Tag Archive | "Pope Benedict XVI"

FF Podcast (Audio) 43: Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 43 - Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

This week, we talk about the Vatican report that said that a majority of Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on sex. We talk about whether dissenting Catholics should just leave the Roman Catholic Church.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Religion, SocietyComments (0)

FF Podcast 43: Should Progressive Catholics Leave the Church?

This week, we talk about the Vatican report that said that a majority of Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on sex. We talk about whether dissenting Catholics should just leave the Roman Catholic Church.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Society, VideoComments (0)

Convenience Confessional: RH vs. Rape

With the resounding defeat of Church lobbyists on the matter of the RH Law, Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that he could at least thank the law’s proponent and principal author Albay Representative Edcel Lagman for one thing—because of the publicity of the RH debates, young Catholics are now confessing the sin of using contraception.

If you are familiar at all with the Catholic Church and its behavior regarding rapes by its employed priests, you would know that they view confession as so sacred that any part of it cannot even be used as testimony against a rapist. A priest hearing the confession of a rapist cannot be compelled to reveal that confession to authorities, secular or ecclesiastical. The priest is bound, upon pain of excommunication, never to speak of the secret.

Castro’s statements emphasize the complete hypocrisy and lack of human compassion of the Catholic Church, where it can just as easily break that sacrament when it can score cheap political points but never do it for its institution’s victims. Without revealing specifics, Castro, and whoever reported the confessions to him, broke that sacrament.

Of course, Castro denies breaking the sacramental seal. He says the identity of the penitent must be “publicly” revealed in order for the seal to be truly violated. It appears that the sins you tell your priest are fair game for gossip as long as they don’t tell everyone your name. If only the Church would exploit such technicalities to support police investigating rapist priests.


Where There’s Gold…

The sacrament of confession is a particularly strange relic marking the ancient and bygone political powers of the Catholic Church. Through this sacrament, priests are told by penitents, both the small and the powerful, their deepest darkest secrets, for the guarantee that they will be forgiven by God. Needless to say, the confessional is a goldmine for blackmail and coercion. It was particularly useful in discovering the Katipunero rebellion during the Philippine Revolution.

The confessional is a very intimate place. It is at this place the faithful are most vulnerable as they are encouraged not to hold anything back. In fact, it is itself a mortal sin to willfully keep any grievous evil from a priest during confession, as an earnest confession clears one’s soul of any wrongdoing.

Assuming you don’t sin on the way, if you get hit by a car going out of Church after confession, you are going straight to heaven—no purgatory necessary. The confessional is where priests have believers by the balls. This is true both figuratively and literally.


The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

Dave Rudofsky was 8 years old in the 1980’s. Like most Catholic children his age, he would soon prepare for receiving the literal body of Jesus Christ in the form of bread. This means he first has to clean the vessel that is his body by confessing all his sins in his first holy confession. His confessor, Rev. James Burnett took advantage of the 8 year-old’s vulnerability and molested him.

Cases like Dave’s have become so frequent that Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela in 2001. This updated Crimen sollicitationis, released in 1962 during Pope John XXIII’s tenure, which tackled the problem of priests using the confessional for the purpose of sexual activity. Among those outlined as “grave delicts” or violations of canon law in Sacramentorum was “Solicitation to sin with the confessor against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, in the act of, context of or pretext of the Sacrament of Penance.” This was reinforced by the head of the Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in De delictis gravioribus.

However, in addition to condemning rapist priests using the confessional to, for example, forgive sexual partners of the sins they commit together, these statements also reiterate the inviolability of the seal of the sacrament of confession. No one must ever reveal what goes on during confession, even if it means justice for a rape victim. This would be a “direct violation of the sacramental seal.”

Though Castro argues that he and his cohorts did not break the sacramental seal, it can be argued that they did so indirectly. The sacramental seal is so deeply regarded that Crimen itself states that during canonical trials conducted to investigate rapes, any testimony that might even “suggest a direct or indirect violation of the seal” will be thrown out of the case and will not be recorded (Crimen sollicitationis, Chapter III(52)). Castro’s political grandstanding surely suggests at least an indirect violation. More to the point, regardless of any technical wrongdoing under canon law, Castro shows the moral cowardice of the Church and its employees—revealing some confessions when expedient while keeping others when inconvenient.


The Secret’s in the Telling

Doctors enjoy physician-patient privilege. They do not reveal the contents of their consultations with patients with anyone, upon pain of having their license revoked. This is to make sure there is a culture of trust between doctors and patients; it improves the medical relationship, which results in more accurate diagnoses. The same could be said as the motivation behind the sacramental seal, but at a far grander and cosmic scale. However, doctors are still obliged by secular law to report information to the police if their patients pose a threat to society, among other situations. Priests do not have such ethical or legal duties to the nations they operate in. Their duty is to the king in the Vatican first.

The Church does not care about the harm it causes society (indeed, denies it) and does everything it takes, even going against their own principles, to make sure their institution survives for centuries to come. The Catholic Church has consistently used the seal of the confessional as a defense against criminal investigation of rapist priests. Melvin Castro reveals what this defense truly is—a sham and an abuse of religious freedom.

This Lent, think about whether you can trust your priest with your sins. Think about Dave the next time you walk into a confessional. From the start, the Church has acted as if its hands have been bound with supernatural chains, unable to help rape victims by disclosing details revealed during confessions. Castro’s statements expose that these chains are imaginary. Goodness knows what other imaginary things they tell the faithful.

Posted in ReligionComments (3)

If Catholics Worshipped Satan, Would They Know?

“The Devil lives in the Vatican. He has won over the confidences of people but naturally its difficult to find proof but the consequences are visible.”

— Father Gabriel Amorth, Chief Exorcist of Pope Benedict XVI

If Satan possessed the Pope, and his horde of demons took over every priest, bishop, and archbishop in the Vatican, would Catholics find out? What kind of evidence would be necessary to prove such a claim? And would any Catholic investigate or even suspect that such Satanic control is the case? What if this has been the case for hundreds or even thousands of years?

This is not a conspiracy theory. As a naturalist, I don’t believe in demons or Satan or any of the creatures and characters in Catholic mythology. What I do believe is that regardless of your religious beliefs, skepticism and doubt is necessary, especially when it comes to claims made by religion. I hope to convince you with the following intellectual exercise that even if you believed in God, you’d be better off believing as a freethinker.

If you’re a nonbeliever like I am, please humor me by playing along. If you’re a believer, however, I hope you’ll agree that the question is of utmost importance.

What if the deity you’re praying to is the Devil? What if the tenets you’ve been told to believe and the orders you’ve been told to obey have been devised to sound convincing but calculated to result in more evil than good? If faith can be used to justify belief in Satan in the same way it’s used to justify belief in God, can you possibly tell the difference?

The Devil’s Best Trick


“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” This line from The Usual Suspects is a rephrasing of a line from a prose poem by Charles Baudelaire titled “The Generous Gambler.” In the story, the Devil says that the only time he feared for his power was when a preacher exposed his best trick: convincing others of his nonexistence.

But I think Baudelaire doesn’t give the Devil enough credit. What would suit the Devil more is if he managed to convince the world that he and his minions were God’s representatives, and that God’s true representatives were sinners and demons.

If Satan existed, this would be his most effective tactic to win the War on Heaven. And he’d be doing it in a way that would insult God the most: What could be more blasphemous than glorifying Satan and demonizing God?

If Satan is as devious as he’s made out to be, then it’s exactly the kind of thing he would do. If he’s as powerful as he’s made out to be, then he could certainly do it. And if Satan could and would do such a thing, how can anyone tell whether he’s already done it?

The Satan Hypotheses

For the sake of this intellectual exercise, let’s consider the following hypotheses:

  1. Satan exists and he is extremely evil and extremely powerful.
  2. Satan and his demons are disguised as the Catholic Church hierarchy in the Vatican.
  3. Satan has been convincing Catholics of this fact since the first century.
  4. Satan would do everything in his power to maintain the deception.
  5. Satan’s goal is not to bring the world to a perfectly evil state but to keep the world at its most evil state possible at all times.

I’m sure that many of you would think that such things are so implausible they’re not even worth considering. But remember that even the Vatican considered the possibility: The Vatican’s resident expert on demons said that the clerical child abuse scandals were caused by Satan infiltrating the Church:

‘The Devil lives in the Vatican. He has won over the confidences of people but naturally its difficult to find proof but the consequences are visible.

‘We have cardinals who don’t believe in Christ, bishops connected with demons. Then we have these stories of pedophilia. You can see the rot when we speak of Satan’s smoke in the holy rooms.’

‘The Devil is invisible, he is a pure spirit. But in the people he possesses he can be seen through pain and blasphemies but he can also remain hidden.

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of Rome

The Vatican takes Satan seriously, and will surely agree with my first hypothesis: Satan is extremely evil and powerful. And if our other hypotheses are true, saying that their no. 1 goal is to defeat Satan is a good tactic because it effectively deflects suspicion.

Aside from the clerical abuse scandals, there are historical atrocities — such as the Crusades and the Inquisition — that are so evil they can easily be attributed to Satanic infiltration or influence. There are also atrocities like slavery and the Holocaust that, although not directly done by the Church, were condoned or justified through Catholic dogma. On an interesting note, Father Amorth said that Pope Pius XII attempted a long distance exorcism of Hitler.

One thing these atrocities do is counter a common objection to the Satan hypotheses: God will never let anything so evil happen. If history has taught us anything, it’s that regardless of the possibility of God’s existence, great evil is not only a possibility, it’s a reality.

Another objection to the Satan hypotheses would be a similar theistic response to the Problem of Evil: God allows evil so that good can be done. Although some good certainly came out of these — people learning lessons, helping others, etc. — Satan’s goal is not to prevent all good but to lead others to commit a lot of evil. And seen from the perspective of the Satan hypotheses, such an objection is the kind of justification consistent with Satan’s deception. What would be a more devious way of promoting evil than convincing people that Evil is good for Good?

The Inquisition: Godly or Satanic?

Now consider the fact that even though such evils were caused by the Church, Catholics still believe that the Vatican represents the voice of God. This fact would still be consistent with our hypotheses. And if Satan has been using his power to deceive Catholics since the first century, then ignoring Catholic evils (or interpreting them as good) would be the response we could expect of Catholics who’ve been brainwashed for centuries.

“But what about the Bible?” some would object. “If such a thing were possible, wouldn’t God warn us by writing it in his Holy Book?”

Remember that if this scheme is to work, Satan would have been there from the beginning. And convincing people would have been a lot easier back then when people were more credulous and skepticism was not held as a virtue. All Satan would have to do would be to convince uneducated desert-dwellers I’m certain that even the least educated modern-day criminal is capable of such deception. What more the Prince of Deception himself? Even if Satan managed just this and then kept his distance, time and tradition could have done the rest. What more if his influence was present in each step of a process that took two thousand years?

I’m sure that more than a few Catholics reading this will start to feel some doubt. What if all this is true? What if I’ve been praying to Satan all my life?! Most — if not all — will probably respond with the following word: faith. If you doubt anything that the Church teaches, you fight it with faith. If you can’t do something the Church commands, you fight it with faith. If you doubt the Church — let alone Jesus or God himself! — you fight it with faith.

If our hypotheses are true, how do you think faith would fit into the picture? Would Satan convince people of the virtues of having faith? Would Satan’s scheme work better with people having faith in the Church?

Consider the following statement: I don’t fully understand what the Church commands, and it runs contrary to my logic and common sense, but I have faith that God — in his own mysterious way — has a reason, so I will believe, I will obey. Is this the kind of statement that would support our hypothetical Satan’s scheme?

The God Hypothesis

If a good God existed (in addition to the version of Satan above) he would know what his adversary was up to and would try to counter it. He would also know that his adversary would try to distort whatever teaching he tried to impart. So this good God would beat Satan by embedding in his human creation something to counter Satan’s deception: doubt.

And he wouldn’t have to take a thousand years (and countless lives) to write a single book to hold all his teachings. It would be enough to give short and simple reminders such as this:

“It is proper for you Kalamas [the people of the village of Kesaputta] to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blameable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them.

“…Do not accept anything by mere tradition… Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures… Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your pre-conceived notions… But when you know for yourselves—these things are moral, these things are blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness—then do you live acting accordingly.”

This is taken from the Kalama Sutta, what one Theravada monk calls the Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry. I’m not trying to say that Buddha is God and Buddhism is the right religion. But within the context of our hypotheses above, this type of religious message makes Satanic infiltration less plausible. And even if people religiously adhered to this kind of message, I’m sure more good than evil would come of it.

But what does the Catholic Church think of such messages? Right from the start, such relativistic and individualistic ideas have been demonized — the first infallible pope included such statements in the Syllabus of Errors. Which is exactly what we’d expect if the Satan hypotheses were true.

If You Worshipped Satan, Would You Know?

If you’re a Catholic, I’m sure you’d agree that there’s something to gain by knowing how to verify that you are indeed praying to the proper God. Ask your priest and I’m sure they’d agree that such skepticism is a good idea. If they don’t, then, well…

If you do find a way to disprove the Satan hypotheses (even if you’re not Catholic) please post it in the comments section below. I have sincerely tried to think of a way to disprove them, but have failed. In the end, all I could think of was faith.


UPDATE: A fellow freethinker told me that Stephen Law has posed a similar challenge earlier as the Evil-God hypothesis. I haven’t read it entirely, but it seems like a more comprehensive and sophisticated version of the Satan hypotheses above. You can read about the Evil-God hypothesis here.

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Blame Thrower 101: The RCC’s recent scapegoats

For those who’ve never watched Mystery Men, a blame thrower is a non-lethal weapon that causes the targets it affects to start blaming the guy nearest to them for their woes.

The end result is usually a fistfight, followed by much hilarity (and finger-pointing).

While the movie’s heroes have had to use a mechanical blamethrower though, the Catholic Church has gone far beyond mere toys.

In its years of existence, this institution has developed its skill to Sith levels of mindtrickery, conveniently throwing one scapegoat after another in its constant attempts to evade public outrage regarding its hypocrisy.

If you thought their name game was bad enough with the RH bill, wait ’till you get a load of their other material. Every statement is a worthy read in its own right, so like a good serving of sashimi, I’ve opted to present each snippet in its raw form, sans the usual snark.

Without further ado, here are the choice cuts:

1. Secular society

Pope Benedict XVI told Vatican officials Monday that they must reflect on the church’s culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also blamed a secular society in which he said the mistreatment of children was frighteningly common.

In his traditional, end-of-the-year speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops, Benedict said revelations of abuse in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen,” the pope said.

Benedict also said, however, that the scandal must be seen in a broader social context, in which child pornography is seemingly considered normal by society and drug use and sexual tourism are on the rise.

“The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times,” Benedict said.


2. Hippies

(Reuters) – A study commissioned by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops concludes that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The five-year study says the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s, according to the newspaper.

The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops for years but the study was likely to be regarded as the most authoritative analysis of the scandal in the Catholic Church in America, The Times reported.


3. Satan

Sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican”, according to the Holy See’s chief exorcist.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon”.

He added: “When one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and paedophilia.”


4. Gays

Speaking on a visit to Chile, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said: “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”


6. Liberalism

The most obvious change must occur within American seminaries, many of which demonstrate the same brand of cultural liberalism plaguing our secular universities. My hope was rekindled last week as our American Cardinals proposed from Rome an “apostolic visitation” of seminaries emphasizing “the need for fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality.” It is an arduous task. However, the Pope made it clear last week that he expects the strong appeal of the Cardinals to be followed by decisive Episcopal action.

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning “private” moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.


7. Secular Media

The Vatican has attacked the media over charges that the Pope failed to act against a US priest accused of abusing up to 200 deaf boys two decades ago.

A Vatican newspaper editorial said the claims were an “ignoble” attack on the Pope and that there was no “cover-up”.

The head of the UK Catholic church said the Pope had made important changes to the way abuse was dealt with.

The Catholic church has been hit by a series of allegations in Europe and the US over the past months.

The latest allegations stem from the US, after it emerged that Archbishops had complained in 1996 about a priest, Fr Lawrence Murphy. Their complaints went to a Vatican office led by the future Pope Benedict XVI.


8. Jews

Monsignor Giacomo Babini, the Bishop Emeritus of Grossetto, was quoted by the Italian Roman Catholic website Pontifex as saying he believed a “Zionist attack” was behind the criticism of the Pope, given that it was “powerful and refined” in nature.

Bishop Babini denied he had made any anti-Semitic remarks. He was backed by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), which issued a declaration by Bishop Babini in which he said: “Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me.”

However, Bruno Volpe, who interviewed Monsignor Babini for Pontifex, confirmed that the bishop had made the statement, which was reported widely in the Italian press today. Pontifex threatened to release the audio tape of the interview as proof.


Of course, with the RCC as it is today, you may also want to keep on the lookout in case they decide to take their scapegoating up another notch in the near future.

Now if you’ve just finished reading all that, I leave the floor to the readers. Enjoy. Discuss. Deconstruct. Facepalm.

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Pope updates stance on secularism with new catechism

VATICAN CITY — To adapt to the varying needs of Catholics all over the world, Pope Benedict XVI has revised the Vatican’s position on secularism, releasing his latest catechism, Contextual Secularism in a Changing World.

According to the Pope, Contextual Secularism ensures that “Catholics get the degree of secularism suited to their particular needs.”

In response to the revised guidelines, the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference has already demanded that their country implement absolute secularism, a measure previously considered gravely erroneous by the Catholic Church.

“We support the political process without any armed or religious interference,” the Pakistan Bishops said in a statement issued in Lahore. “It is imperative to separate religion from state matters.”

The Pope also urged the government to repeal theocratic blasphemy laws, which have caused unspeakable fear, suffering, and death to many Catholics in Pakistan, a clear violation of separation of church and state. “Violations of secularism must always be avoided when it harms Catholics,” the Pope added.

The actions of the Pope and the Pakistan Bishops are in line with Contextual Secularism, which mandates “that countries wherein Catholics are persecuted for their religion should implement the strongest form of secularism possible.” The call for secularism automatically applies to all predominantly Muslim countries.

“We must always adapt to the ever-shifting socio-political landscape,” the Pope said. He explained that if a Muslim country such as Pakistan were to become predominantly Catholic, the calls for secularism would stop and be replaced by the appropriate stipulations in Contextual Secularism.

The Pope, however, warns that Catholic countries ban all “aggressive forms of secularism,” such as the brand practiced in Britain, especially when secularism lets society freely criticize Catholics, who are a minority in that country.

“To the extent that secularism threatens Catholicism, it becomes anathema.” the Pope said. “Secularism should only be used to protect and promote the faith — never to diminish it.”

The ban on secularism extends to predominantly Catholic countries. The bishops of Malta and the Philippines have readily embraced Contextual Secularism, which mandates “that countries wherein Catholics are in the majority should defend the government from secularism at all costs.”

The Pope stressed the importance of Contextual Secularism, saying that “although Catholics around the world have a similar need for religious freedom, their social and political contexts differ, and so should their experience of secularism.”

“They have called for reform in varying voices, and as their shepherds, it is upon us to answer in varying ways.”

Posted in Humor, Politics, Religion, SocietyComments (5)

Vatican celebrates 30th AIDS anniversary with more bigotry

Did the Pope’s 2010 statement about condom use in exceptional cases show that he’s changed his mind about them? Is the CBCP defying the Vatican by denouncing the Reproductive Health Bill in spite of the Pope’s pronouncement? Between the CBCP and the Vatican, which old boys club is more bigoted? These questions are answered once and for all by the Vatican’s recent efforts at the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS.

But first, some background.

In June 1981, the AIDS epidemic was formally recognized in the US. Since then, medical professionals from all over the world have failed in their search for a cure. Prevention, they discovered, is our best bet.

And out of all prevention technologies invented so far, none have proven more effective than the condom. Medical authorities, including the UNAIDS, UNFPA, and WHO, agree: “the male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”

But to the Pope, effectiveness alone is not enough. To him, contraception is always evil and should always be banned — even if it saves lives. And of the innumerable lives lost to AIDS, most have been those of Africans. Though they’re only 14.7% of the world’s population, Africa is inhabited by more than 88% of people living with HIV. In 2007, Africa had 92% of all AIDS deaths.

Which makes the Pope’s statements in a 2009 visit to Africa all the more disgusting. He said that “HIV/Aids is a tragedy that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”

To the Pope’s credit, he’s only being consistent. From the start, the Vatican has been lobbying to ban reproductive health programs all over the world, with no sign that they’ll ever change their position.

Then in late 2010, Pope Benedict XVI gave an interview to a German journalist for a book, Light of the World, an appropriate title because it gave a glimmer of hope. Catholics all over the world celebrated the Pope’s statements. “Finally!” they thought, “the Pope has changed his mind about contraception!” UNAIDS even made a press statement welcoming the Pope’s support for HIV prevention.

But most hopes were dashed when the Vatican clarified the Pope’s views, stating that his views on contraception have not shifted. I say “most” because many Catholics still cling to the possibility that the Pope’s statements mean more than they do, that there’s still a chance for change. Even now, some pro-RH Catholics argue that the CBCP is defying the Pope when it continues to denounce contraception. It’s happened more than once that I had to point someone toward the Vatican’s clarification.

If the Vatican’s words aren’t enough proof, their recent actions should be. Yesterday, 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS started, serving as another opportunity for the world to “come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response.” For the Vatican, it’s another opportunity to take a stand against reproductive health, medical progress, and women’s rights.

When it comes to choosing solutions, the standard for most members is effectiveness in the real world; for the Vatican, it’s adherence to instructions from Heaven. Here are just some of the suggestions made by the Pope’s “all-male team”:

  • stripping all references to sexual and reproductive health and rights from the meeting’s declaration
  • gutting all mentions of education and prevention other than marriage and fidelity
  • insisting that “families” be replaced with “the family”, as though that monolith even exists or that it provides some kind of magic shield against HIV
  • deleting all mention of “female-controlled prevention methods
  • deleting the following sentence: “… by ensuring that women and girls can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

We’ll find out in a few days whether these suggestions are integrated into the meeting’s declaration. But I believe it’s not too early to come to the following conclusion:

The Pope, with his bigoted bishops representing the Vatican, are an enemy of progress, not only in dealing with HIV and AIDS, but in promoting reproductive health, informed choice, and women’s rights.

I hope the Vatican’s actions help Filipino Catholics realize that the CBCP is not alone in their bigotry. The CBCP has no mind (of its own). All of their statements and actions are dictated by the Vatican. “You will know them by their fruit.

And I hope the UN ignores the Vatican’s representatives and realizes that inviting them is ultimately counterproductive. On second thought, maybe the Vatican’s objections can serve as useful indications: If the Pope protests, you’re probably onto something good.

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The Future Saint John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was beloved in the Philippines, which he visited twice during his reign, and all over the world. He was seen as the rock star pope, with a papacy that was known for its close ties with the laity. And when his almost 27 year reign as pope ended in 2005, after years of suffering Parkinson’s Disease, the people gathered at St. Peter’s Square shouted “santo subito!” (“sainthood now!”) and called him “John Paul the Great.” With his beatification this past May 1, sainthood is now all but assured.

The Catholic institution of canonization requires a total of two “verified” miracles in order to recognize a Catholic as being a saint who can hear prayers and intercede for those who ask for their help. It is theologically important to note that Christians are not “made” saints by the Church, but, rather, recognized. Before one is confirmed as a saint, however, one must first be beatified. In order to be beatified, a candidate must have one of the two required “verified” miracles under their belt.

The Roman Catholic Church takes miraculous claims seriously—having, until recently, the office of advocatus diaboli, or the Devil’s Advocate, which makes a case against the canonization of a particular candidate. Incidentally, it was John Paul II himself who abolished the office, which expedited hundreds of canonization proceedings. Christopher Hitchens, when he was asked to argue against the beatification of Mother Teresa after the dissolution of the office of the Devil’s Advocate, described his role as representing the devil “pro bono”. The Church investigates miraculous cures and requires that, in order to be attributable to the intercession of a candidate for canonization, the cure be instantaneous, complete, and lasting.

For John Paul II, one of his necessary miracles for canonization came in the form of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who is said to have recovered from the incurable Parkinson’s disease, the same illness suffered by the late pontiff. Sister Simon-Pierre wrote the name of Pope John Paul II after his death on a piece of paper. The next day, she was apparently cured and resumed her duties in her order.

It is, of course, entirely possible that Sister Simon-Pierre was simply afflicted by an illness that had neurodegenerative appearances similar to Parkinson’s, but was curable. A doctor charged with investigating the nun’s condition aired out similar doubts.

But, even if the good Sister Simon-Pierre had Parkinson’s, what the Church is expecting its faithful (and the secular world) to accept is that her recovery was not a natural event. The Church is asking the world to consider that not only have the laws of the universe been suspended (let that sink in for a while: the laws of the universe have been suspended) but that they have been overturned in favor of the Roman Catholic Church and in a manner suspiciously convenient for its politics. With its pastiche of medical investigations that could earn a mid-season replacement spot on NBC, the Catholic Church purports its canonization procedures as scientific: skeptical and rigorous. And what could be more scientific and intellectually honest than concluding from an inexplicable recovery that a person who has died is now watching us from heaven and can help get our prayers to God answered?

With his recent beatification, John Paul II is now just one miracle shy of a confirmed sainthood. A confirmed sainthood would mean that the Roman Catholic Church believes on faith that John Paul II is, in fact, in a place called heaven, in the presence of someone called Jesus Christ. This is the level of pseudoscience, rivaling only ufology and homeopathy, that every believing Catholic has to swallow for each and every saint venerated inside their opulent cathedrals. It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of human productivity. But for the sole political purpose of establishing John Paul II as a champion of the Roman Catholic Church and what it stands for, the recognition of his sainthood is perfectly appropriate.

Defenders of the current pope, Benedict XVI, cite Darío Cardinal Castríllon Hoyos when pointing the finger at the late John Paul II for the child rape scandal sweeping the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Hoyos served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and was in charge of priests and deacons who are not in religious orders. In this capacity, he praised a French bishop, Pierre Pican, for not sending the child rapist Rev. Rene Bissey to “civil administration” and congratulated Pican for being “a model of a father who does not hand over his sons.” Cardinal Hoyos revealed that he did so under the approval of Pope John Paul II and was authorized to send his letter of praise to other bishops around the world. Pican served three months in prison for protecting the rapist. Bissey was sentenced to 18 years for the rape of a boy and the sexual assault of ten others.

A good friend of Pope John Paul II, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, “Father Maciel” as he was known, was the founder of the Legion of Christ. The pope described him as an “efficacious guide to youth.” Degollado used the Legion of Christ and his charismatic persona, targeting widows in particular, to funnel millions into Church coffers. The congregation’s assets have been estimated at 25 billion euros. Degollado had political clout with backers including current United States presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and the brother of former president George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, both noted conservatives in the Republican party. Father Maciel was honored by John Paul II in the Vatican in 2004 despite long-standing charges of sex abuse, which involved at least 20 Legion seminarians. As an efficacious guide to the youth, Degollado fathered several children, whom he also reportedly abused. The current pope, Benedict XVI, eventually invited Degollado to lead “a reserved life of prayer and penance”—apparently a punishment suitable for the crime. Degollado never faced any criminal sanctions and died in 2008 as a free man.

It was during Pope John Paul II’s reign when the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, the Holy See’s diplomat to Ireland, told Irish bishops that reporting the rape of innocent children to the proper authorities gave rise to “serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature.” Under John Paul II, Archbishop Storero upheld that canon law was above the secular law of a nation, showing a characteristic Vatican indifference to state sovereignty and cries for justice by their employees’ victims.

Pope John Paul II maintained when the first child rape cases started cropping up in the news that it was entirely an “American problem.” Like many other claims by the Church, this ultimately proved false. The Vatican’s position on the crisis was, and still is, that society, not the Church and its self-preservationist policies, is at fault with its permissiveness and “hyper-inflated” sexuality.

Society’s permissiveness apparently drove John Paul the Great to allow Hans Cardinal Hermann Groer, who molested over 2,000 boys (a number so large that it retains almost no meaning) to hide from police in a nunnery. Cardinal Groer eventually died there without being prosecuted for his crimes. Of course, the Church’s repressive Victorian attitudes towards sex, which were strengthened by Humanae Vitae and Persona Humana and reiterated in the Pope’s own The Splendour of Truth, which put the use of contraceptives on par with genocide, were not to blame for its systemic problem with sins against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue.

Pope John Paul II reinforced the old boys’ club of puritans and conservatives in the Catholic Church by having papal nuncios spy on clerics and recommend only for promotion to bishop those who were strongly against contraceptives. John Paul II’s policy of narrow-mindedness was crucial in the assembly of retrograde anachronisms that comprise the CBCP, as well as the other institutions that make up the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy we have today. This is his legacy to the world.

Filipino pilgrims led by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales watched Pope John Paul II’s beatification ceremony this past May 1. It was their homage to a man who was indeed loved by Filipinos. While Pope John Paul II was undeniably a man who argued for peace and acted to heal religious strife between mutually contradictory faiths, he was also instrumental in the continued suffering of innocent children and the continued impunity enjoyed by child rapists in the Church. And because this moral inconsistency seems to be the spirit that guides the Church he left behind, there really is no one else better suited for sainthood than the Blessed John Paul II.

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The Vatican, a Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 2

This discussion of The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse is a continuation of The Vatican, A Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 1.

Even if, however, the Vatican were an actual state, its international trafficking of child molesters and hiding rapists from the law via its secretive Canonical trials within sovereign nations breach the secular laws of those particular nations.

Crimen sollicitationis outlines how these trials must go. Once an accusation against a priest has been made, the accuser is made to sign an official denunciation against the accused. This begins the Canonical proceedings regulated by Canon Law, which is based on what the Vatican perceives as moral and spiritual commandments from the Holy Spirit. Thus, all participants are bound by “pontifical secret” upon pain of excommunication. The trial does not admit forensic evidence and is conducted entirely in writing. Those who run the trial are all colleagues of the defendant and it is a requirement for all those handling the trial to have undergone the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Right off the bat, the odds are in favor of the accused.

Should the allegations be found unsubstantiated, the documents are all destroyed. If the charges are of some merit, but judged to be inconclusive, they are kept in the archives. If evidence of the crime is “grave enough,” several punishments are in order. However, none are more severe than laicization, or the demotion of a priest to the lay state. This is a penalty that is apparently so dreadful that even Pope Benedict would not inflict it on Father Lawrence Murphy who molested over two hundred deaf children at St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. Even in the case of conviction, there is nothing in Canon Law that compels officials to file a criminal case against the offending priest. The punishment for leaking documents is a lot more grave than what any depraved child rapist like Father Murphy could ever possibly get.

According to the “new norms” sent out in 2001 as Sacramentorum sanctitatus tutela, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the successor to the Inquisition and the former office of Joseph Ratzinger, heads Canonical trials concerning child molestation cases, particularly those that involve the confessional. The CDF is informed of all these proceedings by the local Church, which conducts the trials, under strict confidentiality and subject to the pontifical secret. This was reinforced by Pope Benedict in De delictis gravioribus.

The Roman Catholic Church performs these confidential trials under the noses of the sovereign states within which the specific churches operate. In doing so, an alleged foreign sovereign state (the Vatican) tries foreign nationals on foreign soil. This comes into conflict with the jurisdiction exercised by the host state. What’s more is that, since all relevant documents are kept under pontifical secret, few believing Catholics would dare to blow the whistle or report to proper authorities the crimes that occur within the Church. Let us remember that excommunication carries with it grave consequences that may or may not result in everlasting torture in the fires of hell. Should the police have the opportunity, however, to investigate, the relevant documents are often whisked away into the safety of the Vatican archives where they cannot be subpoenaed due to diplomatic immunity.

While the rape of children is unequivocally disgusting and reprehensible, the true crimes that the Church, the Vatican, and the pope are liable for are their gross negligence, such as in its shuffling of priests to various parishes where they have sinned again, and their operation of a secret international legal jurisdiction that disregards local laws (including the withholding of evidence from proper authorities). To make matters worse, Canonical trials are ineffective and non-punitive.

The scale of the Vatican’s indulgence of its employees’ raping and sexual slavery of children is cause for concern. It might even qualify as a crime against humanity, something not even diplomatic immunity can defend against. Thousands of children all over the world have been tortured and abused by the very ministers and confessors that they had given their complete trust. These men who stand in for Christ at the point of consecration were allowed by the Church’s policies to get away with their crimes and to transgress in some other parish.

The Catholic Church has maintained that the cause of their crisis is not their refusal to cooperate with police or their obsession with controlling and denying the sex lives of its members, particularly its clergy. The pope’s right hand man, Tarcisio Bertone, asserts that homosexuality is the reason for pedophiles in the Church. The pope himself blames secular society, saying that, in the 1970’s, it accepted pedophilia as “fully in conformity with man and even with children.”

The Holy See governs the Vatican as a rogue pseudo-state that seems to be convinced that it is above international law. While the point whether the Catholic Church hierarchy is guilty of crimes against humanity is up to international criminal courts, they should at least be allowed to put the pope on the dock. The Church cannot hide behind its Santa Claus statehood for much longer. Just because many nations officially believe that the Vatican is a state, it doesn’t make it true.

In The Case of the Pope, Geoffrey Robertson QC details an effective examination of the viability of the Vatican’s assertion of statehood and the pope’s declaration of diplomatic immunity as well as the liability of his organization in the revolting sexual abuse of children by the clergy under its employ. Robertson skillfully conveys complicated legalese to lay audiences without oversimplifying the admittedly difficult nature of international law and the politics of foreign relations. It is an articulate analysis of the Vatican and the apparent crusade it is waging against human rights. Even if you are a Catholic, if truly love what you believe your Church stands for, do not give this book a pass.

The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse by Geoffrey Robertson QC is published by Penguin Global.

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The Vatican, a Rogue Pseudo-State, Part 1

A letter written in 1997 by Apostolic Nuncio Luciano Storero has recently surfaced and has elicited outrage against the Vatican regarding its, by now, undeniable complicity in the widespread rape and molestation of children by Catholic priests. The missive, which the Vatican defends as “deeply misunderstood” stated that “mandatory reporting” of cases of child rape by clergy gave rose to “serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.” The mandatory reporting was a recommended solution by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee to the systemic sexual abuse crisis within the Roman Catholic Church. What Storero’s reservations refer to are specific tenets within Canon Law that demand absolute confidentiality.

The fact that mandatory reporting is even being debated among supposedly civilized company is disgraceful. Since when has the rape and torture of children not demanded immediate reporting to the proper authorities? Any other organization that shields its criminals from the law as shamelessly as the Roman Catholic Church has would have had its leaders taken to court by now.

The special treatment that the Catholic Church or, more accurately, the Vatican enjoys stems from its claim to state sovereignty. As the absolute monarch of 108.7 acres in the Italian city of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter boasts immunity from prosecution. This is the same privilege that is bestowed upon foreign ambassadors by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. But as Geoffrey Robertson, member of the Queen’s Counsel, writes in The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, there is good reason to be skeptical of the Vatican’s claim to statehood.

The Vatican State as a Bully Pulpit

The Vatican state was unilaterally declared after a deal by Pope Pius XI with the fascist dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini, in 1929. This deal, the Lateran Treaty, and the Church’s Concordat with the Nazis were unveiled at a lavish ceremony in Rome. The Vatican newspaper announced, “Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy.” Pius XI hailed Mussolini as “a man sent by providence” and promptly told all Italian Catholics to vote for him. Mussolini won 98.33% of the vote. These overtly sinister roots of the seat of the Vicar of Christ are not often taught in Catholic schools.

Since then, the Catholic Church has abused its position as the only world religion that has its own country, officially. As the only non-member state with permanent observer status in the United Nations, the Holy See has consistently led the charge, despite its lack of right to vote, against initiatives towards the equal rights of women and LGBT and the reduction of AIDS cases via the distribution of condoms.

Mirroring the Catholic Church in the Philippines’ current hijacking of the RH Bill proceedings, the Vatican has invariably attempted to derail the UN’s own reproductive health programs. In 1995, during the UN conference on population and development in Cairo, the Holy See said that reproductive health meant ‘abortion,’ which they call a “heinous evil,” as well as ‘tolerance of homosexuality,’ another “heinous evil.” In the Beijing conference on women that same year, the Vatican lobbied its Catholic allies as well as Muslim states to oppose any consensus text that included words and phrases such as “gender equality,” “unwanted pregnancy,” “reproductive rights,” and even “lifestyle.” It also tried to ban the NGO, Catholics for a Free Choice to attend.

Questioning Vatican Statehood

The Vatican has regularly taken advantage of its perceived statehood in order to propound its own fundamentalist dogmas and to bully other majority Catholic nations into enacting the Holy See’s own agenda. This circumvents its inability to vote in the UN. Despite its pretensions to statehood, however, Robertson argues that the Vatican does not satisfy international law regarding official state recognition. The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States has four requirements in order for states to be recognized in the international community and they are as follows.

1. A Permanent Population

The Vatican has no nationals or residents to call its own. It is mainly home to the bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic Church. There are no permanent residents and “citizenship” is mainly authorization to remain in the Vatican until their status or employment expires. To cross from Rome into Vatican City, the only requirement is to have one’s baggages checked.

Citizenship may be extended to “the wife [in a sexist presumption that all diplomats will be male], children, parents, brothers, and sisters.” However, sons must leave Vatican City at the age of 25 and daughters must leave when they marry (another sexist provision, as Robertson opines). Unlike any other nation on Earth, citizenship cannot be acquired by birth. There are no “Vaticanians” born and there is no national community to speak of.

2. A Defined Territory

“‘Vatican City’ cannot properly be regarded as a territory at all,” writes Robertson. This is because all that Vatican City contains is a large palace, a few attached buildings, and a vast garden. It is not even a city since it is entirely within another city, Rome.

Real estate within the Vatican cannot be sold unless with papal permission. While, all of the basic services necessary for the upkeep of the Vatican (electricity, water, gas, and sewage) are run by the Italian government and its Italian citizens.

The government of the Vatican, the Holy See, does not even enforce its own supposed territory. With one of the highest crime rates in the world, the Vatican has its criminals apprehended by foreigners, the carabinieri (the Italian police). It is strange how a state can insist on its sovereignty when it cannot even exercise jurisdiction over its plot of land.

3. Government

The Holy See (comprised of the Supreme Pontiff and the Curia) is arguably the government of the Vatican. However, seeing as how it itself does not have territory and the Vatican has no population, this argument is rather tenuous. The Holy See governs the Catholic Church and the Vatican exists not for Vatican nationals but for Catholics all over the world, who are themselves citizens of their respective nations. The Curia operates the Vatican’s international affairs in the Italian city of Rome while defense and policing, as well as medical services, are provided for by the Italian government (which is supposed to be a foreign state). This defies the requirement of the Montevideo Convention for states to have some independence in conducting international affairs.

The Holy See cannot even punish crimes against its own leader. After Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II and was arrested by Italian police, he was held in Italian prison and was tried in Italian courts. Agca’s defense tried to argue that he had been unlawfully extradited to a foreign state. This plea was rejected, a fact that flies in the face of Vatican statehood claims.

4. Capacity to Enter into Relations with Other States

In order to be involved in diplomatic relations, consular relations are a necessary implication. Consuls are mainly concerned with the welfare of their nationals in foreign countries. However, if you are ever injured or attacked in Vatican City, do not expect help from your nation’s ambassador to the Vatican because they do not offer consular services. The envoy to Italy will take up this role.

Interactions by states with the Holy See are mostly involved with religious matters, such as arranging audiences with the pope. As the headquarters of a religion and not of a nation-state, the Vatican functions in the international community in a capacity unlike any other state.

Simply put, as both Professor Gillian Triggs of the University of Sydney Law School and Robertson agree on, “Vatican City does not meet the criteria for statehood.”

This discussion of The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse is continued in Part 2.

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