of another barrier overcome is tempered by the fact that I oppose combat as much as I oppose sexism. Likewise, I reject a hierarchical, clerical priestly model of the Church as much as I reject exclusion of women from its leadership caste.

Read for some interesting thoughts by a Catholic activist on women as de facto clergy and the perpetuation of a corrupt hierarchy.

Catholic Hospital: Fetuses Aren't People

In 2006 Lori Stodghill, who was pregnant with twins, died of a heart attack at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. The ER staff paged her obstetrician, Pelham Staples, but he never responded, so her unborn twins also died.

Stodghill’s husband Jeremy filed a wrongful-death suit against Staples, saying he should have either come to the hospital or instructed the staff on duty to perform an emergency C-section that would have saved the twins.

Defending attorney Jason Langley argued in a brief he filed on behalf of the hospital chain that the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”

Legally, he is, of course, correct. Ethically, though, it is massively hypocritical for the Catholic Church to claim that not only abortion but contraception are unacceptable because personhood begins at conception, only to claim innocence of malpractice because the “fetuses” they allowed to die don’t count as people.

Church officials now say they’re looking into the matter. Someone do me a favor and calculate the odds that their finding is: “Yes, we let two people die when we could have saved them. Here is a big pile of money, Jeremy Stodghill.”

Sovereign Grace Ministries Leaders Accused of Sexual Abuse

A lawsuit against a Louisville-based denomination has added new allegations that ministers not only covered up the physical and sexual abuse of members but in some cases were abusers themselves.

The lawsuit accuses a co-founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries, who left in a bitter split with the current president in 1997, of physically abusing a female over a 25-year period.

Trigger warnings all over the piece.

The church I used to work for was at one time (and may still be) considering joining Sovereign Grace Ministries, and they had a lot of good things to say about the organization, so this is kind of scary.

Hopefully higher-ups in the denomination learn a quick lesson from the Catholic Church and don’t try any further cover-ups. It’s not looking good, though.

Via Rachel Held Evans.

"I Refuse to Be Terrified Into Submission"

An Irish Catholic priest is planning to defy the Vatican by continuing to proclaim his support for allowing female priests:

The Rev. Tony Flannery, 66, who was suspended by the Vatican last year, said he was told by the Vatican that he would be allowed to return to ministry only if he agreed to write, sign and publish a statement agreeing, among other things, that women should never be ordained as priests.

He’ll probably lose his priesthood and be excommunicated, so this is a pretty bold move.

Via Jezebel.

Pope Blesses Backer of Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

You heard that right. Pope Benedict XVI met with Rebecca Kadaga, the Ugandan Speaker of the House, and gave her a blessing.

Uganda has been a target for western evangelicals who see that they’re losing the gay marriage battle in their own countries. Religious leaders and rightwing groups, including Rick Warren and the National Organization for Marriage, have gone to Uganda for years to spread anti-gay propaganda and bolster homophobia. These religious leaders position themselves as experts, telling Ugandans that gay people sodomize children, spread Aids, destroy marriage, break up families and pose an imminent threat to society—and then they feign shock when Ugandan leaders decide that the legal punishment most befitting these child-raping, society-crushing individuals is death.

In the meantime, gay, lesbian and transgender Ugandans face vigilante attacks daily, and are routinely raped, beaten, ostracized, tortured and murdered.

Do I have any Roman Catholic readers? If so, I encourage you to read Jill Filipovic’s whole piece here about the Church’s patriarchy problem. Even adjusting for her disinterest in the Bible’s take on ethics, doesn’t it seem like Filipovic has a number of solid points that Vatican leaders should really be considering?

"Healthy Self Criticism"

An Italian priest has provoked outrage after putting up an article that said women were partly to blame for encouraging domestic violence by failing to clean their houses and cook properly and for wearing tight and provocative clothing.

The priest, Piero Corsi, later apologized, and his bishop ordered the article taken down, but he does not appear to have been punished in any way. This is unacceptable, particularly for an organization with as many PR problems as the Roman Catholic Church. If they want us to believe they are not indifferent to oppression—or, worse, actively engaged in perpetuating it—they need to develop a much lower tolerance for this sort of thing.

The Gay Sky Isn’t Falling

Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Television Centre, has invoked the dreaded slippery slope argument against legalized gay marriage:

In short, preserving a vision of the human person and of human relationships where there is a public acknowledgement of monogamous marriage between a man and woman is an achievement of civilization. If not, why not contemplate also freely chosen polygamy and, of course, not to discriminate, polyandry?

Rather than dissect the problems with this line of reasoning (which Jay Michaelson, the writer of the linked article, does much better than I could), I will simply say, “Yes, why not?”

This is the libertarian me talking, but the government has no business being involved in marriage at all. Let the state authorize contractual civil unions if it finds a compelling reason to do so, but validating or enforcing types of relationships is just a way for the government to insert itself unwarrantably into our private lives.

Also, polygamy is not the opposite of polyandry, polygyny is. Polygamy is a gender-neutral word. Words matter.