It’s Springtime in America. Rebirth is rampant and organized religion is in the news. Unfortunately, it’s not the good news of renewal, faith and understanding. Rather, the church is in the spotlight over the worst possible actions and charges: child molesting and hate have engulfed church leadership. Victimimzed are the faithful and the innocent. From the Catholic Church and the Pope to Westboro Baptist Church and Minister Fred Phelps, God, to borrow the phrasing of Sinead O’Connor, needs to be rescued.
Almost daily, anguished stories about child abuse within the Catholic Church are being told.
In Mexico, it is the Legionaries of Christ and the activities of its founder Rev. Marcial Maciel who, according to CathNews, “hobnobbed with Mexico’s rich and famous, cut lucrative real estate deals and was rumored to travel on occasion with a briefcase full of cash. He fathered at least one child, molested seminarians and boys and is said to have boasted that he had the pope’s permission to get massages from young nuns.” This wheeling-dealing pedophile died two years ago, but his legacy lives on protected by a “legion” of American conservative Catholic intellectuals. According to Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times they include, “William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon; former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett and Deal Hudson, President George W. Bush’s Catholic liaison.”
In Ireland, there is the now-acknowledged child abuse by Irish-Catholic Priests. According to CNN, “The latest scandal comes on the heels of a huge government-backed report that found the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Catholic Church authorities in Ireland covered up child abuse by priests from 1975 to 2004.” Child sexual abuse was “widespread.”
In the United States, the New York Times has reported that “Top Vatican officials – including the future Pope Benedict XVI – did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church…internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.”
Obviously, if these are the protectors of the faith and the faithful, God needs to be rescued. And, quickly!
But these fallen Catholic clergymen aren’t alone in trying to make God in man’s image. There’s at least one other “God-fearing Christian” doing his best to cast doubt on the belief that God is all-encompassing, compassionate and loving.
Meet Baptist minister Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. The bizarre Reverend Phelps hates homosexuals. He hates ‘em all: fags, gays, homos, queers, fruits, dykes, lesbos, etc. On his “God Hates Fags” website (That’s its name, I kid you not.) Phelps elaborates, “By the time a person reaches the state of hard core, defiant, unrepentant, homosexual lifestyle, God has washed His hands of that person. God does not hate them because they are homosexuals; they are homosexuals because God hates them.”
But that’s not the whole of it. According to the National Review, “…during staged protests over Memorial Day weekend at Arlington National Cemetery, members of Phelps’ group sing ‘God Hates America’ to the tune of ‘God Bless America’ and hold signs that read ‘God is America’s terror,’ ‘Thank God for dead soldiers’ and ‘You’re going to hell.’ Phelps and his Westboro congregants have become old pros at staging these funeral protests. In fact, since 1991 (according to its website), Westboro’s members have carried out 42,840 demonstrations at homosexual parades and other events, including more than 200 military funerals of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Insisting that God is killing American soldiers in order to punish America for its openness to homosexuality, church members have proclaimed, ‘You turned the country over to fags, these soldiers are coming home in body bags.’”
Phelp’s Sunday morning sermons must be a real love-fest!
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But the family of 20-year-old Matthew Snyder, of Finksburg, Maryland, who died in Al Anbar province, Iraq, is fighting back. According to Matthew’s website, “(Our) civil lawsuit (seeks) to bring an end to the reign of terror and abuse that Westboro Church inflicted upon the grieving families of US service members… Using innocent children to deliver their twisted message of hatred and fear, the defendants in this suit have sought to attack the memory of our departed heroes, to strip their loved ones of their dignity, and to use abuse and intimidation as a tool for preventing surviving family members from reaching closure over their loss.”
As the case makes it way through the court system, the family was ordered this past week to pay $16,510. to Pastor Phelps for his legal fees. This and other decisions will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in a showdown between Freedom of Speech versus the privacy and religious rights of family. Remarked Albert Snyder, Matthew’s father, “This case simply alleges that one does not have the right to conspire to use lies in order to inflict intentional harm upon persons who are grieving the death of their children…it is my sincere hope that this suit will spark similar legal actions against Mr. Phelps wherever he seeks to inflict harm upon the memory of our heroes and their families”
God’s self-proclaimed leaders are His worst representatives.