(Content note: child sexual abuse, religious abuse, Catholics being evil.)
I am still not a Pope Francis fangirl.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s been hilarious watching hordes of fundagelical Christians line up on their knees in front of Pope Francis with their mouths open when I know that when I was a Pentecostal, most of the hardline fundagelicals I knew all secretly thought that Catholics ate babies. I knew that wasn’t true–I was raised Catholic, remember, and have scads of people in my extended family who are (or were until death) priests and nuns–but the lurid tales of Catholic “secrets” were very popular in both conversation and the sort of full-color comic books and tracts that my crowd favored.
Jack Chick, one of our favorite tract writers, got taken in every early on by what appears to have been one hell of a conjob of a fraud artist, Alberto Rivera, who claimed to have been a Jesuit priest who’d spied for the Catholic Church and was hunted after finding out that his church was totally behind Freemasonry, the creation of Islam, and some other big boogeymen of the 1970s. The comic books detailing Mr. Rivera’s torture by and desperate flight from his Catholic leaders were outlandish and bizarre, but I knew a lot of people who totally bought into them–and who also totally believed every word in Jack Chick’s numerous other ludicrous anti-Catholic tracts. That said, I didn’t need to go hunting far back then to find all kinds of ill will toward Catholicism, which was regarded as little better than paganism that was sexist and backwards even by Pentecostal standards.
Back then, the main reason a lot of us thought poorly of Catholics was their bizarre fixation on procreative sex. Oh, we talked a lot about idolatry and canned prayers, and denounced the Catholic practice of praying to saints and their veneration of the Virgin Mary, who we did not think was sinless (“she was a nice Jewish girl,” as my pastor put it at the time, emphasizing that she’d been chosen as much for her bloodline as for any particular virtue of her own). The gaudy costumes, elaborate rituals, ostentatious churches and cathedrals, and air of corporate business that permeated the religion also got their due side-eye from us. But it was their sexual mores that caught our attention most. My denomination was quite happy about sex and thought any sex–as long as it was properly corralled between one man and one woman who were currently and right then married only to each other–was awesome sex. Just as Harry Blackitt did in that famous “Every Sperm is Sacred” sketch in The Meaning of Life, we thought our take on sex was affirming, individualistic, respectful of human needs, and most of all reflective of “personal relationships” with our deity rather than how Catholics were shackled to “the autocratic power of the Papacy.” We could have sex whenever we wished and indeed should, often, to keep our mates happy. And contraception was not only acceptable but advised so that couples didn’t end up mired in the catastrophic expense and drama of an unexpected pregnancy.
That’s what being a Protestant’s all about. That’s why it’s the church for me. That’s why it’s the church for anyone who respects the individual and the individual’s right to decide for him or herself. When Martin Luther nailed his protest up to the church door in fifteen-seventeen, he may not have realised the full significance of what he was doing, but four hundred years later, thanks to him, my dear, I can wear whatever I want on my John Thomas. And Protestantism doesn’t stop at the simple condom. Oh, no. I can wear French Ticklers if I want.
I’m not saying that our take on sex was healthy–we thought it was, but that isn’t the same thing at all–but looking back, at least we had our heads on straight about non-procreative sex and contraception. Hell, back then nobody even thought about panicking about whether a method of contraception was “abortifacient,” since we knew that contraception, by its very nature and by definition and by every measure possible, is not abortifacient. Our pastors preached–and I heard this many times–that humans had been told to “be fruitful and multiply,” and we very obviously had done exactly that, since our planet was fast approaching its capacity, so we could hold off if we wanted. Though my church friends were hugely alarmed that I took that teaching to heart and declined to have children because I didn’t want any, they really couldn’t argue with me doctrinally about it, which limited their scary interventions to lectures me about how meeeeeeeeean I was to my long-suffering, baby-rabies-infected husband Biff (who had known from the beginning of our association that I wasn’t having kids, and who’d chosen to marry me anyway) and how scared they were that I might choose to have an abortion should a pregnancy “just happen.” But not once can I remember a single instance of a single person I knew outside of the Catholic Church who tried to tell women that contraception wasn’t totally acceptable.
As those old cigarette ads say, you’ve come a long way, baby.
Now we’ve got ultra-conservative Tea Party wingnuts like Jerome Corsi trying to tell people that sex isn’t supposed to be for pleasure but rather for making babies, and that if people want pleasure they should “read a book.” And I’m sure you’ve heard about the equally-bizarre attempt by Ken Cuccinelli to literally ban all forms of sexual intercourse except the penis-in-vagina kind, especially oral sex. Rick Santorum, King Anal-Retentive himself, has made no secret of his opposition to anything that stops women from conceiving during sex.
And what’s really funny is that all of these men are Roman Catholics, according to their Wikipedia pages.
There was seriously a time when someone who said this kind of shit would have been simply laughed off stage by Republicans and fundagelicals alike. And yes, largely they are by rational and sane and loving people. But they are also taken seriously by way more people than either you or I would ever feel comfortable thinking about. Rick Santorum was a Senator who ran for President and who may well be flirting with the idea of doing it again, since clearly he’s not being humiliated enough in his bedroom as it is. Ken Cuccinelli damned near became governor of Virginia in 2013. Jerome Corsi is a prolific right-wing conspiracy-theorizing nut who’s written (largely debunked and utterly unreliable) books and blog posts on the super-popular Christian tabloid World Net Daily (which Mr. Santorum also writes for sometimes) about topics like the President’s country of birth and where he thinks crude oil really comes from.
It’s mind-blowing to me that anybody is listening to stuff like this. But they are, and a lot of those ears belong to–of all people–Protestants, who have embraced the Catholic Church leaders’ deep distrust of contraception and sex-for-pleasure. I went looking for some citations for y’all and decided to just say to hell with it on this one because there were too many results. Feel free to go look if you want. It’s getting late and I’m running out of fucks to give. Protestants–especially fundagelical ones–are devoting considerable digital time to the question of exactly which contraception their women will be allowed to use and just what sort of sex people should be allowed to have. And more and more often, they are not focusing on those unfortunate women who are still in their power to control, but women who aren’t even part of their religion.
When I survey the wreckage of modern Christianity in my country, I behold their downright prurient-sounding fascination with women’s genitals and sex lives, like collectively the pastors of America have all morphed into pre-teen boys. When Hobby Lobby’s fundagelical owners decided to fan themselves, get the vapors, reach for their smelling salts, and collapse onto their chaises longue over the idea of women having contraception that might, possibly, maybe, oh-so-rarely cause miscarriage, they didn’t bother to look closer to discover that no, actually, the contraception they’re so freaked out about doesn’t actually do that. They just charged ahead to deny women that coverage. It’s not hard to wonder if the real problem is that women using contraception are probably having sex for some reason other than to breed future minimum-wage workers for assholes like their narcissistic, controlling bosses.
In short, the difference between a hardline Catholic and a hardline Protestant used to be so night and day they might as well have been different species of humanoids. Not anymore. And I’ve got to wonder if both groups’ rabid desire to control women’s bodies came into alignment when the two groups got into the same bed over abortion. A lot of things changed when Protestants joined the Catholic fight against abortion access. Even now, Catholics and Protestants are hammering out ways to oppose bodily-ownership rights, and the two camps are burrowing further and further into the bedsheets. It would have been completely unthinkable a few decades ago.
I wonder if it could ever have happened if both groups weren’t facing a serious crisis of evaporating membership, credibility, power, and–most importantly–donations.
And now the leader of the church that put the “ex” into “sex”, Pope Francis, is coming to talk to my country’s most important legislators in September.
Pope Francis was definitely a good choice for the Catholic Church after ditching “God’s Rottweiler”,
Emperor Palpatine Pope Benedict. Benedict looked downright evil, and his hardline image presided over the first ripples of one of the worst scandals in modern history: the long-running pedophilia scandal that even now still rocks the Church. When Catholics began voting with their feet and wallets in response to that scandal, as well they should have, the Church began to panic, one must imagine, which is when kinder, gentler Francis was brought on board in a near-unprecedented move to replace a living Pope. I heard rumors that Benedict was facing perhaps some sort of trouble over his possible role in the scandal, but whatever the cause for his retirement, Francis quickly began making clear that he wanted to do things differently.
But is he really?
Here’s just one big example of why I’m not buying into the Francis fangirling going on in my country.
Just this week, news emerged that over 100,000 pedophiliac images and photos were uncovered right in the middle of the Vatican, many courtesy of a predatory archbishop named Josef Wesolowski, who is accused of molesting children in several countries where he was assigned.
Francis might express a great deal of sadness over the children who were hurt by the clerics under his control, but it’s worth noting that his sadness does not extend to handing predators like this archbishop over to the proper authorities, or sending him to one of the countries where he committed his offenses to face trial. No. Indeed, this predator has been roaming the Vatican under house arrest. In fact, he was quietly recalled back to Rome after news of his offenses got out, so he wouldn’t face that prosecution. He’s been protected for years by Francis’ cronies. And Francis without a doubt would have known that Josef Wesolowski was being protected by those cronies, and seems very unlikely to do anything about it.
In fact, when he said in November of 2014 that he felt “compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” when he dedicated his time in office to “not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed,” I wonder if he was hoping desperately that nobody would notice that he, himself, Pope Francis the Cuddly, had personally been informed back in mid-2013, 18 months previously, that Josef Wesolowski was being accused of this abuse and that he, himself, Pope Francis the Weird, had either ordered or allowed to have ordered the child-rapist to return to Rome. He wasn’t even originally put under house arrest, but allowed to wander around Rome at will at first; it was only way after being defrocked that he finally got put under house arrest, and that only after a furious outcry that a child-rapist was enjoying such freedom.
And Josef Wesolowski is still in Rome, being fed, housed, clothed, shod, and entertained (though obviously not to his liking!) by Catholic authorities using the money–and interest therefrom–donated to the Catholic church by willfully-blind Catholic parishioners. I don’t know when he’ll actually face justice for what he has done; Catholic justice is glacial when it comes to disciplining a priest who diddles children. A female parochial-school teacher who gets pregnant after unapproved sex can expect to lose her job within one month of her Catholic employers finding out about it, but a child-rapist may die of old age before the children he raped will ever see justice for what he did.
Oh, but it gets worse. When those images of child pr0n were found in the Vatican, Josef Wesolowski was only one of the people involved. There were others. Pope Francis, who has been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, has not commented on this news, but for all his progressive and hard stance against the predators in his organization, almost nobody has actually gone to the Vatican’s prison for their misdeeds, even though he’s openly said that he thinks based on “reliable data” that about 2% of the priests in the Roman Catholic Church are pedophiles.
The case of Josef Wesolowski alone makes me distrustful of Francis’ user-cuddly image. But I needn’t go that far.
* He is nowhere near even willing to discuss the idea of female priests.
As the LA Times wrote in its devastating takedown of his misogynistic views about women, he buys into the debunked notion that biology is what keeps women from holding leadership positions in society and business. He wants women to return to the roles that he is most comfortable with seeing them perform–housekeepers and mothers. And when they are too old to be mothers and too weak to perform housekeeping duties, he wants them to shut up and go away. Even though most Catholics in the civilized world disagree with the ban on female priests, Francis is still hidebound here. He is no friend to women, any more than he is truly a friend to children.
* When Muslim terrorists recently attacked the city of Paris and murdered people, his reaction was puzzling and disturbing.
Pope Francis’ remarks were beyond bizarre. While decrying the violence, he stated that he’d certainly commit acts of violence if provoked: if someone “says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him.” He tried to walk that comment back later, but only drilled down on the idea that blasphemy was a provocation that totally deserved violence and tried to make the case that religion was a sacred cow that could not ever be questioned or challenged, let alone mocked, lest violence erupt–and that this violence was not only understandable but maybe morally obligated in the same way that many “tough guys” consider an insult to their mothers all the justification they need to hit someone. Francis might wear a pretty frock and a funny hat, he might look like someone’s weird great-uncle, but he is just a big bully, nothing more, and Rosa Rubicondior’s skewering of his hypocritical advocacy of justified violence really does say it all:
. . . human society in general may be enormously affected by a careless and confused attempt to implement what looks like a new, less tolerant and more violent Catholic dogma which can only be expected to result in retaliation and an escalation in communal and inter-faith violence.
* He’s certainly not revising the Catholic Church’s pseudoscientific and misogynistic rules about contraception.
Indeed, he tends to speak very favorably of countries that try to exert total control over women’s bodies in this manner, and to criticize countries that start trying to shake off his church’s control. He might not want to talk about those issues, but that doesn’t mean he’s withdrawing from the arena or that he’s admitting that women own their own bodies and have the right to decide how those bodies will be used and enjoyed and that those choices are none of his goddamned business. Like the Republican Party of the United States, he just doesn’t want to talk about it, is all. As that link emphasizes and quotes him as saying, he’s as clueless about how very real people’s lives operate as he is about why women tend to have inferior roles in society and business. And it is women in his religion that pay the price, since most of them use contraception that would give him the vapors. Worse, though, is that women totally outside his religion also pay the price, since the rules his church advocates and try to push into law affect everybody, not just women unfortunate enough to be in his power. Hell, he doesn’t even want women to be educated about their own bodies in school.
* And whoa nelly he’s definitely not going anywhere on civil rights for LGBTQ people.
As reported in that New Civil Rights Movement link just above, Francis also gives his unabashed, unequivocal support to various bigoted anti-gay laws, including laws banning equal marriage rights for same-sex couples and laws stopping LGBTQ couples from adopting children who need families–and he even managed to work in some shaming of single-parent households headed by women by parroting that debunked line that “every family needs a father,” which I’m sure makes legions of women who don’t have that option (if they even want it!) feel just awesome, and makes legions of same-sex male couples wonder what his damage is then since their families have two fathers. Francis’ dedication to his business’ party-line hate-speech is so powerful that despite his oh-so-sanctimonious posturing about “da chidwen,” he doesn’t love them enough to let loving families take in children in need unless those families fit his preconceptions about what families should look like. WWJD? Let kids remain without parents to make a hateful, bigoted point, and deny millions of people the right to happiness because of his own personal prejudices. How loving.
This guy talks a big game and constantly alarms his handlers doing so, but I’m not impressed. The words don’t translate into action and often betray that he’s just as bad as his predecessors. About the only places I could see that he’s doing anything decent at all is that he’s not quite as mean to atheists as some of his peers promptly demonstrated they were, and he wants to let divorced Catholics take communion again. Though I know the first part’s going to raise the most eyebrows, the second is an even bigger deal; my own mother was excommunicated after dumping her philandering, dishonest, neglectful, money-grubbing first husband, and when she attended church services I could see the tears sparking to her eyes every time everybody else got to stand up and go up front to take communion while she had to remain seated for her great and unforgivable sin of cutting herself loose from a man she believed might hurt her children so she could marry a man who was willing to step up to the plate and be a father to us. Maybe Francis is just starting to realize that pushing divorced Catholics away doesn’t make a lot of financial sense; his sudden willingness to reconsider his church’s mindless cruelty to divorced people smacks of an abusive ex promising to make some small, superficial change to get a victim back into the net.
But Francis hates the same people that fundagelical Christians hate and wants to control the same people that fundagelical Christians want to control, so they’re glad to join him in the party van for now. It’ll be kinda funny to hear the popping noise that fundagelicals’ mouths make as they snap open for the holy crook and his curved stick’s tip.
Not. Impressed. And, in conclusion, this:
Next week we’re going to head back to the Handbook–wow, some of the messages I’ve been getting about that series have been really mind-blowing and encouraging. I’m glad to keep talking about this subject if it’s of use. See y’all next week!