Why were nuns assumed to be good caretakers for children?

Just because they were female? Maybe that was a bad assumption, because the stories coming out of the Catholic orphanage system are horrific. One example:

Sally had been caught running and giggling in the dormitory. The nun, Sister Jane of the Rosary, was known for her constant companion: a thick razor strap that the girls called “the green pill,” bitter medicine for any child who came near it.

Sister Jane of the Rosary took Sally to the little bedroom off the sewing room and made her lie facedown, dress yanked up, panties pulled down. Then the nun sent in Eva, a seamstress, who along with another lay employee, Irene, was one of the only two people that Sally felt safe with.

Eva came into the little room, looked at Sally — face down, dress up, defenseless — and stood frozen for a few long moments. The strap lay beside her on the bed. Then she left. Irene came in next, but she couldn’t do anything, either. Even Sister Jane of the Rosary, usually so quick to punish, came in but did nothing.

At last Sally heard Sister James Mary announce that she had “no problem” performing the task. Entering the room, she brought the strap down hard on Sally, from the back of her neck all the way down to her ankles. Once, twice. Ten times. Too many times to count.

Sally recoiled with each downstroke, but she tried her best to hold back the tears. The silence only enraged Sister James Mary, who kept hitting her. On and on, the blows kept coming. “You will cry!” the nun insisted.

Eventually Sally did. She began to weep.

Sally couldn’t twist around far enough to see the damage. But when Irene looked, she gasped.

“How many times do we have to tell you?” Sister Jane of the Rosary demanded from above. “If you cry, you cry alone. If you smile, the whole world smiles with you.”

Irene brought Sally across the long hallway, down the marble stairs, past the foyer, and into the office of the mother superior herself. Irene showed her Sally’s wounds. It wasn’t right to do that to a little girl.

Mother Superior replied that Sally was going to end up in reform school anyway.

The next time Sally was sent to Irene and Eva for a beating, Irene said she would deal with the child herself.

Irene hit her, but only on her bottom. Sally was so overwhelmed with gratitude that the next day, she told Irene that she loved her.

Wow — that’s a clever use of psychology. You’ve got two torturers, and the victim learns to love the one who tortures her a little less. But otherwise, you have to wonder about caregivers who are known for the instruments of abuse they carry with them everywhere — and this is one of the milder stories. Don’t read the whole thing unless you want nightmares.

As has been the case in recent years, there have been attempts to bring legal redress to the Catholic church. I was interested to see the defense strategies described. It’s all about denial.

One of the rewards for being good at the orphanage was an activity that the sisters had called “serving God.” God, at least for those purposes, turned out to be Father Devoy, the resident chaplain.

Devoy had his own rooms and dining table, at which he was often joined by seminarians. Sally told Sartore that when she was quite little, she had done her very best to be good for a whole week, and for once it had worked. At the end of the week, Sally got to go into God’s rooms. She set his table and took in his food and placed it on the table before him.

She managed to put God’s plate down without spilling anything, but when she turned to walk away, Father Devoy put his hand under her skirt. He yanked down her panties, touched her backside, and told her that she had cute buns. The next time he tried it, the headstrong girl spilled the soup in his lap.

Sartore sounded outraged at Sally’s inference. “Will you agree with me that a grown man, an elderly man, a priest, could pinch the behind of a little girl without it constituting, quote, sexual abuse?”

Sally declined his invitation to undermine herself. “I can’t answer it,” she said. “Because I thought if you swore, okay, it is like a form of sexual harassment…”

Sartore wouldn’t let go. “What was there if anything about the way Father Devoy grabbed your behind that constituted sexual abuse?”

“Because he used to say how cute they were,” Sally explained. “You have cute little buns,” she recalled him saying.

“And so for a 60- or 70-year-old man to pinch a little girl’s bottom and say you have cute buns, you now consider that sexual abuse?” Sartore asked.

“I don’t know as I say sexual abuse,” Sally said. “I just don’t see it was right, whether it was an old man, young man, to do that to a child.”

If an old man pulls down a little girl’s panties and fondles her, YES THAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE. Why is this even a question?

The boys were also abused. Here’s a tactic that would make me hate lawyers.

Greene told the attorneys that a counselor assaulted him in his bed in the boys dorm at St. Joseph’s probably 10 or 20 times. Over what period of time? he was asked. Greene found it hard to say.

“Did this happen once a week to you?” they asked.

“To me,” said Greene, “I’d say it was more than once a week.”

“Was it twice a week?”

“I’m not sure.”

“But you think it was more than once a week?”

“Yeah,” said Greene.

“At least once a week he’d come in to you and want this done?”

“Yeah,” said Greene. The defense paused, lingered over another detail, and then returned to the counting.

“So you think he came in once a week and tried something with you. Might have happened 10 or 20 times to you; is that accurate? Is that your best recollection today?”

“Yeah, he came in at least once a week, probably more,” said Greene.

“So if he did it 10 or 20 times, this would have lasted 10 or 20 weeks, is that right?”

“It lasted for a year or two,” said Greene.

“Then why only 10 or 20 times if he came in every week?” defense asked.

“Because — it might have been more.”

“Well I’m just trying to—”

Greene became exasperated.

“I’m not sure how many times it was,” he said. “I know that it went on for a few years. As far as a count goes, I’m not sure. I have no idea. I mean, all I remember is he would abuse us, he’d abuse somebody every night, every single night that he worked.” Greene added, “And as far as how often, I don’t know. But it went on for years.”

“Do you think,” defense replied, “it was for you personally a weekly event?”

The defense attorneys asked plaintiffs to estimate the frequency of their rape or molestation by day, by week, by year, and then overall. Then they would get the plaintiff to compare the estimates and to count — so if it was x times a week, that would be y times in total, right? Inevitably the figures didn’t quite add up.

I can appreciate that a defense lawyer must give a strong, vigorous defense, but this is outright lying — on the one hand, they insist that the accusers can’t possibly have accurate recollections of their maltreatment decades after the fact and imply that everything was a confabulation, but on the other hand, they’ll demand that a young man who was raped decades before must have a precise tally of every single instance.

How about ONCE. He was raped once. Isn’t that enough to condemn the system? Then he was raped again and again. Do we care whether the number was 10 or 20, isn’t 1 enough?

Go ahead, read the whole thing if you want to start your day with a good head of rage. It’s just appalling to me that anyone ever figured that celibate old men and childless nuns were automatically qualified to take care of children. These are people who consciously rejected the roles of father, mother, (although, weirdly, they insist on the titles) and parent, and are the least suited to have responsibility for the young, lacking the temperament or experience, and yet, there they are, handed babies.

It’s unsurprising that they failed so horribly.

Donohue: those Catholic priests didn’t rape anyone, and besides, it’s The Gays’ Fault

Portrait of Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue has come out with his defense of the Catholic Church in the Pennsylvania case (pdf). A couple of things leapt out at me. He often parses the language finely to excuse the problems. For instance, it wasn’t rape.

Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word “rape” means. This is not a defense—it is meant to set the record straight and debunk the worst case scenarios attributed to the offenders.

Furthermore, Church officials were not following a “playbook” for using terms such as “inappropriate contact”—they were following the lexicon established by the John Jay professors.

Examples of non-rape sexual abuse found in the John Jay report include “touching under the victim’s clothes” (the most common act alleged); “sexual talk”; “shown pornography”; “touch over cleric’s clothes”; “cleric disrobed”; “victim disrobed”; “photos of victims”; “sexual games”; and “hugging and kissing.” These are the kinds of acts recorded in the grand jury report as well, and as bad as they are, they do not constitute “rape.”

It’s OK if there was no penetration! Is this a new Catholic rule? Priests get to get naked with teenagers while watching porn and grope them, and that’s not a problem?

Then he plays games with the numbers.

How many of the 300 were probably guilty? Maybe half. My reasoning? The 2004 report by the John Jay College for Criminal Justice found that 4 percent of priests nationwide had a credible accusation made against them between 1950-2002. That is the figure everyone quotes. But the report also notes that roughly half that number were substantiated. If that is a reliable measure, the 300 figure drops to around 150.

The Pennsylvania reports says that 300 cases of abuse were credibly supported by the evidence — this was a specific analysis of the evidence in Pennsylvania. So Donohue argues that other, national figures say that half of their cases are unsubstantiated…so he evades the specifics and tries to claim that half the Pennsylvania cases are unsubstantiated. You don’t get to do that.

Also, even if he were right (he’s not), it’s 150 child molesters in the Pennsylvania clergy. What number is acceptable? I’m saying zero would be a number to shoot for.

His next excuse: most of the cases can’t be tried, because we’ve past the statute of limitations.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh “Salacious” Shapiro admitted on August 14 that “Almost every instance of child abuse (the grand jury) found was too old to be prosecuted.” He’s right. But he knew that from the get-go, so why did he pursue this dead end?

Because even if the crime can’t be prosecuted, the criminals should be exposed? Because this is an ongoing problem in the Catholic Church, so the church needs to be constantly prodded to make changes? Because the law isn’t always about justice, but justice must be pursued?

And then, most despicably, he doesn’t mince words in one excuse. This isn’t a problem with pedophilia in the church; this is a problem with The Gays.

How do I know that most of the problem is gay-driven? The data are indisputable.

The John Jay study found that 81 percent of the victims were male, 78 percent of whom were postpubescent. Now if 100 percent of the victimizers are male, and most of the victims are postpubescent males, that is a problem called homosexuality. There is no getting around it.

It’s an 80/20 male/female ratio of victims, but priests are 100% male, and priests are mostly going to be in charge of boys and young men. This ratio sounds like a ratio of opportunity.

Did I say he doesn’t play word games with this one excuse? Not quite. You see, Donohue argues that if the victims were post-pubescent, it doesn’t count as pedophilia. I don’t see a difference that matters — they’re all minors under the supposed care of the priest. It’s a vile abnegation of responsibility and decency. But to Bill, it’s just plain The Gay Abomination.

How many were pedophiles? Less than five percent. That is what the John Jay study found. Studies done in subsequent years—I have read them all—report approximately the same ratio. It’s been a homosexual scandal all along.

No, Bill. It’s been a Catholic scandal all along, and you’re not helping.

Fighting ugly with ugly

As usual, I’m torn. Is the answer to one ugly, pretentious monument to superstition to put up another ugly, pretentious monument to superstition? It’s the strategy we seem to be going with, anyway, because apparently too many people are able to grasp abstract principles. So the Satanists are trying to erect a statue to Baphomet in the Arkansas capitol.

I get it, really I do. They’re highlighting the hypocrisy of government favoring one religion over another. The Satanists understand that, too.

Satanic Arkansas cofounder Ivy Forrester, who helped organize the rally, said “if you’re going to have one religious monument up then it should be open to others, and if you don’t agree with that then let’s just not have any at all.”

It’s especially true when one of the advocates for putting up a Ten Commandments monument, Senator Jason Rapert, says this sort of thing.

In an online statement, Rapert said he respected the protesters’ First Amendment rights, but also called them “extremists” and said “it will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.”

OK, fine. I consider Southern Baptists to be extremists, and the Ten Commandments to be a terrible set of laws, and celebrating them with an offensive statue to be a violation of my rights. I guess every day is a cold day in Hell in America.

Besides, the Christian monument is also ugly. It looks like a damned tombstone.

Let’s just not have any at all, OK?

I wonder what the Catholic League has to say about the Catholic pedophile ring in Pennsylvania?

Here we go again. As announced by Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a grand jury has released a report on the child-raping pedophiles employed by the Catholic church as priests.

The nearly 1,400-page report’s introduction makes clear that few criminal cases may result from the massive investigation.

“As a consequence of the coverup, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” it reads.

“We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents. They contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number — of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward — is in the thousands.”

Some details and names that might reveal the clergy listed have been redacted from the report. Legal challenges by clergy delayed the report’s release, after some said it is a violation of their constitutional rights. Shapiro said they will work to remove every redaction.

It’s indefensible, but then…the actions of the Catholic church have always been repellent and indefensible, but they just keep on keepin’ on. So I got to wondering what that ardent and reactionary defender of the Holy Mother Church, Bill Donohue, had to say. Easy: it’s a conspiracy.

So if no one can be prosecuted, and there is no investigation of the clergy from other religions, to say nothing of the widespread sexual abuse of minors in the public schools, why is Shapiro presiding over the grand jury report on priests? It’s not exactly hard to figure out: he wants to stick it to the Catholic Church.

The goal is obvious: the release of the most graphic accounts of molestation is being done to embarrass the Church. Why? So it will weaken its moral authority. That is what Salacious Shapiro wants to do.

Donohue has two excuses. The first is that other religions are doing it, and they’re getting away with it, so why pick on the Catholic church? I think most of us learned by kindergarten that somebody else doing a bad thing doesn’t mean you get to do it, too. This part is basically an admission that there are child-rapers in the Catholic clergy, it’s just that it’s unfair to only pick on Catholics.

But then his second excuse is that releasing stories of child molestation weakens the moral authority of the Church. I hate to tell you this, Bill, but it’s not the public exposure of moral corruption with the church that discredits it, it’s the acts of corruption themselves that do that.

I also don’t think the report is intended to stick it to the Catholic Church. There’s a simpler motivation. The Attorney General would like priests to stop raping children, for the Catholic Church to stop enabling them, and for the Church to stop its criminal efforts to hide the facts of heinous crimes.

They’re still debating the undebatable at Tuam

A horrific crime was committed by the Catholic Church at Tuam, Ireland. Single mothers and their babies were neglected and died at the hands of a “pro-life” religious cult, ignored, and the deaths hidden away, until the remains of about 800 dead were unearthed. They’d been dumped in a septic tank. That is apparently what Catholics consider death with dignity.

So, you’ve found a mass grave…what do you do next? In the case of Irish authorities, you convene a public meeting and ask the locals if it’s OK if they just ignore all those corpses, maybe put up a nice little plaque or a stone over them, and just move on. It turns out the public wasn’t too happy about the idea of sweeping dead bodies under a discreet rug.

The meeting was supposed to gauge opinion on what to do with the site: (a) leave everything as it is but erect a memorial to tell the world how much we care; or (b) fully excavate the mass grave, exhume and identify the remains, and return the lost loved ones to their grieving families and enable them to rest in peace after a formal and appropriate burial.

Spoiler alert — I was rooting for option (b).

Let’s cut to the chase. What we are dealing with here is a mass grave, one containing the remains of abused persons, people discarded as second-class citizens, coercively separated from their families, born in captivity, and denigrated with the zeal that only religious sanctimony and god-fearing hubris can muster.

It seems simply unconscionable that any humane society would respond to the revelation that nearly 800 babies have been interred in an unmarked grave — a septic tank, no less — and say, ‘Well…let’s just leave them there.’

And yet that is what was being proposed for Tuam.

I agree with option (b), with the addition that a good forensic team be commissioned to identify as many of the dead as possible, along with tracing the paper trail to determine the details of who was responsible and who was lost at Tuam, and the bill, no matter what the cost, should be paid by the Catholic Church. And then they can do (a) and put up a memorial that not only acknowledges the victims but clearly assigns all blame to the Catholic Church for the atrocity.

Bill Donohue, ghoul

Oh god. Bill Donohue weighs in on Anthony Bourdain’s suicide.

If Anthony Bourdain had been a religious man, would he have killed himself? Probably not. The celebrity chef was found dead today in his hotel room in Strasbourg, France.

As I have recounted in my book, The Catholic Advantage: How Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful, there is an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide: those who are regular churchgoers have a much lower rate of suicide than atheists like Bourdain.

Nice of him to use the opportunity of the man’s death to plug his book.

You know, though, I think he’s sort of right: if you’re told over and over again from childhood on that suicide, in addition to ending your life and bringing grief to loved ones, will only lead to even greater misery as you’re tortured for eternity, I can see where it might dissuade some potential suicides. So let’s take it as a given that you can reduce the suicide rate by being indoctrinated in the Catholic faith (there’s data!) with the side effect that you are increasing fear and guilt to achieve your end. Would it be worth it?

If you could save Bourdain by erasing part of his character, do you think he would have chosen it? He had the opportunity, after all — his father was Catholic.

Would reducing the suicide rate be worthwhile if, instead, we increased the rate of child rape?

I’ll just leave this here.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has reached a $210 million settlement agreement with 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse as part of a bankruptcy reorganization, officials announced Thursday.

At $210,290,724, it is estimated to be the second-largest payout by the Catholic church in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. It comes after nearly four years of bankruptcy proceedings and negotiations.

Before you ask…

The largest clergy abuse related settlement to date was reached in 2007 by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which paid 508 victims $660 million.

That’s almost a thousand children in just two cases, raped with the collusion of the Catholic church. Is that a fair price to pay? For anything?

Florida spends $1 billion per year on miseducating kids

The Orlando Sentinel has an article on Christian homeschooling that had me banging my forehead on my desk. It’s a good article, but we’ve been saying this for decades: Abeka, Bob Jones University (BJU), and Accelerated Christian Education are fucking awful curricula. They are promoting Christian ignorance and lying to the kids, and this crap is getting subsidized by the state of Florida.

The social studies books downplay the horrors of slavery and the mistreatment of Native Americans, they said. One book, in its brief section on the civil rights movement, said that “most black and white southerners had long lived together in harmony” and that “power-hungry individuals stirred up the people.”

The books are rife with religious and political opinions on topics such as abortion, gay rights and the Endangered Species Act, which one labels a “radical social agenda.” They disparage religions other than Protestant Christianity and cultures other than those descended from white Europeans. Experts said that was particularly worrisome given that about 60 percent of scholarship students are black or Hispanic.

This is routine. What’s frustrating is that educators and scientists have been pointing out the deficiencies and dishonesty of these companies for years, and it feels like every year someone somewhere will gasp in dismay at the crap being taught, and wonder why no one has done anything about it. This is a different year, same old bullshit, and the state government just keeps on rubber stamping it through.

The Sentinel surveyed the 151 private schools newly approved by the education department to take scholarships for the 2017-18 school year. Seventy-five of the schools provided information about their curriculum either on their websites or when contacted by phone, and 30 of those, or about 40 percent, reported Abeka, BJU or ACE was a part of their academic offerings.

Only half were willing to disclose what they’re teaching? Makes you wonder what the silent, secretive half are doing.

Also, anybody qualifies as a teacher at these schools.

“Honestly, with our curriculum … a certified teacher is not required,” Natasha Griffin, district superintendent of Esther’s School, which has seven campuses in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel last year.

At Esther’s School in Kissimmee, 11 of 18 teachers lacked college degrees last year, according to a document Griffin sent to the education department. For two of them, 11th grade was their highest educational level. Almost all of the school’s nearly 60 students are on state scholarships this year.

Would like to say that a responsible government would strip these schools of any subsidies and declare that they are no longer accredited in any way. But they won’t.

There’s be another article next year exposing the miserable teaching standards at Christian home schools. And there will be another the year after that. And the year after that. I ought to save them up and use them as kindling for my Viking funeral.

Don’t watch the video at the link unless you really like seeing dullards dully defending their bad curricula.

How many rabbis do you need?

There are 57,000 children of ultra-orthodox Jews in state-funded yeshivas in New York. They are exempt from minimal education standards.

In April, state Senator Simcha Felder (D – Brooklyn) refused to sign off on the state budget unless yeshivas, which accept millions of dollars in government funding, were given more autonomy over curricula. Per a Post editorial, “Felder demanded [legislation] to exempt private yeshivas from state requirements to provide adequate education in basic areas such as English, math, science and history.”

The yeshivas are already black holes of miseducation, and this is going to make them even worse.

“[They] are being denied an education,” said Naftuli Moster, executive director of YAFFED, an organization that advocates to improve secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. “The main reason has to do with [yeshiva administrators] saying there’s no time to learn stuff [students] won’t use in life — especially boys, who are [expected] to be rabbis.”

Moster added that there are other issues at hand as well: “There are certain things in science and history that contradict portions of the Torah — fossils, dinosaurs.”

Also things like English and elementary arithmetic. According to the story, only about 5% of the boys who go through the yeshiva system become rabbis — and that’s about 5% too many — and the rest are just untrained and unprepared for anything practical or useful, which means that some of the most poverty-stricken areas of New York state are those inhabited by the ultra-Orthodox.

The article interviewed several adult products of the yeshiva system. They came out of it with a cultivated ignorance. The ones in the story, though, are men who scrabbled to make up their deficiencies and get somewhere in life, which makes one wonder about the majority, who never get out and perpetuate the same handicaps on their children.

“Evangelical” is just another word for “hypocrite”

It’s time to face the facts, evangelicals.

This week dozens of prominent evangelical leaders gathered at conservative Wheaton College, in Wheaton, IL, to address the “grotesque caricature” of their faith in the Trump era. The organizer of the gathering, Doug Birdsall, told the Washington Post that under Trump’s leadership, the term “evangelical” has taken on too many negative associations, especially when it comes to racism and nationalism. The goal of the gathering, then, was to address these concerns while returning the word “evangelical” to its core meaning. Rather than a political pariah, an “evangelical” is simply “a person who believes in the authority of the Bible, salvation through Jesus’ work on the cross, personal conversion and the need for evangelism.”

Nah, that’s not what an “evangelical” is — an “evangelical” is a manufactured identity where the most important part is not the religious side, which is merely used as a prop to signal “purity” and in-group membership, but all the political baggage that has come to the forefront.

This is what “evangelical” has come to mean: a total lack of principle. Corruption. Christianity is the perfect example of a whited sepulchre, to use their own language against them.

The amazing thing is that it wasn’t atheists who created that image of them — they did it to themselves, no assistance necessary. It doesn’t take a cartoon to caricature these people.

U.S. President Trump, center, bows his head during a prayer while surrounded by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, faith leaders and evangelical ministers after signing a proclamation declaring a day of prayer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. Trump declared Sunday, September 3 a national day of prayer for Hurricane Harvey victims. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Now some evangelicals are looking for a way out.

If evangelicalism ever wants to play a more positive role in social and political life, perhaps it’s time its leaders acknowledge that its public image isn’t a “grotesque caricature,” but the thing itself. There’s a weighty theological term and disposition for taking an approach that comes to terms with such hard truths but attempts to chart a new path beyond them: repentance. If that doesn’t happen, then Daniel Schultz is probably right: the meeting at Wheaton will not have accomplished much of anything.

Here’s a weighty theological term for you: apostasy. Get out.