Mr Edward Snowden will most likely go down in history as one of the most courageous whistle blowers of all time for his revelations about the extent of spying being done against virtually the whole world have provided us with a birds eye view of the mendacity, indeed malignancy of the United States government.
It is now revealed that the NSA was tapping the phones and communications of the entire Vatican establishment, including Pope Benedict and Pope Francis before, during and after the Conclave. Here is one of many reports:
While it is true that the Cardinals agreed that no cell phones would be allowed in Conclave during the actual discussions and proceedings there is no iron-clad guarantee that the things that were discussed before the Conclave, and after the Conclave could have serious repercussions. Cardinal Bergoglio’s phone calls were eavesdropped on, as were numerous others. Benedict himself was monitored for a number of years.
In the International Business Times report linked above the reporter states:
“The NSA allegedly eavesdropped on cardinals before the conclave in March 2013 to elect the new Pope, including calls between them and Cardinal Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis, succeeding Benedict.”
That being the case, and given what we now know about the NSA’s nefarious activities, it is legitimate to ask the $64,000 Question “Was the Conclave compromised?” The fact that the agency is run by the amoral General Keith Alexander, perjurer, and defended by James Clapper, perjurer, should give us sufficient cause for alarm.
Needless to say the official Vatican spokesman sees nothing. “In any case, we have no concerns about the matter,” a Vatican spokesman told IBTimes UK. The Vatican spokesman is none other than that Jay Carney of the Vatican, Father Lombardi. But if Rome is not concerned about this they sure as hell should be. Already it has been credibly suggested that the NSA is using some of its scooped-up info for a discreet version of blackmail. The agency has been monitoring the phone calls of Senators and Congressmen and there are those who surmise that some of the juicy bits of information they have picked up are being used to “convince” wavering legislators that they should not try to cut back on the activities of this gigantic, super secret, unaccountable Orwellian department.
It is damaging enough that they were eavesdropping on the Cardinals before and after the papal vote; it would be shocking if somehow they were privy to what was going on during the Conclave. Despite the safety features that were put in place it is hard to say with certainty that the ears of the NSA were not listening in some way.
Person of Interest?
In another report, from Al-Jazeera we read:
Bergoglio “had been a person of interest to the American secret services since 2005, according to Wikileaks”, it said.
The bugged conversations were divided into four categories: “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial systems”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”, it claimed.
Why the American Secret Service considered Cardinal Bergoglio a person of interest for the past eight years is an interesting question although the Secret Service like all other US agencies is widely believed to have been corrupted, so it remains unclear as to how one should assess this piece of information or what it was about the activities of the Cardinal that prompted their extreme interest. Still it is curious to say the very least.
Other sources are suggesting that this latest example of US spying has broken the Vatican’s long-established secrecy when it comes to papal elections.
If that is so the Vatican might wish to emulate the Russians who are now reverting to type-written and hand-delivered important communications.
But if the Conclave was compromised in some way then this opens us a whole new avenue of inquiry. Especially in view of the fact that the United States shares the information it illegally obtains with its partner, Israel.
This stupid society does not understand that one cannot be satanic by half. If one is ok with sodomy, it will only be a matter of time until he – or his children, or grandchildren at the latest – are fine with every other sort of abomination under the sun. Then the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children, as it is supposed to be.
An important statement by the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, the CDF, has reaffirmed existing church teaching on not admitting to the Eucharist Catholics who have remarried without first annulling their marriage.
But in the article in the Vatican’s official newspaper, Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Gerhard Müller also opens the door to widening the grant of annulments in acknowledging that many couples nowadays enter marriage without a proper understanding of it as a permanent, binding union.
The 4,600-word article (English translation here), which was clearly written with the agreement of Pope Francis, has dampened speculation growing in some quarters that next year’s bishops’ synod on the family would agree to end the exclusion of the remarried from receiving Communion.
Shortly before that synod was announced, a German diocese had sought to implement its own new policy relaxing the ban — and was pulled up by the Vatican, which…
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Pietro Parolin was discharged from the hospital and should arrive in Rome after a short convalescing period at home. This is the first piece of news released about the new Secretary of State’s health. Parolin could not take part in the ceremony by which he formally assumed his new position because he needed to undergo an urgent surgery operation. If what the Holy See Press Office stated officially is accurate, Parolin was discharged on Friday, Oct. 25, about ten days after his surgery. A long recovery, it seems, for a simple surgery. Some rumors point to a shorter period convalescing at the hospital, and hypothesize that Parolin has been in Rome since Oct. 24.
There has been some cross communications in the way that news about the illness of the new Secretary of State has been managed by the Vatican. Purportedly to respect the right to privacy, there has not been any medical updates about the health conditions of the Vatican’s No. 2. It was reported that a surgery had taken place that would be followed by a convalescing period, without describing the surgery or informing about the length of time for recuperation. If the goal of this approach was to avoid scaremongering and managing expectations, it failed. Unfortunately, Parolin will arrive in Rome with an aura of mystery about his illness.
Pietro Parolin will not face an easy task.
A pupil of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli and raised in Angelo Sodano’s Secretariat of State, Pietro Parolin has proven to be a skilled and talented diplomat. Thanks to his work, the Holy See was able to “unfreeze” the unofficial rapport with China (the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China have not established official diplomatic relations). The rapport with China fluctuated when Parolin was sent as papal nuncio to Venezuela and stopped looking after this issue.
In addition to his diplomatic skills, Parolin will have to govern a changing institution, i.e. the Secretariat of State. Almost nothing is known about the way the Secretariat of State will work under Pope Francis. The Pope, it seems, wants to delegate the management of general affairs to the Vatican City State administration. This would be the reason for the Pope’s enhancing the authority of the Vatican City State administration head, Cardinal Bertello, and entrusting Bertello’s deputy with the pastoral care of all the inhabitants of the small city-state on the Vatican hill.
So, Parolin should be only the chief of diplomacy, as was –in effect– Angelo Sodano as well. Now Dean of the College of Cardinals, Sodano is still very powerful inside the Vatican. At 86, he continues to meet nuncios and friends who are bishops (he promoted and appointed many of them in 13 years as Secretary of State) and he is still very influential, since many feel indebted to him. In fact, there are many people – Angelo Sodano included – who have never accepted that their world was turned upside-down by Benedict XVI.
Benedict XVI’s reform, as is Pope Francis’, was first of all a reform of attitudes more than of structure. Benedict did not touch the Vatican diplomatic corps. He worked to change the attitude and the work ethics of Vatican diplomacy and Vatican mentality in general. Benedict XVI did not just move aside the monsignors who narrowly focused on the bilateral relation (particularly with respect to financial issues) with Italy. What Benedict did was to give the Vaticana more international outlook and focus.
Unsurprisingly, this new outlook led many to lose privileges and influence. Looking back, some of Benedict’s appointees still came from those with the old, narrow mentality. For example, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who became President of the Council of Superintendency of the Institute for Religious Works (the so-called Vatican bank). Gotti Tedeschi was more committed to Italian interests than to the Vatican’s.
In any case, step by step, a change of mentality worked its way through and was increasingly more evident and concrete. Benedict XVI’s Secretariat of State was to become a sort of central coordinating point for the Church, and this is exactly why the Pope wanted Canon Law expert Tarcisio Bertone as Secretary of State. Following Benedict’s suggestions and requests, Bertone initiated a twofold reform: more collegiality and coordination among departments; and a new diplomatic doctrine which placed less emphasis on reaching particular understandings (like on the issue of humanitarian intervention) and instead aimed at shedding light on the Church’s commitment to the common good.
Resistance to these reforms was predictable. Collegiality required everyone’s collaborating towards the common good. Even if just one person goes against it, the risk of failing is very high.
When Benedict XVI held the famous lectio magistralis in Regensburg, nobody from the Secretariat of State warned him about the diplomatic tension his words were likely to cause with the Muslim world. The Secretariat of State said they never had a chance of reading the Regensburg speech before it was delivered, but this is not a justification, since it anyway failed the way the case was handled, also in the relationship with media. It was the last trip managed by Angelo Sodano. The scandal and the rage of so many Muslims served as a warning alarm about some of the internal dynamics at the Vatican.
The same journalist whose inaccurate reporting and commenting of Benedict XVI’s words sparked the Regensburg controversy is now attempting to rehabilitate the image of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, a man no longer a part of anything relating to the Vatican but who nevertheless continues to exert influence over Italian newspapers, thus grabbing international press headlines as well.
Benedict XVI’s times were not a good time for «the men of compromise.» In reaction, their rapaciousness within the Church was pervasive. Benedict XVI and Bertone had to confront and overcome many problems: bad information on thePolish bishop Wielgus appointed as archbishop of Warsaw and the appointment of Gehrard Maria Wagner as auxiliary bishop of Linz in Austria (the first one resigned, the second one renounced to take his new post); a deeply flawed communications strategy on pedophilia which could not shield, for instance, Bertone or Benedict XVI from gay activists’ uproar over Bertone’s comments about sex abuse and homosexuality and over Benedict XVI words aboutthe use of condom to prevent HIV in his way to Africa; and Vatileaks, a widespread practice of leaking documents throughout Benedict XVI’s pontificate.
When the Vatileaks investigation led to the arrest of one of the most prominent characters behind the leaks, the butler Paolo Gabriele, it also became evident that there were many other leaks, including from traditionalists once considered enthusiastic about Benedict XVI but who could not stand some of the Pope’s decisions, like appointing Gerhard Ludwig Mueller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Nowadays, the situation is different. Nobody can speak about Pope Francis in bad terms. Critical opinions of Francis or his choices have no impact or echo in the media. Critical views of questionable decisions are dismissed as «rumors and gossiping.» The rumors and gossiping that Francis has said – even to the Vatican Gendarme Corps – that should be done away with.
In the meantime, Pope Francis is setting off his overhaul. For the time, just a “government reshuffling” fueling conjecture of a return of the diplomats to positions of responsibility and also to speculation about a so-called gay lobby that is said to be gaining terrain and power around Pope Francis. Is it true? If it is, was Pope Francis properly informed? If he was, why did he make these choices?
Some venture that Pope Francis choices are thorough and intentional. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he never had a great rapport with the diplomats, a time when Angelo Sodano headed the Secretariat of State. And he cannot bear any kind of lobby, as he has said repeatedly, including on his way back from Rio de Janeiro. Ultimately, placing his enemies around him may not be merely a way of applying the Gospel commandment of “love your enemy.” It is the personal commandment of a Pope who lived under a dictatorship and felt exiled: the commandment of “control your enemies.”
Now, it remains to be seen how much the enemies may be able to control the Pope.
Pietro Parolin arrives in Rome and is put in the midst of this controversial situation. He started his service in the most unlucky way, and he will have to watch out for the rapaciousness that constantly “bit and devoured” into Benedict XVI’s pontificate, and was often directed against Cardinal Bertone. Will Parolin be able to fend off particular attitudes and behaviors, of the kind that his predecessor had to endure and became a victim of?
It is an important question. After influencing the Conclave, the old guard hopes to influence the Pope and his Secretary of State. If it succeeds, it could represent a retrocession of 40 years or more for the Vatican. Ultimately, a shepherd Pope does not bother anybody. But a Pope able to deliver the Church to the world, and not just through pastoral reasoning, risks upsetting all the balances. In the encyclicalPopulorum Progressio Paul VI lamented that «it must be admitted that men very often find themselves in a sad state because they do not give enough thought and consideration to these things,» regarding development. It is a lament that today is also applicable to thought and consideration about the future of the Vatican and the Church.
Hollywood Rekindles Romance With Evangelical Christians, and Their Wallets
Noah, Moses, Jesus and Mary — and possibly even Cain and Abel, too, will all have their stories re-told by some of Hollywood’s biggest names as filmmakers find themselves once again turning to the Bible for inspiration — and to the U.S. Christian market’s more than 90 million evangelicals for a profit.
Before Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s smash hit “The Bible” series aired on The History Channel earlier this year, there were already rumors and reports that director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “The Wrestler”) was working on “Noah.” Director Ridley Scott also had spilled the beans in an Esquire interview the year prior about his designs for a new telling of Moses, and about his disdain for religion, that would rival Warner Brothers’ “Gods and Kings,” another Moses epic reportedly being considered by director Ang Lee since Steven Spielberg dropped the project.
Hollywood husband-and-wife duo Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice”) and Downey (“Touched by an Angel”) broke ratings records this Spring for the History Channel by drawing more than 100 million viewers to the cable network’s telecast of “The Bible” series. The five-part miniseries also became the top-selling TV series of all time across Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD formats, a boon for distributor 20th Century Fox. The groundbreaking TV project was even nominated for three Emmy awards, which Downey perceived as acknowledgement of the quality of the series.
“We were nominated for Best Miniseries, so that was very validating,” Downey told The Christian Post before the Sept. 22 awards broadcast revealed “The Bible” series’ loss to HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra.”
“The success of ratings was great, but it was also after having poured our hearts and souls into making this, to have our peer group acknowledge the hard work and the quality — because I think you can have good intentions to make anything, but if it isn’t well-told…and with ‘The Bible’ series, we really tried to get the very best,” she added, crediting the entire production cast and crew for their work. “It was a quality production of a great story really well-told.”
It probably did not hurt that Burnett and Downey are Christians (one Protestant, the other Roman Catholic) and used their connections with some of U.S. evangelical Christianity’s biggest names (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes to name a few) to make sure word got out and that the faithful tuned in, and boy did they tune in.
The History Channel had never seen such viewer numbers in all its 18-year history, and even experienced a sudden boost in reputation among Christians thanks to the series. Now, NBC is hoping to ride “The Bible” series’ wave of success, after losing the bidding war for the original series, with a follow-up production slated to pick up where “The Bible” left off. The project, tentatively titled “AD: Beyond the Bible,” “could conceivably attract an even bigger crowd than did the original, by virtue of moving to broadcast TV,” according to Deadline.
Eying an even bigger wave, “The Bible” series team also has teamed up with 20th Century Fox for distribution of “Son of God,” a pared-down theatrical feature of the 10-hour series’ Jesus narrative that could hit theaters next Spring.
As conservative family entertainment website Movieguide.com shows with its list of “Top Biblical Epics,” the Bible has long been an inspiration for filmmakers big and small, foreign and domestic (1964 Italian film “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” is no. 1, with Disney’s “Prince of Egypt” ranked as no. 3). But, as the list also shows, the closer filmmakers stick to “the script” (the Biblical text), the more likely the project is to be a hit. And it doesn’t hurt if Christians helm the projects.
Phil Cooke, who helps churches and nonprofits “not suck at the media” through Cooke Pictures, has worked alongside Grace Hill Media, a major marketing bridge between big studios and Christians. He has advised filmmakers on how to reach that core Christian audience.
Cooke, who has been called “the only working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. in Theology,” schooled The Christian Post on the history of Bible-based films.
“In the early part of the 20th century, roughly 1899-1914, the Church actually produced more movies than Hollywood,” the director/producer told CP via email. “Hollywood caught up, and when more overt sexual, violence, and crude behavior became more popular in Hollywood films, the Church eventually back(ed) away leaving a void.”
Cooke added that, over the years, “there were a few significant Christian attempts” to rekindle the romance between Hollywood and Bible-based feature films.
Not “until Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ did we see a Christian-driven film get such attention from Hollywood,” said Cooke. “I think the entire film industry was rather shocked to learn there was such a large audience that took their faith seriously and wanted to see films that did the same.
“Now, we’re simply seeing the rebirth of what happened in the early days of the movie business. Obviously some of the projects aren’t terribly well produced, but we’re seeing enough success that Hollywood has been impressed by the response.”
“The Passion of the Christ” has grossed more than $611 million worldwide and remains the top-grossing Christian film of all time. Not long after Gibson’s 2004 feature starring an effective Jim Caviezel as Jesus, headlines buzzed about Hollywood’s rekindled interest in the Christian market. There was even a panel discussion at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival on “What Would Jesus… Direct?” A report on the panel claimed the “religious product market is an $8 billion a year business,” while 2011 figures suggest that Christians in the U.S. spend $1.5 trillion annually.
According to Movieguide.com, films with a faith-based theme or that reflect conservative content or values generally tend to do better at the box office. The Christian-led company reported in arecent study that movies with faith-based elements on average made four times as much money in ticket sales as their raunchy counterparts.
“Every studio now has a Christian film division, and several studios are doing major movies with strong Christian content. And now all of the major studios, not just Disney, are making movies for young children and families,” Movieguide founder and publisher Dr. Ted Baehr told Fox News last year.
“It’s impacted low budget filmmakers for years,” Cooke told CP when asked for his thoughts on how Hollywood’s move into the faith-based market has affected low-budget Christian filmmakers.
“Most have failed because of inexperience, or trying too hard to deliver a message than tell a great story,” Cooke added. “But now there are distribution options that didn’t exist 10 years ago.”
Cooke, one of many prominent Christians with influence in Hollywood (some others include DeVon Franklin, T.D. Jakes, and Tyler Perry), said Christians need to get past the perception that Hollywood hates them.
“They’re just clueless about us,” he said.
“After all, Hollywood is a business and their first priority is to make a profit. So in most cases they’re very open to advice about Christian values, storylines, and ideas — if it will help them reach a larger audience.”
While admiring the success of “The Bible” series, Cooke could not help but wonder why secular media was so off base when it came to understanding the television series’ impact.
“The week Mark Burnett’s ‘The Bible’ series broke all audience records, I received calls from 3 of the largest news organizations in America,” Cooke told CP. “All (were) absolutely baffled that anyone would be interested in watching a TV program about the Bible.
“They weren’t against it, it was just shocking to them. I had to remind them that over the years, Hollywood has bent over backwards to cater to often remarkably small special interest groups — environmentalist, feminists, the gay community, and others. But Pew Research says that there are more than 91 million evangelical Christians in the United States, which makes us the largest ‘special interest’ group of all. If nothing else than purely business, it’s time Hollywood understood just how much buying power that represents.”
Downey, speaking to CP last month, mirrored Cooke in her remarks.
“I think there’s clearly a huge audience out there that I believe has been underserved,” she said. “And if the success of ‘The Bible’ series means that now they will be catered to, I think that’s good news.”
Hollywood seems to be in tune with the message — if you keep making it, they will keep coming, as the long list of expected Bible-based films, such as “Noah,” “Exodus” and “Gods and Kings” show.
The next frontier for Hollywood in regard to Bible-based films may be, as some film buffs have noted, being more ethnically diverse, and accurate, in casting choices for Biblical figures, especially Old Testament characters tied to the Ancient Near East that mostly corresponds to today’s Middle East.
For example, Ridley Scott’s Moses biopic, “Exodus,” features all white actors in the lead roles (Christian Bale plays Moses while Joel Edgerton portrays Pharaoh Ramses), similar to Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 longtime favorite, “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.
While Hollywood may indeed be looking longingly again to its old paramour, filmmakers seem intent on continuing to paint some of history’s most influential and powerful stories with whitewash.
To some, polyamory means more than an open relationship — it’s about having multiple committed relationships. Billy Holder, left, and wife Melissa Holder, second from right, live with their partner Jeremy Mullins, right. Pictured with them is Amy Munowitz, a friend who also identifies as “poly.”
(CNN) — Revelers in the rainbow-washed crowd smiled and cheered this month as the little blond girl in the parade float pageant-waved to the B-52’s “Love Shack.”
Next to the float, the girl’s father, Billy Holder, handed out fliers to the Atlanta Pride Parade crowd. His wife, Melissa, carried a banner along with Jeremy Mullins, the couple’s partner.
“Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals,” read their purple-lettered banner, embellished with an infinity heart.
The “awws” and waves from the crowd gave way to some puzzled looks and snickers.
“What’s poly?” a woman asked, looking toward a handwritten sign on the float that read “Atlanta Poly Paradise.”
“Multiple partners?” the man next to her guessed.
Sort of. As the concept of open relationships rises in pop culture and political debates, some polyamorous families like the Holders and Mullins see an opportunity to go public and fight stereotypes that polyamory is just swinging, cheating or kinky sex.
It’s not just a fling or a phase for them. It’s an identity. They want to show that polyamory can be a viable alternative to monogamy, even for middle-class, suburban families with children, jobs and house notes.
“We’re not trying to say that monogamy is bad,” said Billy Holder, a 36-year-old carpenter who works at a university in Atlanta. “We’re trying to promote the fact that everyone has a right to develop a relationship structure that works for them.”
For the Holder-Mullins triad, polyamory is three adults living in the same home about 20 miles south of Atlanta. They share bills, housework and childcare for their 9-year-old daughter. They work at the same place, sharing carpooling duties so someone can see their daughter off to school each day.
Surrounded at the parade by drag queens from El Gato Negro nightclub, singers from a gospel choir and supporters of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, Billy Holder didn’t stand out in his jeans, T-shirt and wide-brimmed, sun-shielding hat. That’s sort of the point, he said: to demonstrate that polyamorists, or polys, are just like anybody else.
But, he’s quick to add, “It takes a lot of work and it’s not for everybody.”
It’s a common refrain from long-practicing polys. Jealousy among partners is one thing, but they also face or fear disapproval from neighbors, relatives and coworkers. The Holders and Mullins dealt with rejection from parents and one of Melissa Holder’s sons when they revealed their relationship. They’ve also been the subject of a child welfare probe that ended in no charges being laid.
“We’ve been through it all,” said 35-year-old Jeremy Mullins, a computer programmer.
That’s why they’re coming out, he said — to change the status quo. And yet, their willingness to speak with CNN over the past 18 months came with conditions, such as the request to not name their employers.
Marching in the parade for the fourth year is just one way they’re trying to promote public acceptance of polyamory. Someday, they want to challenge laws that criminalize adultery and cohabitation, Mullins said.
“We want to promote the idea that any relationship is valid as long as it is a choice made by consenting adults,” he said. “In this regard, and as in most things, promoting public acceptance is the first step.”
It’s an uphill battle. Many traditional marriage counselors and relationship therapists discourage non-monogamy, and in the absence of more research on the long-term effects of polyamory, modern science and academia hasn’t reached a consensus on whether it’s a healthy relationship structure.
Even among a crowd as colorful as the Pride Parade, the giggles and questions suggest polyamory is still a way of life that’s on the fringes.
‘Polyamory ain’t for sissies‘
“Polyamory is the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously,” it said.
“Polyamory is not a swing club or group.”
“Polyamory is not about recreational or promiscuous sex.”
Otherwise, there are no universal rules for “how it works,” one of the most common question polys say they hear, Holder said. The most common dynamic tends to start with a couple, married or unmarried, who might identify as straight, gay or bisexual. Guidelines are set within each relationship — ideally, a negotiated framework of communication based on trust and honesty, he said.
For each of the 12 people walking with the Holders-Mullins triad in the Atlanta Pride Parade, polyamory works differently. For example, Mark, a tall, bespectacled computer programmer, has been happily married to his wife, an electrical engineer, for more than a decade. They live alone and have no children, but they’ve been involved with two other couples with children for the past six years. Mark and his wife spend time with the adults and their children doing family-friendly activities but the adults also go out on dates, cuddle and more.
It’s not cheating or swinging, he said, because everyone knows about other partners, whom Mark calls his girlfriends. There is a level of intimacy and emotional attachment that makes them more than friends with benefits or one-night stands, he said.
“I’m more involved in their lives and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I’m more involved in their long-term happiness,” said Mark, who asked not to use his last name out of concern that he and his wife might face backlash from employers.
“It’s like having a regular, monogamous relationship but having more than one of them.”
It’s unclear how many people identify as polyamorous because, like Mark and his wife, the majority aren’t open about their relationships. Because of the varied forms these non-monogamous relationships take, it’s difficult even to know who to include in such a count, demographer Gary Gates said.
“It’s not completely clear how you would measure this group, since I’m not sure there’s a common terminology around how individuals in polyamorous families identify their relationships to each other and their children,” said Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, which conducts research and policy analysis regarding legal issues that affect LGBT populations.
Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in her forthcoming book “The Polyamorists Next Door.”
Sheff based her findings on 15 years of research that began with a partner’s request to explore alternatives to monogamy. She continued her research even after her relationship ended, and does not consider herself a polyamorist. But her research led her to believe that polyamory is a “legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children.”
Making it work, she acknowledges, is “time-consuming, and potentially fraught with emotional booby traps,” she writes. It can be rewarding for some “and a complete disaster for others.”
While some scientists say monogamy is probably not humans’ natural state, and is instead likely a social construct, many therapists say learning to control sexual impulses toward multiple people is a hallmark of emotional maturity.
More often than not, non-monogamy leads to the demise of relationships, said Karen Ruskin, a Boston-area psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in couples counseling. Instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners are turning to others for fulfillment.
“Even if non-monogamy is consensual, it’s still a distraction from dealing with each other,” said Ruskin, author of “Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual.”
“It all goes back to choice. Non-monogamy is choosing to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled.”
Couples can establish rules and parameters to limit jealousy, she said. But in her experience working with couples, “those rules never end up working out for everyone,” she said.
“It has shown to be damaging and destructive to a person as an individual, to the couple’s relationship and the family unit as a whole.”
Indeed, while many associate polyamory with swingers or kinksters, “there are much easier ways to get laid,” said Anita Wagner Illig, founder of online polyamory resource, Practical Polyamory.
Wagner Illig, a self-appointed “poly educator” who gives talks at adult conventions about polyamory, began to identify as poly after her second divorce in the late 1990s. She decided there must be a better way than cheating to have multiple relationships.
Much has changed since then, she said. A generation that grew up amid rising rates of divorce and premarital cohabitation is more accepting of alternatives to monogamy. They grew up on the Internet and can turn on TV series like Showtime’s “Polyamory: Married and Dating” and TLC’s “Sister Wives,” where they’ll see alternatives to traditional monogamy
Wagner sees this year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage benefits as a sign that society is becoming more accepting of “other kinds of relationships,” she said.
But like many in the poly community, she stops short of believing it could pave the way for multiple legal marriages. Many aren’t looking for multi-partner marriage, anyway, she said — they just want to feel free to have relationships currently outside the norm without being judged as freaks or outcasts.
“Polyamory,” Wagner Illig warns, “ain’t for sissies.”
‘The poster family for poly’
Billy and Melissa Holder met in 1997 at CoastCon, an annual science fiction and fantasy convention held in Biloxi, Mississippi. They were seeing other people in monogamous relationships but Billy thought she was funny and cool. They reunited at the next year’s con, developed a monogamous relationship and married in 1999.
An open relationship first came up in discussion the next year, after cheating allegations against a relative rocked the family. They didn’t know the term “polyamory” until years later, but already saw an opportunity to invite more people into their lives. Billy Holder had always believed that he was “different,” that he wanted to date more than one person at a time, but he wanted to do it with his partner’s knowledge and consent.
“We wanted to be able to be fully honest with each other and trust each other,” he said. “One of us said something to the effect of ‘Why cheat? If you find someone you are interested in, just talk to me about it.’ We are adults, there is no reason we can’t be honest with each other.”
They decided they were free to date people they met at cons and parties, as long as they told each other. At fan conventions, they’d designate a night for going out with others, with a few straightforward rules: Be safe, be home by dawn and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Unprotected sex was off limits. If the relationship appeared to be progressing, they would talk about the need for introductions. If the new person had a partner, he or she needed to know, too.
It wasn’t all bliss, especially in the beginning. Sometimes, Billy would “surprise” Melissa with stories of his exploits before she knew he was seeing someone, or he would bring someone home in the middle of the night.
Still, they continued, and formed their first triad in 2002 with a woman Billy met.
“We all relied on each other emotionally for support,” Billy Holder said. “We didn’t live together, but we were close, we were a unit. When we were together we did everything together.”
They learned that polyamory takes a lot of negotiating to keep jealousy at bay. The Holders don’t like the word “rule” because it sounds rigid, they said, but if there is a rule, it’s “better to ask permission than forgiveness.”
In April 2008, Billy met Jeremy Mullins through a mutual friend on a camping trip. Holder describes himself as “emotionally bisexual.” He wasn’t sexually attracted to Mullins, but found emotional intimacy with him.
Months later, Melissa met Mullins at a gaming convention. The three bonded as a team in a Rock Band tournament. They met again at Atlanta SantaCon — an event where adults party while dressed like Santa — and invited Mullins to Billy’s birthday party on New Year’s Eve 2008.
“I went to that birthday party and basically never left,” Mullins said. He became a regular fixture in the Holder home, making regular trips from Alabama to spend the weekend with them.
Still, it wasn’t easy. Jeremy wanted more time alone with Melissa. If Melissa and Jeremy saw a movie on their date night that Billy wanted to see, he’d get upset. Jeremy felt like he wasn’t experiencing the mundane aspects of family life, only the “highs and lows.”
“The little things that we didn’t talk about, they built up like a pressure cooker and we’d have a fight every six weeks or so,” Billy said. “We realized we needed to do a better job of communicating what bothered us when it bothered us.”
They fine-tuned their communication, and decided their future should include Jeremy, full-time. Billy Holder bought a 4,000-square foot foreclosure in Fayetteville, Georgia, where they moved in 2012. To ensure they don’t run afoul of Georgia bigamy laws, they each have their own rooms, but often share beds at night.
Billy Holder and Mullins aren’t sexually involved, except on occasions when all three are together, “but we are emotionally intimate and share everything on that level,” Mullins said. “We share everything that any other couple would.”
They’re partners around the house, too. Billy is the cook. Jeremy and Melissa clean up. When Melissa grew tired of doing the laundry, she spoke up and they switched roles. When Melissa participates in National Novel Writing Month each year, Billy makes sure she’s plied with food and coffee while Jeremy hangs out with the kids.
“I think we’re a little too boring to be the poster family for poly,” Billy said over a lunch of Papa John’s pizza at their home.
But being poly is nothing if not an ongoing work in progress. Melissa still gets annoyed when Jeremy leaves dirty plates in the sink, or when Billy goes on a tear over a new person he’s met in a bout of what’s commonly known in poly communities as “new relationship energy.”
But now, she doesn’t keep her frustrations to herself anymore.
“We talk early and often. Jealousy is usually fear dressed up as something else,” she said.
In recent years, they’ve decided poly isn’t an experiment — it’s a way of life. They wanted to create a close-to-home community where they could share and reflect on their experiences without being judged.
Walking in the Atlanta Pride Parade is just one way they’re trying to step out in public and celebrate who they are. They’ve auditioned for multiple talk shows and a reality show, but have never made the final cut.
In 2010, they started the Atlanta Polyamory group on Meetup.com — a website that makes it easy for people with common interests to find each other. The group now has more than 700 members among eight subgroups that extend far outside the city. In the past year alone, the group has more than doubled its numbers, a boost that Holder attributes to increased awareness of polyamory.
They also founded Atlanta Polyamory Inc., now called Relationship Equality Foundation, an advocacy group that hosts poly-focused retreats and gatherings.
They’re trying to build a regional community outside the metropolitan hubs known for accepting alternative lifestyles. Other cities had conferences and meetup groups devoted exclusively to polyamory, so why not Atlanta?
‘I wanted something better’
Last year, in a Holiday Inn Select just off the interstate, the Holders led the second Atlanta Poly Weekend, a retreat dedicated exclusively to poly-related issues. It drew people from across the Southeast and as far north as Baltimore.
Some attendees were single or relatively new to polyamory. A couple in their 20s described how they’d been together since their freshman year at Georgia Tech, had married a couple of years earlier, and had opened up their relationship after discussing how they still loved each other, but felt attractions to other people.
“He dates and I flirt but I haven’t actively sought out dates. All that matters is that he’s coming home to me,” said the wife, Michelle, who asked to not use their last name because they haven’t told their families.
A few attendees, like the Holder-Mullins triad, were married and dating and had at least one child. While parents attended panels, their children could stay at the “kid con” room in the care of a pair of women in a “closed quad” with their husbands.
“I’ve always thought it was better to live in a commune-type large family where you get to choose your loved ones,” said Ashley Tipton, one of the moms in the quad from Marietta, Georgia. “I came from a broken home where I had to take care of my sisters and alcoholic mother and I wanted something better than that for me and my kids.”
In panels with names like “Defining Our Relationships” and “The 5 Love Languages” — based on Gary Chapman’s bestselling book and relationship philosophy — the discussions revolved around topics that often come up for monogamous couples: Communication, jealousy, time.
Some panels, though, were uniquely poly. One focused on legal issues, including a discussion of “Sister Wives” star Kody Brown’s lawsuit to overturn Utah’s laws against multiple people living together and “purporting to be married.” A handful of states have similar laws in the books, including Georgia. Regardless of the case’s outcome, “it’s going to affect us,” said the lawyer leading the session, who asked not to be identified.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddups heard arguments in January. Both sides are awaiting a decision on Brown’s motion seeking to strike down the law as unconstitutional on a variety of claims, from free speech to free exercise to equal protection, Brown’s lawyer Jonathan Turley said in an e-mail.
In a panel called “Coming Out,” poly advocate Terisa Greenan led an animated discussion about the obstacles that keep people from telling others. Some polys hide their relationship from friends and family, fearing they could lose their homes or children. For many, religion was a common source of grief.
For some who were atheist, or practice paganism, being in a relationship with multiple people can seem even more unpalatable to people outside their religious or poly communities.
Jeremy Mullins, of the Holder-Mullins triad, was in the room for the discussion. He came out to his parents after he’d decided to move in with the Holders. His mother told him she feared for his soul, he said, and while he still speaks to his family, they have yet to meet the other people he considers family.
“It’s about choosing between you and their god,” one woman said. “My mom likes my boyfriends, but she hates my lifestyle.”
“Yeah, people say they don’t hate you, they hate the lifestyle,” another woman added, “but I’ve decided I don’t have to accept that. It’s the same as hating me.”
Meanwhile, at a panel called “Real Life Poly,” about 30 people listened to Noel Roberston, also known as Ms. Noel, an adult sexuality educator active in Atlanta’s kink community, dissect scheduling, jealousy and sex. Dressed in jeans and a zip-up sweatshirt and holding her newborn, she admitted that life outside the bedroom can seem pretty dull.
“Wednesday night belongs to Arthur, Thursday is Chris. Thank God for Google calendar,” she said, eliciting nods from some, while others took notes.
Bigamy: The practice of entering into a marriage while already married to another spouse. Bigamy laws are sometimes applied in cases when a person secretly marries a second spouse.
Polygamy: The state or practice of being married to more than one person at the same time. Some fundamentalist Mormons continue to practice polygamy, known as plural marriage, wherein only men are allowed to marry multiple female partners.
Polygamy was disavowed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1890.
Polyamory: The state or practice of having multiple romantic relationships at one time. Polyamorists say a tenet of the relationships — romantic and/or physical — is that all parties have full knowledge and have given consent.
Polyfidelity: A word used in the polyamory community to describe romantic or sexual relationships that involve more than two people, but do not permit the members to seek additional outside partners — at least, not without the approval of other members of the relationship
Open relationship: Any relationship that is not sexually monogamous. An open relationship might allow sexual acts outside the relationship, but not loving or romantic relationships.
Closed relationship: Any romantic relationship — involving one other partner, or many — which excludes sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.
Send reminder alerts to your partners when it’s your night, she suggested. Dates don’t have to be expensive or elaborate: Look for free concerts, or make errands into “micro-dates.” Try sexting or Skyping or showering together. Drop the idea of what you think romance should look like and “find what works for you.”
“It’s hard enough in plain old vanilla relationships to keep romance alive,” she said.
If partners don’t like each other, or you don’t like theirs, start talking, Roberston said. Figure out where veto power lies. Don’t “play the one-up game.” Stop evaluating who has better curves, bigger breasts, or who’s the better cook.
“It’s better to have the ‘I’m scared’ conversation than the laying down the ultimatum conversation,” she said.
“What do you need to feel safe and secure?” she asked, inviting the audience to share. “It comes down to what do you need? What’s important to you?”
Silence filled the room for a moment.
“I need to not come in last,” one person said.
“I need time and space,” another spoke up.
“I need to see that he can be independent.”
“That my partner knows where I’m coming from and has my back.”
“Acceptance of all that I am.”
‘It’s part of who I am’
Even years after Atlanta’s first polyamory conference, acceptance remains an elusive goal. Most people watching the Atlanta Pride Parade this month tucked away Billy Holder’s flier. A few took the time to read it, and came away with mixed reactions.
“I’m all for it if that’s what you believe in,” one 48-year-old man said.
“I’ve had friends in open relationships and it seems to work pretty well if they’re open about their expectations,” a 19-year-old woman said.
“I just don’t know how it would work,” another man added. “It must be confusing for the children.”
“It wouldn’t work for me,” another parade-goer said. “I’m too jealous.”
Getting ready for her star turn on the float, the Holder’s 9-year-old daughter seemed oblivious to what others might think. Her parents haven’t offered her a detailed explanation about their physical relationship; they don’t think it’s age-appropriate. But Jeremy has been in their lives since she was 4 years old, so she sees him as part of the family, if not exactly a blood relation.
“We know we have to tell her one day, we’re laying the groundwork now for what and how we’re going to tell her,” Billy said. “For now, we emphasize to her that we all love her and we’re all here for her.”
When asked, she said “poly” means multiple partners, “loving many people.”
“I’m happy because there’s more people to ask when I have problems,” she said.
She’s proud to be at the parade, she said — but if she could pick any float to join in, it would be the Atlanta Humane Society’s. “I love animals,” she said.
Her view seems consistent with her age, as sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in “The Polyamorists Next Door.” In research and interviews with poly families, she found that children ages 5 to 8 didn’t seem to care about how the adults related to each other, so long as they were taken care of.
Overall, they seemed to fare well as long as they lived in stable, loving homes. Living in a poly household didn’t imply a child would prefer a poly lifestyle, she said.
So far, that seems to be the case with Melissa Holder’s two sons from a previous relationship. The boys were 15 and 16 when the Holders sat them down and told them things were getting serious with Jeremy.
“We told them Jeremy was important in our lives in an emotional context,” Melissa said. “We always had friends over and we’re a huggy bunch. But this was the first time we acknowledged to them that a significant person in our life was going to be a significant person in our life.”
The younger son didn’t take it well and moved in with relatives in Louisiana. He declined to be interviewed for this story. Her older son, Sebastion, learned to live with the situation. It was an adjustment at first, he said, but it helped that the family had moved into a bigger home where everyone had their own space.
Mullins is “a generally cool guy,” who suggests great books and talks with Sebastion about electronics, he said.
“It’s like having a full house with someone else to talk to and help out with housework,” said Sebastion, now 20 years and stationed in South Korea as a combat medic in the United States Army.
Sebastion tells friends that Jeremy is a roommate or a friend of his parents, he said, because people often see poly as swinging or polygamy. Same for the neighbors, at least until they get to know them better.
They’ve learned the need for discretion. They said a family member reported them to Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services, alleging child abuse and prompting a weeks-long investigation. The Holders said it ended with no charges being laid and their daughter remaining in the home. Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.
But the experience also informed some of their desire to change public perceptions of polyamory.
So they march, and organize and raise their daughter the best they can. Their meetup groups continue to grow and they’re looking forward bringing in new speakers to 2014’s Atlanta Poly Weekend.
After all, the Holders and Mullins say it’s not a choice — polyamory is an inherent part of their sexuality.
“Life would probably be easier if I didn’t feel the need to open myself up to loving more than one person,” Jeremy said. “But it’s part of who I am, and I feel that my life is enriched by it.
“It’s up to us to figure out how to make it work.”