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Marie Fortune's Blogs

Spotlight: Diving Deep & Surfacing

Spotlight: Diving Deep & Surfacing

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Spotlight is the name of the team of Boston Globe reporters who investigated the Archdiocese of Boston in 2001 when the puzzle pieces began to fall into place surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests. Their reporting yielded a Pulitzer Prize and finally blew the lid off the long-standing conspiracy of silence surrounding the protection of priest pedophiles in the Catholic Church. Spotlight, the film, is indeed a cautionary tale for us all. While non-Catholics might be tempted to walk away from the theater with just a tinge of self-righteousness, assuming that this is a Catholic problem, don't give into that temptation. And let us not spend time arguing (as some commentators have) over whether "the problem" is greater or lesser in our faith community. Neither will serve us well.

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What Would Jeremiah Say?

What Would Jeremiah Say?

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The recent film Spotlight highlights the investigation by The Boston Globe into the coverup of child sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. Using the lens of investigative journalism, it takes us as viewers/bystanders through the years of complicity by the legal system, The Globe, and the Catholic Church— as well as the active efforts by the Church to hide the abuse and protect the pedophile priests at the expense of the laity. The sexual abuse of children by faith leaders is no longer “news”. Sadly enough, it is too common to be “news”. But what is informative and important about Spotlight for those of us who are bystanders to these atrocities is the laying out of the institutional practices that have allowed this suffering to go on for decades. In November, 2015, the National Center for Victims of Crime called for a national commission on child sexual abuse to investigate institutional settings where children are particularly vulnerable and where we know there has been a history of child sexual abuse.

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When It's 'Our Turn'?

When It's 'Our Turn'?

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I have spoken with hundreds of victims, survivors and perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence over the forty years of my ministry. Teenagers, adults abused as children, young and old adults abused by a spouse, assaulted by a co-worker, a pastor, an acquaintance, or a stranger. What I had not yet realized was how many of my senior peers are now facing the abuse of their adult daughters and sons by a spouse or partner.

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Dear BYU: Rape is Not Pre-Marital Sex

Dear BYU: Rape is Not Pre-Marital Sex

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Madi Barney, a student at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, reported being raped off campus to the Provo, Utah, police. She did not report it to the university and did not want them to know. But a police officer shared the report with the university and they have gone after her for violating the “Honor Code” of the university. The Code prohibits students from inviting members of the opposite sex into their rooms, mandates chastity and modest dress and no drugs or alcohol. Barney has been told that she cannot register for future classes at the school.

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Dear Pope: Do You Shake Your Head and Wonder?

Dear Pope: Do You Shake Your Head and Wonder?

I am sure that there must be some nights that you can’t sleep because you are carrying a load heavier than most of us can even imagine. But I can only assume that some nights are especially hard. A few months ago, Monsignor Tony Anatrella told new Bishops that they did not have a duty to report allegations of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. Not only did this instruction contradict your current policy of requiring reporting, but your Commission for the Protection of Minors was not even involved in the training. As soon as it hit the news, Cardinal O'Malley, who chairs your Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors, came out asserting strongly that Bishops have a moral obligation to report disclosures of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. It will not be a surprise to you that Cardinal O'Malley’s position is one that I strongly support for all clergy in all faith communities. And then there’s Cardinal Pell, who is now one of your closest advisors at the Vatican.

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Ramadan For All: We Are In This Together

Ramadan For All: We Are In This Together

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Ramadan is almost here. It begins on June 6. This holy month is a time for Muslims to fast during the daylight, focus on prayer, generosity, compassion, and family. It is a special time set aside from normal daily life. Meditation, prayer and reflection take a central role in the day, while the fasting focuses the mind (and the body) on a personal sacrifice for faith. It is a beautiful holiday. You have certainly heard the hate-filled rhetoric that permeates our airwaves these days. It began on September 11, 2001 and has waxed and waned ever since. Now it has reached the presidential campaigns. We have a candidate who is inflaming hate and violence against Muslims and threatening to prevent all Muslims from entering the U.S. Of course, the U.S. is not alone in this. The response in Europe is just as shameful, with many countries struggling with the challenges of thousands of refugees leaving the war-torn Middle East.

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Why Do They Hate Us? On the Orlando Tragedy

Why Do They Hate Us? On the Orlando Tragedy

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Hate is by definition not a reasonable, rational thing. Yet it is a powerful motivator that causes untold suffering for so many people who are regarded as “other,” as marginal. In the case of the Orlando massacre at a gay bar, the hatred is about homophobia. Make no mistake: laws that seek to intentionally perpetuate discriminate against LGBT people, churches that continue to deny us acceptance as full members, individuals who deny us services in public commerce and defend their right to do so with religious arguments— all of these contribute to a culture in this country that accepts discrimination and homophobia against us and opens the door to individual acts of hatred and violence.

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Sometimes We See Justice Made

Sometimes We See Justice Made

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When national Protestant denominations meet, there is a lot of necessary but mundane business that goes on. But sometimes something very important occurs and it should be noted. This summer, I've received updates from two denominations that are explicitly addressing abuse by clergy at their national gatherings: The Presbyterian Church USA and the Unitarian Universalists.

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Good News is Always Welcome

Good News is Always Welcome

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I’m probably not alone in feeling the need for some good news, so I'm happy to share this: In a welcome development, three groups of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis have issued a proclamation addressing child sexual abuse. Over 300 rabbis from the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America and Yeshiva University have signed the proclamation which outlines in detail their response to the suicides of members of the Orthodox community who were victims of child sexual abuse.

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Be The Church

Be The Church

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I recently preached at my home church on the issue of justice for survivors of sexual or domestic violence. During my sermon, a member of the congregation got up and left. Obviously I didn’t know why. I called and emailed the next day just to check in. Her first response was that the sermon triggered some very old memories and she just needed to leave. But the next day, she emailed and said that really what happened was that “you are the first person I have ever heard exhibit understanding and compassion for people who have had these experiences.”

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Good News for New Year 5777

Good News for New Year 5777

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As I wish blessings in the New Year to Jewish friends and colleagues, there is also good news to celebrate. There is finally a solution to the problem of the get in Modern Orthodox Judaism. For centuries, women have suffered because a husband in a divorce refused to give the get, the agreement to divorce, to his wife. Orthodox Jewish wives, committed to Jewish law, could find themselves bound to a spouse for life which meant that they could not remarry. Many Jewish battered women have suffered from get refusal on the part of an abuser and even rabbinic tribunals have been powerless to force a husband to give a get. Now there is an answer: a halakhic prenup.

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Rape Culture: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

Rape Culture: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

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This is what Rape Culture looks like—Donald Trump’s “locker room” chat that was recorded and is now before us. I am not as offended by the lewdness of his comments as I am by his aggression and his assumption of entitlement to women...

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Living in Parched Places

Living in Parched Places

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I live in a parched place. In east Tennessee, it has only rained 3 times in the last 4 months. This relentless heat and drought are palpable every day. So also on this political landscape: the heat of hateful rhetoric and the drought of substantive discussion of the serious issues. Facing the weeks ahead, I turn to Jeremiah 17.

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Hope in a Time of Darkness

Hope in a Time of Darkness

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Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can. These words are often attributed to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, although there is some dispute about their authorship. They may have been penned by a woman, unnamed of course. It appears they were frequently revised. But our ancestors offered them to us to ponder so ponder them we shall.

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We Showed Up

We Showed Up

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Women learn at an early age to live with fear of violence—at home, at school, in the workplace, on the street. This awareness is something we all share even though our ways of coping with it may differ.

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Has Nothing Changed?

Has Nothing Changed?

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As Sexual Assault Awareness and Action Month draws to a close, we might pause to consider where we are. Thirty years ago, Catherine MacKinnon said, “The fact is, anything that anybody with power experiences as sex is considered ipso facto not violence, [i.e. not wrong] because someone who matters enjoyed it.”

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When Child Rape Leads to Marriage

When Child Rape Leads to Marriage

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“When she was a scrawny 11-year-old, Sherry Johnson found out one day that she was about to be married to a 20-year-old member of her church who had raped her. ‘It was forced on me,’she recalls. She had become pregnant, she says, and child welfare authorities were investigating — so her family and church officials decided the simplest way to avoid a messy criminal case was to organize a wedding.” -Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Not in Afghanistan or Sudan or the Philippines. In Florida. In the 21st century. In the church or at least a church. A child is raped, becomes pregnant as a result, and the “solution” to this problem is to force her to marry her rapist. How can a church even begin to affirm and bless this kind of “marriage”? I wonder if the rapist also paid the child’s father 50 shekels of silver (see Deuteronomy 22:28)?

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Order More Millstones...

Order More Millstones...

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Brentwood Academy is an elite, non-denominational Christian, college prep school in a Nashville suburb. A civil lawsuit has been filed by a mother on behalf of her teen-aged son who was a sixth grade student at Brentwood in 2014-15. The suit alleges that the sixth grader was bullied and raped repeatedly by an 8th grade student in the locker room while other boys held him down and watched. The suit further alleges that the school knew and did not report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services as required by law.

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Twenty-First Century Truth-Telling and the Reformation

Twenty-First Century Truth-Telling and the Reformation

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This week is highlighted in many quarters by a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses which challenged the Roman Catholic Church. Mostly Luther denounced the corruption he saw in the church and the selling of indulgences, described by some as “get out of purgatory free cards.” But historically there is no argument that his protests in medieval German shifted the axis of The Church and signaled the split in Christianity that later became Protestantism.

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That Was Then; This Is Now {Part 1}

That Was Then; This Is Now {Part 1}

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No. This excuse for sexual harassment, abuse, and assault simply won’t fly, although it is being used on a number of fronts by powerful men who have finally been called out on their “misbehaviors” from the ‘70’s until today. The list of abusive men grows longer each day. Literally. I can’t keep up. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, et al. From Hollywood producers, actors, and directors, to politicians, to popular journalists and editors, to respected professors, to John Howard Yoder, the prominent 20thcentury Mennonite theologian, this generation of powerful men seem to take the “back in the day” approach: it was okay then, so why isn’t it still okay to sexually harass, abuse, and assault?

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No More "Me, Too's" {Part 2}

No More "Me, Too's" {Part 2}

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At the recent Golden Globe Awards, the Cecile B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement was received by Oprah Winfrey. In her response, Oprah “preached.” And I mean she really preached! In her remarks, she called forth Recy Taylor, a young wife and mother on her way home from church who was kidnapped in 1944 in Alabama by 6 white men. Taylor was gang raped and left by the side of the road. She reported to the police who, even in the face of confessions from several of the men, never indicted anyone. She went to the NAACP for help and her case was assigned to an advocate, Rosa Parks. The NAACP proceeded to organize a national campaign in support of Mrs. Taylor to no avail.

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How Long? A Psalm of Lament

How Long? A Psalm of Lament

How long, O God? How long must we wait? How long must we wait for a sweet cool drink of justice?

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Kings, Queens, and #MeToo: A Sermon for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Kings, Queens, and #MeToo: A Sermon for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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How many of you remember learning about Bathsheba in Sunday School or Bible class? Well, what I remember about Bathsheba was that she had tempted King David, causing him to sin. She was held up as the antithesis to Christian womanhood. I carried that notion until I was in seminary and read II Samuel for myself. The picture I saw there was very different. One thing I noticed immediately was that in the text we never hear Bathsheba’s voice. We hear David’s voice; we even hear Bathsheba’s husband’s voice. But never her voice.

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Southern Baptist #ChurchToo

Southern Baptist #ChurchToo

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As the #MeToo/#ChurchToo movement continues to echo through faith communities, there is news from the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptist leaders over the years have not only ignored sexual and domestic violence suffered by its members but many have actively excused and rationalized men’s violence towards women often with erroneous biblical proof texting. But it appears time may be up.

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