Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Happy Imbolc from Scholars & Rogues

I’ve never quite understood the conventions surrounding the terms “midsummer” and “midwinter.” Each is used to describe the solstice – June 21st or so and December 21st or so – which are, as you know, the beginnings of summer and winter, not the middle.

Today is Imbolc, which we popularly celebrate as Groundhog Day.(I’m not sure whether Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, but if he were in Seattle with me he wouldn’t be able to see as far as his nose for all the fog, never mind his shadow.) In Gaelic cultures it’s called St. Brighid’s Day and the Catholics, in their campaign to appropriate all things pagan, call it Candlemas. Whatever you call it, today is the middle of winter.

Pagans of all sorts, both historical and contemporary, celebrate Imbolc as one of the eight Sabbats, or high holy days. Continue reading Happy Imbolc from Scholars & Rogues

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Atheists in heaven? Vatican spin machine leaps into action

CATEGORY: ReligionRemember back in the ’80s when Ronald Reagan would ramble on in front of a crowd, saying all kinds of crazy shit? And immediately after, the reporters would turn to his handlers, who would explain that the president hadn’t said what he just said, that he had in fact said the exact opposite? That’s where the term “spin” came from, and boy, were those the days. Continue reading Atheists in heaven? Vatican spin machine leaps into action

UPDATED: Pope Francis says atheists can go to heaven: Sweet Jesus! The College of Cardinals done elected a hippie

CATEGORY: ReligionDid you hear what the Pope said? No, seriously. DID. YOU. HEAR?

In impromptu remarks made during yesterday’s Mass in his residence, Pope Francis shocked many by declaring that atheists can be just as good as Catholics if they “do good.”

Referencing a passage from the Gospel of Mark in his homily, the Pope recounted the story of a priest who told an inquiring Catholic that Jesus redeemed everyone, even atheists, and all he asks in return is that people “do good and do not do evil.”

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” the Pope quoted the priest as saying.

“Father, the atheists?,” the skeptical Catholic responded. “Even the atheists. Everyone!”

Catholic Online has already embraced the newly christened Pope’s message, taking it a step further by declaring that atheists can “go to heaven too.”

I’m…I’m stunned. This flies in the face of Catholic teaching since…well, since there were Catholics. Also, possibly the Bible.

You can read a fuller account of what His Holiness had to say here, but you won’t be any less surprised. The message isn’t terribly out of line with what I think most liberal Christians these days believe (the ones I know, anyway), but the Roman Catholics have never been as especially liberal institution in general. Yes, it has its progressive corners, but for the voice of the collective body, God’s spokesman here on Earth, to say, in essence, that you don’t need to believe in God so long as you do good works, that’s revolutionary. It may be the single most radical thing that any pope has said in my lifetime.

I now have a couple of follow-up questions to ask:

  • Your Holiness, is it okay to be a Jew? (I’m guessing yes on this one.)
  • How about a Muslim? (Again, yes.)
  • Buddhist? Hindu? (I see no reason why these wouldn’t be yeses as well.)
  • Holy Father, can a pagan go to heaven?

And that’s where it might get interesting. Pagans are rather explicitly putting other gods before Him, right, and we know how Yahweh felt about that back in the day. But if you take the whole of the pope’s comments into consideration, the primary criterion seems to have nothing to do with who or what you worship or believe. It’s all about the life you live here on Earth.

Sounds almost secular humanist to me. And aside from the question of whether or not heaven is actually real, it sounds a lot like what I believe.

Stay tuned. We’ll see if Francis survives the night…

UPDATE: In other news, while an atheist can go to heaven, he cannot be a Boy Scout leader.

UPDATE #2: Vatican spin machine leaps into action.

It’s time for the feds to consider RICO charges against the Boy Scouts of America

Back in September Kim Christensen and Jason Felch of the Los Angeles Times broke an absolute blockbuster of a story: the Boy Scouts of America have, for decades, been providing cover for pedophiles in its ranks.

Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.

A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.

Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, “chronic brain dysfunction” and duties at a Shakespeare festival.

DATABASE: Tracking decades of allegations

The details are contained in the organization’s confidential “perversion files,” a blacklist of alleged molesters, that the Scouts have used internally since 1919. Scouts’ lawyers around the country have been fighting in court to keep the files from public view.

In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it, The Times found.

The raw numbers are terrifying, and now Congress is being asked to audit the BSA’s youth protections.

The effort to seek a congressional inquiry came Thursday as the attorneys released more than 20,000 Boy Scout documents identifying more than 1,000 leaders and volunteers banned from the group after being accused of sexual or inappropriate conduct with boys.

How many victims are out there? Well, research suggests that only one in 10 molested boys reports the crime, so you do the math. If the Times report is accurate, then we’re talking about Jerry Sandusky times…what? 100? 1000?

You might expect, with good reason, that the public response to this outrage would be nigh-on nuclear. After all, we’re talking about the most appalling violation of trust fathomable – the only scandal in recent memory on a par with the BSA conspiracy is the Roman Catholic Church’s pedophile ring.

Instead, the outcry has been minimal, at best. The organization’s decision to deny one member his Eagle rank because he’s gay seems to have garnered about as much national attention. (How ironic, by the way. If you’re a gay kid who has earned Eagle, screw you. If you’re a gay who wants to be a scoutmaster, thanks, but you need not apply. If you’re a pedophile, though, we got your back.) Granted, the Boy Scout scandal isn’t threatening any football programs, but still, you’d think it would be driving at least a little bit of interest, wouldn’t you?

In any event, the Times report paints a picture of BSA leadership involved in a systematic, sustained campaign to cover up felony behavior. Earlier today, I found myself wondering why we weren’t hearing more about federal investigations into these crimes. More specifically, I began thinking that perhaps RICO charges might be in order.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act…focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually do it… While its original use in the 1970s was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its later application has been more widespread.

Since I’m not a lawyer, I reached out to Guy Saperstein, one of America’s most prominent attorneys. Here’s what he said:

I think RICO has been used in a few cases against Catholic church officials; I don’t recall if the cases were successful, but the cases went to juries, so at least a few federal judges found RICO to be applicable. The same standard could apply to the Boy Scouts, but to be successful under RICO, it would have to be shown that the abusive activity was at least sanctioned, if not designed, at the upper levels of the organization to be considered a criminal conspiracy. I also remember RICO being used here in Oakland against the head of the Hell’s Angels, Sonny Barger, a case defended by a friend of mine, but Sonny was acquitted or the jury hung when it could not be proven that running drugs and killing people was a policy of the Hell’s Angels.

So pursuing the Boy Scouts using RICO might be a potentially viable course of action (the case seems, from what I can tell, to be more or less parallel to the Catholic Church situation) although the outcome of such prosecution would be anything but certain. Was covering up for pedophiles “policy”? I’d think you could make the case, but I’m also sure that the BSA can afford good lawyers.

The BSA, for its part, seems to understand the gravity of its situation. (I expect those lawyers I just referred to have discussed the organization’s civil liability with leadership.)

The release of the files has been an embarrassment to the Boy Scouts, which in 2010 finally adopted a policy of requiring local scout leaders to report sex-abuse allegations to police.

“There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and, in certain cases, our response to these incidents, and our efforts to protect youth, were plainly insufficient, inappropriate or wrong,” said Wayne Perry, the national president of the Boy Scouts, in a statement last week. “Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or, worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies.”

It’s good to see them working to fix the problem, but in no way does this excuse those guilty of criminal behavior in the past.

I hope federal authorities are paying close attention to this case. We were repulsed by the Catholic Church’s game of musical pedophiles and I think the multi-tiered Sandusky cover-up at Penn State is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Here’s yet another large, powerful organization that spent decades violating its constituencies in the most reprehensible manner imaginable, and it’s about time that everyone – everyone – entrusted with the well-being of children came to understand that institutional enabling is as bad as the actual raping.

For all we know, there are other organizations out there still hiding serial pedophiles, and it would be good if the directors of said organizations had one more reason to come clean. Today.

ArtSunday: Let the musicians die

Every once in awhile I come across unrelated stories that somehow associate themselves in my mind. Take these, for instance:

First, I hope you saw Lex’s tribute to Starchild (given name, Gary Shider), he of P-Funk fame. As Lex notes, Shider experienced problems where the cost of fighting the cancer that killed him was concerned.

Second, another American music icon, Alex Chilton, passed away earlier this year. Continue reading ArtSunday: Let the musicians die

What Would Jesus Do (with $40 million)?

33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

– Matthew 25: 33-40

I was reminded of this little passage today as I reviewed these numbers: Continue reading What Would Jesus Do (with $40 million)?

The “McCain standard” and the rise of the Calphalon Candidate

If you’re following America’s electoral theater at all, you know that we have a candidate with a preacher problem. And that the candidate in question has been put in the uncomfortable position of having to repudiate some of said preacher’s remarks (while not alienating those voters in the flock who actually, you know, agree with what the Reverend was saying). In case you haven’t been paying attention, the controversial cleric has pronounced God’s doom upon certain of the nation’s citizens, and the backlash against him and his favorite for the White House has significantly damaged the candidate’s chances.

Of course, I’m talking about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. Errr, wait … that’s not right. That’s not who I’m talking about at all. Continue reading The “McCain standard” and the rise of the Calphalon Candidate