A search for Billy Graham leads to Cliff Richard and sex abuse

August 16, 2014

I usually just find the advice column he still has at the Kansas City Star but today, something a little less fun to read. This from the Guardian the other day:

A police raid on a home owned by Cliff Richard is part of an investigation into an allegation of sexual assault on a boy at a rally held by the evangelical US preacher Billy Graham three decades ago.

Richard’s property in Berkshire was searched on Thursday by detectives investigating the claim that the boy, aged under 16 at the time, was abused by an adult at a faith event held by the US pastor in Sheffield, Yorkshire in the 1980s. The rally was held at Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United Football Club.

I wonder what they thought would still be on the property after all this time, but I guess that’s the point of looking. One never knows.

Richard, who is currently in Portugal, said the claim was “completely false” and that the raid on his Berkshire property came without notice.

He said in a statement: “For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online. The allegations are completely false.

South Yorkshire Police aren’t at a point of accusing or arresting anyone but Richard states that he’ll cooperate with the investigation even though he’s not happy about it.

(Unrelated, but noted in the article: Richard credits Billy Graham with his conversion to Christianity at a London rally in 1966.)

Police said the search was not connected to Operation Yewtree, established in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, which is being run by the Metropolitan police.

Oh My Flying Spaghetti Monster, blogging creates a lot of extra homework, but it’s worth doing. Operation Yewtree turns out to be a police investigation into sex abuse allegations surrounding celebrities, mostly. Usually the reported abuse happened many years ago and the accusations are just coming to light now.

Savile was a well known star in the UK and, after his death, rumours of sexual misconduct started surfacing and ITV ran a documentary focusing on that. Rolf Harris has also been charged thanks to this and is now in jail. (He’s the Aussie who sung “Tie me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and “Six White Boomers” – two faves from my childhood. Sigh.)

Back to the Guardian article:

Journalists and photographers had maintained a vigil in front of the Charter secondary school, opposite the estate, while helicopters from media organisations hovered overhead. One resident said: “We knew there was something going on when we heard the helicopters and then we saw it on the news. He’s got a lot of fans. A lot of people are going to be very shocked [by the allegations].”

Well, all they can do is wait and see what comes of it all, I guess.


Former Saskatoon priest charged with sexual abuse

February 8, 2012

CBC Radio 1 mentioned 89 year old William Hodgson Marshall this morning so I went hunting for more information. From CBC I learn he’s in custody in Kingston, Ontario and awaiting trial:

Marshall was a priest, basketball coach and mathematics teacher at St. Paul’s High School in Saskatoon between 1958 and 1961. The all-boys school, which was on the 400 block of 22nd St. E. downtown, closed in 1967.

On Tuesday, the Saskatoon police said Marshall has been charged in connection with indecent assaults that took place in 1959 and 1960.

The two alleged victims, now both 66 years old, were 14 at the time.

The Crown prosecutor’s office is arranging for a court appearance to take place in Ontario, Saskatoon police said.

In a written statement, Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen said the diocese was recently informed of the new charges.

“In all such cases, our first concern is for the suffering of those who have been abused. We are called to listen and to assist in whatever way possible as they move toward healing,” Bolen said.

Hmm. In other such cases I’ve read about, the Catholic church’s first concern has been to move the priest and/or pretend it never happened. Like in Memphis, and France, and Ireland and elsewhere. And, in a lot of cases, possibly all of them, it was a Vatican approved decision. These days the Vatican is under fire for not doing enough to protect victims and people are demanding a change. A New York Times article posted yesterday notes a conference finishing up in Europe where this has been the main issue being discussed.

Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org , said the conference was intended to “change the subject and look like progress.”

“The Vatican is afraid, and it has reason to be,” he said, in light of recent charges against the church, including a complaint filed against the Vatican with the International Criminal Court.

The conference, which began on Monday and runs for four days, drew about 200 delegates, more than half of them bishops but also victims, rectors of Catholic universities and religious superiors. Cardinal William J. Levada, who heads the Vatican office that deals with allegations of clerical abuse, said Monday in his keynote speech that over 4,000 cases of sexual abuse of minors had been reported to his office in the past decade as the church toughened its responses. “We are still learning,” he said. “We need to help each other find the best ways to help victims, protect children,” and to educate priests “to be aware of this scourge and to eliminate it from the priesthood.”

Would step one be to boot out the priests known to be doing it and let the police and courts make mincemeat out of them? Put the ones suspected on some kind of probation where they’re never allowed to be alone with young boys? Apologize profusely for letting this get so out of hand and then offer to build and fund (but not operate) real counseling centers where real psychologists and other professionals won’t resort to prayer as a band-aid fix-it-all? That’s just off the top of my head, of course. I don’t know what they’ll actually decide on as a course of action.

It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, comes of this.

Does emotion guide morality?

August 26, 2010

So this I get via Unreasonable Faith – a possible connection between the feeling of disgust and our moral choices. It’s an article out of the Boston Globe.

Disgust is a survival trait – Our ancestors needed their noses to pick out the scent of rancid meat so they wouldn’t eat it and get horribly sick and die. Physical revulsion was a good means of noticing when the shine was off that yak or whatever the hell other foodstuff was left in the sun too long.

Today, psychologists and philosophers are piecing these findings together into a theory of disgust’s moral role and the evolutionary forces that determined it: Just as our teeth and tongue first evolved to process food, then were enlisted for complex communication, disgust first arose as an emotional response to ensure that our ancestors steered clear of rancid meat and contagion. But over time, that response was co-opted by the social brain to help police the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Today, some psychologists argue, we recoil at the wrong just as we do at the rancid, and when someone says that a politician’s chronic dishonesty makes her sick, she is feeling the same revulsion she might get from a brimming plate of cockroaches.

Old gods do new jobs, as Neil Gaiman would put it. Old emotions find new uses. What an interesting concept. It has its skeptics, of course. People should never be afraid to criticize a theory. If it can be debunked, then it should be. If it can’t be debunked, then we know we’re probably on the right track. For now.

One of the criticisms has to do with a difference between taboos and moral choices. Incest is as much a cultural taboo as it is a moral no-no. If incest sounds disgusting, it’s just as likely to be because our society has said it is, not specifically because some inner moral compass says so.

But to David Pizarro, the most interesting — and perhaps most important — question to answer is how flexible disgust is, how much it can change. Fifty years ago, many white Americans freely admitted to being disgusted by the thought of drinking from the same drinking fountain as a black person. Today far fewer do. How did that change? Did their sense of disgust ebb as they spent more time in integrated restaurants and workplaces and buses, or did they find ways to actively suppress their feelings? Pizarro isn’t sure, but he’d like to find out.

Yeah, that’s interesting all right. I think there are probably a lot of instances that could be pointed at where opinions have done a 180. Some of it just comes out of better education, or more exposure maybe, or just attitudes changing and getting more flexible.

Kids out of wedlock, for example. My aunt hid a pregnancy in the 1960s. Beats me how she managed it for as long as she did. Baggy shirts and avoiding Grandpa, I guess. Dad knows girls who moved out of the area for a year for all kinds of “reasons,” all of which really had to do with premarital sex. At least, that always wound up being the rumour, true or not. Now people barely bat an eye, unless the girl seems way young to be preggers. And even then, what happens? Not a hell of a lot. The negative stigma of early motherhood is pretty much gone. Is that a good thing? Maybe, maybe not.

Adultery is another one. Ingrid Bergman was exiled from the States over an affair in 1950. That was a hell of a scandal, apparently, ditching her husband and child for another man. These days it’s hard to name a celebrity that hasn’t cut and run.

Different times call for different measure, I guess.

What is it like to see demons everywhere?

March 6, 2010

A book was recently published about a professional exorcist. Fr. Gabriele Amorth works in Rome and claims awareness of satanic sects working in the Vatican.

The book, “Father Amorth. Memoirs of an Exorcist. My life fighting against Satan.” was written by Marco Tosatti, who compiled it from interviews with the priest.

Fr. Amorth was asked by Tosatti how he knows Vatican clergy are involved. He answered, “I know from those who have been able to relate it to me because they had a way of knowing directly. And it’s something ‘confessed’ most times by the very demon under obedience during the exorcisms.”

According to Amorth, even the Pope buys into this.

Benedict XVI, being German, comes from a place “decidedly averse to these things,” argued Fr. Amorth, saying that in Germany “there practically aren’t any exorcists.” However, he clarified, “the Pope believes (in them).”

The Italian priest also warned of the existence of bishops and priests who do not believe in Satan in the interview. “And yet, in the Gospel, Jesus speaks extensively about it, so it should be said, either they’ve never read the Gospel or they just don’t believe it!”

That last line gives me the giggles. Inconceivable! They shill this shit like it’s God’s word but don’t take it seriously themselves? Hilarious! It’s also sad and despicable and if they willingly spread information they know is false, shouldn’t that fall under some criminal category? It’s a deceitful con job at the very least.

Of course, none of it is false for Amorth, or Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea Cucurul, a theologian who focuses primarily on demonology (bizarro!), who tut-tuts the exorcist’s conclusions. But not because he’s deluded:

After reading reports of Fr. Amorth’s accusations pointing a finger at members of the clergy, including cardinals, Fr. Fortea declared that it is a “duty of justice” to speak out in their defense.

Noting that some prelates “are more spiritual and others more earthly, some more virtuous and others more human,” he wrote on his blog, “from there to affirm that some cardinals are members of Satanic sects is an unacceptable distance.”

The Spanish priest then explained the sources of information used by Fr. Amorth to say that Satanic sects are operating in the Vatican.

Doomsayers and apocalypse whores who think they’ve gotten a message from God through radio waves or white noise or cheese-induced dreams descend on the Vatican with alarming regularity. Some think they’re possessed, some take Dan Brown too damn seriously, and others are plain old whack jobs.

Fr. Fortea added that the only acceptable stance is to suspend judgment of the messages while they are subjected to time-intensive discernment, “sometimes months for each one of the cases.”

The other source Fr. Amorth refers to, according to Fr. Fortea, is the demons who are being exorcised. Of this, the Spanish priest wrote that knowing whether or not the demon is telling the truth “is in many cases impossible.”

What’s really sad is that he can’t come out and just say this is all a bunch of hooey and demons don’t exist. No, he has to say, “Demons lie sometimes.”


Fr. Fortea also defended those implicated in Fr. Amorth’s statements, stating, “Our College of Cardinals, if we compare it with past centuries is the most edifying and virtuous that history has ever known. One would have to go back to the epoch of the Roman Empire to find a body of electors so distanced from all earthly pretension as the current one is.

I don’t think he means the lot of them are too senile to know what planet they’re on so, I will have to take his word on that. I’m not going to fart around trying to prove him wrong. I suppose one Cardinal making homophobic comments doesn’t mean they all molested young boys in Ireland when they were bishops and priests. And anyway, it doesn’t matter; they’re all edifying and virtuous Cardinals now, dammit!

He concluded by emphasizing, “Statements must be proven, especially when they are about such grave accusations that affect the honorability of those who form part of the Head of the Church as far as they help the Supreme Pastor.”

Slander and defamation are concerns, of course. It’s bad form to go around insisting people did things they haven’t done and publish books where the only reality in them is the paper, glue and ink. It’s one thing to theorize and suspect and another thing to actually stand up and hollar, “J’accuse!” or whatever.

I guess what really gets me with this story is how pointless it is. Of all the things they should be concerned about in this world, and they’re wasting time with demonology and exorcism? Their priorities are so skewed, they have to be mocked. This is not the dark ages. This is not the middle ages. I don’t even know what age this is, but I certainly hope it’s not the age of idiocy. If it is, it’s a brand new low.

edit 7:39am: just found Paliban Daily’s post about this, including quotes from interviews with the exorcist. Fun reading!

Apparently Raelians want Tiger Woods

February 26, 2010

Want him to have a better outlook on sexuality, at any rate. I find out about this via a Facebook friend who had the link to Raelian News:

Rael has sent an open letter to Tiger Woods urging him to stop making his life a model of guilt, sadness and conformism to antiquated Judeo-Christian values. Such a model is a poor example to set for the younger generation, Rael advised the world-renowned golfer.


You pretend to be returning to ‘normality’ thanks to therapy and spirituality. What kind of normality is that? Which is normal: the happy, radiant and successful Tiger Woods, or the self-flagellating, publicly guilty and desperate new Tiger Woods? And what kind of spirituality is helping you? Is it the old Judeo-Christian version that makes sex sinful and calls such pleasures ‘a path to hell?’

Rael will be in Las Vegas at the Alexis Park Hotel from March 27 to April 3, 2010 to help host a Happiness Academy seminar. I wonder how many people will actually go. Somehow I doubt Tiger Woods will, but hey. According to their beliefs, humans were made to have nothing but pleasure and that’s a lifestyle I can get behind.

Take god out of politics. Seriously.

December 15, 2009

A City Councilman in North Carolina has turned out to be either atheist or agnostic. His opponents are crapping their tightiewhities:

Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government — but he doesn’t believe in God. His opponents say that’s a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they have the North Carolina Constitution on their side.

Bothwell’s detractors are threatening to take the city to court for swearing him in, even though the state’s requirement that officeholders believe in God is unenforceable because it violates the U.S. Constitution. Arkansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have similar provisions.

“The question of whether or not God exists is not particularly interesting to me and it’s certainly not relevant to public office,” said Bothwell, 59.

Well done, Councilman. I wish more people who thought like you would run and get elected. Why is god such a big part of these state constitutions anyway? Someone who is American can come on by and explain this to one very bemused Canadian, please.

Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist lists all the portions of constitutions with these bizarre holy edicts written in and, according to The Freethinker, the NC one was modified in 1868 to include this particular passage. Is it safe to guess all the rest were altered at some point as well?

When Bothwell took office last week, he used an oath that doesn’t require swearing on a Bible or reference God. That has riled conservative activists, who cite a quirk in the state constitution that disqualifies officeholders “who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

Although Bothwell said a legal challenge would be “fun,” he believes his foes’ efforts are politically based.

Rather than let him do his job and see how capable he is to be working for the city at a political level, they’d rather try and get him canned now because they don’t approve of his lack of belief? How dare a non-believer have a presence? How dare he run! How dare he win! Whaaaaaaa!! Stomp stomp stomp those big boy Christian feet until you get your way. Very mature.

I wonder if people who voted for him knew he wasn’t religious ahead of time, or if that’s just popped into public awareness now.

It’s sad if he had to hide it in order to run.
It’s even more sad that it’s considered a scandal.

161 million Euros divided by ? over ? years equals what exactly?

November 26, 2009

It sounds like Christian Brothers is offering a hefty apologetic sum to victims of child abuse in Ireland. But does it make up for years of pain, heartache, and fighting for justice? Probably not.

The Brothers said that €34 million in cash would be used to help victims of abuse, whose plight was identified in a government report in May. However, the move was criticised, with one victims’ group describing it as “mere smoke and mirrors”.

The Ryan report chronicled cases of tens of thousands of children who suffered systematic sexual, physical and mental abuse over decades at residential homes run by 18 congregations. It concluded that the Brothers order was responsible for most of the cases.

€127 million worth of property is part of that deal, too, but I don’t know what that includes, or how much good that does. Along with money, the Brothers are releasing an interim report regarding legal cases brought against them on behalf of victims.

Its publication was delayed by several years after a lengthy legal battle waged by the Brothers to withhold the names of all its members, dead or alive. An agreement was eventually struck in 2004, allowing the Brothers’ institutions to be identified.

More than a thousand witnesses testified to abuse in 216 schools and residential settings between 1914 and 2000. More than 800 individuals were identified as physical or sexual abusers — an extraordinary number compared with the handful of prosecutions and convictions. Ninety per cent of witnesses reported physical abuse while half reported sexual abuse.

“Acute and chronic contact and non-contact sexual abuse was reported, including vaginal and anal rape, molestation and voyeurism in both isolated cases and on a regular basis over long periods of time,” the report said.

The commission found that the worst offender was the Brothers’ order, which ran most of the institutions for older boys, while the another Catholic order, the Sisters of Mercy, which was supposed to care for girls, also came in for heavy criticism.

The Magdalene Sisters was based on girls from one of those schools. That’s one of the saddest movies I’ve ever watched.

Well anyway, it’s a start. Apologies are a place to start. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.