Catholicism

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A petition was raised at the UK Government’s petition site regarding the upcoming Papal visit to these shores – a response from the Government (presumably the new Cleggeron-led affair): HM Government. The petition was filed by Peter Tatchell:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to disassociate the British government from the Pope’s intolerant views ahead of the Papal visit to Britain in September 2010. We urge the Prime Minister to make it clear that his government disagrees with the Pope’s opposition to women’s reproductive rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. We ask the Prime Minister to express his disagreement with the Pope’s role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, his rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and his decree paving the way for the beatification and sainthood of the war-time Pope, Pius XII, who stands accused of failing to speak out against the Holocaust. We also request the Prime Minister to assure us that the Pope’s visit will not be financed by the British taxpayer.

As seems to be usual in the responses to such petitions, the HMG reply isn’t very forthcoming:

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the UK from 16 to 19 September at the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen. The visit is described as a Papal Visit with the status of a State Visit. The programme will include a number of pastoral events, which are the responsibility of the Catholic Church, as well as some significant official events, which will provide opportunities for issues of common interest to the UK Government and the Holy See to be discussed at the highest level.

The Holy See has a global reach and so is a valuable international partner for the UK Government. Our relationship with the Holy See enables us to address jointly a range of foreign policy and development issues. These include working towards delivery of the Millennium Development Goals, addressing the impacts of climate change, preventing and resolving conflict, and finding ways to encourage disarmament.

As with any bilateral diplomatic relationship, there are issues on which we disagree. The Holy See is clear on our positions on these issues. However, we believe that Pope Benedict’s visit will provide an opportunity to strengthen and build on our relationship with the Holy See in areas where we share interests and goals, and to discuss those issues on which our positions differ.

Since the visit has the status of a State Visit, and some parts of the programme are being organised by the British Government, a proportion of the costs of the Visit will fall to the Government. The costs can be divided into two categories: policing costs, which will be met by the State from existing policing budgets, and non-policing costs, which will be split between the Catholic Church and the Government. The total size of the costs at this stage is not confirmed but discussions are currently under way to decide the appropriate levels of contribution from the Government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, and of Scotland. Other parts of the programme, such as the Masses and other pastoral events, are the responsibility of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences. The direct costs of these events will therefore be borne by the Catholic Church.

None of this really addresses the request to dissociate the Government from Pope’s “intolerant views”.  It would seem that being the leader of a major and established cult empowers one to hold divisive and discriminatory views, and to express them widely.
Will the pointless HMG petition site survive the the Cleggeron onslaught of Government spending?  And why not get rid of it – I’ve never seen a response that indicates the Government takes on board any views expressed.  (The same might be said of the the Cleggeron Government’s website for citizens to suggest legislation for repeal). 

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Christopher Hitchens has recently been diagnosed with cancer, as has been widely reported.  I hope he makes a good recovery.  And what seems to be the typical response by catholic commentators?

Christina Odone (The Telegraph) is apparently praying for him. Pointless, and mildly irritating.  But Francis Phillips (Catholic Herald – Perhaps throat cancer will move Christopher Hitchens to a change of heart) takes it just a bit too far.  Aside from this (I wonder how effective prayer really is!):

[...] if my own doctor had broken similar news to me I would have been shocked, so he has my sympathy; prayers as well – a more practical remedy.

He suggests Hitchins will have some kind of last minute conversion:

Perhaps visiting his doctor will be a wake-up call for Hitchens?

The brief article is patronising and offensive.  And check out the comments that follow the article at the Catholic Herald.  Over at The Independent, however, Tom Sutcliffe reckons Hitchens might be finding the opinions of the christian axis amusing (Tom Sutcliffe: Hitchens baffles the godly – again).

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As The Scotsman reports (Anger as Primate refuses to resign – Scotsman.com), Cardinal Brady won’t resign over the Catholic child abuse scandals.  Apparently

Cardinal Brady, 70, was in defiant mood outside his residence at Armagh Cathedral, vowing to stay on and lead the Church’s efforts to improve child protection safeguards [my emphasis].

The irony does seem lost on the Catholic Church. But then again, a potty belief system does lead to a belief in support:

But the Primate and Archbishop of Armagh insisted that the majority of people he had spoken to over the last two months had urged him to stay.

He said: “I was on pilgrimage to Lourdes yesterday with 800 people from this diocese, and not one said they had no confidence in me. They said they wanted me to stay and continue this work.”

Like a bunch of people who believe in miracles in Lourdes are going to disagree with a Cardinal, aren’t they!  But this is the same man who was instrumental in covering up child abuse:

Dr Brady has faced calls to resign since it emerged on 14 March 2009
that in 1975 he conducted an investigation into allegations of child sex
abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth which involved him swearing two teenagers to
secrecy. Standing outside Armagh Cathedral, the 70-year-old cleric
acknowledged there were some who would not agree with his decision but
vowed to lead the Church’s efforts to improve child protection measures.
It certainly wasn’t an easy decision” he said. “I have
listened to a lot of people, reflected as I said I would, I listened to
survivors, to priests, to religious people up and down the length of
this diocese and I have decided to continue in my present role, to play
my part in this diocese. “
Because I want to maintain the momentum
towards better child safeguarding and not alone that, also the momentum
towards renewal of the faith, which is essential here and a big
challenge.

The bottom line seems to be that the Catholic Church just doesn’t get it.

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In the wake of reports on child abuse by Catholic priests spanning continents, and of course the insitutionalised cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy, Andrew Brown has published an astonishingly naive and ill-considered apologia on their behalf.  The general argument Brown makes just takes my breath away.  I will leave it to commenters there to demolish his argument.

Update.  However, the following excerpt really astonishes me in what it reveals in Brown’s inability to think through data (emphasis is mine).

These questions lead into a thicket of horror. The most detailed statistics on child abuse for the Catholic clergy that I can find come from the John Jay Institute’s report drawn up for the American Catholic bishops’ conference. From this it emerges that the frequency of child abuse among Catholic priests is not remarkable but its pattern is. Although there are no figures for the number of abusers in the wider population, there are figure for the number of victims. These vary wildly: the most pessimistic survey finds that 27% of American women and 16% of men had “a history of childhood sexual abuse”; while the the most optimistic had 12.8% of women and 4.3% of men. Obviously a great deal depends here on the definition of abuse; also on the definition of “childhood”. In some of these surveys it runs up to 18, which is a couple of years above the age of consent in Britain.

The Catholic figures show that between about 4% of priests and deacons serving in the US between 1950 and 2002 had been accused of sexual abuse of someone under 18. In this country, the figure was a 10th of that: 0.4% But whereas the victims in the general population are overwhelmingly female, the pattern among American Catholic priests was quite different. Four out of five of their victims were male. Most were adolescents: two out of five were 14 or over; 15% were under 10.

This is vile, but whether it is more vile than the record of any other profession is not obvious.

On what conceivable basis can Brown conclude that Catholic priests are any less vile than any other profession?  Where are the data for teachers, road sweepers, university lecturers?  Brown admits there is vagueness related to victim gae and the definition of sexual abuse.  And much abuse is by family members.

And Brown says a rate of 4% accused abuser rate is no worse than that of other sectors of the populations.  Where is his evidence?

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The London Evening Standard (Catholics ‘forced film chiefs to scrap Dark Materials trilogy’ | News) reports that US catholic “spokesperson” Bill Donohue successfully led a campaign to prevent film makewrs from completing the Dark Materials trilogy (these thing do always seem to be trilogies).  The article quotes Donohue as saying:

“I am
delighted the boycott worked. Just as the producers have a right to
make the movie, I have a right to protest.

“The reason I
protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to
the wonders of atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time.
Everyone agrees the film version was not anti-Catholic, but that hardly
resolves the issue. The fact is that each volume in the trilogy becomes
increasingly anti-Catholic.”

He added: “I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie.

“I
also knew this boycott would work because once the word got out that
the movie was bait for the books, Christian parents would take their
kids to see Alvin And The Chipmunks. Which they did, in far greater
number.”

Bill Donohue crosses my radar rather more than is strictly palatable due to the frequency with which he crosses swords with PZ Myers (Pharyngula blog). While I’m not particularly a Pullman fan, I do find it rather pathetic that a major institution like the Catholic Church feels threatened by cinema.

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Damian Thompson (who blogs at the Daily Telegraph, often on matters related to the Catholic Church) seems to be in a bit of a tizz (Richard Dawkins’s latest attack on the Catholic Church is vicious and crazy. The man needs help) over some words that Richard Dawkins penned concerning the Vatican’s appeal to Anglicans to join them (Give us your misogynists and bigots).  Now he’s been featured on Pharyngula, perhaps the general tenor of comments at his blog will change.

For what it’s worth, I thought that Dawkins was rather amusing and hit the nail on the head.  Pharyngula also featured this spiffy cartoon relating the to Vatican’s bid to attract Anglicans:

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The Times reports (Pope Benedict XVI clears way for Cardinal Newman to become a saint) that the Vatican is likely to create the first British saint since the 1970s.  The article says that Cardinal John Henry Newman is the “most important convert from the Church of England to Catholicism”.  That’s as may be, but it’s interesting to read what needs to happen to become a saint.

From the Cardinal John Henry Newman Wikipedia page, it appears that one needs a verified miracle to be beatified, and a further verified miracle to be canonised.  The Times’ article says

The Pope opened the way for the beatification in 2001 when he recognised claims that Jack Sullivan, a Catholic deacon in Boston in the US, had been miraculously healed of a “serious debility of the spine” at the intercession of Newman, who died in 1890.
In 2000 Mr Sullivan, who is married with three children, prayed for the Cardinal’s help after being warned by his doctor that his back problem could result in paralysis. Next morning, he awoke to find that his pain had gone and that he was able to walk properly for the first time in months.

Essentially some bloke prayed to get better via the intercession of a dead religious figure, then woke up better. One does wonder how a serious investigation could “prove” that Mr Sullivan’s recovery was anything to do with someone who’d been dead for over a century, or indeed to “prove” that Mr Sullivan prayed only to the one dead religious figure.  The Times’ article doesn’t explain further.

Apparently there’s now been a second miracle (as yet uninvestigated), though the article doesn’t go into details on that one.  But I predict the miracle will have affected a strong believer, much as Mr Sullivan is reported to be a “Catholic deacon”.  Newman’s Wikipedia page does offer the following:

A second miracle would need to be confirmed before Newman could be canonized as a saint. The Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints is expected to consider the case of a 17-year-old New Hampshire resident, who fully recovered from severe head injuries suffered in a car accident after invoking Cardinal Newman.

Essentially these cases represent unexpected recovery from serious medical conditions (events which can and do occur without the intercession of dead people).  Over at the Wikipedia page for Congregation for the Causes of Saints (the Catholic body that investigates claimed miracles), I found this:

The miracle may go beyond the possibilities of nature either in the substance of the fact or in the subject, or only in the way it occurs. So three degrees of miracle are to be distinguished. The first degree is represented by resurrection from the dead (quoad substantiam). The second concerns the subject (quoad subiectum): the sickness of a person is judged incurable, in its course it can even have destroyed bones or vital organs; in this case not only is complete recovery noticed, but even wholesale reconstitution of the organs (restitutio in integrum). There is then a third degree (quoad modum): recovery from an illness, that treatment could only have achieved after a long period, happens instantaneously.

It would be interesting to know how many claims are made for each of the three degrees of miraculous intervention, and the proportion of each that pass investigation.  Also from that article, here’s the progression from dead religious person to Saint:

Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church

Servant of God →   Venerable →   Blessed →   Saint

Apparently Cardinal Newman is at stage 2 – he’s referred to as being the Venerable – while getting to stage 3 requires the approval of a miracle (this is what’s about to happen), while advancing to full sainthood (stage 4) requires the investigation and approval of a second miracle.  Presumably this is still to happen, so maybe the Times’ headline is a little premature?  As a hardened atheist, the whole process looks rather mediaeval.  And Newman’s not very active – two cures in over a century since he died seems a very minor intercession to me.

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Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor is on record as saying atheists are not fully human:

This is a man who some hope to have elevated to the House of Lords.  Well, this should in any rational world put him way out of the frame.  There’s a petition against punting him up to the Lords here.

Hat tip to Evolved and Rat/i/onal and The Freethinker.

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I guess one shouldn’t be surprised by this doublethink, but Catholic bishops in the US have rejected the bonkers alternative “therapy” reiki – because it’s superstition.  As The Guardian (Catholic bishops in US ban Japanese reiki) reports (and I’m always cautious when reading news on April 1st, but the article is dated 31st March!), the bishops say:

“A Catholic who puts his or her trust in reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no man’s land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one’s worship of God by turning one’s religious feeling and practice in a false direction.”

Apparently the group of US bishops say that reiki is incompatible with Christian teaching and scientific evidence.  Since when has scientific evidence been important to religion?  And isn’t belief in an Invisible Magic Friend rather superstitious in itself?  A christian Reiki master (actually mistress, I suppose) is quoted as saying:

“There is so much bad information about reiki, anti-Christian information, on the internet,” she said. “It says we channel spirits and that’s not true. Reiki balances energy in the same way as acupuncture or reflexology. I know of two nuns in the Philadelphia area, one who runs a retreat centre, who have done wonderful work. The bishops weren’t talking to women like that.”

Of course, reiki is in the same frame as other quack therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology.  And it’s not that different to religion in at least one sense – it requires a complete suspension of rational thinking to take it seriously.

Update: A few bloggers beat me to it on this story – The New Humanist blog has some additional information worth looking at.

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Mediawatchwatch has a story about a loopy Catholic website that’s been taken down following complaints by MPs (BT closes Catholic website after MP complaints), complete with a link to a web archive page that has a stored copy (Catholic Voice).  OK, so this page is pretty mad stuff, and quite unpleasant in a fascinating sort of way, but I’m less upset by its absence from the web that the guys over at mediawatchwatch.

I found the bonkers conspiracy theory about the 2012 Olympics logo particularly compelling.  Well, OK, no it was as ridiculous as the rest of the stupidly anti-semitic site.  In essence, the author of that particular diatribe claims that the 2012 logo is a concealed message:

Whether or not the Khazar cryptocrats plan a special move in 2012, the year of the next Olympic games, they certainly couldn’t resist parading their criminal hegemony in the odd-looking Olympic logo unveiled on 4 June. For £400,000 they got exactly what they wanted from Jewish brand-consultancy firm Wolff Olins: a deniable emblem of their shibboleth “ZION” masquerading as the date 2012. To do this they used a distracting, grafitti-like typeface in which “2” can be read as either “Z” or “N”. They then went on to arrange the characters in a square so that they can be read either horizontally (“2012″) or vertically (“ZION”). Those tempted to reject this interpretation should ask themselves whether a more rational explanation can be found for an otherwise inexplicably feeble logo.

I’m not sure what a cryptocrat is, and I dislike the 2012 logo (yes, I think it’s feeble), but this is a pretty pathetic conspiracy theorist who’s left his tinfoil hat off.  Here’s the evidence he provides.

The 2012 Olympic logo

The 2012 Olympic logo

The 2012 logo (on the left) is in the eye of the crackpot website author quite clearly an obfuscated version of the word “zion” (see the rearranged version on the right).

2012 logo rearranged

2012 logo rearranged

Patently absurd claims pile up:  the author also claims that Tony Blair’s statement”When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life” is key to the conspiracy, as he’s clearly wanting people to be open to “Zionist domination”, as he’s a Freemason.  Well now, I found Tony Blair’s tenure in number 10 rather more disappointing than I’d hoped at the 1997 general election, but good grief, the guy’s an Anglican turned Catholic!

So, still unsure what a “cryptocrat” is (online dictionaries were no use), I retire from looking at this now-defunct website.  I don’t know whether BT have blocked the site, or taken it down, but either way, I expect the authors to reinstate it on some other host.

Postcript.  I wonder if the author of Catholic Voice listens to records played backwards?

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