Why I’m listening to the laity, not to the U.S. Catholic bishops

Who speaks for Catholics?

Catholic polity says the hierarchy speaks for the church. Mostly. But it also allows that the overwhelming consensus of the laity cannot be ignored. So when the consensus of the Catholic laity is in conflict with the assertions of the bishops, it may be legitimate to heed the laity as the true voice of the church.

And right now the U.S. Catholic bishops are in conflict with the U.S. Catholic laity on (at least) two significant issues. On both of these issues, the lay faithful are right and the bishops are wrong. And so on both of these issues, I think it is appropriate and more respectful to acknowledge the laity and ignore the bishops.

Again, Catholic doctrine holds that this can sometimes be proper. The idea is, of course, expressed in Latin — the sensus fidelium, or the “sense of the faithful.” When the overwhelming consensus of the sensus fidelium conflicts with the teaching of the hierarchy, the hierarchy’s job is not simply to clamp down on this widespread dissent, but to listen to it and to be counseled by it.

On these two important issues, the U.S. bishops refuse this counsel of the faithful. On both of these issues, the bishops have chosen instead to regard the sensus fidelium as rebellion. That’s a mistake. It’s a practical mistake, because it cuts the bishops off from the collective wisdom of the people. And it’s a doctrinal mistake because it violates their own church polity and has the effect of undermining their own claim to authority.

Here then are the two issues on which the consensus of the laity and the assertions of the bishops are in conflict: contraception and child rape.

The bishops teach that contraception is a grave moral sin. The laity know that it is not. The devout laity know this. They are sure of it. They employ contraception with a clean conscience and an untroubled spirit. Some may be troubled that their doing so is a form of disobedience to the teaching of the bishops, but the only guilt they experience is due to that disobedience, not because they believe the practice to be intrinsically wrong.

The laity have listened to the bishops’ rationale for their opposition to contraception and have not found it compelling. It’s too confusing, contradictory and inconstant to be understood. It changes and collapses back on itself. (Contraception is wrong, the bishops say, because it denies the possibility of procreation, so Catholics must instead use “natural family planning.” When the laity protest that natural family planning isn’t effective, the bishops respond that it’s the most effective method and that nothing is more effective at denying the possibility of procreation.) Unpersuaded by the bishops’ case, the laity thus choose to heed their own conscience and ignore the prohibition.

That decision is informed by and reinforced by the second, more vehement, disagreement — the matter of child rape.

For the Catholic laity, overwhelmingly, the rape of a child is considered a moral horror and one of the worst sins imaginable. For the bishops, it’s a regrettable act, but it’s not as bad as the public disclosure of it. For the laity, there can be no greater priority than ensuring that children in one’s care are not abused. For the bishops, there has been no greater priority than ensuring that abusers are not exposed. The paramount concern for the laity is the protection of children. The paramount concern for the bishops has been the protection of their own reputation.

The laity are morally and doctrinally in the right on this matter. The bishops’ practice with regard to this matter has been morally and doctrinally indefensible.

This matters. It has meaning. It is not possible to consider the moral standing of the bishops or the authority of the bishops as the representatives of their church without accounting for this.

And the bishops, thus far, have utterly failed to account for this. They have sought to minimize its meaning. “Well, yes, on the one hand, there has been the callous disregard for the rape of thousands of children, but on the other hand …”

“On the other hand” what? What could possibly be on the other hand? What could conceivably be placed on the other side of the ledger to balance this out? The very idea of such a ledger is repugnant.

We saw this same thing unfold at Penn State, where a long-time assistant coach of the football team is accused of being a sexual predator who abused perhaps dozens of children. The team’s head coach, Joe Paterno, allegedly was told of this abuse, but did not contact the authorities, instead opting to cover up the abuse, thereby enabling it to continue somewhere else. Paterno, in other words, is suspected of having responded to the same crime in the same way as the U.S. Catholic bishops.

It would not be possible to overstate the love, respect and reverence that Paterno enjoyed in Pennsylvania before this scandal became public. That’s gone now. Those who tried to defend it by appealing to some “on the other hand” ledger in which the rape of children might be balanced out against his legacy as the winningest coach in the history of Division I college football were rightly shouted down. “On the other hand, he won 409 games and coached five undefeated seasons,” doesn’t cut it when weighed against enabling and protecting an abuser of children.

It’s possible that if Paterno had lived, he might one day have earned a measure of rehabilitation to restore some of his reputation. If he had been a younger man when his disgrace was exposed, and if he had responded with humility and contrition, then perhaps decades from now we might think differently of him. If he had dropped out of the spotlight, renouncing any claim to our respect until he had earned it back, dedicating himself to making right what he had allowed to go wrong. If he had done this quietly and humbly, without seeking praise or attention, demonstrating a whole-hearted commitment of his time, energy and wealth to restoring and healing those who had been harmed. And if he had done so without ever suggesting, without so much as hinting, that he had thereby done “enough” to again deserve our respect and admiration, then perhaps he might again have come to be viewed as a figure worthy of that respect and admiration.

Alas, in Paterno’s case we’ll never know.

And it seems we’ll never know in the case of the U.S. Catholic bishops either. They have not yet shown any interest or inclination in pursuing such a path.

The bishops have not yet displayed any proportionate sense of contrition or adequate commitment to healing and restoration for victims. They continue to fight in court against the punishment of the abusers and against restitution to their victims. They have tended, instead, to portray themselves as the greater victims here, insisting that they’re being unfairly denied sufficient credit for the many more children in their care who were not raped.

The bishops have now squandered more than a decade, failing to listen to the desperate concern of the U.S. Catholic laity over the scope, duration and horror of this scandal. They have failed to grasp how angry the laity is over the abuse of thousands of its children. And they have failed to grasp that this anger is justified and just and righteous.

If they understood that, then they would understand that right now and for the foreseeable future, they cannot and ought not to be heard or heeded on anything else. They cannot and ought not to be acting as though any other matter or concern is a greater priority.

And until they understand that, I think it would be disrespectful of Catholicism and unjust to the majority of Catholics for me to regard those bishops as the legitimate spokesmen for and representatives of that church. The anger of the Catholic laity earns my respect. The callous obtuseness of the bishops earns my disregard.

That’s why I’m listening to the laity and not to the U.S. Catholic bishops.

  • Anonymous

    And if he had done so without ever suggesting, without so much as hinting, that he had thereby done “enough” to again deserve our respect and admiration, then perhaps he might again have come to be viewed as a figure worthy of that respect and admiration.

    The reverse Dayenu is always tricky.

  • Anonymous

    Let me say something to keep just between us,
    Ne’er trust a man with a hat like a penis,
    For his interests lie,
    In his authority,
    Be it b.c., child rape, or transiting Venus.

  • FangsFirst

    Of the two or three Masses I ever attended, one had the priest launching into his sermon in response to this cover.

    Suggesting that the cover was offensive, and wrong, and prejudiced, and bad and all sorts of things, and how it was persecution.

    I was not amused. At all.

  • Lori

    The fact that the cover is what the priest thought was offensive and sermon-worthy says a great deal more about the priest than it does about the cover and none of what it says is good. 

  • Anonymous

    Here then are the two issues on which the consensus of the laity and the assertions of the bishops are in conflict: contraception and child rape.

    Let’s not forget, the bishops assertions on contraception and child rape are not unconnected. They want the laity and the rest of us to believe that the latter is caused by the former:

    Blame the flower children. That seems to be the chief conclusion of a new report about the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal. The study, undertaken by John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the request of America’s Catholic bishops, links the spike in child abuse by priests in the 1960s and ’70s to “the importance given to young people and popular culture” — along with the emergence of the feminist movement, a “singles culture” and a growing acceptance of homosexuality. It also cites crime, drugs, an increase in premarital sexual behavior and divorce.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/21/opinion/la-ed-abuse-20110521

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    ….insisting that they’re being unfairly denied sufficient credit for the many more children in their care who were not raped.

    This reminds me of the famous Chris Rock routine about people who “always want credit for shit they’re supposed to do”.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

     With reference to my previous post, can I now claim credit for NOT tracking down the author of this report and screaming obscenities in his face until I am hoarse, or do I have to be a Bishop for that?

  • Guest-again

    Well, I can think of a couple more things that the hierarchy and (American) laity don’t agree on, those to differ -
    1. Opposition to civil marriage for same sex couples
    2. Banning homosexuals from seminaries (2005) and the priesthood (2010)
    3. Celibacy for priests
    *4. The role of women in Mass (as distinct from ordination, which is a doctrinal matter that the Catholic Church is unlikely to change in the lifetime of any alive today) The * is because this is only something I’ve heard second hand – back in those liberal 70s, when Vatican II seemed the future, and not the sad past it has become since then, women began to serve as deacons, providing communion wafers that had been consecrated during mass, but that practice was scaled back (at times to the point of non-existence). For those interested in the sort of language this invokes should enjoy this excerpt (personally, it represents everything I thought was going the way of the Latin Mass, but, well, we know how that turned out) -
    ‘Since adult men can be instituted as acolytes, should the traditional custom of having altar boys be maintained?

    It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which
    boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the
    altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding
    their function in accordance with their power of comprehension. Nor
    should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the
    course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these (47).

    I know that under canon law only
    men can be instituted as acolytes (cf. CIC 230 §1), but can girls and
    women serve at the altar without being instituted as acolytes?

    Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar,
    at the discretion of the diocesan bishop and in observance of the
    established norms’
    http://www.catholic.com/documents/liturgical-abuses

    Fifty years or so since Vatican II, and the progress is that women may be allowed to serve at the altar – assuming the bishop allows it, and that wonderful vague ‘established norms’ – which was male only for centuries, when it was a ‘noble custom.’

    For anyone interested in just how stuffy (or how Catholic) the Catholic Church, and the laity can be (do note that some of the Q&A is very leading), links to places like catholic.com are a goldmine. Not being interested in gold, it just brings a certain sad nostalgia at how confident some of us were that this was going to die out. Making the Catholic Church as post-Catholic as America was going to be post-racial. The well meaning delusions of the hopeful and youthful.

    But just reading that link about how the liturgy is to be done should provide a glimpse into the extremely elaborate structure of what is and is not allowed in the context of being Catholic. The Catholic Church is not only the bishops or the laity – it also a body of traditions, rites, and rules stretching back centuries, often in opposition to people that felt differently about what is proper for a church and its believers. Those people who felt and then acted differently are not Catholic – something both the bishops and laity agree on, by the way, regardless of the changes that Catholics may wish to see in their church. Changes which always come from the top down, at least officially, any other process being referred to as ‘schismatic.’

    If America wasn’t so rich, the Catholic Church would have written the country off a long time ago – the place is filled with believers that think like protestants, who far too often place their laws and traditions above those of the Catholic Church when it comes to politics.

  • http://lost-erizo.livejournal.com/ LE

    As far as I know #4 is kind of a dead issue, mostly because it came down on the side of “we don’t have enough men to do the job – we _have_ to include women.” At least as far as serving at the altar and distributing communion – I don’t remember any talk of women becoming Deacons (since that involves ordination, at least for the RCC).

    I don’t know how widespread it’s gotten, but the last time I attended Mass (I’m fairly close to completely atheist, but I go on Christmas because it makes my Mom and Dad happy) two of the three Eucharistic ministers (i.e. the people distributing communion) were women and both of the alter servers/acolytes were girls.  This was in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and I was under the impression that they were fairly backward thinking on these issues.  I remember being shocked back in the 80s attending Mass at a church up in the Poconos that there were girls serving at the alter, and when I asked my sister about it got a lecture about what a dinosaur Cardinal Kroll was (she was old enough to have memories of the short time we lived in Ohio, and apparently coming back to the Phila. area after being in a progressive parish school out there had left her with a moderate case of culture shock).

  • FangsFirst

    The fact that the cover is what the priest thought was offensive and
    sermon-worthy says a great deal more about the priest than it does about
    the cover and none of what it says is good.

    The most bizarre part was, as I recall, it turned into a sermon about mission work, and the difficulty of it or how it’s not always accepted, or such-like (in fairness: in places where there actually WOULD be persecution, and was, and is).
    I started kind of glossing though. I was there for my SGF, and politics and religion are things she does not like discussing, so I figured best if I paid less attention as best I could. Plus my mind started working on his comments to be sure there wasn’t some approach by which I could see offense that wasn’t just “So he covered up the rape of children! But they attacked him! With words! Polite, factual ones, but ones that pointed to negative stuff!”

    (I didn’t find said approach)

    Still turned into an argument later as she felt that my criticism of the Pope was intended as a criticism of her *religion* as that’s what it usually was with people around her.¹ Didn’t help that I was still trying to avoid the subject, but she wanted to figure out why I was upset, so I let slip only the barest of commentary instead of fully explaining myself.

    ¹And, to be fair, I tend to bristle at things she says about atheism, because of what I’m used to hearing, but it comes down to the same kind of misunderstanding–assumption based on experience with other people. Most people criticize the Pope to her and use it as an attack on her to “prove” to her that Catholicism is wrong or what have you, and people treat atheism as a cute phase or a void in my life, or just denial of reality, rather than a legitimate feeling I have identified for myself and no one else.

  • Tonio

    Sounds like the real problem is authoritarianism as a substitute for morality. The adoration that Paterno received might fit that description to some degree. Perhaps moral choice is only possible with a healthy skepticism for authority, not mindlessly rebelling against it but not mindlessly following it, either. It may be natural to feel conflicted in some situations between following authority and doing the moral thing. But the scandals involved such an organized effort to hide wrongdoing that the likely cause was simple organizational self-preservation. Would anyone here agree?

    When I first found out about the scandals, I was afraid to bring my children anywhere near a Catholic clergy member. That was before I found out that most of the victims were teenage boys. (When I hear “pedophilia” I assume that the crime involves very young children, and this shouldn’t be read as making light of crimes against older children.)

  • FangsFirst

    (When I hear “pedophilia” I assume that the crime involves very young
    children, and this shouldn’t be read as making light of crimes against
    older children.)

    I doubt hebephilia or ephebophilia are likely to enter common parlance, so the expanded definition of pedophilia is unlikely to change. And, of course, it makes no moral difference with regard to the perpetrator when authority is at issue as the methodology (and thus ‘abuse’ is an apt descriptor), whatever differing levels of capability to process and recover vary with age (which is, in the moral sense moot: severely negative effects are severely negative effects).

  • Tonio

    No disagreement about the lack of moral difference.

    I understood that the reasoning was, “Ah, then my children are not at risk, then,”

    That’s exactly what I assumed. I had understood that abusers who target young children are not likely to go after teenagers, and vice versa. I’m no expert on the subject so I may be mistaken.

  • FangsFirst

     Considering there are actual terms for the other two (hebephilia is roughly pubescent, ephebophilia is basically the period of time following that until adulthood), with narrow age ranges, I’m inclined to believe the distinction exists–psychologists seem to agree, suggesting that hebephilia is reproductively valid (as an attraction) and thus not disordered.

    But, on that same line, I’d say there is a great probability of division amongst who offenders target, and a pretty logical distinction.

    Obviously not dealing in any moral/social/legal elements, of course (since we’ve already addressed that).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2RAPF5V3YPOUWAZGAJ2VCQM76Q Alicia

    There are millions of people that Jeffrey Dahmer did not torture, murder, and devour. Logically, he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dramatic show of restraint in only killing and eating 17 people, which when compared to the population of the world in all its billions is a tiny fraction of a percentage point. The idea that he was locked away for something so… insignificant is frankly the is the real tragedy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    “What about all the times I didn’t wear a tutu?  No one ever brings those up.”  – Milhouse

  • Guest-again

    ‘As far as I know #4 is kind of a dead issue, mostly because it came
    down on the side of “we don’t have enough men to do the job – we _have_
    to include women.” At least as far as serving at the altar and
    distributing communion – I don’t remember any talk of women becoming
    Deacons (since that involves ordination, at least for the RCC).’

    I did mention it is was only second hand – and sure, the need for personnel is a problem. As for deacon – you’re right, women are not allowed to be deacons in the Catholic Church – it was a dim memory from more than 30 years ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/teejbuddy Tony Jones

    Here’s the image you need for this post, Fred: http://www.mobypicture.com/user/CoPerryPhoto/view/11996968

  • Tonio

    I would think that excluding women from any job for no other reason than their gender is tantamount to kicking a puppy. Not to compare women to puppies, but to highlight that the exclusion is simple meanness.

  • Kiba

     I remember being shocked back in the 80s attending Mass at a church up in the Poconos that there were girls serving at the alter…

    The 80s? Sheesh, the last Catholic Church I was a member of didn’t get female altar servers until the 90s. I remember that there were quite a few people that were unhappy about that. It took some fast talking on the part resident nun to get the parish priest to agree to it. Once female altar servers were allowed we ended up with a few adult women becoming servers; they said it was something they had always wanted to do as children.  

  • http://lost-erizo.livejournal.com/ LE

    We had female Eucharistic ministers in Philadelphia long before we had girls as altar servers.  I’m not even sure when the transition happened, since I stopped really paying attention (or attending Mass regularly, or living full time in the region) in the early 90s.  I know we had Eucharistic ministers as early as the late 80s because we had a few at my high school.  It was a small, private, all-girls catholic school – to have Mass at school we had to get a priest over from a local monastery.  The priest needed the manpower at communion, there was only one male teacher employed by the school, and he wasn’t a Eucharistic minister or interested in becoming one.  So a few of the nuns and a couple of lay teachers took the required classes.  But there were no acolytes at Mass because the Archdiocese still hadn’t given permission for girls to serve.  I first took notice of the girls on the altar at Christmas 7-8 years ago, but I’m not sure when the policy actually changed.  Apparently the Diocese of Scranton (which includes parts of the Poconos) was more progressive.

  • Ursula L

    There is another issue I’ve noticed with the Catholic hierarchy and the issue of child rape.  I’ve seen some present the problem, not as one of rape, but as primarily a problem of priests violating their vows of chastity.  In other words, they see the true victim as not the raped child, but instead the church who has suffered from the broken vow. 

    This point of view has two consequences. The first is that it lets members of the hierarchy make the problem about them, rather than about the children.  The second problem, flowing from the first, is that if the hierarchy is the wronged party then the hierarchy has the right to forgive and forget.  

    This strikes me as flowing from the same source as the problem of men concern-trolling on feminist discussions – where when women are talking about how to handle the problem of domestic violence from a woman’s perspective, the problem of men abusing their women partners, the men come in and complain that sometimes women abuse men, and so women have no right to complain when men abuse women, and women are being prejudiced when they devote resources to helping abused women instead of focusing on the problems of abused men.  

    Someone who is powerful throwing a tantrum when they see someone less powerful being helped, because everything needs to be all about the powerful person, and resources devoted to helping the weak are wasted.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    As I mentioned in an earlier thread, I suspect that many of the bishops are in a particularly foul mood these days because they witnessed thousands of Penn State students and alumni, morally blinded by the glow of Joe Paterno’s celebrity, taking to the streets in a shameful and callous protest against his firing.  No disgraced bishop or archbishop has yet provoked any similarly shameful and callous and morally blind outpouring of support from the laity, and I think the bishops feel that that’s the way their sheep should respond to the revelation that one of their shepherds has knowingly kept a wolf among his dogs for decades and permitted it to feed as it will, and the subsequent prosecution or suing of said shepherd.

  • FangsFirst

    complain that sometimes women abuse men,

    I think if it were, “But what about the abuser’s parents? Aren’t they going to be sad to find out their son is abusive?” it would be the same kind of ridiculous.

    Actually, still not.

    Parents generally know and have some personal relationship with their children.

    The Pope does not know every priest in the world, nor do all cardinals, bishops, arch-bishops, moving laterally, moving vertically–there are people to whom Father So-and-so is an absolute stranger, and simply removing him from the organization will be unpleasant, but not, in the end a huge deal.

    No physical damage to heal, no nightmares, no PTSD, etc etc. Excommunicated, whatever. Sure, that might suck for the priest in question, but, hm, how do I put this…I don’t give a shit.

    Still–at least the type of concern trolling you refer to is actually still talking about real problems.

    Common abuse to much more uncommon abuse just doesn’t strike me as nearly as bad as “rape” versus “he broke his contract with our organization!” (in the end, isn’t that contract/vow technically with God, even if indirectly, anyway?). Though diversion of resources from an existing problem to a less common one doesn’t make much sense, regardless, of course.

  • Ursula L

    Still–at least the type of concern trolling you refer to is actually still talking about real problems

    Not really.  Because when these concern trolls show up, they aren’t really talking about, or interested in, the actual needs of men who are abused in relationships.  Their interest is in shutting down women’s conversations and efforts to deal with domestic abuse.  They aren’t interested in putting any effort into opening a shelter for abused men, or forming support groups for abused men, or anything useful.

    It’s just about them – women are daring to talk about and address the problems of women, and that’s not acceptable, so they come in and demand that women start paying attention to men again.

    In the same way that portions of the Catholic hierarchy and their supporters come in and demand that people stop talking about raped children, and instead focus on the terrible problem of priests breaking their vows and hurting the institution of the church.  But if they actually deal with the situation of consensual relationships, they aren’t interested in helping the people in the relationship, but in shaming the non-priest partners, driving them away, denying any economic responsibility on the part of them or the priests for any offspring of such relationships, and generally covering it up and ignoring it rather than having anything look bad. 

    “It’s about me, and since it is about me, if I don’t have a problem with the situation, it is no one else’s business.”  

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “sensus fidelium”A quaint idea to be sure, but one that was conceived when the RCC was taking it’s permanent control of Western culture for granted.  And this is an institution that doesn’t consider five hundred years to be all that long and does not surrender it’s grudges over lost power quickly or easily.  They still haven’t really gotten over the Reformation, truth be told, or the Eastern schism for that matter.  Still they can join with Protestant religion-chauvinists against the common threat of modernism:  the specter of a world where, (The Horror!!!) religion in general is given no particular deference at all, and enjoys not even a base level of social leverage through psychological control of people’s naughty bits.  Failing even this, they can still defiantly assert themselves as above secular scrutiny.  They can gather in their cocoons amongst themselves and reassure each other that the unpunished brutalization of children is worth the cost of maintaining the false aura around their priests and bishops.  The old men who have been in these cocoons the longest seem to honestly believe that the church can regain the level of dominance it enjoyed in the eighties.  Simply be strong and yield nothing; take on a mask of umbrage; deny, condemn, dictate. Disgust your parishioners with tales of what the gays are getting away with these days.  Convince them that any criticism of the church is a personal attack upon themselves.  Appeal to the Bill Donahue’s among them who consider their own station above women and brown people to be more important than other people’s children.  And if all this fails, if this posture of righteous petulance accomplishes nothing except to drive more and more followers away in disgust until The Church is as empty a relic as the other European monarchies; well at least they maintained their pride.  At least they faced down the people of the modern world without ever kneeling down in apology like mere equals.  (Raised Catholic) 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The Catholic Church has a history of allowing men to rape boys that goes back to the Middle Ages. Women were considered filthy by the most powerful clergy. Anyone who touched a woman was considered tainted. So it was a lot better to rape the altar boys than to have any kind of sexual relationship with women. That didn’t stop many of the most powerful clergy from raping anyone they felt like raping, whatever the victim’s sex, of course. This was the Middle Ages — consent from the powerless was simply not something the powerful needed to consider. That does not seem to have really changed.

    Women and girls are also victims of direct sexual abuse by the Catholic Church (besides the indirect sexual abuse of trying to deny them contraception and legal, safe abortion). The sexual exploitation of nuns by the church goes back over a thousand years. These crimes are more common outside of western countries — more common where the Catholic Church has more power, and women have less, in other words. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the U.S. One report about the abuse of nuns by priests implicates the Catholic Church of 23 countries, including the United States. See natcath . org/NCR_Online/archives2/2001a/031601/031601a

  • Ken

     

    They still haven’t really gotten over the Reformation, truth be told, or the Eastern schism for that matter.

    Which is historically funny, since they’re on opposite sides of the two issues – having added the filioque to the Nicene Creed centuries before Martin Luther came up with his ideas of much-needed doctrinal and procedural changes.

  • FangsFirst

     

    they aren’t really talking
    about, or interested in, the actual needs of men who are abused in
    relationships.

    Well, crap.

  • Ursula L

    Well, crap.

    Yeah.  See also the latest Republican nonsense, with none of them on the Senate Judiciary committee voting for the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  Because we can’t have any laws that aren’t all about the straight white men.  

  • FangsFirst

    That’s what I get for taking people at their word.
    (Thanks, incidentally, for explaining how it was, indeed, concern-trolling. I was a little confused, and didn’t think you’d suggest legitimate interest in someone’s well-being was trolling, so I didn’t quite get that–I’ve not been involved in such conversations, as it seems that as a straight white men heavily invested emotionally in numerous survivors of abuse, I’d just be emotionally drained to no real productive end, as I don’t imagine I’m a Magical Ass-Kicking White Knight…just another human being.)

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Re: Republicans, we can’t have any laws that aren’t about straight, white, able-bodied, rich men. 

  • fraser

     “when these concern trolls show up, they aren’t really talking about, or
    interested in, the actual needs of men who are abused in relationships.
     Their interest is in shutting down women’s conversations and efforts to
    deal with domestic abuse.  They aren’t interested in putting any effort
    into opening a shelter for abused men, or forming support groups for
    abused men, or anything useful.”
    Likewise, men’s rights activists who argue that the men/women wage differential is explained by men having the hazardous jobs (which is bullshit, as witness stockbrokers make more than miners and firefighters) aren’t actually demanding employers follow mine-safety regulations (for example), only that women should shut the hell up.

  • Dan Audy

    Not really.  Because when these concern trolls show up, they aren’t
    really talking about, or interested in, the actual needs of men who are
    abused in relationships.  Their interest is in shutting down women’s
    conversations and efforts to deal with domestic abuse.  They aren’t
    interested in putting any effort into opening a shelter for abused men,
    or forming support groups for abused men, or anything useful.

    As a guy who has gotten into this kind of argument on feminist blogs I rather resent that all such discussion is being termed concern trolling.  I recognise that it isn’t the place to discuss it because there is no willingness on the other parties to engage in honest dialogue and thus it can only distract and derail but I feel that the blame for this lies equally on the feminists who don’t want to engage as the person who is bringing up a related but not entirely on-topic point.  Ultimately however as somebody who is trying to expand domestic violence and abuse supports to men it is extremely unfortunate because very often feminists place themselves as our enemy.  They oppose un-gendering support options because the female victims might be frightened by having male victims around and because it would require additional training to teach workers how to address the differences in how male abuse differs and how society has conditioned different responses.  Most horribly is the prevalent attitude from feminists that men don’t need abuse resources because they could just leave without realising exactly how often the exact same argument is used by ignorant idiots to victim blame abused women.

    For years we’ve been trying to establish temporary housing for abused men in the vein of women’s shelters since this is one situation that for obvious reasons simply degendering service would be unadvisable.  The fiercist opposition we received for this was not from the ignorant people who don’t believe men can be abused but from feminists in the supports for domestic abuse community who ought to know better.  Because, unfortunately, funding is often a zero-sum game they wanted men to have no supports rather than risk slightly reducing the supports available to women.  In the end we did succeed in recently opening temporary housing for abused men but in order to do so we had to get it funded as a ‘homelessness reduction’ program rather than a ‘domestic abuse’ program which it should properly be because of opposition by people claiming to be feminists without actually understanding what that means.

  • Mackrimin

    Why I’m listening to the laity, not to the U.S. Catholic bishops

    Because you’re a protestant, not Catholic, and as such are prone to see matters of doctrine as being up to your own judgement rather than that of the Pope?

    Which is fine, but is not compatible with the Catholic faith, which means believing whatever the Pope says you should believe. All of your rationales for people to stop listening to Catholic bishops are really rationales for leaving the Catholic faith. Which, again, is fine, but you should stop pretending you’re preaching for people to be some kind of non-catholic Catholics rather than becoming honestly (as in, not deceiving themselves about what they believe and what that implies) protestants.

  • Madhabmatics

    It’s amazing how MRA’s want to turn any discussion of women’s issues into a big “but WHAT ABOUT THE MEN?” -fest. If it’s not about their penis they don’t want it talked about, period.

  • Mackrimin

    In the end we did succeed in recently opening temporary housing for
    abused men but in order to do so we had to get it funded as a
    ‘homelessness reduction’ program rather than a ‘domestic abuse’ program
    which it should properly be because of opposition by people claiming to
    be feminists without actually understanding what that means.

    They know perfectly well what it means, it’s you who doesn’t. Why on Earth would you think that feminists would support building shelters for battered men? As far as they are concerned, men being battered is at best value neutral and at worst a desirable goal.

    Feminism is about advancing the position of women; everyone else can go to Hell.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Screw you.

    I could say more, but in the end, you wouldn’t listen anyway, and I would have wasted my time for nothing. So…

    Screw you. Go jump.

  • Anonymous

    Why on Earth would you think that feminists would support building
    shelters for battered men? As far as they are concerned, men being
    battered is at best value neutral and at worst a desirable goal.

    Feminism is about advancing the position of women; everyone else can go to Hell.

    What the fuck.

    No, seriously, what the FUCK.

    I am an actualfax feminist. Every actualfax feminist I know would tell you that that is a straw feminist, and a mortal insult to boot.

    Dan Audy’s got a point. I cannot in good conscience support men’s anything if it takes away from female and/or child victims of domestic abuse, and that trumps the (very real, but much smaller) need for help for adult male victims of domestic abuse. I am sorry that it is that way, but tell you what: if X is the number of adult female victims of domestic abuse and Y is the number of adult male victims of same, help me reduce X to equal or lesser than Y and I’ll then be delighted to help reduce Y. Meanwhile, X is much larger than Y, so given a choice between reducing X and reducing Y, I have to choose reducing X. I can’t not.

    THAT DOES NOT MEAN I CONDONE VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN.

    You have personally insulted me and a great many of my friends, Mackrimin, and I demand an apology.

  • Dan Audy

    Not shockingly, I disagree with your approach and that is fine since not everybody has to have the same priorities.  I do, however, really genuinely appreciate that you didn’t downplay or dismiss the reality of male victims of abuse even while (correctly) identifying it as being a smaller demographic.

    Right now the male victims of abuse are so underserved that even minimal investment in ensuring that counselling and temporary housing services that are available to women would also to be available to men would result in a large number of persons* who are out of domestic violence situations per dollar spent.  Once the basic infrastructure for men is in place I am completely with you on that the focus overall should trend towards women as there are a larger number of them in abusive situations.  In the short term it would result in slightly fewer female victims getting help in exchange for a large number of male victims but I think in the longer term it might actually help reduce female victims too.  The reason I say this is because male victims of abuse turn around and escalate abuse against their partners** with tragic frequency and by presenting more resources for them to get out before that point we can hopefully prevent their partners from also being victims of abuse.

    *A lot of children would be helped by services for male victims of abuse too.  Just like with female victims of abuse, male victims cite fear for the children’s safety (particularly with the unlikelyhood of them being able to retain custody due to the courts extreme mother favouritism) as reasons for staying in abusive relationships.

    **Not that this justifies or excuses the violence they inflict on their partner.  Nor is it victim blaming by saying that women brought it on themselves by being abusive in the first place as nothing justifies abuse.  Merely that psychology has clearly shown abuse begets abuse and that in a modest number of cases both partners are abusing each other.  Personally I find dealing with abused abusers to be the most challenging aspect of domestic violence work that I’ve encountered because of the simulatenous desire to offer understanding and support along with equally desiring to condemn and shame.  As with most things I suppose “It is more complicated than that”.

  • Dan Audy

     

    They know perfectly well what it means, it’s you who doesn’t. Why on
    Earth would you think that feminists would support building shelters for
    battered men? As far as they are concerned, men being battered is at
    best value neutral and at worst a desirable goal.

    Feminism is about advancing the position of women; everyone else can go to Hell.

    Despite my frequent disagreements with feminists I don’t believe that feminism is about solely advancing the position of women.  Certainly there are some feminists who take that approach but they are wrong to do so and just like every other shortsighted group they will eventually die off and stop troubling us.  Most feminists however are genuinely concerned with equality and work towards that point.  The fact that women in our society are so far behind in many ways to start with is why their focus in exclusively on women at the moment.  I think that their approach is often not optimal but reshaping society to be just and equitable and stop the harm that the patriarchy causes to both men and women is a pretty complicated task and they have different experiences and focuses that lead them to take different approaches.

    Such a negative and dishonest attitude isn’t going to get you far around these parts.  If you want to whine about how those ‘Feminist bitches just care about women’ I’d suggest sauntering over to the cesspool that is Men’s Rights Activists* and you’ll fit right in.  Or as Deird said more concisely ‘Screw you’.

    *I hate the fact that while I agree with some of the broad concepts behind MRA their sexism and general horribleness has poisoned the well regarding so many vital topics that even broaching them gets you painted as a MRA bigot.

  • Anonymous

    What makes me roll my eyes is that *this* is the issue that the bishops make a huge stink over.  Not the Iraq War, not the death penalty, not growing inequality, not global warming.  No, it’s people’s sex lives, most especially women’s sex lives, that merits expending their political capital.  That list of other subjects the pope has publicly spoken out against somehow never seems as urgent.

    Now there is something to the attitude of ‘take it or leave it’ when it comes to accepting doctrine.  That certainly lead me to decide not to seek confirmation and leave the church (why?  guess.).  OTOH, when someone has authority they have the responsibility to use that power wisely.  Having a solid majority of lay people in disagreement I think is a sign that wisdom is not being used, especially when it’s in an area in which the clergy don’t have any direct life experience.

  • Anonymous

    Why on Earth would you think that feminists would support building shelters for battered men? As far as they are concerned, men being battered is at best value neutral and at worst a desirable goal.

    Feminism is about advancing the position of women; everyone else can go to Hell.
    What the fuck is wrong with you?

    Is there any group that you’re not a member of that you don’t consider yourself far more knowledgeable about than the people who actually belong to that group?

  • Brandi

    The only thing sadder than seeing a troll shit all over a comments thread is watching some of our regulars run over and dive into the shit like they were Augustus Gloop flinging themselves into that river of chocolate.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    What an insightful comment! Thank you. I would have been a lesser person had I never heard it.

  • Tonio

    Because, unfortunately, funding is often a zero-sum game they wanted men to have no supports rather than risk slightly reducing the supports available to women. 

    Perhaps they were afraid that ALL the funds would be shunted to the men’s shelters. Not an unreasonable fear in this political climate.

  • Lyra

    In my town, we don’t have a shelter for abused men because there aren’t enough men to make building one viable. However, the women’s domestic violence shelter does pay a local hotel to house abused men. Or at least then did when I worked there.

  • http://twitter.com/Rhysdux Rhysdux

    To get back to the issue of the Catholic hierarchy and sexual abuse, part of the problem that the laity has is that reporting the abuse to those in charge seems utterly futile. I know that sometimes–very rarely, it seems to me–priests and teachers at religious institutions get arrested…but nothing ever really seems to happen, does it? They get tried and get fined or released on bond or released on their own recognizance. At the worst, they lose their jobs. And then they get reassigned somewhere else and the crap starts all over again. It’s just an endless cycle of deliberately perpetuated misery. Because it’s much more important to cover up shit like this than to admit that sexually molesting children and teenagers–be they girls or boys–is wrong.

    Unfortunately, when I was sixteen, I ran into the four most evil bastards that I have ever met, before or since. And I give you fair warning, because this is going to be long.The high school that I transferred to when the first one closed featured four sons of trustees. These boys routinely robbed, assaulted, raped and tortured their schoolmates. They got away with it because–in the words of the vice-principal when I reported the gang-rape of the only girl who had bothered to befriend me–”their fathers just donated a new gymnasium. We can’t do anything to their sons!”Their fathers, by the way, were no better. The Chief Trustee loved “helping” students from underprivileged and/or fatherless families–often kids with zero self-esteem who were all too aware that their future was a lifetime sentence  at McDonald’s. They didn’t have the money for college and didn’t qualify for any scholarships, and, back then, student loans were less something that everyone applied for and more a debt that was hard to apply for and even harder to pay off. The Chief Trustee would help these kids (generally young-looking fourteen-year-olds and fifteen-year-olds–the sex didn’t matter), introducing them to friends who would help them get jobs and scholarships. And, when the kids were well and truly hooked and feeling like there was some hope in the world, the C.T. would invite them to a party at his country club.I heard all this from a friend of mine–call him Jerry–who was one of the C.T.’s victims. He also told me what happened next. Something got slipped into his Coke and when he woke up, he was naked and so was the C. T.  Even then, though, he said that he could have convinced himself that he’d just thrown up all over himself and the C.T. and had woken up at a really awkward time; it wouldn’t have been probable, but he still would have chosen to believe it.But the C. T. was holding insta-developed Polaroids. Jerry looked sick when he described those pictures. According to him, he’d been posed in bed with…well, everything. Men. Women. A girl of twelve or so.  Even a German Shepherd. He said those pictures were standard for the students that the C.T. “helped”; anyone who refused to “willingly” have sex with him until he lost interest would have those pictures posted on the school bulletin board for an hour or so, and copies of the pictures would be sent to parents, employers, college recruiters, etc. He was not being melodramatic, either, for in my senior year, one freshman boy refused to comply with the C.T.’s wishes. The photos–and I saw them– IMMEDIATELY went up on the school bulletin board. (Small wonder, since the photographer of the blackmail photos was, in every case, the C.T.’s son. It was easy for him to get the pictures in and out of the school, after all. So he not only knew what his father was doing to his own classmates–he was HELPING the man. Tell me that’s not messed up.)The school administration? They refused to come out of their offices and even look at the board. That would have meant admitting that the pictures were real, and that something was very wrong.As for Jerry, he ended up going along with the prostitution–that’s what he called it–because he was terrified of what his homophobic father would do to him if he ever saw the photos. It didn’t help that Jerry’s father revered power and money in an almost idolatrous way or that he identified things like “being intelligent” and “doing well in school” as homosexual traits that needed to be beaten out of his son with a belt.I saw Jerry’s bare back once. It was a maze of keloid scars. He looked like he had giant earthworms crawling all over his back.Jerry had no way of backing out. If the C.T. or his friends wanted to use Jerry, they did. Who was going to stop them? The cops? No one dared call them. Half the cops in town were related to the Chief Trustee.As bad as it was for Jerry, though, he didn’t break. Some kids broke. I remember one girl–I think she was a freshman, but she looked like Alice in Wonderland at thirteen–who was one of the C.T.’s favorites for a while. I don’t know what he did to her,  but I remember her staggering into school one day, her eyes full of screams. One of her friends said that she wanted out but that the C.T. wouldn’t permit it.She killed herself. Vodka and Valium cocktail, her friend told me. I am certain that the school’s administration knew what was happening; they were too resolutely incurious about things that should have raised serious questions. Like the sons of the trustees boasting about their crimes. Like the fact that everyone was afraid to be in the same room with one of the boys, the one who looked like a Botticelli cherub. Alan had a taste for torture; in fact, the only times I ever saw him smile were when he was hurting someone else or trying to hurt me. The things that he could do with a pencil or a compass…well, let’s just say that he tended to go for vulnerable areas. Like eyes. He never blinded anyone, but he came within about a half-inch of doing so on at least three occasions.One of them–the stupidest one–held my environmental science class hostage one Monday. That day, he’d gotten a zero on a test he’d taken the previous Friday. I don’t consider that an excuse, as he’d brought his father’s revolver and a handful of bullets into school that day–BEFORE he got the test back. And he half-loaded the gun, removed the safety, spun the barrel and then started playing Russian roulette. Oh, not for his own life. No. He spun the barrel, pressed the muzzle of the gun against the base of the skull of each kid who routinely outshone him in class…and then pulled the trigger. I was one of the kids he did this to.Even after the class president and one of the basketball stars jumped him, got the gun away from him and, accompanied by the teacher, frog-marched him down to the office, nothing changed. He was suspended for a while–I forget whether it was for six or eight weeks–and then came back two weeks early because his parents requested it. According to one of the kids who worked in the admin offices, she heard the parents tell the principal that he was “bored at home.” And the principal didn’t tell the parents that this was too bad, but the suspension stood. No. She asked them to come into her office. A half hour later, the hostage-taker had permission to return to school early.I should add that this never made the news; the administration didn’t want any bad publicity. For the same reason, none of us who went through this got any counseling and no metal detectors were installed at the front doors. It was 1980. No one took classes hostage. This had to be a one-off. For the record, he smuggled that gun into school twice after that. His classmates caught him both times because he was so happy. He was not normally a cheery kid. The third time, somebody–I don’t know who–confiscated the gun and “lost” it, so that it would stop being a threat. I served two years in that school. That’s how I think of it–as serving a prison sentence. I do not remember one moment when I felt free of fear, when I was not on edge and gauging if these four were lurking around a corner or near the lockers, or if their father was waiting for one of his victims out by the front steps.I would not do good to those four or to the Chief Trustee if you gave me a million dollars. And I could USE a million dollars. I think that if I tried, I’d vomit up my own intestines. And I still cannot forgive the school and its administration for refusing to do fuck-all. To this day, I throw away anything that comes from that school; I can’t look at the school crest without feeling sick. I can’t even go to library book sales because they’re invariably held  at an address near the school–and I can’t even pass that street in public transportation without suffering an panic attack.So when the Catholic bishops start whining about how not that many kids have been hurt and the laity just doesn’t understand all the issues…I hear the voices of the Gang of Four. I see the oleaginous smile of the Chief Trustee, beckoning to yet another prospective victim. I wonder how many kids that priests and bishops and archbishops raped were damaged or traumatized beyond any hope of healing, or died of disease, or killed themselves. And I hear the same message from the Church hierarchy that I did from the administration: “God may care about you, but we don’t.”That’s how the Church hierarchy has been making me feel ever since the sex scandals broke and it became obvious that the people in charge didn’t care.  I cannot regard anyone who puts power and self ahead of the weak, the vulnerable, the wounded and the helpless as speaking for anything approaching a decent, compassionate, loving god.  ( And I do know believers who are genuinely good people that I would trust to speak for their deities. They are all laypeople, by the way.)

  • Ursula L

    Perhaps they were afraid that ALL the funds would be shunted to the men’s shelters. Not an unreasonable fear in this political climate.

    A particularly apt point, given that the bishops are pushing to force women to pay the same as men for insurance that will cover all of a man’s health care needs but only a portion of a woman’s health care needs.  Which essentially means that women will be subsidizing men’s health care.  Prejudice and bias have direct financial costs.  

    Plus, activism on issues of women being abused in relationships is already a full time job for many women.  Having men come into the conversation and insist that it’s the job of these activists to also address men’s needs is a pretty big demand of time and energy.  Or insisting that the women stop and explain to the men how to fix their problems, or otherwise implying an obligation.  

    It’s the same problem as when white people suggest that black people who are dealing with racism ought to “educate” the racist  whites, rather than focusing on taking care of themselves when dealing with the difficulties of prejudice.  Or plans to deal with bullying that focus on trying to fix the victims, rather than stopping the bullies.  

    Dealing with certain types of problems is already enough work, without having others coming in and telling you that you need to spend your energy in ways other than directly addressing the problem that you’re confronting.

  • Guest-again

     An oblique admission of age – I remember that such domestic abuse shelters were for battered spouses, back when they were first being set up. Notice the lack of male or female reference in those terms?

    There was a time, back in the dim days of the 1970s, when some of us seemingly held so many illusions  compared to today’s brutal realities, that there existed a belief that reducing the artificial differences encoded in language would be a way to reduce the very real power differences in society as relating to men and women.

    In part, by recognizing that most of those differences are socially constructed. Though the ongoing stream of ‘science’ that argues those social constructs are based on nature is just another attempt to drown out the simple truth we are people first. For example, the seriously proposed idea women that naturally evolved to revel in pink.

    Which just happens to be a color first identified with women in American society back at the turn of the century – part of a fascinating story here -
    ‘”It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality-you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached-became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says.
    The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I-and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.
    For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.
     http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html
    And to get out of the distasteful realm of ‘science’ being used to justify a fairly recent market ‘innovation’ intended to increase the distinction between male and female at an age where the difference is generally unimportant (a commonplace banality a century ago), this is why some people felt that reducing distinctions would be a step forward – parenting is something parents do, a task which can be shared and extended to anyone involved in taking daily care of a child, related to that child or not (again, not a single gender reference is necessary to explain that concept – nor is there any need).  
    So, of course, the last couple of decades seems to have involved enhancing the distinctions, instead of seeing the commonalities. As a man, I know how to wash sheets with blood on them (get the stained area wet with cold water as soon as practical, then wash in cold water as soon as practical – pretty simple, with 3 decades of experience backing it), because as a person, I do laundry. Laundry being another one of those basic tasks that is a job for people to do. Except most advertising doesn’t portray it that way, does it? Using language that reduces artificial distinctions – domestic abuse victim sounds not only accurate, but also deals well with the problems that will arise with same sex marriage terminology, covers cohabiting, or even a future where plural or group marriage is recognized. And it would make such stupid statements as previously posted absurd in terms of vocabulary.

    Generally, the people who insist on such distinctions as being deeply important (‘I’m a mother/father, not a parent’) are the same people ensuring that those distinctions will remain anchored in society for another generation, without recognizing that all three terms are just ways to express something that need have little to do with being male or female. It just has to do with being human, which is something we all share – try as hard as some people do to deny that simple truth (why yes, that does include racists – it wouldn’t take much to change the above to point up their delusions and nasty attempts to use language to spread their patently false ideas). 


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