'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

August 31, 2011

From Sex Fiends to Family Values: the LDS and The Family International

Chain The Dogma August 31, 2011

From Sex Fiends to Family Values: the LDS and The Family International

Religious doctrines abandoned for political or legal reasons, like Zombies, never die

by Perry Bulwer

A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune discusses the doctrine of polygamy in the mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

If polygamy became legal in this country, would the LDS Church, which abandoned it in 1890, embrace it again?

After all, some say, it remains part of Mormon doctrine, enshrined in LDS scripture, and many Latter-day Saints believe it will exist in the afterlife. Even the late Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote that the “holy practice” would resume after Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.

Of course, Mormon leaders abandoned polygamy strictly for political reasons in 1890. If the U.S. government had not criminalized plural marriages and aggressively fought for over 40 years to end the practice, the LDS would likely still practice polygamy as a divine dogma today. As much as they have tried to reinterpret history and claim there were theological reasons for ending polygamy, the reality is that the political and legal consequences of continuing it jeopardized their church. It was self-preservation, not spiritual awakening.

David Berg, the deceased founder and self-proclaimed end-time prophet of the Children of God, now known as The Family International, greatly admired Joseph Smith. There are numerous references and discussions of Mormon history in his writings, and Berg often compared his cult to Joseph Smith's. It's true, there are many similarities between the two evangelical Christian sects, particularly in the way the two founding leaders created sexual doctrines to justify their own licentiousness.  And just like Mormon leaders did, Family International leaders were willing to abandon a core doctrine for mere political and legal expediency in order to save their 'new religious movement'. However, doctrines abandoned for those reasons often do not die, especially when they are written into so-called holy texts. They either get reinterpreted or remain dormant until it is safe to revive them, or they continue being practised by individuals and splinter groups, such as the fundamentalist Mormons that still consider polygamy a religious imperative today.

The Family International does not have a specific 'holy book' like the Book of Mormon, but they do consider Berg's writings to be divinely inspired and as important as the Bible (both groups use the King James Bible). Berg even wrote that if it came down to a choice between one or the other, his followers should read his writings before the Bible.  One of The Family International's foundational doctrines is the Law of Love, deviously devised by Berg to justify his own acts of incest and adultery. Essentially, the doctrine purported to provide divine approval for all sexual activity between anyone of any age, whether related or not. As Berg wrote to his followers in 1980:

 As far as God’s concerned, there are no more sexual prohibitions hardly of any kind … there’s nothing in the world at all wrong with sex as long as it’s practiced in love, whatever it is, whoever it’s with, no matter who or what age or what relative or what manner! … There are no relationship restrictions or age limitations in His law of love....

The only activity Berg clearly condemned was male homosexuality, which he considered worse than rape.  However, as reports of child abuse began to emerge in the 1980s, political and legal reactions resulted in raids of the group's communes in several countries. This forced the group's leaders to reinterpret the doctrine so that sex between adults and minors is prohibited. At least that's what they claim, that all adult-child sexual conduct was finally prohibited in1989, that they renounced certain sexual doctrines and that they have left their past far behind. However, such a claim coming from a group that has absolutely no oversight from or accountability to any external authority for its activities, and has an official policy of deceiving and lying to outsiders, including law enforcement and government officials, simply cannot be trusted when they say they have changed. In the years that followed, Family International leaders developed a new doctrine that continued the sexualization of children, even while they were insisting in a court of law that children were now protected from the sexual doctrines.

After Berg's death in 1994, the current leaders of the cult, Karen Zerby, aka Maria Fontaine, and Steven Kelly,  aka Peter Amsterdam, carried on his sexual extremism. Even while they were trying to convince a judge in a British custody case that they had now safe-guarded children from the sexual doctrines, Zerby and Kelly were secretly devising a new sexual doctrine they called Loving Jesus,  which among other things, encourages members, including children, to imagine having sex with Jesus while masturbating or during sexual intercourse. Zerby, like Berg, does not believe adult sexual molestation of children is wrong, stating that  “... a little fondling & sweet affection is not wrong in the eyes of God, & if they have experienced the same in the past they weren’t 'abused'”. She also wrote, as cited by the judge:  “This is the very thing the system would like to use against us—sex with minors which they always term child abuse although in our loving Family there would be very little possibility of genuine abuse…”. In order for men to practice the Loving Jesus doctrine they are required to imagine themselves as 'females in the spirit' because male homosexuality is one of the few sexual practices the group considers sinful.

First introduced to members in 1995, the development of this new sexual doctrine was directly related to the central role of the Law of Love in The Family International. Zerby was determined that members become even more sexually active by obeying and living the Law of Love more fully. To that end, in 1998, she published an 11-part series entitled Living the Lord’s Law of Love in an internal publication. There are censored versions of all 11 parts of that series at the following archive,  numbered 3199 to 3212. These letters were required reading and came with special instructions that the series had to be read by each home as a group, not individually, thus increasing the peer pressure to conform. The group's leaders did manage to convince that British judge, Justice Ward referenced above, that the child at the center of the child custody case was no longer in danger from the practice of the Law of Love. However, he did express some apprehension at the possibility of abandoned or denounced doctrines resurfacing in the future. It now seems that Justice Ward was quite prescient when he referred to the possible “resurrection of the freedoms given by the Law of Love”. He certainly would have been concerned about the effect of the new Loving Jesus doctrine on children, and if he had known it was in development even while the custody case was ongoing he surely would have ruled against returning the child to his cult mother. But he did not know because Family International members who testified in the case lied to him on the witness stand and in affidavits, as I have previously pointed out:

Near the beginning of the 295-page judgment in that case, in a section titled “The Family’s Attitude to Lies and Deception,” Justice Ward speaks to the issue of the veracity of Family witnesses by specific reference to the deceivers-yet-true doctrine, stating, “I regret to find that in many instances there has been a lack of frankness and a failure to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” He then gives six specific examples of how The Family’s witnesses were less than honest in the proceedings and goes on to say, “These are worrying examples and they are not the only ones of the ingrained habit of lying if they have to and of telling half the truth if they can get away with it.” Throughout the judgment, Ward provides further examples of Family witnesses “dissembling the truth—deceiving yet true” and withholding incriminating documentary evidence from the court.

Another controversial Berg doctrine The Family International supposedly abandoned, but could be resurrected at any time, was the practice of religious prostitution known as Flirty Fishing.  Based on Jesus' command to his disciples to become fishers of men, and expanding on the Law of Love doctrine, it became a way to not only 'win souls' but to gain protection and financial support. In the early days of the Children of God sex between unmarried regular members was forbidden, but the Law of Love changed that, and then Flirty Fishing opened the door to sex with outsiders. A scandal on the Canary Island of Tenerife in the 1970s exposed Flirty Fishing to the world (I have an explosive post in the works on that) and then as child abuse began to be exposed and the AIDS epidemic was taking hold around the world, Family leaders decided it was no longer in their best interest to continue the practice. Here's an official statement from the group on why they stopped it:

 In 1987 the Family discontinued FFing to emphasize other means of ministering the Word of God to others, as well as to take advantage of opportunities to reach more people than the very personalized ministry of FFing allowed. At that time as well, the plague of AIDS had begun its rampage through the world—another indication that it was time to reconsider Family policy of allowing sexual interaction outside our communities.

Although we no longer practice FFing, we believe the scriptural principles behind the ministry remain sound.  

However, Berg predicted in 1978 that Flirty Fishing through escort services  would be one of the group's main sources of support during the Great Tribulation, which he taught would occur during the 3 1/2 years prior to Jesus' return in 1993. That obviously never happened, but for many years after that failed date leaders continued to manipulate their followers into believing those events were just around the corner. But like all prognosticators do who make specific predictions of Biblical end time events, The Family International leaders recently changed their predictions once again.  They have now given their members 50 more years before Jesus returns, even though Berg and Zerby both prophesied that Zerby would be living when Jesus returned. Karen Zerby and Peter Kelly will be conveniently dead in 50 years, however, so they conveniently won't have to face more accusations of manipulating members with false prophecies. Meanwhile, the Zombie doctrine of Flirty Fishing could easily be resurrected at any time, just like Mormon polygamy.

The Family International's explanation for why they abandoned Flirty Fishing sounds a lot like what some Mormons say about polygamy, that they no longer practice it, though they still believe it is scripturally sound. The Family International has been trying for many years now to rewrite their corporate history, white-wash their past abuses, and remake their image as a sex-obsessed cult  that destroyed individuals and families into that of a respectable family-values missionary movement. Part of that public relations effort included contacting academic apologists to write favourable reports on them. James Chancellor's book, Life in The Family: an Oral History of the Children of God,  is one result of those efforts. William Sims Bainbridge, who wrote another inaccurate book about that group, wrote the forward to Chancellor's book. That short foreword contains several uninformed assertions and factual errors concerning The Family International that not only further undermine Bainbridge’s reliability on the subject, but also reflect badly on Chancellor’s effort to convey a realistic portrait of the group.

Bainbridge declares that The Family International “institutionalized nuclear family.” Certainly, the opposite is true. One of the most fundamental tenets of The Family’s theology is their One Wife doctrine based on a publication of that name, which remains required reading for new members:

But God’s in the business of breaking up little selfish private worldly families to make of their yielded broken pieces a larger unit—one Family! He’s in the business of destroying the relationships of many wives in order to make them One Wife—God’s Wife—The Bride of Christ. God is not averse to breaking up selfish little families for His glory, to make of the pieces a much larger unselfish unit—the Whole Family—the entire Bride—the One Wife instead of many wives!

One Wife is one of The Family’s foundational doctrines, out of which grew even more bizarre and controversial sexual doctrines, such as the Law of Love, Flirty Fishing, and Loving Jesus discussed above. Far from institutionalizing the nuclear family, The Family’s leadership has never hesitated to separate husbands from wives, and children from parents, or otherwise manipulate the parent-child relationship. If The Family International places any importance at all in the nuclear family, it is only within the following context, described by Wendell W. Watters, M.D.:

…[S]o powerful is the family in human society that many revolutionary political movements have, in their initial stages, attempted to destroy its power to maintain the status quo, by appealing directly to children over the heads of their parents. 
The present-day religious cults are noted for creating rifts between parents and their adolescent children. However, once a movement achieves its revolutionary goals, as in the case of Christianity and communism, it reverses this position and attempts once more to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power. 
Wendell Watters, M.D., Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness and Christian God-Talk (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992), 47-49.

That is exactly what David Berg's cult did. They started out as the Children of God (who needs parents when you have God?), destroying the institutions of monogamous marriage and nuclear families, and then remade themselves as The Family International, supposedly upholding family values. Berg likened himself to a modern day Pied Piper. He claimed to have many spiritual helpers  (many of them fictional characters such as Don Quixote and the Abominable Snowman), which were revealed to him in séances with current leader, Karen Zerby, known as Maria to members. There are references to the Pied Piper throughout Berg's writings. Here are a few excerpts to highlight just how deliberately this cult set out to manipulate young people and destroy their familial relationships (MO is David Berg, emphasis in the original):

8. MARIA: DOES PETER THE HERMIT COUNSEL DAVID? MO smiles as he observes the Heavenly counselors, and answers slowly ... NO, BUT THE PIED PIPER DOES! MO chuckles as he continues to see the Pied Piper: He has big ears and a funny tall hat, and long blond hair. He plays the flute, and all the children like to dance and sing--'cause he likes children. My children dance! http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b4/ml0102.shtml

18. THE LORD HAS SPOKEN THROUGH ME FOR A PURPOSE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF CAUSING YOUTH TO BELIEVE & YOUTH TO FOLLOW! If God has made me the Pied Piper, so to speak, to jump & dance & play His tune to lead His children, why not? http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml1410.shtml

10. THANK YOU FOR THE PIED PIPER, LORD! Bless him, in Jesus name! Help him to charm the children by the Spirit. Help him to make the kids leave their parents to drown in the river like rats! ... (Surprised, MO continues:) I didn't know that, but all the parents who tried to chase their children fell in the river and drowned like rats! The Lord lets all the parents who chase us drown like rats! http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b4/ml0111.shtml

The Family International's history sounds an awful lot like the history of the LDS, as this quotation from a Boston Globe article indicates: "... as so-called “family values’’ came to dominate US political rhetoric, the Mormons who were once hounded as sex fiends were reborn as the American family ideal."  The early Mormon church under Joseph Smith's leadership started out destroying the institutions of monogamous marriage and nuclear families. Under political and legal pressure the church then reversed their position and began "to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power." As the article goes on to explain:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has adapted to survive. Has it done so at the expense of core, if unpopular, convictions? ...  Mormonism has a mechanism for change that is unique among religions, with church leaders empowered to receive fresh revelations that can overturn doctrine on a dime. It happened most famously in 1890 on polygamy, and again in 1978 when the church admitted blacks to the LDS priesthood (a revelation, Romney says, that made him weep with relief). When other religions change, it is often with the pretense that the new dogma is not really new.

Given David Berg's fascination with Joseph Smith and Mormonism, the current leaders of The Family International no doubt place great hope in the fact that the LDS church, once hounded as sex fiends for their doctrine of polygamy, have been reborn as the American family ideal with two members in the race for U.S. president, one (Romney) whose near relatives were devout polygamists. If abandoning core doctrines worked for the Mormons, perhaps it will work for them. Just like the LDS, The Family International also uses "fresh revelations that can overturn doctrine on a dime." They have been doing that for years as a means of manipulating and controlling their members. And just as fundamentalist Mormons have revived the practice of polygamy (or never ended it), leading to horrendous abuses of children and women, the demented doctrines of David Berg can easily be resurrected at any time by leaders of The Family International, or by individuals or splinter groups that still believe in and practice abandoned doctrines.

August 23, 2011

Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel?

Chain The Dogma    August 23, 2011

Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel?

The shocking cruelty of police towards a serial killer's rape victim

by Perry Bulwer

Last week I started watching the TV series, The Wire. Yes, I know I'm several years late, but that's how I watch TV these days. I wait for a series to conclude, then obtain the entire series to view at my leisure rather than conforming to broadcast schedules. It is also much easier to remember characters and plot lines from episode to episode and season to season that way. So far I've only watched the first four episodes of season one, but even though those episodes aired in 2004 they still seem freshly ripped from today's headlines.

I am thinking particularly of the depiction of incompetent, violent police officers and their corrupt superiors. Of course, such depictions are nothing new, corrupt cops being a popular Hollywood trope, but the real rogues are often worse than those fictional ones. The Rodney King incident in 1991 helped illustrate that fact in a way that was impossible for the police to cover-up. Police brutality and abuse of authority are as old as policing itself, of course, but until the advent of video technology they always had a way to cover up their crimes through collusion. They still do that today, but it is much harder when there is video evidence often taken by witnesses. That type of evidence of police brutality has greatly increased now that most citizens carry cell phone cameras with them. However, instead of dealing with the problem of rogue cops who abuse their powers, law enforcement officials seem determined to criminalize filming police in public places.

What's good for the police apparently isn't good for the people -- or so the law enforcement community would have us believe when it comes to surveillance.

That's a concise summary of a new trend first reported by National Public Radio last week -- the trend whereby law enforcement officials have been trying to prevent civilians from using cellphone cameras in public places as a means of deterring police brutality.

Oddly, the effort -- which employs both forcible arrests of videographers and legal proceedings against them -- comes at a time when the American Civil Liberties Union reports that "an increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems."

Then again, maybe it's not odd that the two trends are happening simultaneously. Maybe they go hand in hand. Perhaps as more police officers use cameras to monitor every move we make, they are discovering the true power of video to independently document events. And as they see that power, they don't want it turned against them.


Law enforcement officials, of course, don't like the cellphone cameras because they don't want any check on police power. So they've resorted to fear-mongering allegations about lost lives. But the only police officers who are threatened by cellphone cameras are those who want to break civil liberties laws with impunity. The rest have nothing to worry about and everything to gain from a practice that simply asks them to remember the all-too-forgotten part of their "protect and serve" motto -- the part about protecting the public's civil rights.

In some jurisdictions, such as California, the law already shields violent police officers. Here's an excerpt from a recent investigative report  there:

March 21, 2009, was one of the bloodiest days in the history of the Oakland Police Department and California law enforcement.


[Sgt. Patrick] Gonzales would emerge from the day’s dramatic violence as a department hero; some colleagues nicknamed him “Audie Murphy,” the most decorated American soldier of World War II. But to many in the black and Latino neighborhoods Gonzales polices today, he has long been known as something else: a loose cannon. During Gonzales’ 13-year career he has shot four suspects, three fatally. “He’s left a trail of victims in his wake,” says Cathy King, the mother of one of Gonzales’ shooting victims, “but he’s [considered] a valued member of the police department.”

Multiple lawsuits alleging wrongful death, excessive force, illegal searches and racial profiling incidents involving Gonzales have resulted in $3.6 million paid by the city in settlement money. Law enforcement experts say he fits the profile of the “bad apple” minority in OPD that is responsible for most of the allegations of brutality that plague its relationship with the city’s communities of color. And the Board of Inquiry report on the bloody events of March 21, 2009, places significant blame for the carnage on Gonzales’ decisions.

Yet, Gonzales has been consistently promoted and deployed into sensitive situations throughout his career, and without public outcry. That’s because few know about either his record or his promotions. His extensive personnel file is today off-limits to the public, thanks to a dramatic rollback in the transparency of law enforcement records following a California Supreme Court ruling five years ago. The 2006 decision, in Copley Press v. Superior Court of San Diego, effectively classified all records of individual law enforcement officers, even those employed by contractors.

The arc of Gonzales’ career, from a patrol officer in the Eastlake neighborhood to a sergeant on the SWAT team at the heart of one of OPD’s darkest days, tells the story of a department’s broken accountability system, now pushed behind a wall of secrecy.

I do not buy the "bad apple" argument. If Gonzales was merely a bad apple, why did he keep getting promoted? If he was a bad apple, so were his superiors, which suggests the entire barrel was rotten. There are just too many cases of police misconduct (I'm referring to the U.S. and Canada) for it to be a matter of a few corrupt cops. The problem is rooted in police culture and training. I do not know how else to explain the brutal behaviour of Ontario police towards a woman bound, beat and raped by a serial killer.

A woman who was bound and sexually assaulted by her then-neighbour, Col. Russell Williams, says the police left her tied up for five hours after responding to her 911 call.

Laurie Massicotte says Ontario Provincial Police officers told her they had to leave her in the harness, fashioned by Williams, until an OPP photographer arrived to take pictures of her in the restraint.

"I was left for five hours, still in my harness, still tied up, naked, lying under a comforter," Massicotte, 47, told the Ottawa Citizen in a telephone interview Friday.

"Five hours, no medical attention. I was in total shock. I didn't know what the heck was going on."

The OPP, she said, treated her like a criminal in the early hours of the investigation.

One officer told her neighbour, Massicotte said, that police suspected she was trying to "copycat" what happened to another sexual assault victim in Tweed, Ont., 12 days earlier.

"It was really, really, really bad," she said.


Massicotte was blindfolded and bound. Her clothes were cut from her with a knife. She was forced to pose while Williams took photos.

The ordeal lasted 3 1/2 hours. Williams left her in a makeshift straitjacket — her arms were cinched to her sides — but she still managed to dial 911.

The police told her she would have to stay in the restraint until the ident unit arrived. When photos were finally taken five hours later, Massicotte said she was then allowed to put on a bathrobe, and taken outside for three more hours while police combed her house for evidence.

She went through a lengthy interrogation before an OPP officer "finally confessed to me that this similar situation happened 12 days ago and we didn't warn anybody about it."

After the incident, Massicotte said she felt violated and terrorized by Williams — and "betrayed" by the police. She said she now suffers from post-traumatic stress and anxiety.

To recap, Laurie was tied up, beaten, and raped for 3 1/2 hours by a serial rapist and killer. When police arrived an obviously traumatized Laurie was left naked and tied up for 5 more hours because they did not believe she was a victim, but instead thought she was a criminal. Then when they finally untied her she was forced to wait another 3 hours outside while police continued their investigation. So, her rapist abused her for 3 1/2 hours, but the police abused her for 8 hours. But that was not the final indignity. Not only did the police think she was faking her own assault, they had failed to warn her that a similar attack had occurred just two weeks earlier. That failure in their duty of care to Laurie will be one of the claims in her lawsuit against the police force.

So, is that a case of a few bad cops, or an indication of a systemic failure in police training and oversight? Could those police officers really not tell the difference between a traumatized sex assault victim in shock and someone merely pretending to be? Are they trained to assume everyone they deal with is a criminal until they can prove otherwise? It certainly seems so, as the Robert Dziekański  case suggests. He was the innocent Polish man killed by police tasers in the Vancouver airport. They then tried to cover up what they did by giving false evidence. It was not just the four RCMP officers involved who colluded on their evidence and tried to mislead the investigation and inquiry. An RCMP spokesperson gave a false version of events to the public before anyone was aware that a witness had taken a video of the incident. No wonder police departments want to criminalize filming the police.

Post Script: I continued this theme of police misconduct in the blog post  "Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer" at the first link below.


August 17, 2011

Are Priests Their Brother's Keeper? A Catholic Morality Tale

Chain The Dogma     August 17, 2011

Are Priests Their Brother's Keeper? A Catholic Morality Tale 

by Perry Bulwer

I really do not understand how the Catholic hierarchy can carry on business as usual in the face of a decades long global scandal of horrific crimes against children and the cover-ups of those crimes by church leaders. Their failure to protect the most vulnerable members of their congregations, and their continual refusal to do the right things to protect children and support the survivors, reveals a moral malignancy at the heart of their institution.

I have closely followed this crime story for several years now and read many of the excuses and justifications made by church authorities and apologists  attempting to explain those crimes against children. My disgust grows with each new report of a priest or bishop downplaying the culpability of the church for failing to protect children or for claiming no one in the church knew that raping children was not appropriate behaviour. That is not hyperbole. Recently, a Catholic bishop in Australia publicly opposed a parliamentary inquiry into what the police suspect are 26 suicides by victims of convicted pedophile Brother Robert Best. Here is what Bishop of Ballarat Peter Connors told AAP:

But Bishop Connors on Tuesday said not even revelations from Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson that 26 young men had killed themselves after being abused by priests and brothers in Ballarat convinced him that more would be learnt from an inquiry.

"I think we've learnt a lot of things about what is appropriate behaviour and what's not appropriate behaviour," Bishop Connors said.

"I think people are very well informed nowadays as to what's inappropriate approaches from a male."

While conceding the abuse of children was wrong, he said that in the past it had not always been clear to everyone what was appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

"In the past a lot of ignorance was there on the part of lots of people. Parents didn't understand, sometimes bishops didn't understand. We have no excuse now."

As to whether there was an excuse when Ridsdale and Best were abusing boys, Bishop Connors said he did not know.

Among the charges laid against Best in Victoria's County Court last month were details of him raping a nine-year-old boy in his office.

The court heard that after Best raped him, the boy thought he was going to die and blacked out.
Bishop Connors said in the past 14 years he had spoken to more than 30 victims of Ridsdale and other priests in the Ballarat diocese.

But he said none had told him they were also abused by Best.

"I can't remember them saying they were victims of Brother Best as well," he said.

The bishop said he had no reason to meet Best's victims "because he being a Christian Brother, I'm not responsible for him."

Yet he conceded that some of Ridsdale's victims he had met could also have been abused by Best, because they were both there at the same time.

The bishop's comments are incredibly insensitive, offensive and immoral. The reporter got it right by pointing out the implication of the bishop's statement, "we have no excuse now", as if there was an excuse for raping little boys before. Either Bishop Connors does not know his Bible very well, or he ignores it when it suits him, as most Christians do. The recommended punishment for harming children is something worse than being tossed into the sea with a heavy weight around the perpetrator's neck, which is already a horrific form of capital punishment (Matthew 18:6). Various translations describe that harm as scandalizing them or causing them to sin or stumble, meaning to turn away from God. That is exactly what clergy crimes against children do, harm them by creating great spiritual and psychological turmoil  and causing many survivors to lose their faith. Yet for decades, the response to those crimes by the Catholic hierarchy has not been a Biblical one, and certainly not a secular one, but an institutional one designed to protect the church more than children.

Bishop Connors also shows a callous indifference for the survivors, claiming he has no responsibility to meet Robert Best's victims because he is not a priest, merely a Christian Brother (some of the worst Catholic child abusers).  In that claim I hear an echo of Cain's denial of responsibility even though guilty: "am I my brother's keeper?" Here is what Pope John Paul II  had to say about that in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life):

At the root of every act of violence against one's neighbour there is a concession to the "thinking" of the evil one, the one who "was a murderer from the beginning" (Jn 8:44). As the Apostle John reminds us: "For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother" (1 Jn 3:11-12). Cain's killing of his brother at the very dawn of history is thus a sad witness of how evil spreads with amazing speed: man's revolt against God in the earthly paradise is followed by the deadly combat of man against man.

After the crime, God intervenes to avenge the one killed. Before God, who asks him about the fate of Abel, Cain, instead of showing remorse and apologizing, arrogantly eludes the question: "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). "I do not know": Cain tries to cover up his crime with a lie. This was and still is the case, when all kinds of ideologies try to justify and disguise the most atrocious crimes against human beings. "Am I my brother's keeper?": Cain does not wish to think about his brother and refuses to accept the responsibility which every person has towards others. We cannot but think of today's tendency for people to refuse to accept responsibility for their brothers and sisters. Symptoms of this trend include the lack of solidarity towards society's weakest members-such as the elderly, the infirm, immigrants, children- and the indifference frequently found in relations between the world's peoples even when basic values such as survival, freedom and peace are involved.

I am also disgusted by the indifference shown by priests who could speak out publicly about child crimes committed by their colleagues, but do not, continuing on as usual as if the moral failings at the heart of their institution do not undermine everything they say and do. A few days before I read that Australian report, an op-ed by Canadian columnist Father Raymond de Souza prompted me to post a critical comment to the morality tale he was telling because the moral issue he was discussing had nothing to do with clergy crimes.

Raymond J. de Souza is a Canadian parish priest and university instructor who also writes a column for the National Post newspaper,  always including in his byline his religious title, Father, no matter what the topic. For Catholics the term 'Father' is more than just a perfunctory honorific. It indicates that the man with that title has some authority as a spiritual teacher.

I could understand de Souza using his religious title if he were writing in a Catholic publication, but perhaps I should not be surprised that he also uses it in his National Post column. After all, that paper was founded by former media baron, Conrad Black, as a conservative response to what he considered a liberal bias in Canadian newspapers. Black, who is also a columnist for the Post, is a Catholic apologist who converted as an adult. One of de Souza's recent columns wrote in defence of Black,claiming he was being persecuted by prosecutors for the crimes he committed. Christians really like to claim persecution because they consider it a sign of their righteousness.

If de Souza wrote his personal opinions under just his name, without any reference to his supposed spiritual authority except perhaps in a short biographical note at the end of the article, I probably would not be taking issue with him. I realize that sounds like a trivial difference, but I do not think it is. He is not using his title in the bylines as a mere honorific, he is indicating to the reader that what follows comes from an authoritative spiritual teacher. One way he expresses that authority in his columns is to write about morality. And that is what I am really taking issue with, his apparently broken moral compass, not his religious title.

The column by de Souza  that prompted me to comment online and then expand that comment into this article was on the subject of professional baseball. It is essentially a morality tale in which de Souza complains that Roger Maris is not in the Hall of Fame, but deserves to be. Maris was a Catholic, although de Souza does not inform his readers of that fact, merely describing him as "a decent man who brought honour to the game". If anyone but a Catholic priest had written the column I likely would have ignored it, but it wasn't and I didn't. Here is the comment I posted on the National Post site where I read the column:

Is this little morality tale focused on a mere game an attempt by de Souza to deflect attention away from the real injustices a Catholic priest should be focusing on today? It says a lot about the state of the Catholic church that in the face of a continuing, world-wide scandal of clergy child rapists enabled and protected by the church hierarchy all the way up to the Pope, that a priest, any priest, would choose to write about so-called injustices done to rich, professional athletes playing a game instead of actual, evil injustices done to innocent little children, whose lives are forever altered by the abuses they suffered at the hands of those claiming to have a superior morality. Apparently, de Souza is more concerned about a perceived injustice to one baseball player than he is about the crimes and injustices committed against countless children by those within his own organization. Exposing and correcting that immorality and injustice is what de Souza should be focused on, and should be the topic of every single column he writes until the church becomes totally transparent and completely accountable to civic authorities for all crimes committed by church leaders. That would be the moral thing to do.

I admit, maybe it is too much to expect him to devote every column to the child protection crisis within the Catholic church, but I expect that a regular column by a priest would at least occasionally address the moral implications of the scandal. After all, he frequently writes about morality in the political  and social realms.  For example, he does not hesitate to point out the immoralities of Italy's Prime Minister, accusing him of "promiscuity of the most obscene kind" that taints all of Italy.  However, it seems to me that the promiscuity practised by many Catholic priests -- like molesting children in the confessional booth; sexually abusing 200 deaf boys;  secretly fathering children and then sexually abusing them; treating captive children in residential and boarding schools as sex slaves; a priest arranging a botched abortion for the teen he impregnated; etc., etc. -- is far more obscene than anything practised by a secular politician or a Hollywood celebrity who do not pretend to be celibate or have spiritual authority over their supporters. Moreover, the cover-ups by Bishops and Cardinals of priestly promiscuity and perversion taint the entire Catholic Church. It seems to me that de Souza's moral judgements are an illustration of Matthew 7: 2-4.

2 You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. 3 Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye?
While he is able to see immorality in those he judges, he seems wilfully blind to the immoralities of his peers and superiors, which itself is immoral.

Certainly, there seems to be no end in sight to disturbing news concerning child abuse in the Catholic church that de Souza could address on a regular basis in his column. From June 2007 to June 2011 I archived over 3000 news articles  related to religion and child abuse. Around 400 or so of those articles concern child abuse in the Catholic Church. The only article by Raymond de Souza on clergy abuse I could find in this list of his columns  is dated April 29, 2010, but it is nothing more than an attack on a church critic, Christopher Hitchens. It is merely a rebuttal to some of Hitchens' arguments, and provides some factual corrections, but does not address in any way the moral failings and culpability of church leaders. From April 2010 to June 11, 2011, when I closed the archive, there were 94 articles specifically on Catholic clergy crimes posted there, yet during that same period Raymond de Souza wrote exactly one column related to Catholic clergy abuse. Perhaps de Souza thinks the crisis is now over.  It is not. Or maybe he is just waiting for more scandals to erupt in Canada before writing on this topic.

At the end of his column on Roger Maris, de Souza writes: "Fifty years after the real thing, it is time to do the right thing. Maris belongs in Cooperstown." I agree, after decades of clergy abuse  around the world it is time for the Catholic church to do the right thing. One way de Souza could help with that is to end his silence on clergy crimes against children and turn his moralizing towards his peers and superiors. I am sure the public would be bettered served reading a discussion of the moral issues involved when priests abuse children and their superiors cover it up than they are reading about a professional athlete being snubbed. Following are a few recent cases de Souza could start with.

Despite all the claims by Catholic leaders that new child protection policies  and programs are effectively safe-guarding children now, evidence from IrelandPhiladelphiaMissouri, and Italy,  shows that Bishops and Cardinals have hindered and undermined those protections. Perhaps de Souza does not write about that issue because that evidence does not implicate the Canadian church and he thinks, like the Bishop of Calgary, that the new practices really will protect Canadian children.  That remains to be seen, of course, but the fact that Bishops and Cardinals in other countries have undermined child protection policies taints all Catholic programs purporting to protect children.

Perhaps another reason de Souza does not write about the clergy abuse scandal is because he thinks, like many apologists claim, that the child abuse is all in the past. That is a lie, of course, new cases are cropping up all the time. The Missouri case  referred to above is an example of that. It involves a priest, Shawn Ratigan, who secretly took lewd photos of the genitalia of five girls aged 2 to 12. The role of  Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in this scandal is just as obscene, as his deliberate neglect endangered more children.

Maybe de Souza does not want to write about that pornographer priest because his crimes do not involve a Canadian, but that cannot possibly be the reason because he has also chosen not to write about the Canadian Bishop who has been convicted of importing child pornography.  This too is a recent case. Bishop Lahey was highly praised for his role in an historic clergy abuse settlement in Nova Scotia. Historic because it was "... the first time the Roman Catholic Church has apologized and set up a compensation package for people who claimed they were sexually abused by priests without fighting the charges in court."  Lahey apologized to the victims, knowing full well that some of them were as young as eight when they were abused, but events that unfolded just a few months later completely destroyed the credibility of his apology.

Less than two months after that historic settlement, Bishop Lahey resigned his position without announcing why. Less than a week later he turned himself into the police to face charges of possessing and importing child pornography.  In hindsight, it is obvious that Lahey's guilty conscience for his own immoral behaviour was behind his willingness to settle the civil case, to turn himself in after his computer was confiscated by border guards, to plead guilty, and to ask the court to jail him immediately  before a sentencing hearing. After all, authorities had evidence that he had travelled extensively to countries that are sources of child pornography.  Even while he was negotiating with and apologizing to survivors of vile child sex crimes, and gaining high praise for that from all quarters, he was consuming pornography that included depictions of rape and torture of little boys.  Moreover, witnesses reported to police over 20 years ago that they saw child pornography in Lahey's home.  This was a corrupt man, appointed by the supposedly infallible Pope, who seemed not to mind that little boys were being raped and tortured, as long as they were not Catholic children. After all God loves Catholic children more, at least according to this page from an old Irish Catholic schoolbook.

[image found at: http://lockerz.com/s/112545422 and http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/06/20/isnt-this-just-the-cutest-thin/ ]

I wonder if de Souza would care to comment in his column on the morality of that particular dogma, or any of the other cases I have mentioned here? And if those don't interest him, there are many, many others. He would do well to remember, that when he points the finger at others, such as politicians, celebrities and church critics, there are three others pointing back at him and his church.

August 9, 2011

Controversial BBC interview with Darcus Howe on the London riots

Chain The Dogma   August 9, 2011

Controversial BBC interview with Darcus Howe on the London riots

by Perry Bulwer

Darcus Howe, a political activist, broadcaster and columnist and long time London resident was interviewed on BBC today for his thoughts on the three days of riots that have occurred there so far.  The Canadian political activism website rabble.ca posted a video of the interview, with a message to pass it on because it is unlikely the BBC will want to replay it. I am not familiar with Howe so I checked out Wikipedia and found that this BBC interview had already been referenced there.  Here is that Wikipedia excerpt and the video.

Controversial BBC Interview
Howe was interviewed live on BBC television[6] on 9 August 2011 during the 2011 London riots. The interview was noted for the hostile tone taken by the BBC presenter Fiona Armstrong conducting the interview[7]. Shortly after Howe began lamenting that "young blacks and young whites..... have been telling us, and we wouldn't listen....." the presenter interrupted him to ask him if he condoned violence. While denying condoning violence, his attempt to decry the killing of Mark Duggan (widely seen as the spark for the unrest) was again interrupted by the presenter who insisted that "we have to wait for the official inquiry..... We don't know what happened to Mr. Duggan."[8].
Howe attempted to put the unrest in context:
"I don't call it rioting, I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it's happening in Liverpool, it's happening in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment....."
At that point the presenter again interrupted, taunting Howe: "You are not a stranger to riots yourself, are you? You have taken part in them yourself." In fact Howe had never been convicted of rioting, and pleaded with the presenter before being finally cut off:
"I have never taken part in a single riot. I've been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict. And have some respect for an old West Indian negro, and stop accusing me of being a rioter. Because I...you don't want to get abusive. You sound idiotic. Have some respect..."

August 8, 2011

Book of Mormon fundamentalists and polygamists are Mormons too

Chain The Dogma    August 8, 2011

Book of Mormon fundamentalists and polygamists are Mormons too

by Perry Bulwer

The headline for my last article on this blog was deliberately provocative, as is much of what I write here. When I wrote, "Mormon pedophile polygamist, Warren Jeffs, guilty of raping girls for God" I had in mind a recent report that a Mormon Defense League (MDL)  has been formed to monitor media reports on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Modelled after the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, the group wants

to help journalists "get it right," said Scott Gordon, FAIR’s president who will direct the new project.

If the MDL notices a misstatement or mischaracterization, the group will first contact the journalist, Gordon said. But if a pattern of misrepresentation emerges, the defense league will "go after the writer" by posting the piece or pieces on its website (mdl.org) and pointing out the errors.

The timing of this effort is likely connected to the two LDS candidates in the U.S. presidential campaign and criticisms from other Christians that they belong to a cult. The fact that fundamentalist Mormon, Warren Jeffs, has been almost continually in the news for several years now might also be connected to this, as almost all of the media reports on his child abusing cult make some connection to the mainstream church, if only to clarify the differences.

Mormons, like most believers, do not like their group referred to as a cult, whether the word is used in a theological, sociological or popular culture context. But mainstream Mormons also hate to be linked in anyway to fundamentalist groups or individuals who practice polygamy. They claim that there is no such thing as a fundamentalist Mormon, that the only true Mormons are those who subscribe to LDS dogma, which rejected polygamy long ago for political rather than religious reasons.

However, from my perspective, everyone who believes the Book of Mormon is a holy book is a Mormon. In the same way, I consider everyone who believes the New Testament is a holy book is a Christian, and everyone who believes the Koran is a holy book is a Muslim. The theological, sectarian and denominational differences within different religious traditions do not concern me. Where a distinction ought to be made, I use words such as cult, sect, and fundamentalist to differentiate between the main group and sub-groups, which is why I use Mormon fundamentalist to describe Warren Jeffs and other Book of Mormon polygamists.

I anticipate that the MDL will be targeting anyone who writes that the LDS is a cult or Mormons are not Christian, or who describes polygamists as Mormon fundamentalists.

Joanna Brooks, a Mormon writer who teaches English and comparative literature at San Diego State University, believes it will be good for the LDS Church "not to be the one to respond every time a crackpot takes a shot at the church," and she applauds the move for "an independent voice to respond to crude anti-Mormonism" in any media report.

Perhaps Brooks should apply some of her knowledge of comparative literature analysis to the Book of Mormon. If she did, and applied a little critical thinking on top of that, she might realize that it was Joseph Smith who was the crackpot. And I wonder what she means by "crude anti-Mormonism". Is there a refined form of anti-Mormonism and if so, what does that look like? I would like to give that a try. 

The MDL says that they will repost on their blog any article that misrepresents the LDS. 

August 7, 2011

Mormon pedophile polygamist, Warren Jeffs, guilty of raping girls for God

Chain the Dogma    August 7, 2011

Mormon pedophile polygamist, Warren Jeffs, guilty of raping girls for God

He argued that religious freedom gave him the right to rape girls

by Perry Bulwer

It is no surprise that Warren Jeffs was found guilty  by a Texas jury for child sexual assault, given the overwhelming evidence  against him. Eleven other men in his FLDS cult were also charged with similar crimes and all seven of those who have been prosecuted so far were also found guilty  and given lengthy prison sentences. In fact, nothing about this case surprises me.

I am not surprised by Jeffs antics in the courtroom in his latest trial. Once captured and presented with solid evidence against him, he knew he had almost no chance to escape punishment through the legal system. Forced to face reality for the first time in his life, he momentarily awoke from his religious delusion and admitted to being an immoral, spiritual fraud. That jailhouse confession  in phone calls to his family members reveals a broken man who, realizing how wicked he has been, not only renounces his claim to being a prophet, but even attempts suicide.

Jeffs would later recant that confession and retake control of his cult from prison, but for that brief moment the curtain was drawn back and the world, though not most of his followers, saw the true nature of that evil man. Apologists (see jailhouse confession link above) have tried to downplay Jeffs' admission of immoralities with a sister and a daughter by saying that the FLDS standard of immorality is different than society's, insinuating that it was not incest he was admitting to. However, at Jeffs' sentencing hearing  his niece

... described an incident that allegedly occurred between her and Jeffs when she was 7 years old. "He made me sit on his lap," she testified, and did "inappropriate things to me." She was crying so hard at one point that the prosecutor stopped questioning. Neither side pressed her for details. CNN is withholding the niece's name because she is the alleged victim of a sexual assault.  

It is fairly safe to assume, as CNN has done by withholding her name, that she was describing sexual molestation, if not rape. At the same hearing, Warren Jeffs nephew, Brent Jeffs, testified that his uncle raped him when he was five years old. Brent had previously revealed that in his book, Lost Boy, as well as in public interviews, in a lawsuit against his uncle, and in an affidavit  submitted to the Canadian court considering the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy law. Jeffs was well aware of all the evidence the state had against him because he attempted many times to have that evidence rejected. So, knowing he had no defence other than his ridiculous claim that religious freedom gave him the right to rape little girls, Jeffs simply used the legal process and the courtroom as a pulpit, further consolidating control over his followers.

I am not surprised that Jeffs claimed religious persecution and tried to use the religious freedom defence after firing all of his lawyers. Most people are mistaken about the concept of religious freedom, thinking it gives them the right to not only believe anything they want, but to act on those beliefs. However, it is not an absolute right that allows all religious behaviour. As the U.S. Supreme Court famously said:

Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.

Religious freedom necessarily includes the right to be free from religion otherwise it is an empty right, and it is also a right that children have. Jeffs' claim that religious freedom gives him the right to rape girls is one of the more extreme versions of the argument. Faith healing parents who claim religious freedom to let their children die  from treatable conditions without any medical care is another example of religious extremism that denies religious freedom to children. But mainstream and moderate religious leaders and believers, not just fundamentalists, fringe sects and cults, also frequently appeal to their right to religious freedom while denying the same right to their children, so they should not feel smug in their criticisms of Jeffs and the FLDS.

Perhaps the most common example of denying religious freedom to children is the indoctrination of young people (kids are people too!) before they have a chance to form their own opinions. For religious freedom to have any meaning for adults, it must be protected for children. If a child becomes so indoctrinated by a particular dogma that it becomes almost impossible for her to break out of that indoctrination as an adult, then her freedom to choose her own religion has been violated and denied. In order for adults to have the freedom to exercise their religious autonomy, they must as children have the right to an open future. God experts know this all to well, which is why they specifically target little children for proselytizing, to ensure they have future congregations they can exploit. As a Jesuit famously said, "Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man", which is a paraphrasing of Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." At least that's what they hope.

Adult believers value religious freedom for themselves and would reject any attempt to force dogma on them, yet they do not hesitate to do that to their children. This is the great hypocrisy surrounding religious freedom, parents supposedly having a greater right to that freedom than their children, which may be the main reason why the United States, one of the most religious countries in the world, is also the only one (Somalia is a failed state) not to have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But I think the opposite is true. I think that all conflicts between parental and children's religious rights should be decided in favour of children. They are the more vulnerable party and their right to an open future can be completely denied them by zealous parents, preachers, teachers and priests who think it is perfectly acceptable to manipulate immature minds. In my opinion, proselytizing and indoctrinating little children with religious dogma is a sign of a weak, irrational ideology that only uninformed, gullible adults and naive, innocent children can be convinced to believe. It is a form of entrapment that captures and enslaves the mind of a child before they gain the maturity and critical thinking skills to resist such psychological manipulation.

Finally, I am not surprised that several Mormon fundamentalist groups that practice polygamy only denounced Jeffs after he was convicted.  Statements by those groups, quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, indicate that they only became alarmed, shocked, horrified after hearing the new evidence that has surfaced in this latest trial.

The Principle Rights Coalition (PRC) — representing five polygamous churches, along with others who practice polygamy but are unaffiliated with any church — called the sexual abuse of children "reprehensible."

"As new evidence has surfaced in Texas ... we are alarmed that such depravity could have been perpetrated by anyone," according to the statement.

"While we understand that horrific abuse can occur in any part of society, it is especially devastating to discover that sexual assault of young children may have occurred behind the false pretense of a religious ideology," the statement says.
An accompanying statement by the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) said they were "shocked and horrified" by what has been revealed during Jeffs’ trial.

What took them so long? And even with the conviction, it sounds as if they still are not sure child sex crimes happened: "...sexual assault of young children may have occurred...". Jeffs was arrested in 2006. Even before his capture while on he run from law enforcement, the allegations of child sex crimes were well known. Since 2007 there has been steady stream of publications in both the U.S. and Canada detailing the crimes by Jeffs and other FLDS leaders: newspaper  and magazine articles, books  and documentaries  by survivors, affidavits and court videos and transcripts, and more. Furthermore, this was not Jeffs first trial. Much of the evidence in this one was already public knowledge, having been submitted in previous trials and hearings. It seems to me that the Mormon polygamists now condemning Jeffs were engaged in wilful blindness to the crimes and abuses committed by one of their own. If they were really concerned for the children in Jeffs sect they could have denounced him long ago, but they didn't so their public relations statements now appear disingenuous, designed to protect the practice of polygamy from state interference rather than protect children from religious interference. I am not surprised.


Mormon polygamist who pleaded no contest to child bride sex assault appeals conviction based on search warrant