Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Story Links to Story: In Recent News, Female Church Member Accuses Megachurch Pastor of Sexual Assault, Catholic Women Come Forth to Tell Stories of Assault, Political and Religious Right Keeps Pinning Abuse on Gays

Pieces of commentary I've read in the past few days that are, in my view, much more illuminating when read side-by-side:

Stunned, she remembered feeling unable to say no to her boss and pastor as he straddled her, unhooked her bra and touched her near her breasts. She remembered feeling his hands shake. 
That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex. Ms. Baranowski said she was mortified and determined to stay silent.... 
Since the #MeToo movement emerged last year, evangelical churches have been grappling with allegations of sexual abuse by their pastors. A wave of accusations has begun to hit evangelical institutions, bringing down figures like the Rev. Andy Savage, at Highpoint Church in Memphis, and the Rev. Harry L. Thomas, the founder of the Creation Festival, a Christian music event.

As Mary E Hunt told us in a recent article that I shared a few weeks back and now want to share again, the abuse narrative in the Catholic church has moved from a focus on minors assaulted by clerics to a focus now on adults who have been assaulted, and, increasingly, on nuns and laywomen assaulted by priests, whose stories are just being heard due to the #MeToo movement. Mary Hunt writes,

Adult women who have been sexually involved with priests represent the third element of this complicated problem. Until and unless their stories are told and the implications parsed, I doubt that the abuse of young people and of employees will be solved. 
Here's why: The abuse of minors and the utilization of underlings are variants on the systematic abuse of women rooted in an ideology of female subordination to male power. To have that top-down schema recapitulated with young and vulnerable men is totally consistent with the patriarchal logic on which it is based. 
As long as that ideology remains in place, there is little hope for much-needed changes in priestly behavior and ecclesial structures. There is little hope for the whole church. 

Raised in a conservative Catholic family in Minnesota, Rachel Mastrogiacomo went to the ultra-right-wing Francsican university at Steubenville, and then on to Rome to study theology. There she met Jacob Bertrand, who was also studying theology and was a deacon who was later ordained a priest.

He began grooming her, telling her of visions the Lord had sent him of sexual activity with her. And then this happened: 

After months of "spiritual direction," Bertrand took Mastrogiacomo's virginity. During a private Mass in the loft of her grandmother's Wisconsin cabin, he persuaded her to engage in sexual activities. 
"This wasn't an ordinary sexual experience between two consenting adults," said Mastrogiacomo. "It was during the celebration of the Mass, with candles lit, very ritualistic." 
A day or two later, the same scene played out in the Minnesota home of Mastrogiacomo's mother and step-father. Giving herself to him during a religious service, Bertrand told her, was God’s will. 
"This was far worse, far more ritualistic," she said. 
When Bertrand, by then an ordained priest assigned to a parish in San Diego, requested more encounters, she refused. 
"Father," she said, "I have done God's will and I don't want to do this any more.

Although most attention amid the clerical sexual abuse crisis has been on minors, recent cases of priests and bishops who have taken advantage of vulnerable adults or those under their guidance also have come to light. 
One such case involves Theodore McCarrick, the 88-year-old retired Archbishop of Washington and Newark who resigned his post in the College of Cardinals following "credible and substantiated" accusations of sexual abuse of minors and multiple accounts of sexual misconduct with seminarians. 
A second example is a recent report by the Associated Press detailing accounts of religious sisters and nuns who have either been sexually assaulted or raped by priests or bishops, and who have chosen to speak out as part of what has been dubbed the Church’s own "#MeToo" movement. 
In addition to these sisters, a nun in India also recently accused a bishop of rape, charging that other members of Church hierarchy in the country, such as Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church in India, knew about it and did nothing. 
Yet another example, only now coming to light, is the case of Rachel Mastrogiacomo, who, at age 24, was raped in Satanic cult-like fashion by a Catholic priest as he celebrated a private Mass for the two of them. And, she says, when she came forward to the Church, they covered it up.

"The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid 'scandal,'" the grand jury report says.
"Several diocesan administrators, including the bishops, often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own deficient, biased investigation without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities," the report says.

In the weeks since allegations were made against Archbishop McCarrick, some commentators and clergy have suggested that allowing gay men to be priests has created a culture ripe for the kind of abuse Archbishop McCarrick is alleged to have committed. 
But Cardinal Cupich said he 'would be very careful' in accepting that conclusion, noting that similar claims made during the height of the child sexual abuse crisis in the 2000s were refuted by an independent 2011 report compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 
"I really believe that the issue here is more about a culture of clericalism in which some who are ordained feel they are privileged and therefore protected so that they can do what they want," Cardinal Cupich said. 
"People, whether heterosexual or homosexual, need to live by the Gospel," he said, adding that he "would not want to reduce this simply to the fact that there are some priests who are homosexual."
"I think that is a diversion that gets away from the clericalism that's much deeper as a part of this problem," he said.'

The question of who in the church hierarchy learned of the allegations against McCarrick — and when — has thus spawned its own predictable controversy. Some Catholics have blamed the hierarchy’s lax attitude toward abuse claims on a modern, Pope Francis-inflected tolerance for gay priests and disregard for traditional church doctrine on sexual morality.

But it was Pope Saint John Paul the Great who made McCarrick a cardinal, when, as we now know, the Vatican had been informed about McCarrick's behavior — not Pope Francis. Francis inherited this problem from Saint John Paul the Great, the same pope who protected the notorious abuser Marcial Maciel.

And it was under Saint John Paul the Great and his orthodoxy watchdog Cardinal Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, that gay people were relentlessly attacked in the church, defined as intrinsically disordered — not coddled or told we were welcome.

I think we are just beginning to see the first wave of shattering testimony by women who have experienced sexual abuse by pastors in churches, from Catholic to mainline Protestant to evangelical ones. White evangelical churches, which are even more of a problem in producing the authoritarian culture that undergirds the Trump presidency than the Catholic community is, have have long pointed the finger at the Catholic church, blaming its abuse problems on gay priests, and pretending that abuse doesn't exist in evangelical churches — because the pastors of those churches aren't, they've told us, gay. Right-wing Catholics who are deeply, intractably homophobic, who are energized by hatred of LGBTQ people, have colluded in making these charges at the same time that they decry reflex anti-Catholicism in U.S. Protestantism.

But the abuse in both Catholic and evangelical churches never has been about sexual orientation. It has been about men's astonishing sense of entitlement, of ownership, of invulnerability. It has been about abuse of power. It has been about patriarchal systems that give men that astonishing sense of entitlement. Until those systems are exposed and challenged, the abuse problems will remain in all patriarchal institutions, both faith-based ones and secular ones.

Despite such clear data showing us that this is the case, that the abuse problems in faith communities and secular institutions are rooted in patriarchal assumptions (which is also to say, in homophobic and heterosexist assumptions), a certain slice of right-wing Catholics deeply fixated on pinning the abuse situation on gay priests and making it about sexual orientation are already gearing up to force whatever findings we read in the Pennsylvania report into their sexual-orientation-explains-it-all-for-you mold. As if the stories of nuns abused by priests and laywomen abused by priests count for nothing at all — as if those human beings count for nothing at all…

It's all about the gays, or it's about nothing.

Go figure. Hate's evidently a powerfully addictive drug.

University of Southern California President C. L. Max Nikias stepped down on Tuesday amid a sex abuse scandal involving a former campus gynecologist. 
Students and faculty had been calling for Nikias' ouster since May, when the Los Angeles Times reported that the school had allowed Dr. George Tyndall to remain on staff for decades, despite repeated sexual misconduct complaints against him….
Tyndall, 71, worked at USC's student health clinic for nearly 30 years, despite repeated accusations by students and staff that he touched patients inappropriately during exams, made suggestive remarks, and photographed students’ genitals. His behavior was particularly inappropriate toward international students from Asia, several witnesses reported. 
USC suspended Tyndall in 2016 after a campus nurse reported him to the school's rape crisis center

No comments: