MARCH 20, 2010
TAKE THIS LITTLE SERMONETTE, COPY IT AND SHARE IT!(Reuters) - Pope Benedict apologized on Saturday to victims of child sex abuse by clergy in Ireland and ordered an official inquiry there to try to stem a scandal gripping the Catholic Church which has swept across Europe. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE62J04K20100320
(Scripture) - "13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)
All this talk about the Catholic church, sexual abuse, pedophile clergy...It's enough to make one ill. So pervasive is "Christian-Bashing" and anti-pedophile sentiment that scarcely anyone 'in the business' speaks up, for fear of being misinterpreted and for fear of the subject, itself. Worse still, the same ones who bash the church, then turn around and demand 'equal GLBT rights' to get married in the very churches they so revile and it makes your head spin. Greater hypocrisy and self-contradiction is rarely seen more intensely in this modern age.
This hypocrisy doesn't anger me, for it's not mine. Because of that, you will notice that I am willing to discuss that which most will not. Up until the past few years (since June, 2007, in case anyone's taking notes) I, too, shied away from too much talk about kids and sex and church, except in the case of our "Safe Church" policy. Ironic, it was, for unbeknownst to me a tremendous GLBT movement was afoot right under my nose and I didn't see it! My only 'sensitivity' was for the pedophilia all deplored..or at least claimed to deplore.
I was so 'correct', I didn't dare use a graphic of anyone sitting on Jesus' lap, for instance, or a graphic depicting Jesus kneeling while clutching a child. I always figured that there was bound to be some parent somewhere who would think the graphic was 'inappropriate'. I now know that my hesitation was downright wrong. My only excuse for 'extrapolating what others with a dirty mind might perceive' was that I was a victim of the church culture in which I was immersed. Since everyone can be a victim nowadays, I figure this explanation is as good as any to explain my former mindset.
My role in those days before 2007 was no where near as sad as the one our Senior Pastor was forced to adopt in those days. Here was a truly good father and grandfather who was previously a 'hugger and a hand-holder' suddenly stiffen at the merest touch of a child. You know kids. You know how they sometimes spontaneously grab you around the legs or neck for a hug. As a female Senior Deacon for this Senior Pastor, I could somehow 'get away' with hugging back.
This Pastor and I discussed the predicament and he confessed that it broke his heart that 'due to Safe Church Policy', he had to avoid physical contact with everyone...just to be safe. It was all particularly sad because the kids really loved him and liked doing things with him.
At this point in time, I see now that we were forced to conform to those with the sick minds, with those who actually connected the dots of how an innocent hug could turn into the fondling of a child for all church people. I thank our God that I had to have that two-plus-two put together for me by the GLBT church we resided in. Also ironically, that same GLBT movement taught me that some women are to be as 'untrusted' as some men in church always have been. We've come a long way, babeeeeeeeeey.
Today we have the Pope apologizing to children who were sexually abused by Irish Clergy and all I can say is, "My God...I should HOPE so! The Pope is apologizing for all the child sex abuse in Ireland, as he should, and for all the clerical pedophilia everywhere. As sure as the red here is the same red as the blood shed when Jesus was crucified, this needs to be the case in a very real way. The time for empty Vatican promises is over!
Whether the Pope's apology is enough, and whether it will cause any evil behavior to cease, is anyone's guess. But I will venture a guess, based on something a gay Catholic loved one of mine once said to me, "Look, men are men, gay and straight, and they'll always be out looking for 'it' and basically they can't be monogamous."
In the Christian tradition, men (and women) are offered two options in the face of unbridled sexual desire: get married (which is impossible ridiculously for Catholic priests) or be celebate: Paul writes:
"8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." 1Co 7:8-9 (NIV)
I'll add my own caveat here for clergy, specifically: if you can't keep it in your pants, get out of the rectory! You don't have enough self-control to be in any position of authority.
With the preceding in mind, I do believe that sex urges in weak men trump their religious vows and clerical status. It's the human condition, lest we deceive ourselves. I believe that it's different in females. I believe that with lesbians, transsexuals and bisexual females, political agendas (and not so much sex acts themselves) often trump religious vows and clerical status. For all those whose agenda is largely 'sexual' in nature, they need to reread the following:
"1Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3So watch yourselves." LUKE 17:1-3 (NIV)http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+17%3A1-3&version=NIV
I don't pretend to be an expert on all church pedophilia and other sex abuse. But the mantra of the old UCC was, "The Catholics have gay priests who like boys, while the Protestants (UCC) have ministers who like the married ladies in the congregation". That view was so narrow, I now see, that I am embarrassed to say that I once believed it.
At that time, as an officer at my local church, I gladly submitted to mandatory complete background checks, as I regularly dealt with the church youth in church activities, including Confirmation classes. I goodheartedly believed that where other churches had failed, we had succeeded in reaching higher levels of righteousness regarding our corporate sexual and other behavior.
It felt good to be so confident about our church home. It was great to have complete trust in my pastor, knowing that he was not one prone to lying and deceit or any other behavior unbecoming a minister of Christ. It was, as always, my joy to work with the young ones, me, a 'straight' heterosexual female married woman who is mother, grandmother and aunt. At the church I mentioned above, I was, in a sense, taking 'joint responsibility' for the overall safe stewardship of the church youth through our 'Safe Church Policy'. At times, I was presenting to the community the sole 'face' of church youth leader, with my annual Christmas Eve Family and Children Services. I knew people would be there who visited but only a few times per year and the 'face' I presented, counted.
Indeed it was assumed by visitors that I was the very face of the general 'tone' of what a child in our church would be 'exposed to'. I knew that there were and are many, many GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) individuals in the United Church of Christ (UCC) community, locally and at large. I hardly gave that a second thought, truth be told, for many years, for I assume the best in people.
I was happy to stand as 'the motherly/grandmother-type. The fact that I was conveniently 'heterosexual' was the farthest thing from my mind back then and things were good. During those years I felt that nothing was amiss, feeling so very koombayah-ish with my open and affirming mentation. All were invited and all were welcome in the name of Jesus and that's all I knew and cared about, but I was very naive. Parsing things in terms of sexual orientation or race or color or nationality didn't matter in our wonderfully 'diverse' congregation, or so I thought.
That, I believed before I learned of all the political machinations behind the touchy-feely sexual-political hoopla. Oops, was I ever wrong with my initial long-standing impressions as to what was going on behind the scenes and in the UCC-at-large! As with the Pope, things have changed.
Things like--when did we morph from the church where all races could get together-no big deal- to the church that spewed the Black Liberation Theology of Reverend Jeremiah Wright? When did the UCC "it's okay to be gay" youth movement, turn into it's current incarnation of a "let's BE gay" youth movement? How did I miss all that, even as I joyfully served for four years on the ONA (Open and Affirming Committee) Committee, convincing one and all to be open and affirming to the GLBT community?
Where was my head and my astounding powers of observation? How had I allowed my nerdy biochemical and physiological knowledge validating that people are born GLBT to be so subverted?....so hijacked by the political agendas of others?
In my own defense, what I didn't realize then, I realize now and I'm talking. I was a tool. To this day, the ones who 'used me' (in the language of the victim) to this day will not openly confront me. Cheap proxies are a dime a dozen, but this Christian would sure like to be addressed by a panel of her peers about all that I've written of my experiences with sexual abuse in churches. Anyone? Bueller? BUELLER??????
I thought not. Thus I will continue to discuss why I have a problem with the sexual-socio-political climate of 'today's churches'. Here is one thing that concerns me, for instance: Despite the fact that all sociological, medical, criminological and behavioral studies prove conclusively that 'those who sexually abuse overwhelmingly have been abused themselves, as children/teens', now the UCC youth counselor 'paradigm' is: "Look at how sexually abused I was! I can help you, too!" The UCC has made this an entire cottage industry in ways that astound and that concerns me. But you don't hear about it from the UCC itself: Their secrecy is a strong weapon. It is ensnared in the worst of politics and you won't hear them rebut anything. Their secret weapon is silence.
Does this new paradigm make me queasy? You betchya. The Pope and I both have the same vexation: we can no longer use our ignorance as an excuse to inadvertently aid, enable and even abet bad behavior. Our 'clerical eyes' have been opened, even as we are under fire, too, for just being Christian Clergy.
Those who know me and are regular readers know that I have largely dissociated myself from the UCC for some time now. The bottom line is that I have NO idea what I could be 'fronting', you see. Heaven knows it took me long enough to realize I was being used as someone or others' 'beard' while I was still UCC-active and blissfully ignorant.
Let me share something else with you. You meet the nicest people who seem to be decent sorts and then they turn out to be up there on the 'really bad behavior scale'. That's when it's time to look around. I also say that wherever there is sexual misconduct in a church, you can bet your surplice that there is financial misconduct along with it. Check this out for yourselves in your church if you don't believe me. See if those who deceive on the sexual front don't also deceive on the fiduciary front--they do. In the end, all the bad stuff is a mix of sex, religion and politics, and a very toxic mix, it is, indeed.
I don't need to tell you how disappointing it is to be a first-hand witness to all this in churches over many years. I can only imagine the utter rage and frustration the laity feels when they learn they have been betrayed by the clergy they once trusted. For such as them, I might have some more of insight, if not consolation, based on first hand experience:
I met Cardinal X a good number of times, for instance, through my crisis pregnancy counseling work events. Nice chap, great voice, a faithful uplifter of our efforts and for all things pro-life, he. He was someone I admired.
Yes, I admired Cardinal X until I learned how negligent and then complicit he was in ignoring and covering up Catholic clergy sex abuse of boys. All he did, apparently, was to shuffle the perverts around from one diocese to another. Like a cascading plummet of putrified waste, the tower of respect I once had for the man fell in a smelly mess at my feet. What a waste of good intention. What a betrayal of trust, worst of all, to all the children harmed. Thank God I can speak about all of this now.
Let me tell you, I don't need to have a needle hanging out of my arm to be able to do a pretty fair job of intravenous drug addiction counseling. And one sure doesn't need to be a 'sexual abuse survivor' to counsel any church kids as to 'whether or not they are gay' and/or 'whether or not they've been abused'. This is exactly what is 'in vogue' at the UCC (the Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright church) today, in fact.
I say ENOUGH with clergy as 'sex counselors'. Between the liberal-progressiveness of the UCC and other liberal progressive churches and the utter inability of the Catholic church to talk about sex whatsoever, we need to have better options for our children. We need to clean things up in the churches we care about and we need to make changes in them and make them safe for children as far as sex is concerned.
For example, we need to do away with this current trend of clergy doing bulk sex counseling for children and teens. There are counseling professionals in the socio-medical community who have the same qualifications, confidentiality constraints and mandated reporting requirements that clergy do. Let them do the counseling and remove that 'onus' from the clergy. We need to disarm clergy-counselors who are way too much 'into' counseling children about sex, especially in the current climate of sex abuse in church. Enough is enough already.
While we're at it, it's time to unmuddy the waters. I wrote this as a heads-up for well-meaning parents for them to be aware that no one particular Christian 'denomination' has a lock on creepiness when it comes to pedophilia. Be especially aware of any church where a good deal of emphasis is placed on sexuality, homosexuality and sexual abuse counseling. Know who and what you are exposing your kids to! Find out what your pastor is 'up to' and is writing and talking about when he/she is away from the congregation, if you would know the truth and what he or she is really all about.
I'm also writing this to address those who use all the church sexual abuse cases as an excuse to avoid church or even engage in Christian-bashing. All spiritual traditions--all of them--have a sexuality component, as sex is an integral part of what makes us human. It's what we do with our sexuality that matters, and that is especially important for clergy.
And it happens that I have yet another caveat for Christian-Bashing 'gays': If you don't like what you 'see and hear' about marriage and sex from a Christian perspective, WHY are you now constantly yammering away at how much you 'deserve' to be 'married' in a church? For the good photos, perhaps? A better 'turn out'? A more 'legitimate ceremony' perhaps? Tell us. You'll be better off, oh GLBT Community, when you figure out what you are really all about (when you are not just being peevish) and when you realize that as far as sex in church is concerned, you are as much a part of the problem as you are of the 'solution'. Try to have the courage of your convictions.
When people of all sexual persuasions in power, such as clergy are, use that power in a way even slightly involves their own sexuality.....run! Sex is such a beautiful thing--a true gift from God. How is it that humans always seem to turn it into something 'bad' and 'nasty', something 'dirty' and oppressive or even aggressive? How is it that our natural-born sexuality is now a main vector of exploitation and dissemination of disease in all areas of life? We need a good reality check here, bigtime...Anyone?
So, grab your kids and run and look for a place that offers you true spiritual succor in your tradition of choice. As a Christian, you know I recommend Christ above all others and God help the person who comes between me and my Jesus.
Reverend Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"