Posts Tagged “vatican city”

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, Mafialike 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 / via Flickr.

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Jesus wept. (Jn 11:35)Not only does the Roman Catholic Church have pedophiles in its ranks — as most people now realize, even if at one time they preferred not to — but it also has unrepentant pedophiles-in-denial in its ranks. Time magazine reports on a Belgian bishop who admitted to molesting his nephews but who insists he’s not a pedophile and says it was just a game (WebCite cached article):

The Belgian Catholic Church must have felt it hit a nadir last year when it had to face harrowing revelations of rampant child sex abuse among its priesthood. However, the church’s reputation is now at a new low, thanks to the ill-judged comments of the disgraced former Bishop of Bruges, who in April 2010 admitted to abusing his nephew. Belgians have been left in open-mouthed disbelief after the airing of a TV interview with Roger Vangheluwe in which he glossed over his history of abusing children.

Speaking on Belgian television on Thursday evening, April 14, Vangheluwe, 74, said he had in fact abused a second nephew as well. That would have been shocking enough: last year, when Vangheluwe initially owned up to the abuse — and stepped down as bishop — the move unleashed a flood of revelations by other victims of abuse in the church.

The former bishop downplayed what he did:

But it was no tearful confession that Belgians witnessed on Thursday. Looking relaxed and sometimes smiling, Vangheluwe described the sexual abuse as no more than “a little piece of intimacy.” While he claimed to recognize that he had done wrong and said he often went to confession about it, Vangheluwe played down his actions. “I had the strong impression that my nephew didn’t mind at all. On the contrary. It was not brutal sex. I never used bodily, physical violence,” he said.

Ah. I see. So in the ex-bishop’s mind, sex with minors is just fine, so long as it’s not violent. OK. Got it. I don’t agree, of course … nor do most of the world’s legal systems … but I got it.

Other Belgian bishops, to their credit, condemned Vangheluwe’s downplaying of his immorality and criminality, yet the ex-bishop remains a priest in good standing in the Church, and there is no known effort underway to defrock him. The Vatican seems happy to continue calling him one of its own.

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

Photo credit: Beliefnet.

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Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans painted in 1636.Many times I’ve discussed the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church. Mainly I’ve pointed out that, on the one hand the Church claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality and ethics on the planet; but on the other, it has spent decades allowing its own clergy to prey on children almost at will, has obstructed efforts to prosecute them, and has covered up for abusive clergy as much as they could get away with. That they aren’t getting away with it as much as they used to, bothers the Vatican immensely, and that institution is not happy with the impertinence of those who dare criticize it for refusing to accept the consequences of its actions.

The Church, therefore, proudly claims “the moral high ground” — but hypocritically refuses actually to stand on it.

But now comes another, somewhat different, example of the Vatican’s hypocrisy. USA Today reports that the Church is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s revelation of his telescope and its wonders (WebCite cached article):

Four hundred years after Galileo Galilei first demonstrated his telescope to scholars on a Roman hilltop, the astronomer condemned by the Catholic Church was celebrated on the same spot with a multimedia art exhibit that, oddly enough, included an installation from the Vatican.

Heliographs, astrolabes and other antique astrological instruments that belong to the Vatican Observatory stood alongside contemporary art inspired by Galileo and his science: rows of intensely hot, blindingly bright floodlights simulating the sun; a performance by a Tibetan musician playing a telescope-like horn.

The event took place Thursday night at the American Academy in Rome, a research center for the arts and humanities whose gardens lie on the exact spot where, on the night of April 14, 1611, Galileo showed off his telescope for the first time to the most important scholars of his time.

What makes this whole thing sickly hypocritical, is that this is the very same Catholic Church that prosecuted Galileo for having published his findings, specifically his confirmation of Copernicus’s heliocentric solar system theory:

Galileo made the first complete astronomical telescope and used it to gather evidence that the Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time had placed Earth at the center of the universe. The church denounced Galileo’s theory as dangerous to the faith, but Galileo defied its warnings. Tried for heresy and forced to recant in 1633, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

The Vatican is trying to act as though its harassment, persecution, and imprisonment of Galileo was somehow “no big deal”:

“It’s not a simple ‘The church was against science,’” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican’s Observatory. “The church never speaks with one voice on these things.”

Actually, Brother, it IS that simple! The Catholic Church in Galileo’s time was, in fact, “against science,” at least any science that could have been construed to undermine its authority. Since the heliocentric model of Copernicus appeared to contradict scripture, Galileo’s confirmation was something the Church was very much “against,” in every possible way.

For decades the Vatican has been tap-dancing around the wrong that had been done to Galileo. In 1979 Pope John Paul II called for an annulment of or amendment to Galileo’s conviction; it took that august body an entire 13 years of dodging and swerving to finally decide that Galileo had been right … but also that his persecutors should not be faulted.

What an accomplishment. The Vatican must be so proud.

At any rate, the Church celebrating the scientific accomplishments of a man who was targeted by the Church for his scientific accomplishments, is the very height of chutzpah, and exactly the sort of hypocrisy that Jesus Christ himself explicitly and utterly condemned. Way to to, guys. You just may have outdone yourselves.

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

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Image of a 1997 letter from the Vatican warning Irish bishops not to report suspected child-abuse cases to police.The Mafia-like philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy continues to be revealed as information emerges from the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal. The latest revelation comes in the form of a letter, originally written by Vatican officials to Ireland’s bishops in 1997, ordering them not to report child abuse to local authorities. The AP reports via Canada’s The Globe and Mail on this remarkable document (WebCite cached article):

A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police – a disclosure that victims groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of coverup.

The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

What makes this a “smoking gun” is that it shows the Vatican to have lied about the scandal:

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that the church in Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.

The letter also shows the Vatican’s primary concern was to ensure that canon law — i.e. the Church’s own internal legal system — handled these cases and that secular courts would never see them. Once again we see that the Church views itself as being above the law of the countries in which it operates, and assumes itself answerable to no one and nothing else.

The Globe and Mail hosts a copy of the letter, just large enough to read if one works at it (WebCite cached version).

My guess is that Catholicism’s apologists will refuse to acknowledge the lie demonstrated in this letter and will refuse to accept any possibility of wrongdoing by Church hierarchs.

Hat tip: Repi at Atheist/Agnostic/Herding Cats on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: The AP, via The Globe and Mail.

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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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Vatican MuseumThe disclosure of a quarter million US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks has confirmed there was a good deal of tension between the Vatican and the Irish government over its inquiry into the abuse of children by the Roman Catholic Church there. The (UK) Guardian reports that the Vatican had been “offended” by requests for information and testimony by the Murphy commission (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican refused to allow its officials to testify before an Irish commission investigating the clerical abuse of children and was angered when they were summoned from Rome, US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks reveal.

Requests for information from the 2009 Murphy commission into sexual and physical abuse by clergy “offended many in the Vatican” who felt that the Irish government had “failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations“, a cable says.

Note here the total lack of concern for the fact that the Murphy commission was investigating wrongdoing by Catholic clergy within Ireland … wrongdoing which had — by then — already been documented, to an extent, by the Ryan Commission. Oh no. The Vatican had no concern for priestly abuse, no interest in doing anything about it, and no interest in allowing the Irish to know what had been going on in their own country.

No way!

Rather, the Vatican was concerned about its “sovereignty.” After all, isn’t that much more important than the welfare of children in the Church’s care?

What is, perhaps, a bit worse than the fact that the Vatican chose to stonewall the Murphy commission, is that — ultimately — the Irish government surrendered on the matter:

According to [Irish ambassador to the Vatican City, Joel] Fahey’s deputy, Helena Keleher, the government acceded to Vatican pressure and granted them immunity from testifying. Officials understood that “foreign ambassadors are not required or expected to appear before national commissions”, but Keleher’s opinion was that by ignoring the commission’s requests the clergy had made the situation worse.

As usual, if it bellyaches and whines long enough and hard enough, the Vatican usually gets what it wants. It would, of course, be much better for the world if — instead of childishly stamping their feet every time someone tries to hold them accountable for their actions — the robed denizens of the Vatican finally grew the fuck up, came clean as to what they did or didn’t do, and took ownership of their own (mis)behavior.

But like politicians, the clergy will never mature, and they will never admit fault. So that won’t happen.

Photo credit: Wikitravel.

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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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