Tag Archives: Catholics

Religion And Sex

Breaking news! It isn’t just the Catholics.

The Houston Chronicle, among other publications, has now publicized revelations about what the Baptists have been doing.

It’s not just a recent problem: In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.

 They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.

About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.

The revelations about Catholic priests spawned a number of articles blaming the priests’ sexual misconduct on celibacy–after all, human sexuality is a primal urge. Asking men to forego sex in the service of Godliness…well, that’s asking for trouble.

But Baptists don’t have to be celibate. What’s their excuse?

I’ve always been bemused by the emphasis so many Christian denominations place on morality “below the belt.” When I was growing up, my impression of Christianity was that its practitioners were obsessed with sexual “purity”–and not particularly focused upon other issues of morality/immorality, like cheating, lying, stealing, bullying…..I could never understand the belief, evidently held by many Christians, that concerns about “morality” applied primarily if not exclusively to the genitals.

The impression I got–at least from clergy representing more fundamentalist denominations–was that Christians could engage in all manner of questionable and self-serving behaviors, and God will still love them–so long as they don’t have sex outside of marriage.  Have you been stealing from widows and orphans? Cheating on your taxes? Forwarding racist emails? Those behaviors might elicit a “tut tut,” but they would be likely to elicit far less pastoral opprobrium than sexual misconduct.

Interestingly, that judgmental approach to sexual behavior was absent when it came to their own clergy. Much like the Catholic Church, the Baptists protected their own.

At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct.

The new revelations about Baptists’ sexual misconduct are particularly ironic in view of the denomination’s thundering disapproval of LGBTQ folks. Labelling gay men as pedophiles looks more and more like projection. In fact, when it comes to Protestants, it seems to be clergy from the most theologically-rigid denominations, the most “fire and brimstone” pastors, who are most likely to prey while they pray.

I haven’t seen any accusations of misconduct against, say, Episcopalians or Unitarians.

I’m not a psychologist, so I am ill-equipped to analyze the appeal of clerical careers to sexual deviants. It may be that working for the church attracts weak men who want to dominate others–or perhaps it’s an easy way to meet potential victims, men and women who come to the church at times when they are most vulnerable.

It really is amazing what you can get away with when you are cloaked in faux piety.

I wonder what denomination is next…..

 

Religion, Social Justice And Medicare For All

These are difficult days for genuinely religious folks–the ones who understand their theologies to require ethical and loving behaviors.

The 2016 election highlighted the glaring hypocrisies of Evangelical Trump supporters; more recently, it’s Catholics who are cringing. In Pennsylvania, a grand jury found the Church had concealed 70 years of sexual abuse by over 300 priests. Here in Indianapolis, the administration of a Catholic high school learned that a longtime, much-loved guidance counselor is in a same-sex marriage, and demanded that she divorce her wife or resign.

Not exactly ethical or loving behaviors.

On the other hand, dozens of local Catholics, including alumni of that high school, are publicly and vigorously supporting the counselor, and others are prominent advocates for social justice, and for programs to help the poor.

Local Catholics are also prominent advocates of establishing a “Medicare for All” chapter in Indianapolis.

In an essay for the National Catholic Reporter, law professor Fran Quigley argues eloquently that faith communities–including his– need to make a moral case for universal health care.

Mark Trover of Indiana had a job and access to health insurance, but the premiums and co-pays were too high for him to afford. A doctor had prescribed medicine for his dangerously high blood pressure, but the cost was high and Trover stopped filling the prescription — right up until the time he suffered a stroke that left him permanently disabled.

Karyn Wofford of Georgia has type 1 diabetes, and has often been forced to ration the insulin she needs to survive. The cost of the medicine has risen over 1,000 percent in recent years, and the 29 year-old knows there are many other Americans who have suffered and even died from diabetic ketoacidosis because they could not afford the medicine. “Having access to diabetic supplies and insulin, to feel okay when I wake up in the morning — that’s my dream,” she wrote for the T1 International blog.

These stories represent the status quo of U.S. health care. Even after the Affordable Care Act, there are over 28 million people in our country living completely without health coverage, a group disproportionately made up of people of color. Among those who do have insurance coverage, nearly a third are enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans that can force them to skip filling prescriptions or go without other necessary care.

These stories–and the millions of Americans who have similar ones–are shameful reminders that the United States lags behind virtually all other industrialized countries when it comes to the health of our citizens. Ironically, we are far more religious than citizens of countries that run circles around us when it comes to health care.

As Fran documents, however, religious leaders are finally mobilizing:

In response to the mean-spirited and fiscally self-sabotaging efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year, faith groups raised their collective voice, and to great effect. Dozens of denominations and organizations from a wide range of faith traditions issued joint statements, mobilized their members, and conducted a dramatic Capitol Hill vigil. They brought a morally powerful foundation to the resistance to Affordable Care Act repeal efforts.

As a March 2017 letter signed by leaders of 40 faith organizations said, “The scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as well as the sacred teachings of other faiths, understand that addressing the general welfare of the nation includes giving particular attention to people experiencing poverty or sickness.”

That shared mandate compelled us as people of faith to act to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded care to millions of Americans who needed it. Now, those same sacred teachings require us to speak out with just as much urgency to fully repair the gaps left behind even after the act is preserved.

All major religious traditions recognize a responsibility to provide for the poor and the sick–and while the ACA is an important step in the right direction, it falls far short of being universal. What is needed is a single-payer system like those in other first-world countries.

Legislation packaged as “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All” has over 120 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and support from a growing number of senators, reflecting polls that show a majority of Americans support a single-payer system.

But the will of the people does not always translate into changed policies, especially when heavily financed lobbyists and campaign contributors from insurance and pharmaceutical companies block the path. That is where the faith community comes in. The economic argument in favor of a single-payer, universal health care system is undeniably powerful, but the moral case for health care as a human right is even stronger. The faith community stands in the ideal place to advance that moral argument.

I encourage those reading this to click through and read the article in its entirety, or even one of my earlier posts, which comes to the same conclusion. I especially encourage you to attend the inaugural meeting of the Medicare for All Group next Thursday, August 23d, to be held at 6:30 at Indianapolis’ First Friends Church.

This effort is a timely reminder that sincere “people of faith”–all faiths–are working for social justice. They don’t make as much noise as the theocrats and hypocrites, and they aren’t as newsworthy, but these efforts remind us that there are also a lot of good people in those pews.

Letters, They Get Letters…

Sometimes, the Letters to the Editor are just jaw-dropping excursions into the depths of illogic. This morning’s entrant into the “it ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know that just ain’t so” sweepstakes is a prime example.

The writer says there is no “war on women,” rather, it is a war for “immorality, secularism and the destruction of Christianity.” And what is the weapon being deployed in this war? The requirement that health insurance include coverage for birth control.

Where to begin?

Perhaps we might question the writer’s assumption that use of birth control equates to “immorality.”  (“Procreation is a gift from God. It is not a form of recreation.”) Evidently, only participants in “recreational” sex use birth control. We probably should tell that to the doctors who prescribe contraceptives to treat a variety of medical conditions, including but not limited to menorrhagia.

We might also note that the writer’s defense of  this position by Catholics who believe in the “sanctity of life” conveniently ignores the lack of Church outrage over the use of its tax dollars to fund capital punishment and war.

Finally, we might gently note that the First Amendment religion clauses are not violated when taxes paid by “Christians and people of faith”  are spent for purposes of which they disapprove. If that were the case, every dollar spent on war and weaponry would violate the religious liberty of Quakers. Money spent to enforce “blue laws” would violate the rights of Jews and Seventh Day Adventists. Taxes supporting high schools would violate the religious liberty of the Amish. In a religiously diverse nation, there are hundreds of other examples.

Religious liberty does not mean government must impose your religious beliefs on your neighbors. Catholics, who not so long ago struggled against state imposition of Protestant norms, should be particularly sensitive to that bit of legal revisionism.

That, of course, would require the use of logic.