Monthly Archives: March 2010

Submission time

Good grief. It’s 31 March already, which means it’s the end of the tax year in New Zealand, and time for you to send your submissions in for the 23rd Down Under Feminists Carnival. In the next day or two, go through your posts, and send them in for the carnival, either via the carnival submission page, or if it is not accessible for you, e-mail Bri at scarlettheartt at gmail dot com. Bri is hosting the carnival at her excellent blog, Fat Lot of Good, and she’s planning a size acceptance theme. But any other feminist posts, by any down under feminist blogger, can be submitted too.

Chanting the script from Rome

Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals around the world have been leaping into print, to defend the pope, and to insist that he is a man of great sanctity and courage and whatever… The most absurd defence of him has to be the one ventured by Archbishop Timothy Dolan in New York:

He urged the Manhattan congregation to pray for the pope, saying he was suffering some of the same unjust accusations once faced by Jesus.

Dolan credited the pope for making possible the progress the Catholic Church has made in the United States against “this sickening sin and crime,” saying changes “could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.”


Memo to Dolan: Ratzinger, a.k.a. Benedict XVI, is not Jesus Christ himself. Nobody is going to imprison him, lash him, treat him as a common criminal, crown him with thorns, or execute him. No matter what, his body will remain unviolated, and his life will not be taken. Much better treatment than was meted out to the children who were raped by pedophile priests. But Dolan thinks that Benedict is just like JC himself.

Bring me a bucket.

(At this point, I typed, and then deleted, several expletive laden sentences. I really cannot find the words to describe Dolan’s wrongheaded stupidity.)

But that’s not all. Dolan retreats to relativism.

“All we ask is that it be fair and that the Catholic Church not be singled out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency and family in the world,” he said.

Shorter Dolan: Everyone else was doing it, so it must be okay.

Well, there goes the Catholic church’s claim to being the source of absolute truth. It turns out that what matters in the church is not what is right, but what the neighbours’ think. But funny how that doesn’t apply to other issues, like say, abortion.

Wev, really.

I had hoped that the Catholic church in New Zealand, in which I was reared, might have done a little better. My understanding is that the church in New Zealand is still a missionary church, so it is not under the direct control of Rome. Whatever the status of the church in New Zealand may be, it is clear that it has fairly much gone its own way. For example, for many, many years, it has declined to have the office of lector, instead having just readers, people who read assigned passages from the bible to the rest of the congregation at mass. ‘Reader’ is an informal office, so it can be performed by anyone who is willing to do so. However the critical trait for being a lector is not the ability to enunciate clearly, nor the confidence to speak to a large audience, but the possession of a penis. Early on, the New Zealand church simply side-stepped this issue, and opted to have readers, male and female, instead.

Because I was born and bred in the Catholic church in New Zealand, because I was active in it, I happen to know of one or two or a few cases of abuses. Each of those cases was dealt with by the courts. To my knowledge, that is the path that the Catholic church in New Zealand has taken. Defrock the priest, or the brother, by all means, but above all, go to the police, and let the justice system of New Zealand take its course. This is a marked contrast to the treatment of abusers in many other countries.

But… when Bishop Patrick Dunn, Catholic bishop of Auckland, got his say in the New Zealand Herald today, he came out with the same line that mealy mouthed bishops have come out with across the world.

When anyone comes to us with a complaint of abuse, our preference is that they go to the police and we encourage them to do so, offering whatever assistance they require.

Occasionally, people do not wish to go through the upheaval of a criminal investigation and choose instead to confine their complaint to church authorities.

In these cases we have had no choice than to respect their privacy, rather than cause them further pain by the prospect of judicial proceedings.

In other words, it’s all up to the victim.

Bish, there is absolutely nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to prevent a cleric who has sexually abused a child from going to the police on his own account. If he fronts up and admits the crime, if he goes to court and pleads guilty, then the victim doesn’t need to go through a court process at all. The victim doesn’t need to be the person who makes the complaint to the police. She or he doesn’t have to endure inquisitions and evidence giving and cross-examination, if the abuser turns himself in.

The Catholic Church in New Zealand has a protocol for dealing with cases of sexual abuse: A Path to Healing – Te Houhanga Rongo. It’s a good protocol, emphasising the need to look after the victim, and the imperative not to try to cover up the crime at all. But there’s one major thing wrong with it. It places the onus for pursuing civil remedies on the victim.

17: If the offence is a crime in civil law and the complainant places the matter in the hands of the police, the Church authority will cease the investigation and will not do anything to protect the accused/offender from the processes of civil law nor hide the facts from those who are entitled to know them.

As I wrote just a few days ago, when I was a child, I was taught that if I committed a crime, then in order to receive absolution through the sacrament of confession, I would need to turn myself in to the police. I would like to see the same standard applied to the men in clerical robes who have raped children.


Earlier posts regarding Il Papa and criminous clerics:
They could always turn themselves in
Can the pope be impeached?

Sez it all

Description: Cartoon with words ‘Sex abuse’ in top left corner, picture of pope with widespread hands, clad in scarlet robe, wearing an episcopal mitre (bishop’s hat) which is placed firmly over his eyes. He is saying, “Where?”


I would prefer to just give a link to the cartoon, but there seems to be no way to create a permanent link to a particular cartoon on The Times Online site. That’d be Rupert for you. No idea about how to deliver eyes to advertisers on his sites.

A fascinating book

On Ptak Science Books, “Women are Human, too”: Human Resource Workbook for Females, 1943

H/T: Giovanni


Mr Strange Land has been in New York. He came back today, bearing gifts, including these beautiful earrings for me.

(Gold earrings, round, the size of a medium button, small round of metal in the middle, tiny grains of metal in a circle around the central round of metal, wire coil circled about the grains, then two more rounds of wire around the outer edge, gold plated in dull, old looking gold.)

They are based on a set of 6th century BC Etruscan earrings.

Etruscan metalwork is notable for its use of granulation, a form of ornamentation in which tiny grains of metal (most commonly gold) are fused to an underlying surface metal. The Museum’s Etruscan Spun-Wire Earrings are based on an original set of earrings of fine filigree and granules, which date to the 6th century BC and are now in the Museum’s collection.

I think they’re lovely. But even more than their beauty, I love wearing jewellery based on something that women were wearing 2,500 years ago. I like that sense of connection with women who came before me. I wonder what happened to the woman who wore the original earrings, and how she lost them.

Friday Womanist – Alice Walker


1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, no serious.) A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, “you acting womanish,” i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered “good” for one. Interested in grown-up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: You trying to be grown.” Responsible. In Charge. Serious.

2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as the natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or non-sexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except, periodically, for health. Traditionally universalist, as in: “Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige, and black?” Ans.: “Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.” Traditionally capable, as in “Mama, “I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be for the first time.”

3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the folk. Loves herself. Regardless.

4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.

Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, 1983

They could always turn themselves in

Cardinal George Pell was given column inches in The Australian to defend “man of immense compassion and goodness”, Pope Benedict XVI, yesterday. It’s sickening stuff, watching Pell bend over backwards, forwards and every which way to defend the hierarchy in the Catholic Church from its complicity in covering up the crimes committed by pedophiles. (Sometimes I wonder why the church doesn’t just rename itself the Pedophile Protection Society. That seems to be its main function these days.)

Among the usual claims about the church and its practices, Pell makes this statement.

When complaints are made under these procedures, often dating back decades, victims are always encouraged to go to the police. That is what we would prefer. But victims often value their privacy. This issue is too sad and too serious for misinformation to be circulated, adding to victims’ pain.

I smell a large rat.

When a crime is committed against another person, there are at least two people who know about it. There is the victim, and there is the perpetrator. The victim IS NOT the only person who can go to the police. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a priest who has admitted abusing children from going to the police himself, confessing his crimes, and asking for the judgement of the court. All of this can be done without revealing the victim’s name, at all, and without even needing to put a victim on a stand. After all, if a priest confesses to his crimes, then there is no need to cross-examine the other witness(es), to determine the truth of the matter. Simple affidavits would do.

And that’s what the Catholic church tells other perpetrators they should do.

When I was preparing for my first confession, and first holy communion, I was given a great deal of instruction about the nature of confession, and god’s forgiveness of my sins (as if a tiny child can sin!), provided that I was contrite. The nuns and priests filled us with tales about the need for genuine contrition, but also, at the same time, that god could and would forgive the greatest of sins, even murder.


For those great crimes, priests would withhold absolution, until the perpetrator had gone and confessed his or her crime to the police, and subjected themselves to the process of the law of the state. “Yes,” the priest would say. “I will pronounce absolution for your sins, but first, you must surrender yourself to the police. When you have done that, I will come and pronounce absolution.”

Pious cant, no doubt. But pious cant that was spoonfed to young children, as something that applied to all members of the church.

Except, it seems, the priesthood. Evidently none of them have to turn themselves in to the local police in order to receive absolution.

I will believe that Benedict is genuinely concerned about child abuse, genuinely concerned about right the wrongs done by men who pretend to be holy and good, genuinely concerned to follow the law of the land (Pell’s words), when he directs all priests who have been found to abuse children, by the church’s own procedures, to go directly to the police. Until then, it’s just more obfuscatory cant.

Perhaps the first step could be to require Cardinal Law to leave the Vatican, and return to the United States.

And unfortunately for Pell, and his trusting belief in the sanctity and goodness of the (alleged) holy father, it’s starting to look very much as though the smoking gun linking Benedict directly to cover ups has appeared: Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest.

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

To date, Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he really just didn’t know that a priest in his diocese had simply been moved on to another parish. That seems incredibly unlikely, but it might just be possible (‘though as I have said before, if you believe that, then I’ve got a rather nice painted ceiling in a spiffy basilica in Rome to sell to you). But this time, letters were sent directly to him about abuse committed against boys at a school for the deaf by an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy. The priest was “moved on”, and later on, when a secret church process against him was started, it was stopped…

after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.

If you believe that Ratzinger himself did not order the cessation, if you believe that Ratzinger himself was not complicit in the cover up, if you believe that he is “a man of immense compassion and goodness”, then I say that you are so wrong that it is hard to find words to describe your gullibility and sheer foolishness. And if you happen to be Cardinal Pell, then I question whether you have any moral authority left. And I certainly question why The Australian, or any other newspaper, should be giving you space to mouth your increasingly flimsy and silly excuses for Ratzinger’s behaviour.