Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rainbows over Ireland; child abuse in Arkansas

I suppose it was inevitable that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican equivalent of a secretary of state --- or someone similarly placed in the papal state --- would describe Friday's overwhelming victory for marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland as a "defeat for humanity."

Others, after all, have described the 62-38 percent voter margin that authorized an equality amendment to the Irish constitution as a defeat for the Roman Catholic church --- "Irish" and "Catholic" long considered synonyms. And it certainly was a defeat for the frightened old men who form the church leadership and sense that power is slipping through their shaky fingers. But not necessarily for the church itself.

The hierarchy in Ireland --- and elsewhere --- lost moral high ground in recent years after revelations about sexual exploitation of children and general exploitation of others by its clerics followed up by elaborate cover-up schemes --- and many have pointed to that as a key factor in a decision by a majority of the Irish people to ignore the church's campaign against marriage equality. 

Others have pointed to Irish involvement in the European Union, increasing diversity, increasing prosperity and the fact the best and brightest no longer have to leave home to seek opportunity. The Ionia Institute, a leading campaigner against equality, now is blaming American money.

But 84-85 percent of the Irish still identify as Catholic, according to fairly recent data, and a majority voted for equality. While the Roman church is subject to the same general drift away experienced by other Christian expressions, there's been no sign of mass defection.

Much of this has to do with a misunderstanding of exactly what the church is --- neither more nor less than its people, including but by no means limited to popes, cardinals, bishops and priests. And in this broader sense, the church is changing in Ireland and elsewhere in the West, moving away from hostility toward LGBT people, past patronizing "tolerance," to the high ground of building community.

Cardinal Parolin suggested his clerical coterie give evangelism a try in the effort to restore its preferred order. That overlooks the fact the Catholic church has for the most part forgotten how to evangelize and, back in the good old days, needed armies to ensure success. Armies no longer are available, unless you count the Swiss Guard --- and when was the last time anyone invited you to Mass?

The most frequently overlooked heroes in the fight for LGBT equality in Ireland were Irish LGBT people themselves who at considerable risk in what seemed at times to be a theocracy stepped forward, became visible and told their stories. Truth, sometimes, is more powerful than an army.


On this side of the Atlantic, we've been treated to revelations about the absurd Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and the crown prince of their 19-child clan, Josh. As it turns out, Josh --- an emerging darling of the Christian right --- sexually abused little girls, including his own sisters, as a teen; was neither reported nor adequately treated at the time; had his record wiped clean by Jesus (and an effective cover-up operation); then was sent forth to become a morality crusader.

I've never watched the Duggar television show --- apparently a celebration of breeding and raising children based upon livestock confinement industry precedents.

Nor have I ever met a fundamentalist or an evangelical Christian who even came close in belief and practice to these caricatures of faith in action.

We've heard quite a bit from those who deplore the fact young Josh's life has been impacted adversely by these revelations, including the odious Huckabee; relatively little about the horrific effect child abuse, sexual and otherwise, inflicts on its innocent victims.

If it were a better world, there would be a way to charge the senior Duggars with child abuse for exploiting 19 innocents; satisfying their own lusts --- including vanity and greed --- by turning a family into a public spectacle.

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