On August 15, Catholics will celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. That is, supposedly, the date on which the Virgin Mary was bodily hoisted into Heaven, thus ending her earthly life.
The day before, the 14th, just might be D-Day, at least in New York State. That day will mark the beginning of a one-year window in which survivors of child sexual abuse can file civil suits against their abusers, under terms of the Child Victims Act (CVA) passed earlier this year.
Nearly everyone expects a flood of suits to be filed that day. Some will have waited years, even decades for this opportunity: previously, if a child was molested in New York State, he or she could file a lawsuit or seek criminal charges until he or she was 23. Given what we’ve seen, it’s easy to see how this works against victims: it often takes decades for someone (as it did for me) who was molested or abused as a child to speak about it.
After the one-year window provided in the CVA has passed, victims can still file civil suits until age 55 and seek criminal charges until age 28. While these provisions are an improvement on previous statutes — which were among the most victim-unfriendly in the nation — the Empire State will still lag behind its heavily-Catholic neighbor Massachusetts, which gives victims 35 years to sue their abusers.
What galls people such as I, though, is that it took sixteen years for the state legislature to pass the CVA. Although I rarely have kind words for politicians, I must say that some members of the State Legislature–among them Assembly members Brad Hoylman and Linda Rosenthal, both Democrats from Manhattan — should be commended for their efforts. That it took so long is mainly a testament to how hard some organizations fought against them.
Will it surprise any of you to know that two of the main opponents of this Act–and its “window” in particular — are the Boy Scouts of America and — wait for it — the Roman Catholic Church? Although New York is one of the “bluest” states in the country, the Church still wields a fair amount of influence in the politics of both the state and New York City. Church leaders howled that the “window” will result in a flood of lawsuits that could impose “financial hardship” on the state’s dioceses and archdioceses. They have a point: California passed similar legislation in 2003, and within a few years, the dioceses of San Diego and Stockton filed for bankruptcy.
Still, the protestations of Church leaders in New York are at least somewhat disingenuous, if not entirely hypocritical. In claiming that the “window” could lead to thousands of lawsuits, the Church in New York is tacitly conceding that many children (and adults), over many years, have indeed been sexually exploited by priests, nuns and other authority figures such as deacons. But what is less-widely known is that, in a way, the dioceses of the state have implemented some version or another of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), which allows victims to file claims for past sexual abuse. There can be little doubt that this program was implemented because Church leaders knew that passage of the CVA (and similar laws in other states) was all but inevitable, and that by giving victims nominal compensation on the condition of confidentiality, they could forestall a number of lawsuits.
And, while some victims might reap substantial payouts for lawsuits filed under the CVA, it will probably take years to settle and collect. The IRCP process, in contrast, takes months, and therefore may appeal to older victims who don’t want to spend significant portions of their remaining years in a court case. I have little doubt that Church leaders knew this, too.
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what happens to the individual dioceses as well as the church as a whole as a result of New York’s CVA. For years, individual parishes and Catholic schools (including the one I attended) have been closing, mainly in the five boroughs of New York City, but also in other parts of the state. While few people expect the Archdiocese of New York or the Diocese of Brooklyn to go belly-up, mainly because they still own lots of valuable real estate and other assets, it’s not hard to imagine some of the less-affluent dioceses upstate filing for protection.
I realize that I have focused on the effect the CVA will have on the Catholic Church. So have most of the media. As I mentioned, the Boy Scouts will also be affected. Although the Catholic church is the largest denomination in the State and City (though many claimed members have long since stopped practicing the religion, or even renounced it altogether), there are a number of other religious organizations that could be affected. Chief among them, I believe, are the Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox communities. (In Orange County, there is a village, Kiryas Joel, which is essentially governed by Satmar Hasidic interpretations of Halakhic law, and most of whose residents speak Yiddish.) In addition, there are a number of insular religious communities ensconced in upstate enclaves and some outer-borough New York City neighborhoods. It’s hard not to believe that some current or former members of such communities will come forward as a result of the CVA.
Whatever happens, I am glad that some people who suffered sexual abuse from priests and other religious leaders will have an opportunity, however brief, to break the hold of their abusers and hold them to account.
The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Joseph “Jack” Baker, pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford, Michigan, stands accused sexually assaulting a child.
Father Joseph “Jack” Baker, 57, is on an electronic tether following his arraignment July 8 in 29th District Court, according to the Wayne County Jail website. Judge Laura Redmond Mack assigned a $500,000 personal bond at arraignment, which doesn’t require bail to be posted.
Baker, pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford since 2008, is one of six metro Detroit priests facing sexual abuse charges as part of an ongoing investigation by the state’s attorney general’s office. He was arrested July 8 in Wayne County and is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct – sexual penetration with a person under 13 years old, multiple variables. Court records list the offense date as Feb. 1, 2004.
Baker is also a former associate pastor at St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills and Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn, and former pastor at St. Mary Parish in Wayne. He also was administrator at St. Benedict in Waterford in 2011, campus minister at Wayne State Medical School Campus Ministry and administrator at three churches in Inkster. He was ordained in 1993.
Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling the case “just the tip of the iceberg,” and said her office is reviewing “hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and files” seized last fall from Michigan’s seven diocese.
Frequently, it seems that Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics are outraged over a program on network TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or many of the other media streaming services. We live in a day when the choices of what to watch are endless. As someone who loves watching television, I am thrilled that I have so many excellent programs to choose from. Of course, there are some channels that I don’t watch. One in particular is the Hallmark Channel. Gag me with a spoon! Fundamentalists, of course, love the Hallmark Channel. Its programming regularly reinforces their moralistic religious worldview. Fundamentalists watch the Hallmark Channel, I don’t. See how easy that is? It’s all about choice. We all choose to view what we want. No one is forcing Fundamentalists to watch programming that they deem sinful, offensive, or contrary to their version of Christian decency. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics, if they are so offended by what is on the screen, don’t turn off their televisions, or better yet get rid of them altogether. (Please see The Preacher and His TV.) Psalm 101:3 says: I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. If what is on the TV is so wicked, why do Fundamentalists continue to own televisions? Perhaps, it is time for them to become Amish and throw their hellivisions into the trash. Of course, most Fundamentalists won’t do this. Why? Because they like watching TV just like most of us. Remember, Fundamentalists scream long and hard (no I am not talking about their sex lives) about the moral failures of our society, yet they, all too often, imbibe in the very “sins” they condemn.
Earlier this week, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (ASDTFP) — a Roman Catholic organization — put up an online petition that called on Netflix to immediately cancel Good Omens — a television series adapted from the late Terry Pratchett’s (an atheist) and Neil Gaiman’s (view of God: “I think we can say that God exists in the DC Universe. I would not stand up and beat the drum for the existence of God in this universe. I don’t know, I think there’s probably a 50/50 chance. It doesn’t really matter to me.”) 1990 fantasy novel, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Never mind the fact that Good Omens is not on Netflix, it’s on Amazon Prime. Damn, if you are going to protest a TV program, at least you can do is make sure you have your facts straights. After several days of being roundly mocked in news stories and on social media, ASDTFP corrected their petition. Thanks be to Loki, their faux outrage is now directed at the right streaming company. So far, 20,621 offended souls have signed the petition.
The Amazon series “Good Omens,” based on a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, portrays the agents of Good and Evil as fighters in an arbitrary struggle devoid of meaning and truth. This series presents devils and Satanists as normal and even good, where they merely have a different way of being, and mocks God’s wisdom in the following ways:
• An angel and demon are good friends, and are meant to be earth’s ambassadors for Good and Evil respectively.
• This pair tries to stop the coming of the Antichrist because they are comfortable and like the earth so much.
• God is voiced by a woman.
• The Antichrist, who will oppose the Kingdom of God, is portrayed as a normal kid that has special powers and a mission to destroy the world which he doesn’t really want to do.
• There are groups of Satanic “nuns” that are chosen to raise the Antichrist.
• The four riders of the Apocalypse, God’s means of punishing sinful earth, are portrayed as a group of bikers.
In the end, this is a denial of Good and Evil: morality and natural law do not exist, just humanitarianism and an ultimately useless creed. This is another step to make Satanism appear normal, light and acceptable. We must show our rejection. Please sign our petition, telling Amazon that we will not stand silent as they destroy the barriers of horror we still have for evil.
So, let me get this straight: Horvat II and his merry band of God/Jesus/Mary worshippers is all bent out of shape over how fictional Bible characters are portrayed in Good Omens? Okay then . . .
“Says it all.” They are asking Netflix, a company who does not broadcast #GoodOmens to “cancel” Good Omens, a show broadcast on another network, and already complete and out. I find it difficult to respond to them with anything other than flippancy. No, not difficult. Impossible.
A tweet by Evangelical Christian Isaac Peterson perhaps explains best the sentiment behind the outrage over Good Omens:
In Peterson’s mind, the Bible belongs to Christians and it is “cultural appropriation” for Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman to take and use what doesn’t belong to them — damn heathens that they are. First, Good Omens is based on the bookGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, and not the Bible. Not that it would matter. The Bible is a work of fiction too, so what’s the harm in adapting its stories and themes into TV programs and movies? According to Wikipedia, the plot of the book goes something like this:
It is the coming of the End Times: the Apocalypse is near, and Final Judgement will soon descend upon the human species. This comes as a bit of bad news to the angel Aziraphale (who was the guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden) and the demon Crowley (who, when he was originally named Crawly, was the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the apple), respectively the representatives of Heaven and Hell on Earth, as they have become used to living their cosy, comfortable lives and have, in a perverse way, taken a liking to humanity. As such, since they are good friends (despite ostensibly representing the polar opposites of Good and Evil), they decide to work together and keep an eye on the Antichrist, destined to be the son of a prominent American diplomat stationed in Britain, and thus ensure he grows up in a way that means he can never decide between Good and Evil, thereby postponing the end of the world.
In fact, Warlock, the child who everyone thinks is the Anti-Christ, is a normal eleven-year-old boy. Due to the mishandling of several infants in the hospital, the real Anti-Christ is Adam Young, a charismatic and slightly otherworldly eleven-year-old living in Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire, an idyllic town in Britain. Despite being the harbinger of the Apocalypse, he has lived a perfectly normal life as the son of typical English parents, and as a result has no idea of his true powers. He has three close friends – Pepper, Wensleydale and Brian – who collectively form a gang that is simply referred to as “Them” by the adults.
As the end of the world nears, Adam blissfully and naively uses his powers, changing the world to fit things he reads in a conspiracy theory magazine, such as raising the lost continent of Atlantis and causing Little Green Men to land on earth and deliver a message of goodwill and peace. In the meantime, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse assemble: War (a war correspondent), Death (a biker), Famine (a dietician and fast-food tycoon), and Pollution (the youngest–Pestilence having retired after the discovery of penicillin). The incredibly accurate (yet so highly specific as to be useless) prophecies of Agnes Nutter, 17th-century prophetess, are rapidly coming to pass.
Agnes Nutter was a witch in the 17th century and the only truly accurate prophet to have ever lived. She wrote a book called The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, a collection of prophecies that did not sell very well because they were unspectacular, cryptic and all true. She, in fact, decided to publish it only so she could receive a free author’s copy. This copy is passed down to her descendants, and is currently owned by her multi-great granddaughter Anathema Device. Agnes was burned at the stake by a mob; however, because she had foreseen her fiery end and had packed 80 pounds of gunpowder and 40 pounds of roofing nails into her petticoats, everyone who participated in the burning was killed instantly.
As the world descends into chaos, Adam attempts to split up the world between his gang. After realizing that by embracing absolute power, he will not be able to continue to grow up as a child in Lower Tadfield, Adam decides to stop the apocalypse.
Anathema, Newton Pulsifer, Sergeant Shadwell (the two last members of the Witchfinder Army), Madame Tracey (a medium and Shadwell’s neighbour), Adam and his gang, Aziraphale and Crowley gather at a military base near Lower Tadfield to stop the Horsemen from causing a nuclear war and ending the world. Adam’s friends capture War, Pollution, and Famine. Just as Adam’s real father, the devil, seems set to come and force the end of the world, Adam twists everything so his human father shows up instead, and everything is restored.
In the aftermath of the prevented Apocalypse, Crowley and Aziraphale discuss their restored property and the possibility of a second Apocalypse between humanity and the combined forces of Heaven and Hell; Shadwell and Madame Tracey decide to get married and move into a bungalow together; Anathema receives a sequel to Agnes Nutter’s prophecies but does not read it so as to not be bound by them; and Adam evades his grounding to go scrumping.
Sure, I see some similarities between Good Omens and the Bible, but Good Omens is hardly Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. Peterson doth protest too much.
Second, since when in a free society is the Bible or religion in general off limits? Sorry, but religious books, beliefs, and ideas are fair game for critique, criticism, and ridicule. Third, is Peterson really arguing that Good Omens “hurt” his feelings and those of people who treat Christianity with the “proper” modicum of reverence and respect it deserves? Behind Peterson’s feigned offense is the idea that if religious beliefs are “sincere” then they should not be criticized. I wonder if people such as Peterson have really thought about how stupid this kind of thinking really is? We humans “sincerely” believe all sorts of bat-shit crazy stuff. Smart, educated people can and do believe things that defy reason and common sense; you know, beliefs such as a virgin having a baby, dead people coming back to life, walking on water, turning water into wine, walking through walls, and healing blindness with mud and spit, to name a few. Many of these same people believe the earth is 6,023 years old, a universal flood destroyed the world a few thousand years ago, a man named Moses led millions of people on foot across the desert from Egypt to Canaan, and God lives inside of them, talking to them each and every day. Think about all the anti-scientific woo people believe: you know like vaccines cause autism and essential oils cure a plethora of diseases. The world is awash in nonsense. Should we not combat bad thinking and ideas, especially if they cause psychological and physical harm? Pray tell, why should religion be exempt from similar treatment?
What Horvat II and ASDTFP, along with the American Family Association, One Million Moms, and Parents Television Council — whom all have articles and petitions on their websites expressing outrage over TV programming — need to do to quell their outrage is this: DON’T WATCH TV! Don’t like Good Omens? Don’t watch it. Exercise your free will and change the channel. Better yet, get rid of your TVs. You see, the real issue here is that these groups want to control what the rest of us watch. If they can’t watch Good Omens, by golly we can’t watch it either. And therein is the core of Fundamentalist thinking: controlling others. Think about the current culture war these very same people are waging against LGBTQ people, same-sex marriage, fornication, masturbation, birth control, abortion, Democrats, socialism, liberal Christians, and a host of other “sins.” Their goal is to legislate and ban any behavior or group they deem “sinful” and an affront to the Christian God. Bound by their religion’s moral strictures and chains, Fundamentalists demand all of us submit to the same bondage. Sorry, but that ain’t going to happen. Those of us who have escaped the pernicious claws of Fundamentalist Christianity, along with our unwashed, uncircumcised Philistine brethren in the “world,” have no intentions of letting Fundamentalists have their way.
Time to binge watch Good Omens this weekend.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.
Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.
1979: Marla, a college classmate of mine, had just returned from a stint as a Peace Corps community health educator in Ethiopia. Her work entailed, among other things, teaching health and “life skills” to school children. She interpreted “life skills” in her own way, she told me. That meant she was “encouraging young women and girls to have agency over their own bodies” in a country where, even today, women’s and girls’ access to resources and community participation is restricted, even though they do most of the agricultural labor. (An Ethiopian co-worker has told me as much.) Among other things, she tried to teach those young women that they had a right to gynecological and reproductive health care—and to decide whether or not they were going to reproduce.
One day, Marla said, she had an “epiphany”: She realized what would do more than anything else to promote women’s health care, and cut the birth rate “in half.” It’s something that she found herself doing, even though “it wasn’t part of the job description.”
What was the most helpful thing Marla, with her degree in microbiology, did for the women and girls she met in Ethiopia? She taught them how to read. Most of them didn’t know how, in any language, when she arrived. Her literacy sessions, she said, were more effective than all of the lessons she gave in hygiene or contraceptive usage.
What Marla’s experience taught her has been borne out, not only in Ethiopia, but in other parts of the world. To put it simply, the more educated women become, the fewer children they have. And, the fewer children people have, the healthier those children are likely to be.
I found myself thinking about Marla’s experience after writing about how the Roman Catholic Church is rapidly losing followers in the US, western Europe and Australia. So are other traditional mainstream Christian churches. Even the children of Evangelicals are starting to drift away.
One reason why young people are disengaging from the Church is, of course, the clerical sex-abuse scandals. One need not be a victim of such exploitation to lose one’s trust, not only in priests and other “representatives of God,” but in the institutions they uphold. But even if people were not coming forward (as I did nearly two years ago) with accounts of long-ago molestation, the “shepherds” would have a hard time keeping the young in their fold and, needless to say, in their influence.
Church officials could blame the Internet, video games or any number of other things for the loss of young congregants. But if those leaders really want to know why they’re “losing Europe” and other places, they should pay attention to what Marla and others have observed.
Actually, they may have. Why else would they insist, even at this late date, upon female subservience? Why do they still teach that abortion is wrong, even if it saves the life of the mother?
I can’t help but to think that such doctrines are a tacit admission that churches need high birth rates—which, of course, means restricting the rights of women—in order to continue in their present forms. The vast majority of any church’s followers didn’t consciously choose to be members: Either their parents raised them to be congregants, or they made a “profession” or “admission” of faith under duress, or at a least without a true understanding of what they were pledging. The surest way to ensure growth in the church is, therefore, to have more children. And it’s in those areas where women are less educated and more oppressed—and thus give birth to more children– where the church is growing.
Of course, there are a number of reasons why educated women have fewer children. One is that the more time they spend getting an education, the later in life they’ll have children—which means fewer children. Another is that education shows women (and men) that whatever the rewards of having children, there are other ways to find fulfillment in life. They are less likely to “be fruitful and multiply” – as well as other Biblical dictums—literally, if at all.
Thus a cycle begins. Smaller families tend to be less religious, or at least less religiously orthodox, than larger families. While religiosity often leads to large families, it can’t be said that a lack of religion is a cause of smaller families. Still, the inverse correlation between piety and family size cannot be denied. And kids raised with less religious indoctrination are less likely to see the need for it or, for that matter, for having lots of kids when they grow up.
Oh, and if a girl in a small family grows up with an educated secular mother, she is also as likely to see the value of education as she is to not see the value of religion in her life. So, for that matter, is a boy: Moreover, he is less likely to believe that a woman can’t, or shouldn’t, do whatever a man can. If his mother can head a corporation or university, why not a religious institution? He, not to mention his sister, can’t be blamed for wondering why women aren’t allowed to say mass, let alone take on any other prominent role in the church. If that boy or girl has children, he or she is less likely to bring them to such a church.
Many observers are now talking about ways in which the church needs to do to “reform” itself. While the current Pope may be sincere in his intention to root out predatory priests and to re-focus the church’s mission on helping the poor, I am not holding my breath when it comes to the church’s position on abortion or female subservience. Call me a cynic, but I can’t help but to think if the Church is indeed “giving up” on Europe, it still finds hope in the Global South of high birth rates and other forms of gender inequality. There, the Church will continue to grow—until, of course, the women get educated and stop having babies. Marla was right, and Church leaders know it, whether or not they know Marla.
According to Pew Research and other polls, the Catholic Church in the U.S. is losing six congregants for every person who joins. The Church is also hemorrhaging members in other countries, even in such former bastions of Catholicism as Ireland and Spain. Moreover, for every person who formally leaves the church, others simply drift away. While the Vatican doesn’t seem overly concerned, as membership has grown exponentially over recent decades in Sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions, Church leaders in the U.S. and Western Europe (which, a century ago, was home to two-thirds of the world’s Catholics) are deeply worried. Those leaders, clerical and lay alike, are trying all sorts of things to keep members, particularly the young, in the fold.
If generals are always fighting the last war, leaders of institutions are always trying to woo the young with equally outdated notions of what appeals to them. During my childhood and early adolescence, churches—including the one in which I was an altar boy—started to offer “folk masses.” They were, apparently, a piece of the Church’s attempt to “meet people where they are,” which included the shift from Latin to vernacular languages in the liturgy. I can’t help but wonder whether offering masses said in English that included songs by Peter Paul and Mary actually enticed any young people to stay in the flock, but I recall feeling condescended to with the choice of music. After all, most adults’ ideas about what kinds of music their kids like are off by at least five years, if not more. As an example, I think of the relative who gave me a Monkees album for my fourteenth birthday, in 1972. (OK, you can do the math. But I’m a lady and won’t tell you my age! 😉
At least that relative understood other, far more important, things about me. That is why, even after that misguided gift, I never felt patronized. That relative, in short, was sensitive and sensible.
The same cannot be said for a group of folks who are trying to bring the Catholic Church into the 21st Century. At least, that’s what they seem to think they are trying to do. Cathio consists of “a team of well-established experts and leaders with deep roots in the Catholic Church.” Founded last year, the “Catholic enterprise” has just launched a platform “designed to enable all sectors of the Catholic community to benefit from lower costs and transparent payments,” says Cathio CEO Matthew Marcolini. Cathio advisor Jim Nicholson, formerly an ambassador to the Holy See, explains that in addition to the benefits Marcolini mentions, the Cathio platform will also facilitate “the connectivity of people of good will with good works.”
In other words, this Cathio platform is a sort of Bitcoin for the Catholic Church, which supposedly will make it easier for people to give money and harder for the church to hide its financial dealings. Call me a cynic, but I have my doubts as to whether either of those goals will be accomplished. The Cathio platform will almost certainly make it easier to move large sums of money, but from whom and to whom?
At least Marcolini and Nicholson are, at worst, misinformed about the good intentions of the flock and its herders. Another Cathio board member, however, shows that he is, at best, delusional. Then again, he’s merely confirming some of us have known for a long time.
That Board member once ran for President of the United States and has served as a US Senator from a state in which all of its Roman Catholic dioceses are part of a class-action lawsuit from—who else?—priest sex-abuse survivors. Rick Santorum says that, in addition to making financial transactions more efficient, the Cathio platform also offers the Church the opportunity to better engage young people. “Millennials don’t carry cash, they date on apps and watch on-demand entertainment. We have to be there, we have to learn from successful tech companies, and we have to make it easier for younger generations to engage with the Church.”
Now, I don’t know he defines “young people” and “younger generations.” Does he think they are synonymous with “millennials, who are generally defined as those born between 1981 and 1999? Well, I admit, at my age, 38-year-olds seem young, but I still wouldn’t call them “young people” or part of “younger generations.” Also, while millennials might conduct their lives on their electronic devices, they are using them to do things people of their age have always done: date, make travel arrangements, buy concert tickets and the like. Technology doesn’t seem to bring them back to practices or institutions they might have left behind. And, if anything, the “younger generations”—at least those younger than the millennials—won’t be as enraptured by technologies as millennials because they will have grown up with them.
But where Santorum really misses the boat, so to speak, is in his perception of who isn’t going to church anymore and why. Perhaps earlier generations stopped attending masses or services because they’d rather sleep in or go mountain biking on Sunday morning, or simply because they found those masses or services boring or irrelevant. But today’s young, and even middle-aged and older people, are more likely to be fed up with the church. In part because so much information is available to them so readily on their devices, they are less likely to accept the authority of religious leaders or the validity (let alone inerrancy) of the Bible. Even more important, they are more likely to have friends, relatives or co-workers who are LGBTQ or of a different religion or cultural heritage from what they grew up with. And young men know women who are doing the same work as they are, and possibly doing it even better.
Oh, and they’ve heard all about the sex abuse scandals. Perhaps they were victims themselves and were fortunate enough to get help at a relatively young age and be spared a lifetime of shame, self-loathing, substance abuse and unfulfilled and unfulfilling relationships and jobs.
In brief, if the Church has any hope of re-engaging the “younger generations” Santorum and others want to woo, it has to get rid of the predatory priests and everyone who covered up for and enabled them, for starters. (Actually, it would help even more if those priests, deacons and others didn’t molest kids at all, but that might be asking for too much too soon.) Then, it has to finally start respecting women’s bodies and minds. That means, among other things, supporting birth control and contraception and not punishing women when they come forward as rape victims. Finally, for once and for all, it has to end any and all bigotry, whether against LGBTQ people or anyone else.
If the Church is willing and able to do those things, it just might stanch the outflow of young people. Best of all, for the Church, such actions don’t require technology and wouldn’t cost the church anything. But I don’t expect the church to adopt such ideas: Even if the American and European churches become relics like Stonehenge, the church still has the Global South—at least until its young get smartphones and make gay friends.
This is a top priority for our church, said Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, who is known for his website, “Word on Fire,” and for hosting the documentary series “Catholicism.”
In a June 11 presentation, the bishop said a group of experts who’ve examined why young people are leaving the faith in increasing numbers recently spoke with his committee about this and will share their findings during a lunch presentation at the bishops’ fall assembly in Baltimore.
“How many are leaving? The short answer is: a lot,” the bishop said, noting the sobering statistic he said many in the room probably were aware of — that 50% of Catholics 30 years old and younger have left the church.
“Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated,” he said, and “one out of six millennials in the U.S. is now a former Catholic.”
Another statistic that particularly affects him is this: “For every one person joining our church today, 6.45 are leaving” and most are leaving at young ages, primarily before age 23. The median age of those who leave is 13.
“Where are they going?” he asked, and in response to his own question, he again gave a short answer: They’re “becoming nones” although some, in much smaller percentages, join other mainstream religions or evangelical churches.
The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Samantha Brasses, a teacher at St. John Nepomuk Catholic School in Yukon, Oklahoma, stands accused of unlawfully communicating with a minor by use of technology.
On May 9, 2019, officers responded to 600 Garth Brooks Blvd. to a private Catholic school in reference to an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student.
Samantha Ann Brasses, 30, was arrested for unlawfully communicating with a minor by use of technology. Officers seized the victim’s phone and conducted forensic evidence to find the inappropriate conversations. Brasses and the 14-year-old victim reportedly communicated through Instagram, sharing inappropriate proposals, pictures, and referring to each other as “babe.”
Church leaders are worried over the ongoing exodus of millennials from Christian churches. The Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng takes a look at some of the different ways churches and pastors are trying to reach young adults. Enjoy!
From the middle of the 20th century onward, religious sentiments in the United States shifted again. While Marxist atheism [Look, Bub, Marxism and atheism are not the same thing. You are deliberately lying to suggest otherwise. Surely, you are aware of the fact that there are Marxist Catholics?] took a strong hold in Europe, Russia and Eastern Asia, the West saw a modest incline in the number of atheists as well. Here in the United States, the number of Atheists went from about 0.5% to a whopping 3%, which is hardly noticeable really. That number has remained nearly unchanged in 30 years, fluctuating between 2% and 4% depending on who’s doing the survey. The average is 3%. [ That’s almost 10 million people, Bub.] That’s hardly a number any of us should worry about, but what atheists lack in numbers they make up for in noise. They like to flood Internet blogs, forums and chat rooms with their comments. They mock Christians and their beliefs. [No, most atheists mock Christian beliefs, not Christian people.] They file lawsuits against municipal, county and state governments for religious symbols on public property. They have a legal stranglehold on the public school systems. (All of these are Marxist tactics by the way.) For such a small percentage of the population, they absolutely demand to be heard, and they have no problem using everything at their disposal to make sure they are.[ Yes, we use things such as the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.]
Modern atheists like to point to recent declines in church affiliation as a triumph of atheism in American society. Indeed, the very word “atheist” is bantered around casually by young people these days, who have no religious affiliation whatsoever, and obviously don’t understand what the word really means. These are referred to as the “nones” because they answer “none” to the question of religious affiliation in surveys. However, when you really dig down into what these people actually believe, you’ll find out that they do believe in “a God” of some type, but they just don’t think it’s the God of Christianity or the Bible.
Yes, you read that right. The majority of “nones” today, who casually banter the word “atheist” in reference to themselves, will admit that they do believe in “a God” of some kind. If you ask them if this is the God who created nature and the universe, they will almost universally say “yes.” If you ask if characteristics of this God can be known by human reason or science, again they will almost universally say “yes.” I submit to you that what we are witnessing unfold in the United States right now is not the triumph of atheism, but rather a return to colonial-style Deism. It shouldn’t surprise us really. Americans have been down this road before. A large number of English colonists in America were Deist in the 18th century, and this century was sandwiched between two devoutly Protestant era’s [sic] in the 17th and 19th centuries. In abandoning Christian churches, Americans are simply going back to what they know as familiar to them — Deism. [Mr. Complete Christianity might want to talk to a few more NONES — especially Millennials — before coming to such ill-informed, asinine conclusions. NONES don’t give a shit about religion, period. Sure, they might think there is some sort of universal or divine energy, but Deism? Not a chance.]
If we’re going to re-evangelize the West, we have to understand who our primary target audience is. The “nones” are overwhelmingly Deists not atheists. [Wrong, but continue.] We don’t need to spend a whole lot of time arguing for the existence of God. Most “nones” already believe a God exists. Wrong, but continue.]They just don’t believe he’s the God of the Bible. Too many Christians spend way too much time trying to prove God exists with arguments about “First Cause” and “Pascal’s Wager,” which are all good arguments by the way. There is a reason why, however, I’ve only dedicated one page of this blog to them. It’s because the atheist argument against the existence of God is irrelevant. There just aren’t enough of atheists to really matter. [Keep telling yourself that, Bub. How about in Europe, also known as the America of the future?] Atheists have their product and nobody’s buying it. [Really? In the last decade alone, the paid membership of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has doubled. By all means tell us how does that growth compare to the number of Catholics actually attending Mass on Sundays?] Just 3% of the market share, after hundreds of years in business, isn’t much to brag about. Rather, we Christians should be spending our time focusing on who God is, not on proving whether or not he exists.
In focusing our arguments on proving the existence of God, we are narrowing our outreach to just 3% of the population. This is a group of people who likely won’t listen to us anyway. [Finally, you stopped talking out of your ass. Atheists aren’t listening because we find Christian arguments and evidence unpersuasive. Want to “reach” us? Change your schtick.] Marxist atheism, built entirely on coercion, is dying around the world [Of course, Catholicism is known as a “friendly” religion that never coerced anyone into believing, right? Talk about a huge disconnect from historical reality.] Western atheism is nearly irrelevant [Yet, you continue to rage against atheism. Why is that?] and always has been. Very few people in this group will ever listen to us. Don’t waste your time with them. Move on to more fertile ground. [And all Loki’s people said, AMEN!]
Most “nones” are Deists [Liar, liar, pants on fire. Stop making shit up, Bub.], so that means they believe in some kind of God, and most will tell you it’s the God of Nature, or the Creator God. Beyond that they won’t say who “he” or “she” is, or even if gender can be properly assigned to this Creator God. When I encounter a “none” who calls himself an “atheist,” I’ll usually ask: “So do you really believe there is absolutely no God at all, whatsoever? Or are you more inclined to say there probably is a God of nature, just not the God of the Bible or organized religion?” Almost always, at least 9 times out of 10, the “none” will respond by choosing the latter. At this point I’ll inform him that he’s not really an atheist then, because atheists don’t believe in a God. [Bub, you don’t even know how to define the words atheism/atheist.] Rather, he’s a Deist, and he’s in good company with many of America’s founding fathers, and a good number of famous scientists. You would be surprised to learn how many of these people readily accept being called a Deist, but will admit they’ve never heard the word before. [By all means, share the stories of people you have converted from “atheism” to “Deism.”]
In my previous article, I mentioned that in 2015, Ireland became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by a popular vote. In another ballot last year, the Irish approved a bill that struck down the country’s near-total ban on abortion. The procedure had been allowed only if the mother’s life was at risk. That, in what was one of the world’s most devoutly Catholic countries just a generation ago.
Now the State of Alabama has, in essence, the sort of law Ireland just got rid of. The other day, Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill into a law that allows abortions only “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy, and if “the unborn child has a lethal abnormality.”
She was allowed to undergo an abortion in her own country, but the same right wasn’t granted to other girls and women. Instead, an amendment to the Irish constitution was passed, guaranteeing the right to travel to another country (usually England) for the procedure. That was fine for those who could afford to make the trip, as I’m sure Alabamans who can get to other states won’t be hampered by the new law in their own.
But in one area Alabama does old Ireland one better (or worse): Doctors who perform abortions can be punished with life in prison. Even televangelist Pat Robertson howled: “I think Alabama has gone too far,” he said during an episode of The 700 Club.
Ireland is starting to look really, really good right about now, even though I am not, and have never been, at any risk of getting pregnant. And hearing what’s transpired in Alabama and Georgia, and what may well come to pass in other states — not to mention thinking about the possibility of striking down Roe v Wade altogether — gives me the chills.
It would have given me the chills even when I was still living as a man. For me, the right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term has never been an abstraction. On one level, it is also about sovereignty over one’s body and life. Now, I’m not a constitutional lawyer or scholar. But, for what it’s worth, I have to wonder whether a government which can tell a woman or girl that she has to carry her father’s or brother’s or some stranger’s baby can also give itself the right to tell people such as I that we can’t take the hormones, have the surgeries or do whatever else we need to do in order to live at peace with ourselves. Also, would such a government imprison a doctor who prescribed the hormones or did the procedure—or even a psychiatrist who diagnosed a transgender, or a social worker who showed that transgendered person how to navigate a gender transition?
For all that I worry about such possibilities, I am affected in a more fundamental, even visceral, way by attacks on the right to a legal, safe abortion. As a child—an altar boy—I was sexually abused by a priest. That was half a century ago. I talked about it for the first time less than two years ago. By then, he was long dead, so I never had the opportunity to confront him. On the other hand, I never had to face him every day, directly or through the child I might have been forced to carry had I been, say, a 13-year-old girl instead of a 9-year-old boy. The state in which I was abused (New York) hadn’t yet legalized abortion, and Roe v Wade wouldn’t be decided for several more years. In the community in which I lived—almost entirely Catholic—young women were disowned or worse for having abortions. Even if abortion were legal, it would have been as unavailable to me as it was to most Irish women and girls—and will be for many in Alabama.
I am thinking of those women and girls. I could have been one of them. That is why I am so appalled at the law Alabama just passed. More importantly, though, I realize that for all I suffered as a result of my abuse and sexual assault, things could have been even worse for me. Unfortunately, in Alabama, they will be for many girls and young women.
‘History’ Stephen said, ‘is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’
That is one of Jonathan’s favorite quotes. Knowing what I’ve come to know about him, it’s not difficult to understand why: the history from which Stephen is trying to awake in James Joyce’s Ulysses is the same history in which Jonathan (not his real name) came to be. To some extent, it is also my history.
Jonathan is a co-worker of mine, and we have been working on a project. That is how I have come to know a bit about him, and he’s come to know a few things about me. It shouldn’t have surprised either of us to find parallels in our backgrounds.
We both grew up in communities where nearly everyone went to mass in the same Catholic parish. My education was remarkably similar to his, though I received mine in a Catholic school across the street from the church and his took place in a “public” school. Most of my teachers were Dominican sisters. I got a heavy dose of religious instruction and was brought, with my schoolmates, to confession every Friday in the church. We now chuckle about standing on line at the confessional and thinking about what sins we would confess — at age eight.
As an altar boy, I served in the First Holy Communion mass for one of my schoolmates. A couple of weeks later, I served at the funeral of her older brother who was killed in Vietnam. I also served at my brother’s confirmation and, a few days later, the wedding of an older sister of a boy who was confirmed with my brother. I always felt that much in the lives of our community centered on the church.
I would later learn that there are many such communities all over the United States. The churches at their cores might be Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist or some other denomination. They nonetheless dominate the social as well as spiritual lives of those hamlets, villages, towns and urban enclaves in much the same way my former Catholic church cast its net around my old neighborhood.
Even so, those communities, numerous as they are, could never compare to what Jonathan lived in. It’s something that, even with my background, I have difficulty imagining: a whole country in which everyone belongs to, if not the same parish, then at least the same church. “In Ireland, you didn’t just go to church,” he explains. “You were always in the church, wherever you went, whatever you did.”
Jonathan grew up in Ireland during the 1980s and early ‘90s: two decades or, if you prefer, a generation, after my upbringing. At that time, the Catholic Church was still the de facto government, education system and provider of social services. “There really wasn’t any secular education in Ireland at that time,” he observes. Even most “public” schools, like the one he attended, were run, in fact or in essence, by the church. He got an hour a day of religious (indoctrination) instruction, as I did. That teaching was compulsory in all Irish schools of the time, he says. On the other hand, had my parents enrolled me in the public school of our urban American neighborhood, religious education would not have been part of my curriculum.
Another striking similarity between my education and his is that, while instruction in most subjects was rigorous, it included nothing about our bodies—or, of course, evolution. Had I attended public school, I might have learned something about Darwin’s ideas though, to be fair, given the times, I might not have had anything resembling sex education. In contrast, there was really no way Jonathan, in his country, in his time, could have learned anything about the way humans or other animals evolve, reproduce or take care of themselves.
Jonathan left Ireland in the mid-90s, just before it experienced its first (and perhaps only) economic boom — and the church started to lose its grip. He’s been back a few times, mainly to visit family and friends, but has no regrets about leaving, he says. For one thing, he pursued graduate studies and a career that would have been all but unavailable in the Ireland of his youth. Oh — and he met and married a beautiful biracial woman.
Also, he says, even though many of Ireland’s young today find the Church, and religion generally, “irrelevant,” there is still a “residue of religiosity,” mainly among older people and in the countryside. That is one reason, he says, the country was “convulsed” by the sex abuse scandals in ways that people in other European countries or the US can barely imagine. While the young don’t attend church and many don’t believe, the Church still runs schools like the one Jonathan attended. And hospitals. And orphanages. And many other organizations and institutions on which people depend for finding employment and housing, getting healthcare and other things most people consider part of living.
The church had an even tighter grip on Ireland during Jonathan’s youth, not to mention in earlier times. In few other countries was Catholicism as much a part of a person’s identity as it was in Ireland until a generation or so ago. One reason the Church was able to take such a hold of the populace is that, for centuries, their British occupiers tried to obliterate all signs of native culture. Speaking, let alone teaching, Gaelic became illegal. As in Poland during the Cold War and earlier occupations, the Church was the only organized opposition to oppression, mainly because it was the only opposition that had help from outside the country: Priests could go to France, Spain or Germany for their training. Thus, for the people, their religion became a bulwark against a foreign power that sought to subsume their identities. That, from what I’ve read — and what Jonathan has told me — is the reason the Irish held so fiercely to a religion that did as much to oppress them as any occupying army.
If a hierarchical structure like the church can use its representatives’ putative relationship with God to exploit those who are younger, weaker, poorer or in any other way more vulnerable than themselves in a country like the United States, the horrors they could inflict on poor Irish people are unimaginable to most of us. Even the most devout or impoverished American Catholics have never depended on the church for their identity or even sustenance in the way an everyday Catholic in Ireland did just a generation ago, i.e., in Jonathan’s time.
The “residue” of which Jonathan speaks was left by that captivity. Let’s call it what it is: slavery. Just as African-Americans still must extricate themselves from the detritus of their ancestors’ bondage, the Irish today are still living with the debris of the Church (and colonialism). And, although the young have made great strides (for example, four years ago Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, largely because of the young), they are still awakening to the nightmare of their history: their parents’ and grandparents’ oppression by the church.
Waking from a nightmare is difficult. It is not — contrary to how it may seem — the waking itself that’s difficult. Rather, it’s the nightmare that causes difficulty because it terrifies and tires us. At least the nightmare can end if we wake up.
And so it is with the church sex-abuse scandals, in Ireland and elsewhere. People see it as a tragedy or scandal when it comes to light. But the real tragedy, the real scandal, as Jonathan points out, is that the sex abuse went on, in the Magdalene orphanages, in the monasteries, in the schools and, of course, in the parishes, for centuries—during Jonathan’s lifetime, my lifetime, his parents’ and grandparents’ lifetimes, their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ lifetimes, and during the lifetimes of their forebears. They lived the nightmare; we have lived it; now we are waking from it. Jonathan knew he had no other choice. Nor do I.
Want to read a primer on “Bad Christian Arguments Against Atheism?” Just read Catholic Zealot Shane Schaetzel’s post titled, There is a God. Here’s an excerpt of Schaetzel’s “brilliant” prose.
The defining religion of the 20th century was Atheism. I say “was” because even though the number of Atheists continues to grow in Western civilisation, the idea itself is obsolete. While the mantra of the 20th century was “God is dead,” the mantra of the 21st century will be “Atheism is dead” and that will be painfully obvious within a few decades. Before its end, the 21st century will become the most religious century in modern history.
The Atheism of the 20th century was defined by the ideas of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx in the 19th century. From these two men, the Marx-Darwinian ideology would spawn the systematic murder of over 100,000,000 people in the 20th century under Communism and Nazism. (And that’s not even counting the wars spawned by these ideologies, which amounted to over a hundred million more.) The bloodiest century in the history of the world was given to us by institutionalised Atheism. No other century can compare, and if we add up all the casualties and holocausts caused by religions throughout the history of the world, they don’t hold a candle to the bloodbath given to us by Marx-Darwinian Atheism.
Atheists have been with us since the dawn of time. There is really nothing new about the idea of Atheism. What made the 20th century different, however, was the militant nature of the Marx-Darwinian brand. You see, prior to the 20th century, Atheists were usually just considered the typical village idiot. Every village had one, just like every village had a town drunk. Often they were the same person. However, in the 19th century, with the publication of just a few widely popular books, Karl Marx was able to give Atheism a systematic social-political worldview, backed by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. This gave Atheism an appearance of social-political-scientific legitimacy. In other words, Marx and Darwin made it intellectually fashionable to be an Atheist. I say the “appearance” of social-political-scientific legitimacy because as science, politics and sociology would later discover, it’s just an illusion. The end result was the worst bloodbath in the history of the world, lasting a whole century, coupled with the complete destruction of Western Civilisation (Christendom) and the apparent ascendancy of Islam as a major world religion. For the first time in a thousand years, we are now looking at the real prospect of Europe becoming a new Islamic stronghold, all thanks to the century-long progression of Marx-Darwinian Atheism.
While mainstream society continues to follow the obsolete 19th-century scientific basis of Marx-Darwinian Atheism, it’s just a matter of time before mainstream society eventually catches up with 20th-century science. When that happens, and it’s already starting, Atheism will be put back on track to becoming the rare and comical ideology of the village idiot. Just give it a hundred years. By the dawn of the 22nd century, the world will be more religious than anything we’ve seen in centuries.