Posts Tagged “benedict xvi”

Benedict XVI in FatimaThe latest example of what I like to refer to as “the Christian martyr complex” comes in this pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic News Service reports that the Holy Father has declared Christianity — and even religion itself — to be in danger of extinction (WebCite cached article):

Christianity and even religious belief are in grave danger across the globe, risking oblivion, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Across vast areas of the earth, faith runs the danger of extinguishing like a flame that runs out of fuel,” he said.

Last I knew, religious faith was still going strong. The vast majority of people in the world are religious, and while religious fervor is fading in a few places such as Europe, in most regions religion is going strong and is nowhere near dying out.

It almost goes without saying that, in those few places where religion is becoming less common, the Roman Catholic Church’s own conduct has very likely contributed to this trend. “Charity begins at home,” or so the saying goes, so maybe the Pope should look in his own mirror and figure out how he might try to reverse this trend that so alarms him? My guess is he’ll refuse to do so and continue to wail about the evils of “secular humanism,” rather than examine and ferret out the evils within his own Church.

The article includes an additional quote, though, which I find remarkable:

“Without faith, the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of ‘social contract’ that’s adhered to out of common interest,” the pope said.

I’m not quite sure what Benedict’s problem is with a “social contract” that people embrace “out of common interest.” Wouldn’t that be the best thing … for people to get along with each other, because it’s in their own best interest to get along? And isn’t this precisely how the Ethic of Reciprocity works — a principle which, ironically, none other than the founder of the Pope’s own religion promoted? If this is something Jesus taught, why would the Pope find it objectionable?

None of this should be news to any Vatican-watcher. As the clerical child-abuse scandal has hammered the Catholic Church around the world, the current Pope and his predecessor both staunchly refused to acknowledge any part in it; they both tried to prevent bishops from allowing abusive clergy to be investigated by local authorities; and Benedict remains committed to a policy of evading responsibility for it, becoming offended when he’s forced to face it. He could, in one moment, restore the credibility of his own Church — and by extension, that of Christianity and of religion generally — by dealing with the scandal in a contrite and moral manner. But he never will. Count on it.

Hat tip: CNN Belief Blog.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England & Wales).

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Faithful gather in St. Peter's Basilica during the Easter Vigil mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican, Saturday, April 23, 2011. The pontif began Saturday night's ceremony by lighting a candle that symbolizes the resurrection of Christ, which the faithful mark on Easter Sunday. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)Not to be outdone by the Religious Right armies which at the moment are stomping around the US rolling the country back to medievalism, Pope Benedict XVI used his Easter Vigil homily to leap aboard the Creationism bandwagon, as the AP reports via Google News (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn’t a random product of evolution.

Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point “in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it.”

“If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature,” he said.

This is a curious development, since as the AP article notes, the Catholic Church hasn’t been opposed to evolution, and does not support Creationism:

Church teaching holds that Roman Catholicism and evolutionary theory are not necessarily at odds: A Christian can, for example, accept the theory of evolution to help explain developments, but is taught to believe that God, not random chance, is the origin of the world. The Vatican, however, warns against creationism, or the overly literal interpretation of the Bibilical account of creation.

It’s interesting that Benedict used the adjective “random” as a way of trying to discredit evolution. That particular rhetorical trick has been Creationists’ stock in trade for decades now. This is why his remarks appear to support Creationism. As for the validity of calling evolution “random” … I suppose one might call its results “random,” however, that’s just a subjective value judgement having no objective basis. So really, it means nothing other than that the person speaking doesn’t like evolution.

The trouble with that, of course, is that the veracity of evolution doesn’t depend on whether anyone likes it or not. Its veracity has, time and again, been scientifically demonstrated. In the end, to not like evolution is akin to not liking the fact that the sky is blue. There isn’t much doubt that it’s the case, and there’s absolutely nothing one can do to change it.

What sane person would rant and rave and bluster and fume over the fact that the sky is blue? No one. It would make no sense; no one else would listen to such a person. It’s time for humanity to mature to the point where we can finally admit the same thing about Creationism … that it’s irrational, that time and energy spent on it is wasted, that nothing human beings say or do can ever make Creationism true, and that we need to stop paying heed to it and giving comfort to its delusional, childish proponents.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia (cached).

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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd as he arrives for an open-air mass in the Terreiro do Paso in Lisbon, on May 11, 2010Pope Benedict XVI continues to look for ways to deflect the world’s attention from the fact that the Church he rules is a remorseless, Mafia-like cabal of criminals and criminal-enablers. CBS News reports that he used a question from a Japanese child who survived the recent earthquake there as a launching-point for his own idiotic attempt at theodicy (WebCite cached article):

In an unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI held a televised question-and-answer session to mark Good Friday, fielding queries from as far away as Japan, Iraq and the Ivory Coast on topics as wide-ranging as death, violence, intimidation and suffering. …

The first question came from Elena, a 7-year-old Japanese girl who told the pope that many children her age were killed in the March 11 disaster and asked why children have to be so sad.

“I also have the same questions: Why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease?” Benedict said. “And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent.”

Trying for words of comfort, the pope told her that “even if we are still sad, God is by your side.”

He said Elena should tell herself: “One day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn’t in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love.”

There are so many points of illogic in the Pope’s answer, I hardly know how to begin addressing them. Since I can’t possibly cover them all, I’ll handle the three main ones:

  1. That one innocent (i.e. Jesus) suffered, does not mean everyone else’s suffering is good. This is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking and is fallacious.

  2. What does it matter that God is at anyone’s side, while s/he suffers? I mean, seriously … what fucking good does that accomplish?

  3. The Pope concedes “we do not have the answers,” yet — in total contradiction of this admission — concludes nonetheless that there is some great cosmic “plan of love.”

The idea that “God has a plan” is commonly stated by many theists. But curiously, not one of them dares divulge the content of this “plan”! Sorry, but unless you know what the “plan” is and can describe it to me, you can’t say there is one. No, I’m not just going to take your word for it. A plan you’ve never seen and cannot explain, is inseparable from one that doesn’t exist at all.

The sad truth about this theodicy by the Pope — and about all other theodicies proposed by any other believer in the Abrahamic God over the last c. 2,500 years — is that they all fail the test of logic. Every single last one of them.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: M.Mazur / www.thepapalvisit.org.uk via Flickr.

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Der kränkliche Papst Johannes Paul II. am 22. September 2004What does a vast multinational institution do, when it finds itself in the throes of a pervasive, years-long global scandal which it cannot and will not deal with? Why, it diverts people’s attention to something other than the scandal!

Hence, the Roman Catholic Church is promoting the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II with an online advertising campaign, as reported by the Catholic News Agency (WebCite cached article):

With the help of Facebook and YouTube users, the Vatican hopes to create a broad audience for material on the life and teachings of the soon-to-be beatified Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican’s television center and Vatican Radio have teamed up with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to produce two new webpages on YouTube and Facebook.

The Facebook page offers audio and video content to prepare “friends” and any other passersby for the beatification of the late-Pope on May 1, 2011.

I can’t help but note that, previously, the Vatican and its current leader, Pope Benedict XVI, hasn’t had much good to say about the Internet; for example, he warned young people from getting too wrapped up in it (cached). I guess Benedict suddenly finds the Internet is OK, but only if young people use it to celebrate the beatification of his predecessor?

I also can’t help but note that John Paul’s beatification will conveniently take place 20 days before evangelical “Bible scholar” Harold Camping says the Rapture will sweep the world clean of all its Christians. Whew!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Benedict XVI delivers his annual World Day of Peace message Friday (1/1/2010) at the VaticanFor about the millionth time, Pope Benedict XVI has whined about how horrid secularism is, equating it with religious fundamentalism, and claiming it’s something it is not. His continued error manifested during his “World Day of Peace” address this New Year’s Day (WebCite cached article):

The same determination that condemns every form of fanaticism and religious fundamentalism must also oppose every form of hostility to religion that would restrict the public role of believers in civil and political life.

It should be clear that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in that both represent extreme forms of a rejection of legitimate pluralism and the principle of secularity.

The Pope seems to think “secularism” is “abolition of religion.” However, that’s not what it is. Secularism refers to an absence of religion in something. A secular government, for example, is one which is devoid of religious influence or control. In other words, a secular government is neither the puppet of religion, or its puppet-master.

The Pope claims secularism destroys religious freedom, when in fact it does quite the opposite: Only in a secular state can absolute religious freedom be achieved. Benedict himself, an academic who — one would assume — has studied the history of Europe and of his own Church, ought to know better than to make this erroneous claim. And he should know this error works in two ways.

First, the Church once held enormous influence over Europe and imposed itself upon the various states. At one time, the Church made sure it was impossible to be anything other than a rigidly compliant Catholic … all other religions were stamped out, sometimes violently. As modern Europe became secular, and the Roman Catholic Church lost control over the continent, Europe came to be religiously tolerant.

Second, going in the other direction, Catholics were, themselves, historically victims of the entanglement of church and state. The English Reformation, for example, pitted members of the Church of England against those who remained loyal to Catholicism, and for a while, Catholicism was outlawed in Britain. Benedict surely knows that members of his own Church suffered greatly under the union of the British Crown and the Anglican Church.

The Pope went on to say:

With due respect for the positive secularity of state institutions, the public dimension of religion must always be acknowledged.

It’s not immediately clear what Benedict means by this. If he means that secular states should acknowledge that they have religious majorities … well … of course they do. It hardly is worth anyone’s time to go out of their way to “acknowledge” that. Is it necessary to “acknowledge” that the sky is blue? Or that water is wet? I suspect what he’s really referring to is not “acknowledgement,” but “deference.” However, any secular state that “defers” to one or more religions, by definition ceases to be “secular” any longer.

Benedict also doesn’t understand the meaning of “fundamentalism.” Used in relation to religion, this term has a very specific, tight definition. It means that a religion’s practitioners emphasize something tangible in particular, usually a set of sacred texts, as the “core” of the religion, or its “fundamental.” Christian fundamentalists have the Bible as their “fundamental.” Islamic fundamentalists have the Qur’an and the Hadith as their “fundamentals.” However, there is no identifiable “fundamental” over which secularists obsess, as the source of their beliefs (if it can be said that they have any beliefs at all).

For a man with a long academic career, it’s curious that Benedict is blissfully unaware of the meanings of the words “secular” and “fundamentalism.” Unlike a lot of his other critics, I do not for one moment think the man is stupid or ignorant. On the contrary, he’s shown himself to be well-informed on a large range of topics. No, it’s quite clear that he knows very well what he’s saying, and that he’s using these terms incorrectly — which is much worse than him being merely stupid or ignorant. Put bluntly, he’s lying about secularism in order to malign it and convince Catholics — and presumably other theists — to fight against it. Ultimately, what he seems to want is a world in which religion holds sway over everything … but history shows that to be the worst kind of a bad idea.

The Pope needs to stop bellyaching that his Church is no longer in charge; grow up and accept that the world is not his to govern as he wills; and concede (even if he doesn’t want to) that his own Church is but one of many religions in a world with a multitude of them to pick from. That would be the mature thing for him to do. My guess is that he will never do so … because while I acknowledge he’s well-educated and perhaps intelligent, he clearly is immature, and at his age, is not likely to become any less juvenile.

P.S. If secularism is so horrifically bad, why is it that an avowed Pakistani secularist was the victim of religionism, rather than the other way around? Hmm? Just thought I’d ask that out loud.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: CNN.

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Sagrada Família, Barcelona, SpainIn his continued effort to encourage the world to forget the abuse of children at the hands of Catholic clergy which took place around the world at least for decades, if not centuries, and which has been systematically covered up the the Catholic hierarchy for as long, Pope Benedict XVI keeps railing sanctimoniously about the evils of “secularism.” CNN reports on his latest outburst, when he dedicated a new church in Barcelona, Spain (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI defended religion from critics Sunday as he dedicated the Sagrada Familia church, a still-unfinished emblem of the Spanish city of Barcelona.

“This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord,” he said.

And he pushed back against what he sees as increasing secularism in the world, saying, “I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him.”

Benedict would, of course, carry much more moral authority, if only he would finally come clean about the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal, admit the hierarchy’s complicity in the crimes of abusive clergy, and hand over for prosecution all guilty priests, monks, nuns, and bishops remaining in the Church.

I know, fat chance that will ever happen. Nonetheless, until he does so, the Pope does not have the moral authority to pass judgement on the putative evils of secularism, or of anything else, for that matter; he remains the head of an organization with nearly the same moral fiber as the Mafia.

The Pope also could not help but spew more ridiculousness concerning same-sex marriage, which Spain recently legalized:

He also defended the traditional family, after Spain’s Socialist government legalized same-sex marriage.

“The generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end,” he said.

The Pope suggests, here, that marriage is about procreation. As I pointed out way back in 2008, however, this is not the case, as millions of childless married couples around the world can attest. If the Pope — and other marriage advocates who also love to spew the “marriage-is-only-for-making-babies” canard — are correct, then all those childless married folks should be forced either to divorce, or to have children. If he — and those other marriage advocates — are not willing to do that, then they aren’t being true to their own stated philosophy.

At any rate, it’s long past time for Benedict XVI to stop wailing and moaning about “secularism” and finally put his own house in order. This would, of course, be the Christian thing to do, following Jesus’ own teachings:

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me remove that splinter from your eye,” while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42)

It’s long past time for the Pope to read his own holy book and then do what it tells him to do. (The same goes for every other Christian in the world who thinks s/he’s entitled to tell everyone else what to do, but who refuses to abide by those teachings him/herself.)

Photo credit: Katonams / Wikimedia Commons.

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Photographie de Carla Bruni nu pour le magazine Down TownThe robed denizens of the Vatican have, once again, provided a stark example of their undeniable moral bankruptcy. Still in the throes of evading responsibility for the scandal of decades of child-abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, which was systematically covered up by the Church’s hierarchy, the Vatican has chosen to make its stand … against an ex-model.

That’s right. An ex-model.

The person in question is Carla Bruni, wife of France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy. Time magazine’s NewsFeed blog reports on the Vatican’s objection to her presence (WebCite cached article):

Ahead of President Sarkozy’s 30-minute audience with the Pontiff earlier this month, Vatican officials sent the French ambassador a message saying: “Carla Sarkozy is not welcome in the Vatican [cached].” The message, which led her to stay in Paris, is said to be over the Pope’s fears that more racy photographs of her days as a catwalk model would emerge. Nude and semi-naked pictures from her days as a model are regularly published in the media. In one, she’s seen posing in just a pair of knee high boots and a diamond ring. (The U.S. didn’t seem to mind [cached].)

Benedict XVI clearly suffers from a raging case of Cranial-Rectal Inversion: While the Pope objects to an ex-model (GASP!) daring to walk around in his sacred city-state, His Holiness has no problem letting in priests who abuse children. Among the Vatican City’s more (in)famous residents is Cardinal Bernard Law, who — as Archbishop of Boston — not only permitted the abuse of children in his archdiocese, he moved priests around so as to prevent them from being discovered, and (for a while at least) attempted to shield priests in his archdiocese from being prosecuted.

If you need any other example of the Roman Catholic Church’s blatant lack of anything resembling values, well … here you have it.

Need I point out, also, that it’s not necessarily even the case that hanging around with ex-models is not permitted to priests? After all, Christian legend has it that one of Jesus’ own followers, Mary Magdalene, was a prostitute! If Jesus could have prostitutes around him, then surely an ex-model is not off limits!

Photo credit: Down Town via Hervé Corcia.

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