Southern Religion

Italian exorcist: NYT is Satan’s tool

Father Gabriele Amorth, who you may recall is calculated to vanquish demons at a workday rate of one every 2.42 hours, warns us that recent press unflattering to Pope Benedict XVI was “prompted by the devil.” Especially the work of the New York Times.

The 85-year-old exorcist explained to News Mediaset in Italy:

There is no doubt about it. Because he is a marvelous Pope and worthy successor to John Paul II, it is clear that the devil wants to ‘grab hold’ of him.

How do we explain this to the bishop-besieged NYT?

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI | | Comments Off on Italian exorcist: NYT is Satan’s tool

When are militia Christianist (not Christian)?

Andrew Sullivan is a gay Catholic who gently suggests:

Surely we can all assent to the notion that a Christian militia of the type now accused of planning domestic terrorism is not Christian. This is why I call them Christianist. Anyone planning to murder innocents by way of IEDs cannot plausibly call himself or herself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

To which Skeptic PZ Myers replied at some easy-to-read length, asserting that there are Christians (the real thing). And Christianists, a term William Safire traced back to Andrew Sullivan, who on June 1, 2003, wrote:

I have a new term for those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression: Christianists. They are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam.”


No friend of matters mystical, Myers of course fences almost everyone we know up with Christianists, but that’s a part of what he does. Whereas most of us may seriously entertain the possibility that the Hutaree are Christianists. And we are not.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Cults, Politics, Religion | , | 3 Comments

Archbishop Williams afflicts the comfortable

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who can be slow to act and whom we have criticized for lack of force, rebuked Church of England clergy for complaining of persecution in England while Christians elsewhere face “terrible communal violence” and are “living daily with threats and murders.”

He was referring in his ecumenical Easter letter to a group of Church of England Bishops who in a letter last week to the Sunday Telegraph asserted widespread British persecution, including “numerous dismissals of practising Christians from employment for reasons that are unacceptable in a civilised country.”

Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia wrote in response to the letter to the Sunday Telegraph:

To my knowledge, even the most extreme pressure groups like Christian Concern for our Nation and the Christian Legal Centre who are stoking and reinforcing the Christian persecution complex, haven’t made the claim that there have been “numerous dismissals”. So far they have pointed to only a handful of examples where there is some alleged injustice. Rarely have this small number involved dismissal. And even where (if?) they have, upon further investigation, the claims have tended to fall apart. Indeed, in one case, it even seemed to be the intervention of Christian campaigners which brought the dismissal about, after confidential client details were given to a national newspaper. In another, CLC claimed dismissal and then reinstatement, when dismissal never actually seems to have occurred.

Williams suggested in his letter today that attention be focused instead where the need is compelling and the risk of meeting it considerable:

When St John tells us that the disciples met behind locked doors on the first Easter Day (John 20.19), he reminds us that being associated with Jesus Christ has never been easy or safe. Today this is evident in a wide variety of situations – whether in the terrible communal violence afflicting parts of Nigeria, in the butchery and intimidation of Christians in Mosul in recent weeks, in the attacks on the Coptic faithful in Egypt, or in the continuing harassment of Anglican congregations in Zimbabwe. As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, we acknowledge that Christians will never be safe in a world of injustice and mindless fear, because Christians will always stand, as did Archbishop Romero, for the hope of a different world, in which the powerful have to let go of privilege and rediscover themselves as servants, and the poor are lifted up into joy and liberty.

By comparison, the secure incantations to civil fear of the five prominent bishops and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, pale.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Anglican | | Comments Off on Archbishop Williams afflicts the comfortable

David Gushee sets the record straight: Update (I & II)

Christa Brown challenged Baptist ethicist David Gushee’s echo of self-exculpatory Baptist propaganda in an otherwise now, as revised, excellent commentary on churches and sexual abuse. To his credit, Gushee responded:

Christa, I thank you for this challenge, and grieve along with you that the evidence leads where it does. I should not have written that last paragraph as it now stands.

The keystone statement in Christa’s blog, to which Gushee’s comment is attached:

There is simply no comparative data to support David Gushee’s suggestion that, for Protestants, the problem has more to do with married ministers who “have affairs,” while for Catholics, the problem has more to do with priests who abuse kids. To the contrary, the data that exists — two decades’ worth of insurance data gathered by the Associated Press in 2007 — suggests exactly the opposite. It suggests that Baptists likely have every bit as big a problem as Catholics with clergy who sexually abuse kids.

Update I

Gushee adds in a second comment:

Today a revised version of my article will appear on ABP that reflects the lessons learned through this exchange. Thank you.

Update II

Gushee revised his column. His introduction says:

(Editor’s note: The original version of this column, published March 29, contained an assertion — regarding differences in clergy-sex-abuse scandals between the Roman Catholic context and the Protestant context — that many readers found unsupportable. The author agreed to change the column. The version published below contains a slight alteration to the second sentence of the second paragraph, elimination of what had been the eighth paragraph, and a replacement of the final paragraph.)

His revised conclusion [bold face is ours]:

An angry population of abused Christians and those who love them and advocate for them is demanding that churches of all types stop the child sexual abuse in their midst. While many other structures of modern life have heightened the protections offered to children, the churches have lagged behind — with disastrous consequences. The Baptist situation may be no better than the Catholic, only shielded more deeply from view. This situation demands reform, immediately, for the sake of the vulnerable and abused children among us — not to mention for the sake of the gospel witness, so desecrated by the abuse behind our stained-glass windows.

Please read the entire piece here.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | children, Churches | , , | Comments Off on David Gushee sets the record straight: Update (I & II)

Former Vatican Canon lawyer: ‘…it’s all about power’

Father Tom Doyle, now 65, was a canon lawyer for the Vatican embassy in Washington when he was assigned to investigate a Lafayette, Louisiana, case of a pedophile priest who admitted molesting more than 30 children. Ruben Rosario of Pioneer Press discussed in an interview with Doyle how the priest’s local archdiocese officials decided to hide the crimes and transfer the child predator from one parish to another, where he abused again.

Doyle, a fellow priest and a criminal defense attorney reacted in 1985 by assembling, on their own initiative, “a 100-page report warning church officials to come clean about the abuses and respond to the needs of victims rather than protect abusive priests from secular prosecution or protect — at all costs — the church’s status and image. The report, sent to virtually every U.S. bishop, was largely ignored.”

His initiative and prescient warning were followed by victim advocacy — a path which led to demotion, the status of a pariah and ultimately cost him his job.

He told Rosario that the church can regain its reputation and restore lost confidence in it:

Doyle: To begin the process of restoration, I believe that the current pope needs to stand up and make a public apology. Not that those mistakes were made in the past — they always do in the past tense and there’s a subtle message there that this is in the past and not now. The pope should say: “I’m sorry for what I did in my negligence to allow this to happen. I’m sorry that I did not fire bishops when I knew they were covering up.”

But I don’t believe that will ever happen in my lifetime.

Rosario: Why?

Doyle: Because to protect their own self-identity, they will cling to the premise that they are appointed by the Almighty and are the vicars of Christ and the essence of the church. They believe this will dissolve their power. It’s all about control, and it’s all about power.

Read the entire interview here.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Catholic | , | Comments Off on Former Vatican Canon lawyer: ‘…it’s all about power’

Resurgent acceptance of homosexuality

Homosexuals were not vilified before the 1870s because they had not been identified as “other,” Cody Sanders writes for the Associated Baptist Press. Specifically, he argues:

French historian Michel Foucault reveals that the advent of conceptualizing the “homosexual” as a particular type of person with a specific “lifestyle” didn’t occur until the 1870s in medical discourse (History of Sexuality, Vol. 1). What’s more, one of the earliest known uses of the word “homosexual” in American English showed up in a medical paper in 1892 (the term “heterosexual” made its debut around this same time). Certainly, same-sex sexual acts have been commonplace from time immemorial — but before the end of the 19th century, anyone could conceivably engage in same-sex sexual acts. It was only with the advent of “homosexuality” as a medical descriptor, that a specific type or kind of person was thought to engage in these sexual acts. What is significant about Everett’s anachronism is that, while in 1850 Texas Baptists may not have tolerated men having sex with men, they certainly didn’t deem “the homosexual lifestyle” abnormal or sinful. In 1850, same-sex sex acts may have been deemed “sinful” — but no church held what [Executive Director Randel Everett of the Baptist General Convention of Texas] views as an unwavering “theological position” on homosexuality.

Everett was referring to the case of Royal Lane Baptist Church, which precipitated a standard Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) homosexuality crisis when its diaconate voted to say on its Web site:

Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds.

Will Wilkinson finds in his analysis of World Values Survey data that attitudes in the industrialized world are going Royal Lane’s way as people come to accept homosexuality as something people are, rather than a sinful decision they make.

Where Wilkinson’s data shows the U.S. shifting back toward treating homosexuality as wrong, the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll comes to an opposite conclusion.

Despite the Catholic/Mormon investment in Proposition 8, a majority of Californians now favor same-sex marriage:

Among all Californians, residents are more likely to favor (50%) than oppose (45%) same-sex marriage for the first time in the PPIC Statewide Surveys. Support among all adults has never surpassed 45 percent since the question was first asked in January 2000. There are clear partisan divisions: majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (55%) are in favor, and most Republicans (67%) are opposed.

There is much more consensus on the issue of gays and lesbians in the military. In the wake of Obama’s announcement that he would like to repeal the federal “don’t ask, don’t’ tell” policy passed in 1993, 75 percent of Californians say that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

Does the data imply a sort of Great Commission Resurgence for churches driven out of the SBC?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | 1 Comment

New top leadership required for the Legionaries of Christ

Legionaries of Christ

Removal of top Legionaries of Christ leadership is necessary and likely to attend actions following the apostolic visitation, Sandro Magister wrote in L’Espresso yesterday. It seems likely that “Vatican authorities will put the Legion under the command of an external commissioner endowed with full powers” over the organization, and findings suggest that the leadership must be replaced if renewal is to occur. For example:

According to some of the testimonies given to the apostolic visitors in recent months, some in this group knew about the founder’s double life, about the carnal acts he performed with many of his seminarians over the span of decades, about his lovers, his children, his drug use. But in spite of that, a fortress was built around Maciel in defense of his virtues, devotion to him was fostered among his followers, all of them unaware of the truth, his talents were emphasized, even among the upper hierarchy of the Church. This exaltation of the figure of the founder was so effective that even today it inspires the sense of belonging to the Legion among many of its priests and religious.

The cohesion of the leadership group, originating from its decades-long connection with Maciel, endures today in the bond that binds and subordinates everyone to Corcuera, and even more to [Luís Garza Medina, vicar general and director of the organization’s Italian province].

As a result, there are questions regarding whether to treat as “trustworthy” the “distancing of the Legion’s leaders from their founder, and in particular from the “sudden revelation” – or so they say – of his misdeeds?”

That “distancing” occurred by way of a statement on the Legion’s Web site in which they took the extraordinary step of disowning their founder.

At the same time, the embedded leadership is taking steps to ensure its survival of the Pope’s installment of an external commissioner.

Magister explains:

Freed from the annoyance of the visitors, and not yet subjected to the command of the commissioner, during this interim period which they are hoping will last for “several months” they are doing everything they can to consolidate their power and win the support of the majority of the 800 priests of the Legion, and of the other religious and lay members.

Maneuvering, reform and restoration? We will see.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Cults | , , | 1 Comment

Replace Pope Benedict XVI with whom?

It falls to Tom Flynn (the executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, for crying out loud) to raise the obvious question:

Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has emerged as a worldwide (or at least, First World-wide) phenomenon. It’s no longer an American issue, nor an Irish issue. The fact that scandal has erupted in Europe and that the former Cardinal Ratzinger may have been involved in under-responding to it simply means that the problem is global, and within the church all lines of responsibility lead ultimately to the papal throne. Should Pope Benedict XVI be held responsible? Yes. Should he be investigated? Yes? Should he resign? Hold on, let’s wait fo the investigation! But there’s a bigger question here. If investigation reveals that Cardinal Ratzinger participated in covering up abuse in Europe, and if the pope resigns — who could replace him? Across the world, a minority among Catholic priests apparently engages in sex abuse. Church hierarchs have pretty consistently responded by keeping it quiet, reassigning problem priests, sending them off for therapy but then sending them back to parishes. So if Pope Benedict needs to be replaced, where will Rome find a cardinal whom everyone can be certain has never played a role in mishandling an allegation of abuse?

Of course the other On Faith responders have differing views.

But where, indeed?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Pope Benedict XVI | , , | Comments Off on Replace Pope Benedict XVI with whom?

Baptist self-delusion about pastor/priest sexual predation

Ethicist David Gushee in an otherwise admirable column gets it exactly wrong when he writes:

Where Catholic and Protestant sexual misconduct tends to differ relates to the Catholic requirement that the priesthood be held only by men vowed to celibacy. Certainly there are Protestant ministers who abuse children. But more often Protestant ministers fall prey to heterosexual misconduct, as when married male ministers have affairs with women in their congregations. This violates chastity (not celibacy), and is still a form of clergy sexual abuse because it involves the abuse of clergy power.

Christa Brown at StopBaptistPredators politely corrects him, writing in part:

We’ve seen a whole slew of Baptist clergy abuse cases that involved married ministers. If priestly celibacy were the catalyst for child predation, then how should we explain the fact that so many molestation cases involve married men?

Basically, it’s impossible to explain because the assumption that underlies it is wrong. As Penn State religious studies professor Philip Jenkins said: “No evidence indicates that Catholic or celibate clergy are more (or less) involved than their non-celibate counterparts. Some of the worst cases of persistent serial abuse by clergy have involved Baptist or Pentecostal ministers, rather than Catholic priests.” (Jenkins, 2003)

There is simply no comparative data to support David Gushee’s suggestion that, for Protestants, the problem has more to do with married ministers who “have affairs,” while for Catholics, the problem has more to do with priests who abuse kids. To the contrary, the data that exists — two decades’ worth of insurance data gathered by the Associated Press in 2007 — suggests exactly the opposite. It suggests that Baptists likely have every bit as big a problem as Catholics with clergy who sexually abuse kids.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | Comments Off on Baptist self-delusion about pastor/priest sexual predation

Missouri joins opponents to the Southern Baptist Convention GCR proposals

Posted by SteveDeVane at 7:31 AM

Another Southern Baptist state convention executive opposes the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s progress report recommendations.

David Tolliver, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, told staff members that the organization would be “devastated” if the report’s proposals were adopted.

The task force released the progress report in February, but continues to work. It plans to release its final report in May, with a vote expected at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June.

The Georgia Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee asked the task force to reconsider one part of the report. Others, including the editor of a state Baptist paper, have also questioned the proposal.

Some think adoption of report recommendations would kill smaller state conventions. Numerous issues have been raised about various parts of the report. Some see the task force’s approach as a recipe for disaster.

Tolliver said the Missouri convention would lose $720,000 plus other cuts and called for a cost analysis of the GCR proposals. He said he agreed with three of the six components of the task force report but opposed the others.

Opposition is clearly growing as state convention by state convention implications are calculated.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | 1 Comment