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Thursday, December 03, 2009

It's time to stop letting the Catholic Church set American policy
Posted by Jill | 5:40 AM
We recently saw just how much influence the Catholic Church has over the creation of legislation in this country when the Stupak Amendment remained in the House health care legislation:

Behind-the-scenes lobbying, coupled with a grassroots mobilization of Catholic churches across the country, led the House Saturday to pass an amendment to its health-care bill barring anyone who receives a new tax credit from enrolling in a plan that covers abortion, a once-unthinkable event in Democrat-dominated Washington.

The restriction would still have to be accepted by the Senate, where it will likely face a tough fight. The issue could sink the larger health legislation if the chambers fail to reach agreement, or if any consensus language leads supporters to defect.

The House vote, and the central role played by one of the country's biggest religious denominations, stunned abortion-rights groups that had worked hard to elect Mr. Obama and expand Democratic congressional majorities. Activists on the left had thought social issues would take a back seat to economic concerns.

The bishops' success served as a reminder that Democrats' strategy over the past two election cycles of recruiting more conservative candidates to run in competitive House and Senate seats can have unwelcome policy consequences for liberals among the party's base. About 40 House Democrats are opposed to abortion rights.

The bishops have a history of political activism. In the 2004 presidential race, some bishops said they would refuse to grant communion to Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who favored abortion rights. In 2005, the bishops' conference backed efforts by then-President George W. Bush and Republican lawmakers to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case. But rarely has the church entered the fray with such decisive force.

"The Catholic bishops came in at the last minute and drew a line in the sand," said Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy at the abortion-rights advocacy group Planned Parenthood. "It's very hard to compete with that."

WHY is it hard to compete with that? A bunch of guys dress up in robes and funny hats and decide that they are God's emissaries and we're all supposed to accept them as holy men?

Yes, if you are Roman Catholic, the bishops are important. But why, in a country in which nonestablishment of religion is codified in the very documents on which it was founded, do Catholic bishops have this kind of influence? And they get a tax deduction on top of it, this church whose empire is headquartered in one of the wealthiest city-states in the world.

Just yesterday, the Catholic Church lobby helped defeat gay marriage legislation in New York. And a few weeks ago, the Washington DC archdiocese threatened to stop providing services to the poor if the city passed a law permitting gay marriage.

That the Catholic Church has any more credibility than any other lobby just because its hierarchy paints itself as being of God is preposterous in a diverse nation like ours. And that we buy into this business about Godliness from an organization with a history of protecting child molesters is even worse. Yesterday the Cardinal of the New York Diocese, Edward Egan, gave a deposition in a case that occurred when he was the Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut:

The deposition was in its fifth grueling hour. The lawyer and the witness had dueled over the meaning of common words, about whether an executive “supervises” or “administers,” about the difference between a lie and a failure to tell the truth.

Then the lawyer sprang his big question: You could have prevented someone from hurting people and you decided not to. Why?

The witness was Edward M. Egan, then the Roman Catholic bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. The question was about a priest who had been accused of sexually molesting children.

“I didn’t make a decision one way or the other,” said Bishop Egan, whom the lawyer suggested had failed to act quickly against the cleric. “I kept working on it until I resolved the decision.”

The exchange is one of hundreds recorded in a vast trove of documents the Diocese of Bridgeport made public on Tuesday after battling in court for seven years to keep them sealed. The archive — more than 12,000 pages of memos, church records and testimony — was gathered for 23 lawsuits, alleging sexual abuse of children by seven priests, that the diocese settled in 2002.

At the heart of it lies the bishop’s testimony, in two wide-ranging depositions from 1997 and 1999. Punctuated by legal parsing and frequent exasperation on both sides, transcripts of the videotaped sessions show the man who would become one of the church’s most prominent American leaders — the archbishop of New York, and a cardinal — as he navigated a budding scandal that still threatens the church’s finances and reputation.

Since 2002, when he moved to New York and nationwide attention focused on the church hierarchy’s handling of abuse complaints, Cardinal Egan has faced troubling accusations about his tenure in Bridgeport: that he allowed priests facing multiple sex abuse allegations to continue working; that he did not refer complaints to criminal authorities; and that he showed little interest in meeting with accusers.


He sparred at one point over the difference between the supervisory and administrative duties; and at another point acknowledged that “media attention” to allegations of sexual abuse by priests had already become a serious problem for the church by 1988, when he arrived in Bridgeport, prompting him to take action. Soon after settling in, he said, he codified — in written form — the diocese’s “excellent policies” for handling sexual abuse complaints, which under previous bishops had been passed along by word of mouth.

Even then, Bishop Egan played down the importance of the action he had taken to stem a problem which, to him, was not a widespread one. At one point, when the deposition resumed in 1999, he stopped in his description of church policies to challenge the notion that any abuse had actually occurred.

“Incidentally,” he said, “these things don’t happen, and we are talking about ifs.”

“Forgive me, Father — Bishop,” replied one lawyer, Cindy Robinson. “But these things do happen because that’s the reason why we’re seated here today.”

She had been asking about two priests with long records of abuse allegations, whom Bishop Egan had sought to remove from the priesthood, though both continued working.

“These things happen in such small numbers,” the bishop said.

Bishop Egan was at his most combative when voicing his belief in the innocence of most accused priests, including one, the Rev. Raymond Pcolka, who was accused by 12 former parishioners of abuses involving oral and anal sex and beatings.

Nice, isn't it? And yet the organization that protects priests like this wants to have control over women's reproductive systems and whether same-sex people who love each other can be married. What kind of happy horseshit is this, anyway?

And in case William Donohue is having the vapors over this, let me be clear: I have no beef with people who practice Roman Catholicism as a religion. If the theology of this faith speaks to you, more power to you. There are aspects to Catholicism that I applaud, such as the ritual of confession, which to my mind is a far preferable framework for developing a moral code than the clean-slate "All you have to do is believe that Jesus died for you and you can do whatever you want" theology that seems to drive much of the Republican Party. I know Catholics of deep and abiding faith who DO help those less fortunate, and who DO turn to their religion for comfort and for whom this faith speaks to them. Whatever gets you through this often hideous level of reality, I say. But to defend the church hierarchy as somehow morally superior and worthy of a strong role in policymaking just doesn't hold water, given its record. Forget about the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, we're only talking about what these men (and yes, it's all men) have done IN OUR LIFETIMES. I am not intolerant of religion, but I am intolerant of corruption and hypocrisy, ESPECIALLY that which is occurs while preaching moral superiority.

And when this church's hierarchy starts getting involved in policy, and has a role disprportionate to what it should in a nonetablishment government, and is characterized by a hypocrisy and corruption of this magnitude, it's time we stopped letting it beat our legislators into submission.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Dang it. I hate this. This is the second critical comment that I have made on this site today.

I screamed when the 5th catholic was appointed to the Supreme Court. I went nearly insane when the 6th catholic went on the Supreme Joke.

Combative? Yes, the catholics now have total cover for anything that they want to do. They have a choke hold on all american laws.

How long will this state of affairs last? Oh about 15 to 20 years.

You want something that will totally frost you? Ireland has just been through part of their horrible scandal about the abuse by catholic church personnel. In recently released documents, there is clearly a pattern of shipping extraordinarily evil priests to the United States. Now, why haven't the embassy personnel been checking through those records to find out where the evil landed in the US? Hint: all american ambassadors to Ireland are catholic.

PS the Dublin bishop says that it is all nice and clean and done with. The first surge of scandal caused laws to be passed to correct the abuses.

Hallelujah, a miracle. In the three or four years since the new laws were passed not one single catholic church member has even been arrested for abuse.

Anonymous mandt said...
Considering the decades of aiding, abetting, and hiding pedophilia, not to mention banning contraceptives in Africa causing the deaths and suffering of hundreds of thousands of women and children, the Catholic Church is utterly bankrupt of moral authority. Oh, did I mention building its resources through Mafia money laundering schemes?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The agents of the Pope Cult should be prosecuted under the RICO act.

The organizers should be thrown in prison and their property seized.