The persecution of Sarah Palin, and Sara Palin

Esquire’s Abram Sauer on the sad stories of the unfortunate women who happen to share the name of a pathologically dishonest  socialist masquerading as a libertarian populist:

“If I had a pound for every time I have heard someone crack a joke about my name, I would be the proud owner of a Bugatti Veyron,” says one Palin from Brighton. “My name is actually not the same as hers either — I am a Sara, not a Sarah.”

Other Palins recounted, perhaps thanks to the former Alaska governor’s own predilection for Facebook, receiving friend requests from Mama Grizzly groupies, including positive messages of thanks for inspiring them to beat cancer. But of course there is hate mail: “you should never have been born,” “you bitch,” and “you’ve insulted every single black American,” for starters.

“In everyday life in England it’s fine, the odd comment — everyone thinks they’re the first,” says a Sarah Palin from outside of Manchester. “But on Facebook it’s just a right pain in the rear end.”

Doesn’t matter if your profile picture looks nothing like Sarah Palin — the woman from Brighton’s photo was “me drunk, hanging out a shopping trolley — because there’s no escaping it. There’s just no escaping the association. A Palin from West Derby said she was stunned that so many “intelligent-looking people” sent her messages: “I mean, I am almost three decades younger than her. I look nothing like her.”

Not that she doesn’t occasionally respond: “I think a good 90 percent of her fan base must be blind or illiterate — they don’t catch on too quickly.”

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What’s missing from Ratzinger’s “apology”

In his sermon yesterday at Westminster, Ratzinger devoted two paragraphs to the  crisis of abuse within his church, but it contained glaring omissions. Via The Guardian, the transcript:

I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives.

I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of victims, the purification of the church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people.

Three things missing:

ii.) A condemnation of not only the rapists themselves, but the officials in the church hierarchy who abbetted their violations by their passivity, slowness, or secrecy.

i.) The pronouns “I” and “my.”  Ratzinger talks about the crisis “within the church,” as if everyone were somehow collectively responsible, and not only specific parties who actually committed the crimes, and those parties who propped up ineffective prosecuting policies and actively concealed abuse from civil authorities–both of which Ratzinger himself is responsible for, each on multiple occassions.

iii.) A promise for some concrete course of action. The rapists don’t need “chastisement.” They need prosecution to the fullest extent of their respective principality’s laws.

Ratzinger addresses abuse on arrival to UK

Via the NY Times:

EDINBURGH — As Pope Benedict XVI arrived here Thursday for the first state visit to Britain by a pope, he offered his strongest criticism yet of the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the sex abuse crisis, saying it had not been “sufficiently vigilant” or “sufficiently swift and decisive” in cracking down on abusers.

Speaking to reporters on his flight from Rome, Benedict also said that the church’s “first interest is the victims.”

“I must say that these revelations were a shock for me, a great sadness,” he said of the crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority in many parts of Europe and beyond.

He expressed “sadness also that the authority of the church was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently swift and decisive to take the necessary measures.”

His remarks showed that the Vatican had perhaps begun to learn from its mistakes after stumbling in its response to the crisis.

Asked how the church could restore the faith of those shaken by the revelations of widespread priestly abuse, the pope said: “The first interest is the victims” and the church needed to determine “how can we repair, what can we do to help them to overcome the trauma, to re-find their lives.” He also said that priests who are guilty of abuse had a “sickness” and needed to be kept away from children.

There are nine names one must take into account when Ratzinger insists on his sincerity in punishing abusers:

i.) Rev. Peter Hullermann, to who Ratzinger prescribed “therapy” to remedy his pedophilia, and who after the administration of these treatments was allowed by the then-archbishop was transfered to another succession of parishes wherein he raped again, and who was only excused from clerical duties earlier this year;

ii.) Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, the rapist of approximately 200 deaf children entrusted to his care, and who Ratzinger refused to press any charges against the abuser of 200-plus deaf children on account of the abuser’s old age;

iii.) Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a scam artist, bigamist, and serial rapist who abused the seminarians under his own care and the children he fathered, against whom Ratzinger only initiated a secret investigation against, only to sentence the criminal to a pacific retirement;

iv.) the “satanic” Rev. Michael Teta, violater of children for some twenty years, and whose case under Ratzinger’s office for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith resulted in the rapist’s explusion from the clergy only after sitting on the case for 14 years;

v.) Msgr. Robert Trupia, a rapist whose case wallowed for twelve years in the same office before being permitted an “early retirement” to a “Baltimore condo and  leather-seated Mercedes-Benz,”

vi.) Rev. Stephen Kiesle, the pedophile who admitted he was unfit for the priesthood and begged laicization, and who Ratzinger explicitly refused to remove from duty, citing “the good of the universal church” and the “young age” of the perpatrator,

vii.) Cardinal Hans Hermann  Groër, rapist of children and the seminarians entrusted to his care, and who Ratzinger failed to vet before nominating him for the position of archbishop of Vienna, and

viii.)  Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, the conspirator behind the coverups of rape in his jurisdiction of Boston, against whom Ratzinger never initiated investigations or penalties, clearing the path for him to resign his post and assume several cushy jobs in the Vatican and a vote in the 2005 Papal Conclave. Since assuming the papacy, Ratzinger has not removed Law from any of his duties or publically condemned his actions.

ix.) Rev. Allen Campbell, a rapist who would be convicted of his crimes in 1985, but whose ecclesiastical investigation was dropped by Ratzinger’s office after Campbell refused to accept the charges.

Also, as pope, Ratzinger has extended the stature of limitations on abuse cases, so that victims might press ecclesiastical charges against their rapist up to 20 years after their eighteenth birthday. So anyone who can only summon the courage to face their abuser only after the age of 39 has neither recourse within the church. Why they would even seek it at this point is beyond my imagination, but Rome isn’t helping me expand that faculty on this matter.

Nor has he addressed his personal tweaking of church policy; since assuming the papacy, Ratzinger has never publically addressed his 2001 declaration that sex abuse cases be handled with the highest level of secrecy within the church, pontifical secrecy, nor is it clear he ever rescinded that policy. As pope, has publically articulated, but not updated, the church’s longstanding unofficial policy of requiring bishops to report their underlings’ abuse to civil authorities if and only if they can be legally procecuted for abetting by keeping silent under local statutes. And it is clear this exposition was only made grudgingly; at least one high-ranking Vatican official has described such mandates of the barest decency and sense of responsibility “onerous.” Perhaps more importantly, no one in the Vatican has made any comment on individual bishops, like Milwaukee’s own Listecki, who petition their local governments not to extend the stature of limitations in crimes of sexual violence, thus shielding their flock not only from ecclesiastical punishment, but civic justice as well. Until Ratzinger or one of his spokespersons denounces this lobbying, we can only assume Qui tacet consentire vidétur, “He who keeps silent is assumed to consent.”

Finally, and tellingly, the organizational culture of the current Vatican does not seem to recognize the severity of the crisis. In the same document making explicit rules for bishops handling abuse cases, pedophilia was described as one of the “more grave delicts,” and placed on par with the ordination of women and disagreement with Church dogma. So either the coterie Ratzinger assembled to address the paramount crisis facing his institution was tonedeaf to the severity of that crisis, or unselfconscious of how their insinuations about women would be recieved, or both. In any case, tone is set from the top. 

All this taxes the good faith of one trying to believe Ratzinger is really committed to expending all his intellectual energies to ridding the church of its filth. Even if he does feel real symapathy for the victims, he lacks either the courage or competency to recognize the fundamental change to organizational structure and culture needed to atone for it. He has yet to apologize for, or even acknowledge, his part in bungling the discipline of the nine figures listed above. The policies he has clarified or implemented throughout his career are feeble, reactionary, reassertive to demonstrably failed mechanisms, counterproductive. Ratzinger’s apparatus is not even impotent to bring to justice its most abominable members; it is unwilling.

“Hons Dons”

(Some language NSFW.) I’m sure many of my friends in grad school or adjunct professorship hell wish it were this easy:

Ratzinger declines resignation of Irish bishops implicated in abuse coverup

In a move that has stunned critics Pope Benedict XVI has rejected the resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops. Bishop Raymond Field and Bishop Eamonn Walsh had both tendered their resignations in 2009 in the wake of the Murphy report into clerical child abuse.

Both men had come under intense pressure because they had served as bishops during the period investigated by the Murphy Commission into clerical child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin. The Murphy Commission in Ireland found that sexual abuse was ‘endemic’ in boys’ institutions but that the church hierarchy protected the perpetrators and allowed them to take up new positions teaching other children after their original victims had been sworn to secrecy.

‘Following the presentation of their resignations to Pope Benedict, it has been decided that Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field will remain as auxiliary bishops,’ Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a letter to priests of the Archdiocese reported in The Irish Catholic. The two men are to be assigned revised responsibilities within the archdiocese, according to Doctor Martin.

Announcing their resignations in December, the two auxiliary bishops said: ‘It is our hope that our action may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to them.’

Now their gesture of reconciliation has been halted by the pontiff. Archbishop Martin said the two men are ‘to be assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese.’

Cahir O’Doherty comments, asking, “If abuse won’t cost you your job, what will?”

Today an infuriated Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the press: ‘The two bishops said, when announcing their resignation, that they hoped to bring peace and reconciliation to the victims. The pope’s callous decision has done the opposite.’

I can’t imagine what it must be like for a group of gravely wronged lay people to lay siege to an organization as large as the Vatican’s, especially when their campaign to have the Church accept it’s responsibility results in high-handed and enraging dismissals like the one the Pope just delivered them this morning.

It must hurt them, beneath all their anger and outrage, it must genuinely hurt them – I mean, emotionally and in their souls. Because through his bewildering decision the Pope has diminished their suffering.

In their joint Christmas statement, when they originally announced their decisions to retire, Bishops Walsh and Field said they hoped their resignations would ‘help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to them.’

This morning the Pope made it clear they really didn’t need to apologize for anything.

Beliefnet’s Mark Silk is pithier :
The bottom line, as the Irish Times‘ Paddy Agnew points out, is that if all bishops who covered up clerical sexual abuse were permitted to resign, the episcopal ranks would be decimated. And then where would the church be? But of course, no one in the hierarchy can say that publicly. So the decision is announced in the quietest way possible, with no explanation offered.

How adults ought to think about responsibility

New Statesman columnist Carla Powell disapproves of public disapproval of the pope’s impending visit to the UK:

[O]n recent visits to London, I have been shocked by the negative criticism of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Why are so many of the capital’s liberal elite upset? Why is Pope Benedict, an 83-year-old retired university professor, causing such anxiety?

The child abuse scandals central to all this have been a stain on the Catholic Church. But it is important to remember that this is a problem the Pope has been working to resolve for at least a decade. Grave as it is, the scandal should not be allowed to obscure his core message.

Dang it, Powell is right. Because Ratzinger’s central message is one of love and compassion, we shouldn’t judge his character entirely on the worst thing he did.  Just like we shouldn’t let Enron’s surviving executives’ core message of  service to the public in their maintenance of the energy infrastructure be overshadowed by their financial indiscretions. Just like we shouldn’t let Nixon’s illegal, secret bombing campaigns or conspiracy to conceal burglary by his own staff overshadow his core message of preserving Constitutional checks and balances and the rule of law. Just like we shouldn’t judge Mussolini for falling in with a rough crowd–after all, he made the trains run on time!

When people do good things, or say they’re doing good things, we can’t hold them responsible for the bad things they do. Because that’s how responsibility works: rewarding people for their stated intentions regardless of the actual consequences of their actions. Even if those consequences result in the thwarting of justice for 200-plus rape victims. Because it’s central message that matters; whether or not the person reciting said message actually lives up to it is beyond the point. Pontificating about selflessness, compassion, and justice aren’t about actually making sacrifices, taking into considerations the pain of people we’ve hurt, or actually affecting justice. It’s about saying things that make us feel good about ourselves.

Contrary to common prejudices, giving lip service to principles in public while also denying our part in the most extravagant defilements of those same virtues isn’t hipocritical or or sycophantic at all; they are the qualities that make heroes. Heroes like Ratzinger, as he exists in Powell’s imagination.

Honor killing thugs firebomb bystanders

Via the Daily Mail:

An ‘honour killing’ gang murdered a married couple in their home when they set fire to the wrong house.

Abdullah Mohammed and wife Aysha suffocated after petrol was poured through their letterbox and set alight by the gang of young men. The Mohammeds’ nine-year-old son and daughter, 14, were also at home during the attack but survived.

Four men were yesterday found guilty of murdering the husband and wife, including 21-year-old gang leader Hisamuddin Ibrahim who had intended to attack a man who was having an affair with his married sister.

Ibrahim ordered three accomplices to set a fire at the home of Mo Ibrahim, who is not related, in the early hours of the morning. But Habib Iqbal, Sadek Miah and Mohammed Miah mistakenly targeted the Mohammeds’ house on the same terrace street in Blackburn as their intended victim. As the gang fled, neighbours tried in vain to break into the burning home before the fire brigade arrived on October 21 last year.

Mr Mohammed, 41, died after being found unconscious in his bedroom with his wife and two of their three children. His 39-yearold wife died in hospital days later.

London Underground worker Ibrahim was enraged when he discovered his 22-year-old sister Hafija Gorji was having an affair with the man she had met at a wedding. As rumours circulated a month before the fire, Mrs Gorji’s lover had lied as he swore on the Koran in front of her relatives that the pair were just good friends, Preston Crown Court heard.

Ibrahim, from East London, had then asked best friend 25-year-old Iqbal, Miah, 19, and Sadek Miah, 23, to drive up from the capital overnight and carry out the attack. He had been inspired by a story on the BBC’s Crimewatch website about an unsolved late-night arson in Eastbourne.

There were no witnesses to the start of the blaze in Blackburn but CCTV captured a vehicle circling the surrounding streets three times shortly before the fire. Three figures left the car, one carrying a container, before the trio ran back and drove off with the vehicle’s headlights turned off. The car, a black Volskwagen Golf registered to Sadek Miah’s mother, was then driven straight back to London.

The gang, from Manor Park and Tower Hamlets in East London, had all denied murder and face long jail terms. They will be sentenced later.