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Posts Tagged ‘priest’

This article from TIME begins with the phrase “The latest sex-abuse case to rock the Catholic Church”.

After checking the date and seeing that it was posted just over a week ago, I still wasn’t sure if this was going to be actual news, or just yet another in a long list of old stories I’ve already heard about.

A headline about a sex-abuse case that rocked, say, Microsoft, would be an eye-catching novelty. The slightly exciting and immoral sex lives of footballers are still making massive news at a time when nobody could possibly be surprised by something as dull as celebrity infidelity.

But the Catholic Church being involved in the institutional molestation of children? Eh, I heard about that already.

Father Riccardo Seppia was allegedly recorded on tape saying the following words to a Moroccan drug dealer:

I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues.

He is also said to have traded cocaine and money for sexual encounters with boys.

This is all particularly embarrassing for the Cardinal of Father Seppia’s archdiocese, who has recently been working with the Pope on “reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests”.

Yeah.

I think for something to invoke outrage, it needs to be somehow shocking. And this just isn’t, these days. Which is sad.

But don’t let’s get sidetracked from the important issues here. There are some monasteries out there were the monks and nuns are said to engage in regular sessions of dancing. Now that’s the kind of ungodly abomination that the Pope needs to put a stop to immediately. It’s a matter of priorities, people.

And remember the advice of Bill Donohue of the Catholic League: what really matters is that it’s not technically pedophilia, because many of these victims were post-pubescent.

Just in case you were forming an unfairly low opinion of the Catholic priests who’ve been using drugs to pay for 14-year-olds to have sex with.

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So, the three-part channel 4 series Make Me A Christian has just finished airing. There were some likeable people there on both sides of the aisle, but in the end, I think pretty much all of them got it wrong.

The concept of the show is that a bunch of non-Christians live the Christian lifestyle, and try to conduct themselves according to the teachings of Jesus, for three weeks, under the guidance of four clerics of varying degrees of sympathy, hard-nosed intolerance, and hotness. Some of the volunteers were more open to the idea than others, and some had lifestyles supposedly very much at odds with the Christian faith, or at least with these four people’s idea of it.

For instance, there was Laura, the slightly muscular gay chick (I don’t know what it is with me and somewhat-but-not-too butch girls-loving-girls, but rawr), who had a whole bedroom wall’s worth of pr0n confiscated at the start of the experiment, as well as The Big Book Of Lesbian Horse Stories. Most of her journey involved being lectured at about her sexuality, and not getting any good answers to her questions about how she’s supposed to love a god who hates what she is. She was amazingly tolerant throughout the attempted education of her sin, which included being taken to a fairground to experience the atmosphere of being around families and children. Because, she probably doesn’t get to see many straight people, being so sequestered away in her own gay lifestyle as she is. And what with how gay people are totally different and don’t love each other like straight people. And of course she was entirely convinced by this, and decided at that moment that she would choose not to be sexually or romantically attracted to her long-term girlfriend any more.

Or not. She also visited an ex-gay preacher, and learns that all he needed was for some helpful Christians to point out to him that gayness is a sin, and all the desire for hot sweaty man-love vanished, just like that. Eventually, she found someplace called the London Metropolitan Church, on her own time, which is much more accepting of alternative lifestyles and more genuinely focused on Jesus’ message of love. But, of course, they were “in error”, and twisting the message of the scriptures. In the end, she was never really convinced that she could be both a lesbian and a Christian, but hers was the approach that most impressed me, and she seemed to get more out of it than most of the others.

There was also Faye, a lap-dancing witch, who’s addicted to buying shoes. “Her lifestyle is on a trajectory to hell,” it is declared, I think more in reference to the witchery than the footwear. She finds it all a bit much, and buggers off to visit her boyfriend for a few days. When she comes back, she gets a lecture about pre-marital sex. It’s observed that she’s a “broken lady” and this is actually a “really good place to meet the Lord Jesus”. Does that strike anyone else as really sinister? Yes, God loves us all, but especially the emotionally vulnerable.

Her story didn’t seem to go anywhere, I don’t think we heard from her at all in the final week, but I was annoyed that they were quite so rubbish in dealing with her. There were clearly some things she could have done with learning, and this would have been a great opportunity for that. She had some definite identity and esteem issues, and maybe it’s not a great idea to rely on sex entirely to feel better about yourself, but am I out of order thinking that if she’s in a serious and loving relationship, and she wants to go to her bloke for some snuggles, then sex might be part of a really positive and healthy rejuvenation for her? The shopping addiction seemed to be a big thing for her too, and I bet Alvin Hall could’ve done wonders for the girl.

Kevin was a real party lad, somewhere in his twenties. Claims to have slept with 150 or so women, and never been faithful to his girlfriends. He said he wanted to become a “different person”, but I don’t think his heart was ever really in it. He wanted to assuage some of the mild guilt associated with being a total slut, but not badly enough to give up promiscuous sex. He practises safe sex “maybe 3 times out of 10”, and is somewhat flummoxed and amazed when the show’s evangelical preacher makes the unquestionably sensible suggestion that he get tested for STDs. He was so evidently stuck in his childish attitude to sex: he claimed to understand that there are risks attached to what he’s doing, but I don’t think he really grasped that this was something real, that might affect him. He was made too embarrassed and uncomfortable by all the grown-up discussion, even to bring in a urine sample to see whether he had chlamydia. It brought to mind the innocence/ignorance distinction on my sex post again.

There was clearly so much he could really have benefited from learning, and he could’ve got something out of this, but all the beneficial stuff was couched in such unnecessary Jesus-y rambling that I’m not surprised he was put off by a lot of it. There was less actual education about condoms and the risks of unprotected sex, than blather about how sex “wasn’t meant to be a recreation”. He was told that he’s not respecting these women he’s sleeping with, and that he should “love your neighbour as yourself” (though I thought the fact that he was “loving” them as he “loved” himself was exactly the problem). It all undermined the good stuff he could’ve been learning; he didn’t change much, and was actually using the “I’m a Christian, I can’t have sex out of wedlock” line as a quite effective seduction technique.

In the end, he was still a drunken slut, but allegedly did come clean to his girlfriend about how unfaithful he’d been. We only have his word that it did happen off-camera, but if he was lying, the prime-time documentary has probably made the point moot by now. Maybe at least he can be an honest slut in the future.

Martin was the burly tattooed biker, who hated his strict Christian school upbringing, and pulled out most of his teeth with pliers long ago, because they hurt and he was scared of the dentist. Yikes. He took the most aggressive and contrary stance to the whole thing, and only sometimes made an idiot of himself. He had some valid criticisms, like that nobody was making any attempt to explain “why this book is true”, but he also objected to the Bibles even being handed out with suggestions that they all study them, and refused to even go into a church to start with, on the grounds that it had “fuck all to do with learning about Jesus”.

And this brings me, at long last, to the main point that struck me about this show. Most of the participants really weren’t taking what I would consider the most useful approach. The show is called Make Me A Christian. They all knew that when they signed up, and all presumably wanted to try living the Christian lifestyle, learning more about this Jesus guy, and whatever else the preachers wanted to show them. So why did they keep opting out of stuff, just because it was nonsense, or not their sort of thing, or didn’t appeal to them or suit them for whatever reason? Obviously it’s not something you want to do, that’s why you’re not a Christian, but isn’t that the entire point of the programme?

Look, (I wanted to say to the participants over the course of the last three weeks), you’re not going to achieve anything by just getting into yet another pointless argument. You’ve been given a real opportunity here, to let these representatives of this religion make the argument for it as best they can, to show you what they consider the strongest possible case that can be made for the way of life they espouse, to see the most convincing and persuasive reasons they can put together that anyone should listen to them. And you should help them as much as you can, go along with every suggestion, listen to every sermon, attend every event, abstain, sing, pray, utterly immerse yourselves in the way of life being advocated.

Because then you are in the most sound position imaginable from which to call them out. You could say that you did everything in your power to assist their efforts, and look at what you got out of it.

If anyone could really have got through it all and said that, it would have been great. Because honestly, the cases put forward by the Biblemunchers were completely empty.

They helped some other participants, a married couple and their children, with partially useful advice about maybe turning off the TVs once in a while and having some family time together, talking to each other over a meal, maybe – which I think helped them somewhat, but Supernanny would have done a much more thorough job, and had her priorities much better organised.

They visited an abortion clinic, to see where the magic happens. This is hardly an important cornerstone of Biblical wisdom, just a hot-button issue, and one in which it’s easy to forego reasoned debate for emotional reactionary…ness, as was evidenced here. Okay, so the termination of a foetus doesn’t make for a pretty sight, but if any of these people visited a sausage factory, I’d bet at least half of them would swear off eating meat ever again, and not because of any rational argument.

They got involved in some charity work, which the volunteers tended to find the most uplifting and worthwhile activity of the lot, but the connection between this genuinely good and important altruism and the relevance of the Bible was never really made. Any regime claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus should certainly include a good chunk of time spent feeding soup to homeless people, but there’s something to the fact that everyone was universally pleased to get involved in this anywhere, however seriously they were taking the idea of Christian faith. It’s not like generosity and kindness are a rarity outside of Christianity, or even outside of religion. These are just good things to do. The fact that Jesus is credited with some great ideas doesn’t make the zany stuff in the Bible any more credible.

They worked to separate themselves from “bad company”. Kevin spent some time hanging out with some “sober, young Christians”, rather than with his friends. Hmm, cutting previous ties, where does that come on the cult checklist? (To be fair, he just had quite a good night out bowling and not drinking as much as usual, and chatting to some girls in a less lascivious manner than he was used to.)

They went off on a jaunt to a crematorium, and asked the question “Is that the end of the story?”, and contemplated life after death. Because, obviously you’re better equipped to take a rational look and make a genuine decision about such things in an emotionally charged environment, sitting right next to an actual dead guy, and watching them being cremated. And then seeing a boxful of bits of dead guy from yesterday, with lumps of bone and bits of ash all smooshed about. Everyone got quite emotional and shuddered a little seeing it, which was understandable, and some of them were maybe starting to hope that there could be something more worth looking forward to after death after all. But what the hell did you think happened to corpses, post mortem? It’s another purely emotive action intended to provoke only an irrational, emotional response. Death is scary, therefore praise Jesus.

And somebody’s mum got the all-clear from a cancer scare, after singing a hymn in a church that one time. So, Jesus definitely cured her. It’s called Post hoc ergo propter hoc – the one thing happened after the other, therefore the second thing was caused by the first thing. It’s science, people. Oh, wait…

And the preachers continued to express surprise and consternation when people didn’t fall into line and go along with any nonsense they were presented with, or didn’t immediately capitulate after a few days’ being moaned at for having a sex life out of wedlock.

Eugh.

The documentary was put together in a way that wasn’t actively proselytising, but wanted to leave us with a warm, fuzzy glow, and the comforting idea that maybe everyone learned something from this, and that there might be something good to this religion idea after all. And I think most of them did learn something worthwhile, and had some good experiences, and won’t regret their involvement. But this is probably because they’ve been hanging around with some caring, compassionate, nice people, doing things they wouldn’t normally do, having their horizons broadened, learning, involving themselves with some good charity work, and all this great stuff which has bugger all to do with Christianity. Not that the religion doesn’t include any of that stuff, but why would you have to be a Christian to do any of it? Why not do all that, get involved, do good stuff, be happy, but maintain the conviction that it’s all nonsense, and keep hanging out with your biker friends, or your lesbian lover, or the many dozens of women you want to bone on a nightly basis? Why not take what’s constructive and useful, learn from whatever sources you can, but abandon anything making rigidly and repressively dictatorial pronouncements, which has no authority to do so besides that of tradition?

Well. That’s what I thought.

Anyone else see the show? Maybe someone who’s mastered the art of brevity?

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