Loopholes Let Pedophiliac
Priests Escape Justice
David Wrenn

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We received this URL and a "Send This Story To A Friend" piece from the same person one right after the other. Later, we were able to elicit commentary on this story, so we back-tracked and will cover both the story and our policy (desires) regarding sending stories, URLs and commentary.
     It is our habit to occasionally halt the discussion so we may talk about how we do things around here, because we realize that most of our readers would just as soon make life easier for others rather than making life difficult. We also know that the best way to accomplish that, in any situation, is through knowledge, via straightforward communication.

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "David Wrenn"
Subject: Re: Handling of clergymen by archdiocese
Date: March 13, 2002 1:33 PM

If you are submitting a post that contains a story from the web, you must include your own commentary, and that commentary must be able to stand on its own without my including any of the story in the post. This means if you want to excerpt a line from the story, do so in the text you write for the post. We cannot post a simple news story, but must have commentary from you in order to post. More often than not, we cannot include the story at all: it depends entirely upon who owns the copyright and what kinds of dealings we've had with them in the past. When in doubt, it's always worth a try. Also, it is legitimate to include a story as perspective for us: simply note that as the case, that you send the story as perspective and not necessarily as part of your post.

We do, however, enjoy keeping up on the news. We are so busy any more that we depend entirely upon our readers for our news because we never get a chance to go news-hunting any more: we never have the time! Thus, many of our readers send us stories all the time.

Repeat: You are our only news source any more. There is no television or radio in this household! We subscribe to no perodicals! We do not browse the web for news. You are it! Of course we take in a lot of mail each day, but don't let that stop anybody from sending us news you think we'll need to see!
 

The Technical End of Sending News Stories:

First, please do not send only a URL and please do not send only the text: Please send both the URL plus the text (a simple copy-and-paste into letter body set for "unformatted" or "plain text" will do. Then, never use the "Send This Story To A Friend" function with our address, because it often places our address onto SPAM lists. The best bet is using your browser's "Send Page Via E-Mail" function (usually under File). If all else fails, simply copy and paste the text into the e-mail window (but be sure to include the URL so we can verify and/or get a readable copy). Another way to do it is to put your own address into the "Send This Story To A Friend" box, and then forward the story when it comes. However, as often as not and unbeknownst to you, "Send This Story To A Friend" means nothing more than "Send The URL For This Story To A Friend": then you're back where you started from! In our case, we need the story and the URL: the story in case the URL doesn't work and the URL in case the e-mailed story comes out too ragged to read comfortably. If push comes to shove, at least we have one!

Every copyright advisor we've consulted tells us that for you, an individual, to send me, Cliff Walker, a copy of a copyrighted news story would be covered under the "Fair Use" exemption of U.S. Copyright Code. This operation is noncommercial and educational and the material is to enhance my understanding of the situation for the purposes of discussion. Regarding e-lists to which you subscribe and pay money for that privelege, we don't know anything about those. Anything.

To generate a post (that is, to share the information with our readers), if you would simply send a few comments in your own words next time, along with the story and the URL, then we can post your comments and my reply. I cannot post URLs or Web Pages.

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Here's my reply to the story about Roman Catholic priests being allowed to escape criminal prosecution for child molestation:

The real "shocker" is not that these are priests who are committing the crimes. The crime and the "shocker" is that because they are priests, they get special dispensation under the auspices of "keeping it within church walls. This is not justice: a priest, as far as I'm concerned, is already serving a life sentence (albeit a sentence of his own choosing), so sequestering him in a special convent changes nothing for him. More importantly, it changes nothing for the victims and the public. Nothing.

The Pope has defrocked several of the more notorious criminals, but ought to send a clear message to the world by letting the criminal justice system follow its course. Then, if he were to defrock any and every priest convicted of these crimes, justice would begin to be served. This would, however, be only a beginning. Massive changes are in order when it comes to the way children are entrusted into the hands of the clergy, and even greater changes are due when it comes to disclosure of known criminals, both within and without the Church.

Punishment (and true deterrent) would be to transfer any in-house sentence to a real prison, a special, higher security section for pedophiles (per the usual practice, to keep them from getting murdered by members of the general prison population; such is the loathing the general public has for men who would do this to a child that even hardened criminals hate them). Placing them in special sections for pedophiles would even prevent the priests from becoming "Chuck Colsons" -- heroes inside the prison walls -- which might end up not being much of a deterrent at all. However, a special section with pedophiles only would lack the "Colson" opportunity to minister, seeing as how a large chunk of them would be "preaching to the choir" -- er, "clergy"!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

P.S.: Check this one out:

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "David Wrenn"
Subject: Re: Handling of clergymen by archdiocese
Date: March 17, 2002 2:47 PM

I get a story sent by a "friend" about every two months, and every time there's a noticible increase in spam. Nowadays, though, there's so much even large fluctuations go unnoticed. I used to get only a dozen or two viruses a day, now the daily figure is in the 50 to 80 range. There's one virus out with my address as the return address. Scary! Glad it was apparently too buggy to go anywhere!

You will not get entirely balanced coverage of Roman Catholicism in a country dominated by Protestants simply because many Protestants have yet to accept Roman Catholicism as bona fide Christianity. The closer you come to the Reformation (ideologically, but not necessarily historically), the less likely you are to find acceptance of Roman Catholicism. The modernized sects tend to be more ecumenical.

Some Protestants consider Catholicism to be outright false religion (a cult), and most at least see it as awkwardly on the fringe: very difficult either to accept or to reject without compromising at least some of their own understanding of their own dogma. Compared to biblical Evangelical Protestantism, Roman Catholicism is just too far out of step: the Pope, Mary, the Saints, the priesthood, the celibate priesthood, I could go on for an entire page just listing the differences and still have plenty more to talk about. Being so vastly different from the mainstream Protestantism, it is much easier for writers and publishers to justify attacks upon the Roman Catholic religion than it would be were the same circumstances occurring within the mainstream faith of Protestantism.

Another reason why you don't find as much sympathy toward the Roman Catholic religion is that it happens to be "the big guy" as far as popularity goes: the Roman Catholic Church is way ahead of the Baptist Church, gauging by membership numbers. (Incidentally, the atheists, those who lack theism, specifically, those who answered "Not Religious" in the polls, come in with a solid Third Place trophy, after the Roman Catholics and the Baptists.) Knee-jerk reaction against success is not as popular as similar reaction against weirdness or "different-ness," but it does exist and it does explain, to a small degree, the imbalance we see. That imbalance is quite small, to be sure, though it is not so small as to be impossible to detect.

While the rest of the nation reels over this religious woman who drowned her five children, we in Oregon deal with two different multiple murder cases involving "excommunicated Jehovah's Witnesses." As several other religion-based crime stories march across the wire in recent weeks, it has become hard to keep track without a notebook any more. I'm not up on the details of the Jehovah's Witnesses stories, this is simply what I've heard or have seen on the headlines as I try to walk around the clusters of newspaper machine. Therefore I suggest consulting some of the Oregon news media for details if you want them. However, the point remains: the Roman Catholics aren't the only ones who have problems, they aren't the only ones who get extensive "bad press." And Roman Catholics do some very wonderful things as well, as is all to eagerly reported by the press for anybody who is even remotely religious.

Hypocrisy is another factor that will explain the seeming imbalance. Even the most popular mainstream sects and leaders will "enjoy" extensive news coverage if the crime they commit is far from the mark of what they advocate in the way of morals: the moralist caught with his hand in the cookie jar will always get more prominent coverage than anybody else.

I remember when Jimmy Swaggert used to rail against sexual sin. But when he got caught with his pants down, the press was all over him.They creamed him! He got much different treatment than I would have received had I been caught doing the same thing! In fact, I might never have even been caught! This is simply because Swaggert sternly denounced the very activities he was fooling around with, going so far as to work toward making some of them illegal, I differ from him in that I openly question enacting laws against those same activities he denounces.

Similarly, an anti-drug advocate, one who was responsible for toughening drug legislation and bolstering efforts at imprisoning those who violate his drug laws would be trounced by the press if caught smoking pot or sniffing lines of cocaine! Moderation Management founder Audrey Kishline killed a man and his daughter while drunk. The press was most unfair with her story because she taught that problem drinkers can learn to drink moderately -- and they can: I am one who has learned how! But the press considered her a hypocrite and neglected (or refused) to report that only weeks before her "accident," Kishline had renounced Moderation Management and joined Alcoholics Anonymous -- an extremely popular abstinence-based program.

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What is of interest to us is that religion happens to be getting more than its usual share of bad press over the past twelve months. Spin doctors worked frantically to disassociate Islam from the 911 bombings -- to the point where Conservative commentator William F. Buckley openly declared that "The principal sponsors of the terrorists are not religious fanatics" but were "well-known atheists" such as "Palestine's Yasser Arafat, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and Syria's Assad family." It was "those atheists" who were responsible for the terrorist attacks, not Muslim Fundamentalists!

Though the ones identified as the pilots of the aircraft were of the Muslim persuasion, even leaving behind prayers and final thoughts which represent what most, reading it out of context, of course, would consider "highly spiritual," and though Islam is well-known as a religion having a long history of recruiting through violence, Islam was exonerated again and again, by the press, in public speech, even in special classes that some of our children were forced to attend. At the same time, the wildest stretches of logic, truthfulness, and fairness were invoked in order to portray the culprits as "not really religious"; that is, "actually atheists." It is impossible to the fundamentalistic mind for a truly religious person to have done this: only a false religionist, a hypocrite, could have done these things: only an atheist disguising himself as a theist would have been dastardly enough to do something like this.

This is what the fundamentalistic mind wants to hear and this is what we've been hearing from leaders and spokespersons, attempting to explain to the masses what happened, attempting to explain in such a way as to keep the reputation of religion from suffering -- at our expense!

Again.

Fortunately, the people themselves appear to be much smarter than the Capitol Hill exploiters of that religious faith which is still being marketed with all the sophistication of a Madison Avenue sales campaign, that religious faith which is thus held (innocently held, without the benefit of a moment's scrutiny) by the majority of Americans.

Fortunately, religion's "wild popularity" enjoyed only momentary bumps on the graph during all this, while atheism continues the steady increase in popularity that it has enjoyed for years and continues to enjoy despite the all-out efforts of (what at times seems like) "just about everybody" to counter this growth. I say this not because I want atheism to grow and prosper (I do, but that's not why I say this); I say this because I hate to see anybody or any group or any thing slandered and discredited, for these liars to succeed in doing violence to the reputations of their victims. When this happens, I prefer, instead, to watch the wiles of these vipers come to naught.

And I've seen this happen enough that I've developed the habit of looking for things to come out this way. Any more, surprise and dismay come my way when the culprits get away with it, not when they succeed in driving their victims into the ground. I realize that many of us like to "piss and moan" about things, but this is not what I have been seeing when I open my eyes and take a look: rather, I see justice happening more and more. Keep speaking ill about these evils, but realize that the evil ones are getting caught and coming to justice more and more. Their collars are not protecting them and their gods are not protecting them. And the people are not protecting them as much any more, either.

So now I have hope for two reasons. First, it is my nature in that I've fostered the habit of anticipating the eventual failure of maligners and the victory of their victims. Secondly, I've seen the numbers, both the short-term numbers of the flash-in-the-pan rise in religion's popularity, when these hucksters promoted faith specifically at the expense of atheism, and the long-term numbers of atheism's rise against the steady decline of religion after its Reagan-era peak.

Mostly, though, I can see atheism, as a core element of people's personal philosophies, fitting in with more and more situations, addressing more and more problems, and satisfying more and more people as this world gets more and more complex, lifeless, formatted, and haywire. Religion might provide a temporary fix, such as millions needed on the nights of September 11, September 12, September 13, and September 14. I will not argue against making religion available to anybody who went through what the average American endured on those four nights.

I went through it myself, and I didn't have an easy time at all. In fact, I had a tougher time than anybody I know, and probably had as tough a time as anybody who didn't have relatives or friends directly involved as victims.

Instead of bowing my head in prayer, though, I tipped my head back to not even half a glass of Guinness. Slowly, slowly, the thick, brown drug did its work. This drug's class has successfully eased more pain, collectively, than (I'd wager) all religion has done, collectively, over the years. Slowly, slowly, it crawled into the deep chasms of my trembling fearfulness; from there it sang unto my consciousness a sweet lullaby.

That's what I did, and I hope that what you did, if you did anything, helped you pull yourself through. And if what you did involved what I would (within the privacy of my own mind) call "fantasy" or "lunacy" or "falsehood," then kindly return the favor by allowing your opinion of what I did to remain hidden within the confines of your own thinking. Perhaps what I did does not work for you: perhaps you know this because you've tried it. Perhaps you tried it for years and years on end, knowing that it ought to work, knowing that it has to work, knowing that it most certainly does work. But it didn't work because it doesn't work for you. Consider that what you did might not work for me, either. Consider that I know this: I know it doesn't work because I have tried it -- again and again and again, for years on end, "knowing" that it's the only thing that possibly could work!

In addition, I'll agree not to advocate making the tip of a Guinness the Official way to mourn, but will let it remain a choice, a decision made entirely and exclusively by the individual doing the mourning. I do this because I know it just doesn't work for some. It just isn't right for others. Jamison's is the only way for still others. Why, then, do so many not only make what they did the Official way, but denounce me for even questioning their decision? Why? Is there something in the Guinness that keeps me from being this way? I don't think so.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six-and-a-half years of service
    to people with no reason to believe

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