Pedo Priests and 12 steps

These are the current version of the generic 12 step programs – the original ones were alcohol specific and more honest about the involvement of a god. Now they try to make it less religious, which of course is lying.
The 12 Steps

Step 1 We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable
Step 2 Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
Step 3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
Step 4 Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Step 5 Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 6 Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Step 7 Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Step 8 Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Step 9 Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Step 10 Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Step 11 Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
Step 12 Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The first thing to notice is that NONE of the steps are stopping the behavior or taking serious responsibility for the actions/addiction and worse,  and none for recovery.

It’s all, I am powerless and ask something else to fix me and everyone to forgive me because I was powerless.

Now, these 12 step programs will be a future blog, but I think that these steps are very telling about many churches attitudes towards the victims of their various abuses.

It’s not just the Catholic Priests and children – it’s also Anglican and other churches and religions.

There are more sexual, physical and emotional abuse victims of these churches at Canadian Indian Residential Schools, orphans in religious facilities, deaf schools  and pretty much anyone who was actually in a less powerful position because they were under the control of the priests of the churches.

But, back to the 12 steps and Churches:

Certainly appears that the churches have been powerless to either screen the priest applicants to eliminate pedophiles and abusers.  Or is unwilling the same as powerless?

But how exactly were  the Churches powerless when abuse was reported? Formal religions tend to have discipline committees. They certainly have a mechanism for kicking out people they don’t like. They could have brought in civil authorities.

They didn’t. Not one. They bullied the victims and silenced the parents and moved the pedo priest to a new parish.

Even the few who did go to the police weren’t believed. A couple of boys from the Mt. Cashel orphanage ran away and were found by RCMP officers. The boys told the police what was going on and the police response? To return the boys back to the orphanage. You might remember a tv miniseries called The Boys of St. Vincent’s – this was the fictional version of Mt. Cashel.

Decades and thousands of priests with tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of victims. Victims not believed, victims suiciding, victims not thriving as adults.

The average pedophile molests 260 victims during their lifetime. That’s average, not the really motivated ones. When you factor in the protection of an authoritative body like the Vatican or other church’s hierarchy, that number can only grow not only in numbers, but also in communities where a single pedo priest has access to victims.

Now, the churches would like to blame all this on gay men. But, there’s a few problems with that. Foremost that gay men like other gay men. Not children.

More importantly, the churches have been protecting the pedophiles since at least the 1960’s.

If they wanted to paint gays as terrible, why not make an example out of the first few and make the church look good and send a message of non-tolerance?

They didn’t. Instead, it was more important to maintain an image of infallibility and moral authority – so cover up after cover up.

I have to digress for a moment – if anyone is supposed to believe in a deity, it really should be the people who push it, right? Priests, and all the ranks up to the religion’s leader, anyone in an authority position should actually believe what the church is peddling.

How does a priest genuinely believing in hell, molest child after child after child?

I could see thinking you might have a chance at forgiveness after the first one – maybe even to the fifth. But after the 261th?

I think that the people who were drawn to become priests or nuns came from three basic categories:

1. People who believed and felt drawn.

2. People who knew they were different and wanted to be fixed or isolated.

3. People who wanted to avoid the responsibilities of gender roles that society enforced.

In category two were certainly a number of gay men – but again, they weren’t the ones causing the church problems, because gay priests or lesbian nuns could find their counterparts in other priests or nuns.

The Pedophiles who joined as part of the second group might have thought that they could be fixed by gawd or at least removed from temptation. But instead, they found a steady supply of victims and protection from one of the most powerful organizations in history.

Of all the 12 steps, again, most of which are not really accepting responsibility and asking to be fixed, rather than doing anything to change; the only step that’s really important is number 9.

Step 9 Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

This is the step that is not being done. Even acknowledging the problems is only done when there’s an overwhelming number of victims who come forward.

Even this step has an out – since the churches actually saying sorry and making reparations causes injury and harm to the church – in terms of reputation and finances.  Again, the steps fail.

For a long time, many US parishes pretended that abuse of children was a Canadian issue.

The Indian Residential Schools are an appalling part of Canada’s history. The idea was to remove native children from their homes and communities and break the cultural and familial link.

There were three churches that operated the schools on behalf of the government – and despite the churches having the day to day operations, including hiring and supervising staff – they have been able to shift the vast majority of the financial reparations onto the Federal Government.

Now, the Federal Government certainly had a big responsibility, after all, they made the rules that forced the removal of the children and they set the purpose of the schools. But it was the Church employees who raped and beat the children.

The cavalier attitude of delaying genuine apologies – as opposed to official ones that acknowledge bad things but take no responsibility for them – and of not making financial reparations until absolutely forced to do so after a prolonged and bitter court battles.

These so called corrective processes are often as damaging, if not moreso, than the inciting incidents.

That there remains no admission of guilt or responsibility.  That the pedo priest problem was systemic and wide spread. That is went on for decades, and there’s no reason to think it’s not an on-going problem…..

I just don’t see how any church can continue to claim to be a moral authority, a force of goodness or a place to turn to in distress or for community.

where do morals come from?

When debating with believers, the conversation inevitably comes around to morals. What’s moral? What authority do morals stem from?

That believers assign the authority to an external source, to me says that they do not know moral all on their own. They wouldn’t recognize a moral act from an  immoral one without their dandy list of rules – rules which largely do not deal with morals, but with worship and punishment of people who don’t follow those rules. And this punishment is pretty immoral.

So, where do morals come from?

They come from us, they evolved with us and as we embraced the morals, those were the people who thrived enough to breed. So, they were culturally taught and genetically reinforced.

The longer version:  humans are social animals and to live together, certain conventions of refraining from harming each other makes living in groups possible and refraining from incestuous behavior means the offspring are healthy.

We are happier belonging to groups and we increase survivability – it also allows us to specialize in labour and become more productive and allow for leisure time.

Harm covers a wide spectrum of behavior and decisions; in early days, being harmful meant you were expelled from the group and likely die without producing offspring.

The people who were willing to get along, lived to breed and passed this amiability down through the generations and these socially reinforced behaviours form the basis of our moral code.

Which is also why people from different cultures thought out history and today  have widely varying moral codes.

But convention isn’t a solo act – the disgust response plays a huge part in determining an individual’s morals – and this is also culturally – not exactly dependent, but culturally informed.

It’s repulsive to me to think of an 8 year old girl married to a 40+ year old man, but that’s a typical day in some countries. Theocratic countries……

We have an instinctive aversion to incest because that doesn’t produce healthy offspring – seeing couples of widely varying ages touches on this, but also, older people becoming parents – even with a young spouse – increases the chance of non-viable or non-healthy offspring.

Of course we’re not all instinct, because there’s a growing number of people who chose not to have children – that 6 billion plus people are enough in the world.

Other people think this is terrible and I suspect that much of that disgust is racist based.  Because the public and vocal proponent of not having children tend to be white couples and it’s religious white people who most object. So, I can only suspect that it’s concerns about white population numbers, not population numbers that’s behind this anxiety.

This is a stupid anxiety, since we are all humans, there are no subspecies. And, there’s less than 1% genetic difference between any two people randomly selected from any where on the globe. Yup, all the apparent physical difference really is cosmetic and skin deep.

People have other variations that allow them to have a diversity of moral views within the same culture as other people – and these are often religion influenced, as well as the tendency to be fundamentalist or moderate or open minded (which includes non-religious frameworks, like vegetarian, environmental, etc).

Problems and conflicts arise when one group thinks that their idea of morality is “normal” and should apply to everyone else.

These folks tend to want their morals to apply more to everyone else – sort of, do as I pray and not as I do.

There are no such thing as universal morals any more than there are universal rights. If there were, we wouldn’t be able to articulate them they’d be that ingrained and the same everywhere and throughout time.

And the idea of absolute morals, well, not all rules work with all situations.

Sometimes, you have to lie to spare someone’s feelings.

One thing that I noticed waaaaaaaaay back in college in the morals and ethics class that we looked at various schools of thought about morality, is that none of them, not one, factored in motivation.

They focused on outcome, impact on others, following a set of rules that didn’t allow for rule conflict.

What if stealing food saved a life? Still immoral?

If I saw a person drowning, and I jumped in to save them- moral thing, right? Probably. Especially if I didn’t know how to swim, I do, but that makes it kinda more heroic, eh?

What if that person celebrated surviving the event by harming or killing someone else? Even accidentally, say drunk driving home from a bar. Now, because I saved the first person, another person – or more  – died. Less moral now?

What I recognized the drowning person and knew they were rich? So I saved them to get a reward…. not as moral anymore…..

One action, many interpretations.

What if I let them drown because I was afraid or couldn’t swim? Immoral?

What if by letting them drown, all the future harm that they would have caused was prevented? not okay? what if they had a long violent criminal record that I had no way to know about?

Morals, make the best choice you can with the information you have available.

Think and Care.

Best foundation for any moral code.

Exchanging religious opinions with respect

A common lament in believer – non-believer discussions is believers demanding respect for their beliefs or the sincerity of it and sometimes for themselves.

Non-believers, free-thinkers and atheists don’t seem to be as hung up on respect as believers are.  Kinda like believers are way more obsessed with gay sex than gay people.

I think that this demand for respect stems from their authority fetish. The world view that believers tend to have is a rigid framework with a clear hierarchy of authority: god to to their religious leader, down through the priesthood ranks and finally to the laypeople. People who believe in a personal god, I suppose include some sort of hot-line that bypasses the other people between them and their god.

Many of the rules in religions are focused on submitting to various levels of higher authority – often starting with the parents to the religion’s priesthood ranks to god.

In Christianity, about half of the commandments are authority worship. And the purpose of authority worship is controlling people.

So, that makes it curious to me why anyone thinks that this is the basis for a moral code at all -which is a whole other blog – since there’s nothing about evaluating the authority for worthiness and no restrictions on the behaviour of said authority.

So it’s also curious – and a future blog on belief and hypocrisy – that so many of the isolationist and anti-government groups are right wing believers. So, they are failing the commandment idea that they hold most important.

So, when believers demand respect, they are really asking for submission. Unconditional at that.

Respect is earned, not bestowed.

Believers do not earn respect when they sincerely believe the atheist is going to hell, when they outright lie and misconstrue or are plain ill-informed about science concepts.

ID/Creationist Believers also insist on excessive proof – based on their misunderstanding science no less – to accept even basic science terminology and expecting to not have to provide any at all for their religious claims. They also fall into the trap of if science can’t prove something 100%, then all science must be wrong adn religion wins by default.

But that is a false choice and science is never about 100% certainty. It’s best conclusion given the information we have. When new information becomes available, it’s peer reviewed and the conclusion is revised.

So, it’s pretty funny that believers cannot handle ambiguity and change, yet they base their absolutist and certainty on religion, which has no evidence or proof and is entirely based on subjective feelings and personal preference reinforced by confirmation bias.

Believers also like to paint atheists as rude – as if this was the worst thing a person could be and pointing out that being rude is hardly on par with suicide bombers and shooting abortion doctors on the badness scale…. well, they don’t generally have a response for that.

The idea of respect in a conversion in which the believer is misrepresenting  scientific concepts, dismissing religious people caught in controversies as “not real ones”, does not understand logic or debate rules as evidenced by the “You haven’t changed my mind, so I won” attitude and who sincerely believes that the atheist is going to an unpleasant afterlife – and enjoys that “fact”.

How can you respect any of that or the person spouting it?

How can the person spouting that party line of disrespect, who offers no respect for the conversation and the opposing participants, honestly expect to be respected?

I respect the right to opinions and expression of same. But that’s a blanket respect for rights, not people or their particular beliefs.

I also hold myself to the standard of having to earn respect for myself and my beliefs.  If I can’t, by my conduct earn respect for my as a person or by my logic earn it for my belief, then I don’t have your respect.

And that’s okay with me, because my beliefs are not dependent on other people’s respect or acceptance.

We all have the same information or access to information. That we all draw different conclusions from that is what makes the world an interesting place.

Until someone insists that theirs is the only correct conclusion and worse, that it should be self evident to all expect the childish and immoral people like atheists, free thinkers, non-heterosexuals and really, even believers in other faiths or in other versions of their own faith.

And really, who is being the child in that situation?


It’s also funny to me that the expression “With all due respect” is usually used to indicate that no respect is owed or forthcoming.

Disasters, politics and religion

I just finished watching 2 documentaries. One on the current Haiti post earthquake and the other on the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami. Last weekend, I had watched a tsunami one using footage filmed by people at the sites while the waves destroyed everything and they were interviewed about what they went through and who they lost.

It’s impossible to watch these without crying. It astonishes me how in the Haiti one, the geologist who’s the on camera narrator and main character, insomuch as documentaries about events and science have a main character, is able to go about his photos and observations without crying.

I guess at some point the horror is just too overwhelming, but I couldn’t help but interprete some real glee and excitement in many of the geologists in talking about we knew this was going to happen, we just didn’t know when.

And I know that data is critical to gather while it’s fresh, but it’s just a bit hard to take watching a calm man get excited over cracks in the ground, upthrust areas and sunken areas, while in the background of the shots, people are digging through rubble trying to find loved ones or some in tact item from their former life.

The geologist talks about the overwhelming stench of death in the air, and it strikes me that that isn’t all that has a bad odour.

A huge part of what caused the enormous death toll and destruction wasn’t the heavily populated area on a fault line, but the lack of a building code and no infrastructure to enforce any.

Most heavily populated areas are in some kind of disaster zone. The next time Vesuvius blows like it did for Pompeii, and 2 million + people live in the immediate area…… well, it would be the worse natural disaster in recorded history.

It’s the word, natural, that kept jumping out at me while watching the documentaries.

In the Five Years later, one village had been reduced from 6000 people to 1200 – with only 400 women and 8 children five years later. The older children who had survived were now teenagers, orphaned, and largely leaving the village without an education for other places for work.

While the village had been rebuilt – and to new stronger building codes, the tourists were not returning. Partly because no destination hotel or resort was rebuilt and this was largely owing to a fundamentalist Islamic group that had descended on the site in the immediate aftermath to help clear debris, bury bodies and begin the rebuilding.

But, they didn’t leave. They remained and told everyone that the disaster was divine punishment. They put Sharia Law in place and they police the village. Some villagers became devote, others, not as much and for the most part, these are the ones who are leaving.

And them staying and enforcing the law to anyone within the village means that the one industry that could ensure the villaige’s economic future and existance – tourism – is not going to happen.

Tourists do not go to romantic beaches to sit 3 feet away from each other and control their bodies and hands. Women tourists certainly do not go the beach to cover up.

Saving a people’s souls while destroying their bodies and ability to be self-sufficient, isn’t a help to them.

How do you make sense of the senseless? The destruction, the loss of life, not even being able to bury the body of your loved one.

My mind goes blank trying to comprehend it even.

But, what doesn’t make sense is to accept that the disaster was somehow caused by human social or moral behaviour. Nor does it make sense to then turn to the very deity that, let’s face it, pretty much allowed the disaster to occur.

Disasters really should spell the end for deities. If deities are all powerful, then why allow a disaster to kill so many, destroy so much. Do you really want to beleive that all the dead babies were going to be evil? Or that their parent or sibling are, so the baby had to die to punish them?

Really? Evil babies?

We know what causes disasters – the tectonic plates shifting, subduction, releasing pressure and the earth quakes and when that shift displaces water, we have the tsunami.  Wind and differing water/air temperatures cause hurricanes, and wind conditions tornadoes. Volcanoes are welling super heated magma from the earth’s mantle.

There is no reason to think that any deity is using this natural events to punish people.

There’s no reason to think that a deity spared particular people either. What kind of so called loving deity picks and chooses?

When Katrina happened, many religious leaders claimed it was to punish sinners and because abortion was legal and gays/lesbians were tolerated.

Imagine hearing that – you’re in New Orleans, your city is under water, your home is gone, you are separated from your family, there’s little in the way of water, food or help.

And some moron in a suit’s biggest concern is Roe v Wade and gay marriage?

One of the underlying issues of disasters is being prepared for them. And most of us are not.

Cities need to prepare with building codes and enforcement to minimize damage before it happens. With infrastructure, disaster routes and an informed population.

At higher government levels, there needs to be first responders and aid agencies on call. And that needs funding.

What it doesn’t need are fundies of any religious bent.

Consider a fundie politician who genuinely believes that disasters are divine punishment.

What this means is that he is certain that the disaster is the deity’s plan. Is he really going to vote for funding to mitigate a disaster and thwart a deity’s plan?

Is he going to be willing to vote to spend money on aid to help people the disaster missed?

Is he going to be willing to spend money on large scale mitigation, like proper levees, water barricades, public disaster shelters?

And then you have to wonder, will these same politicans also vote to protect the environment locally and with climate change on the horizon, especially when that conflicts with business?

After all, if the rapture is coming and the deity is going to fix it all, why should we now?

Or, if we’re all or most of us are doomed, again, they are going to interfere with that?

So, as much as I thought that the geologists weren’t emotional about the disaster because they were too focused on learning what they could about the disaster in front of them, I realize that the reason this focus is there is so that they can learn and save lives in the future.

Something that the religious zealots are not interested in. They want to hurry the endtimes and be rewarded now. Because they fear dying and things like the rapture are along the lines of Don’t Pass Go, Don’t Collect $200, go straight to jail – only the opposite good mean – don’t die, go direct to heave where you get to look down and see everyone suffering on earth.

And it’s really funny to me that people who believe that there’s an afterlife, fear death and dying.

Funny weird and to a lesser extent, funny ha ha.

People who understand that disaster are natural and arbitrary, know that life is precious because it’s the only one we have.

We have to learn as much as we can to prevent and reduce future deaths. We have to see that disasters are natural. And we have to spend money to mitigate and reduce disasters before they happen, whether they are going to happen in 10, 50 or 100 years.

We need to look at cities that are below sea level and vulnerable and build the safety systems to a 500 year standard – if we ensure the defenses can withstand a category 6, then anything else below that is inconvenient, not utter destruction.

We need to look at cities in any danger zone has appropriate and enforced building codes, exit routes, close by disaster relief resources, and capacity to evacuate if there’s an ability to give notice or after to relocate and reunite people (and their pets).

We need warning systems that span regions, not just here and there in an uncoordinated manner.

The earthquake in Alaska in the 1960’s caused tsunami damage down the coast of British Columbia and into California – where deaths occured. No one at the time knew that the event were related.

We improve technologies, we conduct research and explore new ideas about disasters and we can  save lives and the property and infrastructure damage is minimized to help those lives carry on.

It’s okay for people to turn to a faith for personal comfort, but it’s not okay to rely on those religions to help us avoid or recover collectively from those disasters.