Posts Tagged “vatican city”

Pope Benedict XVI blessing members of the Order of the Knights of Malta at the Vatican on Saturday. Samantha Zucchi Insidefoto/European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times.The big religious news this morning is that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign at the end of this month. The New York Times reports on this news which has taken a lot of people by surprise (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took office in 2005 following the death of his predecessor, said on Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

Regarded as a doctrinal conservative, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

The announcement is certain to plunge the Roman Catholic world into frenzied speculation about his likely successor and to evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious.

In a statement in several languages, the pope said his “strength of mind and body” had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Elected on April 19, 2005, Pope Benedict said his papacy would end on Feb. 28.

The reason this is a surprise, is that previously, spokesmen for the Church — and “experts” on the Vatican and Catholicism — had claimed it was impossible for popes to resign. That had been their response a few years ago when the Pope’s involvement in the case of a pedophilic priest in the 1980s had been revealed, as the Times explains:

Vatican officials and experts who follow the papacy closely dismissed the idea of stepping down at the time. “There is no objective motive to think in terms of resignation, absolutely no motive,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. “It’s a completely unfounded idea.”

I said, back then, that this was not true; the Pope can, indeed, resign. There are precedents for it (Pope Celestine V had established the ability of popes to resign, then did so himself a few months later in 1294; and Gregory XII also resigned, in 1415, in order to end the decades-long Great Western Schism). Thanks to Celestine V, in fact, a provision for papal abdication is provided explicitly in canon law:

Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone. (Canon 332 §2)

So all those presumed “experts” who had insisted differently, are clearly wrong. I find it difficult to believe that most of them — if not all — didn’t know better.

Photo credit: Samantha Zucchi Insidefoto/European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times.

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The day after KristallnachtIt’s common for irrationally sanctimonious people to hurl the old reductio ad Hiterum — or appeal to Hitler and/or the Nazis — at people they dislike. I’ve been blogging about this childish tendency for years now. It’s been used here in the U.S. by ideologues of all stripes. The Catholic Church has hurled ad Hitlerums lots of times, too, such as against President Obama and against the mass media for reporting on the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s rocked it for over a decade now. The Pope himself has even declared atheism and secularism to be forms of Nazism.

And it seems they can’t help but keep doing the same thing. Der Spiegel reports that no less a prince of the Church than its doctrinal enforcer has decided to hurl an implied — yet exceedingly clear — ad Hitlerum at the Church’s critics generally (WebCite cached article):

A German archbishop is under fire for appearing to liken recent criticism of the Catholic Church to a Nazi-era pogrom. The cleric, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, had said that “targeted discrimination campaigns” against the church sometimes reminded him of a “pogrom sentiment.”

The doctrinal watchdog of the Catholic church, German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, has run into criticism from politicians for saying the church was being subjected to a “pogrom sentiment” because of its position on the ordination of women, same-sex partnerships and the celibacy of priests.

In an interview with the newspaper Die Welt published on Friday, the archbishop said: “Targeted discreditation campaigns against the Catholic Church in North America and also here in Europe have led to clerics in some areas being insulted in public. An artifcially created fury is growing here which sometimes reminds one of a pogrom sentiment.”

I was able to find the Die Welt article in question, but it’s in German (cached version). Note that Müller’s office — prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — is the same one that Cardinal Ratzinger held for over two decades prior to becoming Pope.

His use of the word “pogrom” is significant. While the word comes from Russian and was first used to speak of the harassment of Jews in that country in the wake of rumors that they’d been behind the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, “pogrom” has since become associated with any systemic harassment of Jews, up to and including the Holocaust wrought by the Third Reich. Archbishop Müller clearly thinks that criticizing the Catholic Church is the same as the “pogroms” which ultimately claimed the lives of millions of Jews. One cannot construe his accusation any other way.

Nevertheless, criticism is not wanton slaughter! It just isn’t. For Müller to say that is just fucking ridiculous.

It’s long past time for the wizened princes of the Church to grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives and stop bellyaching and whining that they’re being criticized. They no longer run the world, and that’s just how it’s going to be, from now on. They can either be mature and accept it, or act like little crybabies and keep complaining about it. Yes, I get that they can’t help themselves; as Christians, they wish to feel persecuted for Jesus, so even though no one is trying to wipe them out, they nevertheless delude themselves into thinking it’s happening. But they don’t have any rational excuse for clinging to their delusion … no matter how much they think they’re entitled to.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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

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Saint Peter's Square, RomeIt seems the Vatican has run out of stuff to do, these days, in spite of things like the Vatileaks scandal and the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal (which it has yet to deal with in any kind of contrite, meaningful way). Yes, the robed denizens of the Holy See, you see, are more than slightly miffed that measures permitting gay marriage passed in three US states this past Tuesday, and it’s becoming the law of the land in France, too. The AP reports via the Washington Post that they’ve gone on the offensive over the matter (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican is digging in after gay marriage initiatives scored big wins this week in the U.S. and Europe, vowing to never stop insisting that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

In a front-page article in Saturday’s Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy See sought to frame itself as the lone voice of courage in opposing initiatives to give same-sex couples legal recognition. In a separate Vatican Radio editorial, the pope’s spokesman asked sarcastically why gay marriage proponents don’t now push for legal recognition for polygamous couples as well. …

The Vatican’s anti-gay marriage media blitz came after three U.S. states approved same-sex marriage by popular vote in the election that returned Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency, Spain upheld its gay marriage law, and France pushed ahead with legislation that could see gay marriage legalized early next year.

The Vatican used expressed the raging paranoia typical of militant religionists:

The article insisted that Catholics were putting up a valiant fight to uphold church teaching in the face of “politically correct ideologies invading every culture of the world” that are backed by institutions like the United Nations, which last year passed a non-binding resolution condemning anti-gay discrimination.

“The church is called to present itself as the lone critic of modernity, the only check … to the breakup of the anthropological structures on which human society was founded,” it said.

Given that gay marriage is vehemently opposed by lots of people and groups … like the American Family Association and Focus on the Family in the US and other evangelical Christian ministries all over the world … the Vatican lies when it says it’s alone in this regard. The cold fact is that the R.C. Church is by no means alone in its effort to unravel the advancements we’ve made since the Enlightenment and yank humanity back to the Dark Ages.

Here’s a thought for those in the Vatican who think they should be able to moralize and tell humanity what it can and cannot do: Once you’ve purged your own Church of its criminals and miscreants; once you’ve handed over for prosecution every abusive cleric in your ranks and every bureaucrat and hierarch who covered up for them; once you’ve admitted your policies were focused more on protecting your own reputations and wealth than looking out for the welfare of children in your care; once you’ve explicitly conceded your organization is not above the criminal law of the countries in which you operate; once you’ve changed your policies to put children first and commit to operating more transparently; once every abusive priest, nun, brother, etc. and obstructionist bishop has confessed his/her crimes and begun their jail sentences; and once you’ve grown the fuck up and stopped blaming anything and everything but yourselves for what you did … THEN, and ONLY THEN, might you have anything coming close to the kind of moral authority that gives you any right to tell anyone else how to live. Until then, you should just shut your fucking mouths about the evils of gays, or of this horrible, rotten, insolent “secularism” you so passionately despise. They haven’t perpetrated anything close to the scope of crimes your own Church is guilty of worldwide.

Is that clear?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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FILE PHOTO OF TRADITIONALIST BISHOP RICHARD WILLIAMSON / CNS NEWS SERVICEI’ve blogged a number of times about the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic order known as the Society of St Pius X (or SSPX). Among other things, this crew is so whacked, that they cling to the delusion that the geocentric model of the solar system is correct. Even so, SSPX’s insane wingnuttery wasn’t enough to prevent the Vatican from reaching an accord with them and bringing them back into the Catholic fold.

But it turns out there was a wrench in the works. And that was Bishop Richard Williamson, who’s denied the Holocaust on the grounds that it turned every Jew into an “ersatz savior.” The Catholic News Service reports that Williamson has tested the patience of even the SSPX and has been tossed out (WebCite cached article):

The leadership of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has expelled British Bishop Richard Williamson from the society, saying he distanced himself from them and refused “to show due respect and obedience to his lawful superiors.” …

Bishop Williamson had been a harsh critic of the group’s engagement in doctrinal discussions with the Vatican, which were aimed at bringing the society back into full communion with the Catholic Church. …

The Vatican knew Williamson would be trouble, right from the start of the reconciliation effort:

Even as the Vatican negotiated with the SSPX, Vatican officials said separate discussions would be required with Bishop Williamson, who not only criticized the dialogue, but has publicly denied the extent of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.

The bishop’s Holocaust denials were included in an interview aired by a Swedish TV network on the same day in 2009 that the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI had lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson and three other of the society’s bishops, ordained without papal permission in 1988.

Williamson’s caterwauling derailed the reconciliation, and the chaos he fostered might prevent it from coming to fruition — even in spite of his ouster:

In an early October interview with a German radio station, Archbishop Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, confirmed that the talks with the SSPX had broken down and that no further discussions had been scheduled.

I have to congratulate the Vatican and the SSPX. Their tap-dancing around the feelings of a crazed Holocaust-denier managed to ruin everything for them. Well done, fellows. Well done!

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: CNS News Service.

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Second Vatican Council by Lothar Wolleh 001Last Thursday was the 50th anniversary of II Vatican, the council that changed how the Catholic Church related both to its own laity and the rest of the world. This Council opened with a lot of pomp and circumstance; its deliberations were thorough, taking a few years to complete; and in the end a lot of things about Catholicism changed utterly. But what, really, has been changed within the Church? The Religion News Service (via HartfordFAVS) reports on the Council’s anniversary and its results (WebCite cached article):

Fifty years ago on Thursday (Oct. 11), hundreds of elaborately robed leaders strode into St. Peter’s Basilica in a massive display of solemn ecclesiastical pomp. It signaled the start of a historic three-year assembly that would change the way members of the world’s largest Christian denomination viewed themselves, their church and the rest of the world.

It was the first day of the Second Vatican Council, more popularly known as Vatican II, which was designed to assess the church’s role in a rapidly changing world. …

As a result of Vatican II, priests started celebrating Mass in the language of the countries in which they lived, and they faced the congregation, not only to be heard and seen but also to signal to worshippers that they were being included because they were a vital component of the service.

The Second Vatican Council made some other visible changes, including how Catholics related to other Christian denominations and with Judaism. It meant that, for example, Catholics now could attend weddings and funerals of friends and family which happened to be held in other churches. And it led to some other changes, such as many orders of nuns allowing their members to go without their traditional habits. Ultimately, II Vatican meant that the R.C. Church became more generally “open” to the rest of the world, even if no doctrinal changes were made.

But really, how far did that effort go? How truly “open” did the Church become, now that 47 years have passed since the Council completed its work? Unfortunately the answer to that question is a resounding “Not nearly enough.” Multiple investigations — in multiple locations — into the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal over the last decade or so revealed the Church’s princes worked diligently to maintain the secrecy of their operations, going so far as to willingly allow children to be preyed upon in order not to let outsiders know what was going on. Dioceses and the Vatican itself have actively resisted every effort to hold them accountable for their behavior. And when they’re faced with incontrovertible evidence of both the abusers’ crimes and their own complicity in them, the Church repeatedly and reflexively blames everyone but itself and its own personnel for the abuse (the abusers themselves were innocent victims of the Forces of Darkness or of the children themselves, you see).

One consequence of II Vatican is that it caused something of a schism within Catholicism. A number of Catholics — including some of the bishops — viewed the Council’s work horrific and detrimental. They consider Pius XII — predecessor of John XXIII who convened II Vatican — to have been the last legitimate Pope. They count every Pope after Pius … and by extension everything the Vatican has done since his time … to be invalid. Granted these sedevacantist groups are in the minority and they don’t all agree with each other aside from their dissatisfaction with the Second Vatican reforms. But they persist nevertheless, in spite of excommunications and other sanctions the Church has brought to bear against them.

What’s ironic, though, is that over his reign, the current Pope has been working to gather these sedevacantist groups back into the Catholic fold. One of the ways he’s done that is to steer Catholicism back toward the way it had operated prior to II Vatican. For instance, he’s made the (Latin) Tridentine Mass a valid option for celebrants once again (cached).* This effort has worked; for instance, as I’ve blogged already, the Society of St Pius X has agreed to rejoin its mother Church. This is in spite of the fact that this order remains backward and decidedly medieval in its dogma, and one of its prelates is an unrepentant Holocaust-denier.

Yes, folks, these are the sorts of people the Vatican is catering to. Somehow I don’t see that as the sort of behavior that John XXIII had been thinking about when he convened II Vatican … but then again, what can I possibly know about such sacred considerations?

In the end, not only has II Vatican failed to make the Church fundamentally different — except in some noticeable yet cosmetic ways — it’s currently trying to roll back even those minuscule reforms and is according itself with people who once had vehemently opposed those changes. If things continue this way, in a couple decades one will see nuns back in their habits and Mass being said in Latin once again with the priests’ backs to the congregation. And II Vatican would effectively never have been held at all.

Photo credit: Lothar Wolleh, via Wikimedia Commons.

* Note within this letter Benedict’s customary plaintive whine about media coverage:

News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion.

Everything bad that’s ever said about the R.C. Church, you see, is all the media’s fault. They make up stuff in order to attack the poor, innocent Church. What a fucking crybaby.

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Photograph by Karen L. King, via the New York Times (see URL http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?pagewanted=all)The Vatican has decided enough is enough, when it comes to the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that I blogged about back when it was released. They just aren’t having any part of it. Not only are they rejecting its content, as Reuters reports, they took to their house organ, L’Osservatore Romano, to declare the thing a “fake” (WebCite cached article):

An ancient papyrus fragment which a Harvard scholar says contains the first recorded mention that Jesus may have had a wife is a fake, the Vatican said on Friday.

“Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery,” the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. “In any case, it’s a fake.”

Joining a highly charged academic debate over the authenticity of the text, written in ancient Egyptian Coptic, the newspaper published a lengthy analysis by expert Alberto Camplani of Rome’s La Sapienza university, outlining doubts about the manuscript and urging extreme caution.

I looked at L’Osservatore Romano online and was unable to find the editorial. I did, however, find Camplani’s piece, which is essentially an anti-media whine (cached). It doesn’t say very much about the manuscript fragment itself; it just says that the insolent worldwide mass media ought never to have mentioned it to anyone. Other than the complaint about the media — which is nothing new for the R.C. Church, they’ve been spewing paranoid rhetoric about how the media are trying to destroy them for years now — I don’t see anything substantive here, explaining how they know the fragment to be “fake.” No Vatican officials have examined it (again, that I’m aware of) so I don’t see how they can be this sure of it.

What it looks like they’ve done, is to react to a phantom, that being the idea that this scrap somehow proves Jesus was married, which of course would totally contradict centuries of Catholic doctrine … and especially would fly in the face of priestly celibacy.

Unfortunately for the Church, no one has seriously made such a claim, nor anything like it … not Prof Karen King who first revealed it, and not any of the reporters who’ve turned in stories about it. If anything, like this Reuters report, they go to great lengths to point out that this is not what the fragment tells us and that King never said so:

During the conference King stressed that the fragment did not give “any evidence that Jesus was married, or not married” but that early Christians were talking about the possibility.

Why the Vatican would react to this phantom notion, I have no idea. Except that, perhaps, it fits into the prevailing sense they have that the media are trying to destroy them. Even if the media were trying to do so, reporting on this fragment doesn’t help them in that regard.

Few facts are really known with any certainty about the document known as “the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” As I posted earlier, this means skepticism is in order. It may well turn out to be a modern fake. Questions abound, and conclusions are hard to reach. But even if it’s determined that the fragment is precisely what it appears to be … i.e. a classical-era Coptic text … that still does not tell us the slightest thing about Jesus. All it would tell us is that one 4th century Coptic Christian wrote down a text which contained those words … and because of that, one might reasonably assume, s/he believed that Jesus had a wife. Still, it’s clear that such a belief — assuming anyone held it, back then — must have been a minority view in classical Christendom (since there are no other documents that mention Jesus having been married).

Really, people need to stop going off the deep end over this manuscript fragment. Campliani’s statement that the media shouldn’t have reported it, is especially asinine. The Vatican is boxing shadows here. It really needs to move on and stop whining about things that aren’t relevant to it.

Photo credit: Karen L. King, via the New York Times.

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St Patrick Cathedral, Norwich CT / K Ripley, via PanoramioFor years now I’ve blogged about the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal. I’ve also said numerous times that Catholic bishops bear a large part of the responsibility for it, since in many cases, they were the ones who got the abuse reports and then moved the priests around in order to protect them. Despite this, there were, it turns out, cases of abuse so egregious that even bishops admitted there was a severe problem and begged the Vatican to act … yet no action was taken. I’ve blogged about such cases from California, Arizona, and Wisconsin. Well, as the Hartford Courant reports, it turns out something similar happened right here in Connecticut too (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican’s refusal to let the Norwich diocese remove an accused pedophile from the priesthood is expected to play a role in the upcoming trial involving a New London woman who says the priest molested her when she was 12.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger received the Norwich request days before being elected pope in 2005. It’s unclear, though, if Ratzinger himself decided against laicizing Father Thomas Shea, who was accused of molesting as many as 15 girls at 11 different parishes throughout the Diocese of Norwich in a career that started in 1953.

Although the request to defrock Shea was very late in coming, it appears Norwich bishop Michael Cote was horrified over what Shea had done:

In an April 8, 2005, letter to Ratzinger, Cote wrote that the “trail of destruction caused by Thomas W. Shea is staggering.” He wrote there were at least 15 credible cases of abuse by Shea of girls under the age of 18, including one girl who tried to kill herself three times before she turned 23.

“The psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage wrought by this man is immeasurable,” Cote wrote. “The people who have been directly affected by his behavior as well as the entire People of God would welcome his involuntary dismissal from the clerical state.”

But the Vatican office — at the time of the letter, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who would later become Pope Benedict XVI — decided to take no action:

On May 12, 2005, less than a month after Ratzinger became pope, the Vatican responded to Cote, denying his request to remove Shea. The letter indicates that the status quo — Shea in retirement with the restrictions not to wear a collar or say Mass — was sufficient.

Once again the Vatican displays its moral bankruptcy for all to see.

Update: Diocesan attorneys have asked the court to delay the trial in question, because of the Penn State abuse scandal (cached). That’s right, folks … the diocese is saying that, because some other institution just got nailed for doing the sort of thing the R.C. Church has been doing, everything has to be put on hold for several months while the hubbub dies down. That, my friends, is just too fucking precious!

Photo credit: Panoramio.

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