Archive for the “General” Category

Posts of a general nature

General Audience with Pope FrancisAfter being tossed from the Vatican’s priestly-pedophilia review panel, abuse victim Peter Saunders has a bit to say about that project. And what he said, in his interview with AFP, isn’t good at all (WebCite cached article):

“Of course Pope Francis has established he is part of the problem,” Peter Saunders said in an interview with AFPTV, during which he insisted he had not resigned and that only the pontiff himself could force him to quit the Vatican commission.

“That breaks my heart because when I met him 18 months ago I thought there was a sincerity and a willingness to make things happen, and I am afraid that has been dashed now.”…

But Saunders now says he realises the commission was always going to be about “smoke and mirrors” and that he is convinced the Church will never act alone to cure the “cancer” in its midst.

Saunders confirmed my suspicion that his removal from the panel was caused by something more recent than his criticism of Cardinal George Pell some eight months ago:

Saunders said the move was triggered by tensions that arose after a fellow commission member told him about being approached by two priests from an Italian diocese who had discovered a colleague was a serial abuser of children.

He also tackled something I’ve been talking about for years:

Saunders said the notion that clerical sex abuse was a problem of past decades — an argument Vatican officials have assiduously promoted — had to be challenged.

“This is not in any sense a historical issue or problem,” he said. “It has to be tackled now. The Pope could do so much more and he is doing next to nothing.

“This is a societal problem — but if the Church, the so-called moral leadership of the world, does not take a lead in this area it would quite rightly be considered morally bankrupt in every other area.”

Saunders is 100% correct. The Church has, in fact, repeatedly insisted that priestly pedophilia is a “historical problem” (and using that very phrase), yet as we all know, it’s not “historical,” it’s “ongoing.” As long as the Church refuses to admit that, it will remain possible for abusive clergy to go on abusing kids.

So much for the notion that Pope Francis might deal with this scandal better than his predecessors. All he managed to do, by creating this commission, was to come up with yet another way of deflecting it. How disappointing. The little bit of respect I’d had for Pope Francis is now gone.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)When Pope Francis ascended to the papacy, he was hailed as a reformer, and many expected he’d handle the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal much better than either Benedict or John Paul had. As I’ve blogged many times, Francis has in fact gone his own way, many times and over many issues.

Whether he’s been able to make a real difference, though, is another matter. And the clerical child-abuse scandal appears to be one in which he’s gotten nowhere. It’s not as though he’s done nothing at all … back in late 2013 he announced the creation of an advisory panel on the matter, which included abuse survivors (WebCite cached article). Unfortunately, that commission hasn’t done much. Its meetings have been infrequent, and its impact has been minimal.

And now, as CNN reports, it seems someone in the Vatican has decided to kick one of the abuse survivors off the panel (cached):

One of two sex abuse survivors on Pope Francis’ commission on the abuse of minors by the clergy has taken a leave of absence, the Vatican announced Saturday.

But Peter Saunders, an outspoken critic of the papal commission, responded: “I have not left and I’m not leaving.”

Founder of the London-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Saunders told reporters, “I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will only talk to him about my position.”

A Vatican statement said the “direction and purpose” of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was discussed at a Saturday meeting.

“It was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission’s work,” the statement said.…

At a news conference after the Vatican’s announcement, Saunders said he was blindsided by the decision.

“I was asked to consider my role or what my role should be with the commission,” he said.

“I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence. I said I would reflect on what I would do.”

Saunders said he learned about his supposed leave after the statement’s release.

The CNN article implies Saunders was thrown off the panel because of his harsh criticism of Australian Cardinal George Pell, but that happened eight months ago (cached). In most cases, that passage of time would suggest the two events aren’t linked. Then again, this is the Vatican we’re talking about, and it’s a proverbially slow-moving institution. Still, I’m not sure there’s a lockstep association here. It’s possible that Saunders has been causing internal problems for them during the intervening months, leading to this decision. That’s not to say any problems Saunders may have created for them are undeserved, or that he’s been unreasonable: The robed denizens of the Vatican probably just don’t like an abuse survivor calling them out on what they — and the rest of the hierarchy — did, and possibly are still doing.

That the Vatican didn’t even have the decency to tell Saunders he’d been dismissed before announcing his forced departure, is just another example of their moral deficiency and their sense of entitlement.

Was Pope Francis behind this low maneuver? Maybe … but maybe not. It’s hard to say how the Vatican operates these days. It’s true the Popes are nearly absolute monarchs, and technically in charge of everything that happens there. But there are times — both historically and now — when the machinery of the Vatican moves on its own, responding to its internal bureaucratic momentum. We’ll have to see what Francis does about this … but we’ll also have to keep in mind that, whatever we do hear, will have been filtered through that same machinery, since the Vatican is the Pope’s public-relations engine.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Patriarch Kirill, pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed he was not surprised that 'honest' Muslims are flocking to Isis' quasi-religious state / Getty Images, via The IndependentRussia — once the majority component of a superpower that collapsed under its own weight — has become a backward country in more ways than one. In particular, the Russian government under Vlad “the Impaler” Putin has become repressive in several ways, and has been particularly harsh toward gays. Russia faces many issues, which are hard for Putin and his buddies to solve, so instead of doing that, he’s going after dissidents, critics, and LGBT folks, as if they’re the architects of Russia’s misery. (To be clear, they’re not.)

Now that Russia has inserted itself in the Syrian Civil War, it’s facing an enemy it hadn’t had to deal with before, i.e. ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood. That’s put them on the radar of Russian society.

It’s no wonder, then, that one of Vlad’s friends, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church, decided to toss some of Russia’s bogeymen into the same basket with ISIS/IS/ISIL/whatever. As the (UK) Independent reports, the Patriarch blamed the rise of ISIS, and its ability to recruit, on gays and “godless civlilization” (WebCite cached article):

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has partially blamed an increased acceptance of homosexuality for the rise of Isis.

Patriarch Kirill claimed he was not surprised that some Muslims are flocking to Isis’ quasi-religious state as a way of escaping the “godless civilization” that celebrates events such as Gay Pride.

In an interview published on the Church’s official website [cached], Kirill said: “[Isis] is creating a civilization that is new by comparison to the established one that is godless, secular and even radical in its secularism.”…

Kiril [sic] said because the “godless civilization is reaching maturity”, it should come as no surprise that those who are opposed to liberal, secular ideas end up joining terror organisations.

Kirill’s description of the dangers posed by “secularism” are very similar to what one often hears from the Religious Right, here in the US:

“If you call non-traditional relationships a sin, as the Bible teaches and you are a priest or pastor, then you risk not only your ability to serve but you may be sent to prison,” he said.

There is no such effort underway anywhere I know of — especially in Russia — but as with the American R.R., that reality didn’t prevent Kirill from saying it exists.

Also, the Patriarch characterized ISIS recruits as “honest” and “truly religious.” I’m not sure how well that will go over with the majority of the Muslim world, which opposes ISIS.

In general, I love when puritanical people open their mouths. Almost universally they can’t keep their rotten, stinking, scum-coated feet out of them.

Photo credit: Getty Images, via The Independent.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

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Shams ud-Din Tabriz 1502-1504 BNF ParisI bet you had no idea the game of chess … you know, the ancient game played with special pieces on a checkerboard … was profane in the eyes of the Almighty. Yeah, I know, it was news to me too. It took an Islamic scholar to figure that out. As the New York Times explains, that scholar is no less than Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric has declared the playing of chess “forbidden,” calling it a waste of time and money that creates hatred between players.

In a fatwa, or religious decree, issued in response to a question from a caller to a Saudi television show, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said that the game was “the work of Satan,” like alcohol and gambling, despite its long history in the Middle East. Chess is played across the Arab world.…

In his statement on the show, the grand mufti equated chess with gambling, which is forbidden in Islam.

“It makes the rich man poor, and makes the poor man rich,” he said. “It causes hostility and wastes time where it should not be spent.”

I suppose people can bet on chess matches, but as a game, chess doesn’t involve any gambling. So I’m not sure what Al-Shiekh’s beef is really about. It seems nonsensical.

Ironically, it was Arabs’ embrace of chess — which had originated in India, then moved on into Persia — which carried the game to the western world. As the Times reports, it remains popular in the Arab world, and this fatwa isn’t likely to accomplish much of anything, since people will continue playing chess in spite of it.

The lesson here is that religionism leads to all sorts of adsurdity. It grants undeserved authority and influence to dolts and clowns with the power to promulgate rulings and doctrines based on ignorance and idiocy.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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Jesus with a gun, via Counterlight's Peculiars / Jesus Kicks Ass!I’ve blogged occasionally over the last few years about a ridiculous movement — primarily among evangelicals — that angles to get more guns into churches. For some reason, guns are sacred to Jesus. I guess. I mean, it’s not as though I’ve ever understood this notion. After all, wasn’t Jesus — who supposedly founded their religion — the one who told Christians to “turn the other cheek” and “hand over one’s shirt with one’s cloak”, and “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword” and all of that? I guess the sacred nature of guns must escape me, cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen that I am. I’m just not special enough to be gifted with such holy insights. Or something.

Anyway, this “bring guns to church for Jesus” trope has wandered into Catholicism, in a very public way. After his state enacted an “open-carry” law, the bishop of Dallas declared that guns aren’t allowed in any Catholic facilities in his diocese, and penned a missive on his blog announcing his opposition to “open carry.” Well, as you can imagine, this being Texas and all, that didn’t go over well. The Dallas Morning News reports on the backlash, which will include Catholics marching into churches armed to the teeth (WebCite cached article):

Plenty of Texas gun rights advocates celebrated 2016 as the year open carry finally arrived. But for some conservative Catholics, it’s another reason to clash with Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.

The Dallas Diocese forbids parishioners from bringing guns – openly carried or concealed – to their churches. A recent online column by Farrell [cached] – described by some as “strident” – has made the Bishop’s critics even more vocal.…

The column said the ban was a reflection of the church as a place of sanctuary.

The column also praised President Barack Obama’s new executive order attempting to crack down on gun sales that hadn’t previously required background checks.…

“It is absurd that terrorists, criminals, and mentally unbalanced people can freely and openly buy weapons not intended for sport, but designed to kill people,” Farrell wrote.

It goes without saying a lot of Texans are incensed over what Farrell said. Much of that has more to do with the bishop’s expression of support for President Obama’s recent actions, than it does with his forbidding guns in Dallas-diocese churches.

At least one sanctimoniously-enraged Catholic quoted in the story plans to disobey Farrell:

[Catholic gun-toter Charles] Cleaver said he’ll continue carrying a gun to Mass, no matter what Farrell decides.

Remembering a friend’s warning, Cleaver said: “What good would that [gun] do for you if you’re not carrying?”

That last sentence points to the flaw in the gun-lovers’ arguments about how great it would be if everyone ran around with guns. They love guns; they think they’re useful; because they’re useful, that means they’re always needed; so if you don’t have one with you at all times, you may as well not even own one in the first place; but you do, so you have to take it everywhere. Yes, that’s the kind of “logic” we’re dealing with, in this sort of person.

P.S. Yes, in spite of the new law, private entities in Texas still have the right to forbid guns on their property. So Farrell’s ban of guns on diocesan property will stand.

P.P.S. I really love how Farrell’s critics called his ban on guns on diocesan properties and statement of support for Obama “strident,” as though stomping around armed to the teeth somehow isn’t also “strident.” Hmm.

Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.

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Farkhunda's half-finished grave outside Kabul. / Lynsey Addario for The New York TimesBack in March I blogged about a woman from Kabul (about as cosmopolitan a city as one can find in Afghanistan) who was killed by a mob after having been accused of burning a Qur’an that she never actually burned. I predicted, at the time — in spite of condemnations by the Afghan government — that justice almost certainly would not be done for this woman. Yes, many people were arrested and prosecuted for this crime, but as the New York Times reports, pretty much everyone involved is going to get away with it nonetheless (WebCite cached article):

At first, the trial and convictions that followed seemed a victory in the long struggle to give Afghan women their due in a court of law. But a deeper look suggests otherwise. The fortuneteller who several investigators believe set the events in motion was found not guilty on appeal. The shrine’s custodian, who concocted the false charge of Quran burning and incited the mob, had his death sentence commuted. Police officers who failed to send help and others who stood by received slaps on the wrist, at most. Some attackers identifiable in the videos avoided capture altogether.

The Times explains the twists and turns this case took, the trials, appeals, etc. Strangely, a lot of the trials and appeals hinged mainly on the issue of who struck the first blow against Farkhunda, rather than delving into what was, essentially, a conspiracy to arrange her murder, and holding those who orchestrated it accountable for their participation. Given his public’s general approval of Farkhunda’s murder, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has essentially caved in on the matter. And Farkhunda’s family has had to flee the country.

Back when I blogged about this senseless and unjust slaughter, I said:

Yes, I’m sure a condemnation by Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is certain to bring this practice to an end. No doubt!

And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.

Yup, looks like I called this one … sad to say. The Afghan government and people managed to live down to all my expectations of them … and then some. I’m sure they’re very proud of their backwardness, stupidity, childishness, and cowardice. Well done, Afghans! I’m also sure your al-Lah is proud of you, too!

Photo credit: Lynsey Addario / The New York Times.

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Trikonasana Yoga-Asana Nina-MelOver the last few years, some American Christianists have decided that yoga, of all things, is an abomination against their deity. The angry theocrat Al Mohler came out against it 5 years ago, and occasionally it kicks up a Christianist furor, as happened a couple years ago in California.

The latest example comes from Ted Shoebat, the Christofascist son of the claimed ex-PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat, who — as Right Wing Watch reports and provides video — has demanded that yoga, of all things, be outlawed and yoga studios raided (WebCite cached article):

Extremist right-wing activist Theodore Shoebat dedicated his most recent video to railing against the evils of Hinduism, declaring that if he was a dictator, he would invade India, destroy all Hindu temples and force everyone to convert to Christianity.…

“Yoga? Outlawed,” Shoebat continued. “And anyone who teaches yoga? Punished by the state … I think the U.S. government needs to crack down on this evil, demonic thing called yoga … You’re teaching yoga, have the SWAT team bust open the doors to that place and just arrest everybody.”

Note, this isn’t really new for the furious little Teddie. He’s previously called for all gays, and those who support them (even Christians), to be executed summarily (cached). He also supports Donald “it’s my own hair” Trump for president, with the expectation he’ll also have all Muslims executed, as well (cached).

Note that Teddie’s father Walid has a dubious history. He’s a Muslim convert to Christianity who said he’d been a Muslim terrorist, although he was almost certainly not involved in at least one terror attack he’d claimed to have been part of (cached). As one would expect, this has brought him a acclaim from evangelical Christians who love such claims and don’t really give a flying fuck whether or not they’re truthful, and has made a living on the Christian lecture circuit as a “terrorism expert.”

At any rate, I can’t fathom why “mainstream” Christians — who presumably find such views atrocious and unacceptable — haven’t done anything about the angry little Teddie or his father. Hmm. I mean, they may well be offended that this guy is speaking for their religion, their deity, and even them … but he just keeps spewing these ridiculous demands for people he dislikes to be killed.

As for yoga being a form of Hinduism, as practiced in most places in the US, it’s no such thing. Yes, it’s true it began among Hindus as a form of devotion, but over the centuries, not to mention the miles, it’s lost pretty much any connection it had to the religion known as Hinduism. Some of the practices and poses have Hindi names, but that’s about as close a link as you’ll find in most American yoga studios. Having people killed over it, though … ? What the fuck!? I mean that seriously … what the fuck is wrong with Ted Shoebat and why the hell are people actually letting jabber on like the the juvenile, ignorant, furious douchebag he is?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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