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Compassion for the Religious

“These people bring it on themselves.”
“Their hijinks should be held up as an example.”
“We can’t be soft on these people.”

These are some of the reactions I got when I posted a piece of news on my Facebook page and wrote my commentary about it. The piece of news: someone got stuck in a consensual but dangerous situation involving an unconventional sexual activity, called 9-1-1 for help, and then saw the story spread all over the Internet, including lurid details, their name, and the recording of the emergency call.

The reactions to my post came, as far as I can tell, from atheists. Given the context, they were almost certainly atheists. But their anger and contempt wasn’t directed at the people who had exposed the 9-1-1 caller’s identity. It wasn’t directed at all the people ridiculing him online. It didn’t come from a humanist embrace of consensual human sexuality, and it wasn’t directed at those who were dragging this person’s private sex life all over the Internet and taking gleeful pleasure in mocking it.

It was directed at the person who had placed the 9-1-1 call. Why? Because the person who made the call was a Catholic priest.

That’s right, he was a priest. And therefore, according to these atheists on my Facebook page, he had abdicated any right to call 9-1-1 for help when he was in danger without having his sex life go viral. He was a hypocrite. Actually, we don’t know that for sure—we don’t know much about this priest other than what he said in the emergency call, and we don’t know whether he was in a conservative church that practiced a lot of sexual shaming, or a more inclusive one that cherry-picked out the nasty pits of Catholic sexual shame. But he had perpetuated an institution—the Catholic Church—that’s created pointless sexual guilt for exactly the kinds of activities he was engaging in. So, on at least some level, he was a hypocrite. And the punishment for religious hypocrisy—according to these people on my Facebook page—should be the public shaming of his private sexuality and his call for help, even if the result is that other people with unconventional sexual tendencies are now more afraid to call 9-1-1 for fear that they’ll be exposed and humiliated. That’s a price these folks are willing to pay, if it means we can expose yet another religious sexual hypocrite.

If you think I’m exaggerating, here are some other comments from the same discussion: “I am glad he was humiliated”; “You deserve whatever embarrassment is heaped upon you when your hypocrisy is revealed… I am glad that I live in a world where that dbag was forced to own up to his hypocrisy”; “Priests are terrorists and con men”; and “It’s his and his fellow clergy’s fault that ‘unconventional’ sex is taboo. Fuck him.”

I find this profoundly upsetting.

*****

Humanist magazine coverThus begins my latest “Fierce Humanism” column for The Humanist magazine, Compassion for the Religious. To read more about why I think anger at religion needs to be tempered with compassion for the religious, and why anger at religion needs to be distinguished from hatred, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. says

    I’ll be honest: I’m of two minds over this. On the one hand, hypocricy should be brought to light and condemned, and an agent of world’s most powerful “moral lighthouse,” who supposedly has taken a holy vow of celibacy, caught in a sexual position, certainly counts as hypocricy. On the other hand, victim-shaming is always ugly, no matter what motivates it, and in this case will probably have the unfortunate side effect of other people in need of 9-1-1 help not calling to get it out of fear of being publicly shamed.

    We should do better than theists at the “hate the sin but love sinner” schtick.

  2. says

    Greta, I agree wholeheartedly. I, too, was disgusted, by both the “outing” of the poor priest by name, and by the vitriol that was heaped upon his head by people who should be more compassionate for the individual victims of religion. I’m not surprised that the story got out – it’s juicy and delicious, but that he was named and his 911 call released was just flat wrong, and many of the comments simply went too far. Shame on those who went there.

    Why is it that our society now feels it’s OK to heap shame upon the innocent, but not on those who deserve it?

  3. A Hermit says

    I think we’ve lost the plot when we allow our contempt for the institution to overcome our compassion fro the individual.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Remember, there but for the grace of our different life histories and interaction with our community go we.

  5. Pieter B, FCD says

    Indeed, Stephanie. A Hermit, what color internets would you like, and where shall we have it delivered?

  6. kenbo says

    So you see the priest as a victim of both his religion and his sexual desires? At what point do we hold the priest responsible for his actions? Do his parishioners have a right to know if he engages in (legal) behavior he publicly condemns? Other than public shaming (for engaging in the behavior he condemns), what recourse do we the public have to voice our disagreement with the priest’s hypocrisy?

    Final question: If the priest was a realtor, fireman, or some other occupation and made the same call, would we be talking about it now?

    As far as I am concerned, if the exposed activity was legal but not kosher to his religion, and the answer to my final question is “no,” then public shaming is fine. He could have quit his “calling” at any time and then his private activities would have remained private. But he chose to remain in his position of authority (a position which has special privileges in our laws and society, I might add) as well as engage in said activity until he got caught. So while I can sympathize with his dilemma, he is far from a “victim” in this situation he himself created.

  7. Ariel says

    Greta, what can one say to this? Yes, you are right. From your description, something very nasty happened. And your remark that

    I don’t want an atheist movement where anger at religion is so blind that we lose all compassion for anyone who’s involved in it

    is a spot on. I don’t want it either. Only I have no idea whether it’s possible not to have it, now with anger being already on the loose. You write that “our anger about religion is supposed to come from a place of compassion”, but I’m afraid that the demon won’t be kept in the bottle that easily.

    I do not mean to justify these people in any way. It’s rather that I feel helpless. There is so much of it and I don’t know what can be done that would make a difference.

  8. Greta Christina says

    At what point do we hold the priest responsible for his actions?

    kenbo @ #7: At what point do we consider his private, legal, harmless- to- anyone- but- himself actions to be any of our business? Why is it necessary to hold him responsible for them?

    Other than public shaming (for engaging in the behavior he condemns), what recourse do we the public have to voice our disagreement with the priest’s hypocrisy?

    Is voicing our disagreement with this particular person’s hypocrisy our highest priority? Is it more important than respect for sexual privacy, or compassion for someone in danger? Is it so important that it’s worth scaring other people in similar situations away from calling 911, for fear of being publicly humiliated?

    He could have quit his “calling” at any time…

    I strongly urge you to talk with some people at the Clergy Project before you make this claim again. Leaving the clergy is extraordinarily difficult: much more difficult than leaving most professions. I’ll quote once again from the piece: “Talk to the folks at the Clergy Project, the support organization for clergy members who have become atheists. Ask them what it’s like to be a member of the clergy who no longer believes in the teachings of their religion—whether those teachings are ‘kinky sex is bad’ or ‘God exists.’ Talk to them about how trapped they feel—how isolated, how ashamed, how afraid. And then tell me that they’re terrorists and con men, that you have no sympathy for them. Tell me that their hijinks should be held up as an example, that they deserve whatever embarrassment is heaped upon them, that you’re glad for their humiliation.”

  9. Greta Christina says

    kenbo @ #7: I forgot to add: We see stories of religious sexual hypocrisy every week — in situations where people were really hurt, where there were real victims (such as priests who rape children). If we want to expose and discuss religious sexual hypocrisy, why is it so important that we focus on this particular story?

  10. freemage says

    Greta, I commend you here for taking the high road.

    Without the priest’s name being known, this would simply fall under schadenfreude for me. With it, though… I can’t even enjoy it like that. “A Catholic priest” is a class of people, whose actions I can generally deride for their impact on society. “Father X”, however, is an individual, and without having met or observed the man’s conduct, I cannot even pretend to be in a position to judge him.

    There are times and places where such exposure is, frankly, appropriate. Larry Craig, I’m looking at your bathroom stall. In that case, we’re talking about someone who personally benefited (in the form of electoral success) from the demonization of his targets; his outing was a reasonable and necessary response in keeping him from being able to continue that political assault on the rights of others, even as he sought to retain his own privilege.

  11. Eristae says

    I’m usually all for outing sexual hypocrites, but when someone is in the position to be outed because they were taking action to save their own lives, that’s fucked up. This should count as an exception, because anything else says that his life wasn’t as important as our ability to use his hypocrisy as some kind of righteous flag. It’s stupid.

  12. says

    Greta, I commend you here for taking the high road.

    The sad thing being– and by this I don’t mean to disparage Greta at all– it’s not such a high road to take. Seems like ordinary decency to me.

    There are times and places where such exposure is, frankly, appropriate. Larry Craig, I’m looking at your bathroom stall. In that case, we’re talking about someone who personally benefited (in the form of electoral success) from the demonization of his targets; his outing was a reasonable and necessary response in keeping him from being able to continue that political assault on the rights of others, even as he sought to retain his own privilege.

    That, and Larry Craig outed himself. He was, after all, in a public bathroom.

  13. says

    I think you’re exactly right on this, Greta. It’s entirely too easy to go with the schadenfreude over perceived hypocrisy, and I thank you for making me think about the whole thing on that extra level the last time you posted about it. I wouldn’t want my private, harmless, but embarrassing kinks to come out for public ridicule, and I’m a nobody. One of the things we should share as a community is a distaste for the idea of a sexual Big Brother watching for “deviancy,” like we’re entitled to know what’s going on in other people’s bedrooms.

    I’m worried the public shaming response lends legitimacy to self-appointed, sex-negative moral guardians. They’ll score rhetorical points with their followers by calling atheists hypocrites for reflexively hating “deviancy” when it’s a priest doing something private and harmless to others, but supporting “deviancy” when it’s gays and lesbians doing something private and harmless to others.

    I understand it being hard for clergy to leave a church. It’s been a part of their identity, and even with bad associations, it can be hard to let go and find a new identity. There’s also the question of what they’ll do if they quit, since I imagine a lot have probably been pigeonholed into the clergy by their education and worry about how successful they can be in other sectors. Those who recognize corruption but still believe might remain because they think they can reform the system from the inside, even if it’s just by trying to be a good example. Those who hesitate to leave shouldn’t be shamed for hesitating, but encouraged and given options that help them overcome that hesitation.

  14. bawdybillfirst says

    I’m with Kenbo on this. I can’t see the priest as anything other than a “Culpret”, at minimum. A perpetrator more likely. How likely is it that this is his only incident of engaging in what he preaches against? And has it all been consensual with adults who can give consent? I really think defrocking as a minimum and BS on his victimhood.

  15. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    At what point do we hold the priest responsible for his actions?

    Not your job, not your business. Next.

    How likely is it that this is his only incident of engaging in what he preaches against?

    Again, not your business. What of it?

    And has it all been consensual with adults who can give consent?

    That has nothing to do with this 911 call. And all priests are rapists now? Go ahead and shame him when he is outed as a rapist, until then, NOYB.

    I really think defrocking as a minimum and BS on his victimhood.

    So you’re in charge of society, the law, and the Church now? I guess everything is your business, you nosy little moralizer. Can’t wait until you’re caught in a potentially embarrassing situation publicized by your peers. Then we can shame them and support you.

  16. embraceyourinnercrone says

    I find it upsetting from my point of view because I work , at least peripherally, in health care. If the people/person who took the call, or the first responders exposed his personal information they violated HIPPA regs and could(and maybe should) be fired or at least reprimanded. Patients personal health information is not for public consumption. It doesn’t matter if you are a priest, a famous actor or average Jill/Joe.

    And making people fear that their personal business is going to be splashed all over the Internet is a good way for people to end up hurt or killed because they feared exposure by going to the hospital.

    Its not nearly the same but similar to, someone famous or the child of someone famous choosing NOT to call 9 1 1 for help in the case of an overdose because they fear exposure(and in some states arrest)

    I’m not the Acme judgement company. Its not my job to sit in judgement of someones personal life when they need my help. Its my job to DO my job and treat that person with some compassion and respect for their privacy

    http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/index.html

  17. Greta Christina says

    A perpetrator more likely. How likely is it that this is his only incident of engaging in what he preaches against? And has it all been consensual with adults who can give consent?

    bawdybillfirst @ #16: ?????

    What, exactly, are you basing that accusation/ insinuation on?

    All we know about this priest from the news stories — literally ALL we know — is that (a) he’s a priest, and (b) he put himself in bondage, more than once. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever to indicate that he ever involved any other people in his activities, even in a consensual way, much less a non-consensual one, and even less with anyone who was underaged. Is your need to see him as solely a culprit, and to deny any possibility of compassion for him, really so great that you have to trump up charges against him for which you have no evidence or reasonable support whatsover?

  18. kenbo says

    First, thanks for the article and your responses, Greta.

    “At what point do we consider his private, legal, harmless- to- anyone- but- himself actions to be any of our business? Why is it necessary to hold him responsible for them?” -Greta

    The day he stops being a Roman Catholic priest. You know, the organization that condemns the behavior he was participating in.

    “Is voicing our disagreement with this particular person’s hypocrisy our highest priority? Is it more important than respect for sexual privacy, or compassion for someone in danger? Is it so important that it’s worth scaring other people in similar situations away from calling 911, for fear of being publicly humiliated?”

    I don’t think I said it was a priority, although if I were in his congregation, I might feel differently. I asked if there were some other method of exposing the hypocrisy to his congregation for the activities he was doing.

    Does his congregation have the right to know about the priest’s hypocrisy? Please answer that question for me. If you feel his flock has no rights in this regard, then I won’t argue with you. At that point, you hold him no more responsible for his activities than anyone else in his congregation and I would agree with your assessment. However, I maintain that he is not just another member of his church. He is a representative that holds authority and power over the flock, so yes, I absolutely feel they deserve to know that he does not believe what he is saying and is living his life outside church doctrine.

    “Leaving the clergy is extraordinarily difficult: much more difficult than leaving most professions…Ask them what it’s like to be a member of the clergy who no longer believes in the teachings of their religion—whether those teachings are ‘kinky sex is bad’ or ‘God exists.’ Talk to them about how trapped they feel—how isolated, how ashamed, how afraid.” -Greta

    Difficult, shame, isolated, feeling trapped, afraid…none of that says he can’t quit and I never said it would be easy. (Insert pope quitting joke here.) He didn’t quit the clergy or his private activities because he thought he could get away with his double life. That’s not a victim of circumstance, that is actively deceiving his congregation, his employer, as well as himself.

    As I have said before, I sympathize with the man, I really do. No one is perfect and I don’t think what he did privately was wrong. However, he was the one that chose to become and continues to be a priest. He was the one who chose to participate in activities his employer prohibits. By your reasoning, the pope and Cardinal Mahoney are also victims of their religion. How far up the food chain do we have to go to hold clergy accountable for their hypocrisy?

    The RCC, like a corporation, is made up of individual people. It continues to have a negative influence on our society because of members, priests, bishops, and cardinals just like him. You can point to him as a small cog in the big, scary church machine, but it is the efforts of all those individuals together (whether they believe in the doctrine or not) that give the RCC its power over all of our lives. So no, I don’t give the RCC’s clergy a pass on their hypocrisy. Perhaps if they were not openly advocating for their own special privileges in our society while simultaneously trying to deny others equal treatment I would feel differently.

  19. Greta Christina says

    Does his congregation have the right to know about the priest’s hypocrisy?

    kenbo @ #20: I don’t think anyone had a right to know about this person’s 911 call, other than the emergency responders involved in taking care of him.

    I don’t think I said it was a priority,

    If you are saying that it was right for people to participate in his public shaming, then you are saying this is a priority.

    You seem to think that I’m opposed to exposing religious sexual hypocrisy, in all situations, ever. I’m not. I’m saying that, in this instance, this person’s need for not only sexual privacy but medical privacy trumped the desire of many atheists to have one more story of religious sexual hypocrisy to crow over. I’m saying we should have given this one a pass. And I’m saying that the hatred and contempt and vitriol that atheists piled on this person when the story came out was profoundly upsetting and deeply fucked-up. I’m saying that it showed a lack of compassion, a lack of understanding that the people involved in perpetuating religion are human beings, who are the victims of the harm done by religion as well as its perpetrators. I’m saying we should have a sense of proportion — and that anger at the hypocrisy of, for instance, archbishops who preach celibacy while protecting child-raping priests should not be on the same level as anger at the hypocrisy of one individual priest who engaged in private, harmless sexual activity that his church opposed.

  20. says

    I’ll admit to some schadenfreude over the situation once I found out it was a Catholic priest, but… meh. It really shouldn’t be such a big deal*. This one, for me, falls smack into “There are assholes and douchebags in every group. No Exceptions.”

    *Assuming participants other than the priest in question (if any) were of legal age and physically and mentally able to give consent.

  21. leftwingfox says

    The more I think about this, the more I agree with you Greta. We despise the organization, but since he isn’t a public figure outside his community, we really have no idea if he’s hypocrite on this particular area. There is a certain level of guilt by association fallacy here, since the organization is more than the sum of it’s worst elements, and we have no idea what his positions are with regards to church doctrine.

    What consequences did he deserve for his actions? Frankly, the embarrassment he probably felt at requiring emergency services was probably more than enough. He wasn’t guilty of any crime, so calling his actions immoral merely harms an already marginalized community. Were he a public figure and his hypocrisy more obvious, then it might be a useful illustration, but it would be a much better illustration had compassion for his inclinations from our side of the fence overruled our baser instincts.

  22. says

    Also, as long as priest dude isn’t committing any crimes (e.g. rape, child porn, kiddie fiddling, bestiality), it’s none of our damn business what he does to get his rocks off. Some people wanna be tied up, some people wanna be whipped, some people dress up in animal costumes, some people are into tentacles and eldritch abominations, I mean, you name it, someone’s got a fetish for it.

    The effect of Catholic Guilt* is more than enough “punishment” for this poor guy.

    *The ever-present sense of shame and guilt you feel for even thinking about doing something “sinful”.

  23. JEC says

    kenbo @ #20 wrote:

    Does his congregation have the right to know about the priest’s hypocrisy? Please answer that question for me. If you feel his flock has no rights in this regard, then I won’t argue with you.

    No, under Catholic doctrine and practice, the congregation does not have a right to know about this. The idea that it might is actually a deeply Protestant — and, specifically, a Puritan — notion. (One of the most religiously and politically radical demands of the 17th century English Dissenters was that congregations should be allowed choose their own ministers based on the congregants’ opinion of the moral qualities and theological soundness of the individuals in question.)

    A couple of comments above seem to assume that a Catholic priest is required or expected by the Church to be without sin. This is simply incorrect. In the eyes of the Catholic church, priests are men, and man is a fallen creature. ALL priests sin. That’s why every priest has a confessor — to bring about reconciliation between the priest in a state of sin and God. A priest’s moral fitness to act in a pastoral capacity is basically between him, his confessor, and his bishop (if the latter aren’t the same).

    As regards the particular sin — kinky solo sex — I’d be surprised if it were considered especially grievous. It would seem to run afoul of a priest’s vow of “perfect continence,” but as such violations go, and taking it in isolation, it sounds like a relatively minor one. Nobody is getting defrocked over this.

    As to the issue of hypocrisy: the Catholic perspective is not quite as rigorously censorious as might be imagined. It is a sin, of course — a species of lying, IIRC — but the seriousness of the sin depends a great deal on motive. So, unless concealing his private sexual activities was part of a long-term plot to somehow undermine the morals of his congregation, this also won’t be a big deal in the eyes of the Church.

    Now, of course, one can say, “I don’t care how the Church sees it. I think it’s an outrage.” Fair enough, but you’d need to lay out a moral case that doesn’t depend on the notion that the priest has acted as either a bad priest or a bad Catholic.

  24. says

    @WMDKitty #24 – I would agree with you, but…. As a Catholic priest, his job description includes instilling Catholic Guilt in his parishoners who do the same sort of acts. As Greta notes by mentioning the Clergy Project, there are a lot of clergy out there who do not toe the party line. Even so, as long as he wears the mantle of moral arbiter, I do not think that it is unreasonable to judge him by the same standards he is supposed to judge others.

  25. raymoscow says

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I think we have to stick up for the priest’s rights the same as we would for anyone else’s.

    Whether we like him or what he stands for or whether he is a hypocrite has nothing to do with that.

  26. Eric MacDonald says

    Greta, this is my first time commenting on your blog. I found this post particularly sensitive and sensible. I went over to the Humanist Magazine and read your article there. These two paragraphs stood out for me:

    Our anger about religion is supposed to come from a place of compassion. We’re supposed to be angry because we see so much dreadful harm committed in the name of religion, and we desperately want to see it end. When this anger turns into hatred—and when it becomes so hateful that it gets uncompromisingly aimed at the very people our compassion should be motivated by, simply because they’re part of the toxic system—it has gone seriously wrong.

    I don’t want an atheist movement where anger at religion is so blind that we lose all compassion for anyone who’s involved in it. I don’t want a movement where we reflexively hate all priests so much—without knowing anything about them—that we think it’s okay that they should risk their safety and their lives rather than call for help. I don’t want a movement where the public humiliation of religious sexual hypocrites is so important to us that we don’t even care that other people, people who aren’t priests but who share this one’s sexual proclivities, are now being made even more afraid to call 9-1-1 when they need help.

    One thing that I have been intent on pointing out is that religion is, for all its faults, and perhaps in explanation of those faults, a human creation. It can be, given its status in society, very difficult to escape. Even those who are leaders often find it hard to say what they want to say about their faith, even when they at the same time, depend upon faith, and question it most deeply. And, of course, like all human beings, they are driven by desires that are simply a part of our animal makeup. Sex is one of the deepest problems faced by those in ministry, if my own experience is anything to go by. Priests in confession often express their deepest trials with sexual temptation, and when they give way to such temptation it is not necessarily because they are hypocrites, but because they cannot fail to be human and fallible. Some priests, in reaction to their own failings, intensify their condemnation of those failings in the context of their ministry. This is as much a protective response as it is a deliberate wish to trap others in the nets of a conflicted morality (which religious morality is, almost my definition). I can remember a priest speaking to me of the difficulties of being celibate. He could have no friends, he said — men friends, because then people would think he was gay, women friends, because then people would think he was “getting it on” with them. So the priest is often trapped in loneliness. This applies as well to married priests whose married relationships are fractured and conflicted. Being a religious leader is a difficult thing to be, and those who sign up for it do not know how difficult it will be when, full of idealism, they sign on to a vocation for life. Atheists, who claim to be able to be good without god, should remember this, when they strike out in judgemental ways at the follies and foibles of religious leaders. I very much appreciate the perspective which you retain and encourage others to retain in expressing their contempt and anger with respect to religion. Religious leaders as well as believers are often deeply anxious about their lives, just as others may be, and many of them may occasionally feel the pointlessness of it all, just as others do. We are all human beings. That should be the starting point of any judgement that we choose to make on the faults and failings of others. Thank you for keeping this in perspective.

  27. freemage says

    Gretchen: I was using “outing” a bit broadly–to cover not only the initial revelation, but also the subsequent mockery and scorn. These are occasionally necessary tools, but they should only be directed towards the deserving. (As a counter-example, if I were to find that a peer, even one I had no strong relation to, had been arrested for a similar charge, I’d more likely sympathize with him that homophobia has led to a world where police monitor public restrooms, if I even spoke about it at all.)

  28. throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit says

    I share these sentiments. The priest, the Human Being, didn’t deserve to be outed, whether it was from an emergency or a phone hacking or e-mail ‘reply-all’ mistake, because it is sexual shaming. Even if it’s later found out his actions were hypocritical it doesn’t make it a fair presupposition, nor that anti-bondage stance in and of itself makes him personally deserving of ridicule and shame for something which is sex-positive in proper context, and it doesn’t make it any less inhumane to put him on display as a sexual sideshow… really take away the fact that he’s a priest and you have sex negativity. Add the priest and suddenly it’s OK to presume his personal or public stance? Then from that presume it’s OK to publicly humiliate him, someone who is probably conflicted about his own sexual nature and doesn’t need this added negativity if he’s already feeling guilty about it? I will always identify as a Secular Humanist over atheist any day, scoring harmful gotcha points like this just doesn’t sit right with me.

  29. baal says

    Pardon me while I cough up a hairball. Several of the commenters here lauding Greta’s piece (a sentiment I agree with) are the same people who believe in unlimited essentialist abuse and invective should be thrown at anyone who questions the applicability of the patriarchy societal social model down to the single individual level (for example). They are also the same folks who are openly and repeatedly scornful of Dan Finke’s calls for civility and for my insistence that even a half sentence of justification be added to ‘harsh language’.

    Being a humanist or expressing compassion more or less requires some consistency on how you deal with the people that belong to groups and organizations that you hate*. I’m glad you can see the case for compassion in this instance and hope fervently that you apply it to other topics and people.

    *Hate is a reasonable and normal personal response to the heinous crap that individuals and organizations heap on others (almost always the less-privileged among us). How you express that hate matters.

  30. throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit says

    baal – tone-trolling is an act of hatred, a way to stifle human emotions from being displayed to those who are affecting those emotions, so take your false sense of superiority and shove it, thanks.

  31. Greta Christina says

    baal @ #31 and throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit @ #32: Please remember my comment policy. Please dial back on personal insults and heated rhetoric. Thank you.

  32. baal says

    oops apologies Greta for my citing the comment policy and tone of #31. There remains, however, an underlying substantive point of hypocrisy within our community and I’m tired of getting flack for making (though not nearly as well) the same point you are in the article.

  33. throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit says

    baal – you’re attempting to call people out on not being as humanist as you are citing some civility pledge which others have more complex issues with than simply a desire to be uncivil themselves. You’re the one guilty of not giving the issues or other commenters a fair shake in this instance by alluding to the history you have had with other people here. Your citation of the comment policy at me is a perfect example of how a civility pledge would be used as a bludgeon to get people to sit down and shut up whenever they don’t say things the absolute most perfectest way imaginable.

  34. sonorus says

    There’s no reason they should have released the 911 call. None whatsoever. there’s no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and no charges filed. Everyone has a right to privacy. We waive that right by committing certain acts, but that’s not the case here.

  35. And How says

    @17F {nucular nyondrothol} or Greta

    I agree about the gloating, but is this mostly about about the fact kink was involved and the emergency nature of the occurence? Is Ted Haggard’s sex life any of our business? Do we feel equal amounts of compassion for Ted Haggard?

    I agree this priest, and I would add Ted Haggard, are victims of relgious dogma and their profession. But in considering this matter of exposing hypocritical religous leaders – does it come down to a harm vs. benefit consideration.

    The question being – Is there more benefit derived when religous leaders are exposed as hypocrites than harm done to the individual by the shame experienced? The benefit being that among rank and file church members that religous leadership’s (when considered as a class) claim to moral authority is diminished.

    I do not agree with outing people, but I would also add that there are those who argue individuals are helped by being exposed. They are helped because they are forced to deal with their true selves – Tim McGreevey comes to mind (of course he wasn’t religous).

  36. And How says

    I’d like to add that when I refer to religous leadership’s moral authority being undermined I am of course talking about on other topics, such as the primitive teachings which are anti-women, anti-gay, etc.

    Maybe the priest was from a splinter congregation which is liberal, but for the most part I believe priests represent the papacy’s position on these matters by extension.

  37. latsot says

    I posted this in The Humanist comments, sorry if cross-posting isn’t cool:

    Perhaps we can do both. We can take the moral high ground by decrying the person or people who violated the priest’s privacy and those who spread the story around. We can show tolerance that the man’s own church does not. That’s a principle – perhaps *the* principle – of humanism, after all.

    But we can also express our anger at the hypocrisy of the priest’s actions. We don’t need to name him for that. Like Greta, we could comment on the story without posting the link. That way, we can help to slowly strip away the misguided and inappropriate moral authority granted to priests and their organisations without cruelty to individuals.

    People like this man who perpetuate abusive behaviour toward people who practice sexual behaviour their churches don’t like are wrong to do so whether they are hypocrites or not. I tend to think that those with ‘unsanctioned’ cravings ought to know better than to shame others with such cravings, regardless of whether they act on or suppress their own. So perhaps instead of making them miserable, the best thing we can do is provide an environment in which they can choose to admit their feelings, admit their past hypocrisy, let go of the oppressive rules and help other people to do the same, chipping away at that edifice of religion and doing some good. Perhaps there won’t be many takers. Perhaps most of them will retreat back into their suppressed behaviour. Perhaps they’ll even continue their hypocrisy. But what better time to reach out and tell someone that it’s really OK to have those sexual feelings and it’s wrong to tell others that it’s not?

    Anger should be tempered by compassion. I’m angry at supposed moral authorities who force their opinions – or those of their organisations – on others. I’m angrier still at the ones who definitely ought to know better, by the simple virtue of having to hide their own behaviours at the risk of receiving the very same punishments they prescribe to others. But if we apply compassion as well, perhaps we can help them see that there’s a way out and help others understand that there’s something worth being angry about.

  38. says

    Having it both ways, as “latsot” suggests, may be possible but it would be hard to walk that fine line and many people would not understand where the line is located, thus stepping over it. If we must error on the side of compassion or on the side of retribution, I would say we, Humanists, should error on the side of compassion. Any of us could find ourselves placing the same type of 911 call and I’m sure we wouldn’t want the information made public. It’s true that this priest takes part in a world-wide network of oppressive, bigoted, and hurtful religious indoctrination, how we Humanists have a “higher calling”, if you will.

    As I wrote in a blog entry back in August of last year:

    Religions can’t be inclusive. They’re exclusive by nature. We, Atheists, know what it’s like to be persecuted. Let’s not wish that on anyone else. Let’s be different. Let’s be what religions can’t. That’s “Atheism, plus more.” That’s “Atheism, in a positive way.” That’s “Humanism,” and it’s a powerful thing.

  39. And How says

    The only reason that I believed this priest should not have been named was because this was a 911 call. Had this priest been exposed under different circumstances (such as by a sex worker) as was the case with Ted Haggard – I’m pretty certain I’d feel differently.

    I believe I could make just as strong of a case that Ted Haggard and his family should have been spared being publicly shamed for Haggard’s hypocricy. Think how humiliating that was his wife and children. His situation could have just as easily been talked about it only in the context of problems with Evangelical Church teachings. It wouldn’t be nearly as effective to discuss it that way though. People require proof; proof requires naming names.

    Isn’t it true that the person who decides to enter into the clergy of organized relgion agrees to represent the moral teachings and position of that particular denomination. They also gives advice in the form of sermons and counseling and in addition they profit from that advice. I would argue that when they do not live up to the standards of their chosen profession, there is no reason that they should receive the same treatment that similiar advice-giving secular professions receive.

    For example, if you have have a prominent lawyer breaking his profession’s code of ethics – its hitting the papers. If you have a prominent banker making questionable loans by violating the organizations loan making guidelines – it’s hitting the papers. Similiarly, if you have a religous leader violating the trust of his congregation and other believers – its hitting the papers. The public has a right to know because the doors of these organizations are open to the public. That is the way these things work.

  40. And How says

    Edit the last sentence of the second to last paragraph:

    I would argue that when clergy does not practice the standards of their chosen denomination, there is no reason there is no reason they should not receive the same scrutiny that secular advice-giving professions receive.

  41. tychabrahe says

    I realize that I’m coming to this late, but I do have some points to add.

    First of all, in Illinois, 911 call recordings and transcripts are public records, so there was no HIPAA violation, and no one released these tapes other than through the channels by which all such calls are made available to the press and members of the public.

    Second, I wouldn’t give a thought other than sympathy for almost anyone else caught in such a situation. This isn’t about religion; this is about hypocrisy.

    I’m a loyal reader of several blogs by gay and lesbian bloggers. I wouldn’t lift an eyebrow to find that Joe of Joe.My.God is on Grindr. I might be surprised to find you were on a female version of it, Greta, because I’m under the impression that you’re in a committed relationship. My thoughts in that case would be along the lines of, “I guess she’s not monogamous.”

    But when Roberto Arango, a politician who made a name for himself in part by denigrating gays and opposing rights for them, is caught on Grindr, I have zero sympathy for whatever trouble he gets into over it.

    A priest getting trapped in his bondage equipment is not the same as a firefighter or a doctor or a teacher doing so. A priest takes a vow of celibacy and then spends the rest of his life condemning people who have sex outside of marriage. The Catholic church has been attempting to impose their definition of moral sex through legislation to ban rights for gays to anti-abortion laws to anti-contraception laws. The Church has banned children of same-sex couples from attending their schools, won’t perform abortions at their hospitals even when a woman’s life is endangered, and is seeking to prevent its non-Catholic employees in non-religious positions from getting birth control covered by their medical insurance.

    The most egregious example of this hypocrisy comes from the recently released files of Cardinal Roger Mahoney and the archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Cardinal came to know that a certain priest was sodomizing a boy and then granting his victim absolution through communion. The Cardinal reacted swiftly. An investigation was convened. The priest ended up being excommunicated. You see, he had absolutely no right to offer communion, and his doing so was a violation of the faith.

    At its heart, this isn’t about sex, and I think your impression of the situation is biased because you’ve admitted to taking part in unconventional sex. This is no different from finding out that the Ingrid Newkirk choked while eating veal, that an Amish elder electrocuted himself playing Grand Theft Auto on his xBox, that the Dalai Lama was injured by a heel spur at a cockfight. It’s about someone who has ideas about the moral path being caught violating it in such an egregious way.

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