These are bad people.

Press release from the USDOJ in Ohio:

Three Ashland residents held a cognitively disabled woman and her child against her will for more than two years and forced her perform manual labor for them, law enforcement officials said.

The conspiracy included beating the disabled woman and her child, threatening the woman with a firearm, threatening to kill the woman and her child, threatening the woman and her child with large snakes, forcing them to sleep in a padlocked room with a large iguana and other actions, according to charges filed in U.S. District Court.

They kidnapped this cognitively impaired woman and her small daughter, stole her welfare benefits, and made her do their housekeeping while they abused and terrorized the mother and daughter. They made her life so miserable that when she was arrested for shoplifting a candy bar, she asked the cops to take her to jail rather than send her back to her captors’ house.

I usually prefer restorative justice to punitive justice, and I think the justice system should endeavor to rehabilitate offenders rather than just derail their lives. But in this case, the offenders are so thoroughly corrupt, abusive and sadistic that I doubt they will ever make a positive contribution to society. This is what evil looks like.

Pastor Sean Harris is a horrible person who hates humanity.

Sometimes, they just let it all out for everyone to see:

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? “You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.”

The rules for girls are a bit more flexible, and yet somehow, even more fucked up:

And when your daughter starts acting too butch you reign her in. And you say, “Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.”

How do I put this?

This man hates people. He hates boys, he hates girls, he hates LGBTs, he hates straight people who don’t perfectly tow the gender line.

How do I come to that conclusion?

Because Pastor Harris’s diatribe is not affecting only gay people, or only children who belong to sexual minorities. If it did affect only those groups of people, that shouldn’t make it more acceptable, but to the extent that his congregants follow his advice, he is not encouraging abuse of JUST those kids who are growing up gay. He is encouraging abuse of ALL children. He is telling parents to berate, control and assault their children as soon as they deviate from gender norms, and you know what? We all do that. We all fail to meet our gender’s standards in some ways, because gender norms are socially constructed, subject to change, and arbitrary. All children will here and there do something that doesn’t exactly follow the rules of the gender marked on their birth certificate.

And here’s Pastor Sean Harris, instructing the parents in his congregation to beat their kids into behaving like socially approved, heterosexist boys and girls. He hates gay and lesbian children, he hates straight children, and he hates the adults they will grow up to be. Shame on him for parading his hatred from his pulpit, and shame on all those people who sit in those pews, laugh and nod along with his sermons, and pay his salary. They are all part of the problem.

(And it needs to be said: these same people almost inevitably believe that gay and lesbian couples are unfit to raise children. The irony is terrifying. Kill it, Mommies! Kill it with fire!)

The bruised and battered elephant in the emergency room.

There is a new study in Pediatrics by Dr. John Leventhal of Yale University on child abuse in the U.S.; it’s not a comprehensive study of all abused children, only the cases that end up requiring hospitalization due to severity of injuries. Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel rounds up coverage of the study, and shares with us that such injuries include, but are not limited to:

For the most part, children arrived with abusive head trauma, fractures, burns, abdominal injuries and bruises. Their hospitalizations cost the U.S. about $73.8 million and lasted almost twice as long compared to children who were hospitalized with other kinds of injuries.

Dr. Leventhal offers us further insight into the context of abuse:

Based on data from the 2006 Kids’ Inpatient Database, the last such numbers available, Leventhal’s team found that six out of every 100,000 children under 18 were hospitalized with injuries ranging from burns to wounds to brain injuries and bone fractures.

The children spent an average of one week in the hospital; 300 of them died.

The rate of abuse was highest among children under one, particularly if they were covered by Medicaid, the government’s health insurance for the poor. One out of every 752 of those infants landed in the hospital due to maltreatment.

“Medicaid is just a marker of poverty, and poverty leads to stress,” said Leventhal, who is the medical director of the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Program.

Last year, a study from four U.S. states showed a clear spike in abusive brain injuries following the financial crash in late 2007, a finding researchers chalked up to the added pressure on parents.

In that study, too, toddlers appeared to be at higher risk. That led researchers to suggest the maltreatment might have been triggered by crying.

Brain injuries in children do not spike following a financial crash for no reason. One may conclude from Dr. Leventhal’s data that child abuse is for the most part not a matter of parents being horrible inhuman monsters, but of parents being overwhelmed. What might be done about this?

So Dr. Leventhal proposes we act to stop abuse in the same way we’ve worked to stop SIDS: “We need a national campaign related to child abuse where every parent is reminded that kids can get injured.” Another probably even more effective option would be to send public health workers to do home visits with new parents to offer support and advice, a practice that is already common in a lot of European countries.

I don’t disagree with either of those ideas, but I have something else to suggest.

It makes me really angry to know that there are so many parents who are so unprepared and stressed out that they can’t deal with a crying infant without pummeling the poor baby, and yet we still have to fight so hard for our right to control our fertility. There is something seriously fucked up about a widespread cultural movement that says our nation really needs more babies born to people who aren’t ready for babies but has nothing to offer in how to take better care of the kids we have.

Want to prevent child abuse? There’s no substitute for family planning.

Weekend Wonder: Sullivan via points out what I had already seen at the Dish:

The AP’s story on Joseph Ratzinger’s direct involvement in delaying for six years the defrocking of a priest who had confessed to tying up and raping minors ends any doubt that the future Pope is as implicated in the sex abuse crisis as much as any other official in the church.

When you see a faithful Catholic blogger just as riled up as the confrontationalist atheist community, and for the same reasons, you know the hierarchy has gone seriously beyond the pale.

Congratulations, Pope Benny! You’ve shown strident atheists and God-fearing Christians that they have something in common!

I agree with Ross Douthat

(NB: You should not expect to see me type those words again.)

Sullivan points out where Douthat argues:

…[A]fter all, the church is the church — not the public school bureaucracy, not the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, not the American juvenile detention system or the Scientologists or any other organization that you might not be surprised to discover has a problem with sexual abuse. Catholic scandals are worse even when they’re the same as everybody else’s, because it’s Catholicism’s business to be better. And the church is a target because it asks to be a target — because it aspires to set a higher standard, and answer to a higher master, than princes, governments and civic institutions.

I probably agree for reasons that Douthat wouldn’t like, but either way, I can’t quibble with the above. It’s bad enough that child abuse by priests has happened, as I’ve said before. The real scandal, once again, is not so much that priests and nuns abused vulnerable young people in their care so much as that their superiors enabled them. It looks so much worse when you see that the Catholic Church purports to be better than the rest of us, when it teaches its members to believe that the Church is the one true path to salvation and everyone outside it ends up in Hell. The abuse itself is so much worse when the perpetrators are not only in positions of authority, but also of much deeper and higher trust with the victims’ families than most secular figures ever achieve. The cover-up is so much more disgusting when it’s the work of people who claim to have a uniquely privileged relationship with the Almighty and be in a position to tell the rest of us how to live.

If the Catholic Church hierarchy is only as good as the culture of the time, then, really, how can they claim to be better than any secular or democratically run organization? How does it warrant the depth and breadth of power over anyone’s lives that it enjoys over so many of its members? If it’s simply no worse than its secular equivalents, then why should it be exempt from taxation and legal investigation? As Stephen Fry once asked rhetorically, “Then what are you for?!”