Thursday, May 13, 2010

Updates: Stupak, Catholic Schools and Gay Parents, Crookston Diocese, and Rekers and Rentboy

Updates to a number of stories about which I’ve blogged here in the past.  I won’t link to my previous postings about these issues.  You can find them either by clicking on the tags beneath this posting, or by searching for particular terms in the blog’s search engine, or both—if you want to find what I’ve said about these stories in the past.

First, the Bart Stupak story: Stupak is the Democratic congressman from Michigan who carried water for the U.S. Catholic bishops in their attempt to block healthcare reform their attempt to go beyond the language of the Hyde amendment with its already existing provisions against government funding of abortion, as they lobbied during the healthcare reform process.

As I’ve noted in the past, Stupak began to speak out soon after the healthcare bill passed, noting the direct involvement of the U.S. bishops in directing his actions as he fought for even tighter provisions about abortion than existing provisions.  His comments after the bill passed hinted at his disappointment with the bishops’ ultimate refusal to support the bill, even though U.S. nuns did support it, and the bill gave the bishops everything they wanted short of abolishing Roe v. Wade and outlawing abortion.

In other words, Stupak has become aware that he was being used by the U.S. Catholic bishops to assist them in trying to block healthcare reform altogether.  He has also become aware that the bishops did not want healthcare reform—not by the Obama administration—despite the long, rich history of support of universal healthcare in Catholic teaching.

And Stupak has suffered tremendously after he broke ranks with the hard right and supported the final healthcare bill. He and his family have experienced and continue to experience vile threats, including death threats, from “pro-life” activists. 

And Stupak is now talking more about what went on between him and the U.S. bishops, as well as his family’s experiences after he voted for healthcare reform.  The latest issue of Newsweek contains an enlightening first-hand statement by Stupak about what happened as the bill came up for a House vote, and what has happened to him and his family as a result of his vote of support for the bill. 

On the eve of the House reconciliation vote, Stupak and his allies put in a final call to the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, to ask the USCCB if it would vet their formulation of the compromise statement that would, in their view, do all that needed to be done to protect the pro-life cause in healthcare reform.

Would USCCB look at this statement, Stupak and his cronies asked?  And the bishops’ conference replied:

No, no, no, no, they said.

No.  Did you get that?  In case you didn’t, they said no.

It’s our way or the highway.  And they cut Stupak loose.  As he says, “That call changed my relationship with the pro-life movement.”  The religious leaders for whom he’d been carrying water, for whom he had risked much, cut him loose because he would not promote their absolutist position that was really, in the final analysis, all about trying to block healthcare reform and not about serving the values of life at all. 

About politics.  About undermining a Democratic administration. 

And so as Stupak and his family deal with death threats, drunken late-night calls from screaming “pro-lifers,” thousands of faxes a day, they do not have the support of the bishops who head the church on behalf of which they have sought to defend the values of life.

Not the brightest moment of the U.S. Catholic bishops, the healthcare debate.  If they hoped to retrieve their waning moral credibility as the abuse crisis continues, this hardly seems to have been the way to go about it.  And on this story, I recommend Grant Gallicho’s summary at Commonweal and a summary by a blogger with the username Digby at Alternet.

Another update: this has to do with the story about the lesbian mothers whose children were told they were unwelcome at a Catholic school in Boulder, Colorado, some time back.  There is, I’m sorry to report, a sequel to that story—as in another breaking instance of a Catholic school denying admission to a child of a lesbian couple. 

In this case, fortunately, there’s some strong immediate pushback.  Writing in the Boston Globe today, Lisa Wangness appears to suggest that the archdiocese of Boston itself is not particularly happy with the decision of Fr. James Rafferty of St. Paul parish in Hingham to deny the child of a lesbian couple admission to his parish school.*

And Catholics United, a progressive group that has not always been at the forefront of battles against homophobia in the Catholic church, has a petition online now, asking Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston not to allow discrimination in Catholic schools in the Boston archdiocese.  The petition is here.  I strongly support it.

And then a quick addendum to the story of Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who is credibly accused of having sexually molested two girls in the Crookston, Minnesota, diocese, and who has fled to his native India to escape criminal charges pending against him for this abuse.  Right after the Jeyapaul story broke, Jeyapaul expressed his willingness to come to the U.S. to face trial.  He maintains his innocence.

But as the banner headline at the website of Survivors of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) notes today, it has now been 37 days since Jeyapaul promised to return to the U.S.

And he’s still in India.  The headline links to this 6 April press release of SNAP president Barbara Blaine, noting that talk is cheap and calling on church officials to expedite Jeyapaul’s return to the U.S.

And finally, an update to the George Rekers story (you didn’t expect me to let the week go by without mentioning him, did you?).  Sarah Pulliam Bailey is reporting at Christianity Today that Rekers has resigned from the board of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), is not gay and never has been, and is soon to retire.

Which will allow him to travel with his wife.  Rekers has “confessed to the Lord” and to his family “the sin of . . . putting myself into a vulnerable situation where I tragically became subject to false allegations.”  He is meeting with a team of “Christian counselors” who will help him more fully to understand his “weaknesses,” which led to his “unwise decision-making” in hiring a rentboy.

And so the world continues to spin on, C.E. 2010, 13 May.

*As Terry Weldon notes in a comment re: this posting, the Boston archdiocese has now stated that it rejects discrimination against the children of same-sex couples.  National Catholic Reporter has a report by Tom Roberts that has appeared since I posted this piece earlier today.  Heartening news . . . .