New Pope acts like decent guy; Vatican having none of it.

Pope Francis I has just said something totally level-headed, sensible and even friendly to people outside the faith. Look at this!

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”.. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

By “redeemed all of us,” he means that we can go to Heaven. Isn’t that nice of him? Francis is telling his Church that everyone, as long as they act like good people, will get to the right place when they die. It’s not about believing a certain way, or going to the right church, or saying the right prayers. It’s about doing the right things in life.

To be clear, we godless heathens still don’t believe that Heaven or Hell are actual places that exist. When we die, of course we’re not going to Hell. We’re going in the ground just like everyone else, our consciousness will cease to exist, and whatever we did in our lifetimes will be significant only in its impact on our survivors. On the flip side, telling us we’re going to Hell unless we convert to your religion doesn’t scare us. It doesn’t make us wonder what’ll happen to us if we’re wrong. It just shows us that you’re an asshole.

Still, it was very neighborly of the new pontiff to point out that being a good person is a separate issue from being a Catholic, or from being a religious believer at all. That was the cue for the bureaucracy surrounding Pope Francis to rescue bigotry from the jaws of decency:

On Thursday, the Vatican issued an “explanatory note on the meaning to ‘salvation.’”

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who are aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”

At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”

Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.

Rev. Rosica? You’re an asshole. You are an emblem of what is wrong with the world.



The Intransigence of the Hierarchy

My friend Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry has a very nice, optimistic greeting for the new Pope:

As he begins his papacy, we request that Pope Francis I make one of his top priorities the re-evaluation of the Catholic hierarchy’s approach to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues.  As a cardinal in Argentina, the new pope spoke strongly against marriage equality and against the right for gay and lesbian people to adopt children.  We hope that in his new office, he will have the wisdom to hear all sides of these complex issues and that he will inject pastoral messages into his statements.

Over the past several decades, under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, our church has suffered because of the aggressively negative approach to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity that the hierarchy has taken.  As a result of these condemnatory and hurtful messages, thousands upon thousands of people—both LGBT and heterosexual–have left the Catholic Church.   Some have looked to other churches for a pastoral welcome, and some have given up on faith altogether.

Pope Francis I has the opportunity to repair much of this hurt and alienation by offering sincere pastoral outreach to LGBT people and their families.  A welcoming gesture from the new pope in the first month of his papacy can go a long way to express God’s love for all humanity.  Without such a gesture, the church will continue to lose members, as well as credibility.

Pope Francis I will need to go further than gestures, too. In the past few decades, Catholics in the United States and all over the globe have become increasingly welcoming of LGBT people.  Catholics have gone to ballot boxes to ensure that LGBT people do not suffer from discrimination and violence, and that they receive equal benefits in society, including civil marriage.  During that time, Catholic theologians, using modern research and evidence, have called for the Catholic Church to update its teachings and approach to sexuality, including sexual orientation, same-sex relationships, and gender identity.  The Catholic Church is ready for the full acceptance of LGBT people in the church community.  The only obstacle to recognition of the full dignity of LGBT people is the intransigence of the hierarchy.  Through example and directive, the new pope can move the church toward full acceptance.

Somehow, I’m not holding my breath that Pope Francis I is going to open himself up to new ideas. The Church will continue to lose members and credibility, and the hierarchy will have no one to blame but itself for putting crusty old dudes like Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Bergoglio at the top.

Irish Bishops Wrong About Everything

The Catholic bishops of Ireland have released a statement regarding the death of Savita Halappanavar, and it makes about as much sense as we’ve come to expect from the organization that created and maintained the Magdalene Laundries. Here you can read it in full. More prominent bloggers have already given their responses to the “moral” positioning and “medical” information contained therein, and on those fronts, I’m just nodding along with them.

Dr. Jen Gunter attempts to interpret the bishops’ medical opinions.

PZ Myers wants to know: what makes those bishops think we want to hear anything they have to say?

The part that I want to address is this one:

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Do they never tire of being the world’s biggest bully?

It seems that the Catholic Church has found a new way to make live miserable for people who don’t respect their authoritah: have them arrested for stating facts.

Last month we started a petition in support of Sanal Edamaruku, the President of the Indian Rationalist Association facing charges of “deliberately hurting religious feelings” over his exposure of a supposed miracle at a Catholic church in Mumbai. Edamaruku pointed out on TV that the source of “holy water” dripping from a crucifix in the church was in fact a leaky pipe, and this prompted three local Catholic organisations with close connections to the Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay to file complaints against him with the police.

Having been denied “anticipatory bail”, Edamaruku was at risk of being held in custody ahead of any trial, and was forced to avoid his home whole he filed for anticipatory bail with the High Court in Mumbai.

Look, Catholic Church, I know you all have a reputation to uphold, but seriously…

…can you just take a break, for a while, from being horrible, disgusting, human-rights-stomping assholes? I realize that assholery, horribleness and the stomping of rights are your job, but perhaps you could take a little holiday?

Just, look at this. There’s a church in Mumbai that has some water dripping from a crucifix, and they’ve been telling their parishioners that this dripping water is of miraculous origin. So, this dude Sanal Edamaruku comes in and says, actually, that water is just from a leaking pipe. And you all accuse him of “deliberately hurting religious feelings” and sic the police on him? You all have “hurt feelings” and so he needs to be put in jail? Really?!

It would be nice if I could go a week without hearing of some fresh atrocity coming from the Catholic hierarchy. Wouldn’t you like to take a bit of time off from work, and come back feeling all refreshed for a new round of stabbing kittens through the face?


Sister Margaret Farley is awesome; cue the Vatican’s tantrum.

Tom Kington via Raw Story tells us about the badassery of Sister Margaret Farley, a professor of Christian ethics at Yale, who has written a book that sounds like it takes some very sensible positions on sexuality. Does this mean the Vatican is throwing a fit at her? Does a deer shit in the woods?

The statement singles out Farley’s claim that many women “have found great good in self-pleasuring – perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure – something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers.”

Masturbation, she concludes, “actually serves relationships rather than hindering them”. That view, the Vatican stated, contradicted the Catholic belief that masturbation is a “gravely disordered action”.

Farley’s approval of gay sex ignored “Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity”, while her backing for gay unions was tantamount to “approval of deviant behaviour,” the Vatican said. Her openness to divorce and remarriage was deemed as “contravening God’s law”.

Sister Margaret Farley says that masturbation is awesome, including for women, that gay sex and same-sex unions are fine, and that divorce is something that sometimes needs to happen.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office says that women should never feel free to to enjoy the awesomeness that is the clit, that queer folk are objectively disordered, and that you should stay in a shitty marriage forever rather than get divorced.

I’m sure the Vatican would rather she follow the lead of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who continues to rail against marriage equality and contraceptive access and has paid hush money to child-raping priests in Milwaukee to get them out of the way.

Sister Farley is a voice of sanity, compassion and realism, while the berobed old men at the Vatican are advocates for misery, hate and self-loathing.

American Nuns > Vatican

I think it’s time for a new schism.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization which involves 80% of U.S. Catholic sisters, is having the hammer brought down on it by the Vatican for not being a pack of bigoted assholes. I wish that were an exaggeration:

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Yeah, I’ll bet they say things like, “A mother of four should not be left to die of pregnancy-related causes.”

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.

Yep. Women who support universal health care need to STFU, while old guys in fancy robes, who would rather let Americans die by the millions of preventable causes than tolerate birth control coverage, are the “authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Oh, yes. Oh fucking yes. The nuns care too much about alleviating poverty, and not enough about demonizing gays or attacking women who think they get to control their reproduction.

Oddly enough, I don’t even recall Jesus saying anything about homosexuality or abortion. This is the guy who hung out with a bunch of single men and a woman of ill-repute. He did, however, have some strong opinions about how we treat the poor.

Sisters, you all are so much cooler than your church. Break away from those ridiculous bigots. Start your own religion: the Church of Actually Giving a Shit About Humanity. All the Catholics who are horrified at the Church for their homophobia, misogyny and support of child-raping priests but who keep making noises about “social justice” and “ritual” will have a better place to give their money and time. The ones who want their religion to be more focused on persecuting gays, letting pregnant women die, and preaching against using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, can fend for themselves.

You’re better than they are, and they’re not even trying to hide how threatened they are by that. Let those assholes rot.

D.C. Archdiocese Competes in the Euphemism Olympics

Barbara Johnson is now endeavoring to have Father Marcel Guarnizo removed from his post at St. John Neumann Catholic church. She has good reason: at her mother’s funeral, Fr. Guarnizo denied her Communion because she is a lesbian, and walked out of the funeral while Johnson was delivering a eulogy. The family were left on their own for the burial.

Let’s go over that one more time:

1. Father Guarnizo denied Communion to the deceased woman’s daughter. Because she is a lesbian. He told her in so many words, right up at the altar with everyone watching.

“He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,’ ” she recalled Tuesday.

2. Father Guarnizo abandoned the funeral midway through.

Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there.

This is, to say the very least, profoundly unprofessional behavior for a priest giving a funeral Mass. And how is the Archdiocese handling the matter? Actually not badly, but their language is just fascinating:

Late Tuesday, Johnson received a letter of apology from the Rev. Barry Knestout, one of the archdiocese’s highest-ranking administrators, who said the lack of “kindness” she and her family received “is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.”

“I am sorry that what should have been a celebration of your mother’s life, in light of her faith in Jesus Christ, was overshadowed by a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” Knestout wrote. “I hope that healing and reconciliation with the Church might be possible for you and any others who were affected by this experience. In the meantime, I will offer Mass for the happy repose of your mother’s soul. May God bring you and your family comfort in your grief and hope in the Resurrection.”

Lack of “kindness”? Cause of “personal regret” to the administrator? Lack of “pastoral sensitivity”?

Archdiocese officials at first issued a short statement saying that the priest’s actions were against “policy” and that they would look into it as a personnel issue.

If Rev. Knestout is offering a redo of the funeral Mass for Barbara Johnson’s mother, that’s a good thing, but this is not merely about a shortage of “kindness” or “sensitivity.” Father Guarnizo tossed a monkey wrench into Mrs. Johnson’s funeral Mass and drove a wrecking ball into an already emotionally raw day for her family. That’s not just a question of “policy.” He was charged with a job and he did something very bad with it. If the D.C. Archdiocese wants to assure its parishioners that this will not be allowed to happen again, it’s quite simple: put Guarnizo out of a job. Tossing a bunch of watery corporate-speak at the Johnsons isn’t fooling anyone.


I’ve seen some wacky theories in Harry Potter fandom, but this?

Via Pharyngula, we learn from Nick Squires of the Telegraph that yoga is Satanic and the Harry Potter series is dangerous, according to the priest who has made a career out of finding “evil spirits” in people who need to be “cleansed” through painful, traumatizing rituals.

“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.

And how did Father Gabriele Amorth form this theory of the physics of magic as shown in Harry Potter, you might ask?

“Satan is always hidden and what he most wants is for us not to believe in his existence. He studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil, and then he offers temptations.”

He knows that extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses are the literary guise of Satan, because Satan is always hidden and wants us to believe he doesn’t exist.

In all the years I spent hanging out in Harry Potter fandom—and they were some great years!—I learned a lot of pretty far-fetched theories based more on what wasn’t in the books than on anything that was, but this one here? If this showed up in a fanfic, I think the “Hermione drugged Harry with a Love Potion to make him fall for Ginny” advocates would say, “Whoa, Padre. Step away from the shrooms.”

A reasonable person might see absolutely no parallel between Harry Potter and yoga, but Satan lurks in both, so I guess they must be condemned together.

In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, [Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger] issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other ‘eastern’ practises.

They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.

Yoga poses could create a feeling of well-being in the body but it was erroneous to confuse that with “the authentic consolations of the Holy Spirit,” the document said.

Okay. I guess you can exercise, or you can pray, but you can’t do both.

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