Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baltimore. Show all posts

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bankrupt for Jesus

     Warning: do not drink (communion wine) and invest.

     I just heard an interview on The Freedom from Religion Foundation's Freethought Radio of author Hanna Rosin concerning her latest article in The Atlantic entitled "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?"

     The article and interview provide a fascinating investigation into the "prosperity gospel" churches, whose particular brand of Christianity promotes the belief that god will bless believers with material wealth.  I can not go into enough depth in this blog post to do Rosin's research justice, but here are some highlights from what hit me about what I see as hypocrisy: preaching Jesus' attributed words to amass one's own wealth.

     These prosperity gospel preachers take scripture literally (well certain passages, anyway), including these words:
     Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt 7:7-8 and Lk 11:9-10)
     Jesus said to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive" (Mt 21:21-22)
     In my opinion, the prosperity gospel's preachers seem to ignore passages such as the parable of the sower, the parable of the house built on sand, the parable of the rich man and the harvest, etc. that speak against the vein pursuit of amassing and storing wealth on earth, as opposed to heavenly wealth.  However, it seems to me that the prosperity gospel has equated earthly wealth with the indication that one will receive heavenly wealth/salvation, a very Calvinist notion.

     The prosperity gospel preaches a brand of faith marked by overzealous optimism that it encourages great financial risks with the promise that god will provide even greater wealth as a reward of one's faithful financial leaps.  Optimism and success are viewed as proof of faith, and pessimism and failure viewed as sin.  In other words, as quoted from a "believer" in the article: "'the rich are closer to God [sic].'"  (Reminds me of Unapologetic Me Prayer, Bargain Prayer, and I Got Mine Prayer.)

     Once banks got wind of the prosperity gospel's message, a symbiotic relationship developed between banks and prosperity gospel preachers, who like parasites began bleeding the faithful by making arrangements to mix church and banking.
     The idea of [banks] reaching out to churches took off quickly, Jacobson [star witness for Baltimore City’s recent suit against Wells Fargo] recalls. The branch managers figured pastors had a lot of influence with their parishioners and could give the loan officers credibility and new customers. Jacobson remembers a conference call where sales managers discussed the new strategy. The plan was to send officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, $350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans,” Jacobson told me. “They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’”
     Who doesn't want to live the American dream?  What pastor doesn't want to help their flock?  What pastor doesn't want to increase donations to the church and to charity?

     This kind of self-serving pastor talk led prosperity gospel pastors to sacrifice their financially strapped followers to the mortgage gods.   However, prosperity did not follow, as the housing bust, credit crisis, and subprime-mortgage blowup unfolded. 

     Even so, the prosperity gospel thrives:
     It is not all that surprising that the prosperity gospel persists despite its obvious failure to pay off. Much of popular religion these days is characterized by a vast gap between aspirations and reality. Few of Sarah Palin’s religious compatriots were shocked by her messy family life, because they’ve grown used to the paradoxes; some of the most socially conservative evangelical churches also have extremely high rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce. As Garay [Fernando Garay prosperity gospel preacher of Casa del Padre in Charlottesville, Virginia] likes to say, “What you have is nothing compared to what you will have.” The unpleasant reality—an inadequate paycheck, a pregnant daughter, a recession—is invisible. It’s your ability to see beyond such things, your willing blindness to even the most hopeless-seeming circumstances, that makes you a certain kind of modern Christian, and a 21st-century American.
     There is the kind of hope that President Obama talks about, and that Clinton did before him—steady, uplifting, assured. And there is Garay’s kind of hope, which perhaps for many people better reflects the reality of their lives. Garay’s is a faith that, for all its seeming confidence, hints at desperation, at circumstances gone so far wrong that they can only be made right by a sudden, unexpected jackpot.
     Once, I asked Garay how you would know for certain if God had told you to buy a house, and he answered like a roulette dealer. “Ten Christians will say that God told them to buy a house. In nine of the cases, it will go bad. The 10th one is the real Christian.” And the other nine? “For them, there’s always another house.”
      Rosin's conclusion on the Freethought Radio podcast was that the prosperity gospel didn't cause the crash, but that it helped accelerate it.  If this blog post has interested you in the hypocrisy that involves the prosperity gospel and loaning institutions please read Rosin's article, AND don't invest your real and hard-earned money because a preacher tells you it will get you into some imaginary heaven.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marriage: Bigotry and Fear in the Catholic Plan

     Big surprise, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops approved their document on marriage: "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan."

     As reported by the Baltimore Sun:
     "We have the need to defend marriage within our culture," said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, a member of the committee that wrote the document. "This pastoral letter will also serve as a foundational document as we seek a direction and a strategy to defend marriage over these coming years."
     In other words, Archbishop Kurtz is saying that the war has just begun and the church is going to keep funding initiatives to take away the civil rights of US citizens.  And why is the Catholic church still tax exempt?

     Archbishop of Baltimore, Edwin F. O'Brien stated:
     "The document is meant to strengthen Christian marriage, to prepare people who are going to be married before they enter that bond to appreciate what the commitment is, and also to open a discussion in our culture as to what the differences are today and to try to reach some common ground."
      [The document] "reflects pretty accurately what most of Western culture has believed for several millennia."
     Let me get this straight (pun intended).  If in one breath you claim the document is about strengthening Christian marriage and in the next you say that this Christian version of marriage accurately reflects what most of Western culture believes, then where does that leave the non-Christians of the world?  Does that mean they'll be going after Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and atheist marriages next?  But wait, they have, as that is exactly what CA Proposition 8 and Maine Question 1 did.  Once again, the bishops have no understanding of the separation of church and state in this country.

     The document also states that same sex marriages hurt society.

     But, discrimination and bigoted rhetoric against minorities is okey-dokey?

     This is all such beautiful rhetoric coming from a group of supposedly celibate men, who hold their ontological and celibate beings of greater spiritual value than that of the married laity.  I wonder if O'Brien would like the names of the all the priests in his archdiocese that I know have had gay sex.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Marriage Equality Will Destroy the Catholic Priesthood

     Here is the response that I posted to an online editorial in The Baltimore Sun concerning the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.'s threat to stop providing social services to the poor if marriage equality is granted to same sex couples in D.C.

A Reading from the First Letter of Heretic Tom to the Baltimorons:

     Catholic moral theology is full of glorified language concerning the preservation of "the dignity of the human person." There are many actions, procedures, and policies that the United States government enacts that violate the Catholic Church's "moral" compass: abortion, artificial contraception, teaching non-abstinence sexual education in the schools, the death penalty, stem cell research, the invasion of Iraq, etc.

     Why hasn't the Catholic Church withheld it ministries in protest of these actions, many of which result in the loss of the potential of life or the termination of an existing human life? Why make such a stand about same sex couples and their CIVIL marriage rights?

     Because they are afraid.

     If same sex couples can be civilly married and their unions recognized as valid, if gay closeted seminarians and priests suddenly see happy and healthy gay men living in committed marriages, then the church's supply of prospective priests will dwindle.

     When I was a seminarian studying at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, I was told by the closeted gay priests that were in charge of my "formation" that celibacy was my only option and that even if I left the seminary (and eventually the priesthood) that I would never find true and lasting intimacy because gay men are incapable of sustaining real intimacy in "committed" relationships.

     Fear. They formed me with lies and fear to keep me in the same closet that held them captive.

     If gay Catholics have civil marriage, they will have another option other than the Church's mandatory celibacy for homosexuals.

     If the Church of Washington is serious about not renting Church spaces to homosexual groups, then they best start by refusing to rent spaces to their own seminary faculty, seminarians, religious, and parish priests.

     For you gay men, still petrified in fear and living in the clerical closet, there is life outside. You can find true and lasting intimacy with a man outside the walls of Theological College and the Pink Palace.

     The word of the Blog.

     R.  Thanks be to Fear.

Image Credits 
Pope Ben Flowing: Enlightened Catholicism
Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore: Eight-Stone Press
Priest Sexual Abuse Logo:

      Postscript: The men interviewed in the article link about Theological College were from my archdiocese in Iowa and Mr. David Kucharski was my classmate.  The ordination he mentions at the end of the article was my ordination.  I wonder where he is today.