Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

January 12-18, 2006

philly blunt

Bearing True Witness

Hope you had as spiritually renewing a "Justice Sunday" as I did. Rather than dialing up Christian radio and listening to Saints Rick Santorum and Jerry Falwell proclaim their brand of liberty throughout the land from a North Philly pulpit, I watched football.

Two playoff games. A full day. And not once did Samuel Alito come to mind.

After dinner, thanks to the divine wonders of TiVo, I got my daily God fix. It came in the form of a two-day-old episode of The Book of Daniel. NBC's latest attempt to corral its lost-ratings mojo—it comes complete with a walking, talking Jesus—is the story of an Episcopalian minister with a sweet tooth for Vicodin. (Praise God!) His wife's chosen poison is the martini; his birth son's, man-love; and his adopted Chinese son's, the blond daughter of a rich congregant who isn't much for mixed relationships (Can I get an amen?).

In episode one, the minister bails his daughter out of jail after she gets pinched for selling weed. His brother-in-law pilfers some $3.2 million in church funds and dies. The dead man's wife then proclaims her lust for a woman suspected of helping to steal the still-missing loot. Facing the loss of his congregation, the minister seeks help from a Catholic priest who summons some friends to investigate. Friends who turn out to be the mob. (Hallelujah!)

I'd planned to watch the show even before conservative Christians claimed it was nothing short of sacrilege. The program was an example of "anti-Christian bigotry," said the American Family Association. As such, an affiliate in both Arkansas and Indiana pulled the show before it aired. (So much for not judging lest ye viewers have a chance to judge for themselves.)

I quickly found myself agreeing that NBC was sinfully wrong. I didn't want network executives smote, but in an era in which torn-from-the-headlines stories equal big ratings, they disappointed me. My beef? They didn't go far enough. Drugs, fornication and racism are staples of many American homes, not just those of the consecrated.

The hardcore, anti-BOD holyrollers have every right to expect their faith be treated with the respect that only truth can bring into the light. So, what NBC desperately needs is a reality show that would turn every Sunday into Justice Sunday. Might I humbly suggest they option the book-sized grand jury report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's abuse scandal and turn it into a weekly series? Here are some first-season highlights:

"My Teddy Bear"

It's 1945. Joseph Gausch joins the Archdiocese. Shortly after arriving, Joe starts fondling, fellating and attempting to anally rape his young charges in church sacristies. After three years, Joe's sent away to "do penance for perversion and homosexuality." Seems someone found the racy letters he sent to another priest!

Discussing a high-school football game, he writes, the "trick will be to appear interested in the game and not the players—there are some wows among them." Later, he shares the story of making a friend at St. Joseph's High. "We've gotten through the wildfire stage and the thing has settled down into solid, wholesome friendship he's got the goods. "Teddy' has a grandma who though not sick is housebound and delights in my visits—you know the rest of the story."

Through flashbacks, we will all know the rest of the story!

"Crime and No Punishment"

Father Raymond O. Leneweaver knows he has a problem when it comes to abusing young boys. He starts taking advantage of them a year before that strapping John F. Kennedy—hubba, hubba—is assassinated. By 1975, Ray admits to "seriously" abusing at least seven young boys as young as 11 years old but—cue the laugh track—Cardinal John Krol merely moves him to a new parish each time someone complains. The episode ends with a close-up of a 1980 letter that reads, "he was appointed to this area of the diocese because it is one of the few remaining areas where his scandalous action may not be known."

"Stan By Your Man"

Father Stanley Gana just loves emotionally troubled altar boys. He likes to kiss them and feel them up. When the mood strikes, the 300-some pound Man of God anally sodomizes and forces oral sex upon them. (He's a shutterbug, too!) Stan meets Timmy, a 13-year-old who's humiliated by his speech impediment. Having sufficiently duped the child's family, Stan invites Timmy over to play rummy. Later, they play a round of strip naked and masturbate. During another encounter, the priest pushes the child face-first into the carpet and rapes him.

Hijinks ensue when Timmy's mom thinks her son is lactose intolerant because of the "milky fluid that sometimes emerged when he sat on the toilet." Talk about "To Be Continued" potential: Stan remains a close family friend while continually attacking the child throughout his high-school years.

Yep, the truth's more horrible than fiction sometimes. So, I wonder whether the American Family Association and its minions would forget about the fictional Daniel and raise holy hell before these opening credits ran?

Or, would they continue to hypocritically invent self-serving controversies rather than righteously punishing the most evil of sinners who just happen to reside in their nonfiction houses of God?

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