No Religious Test for Office

Separation of church and state is intended to keep each from interfering in the workings of the other.

Separation of church and state isn’t just ensuring that government leaves religious groups alone – but that the religious groups also do not interfere with government. No lobbying from the pulpit, no interference with voting.

In fact, any charity that receives monies or tax consideration is generally not permitted to lobby the government. It’s a conflict of interest.

In the current Republican candidate race, Mitt Romney, Mormon, raises all the specters that John F. Kennedy did when he rans for and became the first Catholic president.

It’s something that I didn’t really understand as a teen in the 1980’s and not seeing that Christians view Catholic as a separate religion.

It’s curious, since all Christian sects have basically sheared off of the Catholic Church, being the oldest and longest continuous sect. After all, isn’t one of the commandments about respecting your parents?

In any event, while the concerns and objections to JFK was that the Pope would be the de facto President; the concerns about Mitt Romney and Mormonism are entirely different.

The Catholic Church is generally characterized as an out of touch, non-relevant, corrupt and systemically abusive, it is viewed by Christians as a religion whereas the Mormon Church is usually deemed to be a cult.

As an outsider, I honestly can’t see any meaningful difference between the Catholic Church, Christians (Evangelical, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, etc) and Mormons.

They include the same stories, with Mormons going an extra testament, the same cast of characters and pretty much the same gender roles and behavioral norms and a lot of the same beleifs, social attitudes and bigotry.

Truly, is there really a difference if a person believes that Armageddon will happen someday vs a given particular day?

Separation of church and state isn’t just a guide for how government and religious groups interact and relate to each other – but also a guide for how citizens are meant to interact with each.

Which means, you are supposed to vote for the person or party you beleive best qualified for office – not who you’d be happiest to share your pew with.

Politicians used to shake hands and kiss babies, now they have to trot out their religious beliefs as if these are qualifications for office – which is precisely what the Founding Fathers of America sought to avoid. No religious test for office.

That doesn’t mean that a politician can’t be religious, but rather that what they do in office must arise from the law of the land – not handed down from on high.

The idea of a president who believes that they have a direct line to God and the ability to destroy the earth multiple times by launching nuclear weapons, should be terrifying to any thinking person – no matter what their religious or not beleifs are.

I worry far less about disorganized terrorist groups with nukes, bio or other mass destruction weapons – than about a government led by a religious zealot who is no different than the disenfranchised terrorist.

Nations need to be lead by facts on the ground, reality, science.

We cannot have governments who do nothing post disaster because extreme bad weather is punishment for immoral behaviour.

There is a place for religion in people’s lives and communities; humans haven’t evolved beyond religion yet, but it’s not in the highest office of the land or in the policy room. Religion, being so widely varied, is not a solid or rational basis for policy or good governance.

The Pope and Hippies

The Catholic Church has recently blamed the 1960’s counterculture of American hippies for the child molesting sex scandals plaguing the church.

For once, I agree with them – but only to the limited extent – not their fantasy that the so called free love movement created a culture of permissiveness that encouraged celibate priests to molest children – that the 1960’s counterculture that stood up to authority to say that the individual mattered and deserved dignity of person and personal sovereignty that created the cultural climate that so many of the victims from decades before the 1960’s and in countries all over the world have been able to come forward and tell their stories of systemically sanctioned abuse and gross negligence in protecting the abusers by moving them from one community to another – often promoting the worst offenders so they could protect the next generation of molesters.

That the Catholic Church should try to blame American hippies for their priest’s molestation and their bishop’s protecting the priests and silencing the witnesses, victims and their families is beyond the credible.

American hippies do not explain why the sex scandals are breaking in every single country that the Catholic Church operates in, and in dates before and since the 1960’s. It doesn’t explain the church’s failure to defrock even repeat offenders spanning several communities.

This blaming the hippies and the counterculture only makes sense when you consider that the bully always blames the victim for reporting the crimes that the victim somehow forced the bully to perform.

And our tendency to blame the messenger compounds the problem – as if the acknowledgement of the problem is somehow worse than the problem and as if reporting is on par with perpetrating.

It is not the victim’s fault they were abused by people who they trusted to protect and guide them. The problem is not that the crimes are reported, but that they occurred at all.

This is a huge difficulty for an organization who’s purpose is to deal with immoral actions after the fact and to forgive for a fee; rather than be a system by which people can avoid undertaking immoral actions. If religion could do that, religion would literally be out of business.

If people could understand and make moral distinctions and then undertake morally correct or the lesser of evils actions – then what need would they have of the priest?

But, what need do we have of priests who clearly are not capable of moral action even when they have removed themselves from the ordinary lives that are fraught with temptation. Priests who are allegedly dedicated to poverty, charity and chastity?

The highest authority of the Catholic Church live in a castle, surrounded by material and historical wealth and don ornate costumes while the countries with the highest ratio of Catholics more often than not are existing in abject poverty. Where is this charity? Why do they not redistribute some of that wealth to help the poor followers?

What need does anyone have of priests who harm children or the bishops who protect said priests – and likely were these same pedo-priests in the past?

How can anything as abusive and corrupt, in blatant defiance of the values it claims to hold dear, continue to retain followers who turn over a sizable chunk of their hard earn money, and worse, their children, over to this beast that consumes with an entitlement that is difficult to comprehend?

On nothing more than the basis of allowing them to take the fruits of your labour and your loins and you will be rewarded after you die, because that’s god’s will and the Pope is representing on earth.

Because hey, the pope is always a trustworthy guy, no matter the scheming and maneuvering and double dealing it takes to get into the big chair and the bulletproof popemobile. The ultimate demonstration of lack of faith that ever was.

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.