Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thomas Roberts, Sexual Abuse Victim, Speaks Out

     There's a fantastic Q&A in GQ with Thomas Roberts, a survivor of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.  Here's a cut from the article that is the most succinct explanation of the denial and dissassociation that I experienced after having been sexually abused at 14 and then again expoited at 20.
     One of many excuses the Vatican gave in the case of the priest who molested 200 deaf boys was that the incidents exceeded the church's statute of limitations. As someone who waited almost 20 years to come forward, how do you feel about this? Were you in denial?
     Oh, I was in complete denial. I considered myself to be a strong and intelligent person, and to place yourself in the "victim" category is very hard to do. I thought that I had been able to deal with what life had dealt me. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I’m happy that I was able to confront these demons that had been chasing me for a really long time and extinguish them.
     So you came out to your family when you were 27. Later, when you were 33 you began opening up about the abuse. Some people see a causal relationship between abuse and sexuality. Did you worry that people would try and draw those lines?
     For me these are two very separate, distinct issues, and I don’t want them to ever be confused. No one ever asks a woman who was abused as a young girl if she grew up and decided she was straight. I had the complete love and support of my family though, and that was most important thing.
     In a special you did for CNN, you said that the abuse had left you “emotionally frozen.” How did finally telling people affect your relationships?
     Well, my partner of the last ten years is the first person I ever told about it. It had always been a big, scary secret, and I think it allowed me to be more vulnerable and honest in that relationship. We walked through all of this together.
     Here are a few videos of Thomas Roberts telling his story.  He was sexually abused by a priest at the prestegeous Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore, Maryland, where it appears that one of my seminary friends, who told me off when I left the priesthood, is now saying Mass.  I wonder if he still goes for blonds.

Sexual Abuse Victims Thomas Roberts and Sinead O'Connor face off with the Catholic League's Bill Donahue on CNN's Larry King Live

Andersen Cooper's Interview of Thomas Roberts

Vatican's Secretary of State Blames Gays for Pedophilia

     The Vatican continues its blame game, pinning the fault of the clergy-perpetuated sexual abuse scandal on homosexuals.  That gays sexually abuse more than straights is a lie and a scientifically disproved myth

     This time the lying cleric is Pope Benedict XVI's next-in-command Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. 

     The Associated Press reports:
     The Vatican's second-highest authority says the sex scandals haunting the Roman Catholic Church are linked to homosexuality and not celibacy among priests.  Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, made the comments during a news conference Monday in Chile, where one of the church's highest-profile pedophile cases involves a priest having sex with young girls.  "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true," said Bertone. "That is the problem."
     But, it's not true.  That is the problem, that you holy clerics in power continue to make others scapegoats, while turning a blind eye to your own sins

    After hearing similar asinine responses to the sexual-abuse-and-cover-up plagued Roman Catholic Church from the pope's personal preacher, the Catholic League, the Vatican news agency, and bishops hungry for promotions, I think it is very safe to conclude that Pope Ben shares the same view.  Clerics of a feather...

     About eight or nine years ago, Pope Ratzinger floated a document in Rome that would have deemed the ordination of all homosexual priests invalid, arguing that because they are not straight like Jesus, their celibacy isn't a sacrifice and therefore they can't stand in persona Christi

     I learned of this "theology" in my theology of ministry and priesthood class during my last year of seminary.  When the brave professor brought up this disturbing subject and asked the class what we thought, nobody responded.  I sat in my chair unflinching, trying to keep the inner shock from registering on my face and showing the class that I was gay.  Nobody breathed, moved, or spoke.  I wasn't the only one in shock, fearing for the future of my priesthood.

     That was the moment, I realized that no matter how hard I worked in the church, no matter how much I sacrificed, no matter how much the Holy Spirit worked through my gifts and wounds, I could be tossed out at any moment by the homophobic politics and posturing of the Vatican.  A month or so later, when the sex-abuse scandal broke in Boston, my vocational surety was in ruins.

    After a decade of scapegoating homosexual priest by the powers-that-be in the Catholic Church, I don't understand how closeted gay priests can continue to remain silent and obediently follow the lead of out-of-touch, hate-mongering, anti-scientific bigots.  It's tragic that these men, who were lured to the priesthood in hopes of doing good for the world, continue to be the beating horse and remain faithfully devoted to bishops and parishioners, most of whom would turn on them and cast them aside were they to come out of the closet.   I am thankful every day that I left the soul-draining and integrity-crushing priesthood and behind when I did.

Stonewall Uprising Trailer: American History LGBT

     There's a piece of American history that doesn't make the cut of those who preach the Gospel According to Hate in the name of their gods.  It is the history of homosexuals fighting for equality against two millennia of scripture-inspired homophobia and violence.  

     Thankfully, we have freedom of speech in the U.S.A., and documentary films, such as The Times of Harvey Milk and Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin, have been made that chronicle this overlooked and untaught part of American history.

     A new documentary has joined the canon of films preserving American LGBT history.

     Towleroad reports:
     Stonewall Uprising is a new documentary by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner that chronicles three days of riots in New York's Greenwich Village in June 1969 widely recognized as the birth of the modern gay rights movement. "This was the Rosa Parks moment," as one participant puts it. The film is narrated by Stonewall patrons and features what looks like some fascinating archival footage.
     For dates and showings of Stonewall Uprising, click here.

Stonewall Uprising trailer.

Trailer for Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin

Academy Award Winner for Best Feature Documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk. (This is the full version via Hulu.)

Sarah Palin Channel by SNL's Tina Fey: the Gotcha Media Strikes Back

     Over the weekend, Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live and continued her comedic dismantling of the hypocrisies of half-term Governor of Alaska, divine palm readermilitia enthusiast, 2009 Lie of the Year award winner, grandmother of a socialized-medicine-consuming toddler, homosexual tolerating self-promoter, and FOX News host Sarah Palin (Republican Tea Party Patriot).

Massachusetts Priest Calls on Pope Benedict to Resign

     There are plenty of us ex-priests calling on Pope Ratzinger to resign, because of his participation in the mishandling and cover-up of clergy-perpetuated sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  But to the church, we ex-priests don't matter, as we are not priests in good standing with the church (even though according to their theology we are priests forever).  I've even provided a few arguments for the pope to resign using Catholic teachings, but again, any logic I put forth is is discarded because I left.  Once priests leave, especially if they challenge the hierarchy and sacred silence of the church, they and all the knowledge and experience that they possess and have to offer are tossed aside.

     I've been hoping that someone within the church would make a stand, and call the pope on his hypocrisy.  That moment has arrived.  I hope that other Catholics, clergy and laity alike, will follow.
     WBUR reports:
     A Roman Catholic priest from western Massachusetts who’s been a longtime critic of the church’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis has called on Pope Benedict XVI to step down. The Rev. James Scahill of St. Michael’s in East Longmeadow in his sermon on Sunday also demanded greater protection of children and greater accountability from church hierarchy.
     Parish Council president Thomas LaMondia tells The Boston Globe the congregation was largely generally supportive of Scahill’s message.  A spokesman for the Diocese of Springfield called Scahill’s statement’s “unfortunate.”
     "Unfortunate" is church code for "He's a dead man."  If there's one thing bishops don't like, it's being humiliated by priests, who call them on their hypocrisy.  Look for swift action to be taken against Scahill.

     I wish Scahill all the best, and I hope his parishioners and council stand by him.  If the people in the pews and priests in the trenches all stop sending money to the bishops, maybe things stand a chance of really changing in the church.

     Scahill's been challenging local pedophile-protectors for years.  Boston Globe reports about the authentic and daring measures that Fr. Scahill has taken in challenging the bishops, who harbored pedophile priests.
      Eight years ago, after he became pastor of St. Michael’s in East Longmeadow, Scahill started withholding the 6 percent cut the Diocese of Springfield received from the weekly collection basket until the diocese stopped supporting a pedophile named Richard Lavigne who happened to be a priest.
     Scahill ministered to some of Lavigne’s victims and his argument was perfectly logical: He didn’t want any of his parish’s money subsidizing a priest who should have been dismissed.
     When Bishop Thomas Dupre continued to protect Lavigne, Scahill went after Dupre, logically concluding that Dupre was an enabler.  Turns out Dupre was also an abuser, and again it was Father Scahill who helped reveal this. Lavigne lost his pension and his collar, and Dupre resigned.
     If you listen to what Scahill has to say about the dilemma facing Pope Benedict XVI and the rest of the hierarchy, it’s perfectly logical. Scahill says the pope and the bishops are in trouble because they never properly accounted for their behavior as enablers of abuse.
     Keep up the courageous work, Fr. Scahill.  It's leaders like you that stand the best chance of giving the Catholic church any sort of credibility in the future.  Of course, that is if you don't get thrown out for voicing the truth which is in opposition to the powers of be. 

     Post-Postscript:  If you don't believe that priests get kicked out of the ministry for disagreeing with the bishops or the hierarchy, you haven't seen the list of priests and theologians that Ratzinger threw out or silenced during his term as Inquisitor in the CDF.  You also haven't been following my fellow blogger, Fr. Geoff Farrow.