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Appeal for donations

November 27, 2014

Thank you, loyal readers and contributors, for your moral and financial support of Voice from the Desert since we launched this blog in 2006.

 

Voice from the Desert educates the public about clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups, advocates for the protection of children, and works for healing and justice for abuse victims/survivors. Since 2006, we have published more than 10,000 news and opinion posts on this blog. These posts include relevant “reprints” from the media, my own opinion pieces, and news about and from abuse victims/survivors, survivor advocates, reform supporters, and activist organizations and individuals. By giving voice to the voiceless and promoting the gospel values of compassion, truth, and justice, Voice from the Desert contributes to broader worldwide grassroots efforts to increase public education about childhood sexual abuse and much needed substantive reform in the Roman Catholic Church and in society in general.

 

If you feel that Voice from the Desert has been a constructive force for good, and you can afford to give, I invite you to send a check today (no credit cards or PayPal, please) to help continue our work. Please make your check payable to Frank Douglas and send it to

 

Frank Douglas

30 West Lambert Lane, Unit 255

Tucson, AZ  85737

 

Thank you.

 

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Frank Douglas  |  Oro Valley, AZ  |  Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014

 


Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2014

I wish everybody a Happy Thanksgiving.

My thoughts are above all with those who have been abused.  I hope and wish for strength and peace of mind and body for them and for those closest to them.

[Frank]


Robert Geisinger, Vatican sex-crime investigator, tied to coverup

November 24, 2014

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/robert-geisinger-vatican-sex-crime-investigator-tied-to-coverup-1.2846562

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Robert Geisinger, Vatican sex-crime investigator, tied to coverup

Jesuit priest knew about pedophile Rev. Donald McGuire as early as 1995, documents show

The Associated Press Posted: Nov 23, 2014 8:58 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 23, 2014 8:58 PM ET

Pope Francis shakes hands with Rev. Robert Geisinger S.J., after choosing the American priest to investigate sexual abuse by Catholic priests worldwide. (Vatican Radio)

Vatican says 848 priests defrocked for abuse since 2004

Vatican grilled by UN panel on child sex abuse by priests

Sexual abuse by priests ‘a mystery,’ Pope says

An American priest named by Pope Francis as the Vatican’s sex crimes prosecutor in September was among church officials who failed to report an abusive priest to law enforcement, according to legal documents reviewed by The Boston Globe.

Vatican says 848 priests defrocked for abuse since 2004

Vatican grilled by UN panel on child sex abuse by priests

Sexual abuse by priests ‘a mystery,’ Pope says

 

The Rev. Robert Geisinger, the second-highest-ranking leader of the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s, knew as early as 1995 about abuse complaints against the Rev. Donald McGuire, and he advised church officials as late as August 2002 on how to discipline McGuire, the Globe reported in Sunday editions.

The newspaper cited legal documents including church records produced during lawsuits by McGuire’s victims. Court documents also show that abuse complaints against McGuire date back to the 1960s, but the Jesuits failed for years to tell police.

‘Why on earth would Francis pick a priest with a problematic track record on abuse in the U.S. to deal with abuse worldwide?’- David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests

McGuire, 84, is in federal prison serving a 25-year sentence. The former spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa, who once commanded a worldwide following as a gifted teacher and philosopher, is considered one of the most influential figures convicted in the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse scandal.

Geisinger declined to comment late Sunday, citing the late hour. He referred questions from The Associated Press to the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Lombardi said in a statement that Geisinger has a “solid and proven record in child protection dating back nearly two decades.” Lombardi said that Geisinger, while serving with the Chicago Jesuits, “voiced concerns” about McGuire’s conduct and was the canon lawyer who prepared the case that led to McGuire’s dismissal from the clerical state.

“The Holy See fully expects Father Geisinger to continue to do an excellent job as Promoter of Justice, based on his prosecution record, his commitment to justice and his concern for victims,” Lombardi said.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, released a statement Sunday urging Pope Francis to rescind the appointment of Geisinger as sex crimes prosecutor.

Rev. Donald J. McGuire, seen in 2007, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for sexually abusing boys. (The Associated Press)

“Why on earth would Francis pick a priest with a problematic track record on abuse in the U.S. to deal with abuse worldwide?” Clohessy said. “Why choose one who so clearly and repeatedly refused to call the law or tell the truth about a notorious, now-imprisoned serial predator?”

Bishop Charles Scicluna, Geisinger’s predecessor as chief sex crimes prosecutor, or “promoter of justice,” told the AP that Geisinger’s previous work in the church as procurator general in Rome for the Jesuits was excellent.

“He is a fine canonist dedicated to serving as a very strong promoter of justice,” Scicluna said.

A Wisconsin jury convicted McGuire of five counts of indecent behaviour with a child in 2006, three years after two men came forward to report they were abused by McGuire during trips to Fontana, Wis., in 1967 and 1968. At the time, McGuire taught the boys at the Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The Wisconsin case helped pave the way for federal prosecution and the 25-year sentence against McGuire in 2008 on charges of travelling outside the U.S. and across state lines to have sex with a teenager.

Federal authorities alleged in court documents that McGuire sexually molested boys in their teens and men in their early 20s throughout the 1990s and up until 2003.

Last year, Jesuit officials agreed to pay $19.6 million to settle a lawsuit by six men who alleged they were abused by McGuire between 1975 and the early 2000s, according to the men’s lawyer.

 

 


Enjoy this stunning video from the BBC

November 23, 2014

Eva Weber sent me the link to this stunning video from the BBC.

Thank you, Eva!

Click below and enjoy.

 

www.youtube.com/embed/auSo1MyWf8g?rel=0

 


Large funeral Mass for admitted abuser priest raises concerns in Seattle

November 20, 2014

http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/large-funeral-mass-admitted-abuser-priest-raises-concerns-seattle

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I thank “Cynical Saint” for this link.

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Large funeral Mass for admitted abuser priest raises concerns in Seattle

Dan Morris-Young  |  Nov. 19, 2014

 

An overflow funeral Mass with some 20 celebrants and choir at St. Joseph Parish in Seattle for a former priest who admitted to sexually abusing boys has left some parishioners confused and angry and Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain talking about revisiting archdiocesan protocols for funerals of priests removed from ministry for child sex abuse.

Those supportive of the liturgy and previous evening’s vigil for admitted abuser David Jaeger, 70, emphasized church teaching on mercy and forgiveness, honoring a friend, hope in the Resurrection, and paying respect for Jaeger’s pastoral work, notably his ministry to the gay and lesbian community and people with AIDS.

The vigil and Mass were held July 28-29 at St. Joseph after family and planners received permission from its pastor, Jesuit Fr. John Whitney. Whitney said they had told him that Seattle’s other Jesuit-staffed parish where Jaeger attended, St. Ignatius, would be too small to accommodate the number of people expected. (St. Joseph seats about 700.)

The Vatican accepted Jaeger’s petition to be laicized in 2005 after it had been revealed he admitted to sexually exploiting up to 10 boys. Jaeger died July 22 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease,according to an obituary in The Seattle Times.

Months after the funeral took place, St. Joseph parishioners and others, including the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have continued to express concerns and lodge complaints with Whitney and the archdiocese. Nearly two dozen people took part in an Oct. 13 “sidewalk news conference” in front of the Seattle chancery building.

Critics say:

The funeral violated the spirit, if not specifics, of current archdiocesan policies as well as the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People developed in the wake of the national clergy sex abuse scandal;

The nature of the funeral celebration could discourage potential clergy sex abuse victims from speaking out, as it appeared to gloss over or ignore an offender’s acts of abuse;

The event revictimized people who have been abused; and

The Times obituary as well as the eulogy and funeral program depicted Jaeger’s laicization as motivated by his wanting to be with his longtime partner without any reference to the sexual abuse of boys.

The archdiocesan guidelines for the funeral of a priest removed from ministry allow for a homily but proscribe a eulogy.

Archdiocesan spokesman Greg Magnoni and Sartain have said that archdiocesan guidelines apply to priests removed from ministry, but not to priests who have been laicized like Jaeger.

Nonetheless, Whitney said he provided Jaeger’s funeral planners a copy of the archdiocese’s precepts and thought he made it clear they should be followed.

Asked separately about their participation in the liturgy as concelebrants, two priests—who wished to remain anonymous—echoed one another. “To be honest, I was offended by some aspects of the funeral and probably would have stayed home had I known a few of the things that what would be said,” said one, “but I decided to honor the memory of a friend and do what I regarded as a work of mercy—burying the dead.”

Both men lauded Jaeger’s AIDS ministry, which along with directing outreach to the gay and lesbian community were Jaeger’s final assignments with the archdiocese.

In an Oct. 9 letter to St. Joseph parishioner Steven Cramer, Sartain said “the Archdiocese had asked that the spirit of the guidelines be closely followed in the case of David Jaeger, even though he had been laicized,” and Whitney had “informed the family of the requirement that the guidelines be followed.”

“Even at a time as sensitive as the death of the perpetrator,” Sartain wrote, “the greatest prudence and sensitivity must be shown so that, while the deceased is given a Christian burial which proclaims the Lord’s mercy and our hope in the Resurrection, the impression is not given that the abuse perpetrated by the deceased did not take place or was not serious.”

Acknowledging “the fact that 20 priests concelebrated,” Sartain wrote: “We will assure that this does not occur in any future similar situation.” He concluded, “In light of our experience with the Jaeger funeral, I will personally review our guidelines once again to determine if further refinements are needed.”

In an Aug. 2 open letter to parishioners, Whitney said: “In hindsight, I believe I made two mistakes regarding these events, for which I apologize to the St. Joseph community and to those who may have been offended: first, by allowing the vigil to be on site it gave the entire event a prominence that could be misunderstood as disregard for the abuse in which Jaeger engaged; and second, by not more directly and authoritatively overseeing the planning I perhaps allowed certain excesses to occur. … While I set certain ground-rules, and believe they were largely adhered to, maybe I could have done more.”

In his letter, Whitney said, “It was a difficult situation, and one that confounds me even now.

“I recognize that there continues to be much denial about the reality of abuse in all segments of the Church—liberal, conservative, the bishops, and the people in the pews,” he added. “The complexity of human sin and human goodness makes it a challenge to see how both exist so starkly in one person. When we look for simple answers, we either reduce someone to their sin, or try to whitewash that sin or ignore the damage that it causes (and thus compound the hurt for the victims). It is an impossible dichotomy for us to navigate, yet God somehow holds both shores. Perhaps, if we all become more humble, we may yet find reconciliation in the Church: reconciliation that does not drive away survivors of abuse, but that also leads perpetrators to genuine repentance.”

Parishioners mentioned the obituary on Jaeger in which a photo of him as a young cleric was featured and which announced the times and locations of the vigil and funeral. Prepared by friends and family, no mention of Jaeger’s abuse history was included.

Magnoni said the archdiocese “had no control” over the obituary and other aspects of the funeral. The archdiocesan guidelines in cases of men not laicized would have required the death notice to include the words: “removed from active ministry according to the norms of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

The funeral was expected to become part of the discussion Tuesday at a town hall meeting at Seattle’s St. Bridget Parish and will be put before the priest’s council by Sartain this week.

Fifteen minutes from St. Joseph Parish, the St. Bridget gathering was scheduled to update parishioners on issues surrounding the case of Fr. Harold Quigg, who led that parish from 1989 until retiring in 2000.

In 2004, Quigg was removed from ministry at the recommendation of a board investigating clerical sexual abuse cases. The board recommended his name be made public. Now-retired Archbishop Alexander Brunett decided against the recommendation.

In April, St. Bridget parishioners became aware of Quigg’s abuser status via a posting on the SNAP website. However, for a decade, the priest celebrated occasional weddings, baptisms and funerals, wore his clerical collar, socialized and accepted gifts from former parishioners who believed he was retired and in good standing.

In a May 2 news release, the archdiocese said Quigg had agreed to not wear clerical garb, not take part in public ministry, not to “present himself publicly as a priest,” and to submit to “the archdiocesan relapse prevention program which included the services of a qualified third party monitor with experience in supervising all types of sexual offenders.”

The release said “the steps taken … were not sufficient to alert us of Quigg’s violations of the restrictions on the celebrations of the sacraments” and confirmed that pastors, staff members and parishioners where Quigg served had not been informed of his status or of the nature of the allegations.

On May 6, Sartain and a handful of archdiocesan officials faced a crowd of nearly 200 at St. Bridget. During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Sartain apologized for the breakdown in supervision of removed sexual abusers and said he would have made Quigg’s name public if he had known what he knows now.

Based “on what the archdiocese has learned recently,” the May 2 statement promised a “thorough review” of the archdiocese’s “relapse prevention program” and monitoring protocols.

Asked Tuesday if the archdiocese had issued a report or update on the review relapse prevention program, Magnoni said: “Harold Quigg’s issue is a personnel matter.”

Parishioners concerned about the Jaeger funeral have linked it with the Quigg case, viewing both as indicative of a lack of archdiocesan diligence in regard to priests found to be credibly accused of sexual abuse of children.

[Dan Morris-Young is an NCR West Coast correspondent. His email address isdmyoung@ncronline.org.]

 


A Jesuit Inspiration

November 20, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/opinion/a-jesuit-inspiration.html?_r=0

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I THANK EWA WEBER FOR THIS LINK.

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The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

A Jesuit Inspiration

 

By MICHAEL C. MCCARTHY

 

NOV. 14, 2014

 

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — At the age of 19 I left college at Stanford to become a Jesuit. It’s not that I didn’t love being a student there; I did. But somehow it wasn’t enough. By contrast, the Jesuit high school I attended in San Francisco stressed a very clear educational objective: to form men and women for others. We learned, among other things, that an education not oriented toward justice for others was a farce. Despite Stanford’s extraordinary resources and possibilities, I missed the clarity of purpose. I left to enter the Jesuit order. Never have I regretted the decision.

That was in 1983. Since then I have spent most of my life in higher education. But as much as I love teaching and scholarship, my relationship with academia has been an awkward one. In many respects I find academic culture to have the same flaw that Catholic clerical culture does: the tendency to turn in on itself and guard its privileges rather than spend its energies in humbly serving the world.

Occasionally, however, great leaders rise up and challenge us to be more.

On Nov. 16, 1989, the Jesuit rector of the Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador, the Rev. Ignacio Ellacuría, was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and shot point-blank in his garden by an elite military squad. Five other Jesuit priests and educators, along with their housekeeper and her daughter, were ordered to lie face down on the lawn and were killed execution-style.

The clear aim of the assassination was to silence Father Ellacuría. He was outspoken in his denunciation of atrocities on both sides of the Salvadoran civil war, which raged for over 10 years and claimed the lives of more than 75,000 people. At issue was a society in which a dozen or so families virtually owned the country and treated their peasant laborers as if they were feudal serfs. The Salvadoran military, materially supported by the Cold War foreign policy of the United States, felt compelled to protect the status quo by attempting to disable a university committed to being a positive social force.

Trained as a philosopher, Father Ellacuría was known to be a tough thinker and natural leader, who persuaded his colleagues to embrace his vision of what a university should be. In his first year as rector, the university stated that as an institution it would offer a “response to the historical reality of the country.” The state of the country was judged to be “an unjust and irrational reality that should be transformed.” Thus, the university’s purpose was “that of contributing to social change in the country. It does this in a university manner and with a Christian inspiration.”

While Father Ellacuría has often been identified with “liberation theology,” that phrase is often mistaken as a cipher for Marxism. He was committed to what in larger Catholic circles has often been called a “preferential option for the poor” — the principle that a society or an institution must ultimately be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, not those with access to power and privilege. In this analysis, the capitalist system does not emerge without criticism, but another Jesuit (who certainly does not identify as a liberation theologian), Pope Francis, has been advancing the same principle. To many, the pope’s challenge is unsettling, but he is hardly a Marxist. In his own time, when Father Ellacuría was so accused, he replied, “I am not a Communist; I am a Christian.”

The other Jesuit scholars who were killed with him also applied their academic skills to real-world problems. For instance, the Rev. Ignacio Martín-Baró was a social psychologist whose research focused on the psychic conditions of living in a context of structural violence. The Rev. Segundo Montes taught anthropology with a view to the effects of social stratification and the displaced victims of the civil war. The Rev. Amando López Quintana was the chairman of the philosophy department but worked on weekends as a parish priest and championed a mass-literacy campaign.

At the time, I was a young Jesuit studying classics at Oxford and worrying about the quality of the weekly essays I wrote for my tutor. The deaths in El Salvador reminded me that there were more substantive things in life. I was shocked and outraged by the news. But I also felt proud that scholars mattered so much that they could be a threat to the Salvadoran Army. I was deeply moved by the courageous example of Father Ellacuría, who saw the responsibility of his institution as lending intellectual support to those who did not have the academic qualifications to legitimize their rights. His life has challenged me to keep my sights not on conventional measures of success but on what really matters: the contribution I am making to the world.

Even more, his vision of what a university could be has inspired me, especially at a time when education is increasingly treated as a commodity, rather than the cultivation of a moral vision. While students, more than ever, are anxious about economic concerns and rightly ask whether a university education will get them a job, economic satisfaction or the learning of a marketable skill set will not, ultimately, satisfy them. A strong sense of purpose and commitment to their community will.

As the future of higher education remains so uncertain, and as the financial pressures of running universities increase, I find great courage in those schools that strive to be driven by something more than the market economy. Father Ellacuría championed the vision of a university that would be an “inescapable social force” for good. That is no less important in 2014 than it was in 1989. I still believe that an education not grounded in justice is a farce and that we desperately need wise, courageous, even heroic academic leaders to realize the highest purposes of education.

The Rev. Michael C. McCarthy, a Jesuit priest, is a professor and the executive director of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at Santa Clara University.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on November 15, 2014, in The International New York Times. 

 

 


The Strange Religious Future

November 19, 2014

http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/the-strange-religious-future/

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The Strange Religious Future

NOVEMBER 19, 2014 3:48 PM

 

November 19, 2014 3:48 pm Comment

 

I had the privilege of being part of a Fordham University event last night on the future of religion, responding (along with a rather more distinguished fellow panelist) to remarks by the religion journalist and academic Molly Worthen on the roots of institutional faith’s present-day developed-world decline. There was, I think, some basic agreement among all of the panelists about some of the patterns and shifts we’re experiencing right now (the decline of institutional authority, the working out of the sexual revolution, the rise of the so-called “nones”), and then a number of interesting things were said about the possible unknowns that might either accelerate or redirect current trends: There was discussion of how institutional-cum-orthodox forms of faith might experience some sort of revival, of how spiritual-but-not-religious forms of faith might represent the vanguard of an entirely new era of religious understanding, and of how religious forces outside the developed world (Islam, Pentecostalism, Chinese Christianity) might matter more to the West itself than a Western-centric vision allows.

All of us were trying, I think, to escape a little bit from the tyranny of extrapolation — the tendency to assume that today’s trends will necessarily be tomorrow’s, and that history happens in a relatively linear and Whiggish fashion. But reflecting on the discussion afterward, it seems worth dwelling a little more the importance of the unexpected in religious history, the ways in which various forms of rupture and reversal can make punditry look foolish.

This issue has come up a bit in my recent discussions of Roman Catholicism, where the word “schism,” which I’ve dropped a few times, has often been greeted with a touch of shock or outrage from people on different sides of internal R.C. debates. As it should be, of course — I’m obviously using it to shock a bit, to emphasize what I see as the high stakes in current debates — but only if that shock is happening for the right reasons, only if it reflects a legitimate horror of schism, rather than a disbelief that such a thing could ever happen. Because no such disbelief is justified, any more than it would have been before any previous schism or division (ancient, medieval or Reformation-era ) put an end to a previously longstanding unity. Schism happens; indeed, it happens pretty often in its minor forms (and has been happening apace in Protestantism), and while its major forms are rare enough that you shouldn’t expect them around every corner, when they do happen they can dramatically redirect existing trajectories, and completely rewrite what seem like basic religious scripts.

As, of course, can all sorts of unlooked-for developments. Whatever ultimately comes of the Francis era in Catholicism, nobody making predictions about the future of Catholicism circa 2010 expected Benedict’s resignation and Francis’s accession, let alone anything that’s followed. Similarly, nobody making projections about the future of Catholicism circa 1940 would have expected something exactly like the Second Vatican Council. And nobody looking at the religious landscape in 1950 would have imagined that by 2040 Africa could dominate Catholic demographics and that China might have the largest Christian population in the world. And all of these happenings aren’t merely unexpected; they’re weird, exotic, strange (two popes at once? the mass in English? Africans and Asians evangelizing the West?) by the standard of what earlier trends would have led one to expect.

Let me give you another, much more hypothetical example of what I mean. In recent months the Mormon church has formally acknowledged that Joseph Smith was rather more polygamous than many Latter Day Saints had been led to believe. This acknowledgment prompted Slate’s Will Saletan to write an interesting piece predicting that the same process of ongoing revelation that led Mormons to put away their founder’s view of marriage (and, later, to remove the bar on the priesthood for Mormons of African descent) will eventually lead the church to embrace same-sex unions:

When you look back at these stories—not just the reported facts, but the way the church has recast them—you can see how a reversal on homosexuality might unfold. First there’s a shift in the surrounding culture. Then there’s political and legal pressure. Meanwhile, LDS leaders have to grapple with the pain of gay Mormons—now acknowledged by the church as “same-sex attracted”—who sacrifice for an institution that forbids them to love and marry. Within the church hierarchy, less conservative voices gradually replace leaders who have died or stepped down. Eventually, the time is right for a revelation. When you pray hard enough, and you know what you want to hear, you’ll hear it.

The church is well along this path. Two years ago, it acknowledged homosexuality as a deeply ingrained condition and said it “should not be viewed as a disease.” Today, in its essay on polygamy, the church affirms its defense of traditional marriage, but with a caveat. “Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s standard for marriage,” the essay concludes—“unless He declares otherwise, which He did through His prophet, Joseph Smith.” It happened once. In fact, it happened twice. When the time is right, it’ll happen again.

This is a good example of plausible religious punditry, looking at past and current patterns to predict future developments. A number of Christian churches have made a shift on homosexuality like the one Saletan describes; the Mormons have a history of making shifts on issues where the church is out-of-step with American culture; and their church would have a clear doctrinal basis, in continuous revelation, to justify making such a move. Project current trends forward, and it seems like, well, a normal thing to expect.

Now I could put my own pundit’s hat on and come up with some plausible reasons why, instead, Mormon doctrine might remain exactly as it is. (There is, for instance, a significant difference between re-adapting to a longstanding religiously-based sexual-moral consensus, one that originates in shared scriptures and beliefs, and adapting to an emerging sexual-moral consensus whose origin is much more secular. There is also a difference between a revelation that makes you more like every other existing Christian church and a revelation that puts you on the liberal side of an ongoing intra-Christian conflict, etc.) But that, too, would be a somewhat normal-seeming thing: Just continuity as opposed to change. What’s more important is that I could also imagine something much more abnormal — given current expectations, that is — happening around these issues than what Saletan predicts.

One such something would be a real rebirth of Mormon polygamy — its escape from or expansion out of the fundamentalist ghetto where it has survived (and, to some extent, thrived) ever since revelation ruled it out. Most devout Mormons, or at least the ones I’ve talked to about the issue, already have an understandably complicated relationship with their polygamous forebears. There isn’t a sense that, oh, that was a terrible mistake and we don’t know why it happened, because given basic Mormon premises that idea doesn’t make any theological sense; rather, there’s a sense that polygamy has some kind of important place in God’s plan, that in some circumstances it must be not only sanctioned but laudable, and that the change in revelation reflected a change in those circumstances, but one that didn’t make Joseph Smith and Brigham Young any less obedient to God in their own situations.

So context matters — and while I don’t know how many Mormons would frame it exactly this way, I think one way to read that context is to look at the revelation suspending polygamy and see God basically blessing a political-cultural bargain between the Latter Day Saints and the United States, in which Mormons would be granted the liberty required to thrive in return for adapting themselves to American familial norms … as adapt they did, becoming the archetype of 1950s bourgeois normality and then remaining archetypal long after that norm had ceased to meaningfully exist.

But if that bargain was real, and not only real but divinely-sanctioned, then what should pious Mormons today make of the fact that the United States now seems to be going back on the deal? How should they respond to the possibility that their faith is becoming effectively alien again, developing another “marriage problem,” because it still hews to the terms of the original deal even as American culture demands assent to a very different, effectively post-biblical, understanding of what marriage is supposed to be? Saletan sketches one possible response, in which Mormons simply accept the new bargain, the new terms, and adapt once again. But that’s the Whig’s view of history, in which everyone responds to new incentives by rushing in the same direction. If you take the example of Mormonism’s founding fathers seriously, you might just as easily say, the bargain has been broken, therefore the revelation that helped seal it no longer applies, therefore we can go our own divinely-sanctioned way again even as the wider culture rushes in another direction. And the end result might not a L.D.S. church that evolves toward, say, the current Congregationalist or Unitarian view of marriage; it might be an L.D.S. church that has much more trouble sweeping polygamy to its margins (especially if civil laws against the practice fall), and that suddenly has to deal with powerful fundamentalist currents, a powerful fundamentalist wing, in ways that would have been hard to imagine before the same-sex marriage debate began.

This is all the purest speculation, of course. Like a Catholic schism, a springtime for Mormon polygamy is not something that can be gleaned from current sociological data, church attendance figures, polling and the like. And it would be, well, a very strange development. But this is my point: We can’t know exactly what it would look like, but where religion’s future is concerned, the strange in some form is always part of what we should confidently expect.

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