Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Irish Blasphemy

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

It's par for the course when the Pope bashes openly gay people in Britain for having consensual homo sex, yet in Ireland refuses to fire the criminal bishops that covered up child abuse for several decades.

Apparently all that you need to make things right is a few stern words against rape and torture, a couple of Hail Marys and a "journey of repentance, reconciliation and renewal," as Irish Archbishop Sean Brady described the Pope's current visit to the Emerald Isle. Almost nobody in the hierarchy even got fired. Four Irish bishops offered their resignations, but Benedict only accepted one.

Maybe because the cover-up's not done yet and they need to reinforce the rewards of loyalty and teamwork. The papal envoy continues stonewalling investigators pursuing the conspiracy between the Catholic hierarchy and Irish cops. Imagine the scale of collaboration required to hide decades of systematic abuses by parish priests, and in Catholic-run residences where nuns and Christian Brothers got in on the act, too.

Victims told the Commission how both girls and boys were raped. They were humiliated, beaten and starved. Children had to scavenge for food in garbage cans, eat food meant for farm animals. They were badly flogged, purposely scalded and held under water. A boy was forced to lick shit from a priest's shoe. And it went on for generations.

How can you reconcile that as long as the Church is still ducking and running? "I wish to inform that it is not the practice of the Holy See that apostolic nuncios appear before parliamentary commissions," Cardinal Giuseppe Leanza wrote in a letter dated February 12.

Earlier, a successful suit by the Christian Brothers, which controlled most of the residences for boys in the country, forced the investigating Commission to withhold the names of the accused, thus preventing prosecution. It's the same silence, the same cloak of power that allowed the abuses in the first place.

In January, just a couple of months after the publication of the report, the Church got yet another tool. Since January, when a new blasphemy law went into effect, it's been illegal to say or publish anything that might provoke "outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion." You can torture children or cover it up with impunity, but draw a rude cartoon about priests and you could be punished with a fine of up to 25,000 euros.

In response to this attack on freedom of religion and of speech, Irish Atheists posted a webpage offering twenty-five blasphemous quotes from authors as diverse as Jesus, Mohammed, Mark Twain, George Carlin, and Bjork who in 1995 revealed she had been tempted by Buddhism, but "I've been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren't lesser beings, they're just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists."

Taken together, the list of quotes seems strangely anodyne, as if were calculated not to offend, except maybe for the James Kirkup poem, "The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name," that had the narrator sucking the dead Jesus' cock.

It was comprised mostly of the typical denunciations of Judeo-Christian religions and their warmongering god as a "vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Believers were dismissed for being rubes. "Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!" "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day."

The site avoided the far more common, more inflammatory "blasphemies." There was no drawing of Mohammed with a missile in his turban. Catholic priests weren't portrayed groping their choirboys. Nope, the Atheists didn't dare touch any of that. Not with Jesus' ten foot pole. In this era of culture wars, some blasphemies are cooler than others. Keep your snipes and god-bashing in the sphere of literature, art, music or comedy. Though not Danish cartoons.

When it comes to censorship, people seem to believe we can separate the baby from the bathwater, good speech from bad, ignoring how easily the brain grows accustomed to limits. And how these restrictions, heralded by some as a safeguard preventing descent into the filth of racism and homophobia, affect the entire play of our thoughts, damaging our capacity to question, judge, also to transcend. Keep your laws off my brain.

It is only blasphemy when challenges from heathen mouths are worse than torture and rape. Sleep soundly, assured that I cannot destroy your church just by thinking of priests touching children while others watch and approve, or I certainly would. The words on this page do nothing but impotently denounce the likes of Pope Benedict, and Cardinal Giuseppe Leanza. Every word out of their mouths is a offense.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Gay

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

Here's to Groundhog Day, that gloomy 2nd day of February midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox when an unkempt rodent sticks its head out of its hole, and either retreats at a shadow that predicts six more weeks of winter, or frolics at the sign of early spring if there's nothing to see.

The logic is a mess. To cast a shadow there'd have to be sun, which one would imagine should lead any ordinary groundhog to expect better weather. But the pros like Punxsutawney Phil are apparently rotten, little, sharp-teethed cynics, turning up their squirrelly noses at every false glimmer and entrenching themselves against another sure round of sleet and bone-chilling cold.

The chubby, bitter Marmota monax is a tempting model what with all the false suns in the sky and the plethora of shadows. In a burst of wishful thinking and propaganda, CNN's Sanjay Gupta declared that Haiti doesn't need doctors any more, though many people with bad two-week old injuries have yet to see a doctor, and medicine's as scarce of food.

Likewise, the Senate hearings reconsidering lesbians and gay men in the military have been promoted as radiant promises of change, though just how that will manifest itself is unclear since nobody's even considering the repeal of the misnamed Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that somehow results in queers getting ejected right and left even without anybody telling anybody anything. Apparently, what we can expect is a shift in enforcement. As Pam of Pam's House Blend writes, "I guess the result depends on how you define the word "change.""

You could say the same for the administration's press release entitled "Expanding Opportunities for the LGBT Community" that starts by patting itself on the back for steering the country away from a depression, and goes on to claim its budget includes means for fighting discrimination against LGBT folk, supporting Federal employee domestic partner benefits, and a host of other things.

While there might be money earmarked for such projects, there's still the matter of political will and how you define "expanding." Just a couple of weeks ago Lambda Legal had to file suit against Obama's administration demanding the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) obey prior rulings by Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and cough up the spousal health insurance benefits awarded to Ninth Circuit judicial attorney Karen Golinski.

Frankly, I'll believe it's summer for queers when the fruit is on the vine. Until then, it's just more of the same rotten political weather. And this groundhog recommends full butt-wagging retreat, though maybe it's better if, like Staten Island Chuck, you instead sink your teeth into the nearest target. Last year it was Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

This year, take your pick. You'll have to get in line for a piece of the O-Man, but in the meantime consider all the New York politicos that promised the moon but shafted queers on same-sex marriage, or perhaps the evangelical conversion therapist of your choice that promises healing and gives years of torture instead. You could go for the American and Nazi Revisionist Scott Lively fueling antigay hate in Uganda, and only reluctantly suggesting conversion therapy instead of the ultimate cure, the death penalty.

Then there are the discredited American "experts" extending their conversion therapy movement into Britain, among them Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), and Richard Cohen, who founded the International Healing Foundation, but has been permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association.

The damage they're causing in Britain and elsewhere isn't as immediately life-threatening as Africa, but don't underestimate the growing strength of the movement and its potential impact.

In an article this week in The Independent, "The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion" Patrick Strudwick describes how, under guise of treatment, more and more British shrinks are resuscitating the debunked stereotypes that homosexuals are all emotionally retarded, infantile, damaged, suffering from childhood abuse, pathological, sick, and sinful. An assertion of love between gay men was dismissed by one shrink as "... a darkness that's very real that keeps you as its dog, but of course our God is more powerful than that."

If you're tempted to snicker at them in this post-gay era, just look at the powerful effect this cocktail of religion and pseudoscience had on Strudwick. Openly gay and well-adjusted before going undercover, he afterwards found himself "confused and damaged. I began to constantly analyse why I found particular men attractive. Does that man represent something that's lacking in me? Do I want him because he looks strong which must mean I feel weak? Did something happen in my childhood? The therapists planted doubt and worry where there was none."

Sometimes I think it's just as well more Americans don't have passports.