The Birmingham protest shows we still can’t take LGBT equality for granted | Gaby Hinsliff | Opinion | The Guardian


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

So opens a Jackanory-style film uploaded to social media this week by one Birmingham mother, featuring her reading aloud from a picture book called Mommy, Mama and Me. It’s a cosy, toddler-friendly bedtime story about two mothers doing what mothers do the world over: pouring juice, tucking children up in bed, playing hide and seek. Your children’s primary school or your local library might well have a copy. Although they might have plumped instead for And Tango Makes Three, the tale of two daddy penguins adopting a chick.

Her point, of course, was to reassure anyone alarmed by wild rumours about primary school sex education that the idea of gay relationships can be introduced in a perfectly age-appropriate way, even to five-year-olds. Watching that film, I thought how far we’ve come since the 1980s, when tabloid scare stories about leftwing councils stocking such books in libraries panicked Margaret Thatcher into introducing section 28 – the ban on local authorities “promoting homosexuality”. Now we have an openly gay schools minister and a generation of kids who thankfully won’t have to grow up heaped with corrosive, lifelong shame. Times have changed. But not so much that we can take them for granted.

 

Source: The Birmingham protest shows we still can’t take LGBT equality for granted | Gaby Hinsliff | Opinion | The Guardian

The culture of respect for religion has gone too far | Polly Toynbee | Opinion | The Guardian


The pope has flown home after a roughing-up in Ireland. Just a few years ago it was unimaginable that a gay taoiseach would dare berate a visiting pontiff face-to-face about the “dark aspects” of Ireland’s history and “brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic church”.

Leo Varadkar’s magnificent assault eviscerated his country’s past cultural capture by the church. “The failures of both church and state and wider society created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering,” he said. “It is a history of sorrow and shame.” The sorrow is not just for victims of monstrous priestly abuse, but the abuse of an entire society in thrall to clerical oppression: lives crimped, warped and blighted, no escape from the church’s domination of everything. The best Irish literature breathes that pernicious incense.

Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland had the opposite effect of the healing intended: it set a seal on the liberation of a nation broken free with its votes on same-sex marriage and abortion. Varadkar’s government plans to loosen the grip of the Catholic church over primary education, ripping out indoctrination by the roots.

The pope apologised for the “grave scandal”, for the failure “adequately to address these repellent crimes” that “remain a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community”. But the Irish horrors are beyond apology, the women enslaved in Magdalene laundries, babies snatched into forced adoption, and 800 children’s bodies dumped into a cesspit at a convent in Tuam. For thousands revealed to have been abused by Catholic priests around the world, whose crimes were covered up by bishops and the Vatican, no mere apology will do.

 

Source: The culture of respect for religion has gone too far | Polly Toynbee | Opinion | The Guardian

Pope Francis makes plea for forgiveness in Dublin as Ireland trip ends – video | World news | The Guardian


The pope addresses a crowd of half a million people in Dublin at the closing event of a fraught two-day trip to Ireland, which has been dominated by the issue of sexual and institutional abuse in the Catholic church. In his penitential prayer, the pope listed specific forms of abuse, including sexual crimes and forced or coerced adoptions.

 

Source: Pope Francis makes plea for forgiveness in Dublin as Ireland trip ends – video | World news | The Guardian

Read more

Pope begs forgiveness for abuse scandals as Ireland trip ends | The Guardian

Pope begs forgiveness for ‘state of shame’ inflicted on Ireland | Reuters

 

I was raped by a priest, then it was covered-up. The pope has to tell the truth | Colm O’Gorman | Opinion | The Guardian


remember the last papal visit to Ireland. It was 1979, and I was aged 13. I went to a Christian Brothers school. I sang at mass every Sunday, occasionally did readings, and the youth group I attended every week took place in a convent.

I remember being envious because my older brother and sister got to see the pope, but I didn’t. I was in the minority in that regard: a staggering 75% of the population saw John Paul II during his three-day visit. One-third of the population attended the papal mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. That event remains the largest single mobilisation of people in Irish history.

I remember the most iconic moment of the visit, during a youth mass in Galway. The pope’s voice booming out across a crowd of 300,000 young people as he proclaimed: “Young people of Ireland, I love you!” I remember the ecstatic cheering of that huge crowd in response. And I remember my own heart feeling like it might burst as I watched it all unfold on television. I believed him. He loved us. No one had ever said that before. It was huge.

Eighteen months later, I was raped for the first time by a Roman Catholic priest. The abuse continued for two and half years, until I was 17, and I fled. More than a decade later, I finally found the strength to report those crimes. That complaint would eventually lead me to uncovering the crimes not just of one priest, but the cover up of the crimes of many others by bishops, cardinals and even popes. It led to me suing a pope in an effort to force the Vatican to tell the truth of what it knew about the rape and abuse of children by its priests.

Source: I was raped by a priest, then it was covered-up. The pope has to tell the truth | Colm O’Gorman | Opinion | The Guardian

Treasure hidden in weakness and suffering


Under Reconstruction

The phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” never sat right with me. I was never sure why, until recently.

It brings to mind a kind strength that is callous toward pain and indifferent to weakness. Or a cold strength of ambition that propels you forward, faster, higher, while paying no heed to what you leave behind. Maybe I’m reading too much into a quip, or maybe I’ve come to desire a radically different kind of strength.

The strength I desire could be mistaken for weakness. You could say that what hasn’t killed me has made me weaker. Weaker in that I feel pain more acutely, mine as well as others’. Weaker in that I am aware of my own shortcomings, and those more forgiving of others’. And weaker in that I relinquish all desire to live life in pursuit of self-glory, instead accepting whatever God places before me, determined to find…

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When the Catholic Church owns your doctor: The insidious new threat to affordable birth control


Original post from Salon

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Eight of the largest health systems in America are now Catholic-owned. More and more won’t prescribe contraception

(Credit: gualtiero boffi, salajean via Shutterstock/Salon)
(Credit: gualtiero boffi, salajean via Shutterstock/Salon)

Angela Valavanis had already had one bad encounter with the Catholic health care system when St. Francis Hospital, the hospital in Evanston, Ill., where she delivered her second baby, refused to allow her OB/GYN to tie her tubes because of Catholic restrictions on the procedure. When she went to her doctor’s office for a check-up after the birth and asked about going back on the Pill, since she hadn’t gotten the sterilization she wanted, she got another shock: “My doctor told me that she couldn’t prescribe birth control because she had sold her practice to a Catholic health system,” said Angela. “My mouth dropped open. I was so confused to hear those words coming out of the mouth of an OB/GYN.”

 An OB/GYN who can’t prescribe birth control? It’s not some bad joke. It could be a reality if your doctor’s practice is purchased by a Catholic health system that then imposes the Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a set of rules created by the U.S. Bishop’s Conference that prohibits doctors from doing everything from prescribing the Pill to performing sterilizations or abortions.

And Angela’s experience may be just the tip of the iceberg. Driven by health-care economics and incentives in the Affordable Care Act, health systems, which are a collection of hospitals and ancillary services, are acquiring physician practices at anunprecedented rate. The percentage of doctors who were employees of health systemsincreased from 20 percent to 26 percent between 2012 and 2013 alone; more than 40 percent of primary care doctors like OB/GYNs are now employed by health systems directly, and experts don’t see the trend slowing.

And with Catholic hospital systems accounting for eight of the 10 of the largest nonprofit health systems in the U.S., these hospitals are poised to become major owners of doctors’ offices, which could severely impede access to contraceptives if doctors are forced to follow the Directives. “The more we see these Catholic systems buying up these practices, the more we are going to see what Angela saw,” predicted Lorie Chaiten, director of the Illinois ACLU’s Reproductive Rights Project, who notes that such refusals are legal under Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

 “Angela went to the same provider for 15 years and all of the sudden she couldn’t get birth control. This could have a huge impact on women,” Chaiten said.

Last year, Ascension Health system, a Catholic system, and the largest nonprofit health system in the country, attracted national attention when it reportedly told doctors at an Oklahoma hospital that they couldn’t prescribe birth control. Ascension quickly backed down, deciding that it would “tolerate,” but not “approve, condone or permit,” the prescription of contraception by physician employees.

Now it appears that the largest system in Illinois, Presence Health, is also prohibiting doctors from providing contraceptives. Presence was created by the merger of two smaller Catholic systems, Resurrection Health Care, which was the system that bought Angela’s doctor’s practice, and Provena Health. Today, Presence Health owns 11 hospitals and dozens of doctor’s offices.

These health systems are merging, and gobbling up doctors’ practices, because of incentives in the ACA for systems to coordinate care across the range of services that patients need, from doctor’s visits to in-patient hospital procedures, and because of health care economics, that make it prohibitively expensive for doctors to maintain solo practices.

Asked directly whether its doctors in Evanston and elsewhere in Illinois were prevented from providing contraception, Presence said in a statement, “We abide by the Ethical & Religious Directives, and there are certain services which we do not provide. It is our expectation that all physicians associated with Presence Saint Francis Hospital share with their patients the options that are available in accessing the care they seek.”

But telling women about their options isn’t a solution when they are denied access to contraception, says Chaiten. “Even if they tell you what your options are, you have to have a second appointment with another doctor to get birth control. This seems inconsistent with whole idea of OB/GYN practice.”

Not only do women have to face the inconvenience of making—and paying—for another doctor’s appointment to get one of the most basic gynecological services, but there’s also a bigger problem: “The more we stigmatize and silo reproductive health care, the more it seems like it’s OK to treat it as not basic health care,” says Chaiten.

In fact, when Angela went back to her doctor after giving birth in mid-2013, the doctor indicated to Angela that she would provide her with a prescription for birth control if Angela would just make up a non-contraceptive reason, like severe menstrual bleeding or bad acne. But Angela refused to lie.

“I felt so betrayed that a doctor would essentially sell out her patients by selling her practice to an entity that won’t allow her to provide the same level of care. I haven’t been back to her,” she says.

But for some women, changing doctors may not be an option. Health insurers are becoming increasingly restrictive about which hospitals and doctors a patient is allowed to use and may charge a steep penalty for going out of the network of preferred providers. Smaller towns and rural areas may not have a large selection of OB/GYNs. The ACLU is backing a measure in the Illinois Legislature that would require health systems to tell patients beforehand what services they don’t provide and where they can get them. Chaiten also encourages women who have been denied reproductive health services for religious reason to report it to the ACLU, which is tracking this trend.

Ironically, Angela’s experience with her OB/GYN wasn’t her last run-in with Catholic health care. After she was refused a tubal ligation and a prescription for birth control, Angela’s husband decided to get a vasectomy. His doctor, who was also part of the Catholic system, said his practice couldn’t do the procedure or make a referral. “The whole situation is so unbelievable to me. I had no idea these limitations occurred,” she says. “When I tell my friends about it, they say it’s medieval. We have to worry that if they keep buying up all these practices, it will get harder and harder to find someone who can prescribe birth control.”

Patricia Miller is the author of “Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church.” Her work on politics, sex and religion has appeared in the Atlantic, the Nation, Huffington Post, RH Reality Check and Ms. Magazine.