Southern Religion

Archbishop of Irish nationality being investigated by the Vatican for alleged abuse of 14-year-old girl [Update]

This may not be another case of institutional concealment. But how did the affair begin in a hospital and continue for two decades without institutional collusion?

The Irish Independent reports:

It was learned yesterday that Richard Burke, 60-year-old Archbishop of Benin, a city in southern Nigeria, stepped aside earlier this year pending the outcome of an ecclesiastical trial by the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog body, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Kiltegan missionary archbishop from Fethard, Co Tipperary, who is believed to be in the United States, has not commented on the allegation.
He is accused by Dolores Atwood, a 40-year-old married woman now living in Canada, of sexually abusing her when she was a minor, aged 14, and ill in a Nigerian hospital that he visited as a priest.

She also alleges that she suffered “emotional torture” during a 20-year secret affair that he conducted with her contrary to his vow of celibacy.

Read the entire story here.


Irish Central reports that Burke has multiple sexually exploitative relationships, among them one with Ms. Atwood’s younger sister. Ms. Atwood is reported to have said:

In 2005 I found out that Bishop Burke had had a sexual relationship with my youngest sister.

The “friendship” between Bishop Burke and myself began to deteriorate as, once again, I started to become aware of other young girls that he was molesting.

In fact, I suspect that Richard Burke has molested or sexually abused hundreds of young Nigerian girls during his time as a priest and Bishop in Nigeria.


October 26, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Crime | | Comments Off on Archbishop of Irish nationality being investigated by the Vatican for alleged abuse of 14-year-old girl [Update]

Child prostitution bust today in the U.S.: Nearly 900 children saved thus far


CNN reported:

Law enforcement authorities have recovered 52 children and arrested 60 pimps allegedly involved in child prostitution, the FBI announced Monday.

More than 690 people in all were arrested on state and local charges, the FBI stated.

. . .
The three-day operation, tagged Operation Cross Country IV, included enforcement actions in 36 cities across 30 FBI divisions nationwide. It is part of the FBI’s ongoing Innocence Lost National Initiative, which was created in 2003 with the goal of ending sex trafficking of children in the United States.

The Guardian reports that most of the children rescued from prostitution were teenage girls, but one was “just 10 years old.”

The FBI reports:

To date, the 34 Innocence Lost Task Forces and Working Groups have recovered nearly 900 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 510 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-years-to-life sentences and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets.

“It is repugnant that children in these times could be subjected to the great pain, suffering, and indignity of being forced into sexual slavery for someone else’s profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, “but Cross Country IV has shown us that the scourge of child prostitution still exists on the streets of our cities. The FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and all the state and local law enforcement agencies that contributed to this operation are to be commended for their dedication to this cause. We will all continue to work tirelessly to end the victimization of innocent children.”

According to Shared Hope International’s report on “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, America’s Prostituted Children [.DOC]:”

A domestic minor sex trafficking victim who is rented for sex acts with five different men per night, for five nights per week, for an average of five years, would be raped by 6,000 buyers during the course of her victimization through prostitution.

Celia Williamson, a professor of social work and a prostitution researcher at the University of Toledo [Ohio], says that in Toledo, she says, 48% of adult street prostitutes started when they were younger than 18.

Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work’s Center for the Study of Youth Policy estimated in their massive 2001 study, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children In the U. S., Canada and Mexico [.pdf], that:

  • 12 to 14 is the average age of entry into prostitution for girls under 17 years old in the United States.
  • 162,000 U.S. homeless youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation (CVE) in the United States.
  • 57,800 children in homes (including public housing) are estimated to be victims of CVE in the United States.
  • 30% of shelter youth are victims of CVE in the United States.
  • 70% of homeless youth are victims of CVE in the United States.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Crime | , | Comments Off on Child prostitution bust today in the U.S.: Nearly 900 children saved thus far

Douthat conjures the Benedict XVI crusades

Poor Ross Douthat of the New York Times divined Pope Benedict XVI’s opening to the Anglicans as a recruitment drive for a Christian/Islam conflict. Whereupon he was blasted by Glenn Greenwald and ridiculed by Mark Silk.

That may disappoint the Islamophobes, who could for a moment have thought they had an intellectual leader at the Old Gray Lady.


October 26, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Satire | Comments Off on Douthat conjures the Benedict XVI crusades

Gay marriage/divorce balance shifting legally, at church & in public opinion [Update]


Texans overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2005 bolstering the state’s ban on same sex marriage and on Oct. 1 Dallas district Judge Tena Callahan ruled the ban unconstitutional.

Her ruling may be overturned, but remember that until 2003, Texas law forbade sex between consenting adults of the same gender. That law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence et al. v. Texas at a time when only a minority of the U.S. public supported such laws.

Same-sex marriage apparently does not yet have majority support in the U.S., but the ground is shifting.

That is in part because some of the arguments against it are strained. But it is also a generational shift. A majority of younger voters support it and their attitudes appear to be fixed.

The theological right rages, but in part because the young are the future, church policies have been evolving toward acceptance. Church by church and denomination by denomination by denomination … .


Analyst Nate Silver wrote recently:

Public opinion is moving toward acceptance of gay marriage. But it is doing so very slowly, at a rate of perhaps a point or two per year, and has at least a few years to go before it is the majority opinion. In the near term, the more relevant dimension may be ‘passion’, or depth of feeling. It used to be that the conservatives were ahead on passion — they were strongly opposed to gay marriage, whereas liberals were, at best, lukewarmly in favor of it. Increasingly, that dynamic seems to be reversing.

Saturday he concluded:

… it would seem that the grassroots energy on this issue has reversed, with the pro-gay marriage side feeling more emboldened than the traditional marriage groups. This is true both outside the state of Maine and within it.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Law, Religion, SBC | Comments Off on Gay marriage/divorce balance shifting legally, at church & in public opinion [Update]

Quietly among the ‘Nones:’ Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski clearly didn’t just stumble into what Mark Silk termed “None Zone” during a recent NPR interview with Melissa Block.

Kulongoski was born in rural Missouri in 1940 and reared from age four (when his father died) in a St. Louis Catholic boys’ home, Kulongoski acknowledged last year that he hadn’t attended his apparent home church, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Salem, since 2006. That was part of the uproar when Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland denounced Kulongoski for being among the honorary hosts at a National Abortion Rights Action Leagued fund raiser.

Kulongoski’s supporters probably didn’t pause last week when he told Block during the interview [transcript]:

Sometimes, you have to get out like this to really understand why you do what you do,” he says. “This is what Oregon’s all about. This is who we are as people — on the natural resource side of our lives. … I must admit, I may not be as religious but I’m very spiritual — and I believe if there is a God, this is where he lives. He’s on the river, he’s in the mountains — this is what it’s all about.”

In a different state this would likely be of more political import, but as Silk observers:

. . . not (as he implies) in Oregon. Its rate of religious identification is among the lowest in the country; and environmentalism is its civil religion. Kulongoski’s statement is more or less equivalent to the governor of Alabama talking about what a devoted Baptist he is.

Annual % change in SBC membership

Annual % change in SBC membership

Nor should it be startling at this juncture that a governor reared by Catholic nuns is a member of what demographic history suggests will become the largest U.S. religious denomination.

How Southern Baptists and others of evangelical bent will respond is an important issue hereabouts. For decades Southern Baptists have explored exclusionst rhetoric as a solution. Not effective, thus far. Membership numbers are in unarrested decline. And the increasing shrillness of rhetoric from Southern Baptist political spokesmen like Richard Land is whipsawing whatever civility was left in public discourse.

Whatever the political weather is like among the Oregon fly fishermen, the forecast down South is more thunderstorms.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, Religion | , | 1 Comment

Paul Haggis exits Scientology

Scientology isn’t our idea of a religion, but to ‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis, it was. He resigned in a blistering four-part letter [1, 2, 3, 4] at the blog of Marty Rathbun, a former high-level Scientology official who left the church and is a critic of it.

New York Magazine’s Adam K. Raymond writes:

It all started when a San Diego church publicly supported Prop 8. Haggis asked [Scientology national spokesman Tommy] Davis to denounce its actions but Davis never went through with it. Then the already-pissed Haggis read an interview in which Davis denied Scientology’s practice of “disconnection” (forcing members to cut off communication with loved ones who oppose Scientology). But Haggis knew disconnection first-hand. His wife was forced to cut ties with her parents. The last straw came when Haggis read about the smear tactics Scientology used against its former members. That’s when he knew it was time to go.

Though it has lost the author of Million Dollar Baby and Flags of Our Fathers, it is still the church of Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Jenna Elfman.

For now. Even a cult has to adapt to shifting views of gay rights and repair key internal contradictions, or pay in lost members.


Church of Scientology convicted of fraud in France/fined.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion | | 1 Comment

Texas Impact health-justice sermon award winner

The faith group Texas Impact gave United Methodist minister Kathryn Ransdell its health justice sermon award.

Preaching at First United Methodist Church of Dallas she said in part:

If we Christians are going to pray for people to have peace and healing while they are sick, we need to work so that all people have access to healthcare that is affordable so that they can have financial peace while they are physically healing.

We recommend her sermon to you:

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Health, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Texas Impact health-justice sermon award winner

Developing nation Anglicans to the pope: No thank you

Led by crusading Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria the bishops of the Global South Anglicans, “representing twenty of the thirty-eight Provinces of the Anglican Communion” and nearly half the world’s Anglicans, urged fellow believers on Sunday to reform the Anglican Communion rather than accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to join the Roman Catholic Church.

In a statement on their Web site, they said:

. . . we believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant sets the necessary parameters in safeguarding the catholic and apostolic faith and order of the Communion. It gives Anglican churches worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine purposes together in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ. We urge churches in the Communion to actively work together towards a speedy adoption of the Covenant.

Stories: Reuters; Associated Press.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Developing nation Anglicans to the pope: No thank you

Rumor of a ‘burnt Koran’ ignites Afghan protests

Afghans in Kabul carry effigy of President Obama in protests over allegations of desecration Of Koran by foreign troops (Photo by Majid/Getty Images) © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Despite investigation and denial by U.S.-led NATO forces of the mishandling of the Koran alleged to have occurred in Wardak province, hundreds of Kabul University students protested Sunday, burning an effigy of President Obama.

BBC’s Andrew North reminds us:

Four years ago, almost 20 people were killed after riots erupted in several Afghan cities following a US news magazine report that the Koran had been desecrated by American interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The magazine later withdrew its report, but by then the damage had been done.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Rumor of a ‘burnt Koran’ ignites Afghan protests

The common good and health-insurance reform

Republicans, appealing to radical individualism at the expense of the the common good, asked in the weekend radio address on health reform, “Will this improve your life?”

Yet Western religious traditions have strong traditions of pursuing the common good – a moral dimension that is all but lost in the debate. Distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University David Gushee wrote for Associated Baptist Press:

The national debate over health-care reform has lost, or never developed, a truly moral focus. It has not been treated as the great moral crusade that it is. To find a way to extend quality health care to 50 million Americans who do not currently have it would be an extraordinary moral victory for this country. But except around the fearful edges of the debate — “pulling the plug on grandma,” “death panels,” abortion — the moral case has been muted, shouted down, abandoned or never made.

Paul Moses at DotCommonWeal reminds us that “for Catholics, this [the Republican] question on health care ought to be the wrong one, given our faith’s emphasis on the common good.” He refers us to Daniel Callahan, who wrote in the Oct. 9 issue of Commonweal:

Except for Catholics and a few others, however, the common good as a moral value has little purchase in American culture and politics. The closest some come is to speak of the “public interest,” but that notion seems more political than moral, useful perhaps but not quite the same. European health-care systems are based on the idea of solidarity, which is closely related to the common good, but the term “solidarity” has even less resonance here than the term “common good” does. For Europeans, it is a matter of solidarity that everyone have access to health care because it is a necessity for human welfare; and government, they believe, is the appropriate institution to guarantee this access. For Europeans, the 46 million uninsured Americans, together with the excessively high cost of care for those Americans who have insurance, is a source of astonishment. How can an affluent, civilized country tolerate treating millions of its citizens this way? Since every other developed nation provides universal care, it is worth exploring why we are different and whether anything can be done about it.

Moses persuasively argues that “the question ‘Will this improve your life?’ takes clever advantage of Americans’ lack of concern for the common good.” And we would add that faith leaders in general should not be shy of reframing the question.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Cultural, Religion | Comments Off on The common good and health-insurance reform