Lowered Expectations + Vague Statements = Person of the Year

fckh8-pope-meme

By now you’ve heard that the Advocate has named Pope Francis its person of the year. In perhaps one of the most cringingly apologetic and sycophantic pieces published about the Supreme Pontiff, Lucas Grindley reaches to draw the barest scraps of meaning out of the most innocuous of statements. In fact, reading this piece, you’ll notice that most of the article is Grindley doing little more than repeating himself or explaining why other people deserve the praise more. I almost feel as if the editorial board made the decision, and poor Lucas was tasked with writing it up. But let’s examine this article to see if we can divine the thinking that makes what appears to be pandering to pop culture lionization into a legitimate choice.

As I mentioned, the first six paragraphs are about how other people should have been given this honor. Grindley focuses especially on Edie Windsor, the brave woman whose case got a part of DOMA thrown out in court. It’s followed by this remarkably cop out

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Thus begins my new piece for Queereka. Read the whole article on that site.

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Judge: Hiding Money From Rape Victims A-OK

Regular readers will know that I consider Timmy Cardinal Dolan to be an example of the worst that humanity has to offer. A fetid pustule bloated by self-righteous ego-mania, Timmy is more than homophobic, more than just a defender of child rapists, he is also a fraud and a thief. Except, not according to one Wisconsin judge.

I wrote in my Human Excommunication of Timmy about how, when faced with lawsuits for those priests he allowed to continue to rape children for years when he couldn’t pay them to do it as a hobby instead of professionally, the sanguine coward moved money around into another fund to make it immune from being seized and given to the victims he tried to silence.

Unfortunately, to Judge Rudolph Randa, compensating rape victims is a secondary concern to making sure that men in Milwaukee can continue telling people stories every Sunday because having to pay for their crimes would, “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” Basically, because it was moved into a cemetery fund, and the upkeep of cemeteries is important to the Catholic faith, then taking away that money prevents them from practicing their religion. And, as we also see with the Magdalene Laundries, it‘s pretty clear that accepting responsibility for and making amends when you do awful, inhuman things is not a part of the Catholic faith, ergo Timmy’s accounting trick is legal.

Do I really need to go into the problems with this? I recently got a traffic ticket, so does that mean that I can simply insist that the Flying Spaghetti Monster disapproves of tolls but demands that the fastest available route be taken, therefore trying to make me pay to use roads hampers my free religious exercise? What we’re seeing with Randa is another example of people who seem to think that believing in fairy tales with enough conviction is reasonable justification for any action. Usually it’s trying to force other people to live by the strictures of your religion (e.g. abortion, abstinence only sex education, same-sex marriage, etc), but it’s becoming quite in vogue for prominent religious people in this country to say that their faith should exempt them from the law or even criticism of their ridiculous ideas.

The good news is that Randa is usually overturned on appeal. The bad news is that there is at least one person who is so monumentally screwed up that he thinks that denying compensation to rape victims is entirely ok if an invisible sky pixie wants to make sure the things we use to mark where we keep decomposing flesh are well polished.

Hey, instead of just saying that he won’t actively be mean to gay people as long as they’re sufficiently closeted, maybe this is a place where the Pope can step in and do some real good for a change!

Timmy Dolan Admits the Church is Failing

Regular readers all know my deep and abiding feelings (mostly disgust and nausea) for Timmy Cardinal Dolan, child-rape defender and financial fraudster extraordinaire. So I find it entirely unsurprising that in his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos he said some stupid things about gay people and people with no religious affiliation.

This should come with two caveats:

1. At least he wasn’t saying awful things about these particular groups for once.

2. This is April Fool’s Day, or, as Dave Weigle puts is, “‘the internet is unreadable’ day”. That being said, if this is an elaborate prank by ABC, they did a fine job of fabricating video and I tip all of my fabulous hats to them.

Ok? We good? Moving on.

First, Dolan was asked about the Rise of the Nones and if the Church will somehow be able to bring people back in. This is how he responded.

What I’m afraid is that that’s afflicting society in general. That’s afflicting families. That’s afflicting — communities.  People want privacy.  People crave isolation.  We’re hearing parents say that they can’t even get their kids to talk anymore. They’re – they’re tweeting one another.  So, this – kinda this craving of individualism, being alone, be – aloofness, that’s afflicting all of culture, all of society. We’re feeling it in the Church, too, because we’re not about ‘me.’  We’re about ‘us.’ We’re about the ‘our.’  We say ‘Our Father.’ But society is saying, ‘It’s me, myself and I.’

Keep in mind that part of the question was about the tone-deafness of the Church, and Dolan displays a tin ear that can only come from decades of sitting through Mass.

He really, truly thinks that child rape, baby snatching, forced castrations, increasing AIDS in Africa, opposition to birth control, opposition to outspoken women, opposition to gay people (do I really need more links about this?), allowing women with difficult pregnancies to die, running unofficial prisons for people who have sinned but broken no laws, and living in opulance during a global economic catasrophe have nothing to do with people leaving the Church? Actually, that’s not a question, of course he does.

The problem, Cardinal Dolan, isn’t that people don’t want to be part of a group or that those of us with no religious affiliation are somehow poor loners who will cut ourselves off from the world in order to avoid the responsibilities that come with knowing people. In fact, this happy little atheist is more social butterfly than most of the people I know, and spends so much time with friends and family it’s often weeks before I have even a minute to myself.

No, the problem is that the “we” you’re offering is a corrupt organization run by terrible people such as yourself. Ones who prize authority over justice, ones who believe themselves above the law, ones who will pursue any ends that result in more power for Holy Mother Church. People want to be part of something larger, but the cesspool that the Church offers is not the one they choose. Instead, people find their connections elsewhere, in healthy spaces that will respect them and their loved ones. Not being part of the Catholic Church isn’t an indication of social dysfunction, it is an indication of good taste.

Next, we see Timmy struggling to deal with how the Church approaches LGBT people. Well, LGB people. As per usual, trans people aren’t addressed unless somebody is freaking out over what bathroom they’ll use.

Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, ‘I love you, too.  And God loves you.  And you are made in God’s image and likeness.  And – and we – we want your happiness.  But – and you’re entitled to friendship.’  But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally. We got to be – we got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.  And I admit, we haven’t been too good at that.  We try our darndest to make sure we’re not an anti-anybody.

Here, I can only fault him with believing in something stupid and bigoted. To an extent, he’s correct. If these are your beliefs, it’s very, very difficult to not come across as if you’re against people.

I would argue that “trying [your] darndest” would be to avoid calling sex between queer people “intrinsically disordered” and describing homosexuality as a “condition” that needs to be “overcome.” Also, using Christmas to say that gay marriage is a “manipulation of nature” and calling it a threat to world peace. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Dolan is being legit and the Church really is trying not to be “anti-anybody.”

He still runs into a problem: there is no way to communicate the message that the emotional connections between people and the physical manifestation of those connections are evil without also condemning the people who have them. No amount of dancing around the subject or drawing imaginary lines between “nature” and “actions” can make a position like that anything but anti-somebody. The Vatican is trapped by their own dogma, and no brilliant theologian is going to show up and demonstrate how they can maintain their current opinions while not appearing hateful and bigoted.

People are therefore left with two choices if they disagree with that stance: stick around and hope things will change or leave. Personally, I support the latter, for obvious reasons. If your life if inextricably intertwined with the Church, especially in your community, it can be difficult to walk away, and that is entirely understandable. But if you’re going out of habit, surely you can find something else that better matches your experience of the world around you. Obviously, I’ve chosen reality, a system in which I work with the things I know and can check with independent observers to get an idea of what “truth” there is to be found. Some people prefer to think there is somehow more out there, which is fine, though I can’t imagine how much more you could want with such a universe as we can observe. Some people like the sense of community that is provided by a worship ceremony, and I assure you that there are plenty of places where you can find that without being part of the Church.

I have no doubt that there are other reasons people stick around, but I really hope they reconsider. What this interview shows us, more than any of the bigoted tirades in the past, is that the Church leadership really doesn’t get it. They don’t understand why so few of their parishioners actually agree with them, they don’t get why people have been walking away from religion in droves, and they don’t get that the way to stop saying terrible things is to abandon the terrible beliefs that drive them.

The Church is failing to reach out to LGBT people, allies, and Nones because it refused to accept responsibility for any of its mistakes and fix them, as if we still lived in a world where they are not easily found by anybody who cares to make an effort. The Church is stuck: it needs to change, but it can’t without actually changing. The question becomes, is a Church that will one day be relegated to impoverished African citizens and a handful of people on the other continents worth trying to maintain doctrinal purity? That’s slowly what’s happening. Timmy Dolan will probably not live to see the ruins left of his once mighty Church, but his successor just might, then maybe they will find their way to accepting other people on their merits, the same way they had to do for an earth that orbits the sun.

(h/t Pam’s House Blend)

“This is a Catholic Country”

That was the excuse for letting a woman die in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar, a 17 week pregnant woman who began to miscarry, went to University Hospital in Galway expecting medical treatment. Instead, since her fetus continued to have a heartbeat, she spent days with her cervix fully open, inviting infection, until the fetal heartbeat stopped and they removed it. By that point, it was too late and Halappanavar died of septicaemia after 2.5 days in agony so bad she couldn’t even walk.

Halappanavar is neither Irish nor Catholic, but “this is a Catholic country” was excuse enough to allow her to suffer horribly and die. “This is a Catholic country” was enough of a reason to allow her to spend days with something that is as risky as an open head wound. “This is a Catholic country” irrationally defines a “heartbeat” as meaning a damn thing other than fuel can be brought to cells, attributing to the heart some sort of mystical, magical force that determines whether something is alive and human or not, or perhaps just transferring the humanity from the incubator surrounding it (commonly called a “woman”) so that it matters and she doesn’t.

It’s situations like this that make me want to vomit whenever people like the ever-nauseating Timmy Dolan burble on about “humility” and try and tell us that the problem isn’t the Catholic message, it’s the way it’s presented.

The Catholic message, no matter what words you use to describe it, is “women are sinful, only innocent fetuses matter.” It’s the message that they have been preaching long before evangelicals thought it was cool. It’s the message that has over-ridden, time and time again, any competing message of compassion, care, or dignity.

“This is a Catholic country.” Those words should send a shiver of fear through anyone who doesn’t fit their standard of humanity. Apparently they let women who are having difficult miscarriages die in Catholic countries. I have no doubt the Irish bishops are currently looking for the proper way to articulate that message.

Human Excommunication: Timothy Dolan

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan is the most evil man alive. The Great Old Ones recoil at the sheer level of wicked, inhuman behavior that this man displays. I have no words to accurately describe what a living pile of snake excrement he is with any sort of accuracy.

Now, let’s discuss why.

Currently, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is filing for bankruptcy. You see, there was this issue where they, unsurprisingly, hid pedophile priests over a period spanning about 60 years. As a result, they’ve lost a lot of money to legal claims when victims and the families of victims tried to receive some amount of compensation for the mental and physical violations they suffered. Also, times are tough, even for the Church.

The thing is, in the leadup to these filings, the Archdiocese moved $125 million to newly created trusts in order to avoid having that money count toward paying victims, a part of their settlement in the abuse cases. A forensic accounting firm was hired to find out what happened to that $125 million and whether it was legitimate in the bankruptcy case, and they found it was.

This took a slightly different turn recently as the Church argued that people coming forward with abuse claims after the statute of limitations ran out were incapable of making those claims. They say that they made a good faith effort to inform people of their opportunity and published the names of potential abusers in 2004, making it possible for people to file claims then. Which is entirely fair and literally legal. Except, according to the first link, sealed documents show that the Church didn’t publish over 8,000 incidents of reported abuse by 100 Church employees, 75 of which were clergy.

What does this have to do with Timothy Dolan? He was the Archbishop of Milwaukee during this period, while the Church was moving money to avoid having to pay it to abuse victims and publishing incomplete lists of abusers. That’s right, the man about to be named Cardinal hid even more child rapists while pretending to be complying with the law.

Does everybody understand that? He released a partial list of abusers so he could hide other ones, hid money so it couldn’t be used to pay victims, and now his old archdiocese is trying to screw abuse victims out of money they were rightfully owed by claiming they didn’t meet the statute of limitations on the cases where he didn’t publish the information.

This, for once, is not a widespread excoriation of the entire Catholic Church. Four priests from the archdiocese banded together with abuse victims to demand the Church have more transparency and to support their claims. These priests are both very brave and genuinely good people. Lots of Catholic clergy are. Timothy Dolan is not.

I’ve complained a number of times about Apple Cheeks’s hateful and bigoted statements. This is a guy who compares gay marriage to incest and makes slippery slope arguments. This is a man who lies about being “forced” to provide same-sex marriages (which has never, never, never happened despite the number of states that have legalized it, but why let facts stand in the way of fear), being unallowed to provide adoption services (another lie, since the Church still can, just not with public funds), and who was willing to sue over New York voting for marriage equality.

This is a man who continues to push the lie that “religious liberty” means “making you follow my religion.”

This is a man who, last week, refused to comment on the odious retraction of a 10-year-old apology by his predecessor, Cardinal Egan, about the handling of abuse cases under his watch. Why would he not say, “This is an incredibly disappointing decision by Cardinal Egan and I hope that the Church continues to vigorously pursue accusations of abuse”? Would that have been so hard? Not for anybody with a hint of human feeling.

But this is a bridge too far. For all the claims of Dolan and his ilk that they are “moral leaders” and the only guide for people to live lives of goodness and purity, they seem to also be the most cowardly group of ass-covering fucks on the planet. This egomaniacal jackass, this holy barbarian, this grasping, clawing scum from the Dark Ages has the audacity to tell people how they should live in a moral fashion. I would sooner ask a wife beater the secret to domestic tranquility than believe a word this depraved hollow body utters.

I’ve said this a number of times, but I’ll say it again: religion does not teach morality. Evil men like Dolan will continue to be evil and find justifications in their faith to do so. He brought this with him to the clergy, and he will retire just as blinkered, black-hearted, and brazen as he is today.

If the Church cared about abuse on its watch, they would stop his assencion to the rank of Cardinal. They would fire him on the spot, make him leave the Church and find employment elsewhere. Or, even better, they would insist that authorities look into his complicity in covering up child rape.

Though I suspect I have no readers at the Vatican, I will still make this open plea that you punish this loathsome, vile man. Separate yourself from him and make it clear that that sort of behavior will not be tolerated. He would not be the first supremely despicable person in history to be given a red hat, but we now live in the 21st century and know that this sort of behavior is never, never, never acceptable. If you raise him to the rank of Cardinal next week as opposed to firing him tomorrow, you will be demonstrating only that no mere mortal can express this level of moral bankruptcy. For that, you would have to be a Prince of the Church.

Fucking Religious Liberty, How Does it Work?

Let me start by saying that I can never properly express my joy and appreciation to the Insane Clown Posse for the ability to parody their “fucking magnets” line at every turn. It’s so succinct, even more so than Bill O’Reilly’s “tide goes in, tide goes out” routine, and makes the exact same point with exactly the same amount of intention: some people don’t know or don’t want to know how things work because they prefer their made up answers.

Which brings us to religious liberty, what it means, and why we really need to get our definitions straight. To be honest, I’d rather be writing about the return of the horrid Kill the Gays bill in Uganda and this laughable farce of a press release regarding it, especially considering the foreign aid that Uganda is going to give up to pass this thing is necessary to support the corruption sector of their economy.

With a key that large, no wonder they need $44,000. The car must be HUGE!

Instead, I will explore what religious liberty is & is not and, broader, what liberty is & is not.

We’ve heard a lot lately about the “war on religion,” a “secular vision for America,” and similar meaningless phrases. Newt Gingrich is particularly fond of linking secularists to Muslims (because both are, you know, super scary). Mitt Romney thinks that the government forcing religiously-affiliated institutions to cover contraception like everybody else is a violation of conscience. Rick Santorum, who’s religious views are so intertwined with his political ones that he thinks he can rule the country by God’s law and not be “pastor in chief,” agrees.

But those are just the GOP candidates (minus Ron Paul who thinks that state governments can do pretty much anything they want). Let’s instead look at other people. The Liar Tony Perkins recently threw a hissy fit about the Air Force Academy not promoting a sectarian charity. Archbishop Timmy “Apple Cheeks” Dolan has a little bit to say about everything, and it all proves how put upon his international, ludicrously wealthy tax free organization with billions of members is. Muslim students at the UK’s London School of Economics claimed religious discrimination because an atheist group posted a cartoon on their Facebook that portrays an imagine of the prophet Mohammed. Kind of. Sort of. In a way.

The question becomes, what is the common thread with all of theses? I’ll give you a minute to think of it.

If you said, “they all require other people to adhere to the religious doctrines of the speakers,” you’re correct. You get a prize!

It’s this jpg!

“Repsect” and “tolerance” are becoming code words from people like those mentioned above for the demand that others follow the dictates of their faith. It’s a problematic bug (feature?) that a lot of them have. Their faith demands that all people follow it, claims that it is the one true way and all others are false, and puts it upon its followers to wrangle everybody together under this set of beliefs. So, the easiest way for Apple Cheeks or the Liar Tony Perkins is to make it happen by default. If everybody is forced, legally, to act like a Catholic or an Evangelical, even if they don’t actually believe, then that’s good enough for God, right?

I somehow doubt it.

The pernicious way in which this is approached, however, is the real problem. I know that Rick Santorum wants everybody to believe what he believes. The voices in his head have made it very clear that that is the only way to tempt Jesus back to Earth. However, he likes to pretend that there’s some sort of reason that doesn’t stem from his holy book that would make people think that having a father in prison is better than having two gay fathers. It’s not so much that he denies that he thinks God wants things to be this way, but rather that he manufactures other reasons for those of us who think his mythology doesn’t count as an authority.

Listen, we as human beings are going to disagree on things. Disagreement, however, is not intolerance. We’re not saying that your opinions are invalid, we’re saying that they’re wrong, and there is a gigantic difference between those. For example, saying that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry is saying that their relationship is invalid, that it doesn’t count, since marriage is ultimately a validation of love, especially when done with no facts to support the assertion. Yes, people claim it’s also wrong, but the only evidence presented is provably false or from scripture, and I can point to thousands of works that make the opposite point.

Saying that somebody is a bigot for opposing equality is not intolerance because it doesn’t say that their opinion doesn’t count. Quite the opposite, it says that their opinion is so valid that it defines an essential part of their character. Their words matter, they exist, and they have meaning. The same can’t be said for their opinion of LGBT rights which don’t matter, don’t exist, and don’t have meaning.

This is where religious liberty comes back into the picture. This is an individual liberty, one that affords the exerciser the ability to believe and worship in whatever way they see fit. Liberty in general is an individual exercise, one which permits people to act in a fashion that suits them. This is the opposite of the “religious intolerance” crowd who see liberty as the ability for a group to exercise their preference on others. If it were the government telling them how they had to personally act, they would scream bloody murder, and in fact are screaming bloody murder pretending that’s what’s happening. But the fights being fought aren’t over the actions of the complainers, but rather over the actions of outside third parties that aren’t legally required to act in the fashion those complainers would have them act.

Religious liberty does not obligate the state or other people to believe and worship in the same way as you. Using the above example again, it is a violation of religious liberty to force an Evangelical minister to marry a same sex couple. It is not a violation of the religious liberty of that Evangelical minister to allow an Episcopalian minister to marry that couple.

Neither breaking the leg nor picking the pocket of any Christian anywhere.

The state is under no obligation to protect your sensibilities. It is a violation of religious liberty to force the Catholic Church to use their own money to adopt to same-sex couples. It is not a violation of religious liberty to refuse to pay them to discriminate against LGBT couples. And I’m tired of people who get this wrong (BTW: as of this writing, I’m top of the comments on that last link based on likes. Keep me there, my minions!)

What the behavior of those crying “religious intolerance” the loudest clearly demonstrates is that they have no faith. Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Dolan doesn’t have enough faith in his God to believe that God can prevent women from taking contraception given the option (he’s right, BTW), so the celibate, virgin man will instead cry like a celibate, virgin baby about how very unfair this is that he might have to give women the option to express their own religious liberty, including their right to reject his authority over them. Jesus apparently doesn’t have the power to keep people going to church (and it offers so many good reasons, let me tell you) if they don’t pick up the habit early, so Newt Gingrich is going to make sure kids get as much exposure as possible, before those anti-religious pagans can affect their opinions.

These people have “faith” in the same way that I’m “straight.” Sure, I’m attracted to women, but I fail to possess the crucial component of being “only or primarily” attracted to women. This is sort of the same way these people of “faith” are perfectly fine in the comfortable trappings of religion, but fail to have any real belief in the power of their divinity. It’s a sham and a farce and entirely unsurprising as they seem dedicated to making everybody else observe the window dressing of their religion and could care less if the home is equally empty inside.

So, when it comes to religious liberty, your freedom exists for your ability to act in the manner that you feel is correct and not to impose that on others. That means that your religious liberty allows you to decide not to marry a same sex partner, not the ability to refuse to do your job in issuing legal licenses. Your religious liberty allows you to decide not to use contraception, it does not allow you to accept public money while refusing to let others use it. Your religious liberty allows you to not portray Mohammed, it does not prevent others from doing so.

Click for larger version

The Liar Tony Perkins has claimed that the Obama administration has  “created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity.” Quite frankly, if we’re talking about his idea of Christianity, I hope so. It’s a Christianity that demands obedience. It’s a Christianity that excludes people. It’s a Christianity designed for one purpose and one purpose alone: to give power to Tony Perkins.

Timothy Dolan’s Catholicism is designed to give power to Catholic bishops. Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum are all using their faith in order to leverage power for themselves. And if not allowing them to run rough shod over the rights of people who won’t live by their standards creates a hostile environment for that, I say bring it on and throw their outdated, stupid, and hateful ideas into the dustbin of history to make room for better ones.