Religious People Score Embarrassingly Low on Knowledge of Their Holy Texts; Atheists Excel

I remember reading about this study when it came out, in 2010, but I’d never seen this illuminating CNN interview with the chief authors. Tip of the hat to reddit.

Also, per the screenshot below, I somehow managed to be the 666th viewer of that YouTube video. Cross yourself!

CNN_ Do agnostics know more than believers? - YouTube

U.S. Monsignor Arsenault Accused of Fraud, More

Msgr. Edward Arsenault, the former top lieutenant of ex-Bishop John McCormack of the New Hampshire diocese, is under investigation for an “inappropriate” adult relationship and for financial shenanigans. Arsenault is thought to have dipped into church funds, the Associated Press reports.

The leader of one of the nation’s top clergy treatment centers resigned Monday over allegations involving an inappropriate adult relationship and misuse of church funds in New Hampshire, where he previously served in numerous leadership positions with the Diocese of Manchester.


The diocese said Monday that it received allegations earlier this year regarding a potentially inappropriate relationship involving Arsenault. During its investigation, the diocese found evidence of improper financial transactions, and reported the matter to the attorney general’s office.

In his New Hampshire post, Arsenault was responsible for handling the clergy sexual abuse crisis and for the church’s new child protection policies. Since 2009, he has been the CEO and president of the Catholic Church’s St. Luke Institute in Maryland, a treatment center for clergy and laity.

St. Luke’s website is incredibly vague about the kinds of problems and afflictions the institution treats, appropriating the empty language of the recovery and twelve-steps industries with gusto.

We see each individual as a whole person, and take a holistic approach to healing that integrates his or her psychological, spiritual and physical wellness. Treatment is tailored to each client’s situation.

Our relationships with our clients and the diocese or religious congregation who entrusts their priest or religious to our care are important to us. Recognizing the importance of local support for those on the path to recovery, our staff seeks to keep leadership informed throughout treatment while also respecting client confidentiality.

On and on it goes, with a complete lack of specificity. The AP says that St. Luke’s

treats priests with a range of mental illnesses and has played a key role in addressing the problem of sexually abusive clergy.

If Arsenault is guilty of the equally vague (for now) allegations, it looks like the monsignor might move from St. Luke’s executive office to one of the patient wards — just as soon as he’s done serving his jail sentence.

[image via wikimedia]

Vatican Gags African Whistleblower Priest

From the L.A. Times:

He is a celebrity across eastern and central Africa, a gospel music star known to many as the “Dancing Priest.” But for years he also was a keeper of painful secrets — his own and many others’.

In going public, Anthony Musaala [photo] has forced the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda to confront a problem it had insisted didn’t exist. And he may stir a debate far beyond Africa’s most Catholic of countries.


The Ugandan priest has been suspended indefinitely by the archbishop of Kampala for exposing what he calls an open secret: Sex abuse in the Catholic Church is a problem in Africa as well as in Western Europe and North America.

The African Catholic Church is fast-growing, pious and traditional. As the church elsewhere forks out billions of dollars to compensate the child sex abuse victims of priests, few African Catholics have questioned the assumption, voiced recently by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, that the African church is purer than its counterpart in the West, which is regarded as secular and permissive.

It’s not more pure, says Musaala. He says he has the evidence to prove it.

“The Vatican turns a blind eye because it doesn’t want to be embarrassed about this blooming church. But I think it’s time we had the truth,” Musaala says.

In March, he wrote to the archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Lwanga, about priests who fathered children, kept secret wives or abused girls or boys, and called for a debate on marriage for priests.

One of the cases of abuse he cited involved himself. He was one of numerous boys sexually abused at 16, he says, by Catholic brothers at one of Uganda’s best boarding schools. He also alleged several other cases of child sex abuse in his letter.

“Wherever you go, people know about this. It’s like an open secret. People know. Nothing is ever done,” said Musaala in an interview.

[image via The Notice]

Offense? Nun Taken.

John Waters recalls the nuns who set him on his path to film-making glory.

‘The first thing I can remember rebelling about really, was when I was about 8-years-old and every Sunday we’d go to church. Once a year they’d read us this pledge that we had to take for the Legion of Decency, which was the Catholic Church rating the movies — what you could see and what you couldn’t — and the condemned ones were the ones they’d tell us you’d go to Hell if you saw these movies.


Well, I remember refusing to do this pledge and my mother was kind of shocked, but I was just a child, and she didn’t make a big deal out of it. And on Sundays, the nuns would read us this list, with this voice like the Devil, and you know, seeing this nun stand there saying, “Love Is My ProfessionMom and DadThe Naked Night.” I thought “What are these movies?” I’d never heard of them — they didn’t play at my neighborhood, believe me — but I would go and see them, or read about them, and clip the little list and keep a record of all these condemned movies.  The Mom and Dad poster is hanging right in my hall — it’s still that much of an influence. But it made me want to see these movies I’d never, ever heard of. So, in fact they encouraged me, [the nuns] encouraged my interest, without ever knowing it completely.’

It’s a variation on what would come to be known as the Streisand effect, I suppose, and it delights me.

[hat tip to — and image via — Dangerous Minds]

Church Teacher Kills Man in Road Rage Assault

Librado Cena [photo] told police he was mad that another driver honked at him one afternoon in Northern Virginia last month. Naturally, he followed the man’s car into the parking lot of a mall, cornered him, and hit him in the head, according to court papers.


That night, the victim, 63-year-old William Hays O’Brien, slipped into a coma; and a week and a half later, he died of his injuries.

Now, guess where Librado Cena works? At St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, in Fairfax, VA (remember folks, Virginia is for lovers). His title: Director of religious education.

I’ll bet he’s been teaching people that stuff about turning the other cheek.

What Does My Name Mean? Librado, The Meaning Of Names

After the blow, O’Brien had a facial discoloration but initially didn’t seem seriously harmed. He returned home but called 911 hours later, telling the emergency dispatcher he had “a headache that’s about to make my head blow off.”

An ambulance was sent to O’Brien’s home. Paramedics forced their way inside and found O’Brien unconscious and unresponsive on the dining room floor, according to the search warrant. O’Brien was transported to a local hospital, where doctors determined he was suffering from a traumatic brain injury, court papers say. He was listed in critical condition and later died as a result of his injury.

Though Cena was the one who attacked O’Brien — the altercation was caught on a surveillance camera, and O’Brien was seen defending himself — the church man told cops “I think it was an even exchange,” adding “I would say he instigated it.”

Cena is currently charged with “aggravated malicious wounding.” Fairfax County prosecutors don’t rule out that he’ll face additional charges.

[screen shot via themeaningofnames; mugshot via onenewspage]

Groping Priest in NJ Back to Working With Kids Despite ‘Binding’ Promise; Archbishop Approves

How strongly does the Catholic Church believe in rooting out child abuse? This strongly:

Six years ago, to avoid retrial on charges that he groped a teenage boy, the Rev. Michael Fugee entered a rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and signed a binding agreement that would dictate the remainder of his life as a Roman Catholic priest.

Fugee would not work in any position involving children, the agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office states. He would have no affiliation with youth groups. He would not attend youth retreats. He would not hear the confessions of minors.

But Fugee has openly done all of those things for the past several years through an unofficial association with a Monmouth County church, St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck.

1 gaxxpope ARISTIDE

But it’s OK — you see, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers approves. And as a man who, when it gets down to it, only has to obey God, he’s above any earthly “binding agreements.”

Fugee was charged with criminal sexual contact in 2001 after he was accused of fondling the genitals of a 14-year-old boy during wrestling matches on two occasions. At the time, the priest served as assistant pastor at the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff. …

[Since the binding agreement,] he has attended weekend youth retreats in Marlboro and on the shores of Lake Hopatcong in Mount Arlington, parishioners say. Fugee also has traveled with members of the St. Mary’s youth group on an annual pilgrimage to Canada. At all three locations, he has heard confessions from minors behind closed doors. What’s more, he has done so with the approval of New Jersey’s highest-ranking Catholic official, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers [in photo, via the Star Ledger].

The agreement, allowing the groping priest to escape more serious judicial consequences, was signed by Fugee himself; and also by the archdiocese’s vicar general, on behalf of Archbishop Myers.

13-Year-Old Says Stepdad Pastor Raped Her

Pastor Michael Cornerstone works at the Voice of Jesus Salvation and Prayer Ministry in Ghana. He’ll need all the prayer and salvation he can get if he’s going to beat the rap on this one: The reverend was dragged into court yesterday for raping his 13-year-old stepdaughter.

A prosecutor told the court that the pastor married the victim’s mother in 2010, and alleged that in 2011, while the victim’s mother was in the Republic of Togo on a business trip, the preacher

lured the victim into a room one afternoon and defiled her. … After the act, pastor Cornerstone warned the victim not to reveal her ordeal to anyone or else she would die.


Then, in February of this year, while his wife was fast asleep, the clergyman snuck over to the room where the 13-year-old was, and had his way with her again.

Two weeks later, the girl complained of stomach pain and discomfort. She admitted to her mother that she’d been raped but initially refused to disclose by whom, saying she might die if she did.

Her stepfather fled the house when his wife announced she had something important to discuss with him, and wasn’t seen again until he was apprehended in another town two weeks later.

Pastor Cornerstone maintains his innocence.

[image via Telling Secrets

Dirty Collar: Priest Indicted for Child Porn

Yesterday, on a sunny and otherwise normal Wednesday in the St. Louis Archdiocese, the formerly unthinkable* happened: Father William F. Vatterott was indicted by a federal grand jury for possession of child pornography.

Father Vatterott possessed the child pornography between June 2010 and June 2011. He is expected to appear in federal court to answer the indictment later in the week or early next week.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan noted that the St. Louis Archdiocese cooperated with the investigation.

Vatterott and sexy seminarian. Image via St. Louis Review.

Vatterott (right) and sexy seminarian. Image via the St. Louis Review.

Points to the other members of the Archdiocese for keeping their cool in front of the po-po. However, it’s now time to scramble, guys… who’s got the electromagnet?!

The investigation into Vatterott and his attempt to get shivved in the showers of the Missouri State Penitentiary began in 2011:

In June 2011, two teenagers contacted the Archdiocese alleging inappropriate behavior by the Catholic priest. Although no physical contact was reported, Father Vatterott was accused of participating in illicit electronic correspondence with the teenagers. One of the teenagers also came forward with allegations involving underage drinking and additional inappropriate behaviors that have not been publicly disclosed at this time.

A subsequent investigation found the Catholic priest to be in possession of at least two images featuring an unidentified nude underage male.

Vatterrot’s previous assignment was as pastor at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, which I’m not touching despite its obvious hilarity.

* Now banal

Living (& Dying) in a Country Called ‘The Savior’

One reason I’d have a hard time living in El Salvador is because of its name. Would you want to live in a country called ‘The Savior’? I’ll admit it would be a fine name for a church, a hospital, or possibly a large dildo. But a modern nation?

Another reason why El Salvador doesn’t greatly appeal to me is because its government is exactly what you’d expect of a country with that name — a conservative cabal of overwhelmingly Catholic theocrats, interspersed with a few believers in more liberal “liberation theology.”

The country has, as its patron saint, the Transfigured Jesus, “the Divine Savior of the World,” and believe me: if, by accident of birth, you were a citizen of El Salvador, you’d know it. Vatican-flavored Catholicism is the law of the land, which means, among other things, that abortions are always illegal. Doesn’t matter if the woman was raped. Doesn’t matter if mother and fetus face horrific medical complications. The powers that be will courageously let them die if that’s what it takes, because hey, God (or the Savior) intends it. Que será será.


It could happen soon to a pregnant 22-year-old Salvadorian woman named Beatriz, who has lupus and kidney disease.

Doctors say Beatriz could die if she continues with the pregnancy, but have not yet treated her because they fear that if they end the pregnancy they might be prosecuted under the country’s total ban on abortion…

The country’s penal code states that anyone seeking or carrying out an abortion could be given a long prison sentence. This means both doctors and Beatriz would be at risk of imprisonment if a termination is carried out.

The medical staff is in a bind: the law gives them no power, no leeway, no discretion. There’s no Good Samaritan statute.

Beatriz’s case reminds me of that of a Brazilian nine-year-old who, in 2009, got pregnant with twins after she’d been raped by her father. Her pelvic structure and uterus weren’t developed enough to expel the babies if she’d tried to carry them to full term. Doctors decided to terminate the pregnancy and save the girl’s life.

The Catholic Church in Brazil was livid. Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho reportedly excommunicated the girl’s mother, the doctors, and other people involved in the abortion. (No word on whether the father was punished too.) The way the Church saw it, the moment the daddy’s sacred sperm combined with the girl’s divine eggs to form the Precious Miracle of Life, the prepubescent rape and incest victim was catholically obligated to carry the twins to term — and to die in the process.

Rather than rage about it all, the Monty Python team, decades ago, found a better way to deal with these absurdities (see below).

Of course, neither anger nor comic relief will save Beatriz’ life. Only the pious Salvadorian men in charge, and the Catholic authorities they serve, now hold that awesome power. May they use it wisely.

Jesus Saves, But Not From Rape

Dale Richardson will soon be out on bail. After he raises and pays the $25,000 bond, the South Carolina pastor will move back in with his wife, after spending about 22 months behind bars awaiting trial for multiple rapes and abduction. The reverend will be under house arrest, though the judge granted him an exemption for visiting church.

Which is a bit ironic, perhaps, as that’s exactly where Richardson frequently got all rapey.


Until the summer of 2011, Richardson, who graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia (the college founded by evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell), served as pastor at Freedom Free Will Baptist Church in Ladson, South Carolina.

He preached love and kindness — but apparently didn’t practice those things too much.

Richardson’s crimes came to light shortly after he gave a lift to a young woman, in July 2011.

When the 20-year-old tried to get out of the car, he allegedly pulled a gun, bound her hands, covered her head and took her to the grey-blue trailer home behind the church.

The [police] report said he later dropped the woman in a wooded area, threatening to shoot her if she turned around.

Police said the woman was able to identify Richardson from his picture on the church website, which also displays a short biography detailing how he became a Christian and then a pastor.

Richardson has since been charged with two other similar sexual assaults.

He is accused of bringing one of those women to the church trailer. The third woman claims she was raped in a wooded area outside nearby Summerville, which is about 20 miles north west of Charleston.

He is also charged with kidnapping a fourth woman.

The mother of the kidnapping victim went on the local TV news in August 2011 to say her daughter wasn’t raped thanks to the power of prayer:

“When she put her head down in her knees and started praying, ‘Oh, God, please, please, Oh God’ — it shook him up and he let her go,” [she said]. “God moved in a supernatural way from having to go through what the other girls went through.”

So apparently, the other girls just didn’t pray hard enough.

[photo: AP, via the Daily Mail]

Oz Priest: ‘I Saw Church Evidence Tampering’

Insert joke here about priests who blow something other than the whistle. But to Victor Buhagiar, church child abuse is no laughing matter. He has recently quit his post as a Catholic priest over what he sees as an institutional inclination to bury the truth, abandoning the church after a dozen years of leading parishes across Victoria, Australia. The country is in the midst of a huge and unprecedented government inquiry into church-based child abuse.

Buhagiar says he personally saw unethical attempts by church authorities to prevent damaging information from coming out.

Buhagiar claims it has became impossible to continue after he found out the Church was deleting records relating to child sexual abuse.

“I saw the Archbishop and I heard the Archbishop telling the secretary to turn off the recorder,” Buhagiar said.


Alarm bells first began to ring for Buhagiar at a council meeting of the state’s most powerful priests last April. “As soon as the recording was turned off, the Archbishop started talking about the sex abuse situation,” Buhagiar said. …

“After that meeting I made enquiries as to why the recorder was turned off at that particular moment. Again, whoever I asked said to me, I do not remember, when I pushed, they said so that no names are mentioned,” Buhagiar said.

“I suspect the recorder was turned off to minimise the possibility of investigators finding evidence that can be useful to the inquiry, or to the Royal Commission; to create like a black hole, an empty space that when the investigators try to see how the situation evolved during the last 10 years or so, they seem to find nothing.”

It’s too late for that. The cat is already out of the bag, and the church will have a lot of explaining to do:

The Royal Commission estimates there are 5000 people waiting for their chance to give evidence against the Catholic Church and other institutions.

[image via Today Tonight]

A Regular Find: Fetuses in Church Bathrooms

When you find three fetuses in a church’s women’s bathroom, as happened yesterday in the Philippines, it might be worth wondering whether the remains were left by a regular female churchgoer who could enter and exit the place without drawing suspicion. But that’s not really how this news story is presented:

Three fetuses were found inside the toilet of a church in Novaliches, Quezon City, Saturday morning.

Flora Duran, a maintenance worker, was cleaning the women’s room at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy on Quirino Highway around 8 a.m. when she discovered the fetuses stuffed in a green shopping bag.

Novaliches police station investigators said the discovery raised the possibility that an abortionist was operating just within the community.


I see. “An abortionist” who is “operating just within the community.” Very delicate language there, rich with the politics of distancing and prevaricating.

But fetuses show up in church bathrooms in the Philippines more often than you might think. So often, in fact, that Manila’s archbishop wrote a pastoral letter about it a few years ago.

Alarmed over the number of fetuses left in churches and other public places, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales Thursday issued a pastoral letter to remind Catholics about the “evils of abortion.”

On Tuesday night, two fetuses were found in Manila’s most prominent Catholic churches — the Manila Cathedral and Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

The first, believed to be that of a six to seven month-old boy, was discovered by a churchgoer at Manila Cathedral in Intramuros at around 5 p.m. … At about 6:45 p.m., another fetus was found inside a box in Quiapo Church by a Black Nazarene devotee who thought it contained a bomb.

More Filipino church-fetus cases here and here and here.

[cartoon via sodahead]