Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune offers analysis and commentary on issues that concern the work of FaithTrust Institute.
A 14 year old child goes to her priest and tells him that an adult parishioner has been initiating sexual contact with her. She asks the priest what she should do. “The child testified during deposition that [the priest’s] advice to her was to handle the issue herself because ‘too many people would be hurt.’ Court documents also say she testified, ‘He just said, this is your problem. Sweep it under the floor.’"
I realize it may be a waste of time to even comment on your uninformed “advice” which you continue to dole out without reservation. But some days I just can’t let it go without comment because there are still people out there who listen to you. Your latest opinion offers an opportunity to clarify once again how a faith leader or friend can help a battered woman, and how an uninformed response risks perpetuating a violent, dangerous situation.
The 200 plus girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria are not home yet. Despite efforts by Nigerian military, U.S. military, and the United Nations, the girls have not yet been rescued from the terrorists.
I had trouble keeping up this past week. We saw a barrage of commentary in response to a troubling Op-Ed published in the Washington Post on Wednesday. In an apparent homage to Fathers’ Day, W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson offered their opinions under the title: “One Way to End Violence Against Women? Married Dads.” The critical response and push back to the article have been almost instantaneous. That’s the good news.
In the wake of the Santa Barbara murders, I had been waiting to hear men’s voices respond. Actually I had been waiting for reasoned, thoughtful men’s voices. This is my favorite so far: Arthur Chu’s piece in The Daily Beast, “Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds."
Is “misogyny” [the hatred of women] listed in the DSM V? Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage last week in Santa Barbara was horrific. Seven dead and thirteen injured. But his YouTube message and Manifesto served to multiply the horror. Scary as it is, he did leave us with insight into the mind of a young man who hated women.
Perhaps this is all we can do now. The story of the kidnapping of hundreds of Christian and Muslim school girls in Nigeria by the extremist group Boko Haram has outraged the entire world. And the misuse of Islam by Boko Haram leaders to justify their actions, claiming they are being directed by Allah, only magnifies the outrage. Boko Haram using the name of Islam in this way is like the Ku Klux Klan or Fred Phelps using Christianity to propel their actions of hate and violence.
Dear Pope Francis: I want to commend you for owning the painful fact of sexual abuse of children by priests as part of your Good Friday comments. Lent is surely the season for such a public acknowledgement. You named the reality of the abuse; you asserted the necessity of stringent sanctions; you acknowledged the profound vulnerability of children. All of this suggests that you are serious about acting to rectify the harm that has been done, to bring justice where there has been injustice, and to bring healing where brokenness remains.
Orthodox Jews can divorce but, under Jewish law, the husband controls the document known as a “get” which finalizes the divorce. If he refuses to give his wife a get, she cannot remarry under Jewish law. In a recent case, Meir Kin, who divorced his wife seven years ago under California civil law but still refuses to give her the get, has remarried. Many familiar with this case consider Mr. Kin a bigamist. Having multiple wives is forbidden under Jewish law. But refusing to give a wife a get is allowed. The wife becomes an agunah, “a chained wife.” Mr. Kin divorced his wife but then refused to give her a get. There is no reason to do this except to continue to control one’s ex-wife and make her life miserable.
Dear Pope Francis: Did you really say this in a recent interview? In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Francis acknowledged the “profound” wounds abuse leaves, but then added: “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked.”
It is an interesting juxtaposition. Ash Wednesday, March 5 this year, began the period of Lent in the Christian calendar, a time of fasting and reflection, which precedes Easter. It is not a major religious holiday but it is customary to observe Ash Wednesday by receiving ashes wiped on one’s forehead or hand as a sign of our finitude.
Last week, I wrote about my love for football despite the many contradictions inherent in the world of professional sports. This week, I want to draw your attention to Dale Hansen, sportscaster in Dallas, Texas, who confronts these contradictions head on as he calls out cases of violence against women committed by some NFL players. Not to mention he quotes poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde.
I love football. And I especially love football this week as my hometown Seattle Seahawks have brought home the Super Bowl trophy. (I also love baseball but that’s another season.) I have come to appreciate the elegance of the game itself, so many moving parts coming together to accomplish a goal, so many stories of kids who have made it through some hard knocks into manhood and learned the value of hard work, focus and what teamwork really means. I love the 12th Man and Woman which is what we call the fans here in Seattle, people from all over the region who are committed to this team and who undoubtedly contribute to its success on the field. I love Coach Carroll whose philosophy of positive reinforcement and working with players who are still works in progress has paid off big time. Other people in leadership might take note.
I was encouraged in early December by your announcement that you are convening a Vatican Commission on Child Sexual Abuse to help you address the needs of victims and the structural changes that must take place in order to avoid repeating the past. This seemed like an appropriate Advent effort coinciding with the new church year and the nativity of Jesus. While this planned Vatican Commission falls somewhat short of the call by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired Bishop from Sydney, Australia, for a Vatican Council to address the child abuse tragedy (For Christ’s Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church...for Good), it is a step in the right direction.
In the aftermath of the death of Nelson Mandela, many speeches and articles have celebrated his generous heart and forgiving spirit. In fact the media has consistently framed Mandela as a kindly, forgiving grandfather as he neared the end of his life. But this snapshot betrays a lack of appreciation for who Mandela was and for what we can learn from him about forgiveness.
In the forest, when an old tree comes to the end of its life, a strong wind may topple it. As it lies on the ground, slowly releasing its life energy, it becomes something new. It becomes a nurse tree. Seeds from other trees land on it; moss grows; new trees begin to take root. If you walk through old growth forests, you will see many large trees growing with their roots firmly attached to a fallen nurse tree. And so the cycle continues. A very large, old, stately tree has fallen in South Africa. The seeds of the next generation are already drawing nourishment from his life energy.
A disagreement emerged between the houses of Shammai and Hillel regarding how to light the Hanukkah Menorah. Beit Shammai maintained that one should light eight lights on the first night of the holiday and progressively reduce them throughout the week. Beit Hillel (whose custom Jews follow today) required the kindling of one light on the first night of the holiday and the augmentation of the overall light by adding an additional flame on each successive evening.
Dear New Pope: I thought I would give you a few months to settle in before I wrote to you. I have carried on a (one way) correspondence with your predecessors so I thought I should continue the tradition and be in touch with you. I want to commend you for what appears to be your actual concern for the people of God whom you lead. I also want to commend you for reaching out to your people and inquiring of their experiences and opinions about urgent issues in their lives, particularly about their experiences in families. The information which you gather will be critical to your discernment of the path ahead for your church.
You may have noticed that the Blog has been quiet for the past few weeks. That is because I just returned from a trip to Australia where I was the guest of Safe Church Ministries. I did training for them in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. I also keynoted their conference in Sydney, “Safe As Churches?” My first visit to Australia was around 15 years ago when I worked with Uniting Church leaders and others to begin to address clergy misconduct and abuse issues. Then 5 years later, I spoke at a national ecumenical conference during which I began to see the early efforts across denominations to put policy and procedures in place to address complaints of clergy misconduct.
The tragedy of the killing of Trayvon Martin could have been averted if George Zimmerman had walked away after alerting the police to someone he thought was “suspicious.” But he chose to pursue Martin, got into a fight, had a gun and used it. Martin is dead and now Zimmerman walks away with impunity. I cannot see how an unarmed teenager was a threat to Zimmerman’s life; scary, maybe but not life-threatening. In the aftermath of the Martin killing and Zimmerman acquittal, the media and activists have focused on the Florida case of Marissa Alexander.