I am, at best, a religious mutt, at worst, I have no religion. My mother was a lapsed Protestant, my father a lapsed Catholic, I went to a Methodist church with my aunt, I attended Catholic camp in summer, and then I worked in a Jewish daycamp as a teenager. At times I’ve been known to say I’m a Druid, mostly because I like the sound of it, and I love gardening. I’m pretty much a “universal life force” kind of guy, and have read the Bible extensively. I’ve discussed Mormon theology with my ex-father in law, and have a passing understanding of Islam.
When it comes to Christ, Buddha and Mohammed, I don’t think any of them were more than just plagiarizers who conveyed a good version of eternal truths. When asked what I believe, I usually reply, “the red parts of the Bible.” Frequently I have to explain that it means solely the words of Jesus, which are often printed in red so that they stand apart from the rest of the text.
I have found that the words attributed to Christ are much more in line with my personal experience of how to act in this world than anything that I have been told the Bible allegedly says.
The corruption of a message is not a new concept or phenomenon. Just ask any four children to play a game of telephone and you can see how quickly a message can be debased.
That is why I am so skeptical of all religious organizations. It is not their primary message that I have a conflict with, it is the secondary and ancillary clutter that gets in the way that I take offense to. It is the misuse of a message for ulterior motives that drives me mad.
That occurs just as easily with the secular community, by the way. There has been just as much twisting for ulterior purposes, whether it be for selling new and improved soap, or a “save the whatever” campaign.
There currently is a lot of chatter among the hotheads to charge the pope with crimes against humanity for his alleged complicity in the cover-up of the child abuse scandals that are breaking in Europe. There is a wide call for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to file charges and take him into custody. The Vatican is saying that as a head of state, he is immune to prosecution, which is funny because heads of state have the best opportunity to commit crimes against humanity.
I was going to write a column on the ICC and the prospect of prosecuting the pope for his involvement in this nefarious affair. Upon my research I found that the ICC has jurisdiction on matters only after 2002. The pope will fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC if the abusive practice and the policies that tolerate it continued after July 2002, which is when the court was established.
While I am by no means an apologist for the church (as a gay man I feel they have done irreparable harm to my community), I do think this jurisdictional element should be made clear. As these allegations, however legally accurate they may be, are also likely to foment increased anger and stoke the flames of hatred and calls for retribution, but not in a pragmatic or practical way. I think calling on the ICC to charge the pope is likely to create more heat than light, and would caution that to do so, leads to a backlash that serves no greater purpose.
As we in the gay world have learned the hard way, the slightest misstep will be taken by our religious enemies and used against us to prove their supposed moral superiority. It is a useful trick of sophistry to turn a person’s own words against them. I’m rather good at it myself, I was taught by a master — my mother. We saw how effectively the religious world can twist words, with Gavin Newsom’s statement, that was trumpeted against us, and I would caution that here, as the world fights the quagmire of questionable ethics that has become the Catholic Church, we proceed with all deliberate speed.
Emotions run high around this topic. I had a friend who I tried years ago to educate to the global pandemic of child abuse. He would not hear me. He said it was an American phenomenon only, and that he found solace in St. Monica’s on many an occasion and that the church was not its constituent priests.
The saddest part for me was not — knowing his history of molestation — that he was an apologist, but rather, the loss of our friendship. He had few friends, was highly distrustful of people and is a very damaged man.
To my mind, our friendship was just one more thing the church took from him, because as this pope is demonstrating, devotion to the church is more important than the individual.
David Pisarra is a divorce attorney who specializes in father’s rights and men’s issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.