This is an update on the comments that I made then. I had/have no problem with "religion is child abuse" but took exception to his dismissal of the impact of sexual abuse on the child. Here are some further thoughts:
It is true that the mild form of sexual abuse that Dawkins describes is probably less damaging than believing, truly believing in hell. However, he had the advantage of being able to talk with his fellow classmates about it - solidarity is a great healer/dismisser. However, has he ever considered what might have happened had he reported this man to the superiors at the school? (Just asking)
I remember how we used to all talk about staying away from "legs" Hooper, the physics teacher & the French teacher in high school. These incidents are not the stuff of long term psychological destruction (unless one got caught in the web). I just still have this sneaking suspicion that it had more of an impact on his psyche than Dawkins is willing to admit - he does remember it and the feelings that the incident engendered - they apparently have not disappeared. I am pleased to hear him say finally that this too was part of his life-experience. I always use that "hermeneutics of suspicion" approach when people are as angry as he is about religion - that anger does not come from a vacuum or other people's experiences - the personal is still political. It is what we do with that anger that will change the world over the long run.
However, this doesn't give Dawkins the right to dismiss the destructive power of the kind of sexual abuse many of us endured within the Christian system. It feels like I have spent a lifetime talking and writing about the damaging doctrines of Christianity - the subtle and not-so-subtle ones. My contention is that the doctrines make it even more difficult to cope with any kind sexual abuse. A number of commentators on this blog have pointed this out.
The combination (Christian teachings and sexual abuse) is lethal for many, and a lifetime psychological drain for most of us. And I agree with Dawkins that we would be better off without these horrible religious systems.
This is the last paragraph from my 1993 dissertation. Twenty years later (I finished it in August 1992 - defended in '93) and nothing much has changed - I could update the footnotes and the examples in the dissertation but why bother? I am still addressing the same issues but there are new players on the block and the arguments for "Christian virtues" are more nuanced than they were. Oh well, so goes academia!
Just one more horrible, horrible story. I grieve for all those families. The most terrifying thing that I can think of - to lose a child is bad enough - to lose a child this way is always irreconciliable.
Barbara Hughes, "Where was God?" Sewanee Theological Review 48:1(2004), 87-108.
This is quite a good article if you want to understand the theological journey of one victim and the structure of her healing within the Christian system. I think that it will be an eye-opener to many people and it is a truly necessary addition to these two volumes on children and Christianity.
The dilemmas that I noted in my article, "Birth of an Anthropologian" are easily identifiable in my own reading of this article. It strongly points out how all of our experiences and ways of learning to survive are so diverse. I had once more my own dilemma in how to construct a blog on this article. I chose not to make a critical analysis of the article for a number of reasons.
However, just about everything that I argued in my dissertation is evident in this article, and I have major issues with most of the theological constructions that are evident in the construction of Ms. Hughes spiritual journey. Her journey was not my journey, nor is it the journey of many, many survivors. She is well aware of this and tries to allow for that fact at the end of the article.
In the end, we can only understand that, in order to survive, one believes what one has to and one finds the community.
This may be hard to find. I couldn't find it on any of the university's databases and had to order it. It was a special two part series in the journal called Children and the Kingdom (Vol 1: Theological Reflections on Childhood and Vol. 2: Education and Formation). Two volumes for $14 USD - well worth the price. While I may have issues with the theology at times, these volumes are a fascinating look at children in Christianity. It also contains some beautiful art work (in colour) by children. It is published by the School of Theology at the The University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee. Anglican/Episcopalian in affiliation.
I just uploaded another paper to my academic room site. It doesn't have a lot of footnotes but is my reflections on my years as a counsellor and the issues that I have encountered while walking with my clients. It mostly raises issues and questions about the difficulties of working within the Christian belief system while believing that most of its core beliefs are destructive to recovery from child sexual abuse. It was a reflection of my understanding of my accountability to my clients and to myself. It is interesting to go back and see what I said eight years ago. There is nothing to change. Read it if you wish.
I have been meaning to write a comment in response
to the blog Atonement, Cycles of Abuse, and
Virtue/Atonement ever since I read it in the spring. It
is gratifying to see how seriously students took the conundrums posed by mine
and Brown & Parker’s articles in Patriarchy,
Christianity and Abuse: A Feminist Critique.
What struck me the most was the reference to M.
Shawn Copeland’s concept of “vessels of terror”. This is a powerful way of explaining
the problem that people like myself have with Christian theology to those whose
faith has never been destroyed by the very core values of their belief system.
A good example to explain how something seemingly
innocuous can become a “vessel of terror”: I was explaining this concept to a friend of mine
and he asked me whether the following story would be a good explanation of what I was
talking about. A particular painting by Otto Donald Rogers
of a prairie field with a leather belt on the ground was part of an
installation in an Ottawa office building. A woman who would have had to face
the painting every day from her cubicle said that she couldn't live with it. It
reminded her of the beatings that she had had as a child. The installers took
the piece out of the installation. This painting of Otto Rogers was a “vessel
of terror” for this woman.
I tend to try and stay away from using the formal structures
of theology, however, it appears that what I tend to do is called “a Hermeneutics of Critical Evaluation”: a bottom-up
or ethnographic form of analysis (I discovered that this is the formal way to
describe what I do in Schüssler Fiorenza, Wisdom
Ways, 77). And this form of hermeneutics or biblical/theological
interpretation if heard by “traditional (read malestream) hermeneutics” can
only lead to serious questions about the received wisdom of the last two
thousand years of Christianity.
There is an attachment to these beliefs (or virtues) that are at the core
of Christianity. For so many people, they work to explain the world. However, just because people use the identified virtues of the system to find some way to ameliorate their position, that doesn't undo the damage that they have already caused. In fact, they serve to maintain the status quo. There are
examples in the discussion on the atonement blog of women who use these beliefs to “get them through the
night”. While it is understandable, I would argue that all this does is keep them in a place where they can be damaged again and again by these “vessels
of terror”. Suffering, for example, can be accepted because this is part of the
travails of this world, and you will be rewarded in the next life if you just "keep your chin up" ("God doesn't give you a mountain that you can't climb" - ask Merle Haggard about that one). It keeps the abused in their place and reproduces the
structures that will allow the next generation to be abused once more. In the
long term, it changes nothing, which is why I couldn't stay within the confines
of the Christian belief system. In the final analysis, the structures/virtues are so
embedded in the core belief system that there is no way to make any kind of compromise with it. And Lord
knows I tried!
I do understand why people try so hard to find some
way to make the belief system work. If they can’t make it work at some level,
then where do they go? Is there any way around them? What do you replace them with? How much time will
people actually spend trying to mitigate the impact of these "vessels of
I can only say, “Go watch Deliver Us From Evil, then tell me that these “vessels of terror”
are worth keeping.” If you have already watched it, then go watch it again.
ADDENDUM: I looked to see if I could find the Otto Rogers' painting that I talked about. I didn't. However, I really like this one. It is called Marching Trees and is apparently currently on sale at the Paul Kuhn Gallery, although I couldn't find it on the gallery's website.
So I decided that I might as well put up the other paper that I delivered this year. This is the document that will be published in the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Church History 2012. It is unedited so any problems with editing issues are solely my responsibility and will be fixed for the final version. However, I just thought that it might as well be out there. My 1993 paper has already had 234 views since I uploaded it in May. It will be interesting to see if this one is viewed as well.
I just uploaded the speaking document for the paper that I delivered in Amsterdam this summer at the SBL International Meeting in Amsterdam. It is a position paper.I cleaned it up, added a few footnotes.
I had tasked myself the job for the weekend and it's done!! Now to relax with a glass of red wine and an episode of Beauty and the Beast (actually it's not a bad remake!)
Author: Susanne Scholz Title: Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible Publisher: Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 2010 Details: 279 pages; solid notes for the most part; no bibliography but index of authors, index of bible and other ancient texts and index of subjects. Nonetheless, a bibliography of cited sources would have been helpful.
I am going to do a number of blogs on this book over the next few weeks. It is an important book and in many ways, I can appreciate what she was trying to do. However, it epitomizes many of the issues that I have dealt with in one way or another in this blog. For example, the Bible is normative and "sacred", thus limiting the available options in her analysis - but more of that later. Already it is clear that there are serious methodological issues coming out of the introduction.
I often start academic books on contentious issues by reading the conclusion, and various parts of different chapters. Of all things, my first gut reaction was: "well, this woman was never raped." I wasn't exactly sure why that was my first thought but a few weeks later when I started the book from the beginning, it turns out that I was right. When I finish the book for the second time, I will reflect on this once more and come up an answer.
"The personal is still political". As a survivor, I come to this issue from a wholly different place than those who only know about it secondhand. It is going to be an interesting exercise.
"The book barely scratches the surface of the problem. Could we call it a whitewash? I don't think that Linden MacIntyre did that on purpose. I think that he just doesn't get it. He creates a world where everyone is idolated. In the end, everyone is a victim so you don't have to feel really, really, really angry at the poor priests who are just trying to do their job."
As best I can figure out, this should have been "violated". I still think that there must be a use for such an interesting word: "idolated".
This morning on The Sunday Edition, Michael Enright spent half an hour talking with Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Toronto diocese. The purpose was to talk about the legacy of Vatican 2. It was a very pleasant interview and I applaud Enright for understanding that he wasn't going to get any real discussion from the Cardinal - so why waste the time. I am sure many listeners will have something to say about the interview. You can hear it at: http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/shows/2012/10/14/cardinal-thomas-collins-archbishop-of-toronto/.
It was interesting because it is in Collins' responses to Enright's questions that we can see the response that will be coming consistently out of the Vatican to those who question the Church in the midst of the child sexual abuse scandal. You got the impression that it really is under control and now the Church is preparing the mop-up procedures. He did say that we needed an updated version of From Pain to Hope. No kidding; not only is it 20 years old, but I can't even find a completed version of the 2002 review anywhere.
His interpretation of Vatican 2 would be questioned by many academic scholars. (see my review of Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning). And he managed to blame the "liberals" for all the misunderstandings that have occurred in the misinterpretation of Vatican 2. Among other things, he also said that celibacy wasn't mandatory (?) - there are married priests in the church after all, and of course, they were following Christ's wishes. Etc., etc., etc.
Years and years of scholarship down the drain. Why did we even bother?
Completely disingenuous, it was my morning smile - can't laugh about it, it is too serious.
I'll be looking forward to the revised edition of From Pain to Hope! I'll get a blog or two out it, I suspect.
Just came across this & thought what the hell, why not put it up!
This is a picture taken 4 years ago. Just thought I'd put it up on the blog. Just to put a face to the blog's owner, I'm the one in the turquoise. My youngest sister is in black, and the middle sister wears a beige shirt. This was at my mother's 90th birthday party Needless to say, she is the one in the middle!!.
"How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" the Pope said, referring to church staff who abused children.
"It remains a mystery," he said. "Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit."
"Your forebears in the church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives," Benedict said in his message.
Somehow I missed this particular story last June. Probably doing something else :-)
This is the sort of story that should make most Roman Catholics understand that they will get no true change from the Papacy and Curia. I understand the rationale behind Ratzinger's (PB16) comments. He is a true believer in the efficacy of the sacraments. He believes that when someone receives the blood and body in the sacrament of mass, it will have a magical edifying effect on the person who participates in the mass. This is especially true for priests who take both the wine & host.
Now we come to the restatement of my original article's title (It can't be true, and if it is, it's not our fault). The latest paper will read "Well I guess it's true, but it's still not our fault" (will upload to the website after it is edited). It you read BP16's remarks closely, it is clear that this problem must be the fault of the priests, the people involved have actively refused the nourishment offered by the mass. This, of course, would go further than just the abusing priests. It must be, therefore, that the bishops, cardinals, etc. who didn't "do the right thing" also refused to be nourished by the mass.
Honestly I don't really expect the Pope et al to actually start questioning the theology and validity of the Roman Catholic sacramental theology but that is exactly what is in question here.
The second thing that is in question is the assumption that in the past, the priests were better & didn't sexually abuse children - were really nourished by the mass. How in heaven's name does he make that assumption? Hasn't he been integrating the understanding that we now have about the intergenerational nature of pedophilia? Obviously not. And if you read the 2004 report that came out of the Vatican*, which I will review on the website at a later date, you will understand why. However, even that document has a whole section (pp. 13-17, if I remember correctly) detailing how the church has been decrying this issue since the later part of the first century C.E. Clearly, another case of those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it - especially if they are locked into an ideological position from which they are afraid to depart.
The following is a post that I made on another website (rayharvey.org) in response to a commenter on a post that would have had something to do with education or health care and economics. The site belongs to a friend who is a libertarian [I have all kinds of friends :-)]. I can no longer quickly find the original web page, so I am reposting this because it is about a different part of my childhood/formative years & does explain some of the other figures, who were influential on developing my life philosophy [besides Babylon 5 :-)]
Note: BC stands for Bedazzled Crone - a name that I sometimes use on the net (& linked to this website address); POG is who knows??
BC: I will address some of the issues that you have brought up
in your post over a number of comments. Don’t want to make them too long. This
is the first response to something that was a little ad hominem, n’est-ce pas? So to clarify:
POG: The problem is that
you continue to view “capitalism” and “competition” through your lens of
Marxist critique, I am guessing it was ingrained in you in the 60’s by some
professors who were apologists for Stalinism and you haven’t been able to shake
BC: My intro PoliSci prof. in 1968/69 was Polish and hardly
a Marxist. He taught at Conrad Grebel
College (attached to the U of Waterloo where I was a computer science/math
major). If I were anything, I was first and foremost an existentialist in my
late teens (when I read Sartre, Nietzsche & others) and my 20s. I was an
ardent supporter of human rights, and already, seriously critical of “systems”.
The main influences on my philosophical thinking were Erich Fromm (Escape From Freedom, Beyond the Chains of Illusion, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness),
A. S. Neill (Summerhill), John Holt (Escape From Childhood) but probably, one
of the most important was Ivan Illich (Medical
Nemesis, and Deschooling Society).
These writers do not a “Marxist” make! If
I have "socialist roots", they are derived from two basic areas.
The first is the
reality of being the daughter of a steel mill ladleliner. The owner of the
"means of production" always needs to be forced to do right by the
very people that allow the owner to make his/its profits & he/it sure as
hell didn't/doesn’t want to share it around. My father led sit-down strikes, my
Dad was laid off. I doubt very much that he gave a damn about socialism, Marxism
or anything else along that line. What he did care about were his and his
fellow steel workers human rights; - the right to work in a safe environment
and the right to a fair wage for a day's work. The labour movement wasn’t about
"socialism/Marxism" as far as I can see - it was about individual
human rights. And, sometimes, you needed/need to come together collectively to
assert those rights. It is those "capitalists" and their government
cronies that labelled the labour movement as "socialist" as it became
a corrupted "big business" itself, particularly in the United States.
This eventually led to the McCarthy hearings in the US – talk about moral panic
creators). What is wrong with people wanting to collectively better themselves?
Why is it there a need to "break the unions" within government
agenda? Shouldn't the goal be to bring everyone up to the economic levels
achieved by some of the unions so that people get "fair wage for a fair
day's work"? Instead what we see is the attempts to break the unions
through government legislation; the branding of unions as "socialist"
or "marxist". Break the unions so that everyone can slowly find their
economic status devolving to that of the level of the people who work at
Walmart or McDonald's. Breaking the unions abrogates my individual right to act
collectively should I want to.
The second comes
clearly from my social gospel United Church of Canada Christian roots. Jesus as
the Dude! The worldview that I inherited there and still maintain to a large
extent would argue that human beings are interdependent. We are indeed our
brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers. We always need to care about those who have
less than we do. We need to care about those who are injured, who are treated
unjustly. Empathy is the thing that differentiates us from most other animals.
The ability to care about other human beings should matter as much as
“systems”. Sometimes, I think that that is the core of the problem with most
“systems” – no matter what they are: the tendency to forget that we are talking
about individual human beings who get hurt by these systems. Altruism may have
its roots in TheSelfish Gene, but it is a fact that humans seem to be as willing to support
one another as they are to kill one another - in the evolutionary context. No
matter what is in our genetic inheritance, we are thinking beings; we can
envision a future different from the one we live in. Historically speaking,
human beings are constantly finding ways to overcome their genetic inheritance
through creating alternative scenarios, different religions, different
societies, different childrearing methods, and different hierarchical or non-hierarchical
forms of governance – all for the sole purpose of finding out how we can live
interdependently. I doubt very much that that is “socialism” or “Marxism”.
FYI: If you got this far, here is a link to a few more of my thoughts (more philosophical and political) at one of Ray's blog posts Political Theory of Government.
These are two of the ideas that have floated around among feminist biblical scholars & in feminist hermeneutics by those who wish to stay within the Christian belief system. I have problems with both of these attempted solutions to the patriarchal construction of the biblical texts. As I see it, some of the major problems with both solutions are that:
The texts were all written from within patriarchal societies by people who were socialized within those cultures. No matter how hard you try, you cannot avoid this fact. We cannot escape our past, we can only be aware of how it shaped us.
Both solutions contain within them the assumption that there is something authoritative and "divinely inspired" about (some of) the biblical texts. They are thus privileged and contain ethical and instructive material that cannot be found elsewhere.
There will be no consensus on what should be the "good" canon as opposed to what is the "bad" canon. This is not necessarily a negative thing, but believers often have the idea that everyone should somehow see things the same way. Some decisions might be easy, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", for example [but that is contained in just about every ethical system in existence].
Incipient Christianity was an apocalyptic Jewish sectarian movement. A text such as Paul's comment that there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, etc., one of those "good" texts, derives from the apocalyptic assumptions of the early beliefs of the proto-Christian belief system. You can only accept it if you remove the verse itself from everything around it. This is a major problem for the entire Christian "New Testament" corpus, its apocrypha and cognate writings.
The big one. How do you deal with the atonement? Jesus' death on the cross and then his resurrection are central to the structure of Christianity. Even if one focuses on the resurrection, you can't have a resurrection without a death. So do you leave it in? If yes, then how to deal with all of the theologies that were built around this from the earliest days? If no, then what are you really left with? I happened to believe that there was a real person, Jesus who was an itinerant preacher and who was sent to his death. However, why, what happened afterwards, are all open to interpretation - right from the beginning. What we have is the hero myth, writ large and it appealed to the world in which it was created. Short of Dr. Who's Tardis, we will never know what happened.
Inclusive language is almost a mythical attempt to reshape the bible. What difference does it really make if Jesus died for humanity, rather than for mankind? The problem is not language but the entire construct that implies that humanity (or mankind) is in need a scapegoat - that we are guilty of something more than just living life.
During the question period after my presentation at the SBL International conference in Amsterdam (entitled "The Personal is Still Political: What else did you
expect, or have we forgotten just how radical feminist exegesis can be?"), I was asked a question by a very upset and angry participant. In essence, the questions were: "Why did I waste my time on something that I didn't believe in; didn't I have better things to do than rip apart the bible; why didn't I go and spend my time doing something else?" So, how to answer? There is the obvious, academic answer: The bible and Christianity are the foundations of western culture in all its good and its bad. Therefore, we have to understand where the structures of our societies' ethical systems, presuppositions about the nature of human interaction, etc. come from. And to do this, we have to look at the bible as the foundational document of Western society. That is how I would have answered the question 10 years ago. Two weeks ago, today, I answered quite differently. I just laid it all on the line. A short version: I was sexually abused when I was 8 years old by a Roman Catholic priest, became hyper-religious, spent years in therapy dealing with the biblical god. AND I DON'T WANT ANYONE TO EVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH WHAT I HAVE GONE THROUGH. Now I know that that is not going to happen. I don't control the world. The bible is still out there, and that biblical god is still holding sway over people's lives (for one example, just watch Jesus Camp!!) However, by writing what I do, by saying what I say, I make a difference in the lives of a few people. And they have expressed this to me. A whispered "thank you" from a conference participant years ago; a "I never believed anybody else felt like that" from a very distressed woman who came to talk to me (after I gave her the Psalm of Anger to read); a secondhand thank you from the friend of an incest victim who said that reading "Christian Virtues and Recovery from Child Sexual Abuse" had helped her more than 2 year of therapy. And what I write sometimes forces other academic theologians to think differently about the Christian religious system - see Atonement, Cycles of Abuse, and Virtue, a classroom blog from Duke University. It is discussions like this one that give me hope for a better future. I won't change the world. However, I have nothing to lose in taking the "extreme" position. The personal is political - my life experience is my life experience - but I am not alone and I am not the only one who has ever felt like this. I am not the only one who has ever suffered from a Christian worldview that blamed me, and not the perpetrator(s) of the crimes committed against me. If what I say and write makes even one other person's life easier, it is enough. I will end this blog with yet another quote from Babylon 5: year 1, episode 16: Mollari: Of course, we do. There's a natural law. Physics tells us that for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. They hate us, we hate them, they hate us back. And so here we are - victims of mathematics. Sinclair: He never listens. Delenn: He will, sooner or later. Sinclair: How can you be sure? Delenn: Because the alternative is too terrible to consider. Without the hope that things will get better; that our inheritors will know a world that is fuller and richer than our own, life is pointless and evolution is vastly overrated.
At the conference that I just attended, I made a comment (well more like an STATEMENT) during a discussion of the rape of Dinah and its consequences (Genesis 34). I asked what happens if an 11 year old girl read the story in whatever translation. She would certainly not tell on her abused, particularly if it were someone she knew - because what happened to the abuser in the Dinah story? He and his whole family & extended kin were murdered.
The respondent said, "The Bible is not a children's book!!!!!!!!!!" (emphasis hers)
I agree with her. However, I and many, many children receive their bibles when we were & are very young. I was given my first leather bound, red letter Bible when I was about 7 & 1/2. And we were & are encouraged to read it from beginning to end - certainly by say grade 7 (12) or grade 8 (13). Why? Because it is the "Word of God".
Which is why I am so concerned about what children actually understand when they read the "bible" not just Children's Stories from the Bible - which are often not much better.
The Bible should not only be X-rated (caution - read only with adult present), but it should come with a warning - supports patriarchy, hierarchy, slavery, blind obedience. The only problem that I see is that once you say something is X-rated, everyone will want to read it!! Although that may be a good thing; you can't miss the problems then!!
My younger son was the classic case of this. He decided that he should probably read the bible when he was about 16 - foundation of western culture, and all that. He began at the beginning and read every word in the Revised Standard Edition. He came to me at one point and asked, in a totally stunned voice: do you mean to tell me that people actually believe this stuff?
A. J. Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
For a first look at the book, which is a really great read, go to his website:
then, what do you do about "prophetic pornography"?
The prophets, Hosea, Ezekiel, & Jeremiah, contain images of rape, sexual mutilation, gang rape, etc. imposed as punishments by the god of Israel (as the male) on the people of Israel/Zion/Jerusalem (as the female(s)). The god punishes his wives (!) - just go read it all.
So how are these passages supposed to be read in the modern world? This is a question that has been asked by feminist biblical scholars and needs to continue to be asked, again and again. As a feminist not embedded in the belief that the bible is the "inspired word of god", this is fairly easy. The texts are an indication of a patriarchal societal structure that devalues women and feels that they are fair game. They smack of misogyny.
These are the sort of texts that should perhaps be best left in their original languages. This would be similar to the authorized edition of the Church Fathers (pre-Nicene, Nicene & post-Nicene), that left all the "spicy" bits in Latin while the rest was translated. Look for any pre-1950 edition or so.
At the conference where I presented last week, I was told that you need to put all of these passages in their cultural context. That is all well and good, but I asked the man who was insisting that sociocultural context is the answer, what about preaching? Then I was told that you tell your congregation that this is how women were treated in the past, and we don't do this anymore. I say "Bravo". But is that good enough?
For example, it doesn't answer the question about divine inspiration and the privileging of the Bible as normative for the belief system. Were these prophets only divinely inspired when they say acceptable things? It is the conceit of prophecy that the divine is speaking through them & what kind of a divinity would use these images? What about the men and women who read these texts as "divinely inspired"? How does it affect them? Just something to think about.
A couple of places from which to start reading
Book & article to read:
Yvonne Sherwood, The Prostitute and the Prophet: Reading Hosea in the Late Twentieth Century (T&:T Clark/Continuum, 2004; 2nd edition ).
Cheryl Exum, "The Ethics of Biblical Violence against Women" in The Bible in Ethics: The Second Sheffield Colloquium (Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).
I have started reading a book called Holy Misogyny: Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter by April D. DeConick. It got me to thinking over breakfast that this book contains some of the reasons that I had problems for years with feminist biblical studies and the rush towards the "alternate" gospels (gnostic or otherwise). However, I never really spent the time to fully articulate my disagreement.
This book is hardly feminist. However, it does bring up one issue. Why do women and men go to the books that were rejected by the canonists in early Christianity and somehow assume that these texts have answers other than showing how varied early Christian thought actually was? It is as if just because they were rejected, they must contain some elemental truth that would have made the world a better place if only these works had been included in the canon.
Hardly! I guess that I always worked from the assumption that the patriarchal, hierarchical structure of greco-roman civilization would have infused all of those texts as much as it does the canonical texts. In all my reading over the years, I have yet to be disabused of that assumption. I look at some of the "rejected" texts and try to think about what kind of world they would create. Not ones that I would want to live in.
I will review the book when I have finished it, and comment further on early non-canonical texts some other time.
Yesterday we visited my aunt. She is 89 and has Alzheimer's, just like my mother. She is 5 years younger than my mother. She had no idea who I am, she remembers a 15 year old who visited years ago. That was what I expected.
However, when we started looking at pictures from the distant past, she started talking about her parents and her sister. We would ask questions and she would talk about things.
I have been learning some of the answers to questions in previous posts. My mother told my cousin why she never spoke to her mother. She had been sexually abused by her stepfather and her mother didn't believe her. So this answers why she left home so early & why she never talked with her mother. When I talked to my youngest son (over SKYPE, of course), his response was Bravo for her! and I agree with him.
But my aunt was saying how "my mother was a difficult child" and that was why she left home and went and found a "new mother". Clearly, this is what my aunt was told to explain why my mother was no longer around.
There is so much that I have learned in the week that I have been here and it is going to take some time to digest. All I can say, is that I wish my mother had been able to talk about all of these things years ago. Oh well, such was not the way of the world. I will be writing as I digest the information - it explains so much and so many missing pieces of the puzzle have fallen in my lap. I think that it has been good for my cousins as well - our mothers were far more alike than we ever knew. We have been comparing stories about the past - their similarities and their contradictions.
I even have a picture of my grandmother, grandfather & half-aunt. I also have pictures of my mother & aunt from an earlier period and when mother was a nurse in a pediatrics ward.
The universe unfolds as it will. It has been a very difficult and energizing week. The conference has gone well - I am actually a little bit hopeful.
That's all that faith requires - that we surrender ourselves to the possibility of hope. With that, I am content. (my B5 quote from June 22, 2012)
This is, of course, a normal fall back position for institutions. This was the position that the Council of Trent took in response to the Protestant Reformation. Centuries of history should make us understand that this was inevitable. Our understanding of moral conflict, cognitive dissonance, sociological analysis of institutions suggest that this is inevitable.
I don't think that there is much to add to the story. It is clear that there is a serious disconnect between the Vatican and many of the laity - just from talking with Roman Catholic friends who clearly either don't know that they are not following the rules, try to find ways around the rules ( particular RC teachers on birth control issues) or they don't care. Generally speaking, they tell me that the"Church is the people", and what does the Pope have to do with it anyway. That catch phrase from Vatican 2 is seriously embedded in a good portion of the present-day Roman Catholic Church, and isn't going to go away any time soon.
The potential schism can be seen in 2 of the books that I have read lately. The first is Myra Hidalgo's, which falls on the potential schismatic side (See My review: Sexual Abuse and the Culture of Catholicism). Leon Podles' book, Sacrilege, comes up with solutions that would bring back an idealized medieval church (I will do a review of this after I get back from vacation in August).
Both authors are absolutely horrified by the Vatican's response to the "priestly pedophilia" scandal. Both love their church. One was a victim/survivor of sexual abuse by a nun. The other was a lawyer for victim/survivors. However, I am not sure that both could survive in the same church.
No one at S.N.A.P., I suspect, would disagree with you about abusive governments. However, that is someone else's problem [p.s. ask why the U.S.A. is not a signatory to the world court].
However, there is a big difference between secular governments and the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church believes that it is the moral authority of the world. Its theology is that the only way to salvation is through the Church (& this was recently restated by PB16 on June, 29, 2007). It considers itself to be the only true MORAL/ETHICAL belief system for all humanity. Thus, in my opinion, the Roman Catholic Church is even more responsible for the abuses within its structure (and the massive destruction that it has perpetrated on the survivors) than are governments, which are only made up of mere frail, sinful human beings unimbued with the sanctified grace (!) of the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests through whom humanity must find its salvation.
Would you want a world based on the moral and ethical belief system of the Roman Catholic Church based on what we know now?
Go S.N.A.P., go. As Jeff Anderson said the Church will never take this seriously until the first bishop, archbishop or cardinal, finally ends up in jail for failure to report the massive abuses and failure to protect the children under their car.
If you are not familiar with the details of just what was done to some of the children, please read Leon Podles, Sacrilege or David France's Honor Your Fathers. I may not agree with everything in their analyses or proferred solutions, but for graphic descriptions, it should be enough to turn most people's stomachs.
And here you can see one of my "favourite" Vatican spokespersons on the defensive: Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor, talking to the media at the Vatican today. Further to that: Believe it or not, the rape of children is a "grave delict" against the Fifth/Sixth Commandment: "thou shalt not commit adultery" for Protestants (;-))
So are priests married to holy Mother church? (whiff of incest there) or
Since they are "consecrated" to the Virgin Mary, is this considered a marriage (but no sex, please, we're Catholic priests)? (again, icky)
It's like shooting fish in a barrel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Brother Alwyn Macomber (a Ranger): ... That is what faith is for. Faith sustains us in the hour when reason tells us that we cannot continue, that the whole of our lives is without meaning. Brother Michael (potential Ranger): Then why were we born able to reason if reason's useless? Brother Alwyn Macomber (a Ranger): Not useless, but it's also not enough. Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You can travel further with both than you can with just one. If you must have reason for an answer, then consider this. If today the Rangers came back to earth from their place in the heavens, you would not know about it. They would come in secret and move around us and help us and we wouldn't even know that they were here, because the secret that they bring is feared by people who still blame science for the Great Burn. Brother Michael (potential Ranger): Then you think the Rangers are here today Brother Alwyn Macomber (a Ranger):Yes, I believe they could be. That's all that faith requires - that we surrender ourselves to the possibility of hope. With that, I am content.
Author: Massimo Faggioli Title: Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning Publisher: New York: Paulist Press, 2012 Details: 140 pages; solid notes; good preliminary bibliography for those interested in learning more about the theological implications of Vatican 2 and the impact that it has had on the Roman Catholic Church over the last 50 years.
For once, I am whole-heartedly recommending a book. It is clearly written and it should give readers an introductory understanding of the development of the theological fault-lines that have developed within the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican 2. It does require some understanding of Christian theology, but Faggioli is focused on the history of theological movements and the text does not depend on technical terminology to explain his points.
For those who are baffled by the response of the church and its laity, this book may begin to help explain the differences in the interpretations of, and the solutions offered to, the child sexual abuse scandal within the church. It also helps to explain why Vatican 2 seems to be a flash-point for many of the writers and in particular, for the responses coming out of the Curia.
A Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States The National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People Established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. February 27, 2004
I will be doing a far more in depth analysis of the John Jay Reports at some point in the future but I wanted to make note of something that sets the stage for understanding so much about what has gone wrong & is going wrong with the RCC institutional response to their "pedophilia crisis". The following is an excerpt from the Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States:
To understand the purpose and scope of the Report, it is helpful to emphasize what it is not. First, this Report is not intended to address Church doctrine or to serve as a sounding boards for those within the Church and outside the Church who wish to use this scandal to accomplish objectives unrelated to or tangential to the goal set forth above. The problem facing the Church was not caused by Church doctrine, and the solution does not lie in questioning doctrine. Second, this Report does not address specific instances of clerical sexual abuse or inadequate episcopal response. ... it is not the purpose of the Report to determine whether an individual priest or bishop was responsible for a specific act or omission. Finally, this Report is not, an does not purport to be, a scientific exercise. With the exception of the analysis of the John Jay College study, ... the Report does not rely upon the scientific method. Thus, for example, the Board has not attempted to conduct a comprehensive analysis of factors that may have made sexual abuse of minors more or less likely in a particular environment, or to develop an empirically-based profile of a typical sexual abuse offender. However, the Board is confident that it has accurately placed in context the reasons for the current crisis. (pp. 7-8)
There you have it. The parameters of the report. It speaks for itself. I'll give them #2 but honestly, do they expect anyone to believe that they can "accurately place in context the reasons for the current crisis" with those parameters. It is no wonder that Robert S. Bennett, the Research Committee Chair, washed his hands of the whole mess.
A First Look at The John Jay Reports 1. The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States. A Research Study Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice
2. The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010. A Report Presented to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by the John Jay College Research Team
First things, first. It should also be noted that although the Causes and Context Report (C&C) says 1950 -2010, all the graphs and statistics end as of 2002 with a couple of paragraphs & 3 graphs to cover to 2008: pp.32-33).
It would be interesting to do a comparison of the earlier "Nature & Scope" with this one - there are some changes in how the data is reported. Just one example: compare the Tables 4.4.5 & 4.4.6 (p.76) of the Nature & Scope report to Table 5.7 (p. 112 where the 2 previous tables are collapsed into 1)) of the Causes & Context report. The initial report (N&S) shows the gifts & enticements offered to victims in a raw count and as a percentage of incidents, while in C&C it is broken down into % of male victims & % of female victims. The C&C table makes it look far less of an issue - let's look at alcohol/drugs - In the N&S the table reads 712 count or 38.8% of 1,834 incidents. In the C&C table, it is now listed as 8.6% of males and 1.2% of females were offered alcohol and/or drugs - not so bad now, is it!
What is more egregious is the missing N&S tables in the C&C report. These are the tables (pp. 73-75) 4.4.1: Alleged Acts of Abuse by Gender; 4.4.3 Threats by Victim's Gender and 4.4.4 Type of Threats by Victim's Gender. These tables all discuss the true nature of what these priests did to their victims, 4.4.1 being the one that would truly upset the apple cart in a report that essentially would like to suggest that it really wasn't all that bad & besides it's getting better. Clearly, no one needs to be told about oral sex, manual penetration, penile penetration or group or coerced sex Time to do my own blog on the report, I guess, even if it is a year later.
One sees the mighty hand of the Roman Catholic editors in the construction of the C&C report.
I seem to remember that when the initial Nature and Scope Report came out, it was really impossible to find. I had been reading references to it - it was talked about on the John Jay website, for example, but no links. At one point, it was up on the USCCB website and then I couldn't find it again - might have been my search engine :-). Anyway, I now have 2 copies of it, plus the Causes and Context Report.
Author: Myra L. Hidalgo Publication details: NY: The Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press: 2007
I'll begin by saying that the book is a good place to start for anyone trying to come to grips with the issue of sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic church, with some caveats.
Chapter 5: "Systemic Sexual Shame and Catholicism" This is probably the best reason to read this book. Years ago, I made an off the cuff statement that Roman Catholicism causes an obsession with sex right from a child's earliest awareness. When questioned [after all, it wasn't a popular statement to make :-)], my explanation was - all you have to do is look at the "Virgin" Mary.
The problem is of course that so much of the analysis is based on limited data. One can never make definitive statements based on such small populations. Since 2007, there have been more and more research done around priest offenders. I will discuss some of it in later blogs. However, the chapter is the first that I have read that actually looks at "passive sexual abuse trauma" in the context of the Roman Catholic church. Bravo for that!
One, one must be careful of her prevalence statistics. I'm not sure that they will be found to be all that wrong in the long run - but the information that she basis her prevalence stats on is limited - something that she does acknowledge. One of the things that this book adds to the discussion is the attempt to look at prevalence comparatively, using limited data. This is not easy since there are few surveys and studies out there that does this. She compares Roman Catholic clergy to Protestant clergy, educators (psychology professors), and therapists. As always, it should be noted that these numbers only reflect those who have been "caught". Her numbers are startling - for the population in general, RC clergy are almost 4 times more likely than the general population in the US to abuse children - there are no stats for RC sexual abuse of adults. However, the group that she doesn't include are elementary and high school statistics - they do exist and are relevant to the issue since the commonality - access to children - between the groups is clear. The comparison between Protestant clergy and Roman Catholic clergy is also interesting - in the statistics that she depends, there are no sexual of children by Protestant clergy, although there is plenty of inappropriate peer related sexual contact. But Protestant clergy do sexually abuse children and adolescents - but most of it is anecdotal , in the sense that little data collection has been done in this area to date. But there is some (see some early info in my dissertation).
Just to say, I actually think that her numbers are probably closer to the truth (and probably even low) than, say for example, the John Jay report - but we don't have the data to support it. Then again, they said I would find nothing when I began my dissertation; my 1993 article on Catholic institutional response made a number of predictions: today, I can only say I TOLD YOU SO!!! A little schadenfreude is good for the soul at times.
Two, there are problems with her historical section. However, this is more because of the lack of depth and analyses in her sources that anything else. She is clearly not a historian and focuses on attitudes towards sexuality as the primary lever for the child sexual abuse scandal. It's that little things that bother me - for example, she thinks that Aristotle would have been a better basis on which to structure Roman Catholic theology - however, it was Aquinas who brought Aristotle and his methods into his scholastic structures around sexuality - viz. women are deformed males, get their souls later than male fetuses, all basic tenets of Aristotle's basing "his explanations of natural phenomena on empirical investigations rather than abstract reasoning alone." (p. 74) etc..
FYI: see my dissertation for a short discussion of priest/father/incest secenario in the introduction - I do agree that it works in explaining the impact on victims - I just don't think that the rest of the analysis really works.
Three: Chapter 4, I don't like family systems theory - it tends to lend itself to an "everyone is the victim here" scenarios. I belong to the school that says adults are supposed to be adults and hence, bear greater responsibility for any abuse that occurs within the family structure. It can work as
an explanatory model, but offers little in the long run for societal
change. [Look for the next blog, which will be my take of FST] Her explanation of systems theory and its use in understanding family dynamics is readable. However, when she tries to apply it to the Roman Catholic church, it gets very confusing.
Some of the confusion:
a) Vatican II versus Pope Paul VI - compares this to marital discord & emotional estrangement between parents - so who is mother and who is father - if PP6 is father and V2 is mother, then is V2 removed from the family, distant, allowing PP6 to abuse the laity (the children)?
a2) Her theory depends on accepting that what happened in the 60s & 70s is a new phenomenon. Thus she is implicitly blaming V2 for the problem, even though she mentions that this has been an historical problem What she is implying is that although there has been sexual abuse within the ranks of the Catholic church from early days, it is much worse now, and that is caused by the dissension in the ranks. But, if her argument is correct, wouldn't "sexual shaming" (& its impact) always have been the case, minimally since the time of Augustine and, then Aquinas? So it would seem to me that the only reason that this is now a major issue is that society is finally willing to take seriously the victims' stories, and thus, we have people willing to come forward. As I and many others can attest, this was a major problem long before V2 was a glint in JP23rd's eye.
b) She blames the general attitude towards women - their powerlessness, lack of integration into the spiritual structures of the church - as a reason why male Catholic child molesters prefer male targets. "It is no wonder that, even among male Catholic child molesters, male victims are the preferred targets for erotic expression." (p. 76) So female Catholic child molesters prefer male victims? How do the female victims of male priests fit into this? I would agree that misogyny is a hallmark of Roman Catholicism, however, as more and more data and information is becoming available about priest perpetrators attitudes towards women is hardly a major indicator of CSA - availability of/access to male children, past abuse, parental trust and adoration of the "father" priest are far greater indicators of victim choice than anything else. [She starts to discuss these in the next chapter - it is my contention that these are probably more important that the FST structure for understanding why priests and nuns offend.]
c) Then there is the case study of the Boston scandal. So the "father" is the institution and the "mother" is the priest? The priests are disillusioned with the Church hierarchy & therefore, just allow their fellow molesting priests to get away with it? What I can't figure out is who the "grandparents" are. She then suggest that the "abused children of the Church finally reached a critical point in their own psycho-spiritual development" (p. 77) and then disclosed. A cursory reading of David France's Our Fathers, for example, would suggest that this is not only simplistic but far from the truth.
Comments on the Final Chapter: There is some good points here, but all I can say is "Good luck with that!" Twice she has mentioned returning the Church to the people - as the first Apostles (cap. in text). All I can say echoes Richard Sipe's comment: "Welcome to Wittenberg!" (see previous blog). And Wittenberg implies protestantism - & protestants have problems too - hence, my position that there is something fundamentally flawed at the core of Christianity - but that's a story for another day! or read my dissertation!
With a new introduction & afterword by the authors Authors: Frank Bruni and Elinor Burkett Publication details: New York: Perennial, HarperCollins Books, 2002 (1993)
"My friends, welcome to Wittenberg!" This is the one really new thing that I will take away from this book. It was how Richard Sipe greeted the first meeting of sexual abuse survivors outside of Chicago (p. 224). The book is notable for its realistic look at the scandal. The personal stories are once again, horrifying. The church's responses are as expected.
What is significant for a book from 1993 is its insightful analysis of the problem and realistic assessment of how likely it is that the church will actually face up to what has been happening. The new introduction and afterward were written in 2002, just as the "Boston Church's Tea Party" was beginning to erupt.
As to Wittenberg, I think that few people would have had the insight that Sipe had in 1993, that this particular scandal does have the potential to sever the church. I know because I was battling on the same front academically - and people just didn't (& don't?) want to know.
In 2012, there are more and more calls for major rethinking and (one hopes) restructuring of the Roman Catholic Church. Here is a link to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's plea for a "total re-examination of Catholic faith. The following is a quote from the National Catholic Reporte:
The "major fault" of the church in the scandal, Robinson said, is
that it "refuses to look at any teaching, law, practice or even attitude
of the church itself as in any way contributing" to the crisis. "In studying abuse, we must be free to follow the argument wherever
it leads rather than impose in advance the limitation that our study
must not demand change in any teaching or law," he continued. "We must
admit that there might be elements of the 'Catholic culture' that have
contributed either to the abuse or to the poor response to abuse.'"
We know what the Roman Catholic Church's response was to the Protestant Reformations (Revolution?) - The Council of Trent, the Jesuits and the Inquisition! So far, it looks as if the church has just replaced the Iron Maiden and the rack with lawyers!!
At least once a year, I watch the entire Babylon 5. Usually it is in the summer, but as I began reading all of the more recent books on the child sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic institution, I just felt the need to watch it much earlier than usual. Here's one of the reasons why.
Season 2, Episode 14: "There All The Honor Lies" @ about 31 minutes - added italics
Captain Sheridan: .... I'll never forget that feeling of helplessness. I never thought there could be anything worse than being alone in the dark Delenn: But there is. Being alone in a crowd. If you're cut off from your people, from your government, you even begin to doubt yourself. I understand it so well that it cuts to my heart. Captain Sheridan: You said that the Mimbari never lie, but that's not entirely true, is it? Delenn: You must understand that there's no greater honour among my people than to serve. They worked for generations to create a legacy, a tradition. In the service of their clan they are ready to sacrifice everything - their individuality, their blood, their life. Captain Sheridan: Their honour? Oh we've had plenty of that ourselves. Conspiracies of silence because the larger ideals have to be protected. But you can't have larger ideals if the smaller ones get compromised.It's like building a house without a foundation. It can't stand. You know that as well as I do.
Just to wet your appetite, a few quotes from the Amazon site:
Boston's Cardinal is essential reading for anyone seeking to
understand the recent influence of the Catholic Church in America or,
for that matter, the profound relationship in our time between faith and
culture. Anyone who reads this book will reap the benefit of a lesson
in Catholic Church history, and also will meet one of its most
distinguished prelates. (Anderson, Carl A. )
Bernard Francis Law,
one of the most influential churchmen of his generation, has important
things to say about the Catholic Church, America, ecumenism and
inter-religious dialogue, and world politics at the dawn of a new
millennium. Through his own words, and thanks to a fine introductory
biographical essay, we meet Boston's Cardinal in a way he's not been met
before—and we are enriched by the encounter.... (Weigel, George )
Bernard Law is a great leader of the Catholic Church both nationally
and internationally. He is a wonderful friend to the Jewish community
and as this book makes very clear, he has a profound concern for the
needs of every human being..... (Rabbi Samuel Chiel )
Authors: Jason Berry and Gerald Renner Publication Details: New York: The Free Press, 2004 DVD website:http://vowsofsilencefilm.com Cast of characters: The good: Father Thomas Doyle, defender of victims The bad: Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ The ugly: the Curia, John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger
This is a book that is story of 2 men and their interactions with the "powers that be" in Roman Catholicism. While clearly, the story is a unified whole, Jason Berry is predominantly responsible for the sections on Father Doyle, while Gerald Renner researched the sections on Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. Both men are investigative journalists.
It gives a biography of both men: Father Doyle who is shunned by the Vatican; Father Maceil who is defended and supported by the Vatican under Pope John Paul II. What it does primarily is show where the priorities of the Curia and Pope sit vis-a-vis the child sexual abuse scandal. Published just after the mess in Boston overseen by Cardinal Bernard Law, it puts one more nail in the coffin of the institutional church.
It is, once again, a story of ideology over the pain and suffering of the individual. It was interesting reading about a Roman Catholic order that I had never heard about before - the Legionairies of Christ. It is another ultra-conservative Roman Catholic group similar to the Opus Dei. Both remind one of the medieval church with its saints and abuse of the self. Despite clear evidence of the founder's propensity to child sexual abuse and drug abuse, Maciel was given a pass. Maciel died in 2008 and was forced to leave "public ministry" before his death by Pope Benedict XVI, who as the head of the Inquisition (see previous blogs for why I still call it that), dismissed/ignored Maciel's victims.
As I was finishing the book, I wondered what Berry, Renner and Doyle thought about the election of Ratzinger to the Papacy. They must have died a little inside.
Tom Hoopes, managing editor of The National Catholic Register, which is
affiliated with the Legionaries, posted an apology on the Web on Tuesday
for having dismissed the sexual abuse accusations, saying, “I’m sorry
to the victims, who were victims twice.”