Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Ride On The Catholic Roller Coaster

Catholicism is sure getting to be a roller coaster and two stories from yesterday certainly prove the point. In the first story Benedict acknowledges the suffering of Canadian First Nation children at the hands of the residential school system, 75% of which were run by Catholic groups:

Pope Laments Abuse of Canadian Indigenous People
Affirms Desire to Build Partnership for Future

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is lamenting abuses by Church members against indigenous Canadian children in residential Catholic schools, and is offering prayerful solidarity to the aboriginal peoples as they move forward.
The Pope said this today after the general audience in a meeting with representatives from the Catholic communities and aboriginal peoples of Canada, including Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, and Archbishop James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian bishops' conference.

During the meeting, the Pontiff "listened to their stories and concerns," a Vatican press release reported.

He "recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples.

"Acknowledging the "sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian residential school system," the Holy Father "expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity."

"Benedict XVI emphasized that "acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society," and he prayed that "all those affected would experience healing." He encouraged the indigenous peoples "to continue to move forward with renewed hope."

CBC News has this quote from Chief Fontaine as reported by Religion News Service.

Fontaine, himself a survivor of Canada's residential schools, acknowledged that the pope's statement did not amount to a formal apology, but told CBC News that he hoped it would "close the book" on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.

"The fact that the word 'apology' was not used does not diminish this moment in any way," he said. "This experience gives me great comfort."


This was a very positive step on the part of Pope Benedict. As I've written previously, Native elders are keen to close the book on past abuse and move forward. They also know it's hard to close the book if one of the authors refuses to acknowledge their part in the story.

US Native American Nations, unlike their counterparts in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are still waiting for governmental and religious authorities to recognize the harm done to their respective cultures by the same kind of residential school systems. School Systems which were really designed to take the Indian out of the child and make them pseudo white Christians. They were also hugely abusive and extremely destructive to the Native American family structure.

Now we come to the second story, and quite frankly I have real trouble believing any politician of any stripe for any reason could go this low. As reported by Politico yesterday, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx testified during debate on the hate crimes bill, otherwise known as the Mathew Shepard bill, that the murder of Mathew Shepard was about robbery, and that calling it a gay hate crime was a 'hoax'. She said this with Judy Shepard, Mathew's mother in the house gallery.

Matthew Shepard Bias Claims A ‘Hoax,’

North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx is questioning whether the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student, was motivated by his sexual orientation. The socially conservative Foxx, arguing against a Democratic hate crimes bill that includes new protections for gays and lesbians, called the description of Shepard’s murder as an anti-homosexual attack a “hoax” — and questioned whether prior bias-crime legislation should have been named after him.

“I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay.”

She added: “This ... hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

“Matthew Shepard’s mother was in the gallery yesterday, and I believe she was back today — so I’m sorry she had to be around to hear it,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). “It’s an urban myth. ... And I’d tell [Foxx] that man did land on the moon, and the moon wasn’t made out of green cheese.”

Two young men — Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney — were convicted in connection with the crime, with multiple witnesses testifying to the anti-gay aspect of the crime. Both also intended to rob the Shepard home after the attack, according to press accounts.


Representative Foxx is Catholic. She was one of the Catholic Representatives who sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about how scandalous and denigrating Pelosi's views on abortion are to the Catholic faithful. Hmmmm, in my book, it's now Representative Foxx's turn to hear about how scandalous and denigrating her statements are to Catholics. So much for family values when it's considered perfectly OK to lie about the motivation for the death of a mother's son in front of that mother. Doesn't seem to be a very good example of 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. In the meantime this bill passed in the house 249-175.

The kind of thinking espoused by Representative Foxx, is exactly the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the Native residential school systems. The Native culture, like the gay culture, was seen to be immoral and deficient and the best thing one could do was to destroy families for the sake of the children. The residential school system proved to be efficient only in the destruction of Native families. Native kids were still Native kids and subjected to the same discriminatory treatment after they were 'enculturated' as they had been before they were enculturated.

The anti gay bias, which the Mathew Shepard bill is intended to address, hopes to address the same kind of thinking that led to residential school system. The kind of thinking that goes along the lines of 'dirty indian', 'dirty jew', and 'dirty fag'. The kind of thinking that says it's really OK to emotionally and physically abuse the dirty other, destroy their families, and ignore their pain because that's what Jesus would do. Well the message just sent from the Vatican in the case of the Canadian First Nations is this kind of thing isn't what Jesus would do, and in fact we were wrong that some of us actually believed this is what Jesus would do.

Virginia Foxx should take a clue from Benedict and another look at her prejudice. Benedict should take a long look at what Catholicism in it's misguided righteousness did to the families of the First Nations and wonder if he isn't propagating the same thing in gay families. All he need do is look at Virginia Foxx blathering on in front of Judy Shepard and he should have a pretty good idea of what the answer is.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The first casualty of 'othering' others are families. First Nations paid this price in year's past, and today it's families with gay members. Yesterday's roller coaster showed how far we've come in one case, and how far we still have to travel in the other.


  1. Well said!

    It is precisely the type of misguided zealotry, as exemplified By Rep. Foxx, which causes the very justifiable rage in so many gays against the Church. Sadly, this then widens to rage at Christianity in general - even at God.

    The result is that many gays (and sympathetic str8s) will harden their hearts against God due to this horrid behavior. Thus souls are in grave danger.

    ...thus folks like Foxx are doing the Devil's work - all the while believing they are "serving God".

  2. Well said Anonymous. The types of things said by Foxx only serve to do the opposite of any good. They actually serve to put souls in grave danger.

    Foxx and Finn have something in common and some common ground.

  3. Many who read and post here will remember the debate in the June 15, 2007, issue of Commonweal between Luke Timothy Johnson and Eve Tushnet on the subject of “Homosexuality and the Church.”

    Johnson’s presentation (way too long to post here, but can be read in full at: was superb, and I found these particular sections to be pertinent to today’s subject in question:

    “And accepting covenanted love between persons of the same sex represents the same downward spiral with regard to Scripture, since the Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love (glossing over the relationship of Jonathan and David, see 1 Samuel 18- 2 Samuel 1). For those who think this way, the world is becoming dangerously depraved; a line must be drawn in the sand somewhere, and homosexuality seems clearly to be the place.” ……. ”The Pharisees’ sin has come to be called ’scotosis,’ a deliberate and willful darkening of the mind that results from the refusal to acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in human stories. If the neglect of Scripture is a form of sin, John suggests, a blind adherence to Scripture when God is trying to show us the truth in human bodies is also a form of sin, and a far more grievous one. Both our own sense of integrity as Christians, and our hope of entering into positive conversation with those who disagree with us, obligate us to engage Scripture with maximum devotion, love, and intelligence. If it is risky to trust ourselves to the evidence of God at work in transformed lives even when it challenges the clear statements of Scripture, it is a far greater risk to allow the words of Scripture to blind us to the presence and power of the living God.”

    Jim McCrea

  4. Yeah...

    Can anyone tell me where I can go on that roller coaster? It looks amazing!!

    1. Katie, Just go sit in a pew in the Roman Catholic Church at a Latin Mass or watch EWTN or go to NCR and read the comments from the warlords for Benedict's fascist-roman "church." Post some inspiring comments in Catholic blogs and then wait for the responses from trads or fundamentalist with their uninspiring nonsense of a comment back at you.

  5. Attacks on gays? Why, without gays and lesbians, you'd be out of Jesuits and Franciscans and nuns by New Year's!