The Inside Story Of How Rome Ousted A Bold Bush Bishop
February 14, 2012 8:04 PM   Subscribe

 
Ratzinger only wanted to become Pope because the guy before him was Polish.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:11 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


(This is a really good article btw, don't let the horrendously shittily counterintuitive navigation put you off.)
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:12 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want to read this, but how the heck do I scroll?
posted by Zephyrial at 8:18 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Found it! Click the VERY hard-to-see translucent arrow on the right side of the page, centered vertically.
posted by Zephyrial at 8:20 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


This fancy navigation is making me angry. I have no idea how to read this article.
posted by scunning at 8:25 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading the article is pretty simple. Move your mouse to the left or right side of your browser. A translucent arrow will appear. Click the arrow, and the article scrolls sideways.

tumid dahlia is right, by the way. It's worth taking a few seconds to learn this; it's a very well-written article.
posted by koeselitz at 8:29 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Readability link.
posted by kagredon at 8:29 PM on February 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


That's actually quite a good article, isn't it? As it points out, it's the ghosts of chickens - from eggs laid by good ol' B.A. Santamaria, hatched and raised by Pell, and slaughtered by falling church attendances - that have come home to roost.

(And the Global Mail still haven't gotten the hint about their crap web design. They only launched two or three weeks ago, and everybody I know* who has seen it has used the feedback form to complain about it. Doesn't matter how stylish it is - if your layout ignores people's preconceived ideas of how a page should flow, has unintuitive navigation, and has your social media deck covering up content, then it's crap.)

(* Well, everybody except one - who said "could be good, but the articles are a bit short and go nowhere". They didn't realise it scrolled sideways…)
posted by Pinback at 8:30 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thankfully, Instapaper/Readability is able to remove all this clutter and provide a properly formatted text page.
posted by steamynachos at 8:31 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


John Paul I would have been delighted to be told to just resign.
posted by anothermug at 8:34 PM on February 14, 2012


...from eggs laid by good ol' B.A. Santamaria...

Whoo, boy. I only just now was reminded of sitting up to dinner on a Sunday(?) night while my parents watched Point of View, easily the most boring thing to have ever appeared on a television screen anywhere in the world.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:47 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition. This guy included.*

Okay, it wasn't the Spanish Inquisition.
posted by unSane at 8:49 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was curious about how important Catholicism was in Australia, especially as compared to the U.S. (I'm american). It looks like a fairly steady, solid 25% of the population is catholic, possibly a plurality. While in the U.S. > 50% are Protestants, making our ~25% Catholics seems less dominant.

I was curious because I couldn't imaging the firing of a catholic bishop being national news in the U.S. (unless there was a sex angle). Can any Australians fill us in — how big a story is this down there?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:53 PM on February 14, 2012


It seems like everything the Catholic Church does is to further cement the door to anyone who might otherwise give it any respect.
posted by gen at 8:54 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can any Australians fill us in — how big a story is this down there?

I'll be honest, this is the first I've heard about it, and I try to remain abreast of national developments via ABC radio, which to my mind is exactly where something like this would have been reported.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:09 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow is that a bad article.

In 2011, there were international headlines when Bishop Morris revealed in an interview on ABC Radio that in his letter demanding Morris's resignation, Benedict had incorrectly asserted that the Church's position against ordaining women had been decided "infallibly and irrevocably" by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Canon law says Church teachings are only infallible when they are explicitly declared to be so, and John Paul made no such ex cathedra pronouncement.

It's ridiculous to say "Benedict incorrectly asserted" unless Crittenden wants to make a theological argument, which he doesn't. This is one of the precise points on which Benedict and Morris are contending. Crittenden just assumes that Morris is right. The last sentence, in fact, is blatantly false.

Here's what the Cathechism of the Catholic Church says about infallibility (my emphasis, ellipses in the original):
891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium," above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine "for belief as being divinely revealed," and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions "must be adhered to with the obedience of faith." This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.
There is a twofold division here, there are the ex cathedra infallible statements, known as the "extraordinary magisterium" and there is the "ordinary and universal magisterium" which does not require an ex cathedra statement and is no less infallible and binding. This is also reflected in the Code of Canon law, despite what Crittenden asserts incorrectly about it (my emphasis):
Canon 750, §1: Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, which in fact is manifested by the common adherence of Christ’s faithful under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. All are therefore bound to avoid any contrary doctrines.
The whole John Paul II used Soviet tactics tangent is laughable. Crittenden needs to go read some Solzhenitzyn and get a handle on what actually constitutes Soviet tactics. Then he needs to go read about the modernist crisis of the early 20th century to find out what a network of spies within the Church really looks like and how it resembles neither what John Paul II had or Soviet tactics.

It's inexcusable as journalism that there is no attempt to present Benedict and Pell's point of view, nor any of the informed criticism that has been put forward of the Carter and Waters reports.

It's not even clear whether Morris was removed from office or whether he resigned under pressure.

Sorry, Mr. Crittenden, at least the Boettner has a bit of dash.
posted by Jahaza at 9:10 PM on February 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really wanted to like this article, with it actually talking about relevant details of cannon law and whole situation being so slam dunk stupid I couldn't see how they could possibly fuck it up. But there there is shit like this,

"Individual confession to a priest, of course, gives the priest a measure of control over people's lives. Its collapse signals a diminution of that power at a time when the Vatican has been intent on restoring it."

which is not even wrong.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:10 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


grr... strike "the" from the last line... I wrote "the Rev. Boettner," but couldn't find a quick cite for his being ordained, so I deleted "Rev." but missed "the".
posted by Jahaza at 9:11 PM on February 14, 2012


But there there is shit like this,

Yeah, that could be a quote from a Chick tract.
posted by Jahaza at 9:12 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The theory was that relaxed Australian attitudes had led to toleration of the evils of secularism, empty seminaries, free-wheeling nuns and liturgical abuses, and it was strongly implied that this had been allowed to happen because the Australian bishops had been falling down on the job.

There is nothing that pisses the Church off more, or that will get hell rained down upon your diocese faster, than women (religious or secular) actually following the Gospels.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:12 PM on February 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


benito.strauss, I hadn't heard of this but I think the situation with Father Bob, a very well loved Catholic priest who was forced to retire earlier this year, would be familiar to most Australians.
posted by Wantok at 9:13 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting, by which I suppose I mean appalling, how determined the church is to prevent the ordination of women.
posted by Anitanola at 9:14 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was curious because I couldn't imaging the firing of a catholic bishop being national news in the U.S. (unless there was a sex angle).

It would absolutely be national news. This is super rare on the world scene even. The NY Times ran Morris's firing in the New York print edition and has referred to it in followup pieces since.
posted by Jahaza at 9:23 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is just for you, scunning.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:24 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a former catholic this reaffirms my idea that everyone over the level of bishop should be fired and not replaced.
posted by nestor_makhno at 9:33 PM on February 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


I love the layout. But not the Catholic church, so much.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:34 PM on February 14, 2012


It's inexcusable as journalism that there is no attempt to present Benedict and Pell's point of view, nor any of the informed criticism that has been put forward of the Carter and Waters reports.

wow. this lapsed catholic is surprised by defensiveness. back in the day, the church would not have engaged in such parsings. now they want to challenge reporters.

the church has 75 years, tops. christianity, 200 years.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:47 PM on February 14, 2012


"Ratzinger only wanted to become Pope because the guy before him was Polish."

I get that his old name sounds weird and foreign and has the word "rat" in it, giving whatever point it is that you are trying to make that extra xenophobic push, but the dude changed his name to Benedict, Benedict the sixteenth. He chose the name for reasons that were meaningful to him, in fact he announced the change to the whole goddamn world, and somehow I doubt that you failed to get the memo. I would hope that this community is not childish enough to attempt to score points by deciding what peoples names are for them.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:47 PM on February 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sorry, Mr. Crittenden, at least the Boettner has a bit of dash.

Strange days indeed, where a Presbyterian who believes in predestination is apparently cited as an authority on the papist doctrine of papal infallibility. The end times for the US Christian movement.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It came to a point where [Cardinal] Arinze, who is Nigerian, started to be very critical of Australian culture...The last generation of Australian-born working priests is rapidly approaching retirement, which is why, in lieu of any better solution, many of the bishops have been busy searching Vietnam, India, the Philippines and Nigeria for overseas-born priests and seminarians to recruit to Australia.

This is a great article, but I wish it would have brought into clearer focus the global context of the 21st-century Church. Catholics in what we'll broadly call the first world- I'm thinking of the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe- feel a sense of ownership in the church and a deep anger that the Church is not moving in the liberal direction that the rest of the western world is. To Western Catholics, the Church is bizarrely to the right of common sense- no women in the priesthood? No sex ever for priests? This stuff isn't old-fashioned; this stuff is medieval, and Western Catholics find it baffling, and they don't see the endgame for the Church in clinging to it. Western Catholics are sure the Church needs them...right?

But the Church is growing fastest in Africa and Asia, and its clergy in those regions find the global Church not conservative enough. As Western Catholics leave the church (and, to some extent, take their collection plate contributions with them- but this is really an extradimensional chess game; money is the least important factor here, globally), people in Africa and Asia join in droves, and many, many more young men there are willing to take vows. I am not a scholar of those regions, so I can't say why that is (and I hope somebody with more education in this stuff than me will wander in here and clarify), but it's a demographic fact for the Church right now, and it's courting those clergy, not the Bishop Morrises of the world.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:54 PM on February 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't know much about the workings of churches of any sort, but that article sure reads like a mafia tale.

The theory was that relaxed Australian attitudes had led to toleration of the evils of secularism, empty seminaries, free-wheeling nuns and liturgical abuses, and it was strongly implied that this had been allowed to happen because the Australian bishops had been falling down on the job.

Movie pitch:
He was a relaxed bishop.
She was a free-wheeling nun.
They sure weren't Friends With Benedict's
posted by vidur at 10:09 PM on February 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


Similarities with the case of Father Peter Kennedy, formerly of St Mary's in South Brisbane, although he was a lot more overtly contra-doctrinal.

I like Snarl Furillo's analysis above. Perhaps the future will bring schism between the "old" and "new" Catholic churches, and then integration of the "new" church with the Anglicans and Uniting Church and similar moderate-to-liberal churches, while the "old" church re-integrates with the more conservative Orthodox branches.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:10 PM on February 14, 2012


Strange days indeed, where a Presbyterian who believes in predestination is apparently cited as an authority on the papist doctrine of papal infallibility. The end times for the US Christian movement.

Huh? I haven't cited him as an authority, just suggested that his attacks on Catholic theology were more stylish. (And of course, Catholics also believe in predestination... just not double predestination)
posted by Jahaza at 10:33 PM on February 14, 2012


wow. this lapsed catholic is surprised by defensiveness. back in the day, the church would not have engaged in such parsings. now they want to challenge reporters.

I'm sorry, this doesn't reflect any actual history.
posted by Jahaza at 10:36 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


the church has 75 years, tops. christianity, 200 years.

I'll take the over.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:43 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Benedict: "Canon law does not make provision for a process regarding bishops whom the Successor of Peter nominates and may remove from office."

What an interesting and unprecedented suggestion. Has the Magisterium (i.e. the Bishops) made this into official Catholic doctrine? Because if not, the Pope's view ain't Catholic.

After Benedict dies, I hope there will be a Cadaver Synod II.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:47 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


the church has 75 years, tops. christianity, 200 years.

Zoroastrian territory got overrun by Islam more than a millennium ago and yet we still have active Temples of Fire serving a couple hundred thousand believers. The Manadeans believe that John the Baptist was more important than either Jesus or Mohammad, never a popular view, often one that would get them killed, yet they're still here. Religions die hard.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:56 PM on February 14, 2012 [19 favorites]


wow. this lapsed catholic is surprised by defensiveness. back in the day, the church would not have engaged in such parsings. now they want to challenge reporters.


Surely you can make an allowance since this is a discussion forum.
posted by michaelh at 11:00 PM on February 14, 2012


Somehow I am reminded of the terminal stage in stellar evolution in which a star runs out of fuel to burn, sheds its outer layers, and leaves behind a small but extremely dense core known as a white dwarf that will cool over billions of years as it slowly radiates away the residual heat from long-stopped fusion processes.
posted by Pyry at 12:12 AM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Ratzinger only wanted to become Pope..."

the dude changed his name to Benedict, Benedict the sixteenth.


Blasdelb, asking as someone who would like to be polite and get this right, is it improper to refer to a Pope by his former name when writing about something that happened in his life before he became Pope?

Sometimes in biographies, for instance, a writer will refer to their subject with an old name--a maiden name, a childhood nickname, a title at a former job--as shorthand to indicate what time period the writer is referring to. "Congressman Smith sponsored 7 bills, but when he became a Senator..." Is it disrespectful to use the name Ratzinger to refer to Pope Benedict as shorthand for "Benedict, back before he became Pope"?
posted by straight at 12:18 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


straight, given that no less a source than refers to JP as "Pope Wojtyla", I don't think you need to worry.

In less authoritative news, my cradle-Catholic mother not infrequently refers to the beloved
Roncalli by his surname rather than his papal name. It's not disrespectful. Especially (but not only) when referring to actions taken by someone before he was elevated to the papacy, using their surname is completely appropriate and fair.
posted by katemonster at 12:38 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sort of related. Sort of:

For the life of me I can't find the cite, but Ratzinger and the guy running either the newspaper or newsletter for the catholic church had been locked in some sort of rivalry, and the first day Ratzinger becomes pope, he fired the guy.

I always liked that play-out: "Oh, and now I'm Pope. You're fired."
posted by jscott at 1:05 AM on February 15, 2012




"Ratzinger only wanted to become Pope because the guy before him was Polish."

I get that his old name sounds weird and foreign and has the word "rat" in it, giving whatever point it is that you are trying to make that extra xenophobic push...


Actually it's because Ratzinger is German. The Germans are famous for getting all up in the Polish people's shit.

I don't even understand what point it is you think I was trying to make and I sure as hell don't know what point it is you're trying to make. I personally like the idea that "Ratzinger" means "town crier". Presumably the point you were trying to make is that "rat" is a universal word that always means the rodent, no matter which language? That's pretty sheltered dude.
posted by tumid dahlia at 2:22 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't going to say anything because the only sense in which I know anything about this is relative to my secular leftist peers who generally pay no attention to this sort of thing whatsoever. But, for what it's worth, Snarl Furillo's comment summarizes the larger context in which this sort of struggle with the Catholic Church is playing out.

It's absolutely not correct to think that because the Catholic Church has been in relative decline in the developed west and mired in recent scandals that it's overall in decline and gasping for breath. Far from it. Christianity in general is advancing in Africa and Asia and, interestingly, there's some of the same sort of of perceptions in other sects, such as evangelicals—that is, that the developed, secular west is no longer fertile ground and the true future of Christendom is to be found in the developing east.

In the Catholic Church, the conservative old guard in Rome are finding staunch allies among the up-and-coming from Africa and Asia. That's the subtext with the whole thing involving Cardinal Arinze.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:34 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually it's because Ratzinger is German. The Germans are famous for getting all up in the Polish people's shit.

This is kind of a dubious thing to say, I think - although the situation is somewhat complicated in the specific case of the current Pope by his having been a (non-attending, apparently) member of the Hitler Youth.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:36 AM on February 15, 2012


Wait, is everybody in this thread German or something? Because I'm pretty sure there was a détente that said you aren't allowed to get so defensive.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:05 AM on February 15, 2012


Whatcho gonna do? It's not called the Roman Catholic Church for nothing. Intrigue is a feature, not a bug. Now shut up and give us your money, or go to hell!
posted by Goofyy at 3:41 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is kind of a dubious thing to say, I think - although the situation is somewhat complicated in the specific case of the current Pope by his having been a (non-attending, apparently) member of the Hitler Youth.

Not a defense of Ratzinger, but I can understand how after being identified as a Nazi, he'd try to spin that as hard as he could. Even if all he can do is offer the lame, "Yeah I publicly supported the regime which murdered 12 million people, but my heart *really* wasn't in it"...
posted by mikelieman at 3:56 AM on February 15, 2012


I didn't even know he had any ties, however tenuous, to Nazism.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:23 AM on February 15, 2012


Wait, is everybody in this thread German or something? Because I'm pretty sure there was a détente that said you aren't allowed to get so defensive.


It's not really defensive on the part of Germany. It's more GermansLOL NazisLOL InvadingPolandLOL MillionsofPolishJewsMurderedLOL.

Not a defense of Ratzinger, but I can understand how after being identified as a Nazi, he'd try to spin that as hard as he could.

"As a Nazi" is pushing it: a lot of young people joined the Hitler Youth - it was effectively compulsory from late 1939 onwards. Certainly, the line on it is that everyone did it, that he and his family were never ideologically aligned with the party, and a sympathetic teacher covered for him so he didn't even have to go to a meeting to register.

This position has certainly been criticized - some have pointed out that some families did refuse to enrol their children, and endured the various punishments for not doing so: therefore to say "I had no choice" is disrespectful to those who chose to put principle over personal safety. However, it was hard to have any sort of public life without being in some way touched by the Nazi party - the Pope's father, although reportedly staunchly opposed politically to the Nazi party, served as a German police officer during a period when it was becoming increasingly controlled by the SS, and was beng asked to enforce and police the anti-semitic Nuremberg laws. Evil régimes seek to make as many ordinary people complicit as possible.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:37 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I didn't even know he had any ties, however tenuous, to Nazism.

Then maybe you might consider dialling it back a bit.
posted by Wolof at 4:40 AM on February 15, 2012


This article seems unsure of where to place its outrage. It starts out saying he was radical, liberal and didn't toe the line; then it switches to saying how he was sacked because his liberalism was exaggerated by his enemies and really he was an obedient servant. If you don't uphold the doctrine of the Catholic Church you can be a hero to liberals, but you can't be a bishop of that church.
posted by Gomoryhu at 4:57 AM on February 15, 2012


Ratzinger is the least offensive of the things I use to describe the pope every time he comes out with one of those ridiculous mealy mouthed addresses to the Catholic church in Ireland.* Or when he comes up with some other reason why ordaining women is about the worst evil ever.

I'm not actually convinced that the church has a long range plan at the moment, even one that looks to developing nations and conservative churches there, at least no more than it did when it actually first got hit with the Reformation. It's just not set up to move very fast, and that is a bit more harmful in an age where things have speeded up. And if you think that they don't care about holding on to the West and its money, then I don't think you know much about how the church is funding itself. Or paying for Benny's Prada bills.

*Ironically, I think the last one had the claim that as it was the 70s everyone was pretty down with abusing kids and such all in the name of exploring sexuality. A bit like joining the Hitler Youth. Except, probably, without the exploring sexuality bit.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:06 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zoroastrian territory got overrun by Islam more than a millennium ago and yet we still have active Temples of Fire serving a couple hundred thousand believers. The Manadeans believe that John the Baptist was more important than either Jesus or Mohammad, never a popular view, often one that would get them killed, yet they're still here. Religions die hard.
I think it's pretty clear that it's hard (although not impossible) to persecute a religion out of existence. But there are lots of examples of religions dying of natural causes. Catholicism's problems are internal, not external. The Church demands things, like forgoing birth control, that are incompatible with life in the modern, developed world. I think that's actually a much bigger threat to a religion's survival (at least in developed places and in any places that will subsequently become developed) than persecution would be.
posted by craichead at 5:07 AM on February 15, 2012


Then maybe you might consider dialling it back a bit.

Since I never actually called him one, I'm about as dialled back as can be, so...no.

posted by tumid dahlia at 5:19 AM on February 15, 2012


I get that his old name sounds weird and foreign and has the word "rat" in it, giving whatever point it is that you are trying to make that extra xenophobic push but the dude changed his name to Benedict, Benedict the sixteenth

Even noticed is pope's name is "Been a Dick"? Pope been-a-dick. I'm not xenophobic, I just talk shit about the pope on principle. I found that after I learned the history of the papacy I realized that completely opposing it is a good way to be on the right side of history most of the time. I don't see it going away very soon, certainly not 75 years.
posted by fuq at 5:29 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever. What little relevancy Catholicism had left was obliterated with its continued denial of the sex abuse scandal.

Beyond that, it's old men in dresses and pointy hats playing the worlds biggest game of Let's Control the Masses.
posted by prepmonkey at 5:47 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever. What little relevancy Catholicism had left was obliterated with its continued denial of the sex abuse scandal.

Beyond that, it's old men in dresses and pointy hats playing the worlds biggest game of Let's Control the Masses.


Except that playing the world's biggest game of Let's Control the Masses reasonably successfully automatically makes you relevant.
posted by hoyland at 5:52 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not really. The Catholic Church in the US is dying. It's closing schools, church attendance is down, and those wanting to go into seminary is down. Yes it's still alive, and comparitively huge compared to other religious institutions, but it's dying a slow and inevitable death.
posted by prepmonkey at 5:55 AM on February 15, 2012


The Catholic Church's decline is certainly apparent in Philadelphia. The prosecution of William Lynn is front page news about once a week Lynn Prosecution Article, usually beside another article about Catholic High School closings.
posted by PJLandis at 6:15 AM on February 15, 2012


I don't know that the Church is exactly dying in the US, but the idea that they control anyone seems a little goofy, given all the evidence that American Catholics make their own choices on many matters about which the Church has strong opinions.
posted by craichead at 6:16 AM on February 15, 2012


This article really reminded me of what happened in the small scale out here. Some liberal-minded parishes, usually attached to a university, were speaking out and doing questionable things (by church orthodoxy, at least). Nuns performing priestly duties and all that. Ten years back or so, the old bishop was replaced with a hardliner. He was tasked with cleaning all that shit up - people got walking papers, stern lectures were given.

lesbiassparrow: "And if you think that they don't care about holding on to the West and its money, then I don't think you know much about how the church is funding itself."

Which is also why our liberal parish with it's tapestry of Gandhi and statue of MLK still stands. Lots of money floating around - our priest jokes that he had to play a lot of golf in order to raise the funding to build the church in the first place. He retires this year and everyone is worried the bishop will be willing to slaughter the prize milk cow in order to please Rome.
posted by charred husk at 6:26 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I appreciated the repeated comparison of bishops to branch manager.

The Catholic Church always did seem to be a bit more concerned with banking/money collection than with the actual well bring of souls and people, much less the teachings of Christ.
posted by bilabial at 6:33 AM on February 15, 2012


"Roman Catholic Church".

I'm sorry. Where does it say "Jesus" or "Christ" there?
posted by Goofyy at 6:57 AM on February 15, 2012


"I would hope that this community is not childish enough to attempt to score points by deciding what peoples names are for them."

So... the Pontiff formerly known as Ratzinger, then?!

Of course, when he dies, The Church itself will ceremonially strike his forehead with a silver hammer three times and call for him to answer, using his birthname, so isn't that an acknowledgment that he is both Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger and the pope? Really, is the name change anything other than ceremonial and religious? Was Joseph Ratzinger given a new ID from his country of birth? I don't see anyone "deciding" what his name is, but those of us who aren't Catholics have every right to refer to him by his secular name, and to believe that the person he is now is the one who he was then.

Nobody goes into a huff when someone refers to Jacob or Simon in the Bible as Jacob or Simon... even though God / Jesus themselves changed their names to Israel / Peter. So perhaps you should just get off your invisible high horse, because others do not have to bestow any special title or respect to the former German soldier who is currently running your religion if they don't want to.

Really, if you find it uncomfortable or embarrassing, then change it or leave it.
posted by markkraft at 7:06 AM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Comparison to the case of Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay might be instructive.
posted by stebulus at 7:30 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why? He didn't convert, Benedict is just his stage name.
posted by ninebelow at 7:33 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Catholic Church in the US is dying. It's closing schools, church attendance is down,

Actually, "Although Catholic Mass attendance did decline in recent decades from a peak in the 1950s, there has been no decline in Mass attendance percentages nationally in the last decade." (This from Georgetown's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which is a well respected group of social scientists.

and those wanting to go into seminary is down.

Actually, it's up compared to the 1990's.
posted by Jahaza at 7:33 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Comparison to the case of Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay might be instructive.

Why? He didn't convert, Benedict is just his stage name.

Conversion is a religiously significant change of status. So is becoming Pope.

Sometimes people change their names, or adopt new names in addition to their old ones, at such changes in status.

Refusing to use such a name is, sometimes, a way of refusing legitimacy to the change of status, or to its religious meaning.

I said it might be instructive, and I wasn't being coy, like I have a specific conclusion in mind but don't want to say. I really mean just that it's worth comparing the two cases.

Or, if you think conversion is too different, how about changing one's name at marriage, or at divorce? These are also changes of status which (for some people) have religious significance.
posted by stebulus at 7:50 AM on February 15, 2012


John Paul I would have been delighted to be told to just resign.

Citation, anothermug? I've found evidence JP-II was initially reluctant (though of course he fully assumed the robes after being elected), but not John Paul I.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:32 AM on February 15, 2012


The theory was that relaxed Australian attitudes had led to toleration of the evils of secularism, empty seminaries, free-wheeling nuns and liturgical abuses, and it was strongly implied that this had been allowed to happen because the Australian bishops had been falling down on the job.

There is nothing that pisses the Church off more, or that will get hell rained down upon your diocese faster, than women (religious or secular) actually following the Gospels.

Snarl Furillo, I honestly can't parse what "women ... actually following the Gospels" has to do with "free-wheeling nuns".
posted by IAmBroom at 8:37 AM on February 15, 2012


Not really. The Catholic Church in the US is dying. It's closing schools, church attendance is down, and those wanting to go into seminary is down. Yes it's still alive, and comparitively huge compared to other religious institutions, but it's dying a slow and inevitable death.

I don't think Catholicism in the US is what's at issue here, though. Catholicism in the US doesn't really say much about Catholicism in the rest of the world.

(It shares some issues with other places, obviously, like a priest shortage. But I don't think, for instance, that closing schools is a big problem elsewhere. (I don't think there are as many catholic schools in many other countries, for a start.) I'm not entirely sure it's necessarily indicative of the decline of Catholicism in the US--we've got loads of Catholic schools not because every Catholic sends their kids to Catholic school, but because of historic anti-Catholic bias in the public schools. That impulse is gone. Most of the people I know who went to Catholic schools went because their parents had gone, basically and it was the 'right' thing to do. The rest because it was better than the public school options. Plus, I suppose, a few religious nutters.)
posted by hoyland at 8:48 AM on February 15, 2012


IAmBroom: the comment you're responding to is a reference to his death, which some people find suspicious. As in "He would have been delighted to be told to just resign, instead of being murdered."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What surprised me is that there is a National Council of Priests is Australia, and it looks like it's somewhat independent of the Vatican. I wonder why it was formed, and what it does. Because the Catholic Church always struck me as a pretty "total" organization, so why would priests need to form a council separate from the church heirarchy?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:12 AM on February 15, 2012


Wait, they fired the bishop at age 68? Did they strip him of his support? Priests don't have private retirement accounts, they depend on the Church for support for life. I have a friend who left the priesthood (by choice) at age 55 and his financial life was entirely ruined. No savings, no 401k, no pension, no kids to help him out in his old age.

I think anyone expecting the demise of the Catholic Church is a little deluded. Globally it's still hugely powerful, particularly in developing nations. They control a lot of property in Europe. And apparently acting as a global conspiracy to allow men to rape children isn't enough to shake the faith of very many believers.

Link to the Readability version, btw.
posted by Nelson at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


    "So... the Pontiff formerly known as Ratzinger, then?!"
Do you have some trouble pronouncing or transcribing the name Benedict? That was an elegant solution for referring to the artist who was at one time formerly known as Prince, though is apparently once again known as Prince, when they did not have a pronounceable or easily transcribable name.
    "Of course, when he dies, The Church itself will ceremonially strike his forehead with a silver hammer three times and call for him to answer, using his birthname, so isn't that an acknowledgment that he is both Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger and the pope? Really, is the name change anything other than ceremonial and religious? Was Joseph Ratzinger given a new ID from his country of birth? I don't see anyone "deciding" what his name is, but those of us who aren't Catholics have every right to refer to him by his secular name, and to believe that the person he is now is the one who he was then."
I should hope you don't derive your sense of identity from your government the way you expect the Pope to, but my understanding is that, as a citizen of Vatican City, the Pope carries and exclusively uses his Vatican City passport, which identifies him as Pope Benedict XVI and head of state. It does also look the the German government never revoked his German citizenship or confiscated his German passport, which I assume did identify him as Cardinal Ratzinger, but my understanding is that it has never been used while Benedict XVI has been Pope. If ones 'real name' could never be changed with immigration or religious ceremonies, my 'real name' would be spelled a whole lot weirder, and it would take an awfully special kind of asshole to tell the many spouses in this thread that the names they chose wern't real either. The hammer thing is a myth by the way.
    "Nobody goes into a huff when someone refers to Jacob or Simon in the Bible as Jacob or Simon... even though God / Jesus themselves changed their names to Israel / Peter. So perhaps you should just get off your invisible high horse, because others do not have to bestow any special title or respect to the former German soldier who is currently running your religion if they don't want to."
It must be similar to the kind of special asshole who would blame a child soldier for their conscription.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:32 AM on February 15, 2012


    "Blasdelb, asking as someone who would like to be polite and get this right, is it improper to refer to a Pope by his former name when writing about something that happened in his life before he became Pope? Sometimes in biographies, for instance, a writer will refer to their subject with an old name--a maiden name, a childhood nickname, a title at a former job--as shorthand to indicate what time period the writer is referring to. "Congressman Smith sponsored 7 bills, but when he became a Senator..." Is it disrespectful to use the name Ratzinger to refer to Pope Benedict as shorthand for "Benedict, back before he became Pope"?
My understanding is that the name change is not retroactive, thus in the present day it would, if anything, be improper to refer to Pope Benedict XVI as having been anything other than Cardinal Ratzinger 8 years ago. The dickishness I am objecting to is instances where his name is used as some kind of crude dog-whistle that I suppose is intended to signal disrespect but only really accomplishes signalling ignorance. Much like how talking about Barack Hussein Obama doesn't actually communicate disrespect for the man so much as racism and xenophobia, even though in this case Barack Hussein Obama is in fact his actual name.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:44 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Do you see what happens, Benedict? Do you see what happens when you sack a Bishop in the bush?"
posted by yoink at 9:55 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


      "I get that his old name sounds weird and foreign and has the word "rat" in it, giving whatever point it is that you are trying to make that extra xenophobic push but the dude changed his name to Benedict, Benedict the sixteenth

    "Even noticed is pope's name is "Been a Dick"? Pope been-a-dick. I'm not xenophobic, I just talk shit about the pope on principle. I found that after I learned the history of the papacy I realized that completely opposing it is a good way to be on the right side of history most of the time. I don't see it going away very soon, certainly not 75 years."
You know, I hadn't never noticed that, you've got a real talent for this sort of thing, but surely there must be something worse in the entire 1.166 billion member church than the genitalia of a man who has remained celibate his entire life.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2012


> The dickishness I am objecting to is instances where his name is used as some kind of crude dog-whistle that I suppose is intended to signal disrespect but only really accomplishes signalling ignorance.

I don't buy that for one instant. Those of us who have objections to the current pope don't feel the need for dog whistles - simply saying truthful words like "long-time protector of pederasts" expresses our feelings perfectly well.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:04 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: "I don't buy that for one instant. Those of us who have objections to the current pope don't feel the need for dog whistles "

No, you don't. But there is a sort of "scary Nazi German!" undertone dog-whistle that often goes along with calling him Ratzinger. It isn't universal in intent, but dog whistles rarely are. My friends and I referred to him at Ratzinger instead of Benedict for quite a while simply because we were already familiar with him and his name before he was Pope'd. Occasionally we still do in a "we wish he wasn't Pope" sort of way, but the undertone that developed has kind of pushed us away from calling him Ratzinger outside of our personal circle. Now we just call him Pope Palpatine.
posted by charred husk at 10:13 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, you don't. But there is a sort of "scary Nazi German!" undertone dog-whistle that often goes along with calling him Ratzinger. It isn't universal in intent, but dog whistles rarely are. My friends and I referred to him at Ratzinger instead of Benedict for quite a while simply because we were already familiar with him and his name before he was Pope'd. Occasionally we still do in a "we wish he wasn't Pope" sort of way, but the undertone that developed has kind of pushed us away from calling him Ratzinger outside of our personal circle. Now we just call him Pope Palpatine.

I think that it's more common to use Ratzinger and Wojtyla in order to paint them as ambitious. Here's a guy; his name is Ratzinger. He calls himself the pope but he's really just a person; there's no pope, just a guy named Ratzinger. Whereas calling him Benedict accepts that he's the pope and that the office of pope is its own entity. It's similar to how opponents of Bush or Obama will prefer to say their names sans titles rather than the President or President Obama.
posted by michaelh at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2012


> Here's a guy; his name is Ratzinger. He calls himself the pope but he's really just a person; there's no pope, just a guy named Ratzinger.

Ah, I think you've hit the nail on the head here!

> It's similar to how opponents of Bush or Obama will prefer to say their names sans titles rather than the President or President Obama.

I note that you write "opponents of Bush or Obama" - where are your titles, eh? :-D

I'm about the only person here who consistently uses any sort of honorific before "Obama" - and I go with the British usage - I refer to people as Mr. or Ms. (or occasionally Mrs. as in "Mrs. Thatcher") unless they are a doctor, professor or that sort of thing that trumps "Mr./Ms." - except that criminals don't get an honorific. So for me it's Mr. Obama but simply Bush.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:14 AM on February 15, 2012


Snarl Furillo, I honestly can't parse what "women ... actually following the Gospels" has to do with "free-wheeling nuns".

Whoops, shoulda been clearer. A lot of times (most of the time?) when the Church gets nervous about nuns, it's because they're doing crazy things like ministering to poor people or getting in some bishop's face about women's rights. The Church hates that shit.

I was thinking particularly of Anita Caspary, I guess.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:35 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Church definitely operates more smoothly without all that Jesus stuff mucking up the works.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I hadn't never noticed that, you've got a real talent for this sort of thing, but surely there must be something worse in the entire 1.166 billion member church than the genitalia of a man who has remained celibate his entire life.

Are we supposed at this point to mention this kind of thing, or not mention it? I'm not sure which would take an awfully special kind of asshole...
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:19 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


genitalia of a man who has remained celibate his entire life

Pope Bean-dick?
posted by fuq at 2:28 PM on February 15, 2012


    "Are we supposed at this point to mention this kind of thing, or not mention it? I'm not sure which would take an awfully special kind of asshole..."
I'm pretty certain we can all agree that there is an awfully big stack of things that are very wrong with both Pope Benedict XVI's election and tenure as Pope, but his funny sounding former name, his forced childhood conscription, and his admittedly Palpatine-esque appearance arn't really among them. Surely we can be against the enablement of child rape, holding children responsible for their forced conscription, and using clumsy dog-whistles that signal xenophobia and willful ignorance all at the same time.

Aside from not looking stupid, really the great benefit to not being hyperbolically wrong about this kind of shit is being taken seriously by people who care about the church, know the Nazi allusions for the bullshit that it is, and might be in a position to accelerate meaningful change. There are meaningful conversations that need to be had that communicate the viable institutional solutions for protecting children that most western protestant denominations, schools, and children's sports and clubs have already adopted*. Dog-whistles and Godwinning don't really have a place in them.

*That is, in addition to the importance of catholic church's historical role as an institution with meaningful due process (generally the only one in Christendom) as well as the central biblical importance of due process, the many historical and biblical examples of female leadership in the Church, the significantly more nuanced view of sex that Church fathers had before the pre-medieval revisionism the catholic church still stands by, and the fact that there really isn't a meaningfully christian argument against legal abortion.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Surely we can be against the enablement of child rape, holding children responsible for their forced conscription, and using clumsy dog-whistles that signal xenophobia and willful ignorance all at the same time.

I think we probably can - but that isn't what you are doing. What you are currently doing is calling people assholes, which doesn't seem to be a very good response to the enablement of child rape. Unless the enablers are the people being called assholes. Which they aren't.

So... I think we can be against all these things, yes. But I think we can also say that the first of these three things involves children being raped, and the other two involve discussion on an Internet message board being less cultured than we might hope, and that these things are not of equivalent import.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:53 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Refusing to use someones chosen name is a dick move, something that this community has even come to a pretty close consensus as being a dick move in other contexts, I think it applies just as strongly here. Declaring a child soldier to be responsible for the crimes of an army they were forcibly conscripted into is also, if you step back and think about it, a really fucking awful dick move. Both inherently deserve to be called out, regardless of the current state any awfulness pissing contests.

I think the place where our perspectives most meaningfully differ comes from the catholics I know who don't listen to or believe non-catholic perspectives on the many sex-abuse scandals because so many of the non-catholics in their lives are unable to actually listen much less get their facts straight. They also refuse to read or believe articles like this one because they are almost universally factually incorrect in central points and often, like this one, have Chick-tract-esque understandings of catholic doctrine. THIS IS A PROBLEM THAT CAN ONLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE HARMING OF MORE CHILDREN.

Ultimately, feeding the already mighty catholic persecution complex with transparent distortions and thinly veiled xenophobia only enables the deeply disordered thinking that has so far allowed the catholic hierarchy to continue enabling pedophiles. I agree that ending the enablement of child rape is absolutely the most important of any issue relating to the catholic church. However, if you actually look through Benedict XVI's as well as the various cardinal's and reticent element's statements on the child abuse scandals, I'm sure it will become obvious how connected their disordered thinking is to the blanket anti-clericalism and inability to get basic fact straight that dominates most secular discussions of the issue.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:52 PM on February 15, 2012


THIS IS A PROBLEM THAT CAN ONLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE HARMING OF MORE CHILDREN.

I feel like there is a bigger problem that contributes to the harming of children in these situations than a poor understanding of Catholic doctrine on the part of critics, however. And that is people harming children.

If the Catholics you know decide to be complacent about the harming of children out of spite, because they feel like those pointing out that children are being harmed just don't get them (man), then that's their choice. But is this a position you want to adopt? Only, you just described suggesting that the molestation of children is a significantly worse thing than calling Benedict XVI "Ratzinger" as an "awfulness pissing contest".

(This is not even getting into the implicit likening of the travails of the Pope to those of trans people in that first sentence, because really?.)

I mean, take a look at what you just wrote:

However, if you actually look through Benedict XVI's as well as the various cardinal's and reticent element's statements on the child abuse scandals, I'm sure it will become obvious how connected their disordered thinking is to the blanket anti-clericalism and inability to get basic fact straight that dominates most secular discussions of the issue.

You seem to have gone from saying that people who are not sufficiently respectful of the Pope and knowledgeable enough about Catholic doctrine are responsible for regular Catholics not taking a firmer line on child molestation - which, by the way, feels pretty messed up - to saying that people who are not sufficiently respectful of the Pope and etc are responsible for the Pope not taking a firmer line on child molestation. Is this really what you want to be saying?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:09 PM on February 15, 2012


    "I feel like there is a bigger problem that contributes to the harming of children in these situations than a poor understanding of Catholic doctrine on the part of critics, however. And that is people harming children."
If you notice anyone, catholic or otherwise, who is not categorically opposed to the church's handling of the many instances of clerical sexual abuse of children wandering into this thread make sure to point them out, but as far as I can tell only the choir is really present in the room to be preached to. The claim I am making is that as a choir of otherwise likeminded and educated people, we have collectively been doing a really shitty job of actually understanding, much less addressing, the root causes behind why this horrific enabling of child abuse is continuing. I'm not trying to draw some kind of moral equivalence between Mefites and the hundreds of millions of catholics globally whose heads are still wedged firmly up their asses for various and almost universally non-evil reasons, but I am suggesting that conversations like this one that are easily dominated by dog-whistles and active distortions not exactly helping.
    "If the Catholics you know decide to be complacent about the harming of children out of spite, because they feel like those pointing out that children are being harmed just don't get them (man), then that's their choice. But is this a position you want to adopt? Only, you just described suggesting that the molestation of children is a significantly worse thing than calling Benedict XVI "Ratzinger" as an "awfulness pissing contest"."
The catholics who I know that I mentioned are convinced that outrage at the harming of children is largely an invention of an outrage hungry media that is uninterested at best in truth and of a secular world that has always been out to get them. I think it is tragic that they are not entirely wrong, I wish they were. The article in the FPP only exists because there is a market for outrage at the catholic church and that somehow even educated and discerning people can be reduced to Chick-tract levels of understanding. When we do shit like call Benedict XVI a Nazi because he was forcibly conscripted as a child, that is not only inherently wrong and lazy, but it also plays right into the narratives that are used to distract from the genuinely horrific truth and attempt to excuse continued inaction.
    You seem to have gone from saying that people who are not sufficiently respectful of the Pope and knowledgeable enough about Catholic doctrine are responsible for regular Catholics not taking a firmer line on child molestation - which, by the way, feels pretty messed up - to saying that people who are not sufficiently respectful of the Pope and etc are responsible for the Pope not taking a firmer line on child molestation. Is this really what you want to be saying?"
I'm not asking for respect for the Pope, I have precious little for him myself, but I am suggesting if we want our outrage at these outrageous things that are continuing to happen to mean anything it might behoove us to try and understand what is actually gong on. I don't think that is even possible when genuinely hard hitting and truth telling voices are marginalized as boring and exhausting while being mined for recreational outrage in articles that end up being false in both tone and content. When so many secular conversations about the catholic church are dominated by intense but ultimately shallow outrage based on shallow understanding, I don't think it is any wonder that so many catholics have such little trouble discounting them.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, to my understanding the way of referring to the gentleman who is currently pope varies by country. I believe Italian newspapers still refer to him as Ratzinger. Being pretty much the host of Vatican city, are they being disrespectful?
posted by mikeh at 1:24 PM on February 16, 2012


Blasdelb, to my understanding the way of referring to the gentleman who is currently pope varies by country. I believe Italian newspapers still refer to him as Ratzinger. Being pretty much the host of Vatican city, are they being disrespectful?

No. And if you write your Metafilter comments in Italian, we won't think you're being disrespectful by referring to him in that way, but English language usage is different.
posted by Jahaza at 1:37 PM on February 16, 2012


When we do shit like call Benedict XVI a Nazi because he was forcibly conscripted as a child, that is not only inherently wrong and lazy, but it also plays right into the narratives that are used to distract from the genuinely horrific truth and attempt to excuse continued inaction.

I'm not sure who the "we" is supposed to be in this sentence - all non-Catholics? People on MetaFilter? People on the Internet generally? We keep hearing evocative, repeated phrases in this thread - "forcibly conscripted", "dog whistle", "Chick tract" - suggesting that critical voices are somewhere between the Tea Party and the Westboro Baptist Church, but these are isolated incidents at best within this discussion. I can see one person possibly suggesting that Pope Benedict was ever a Nazi in this thread, but that's quickly corrected.

If these Catholics of your acquaintance are only going to reflect on the systemic covering up of the abuse of children when every single person on the Internet promises to be nice about authority figures potentially implicated in those cover-ups, I think we, and they, are in for a long wait. This may contribute to the harming of more children, but I guess that's something for the individual conscience.

Factor in the ongoing hardening of attitudes towards contraception, homosexuality, liberation theology and basically anything fun, and again I think that we are going to be waiting a long time before, say, a full week passes without anyone saying anything mean about the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church on the Internet. We are after all talking about a Pope who has described homosexuality as a tendency towards an "intrinsic moral evil", and who has suggested that pro-choice Catholic politicians should be denied communion. He does not appear to be feeling constrained by the need for consideration and carefully measured speech that you feel are a sine qua non for his critics.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:18 PM on February 16, 2012


In Ireland, it's basically Catholics attacking the church and saying unpleasant things about the pope* (we're apparently not allowed to be ex-Catholics, given what happened to the 'count me out' campaign). But the church and their supporters does a good number on calling opponents radical secularists when they move towards things like dumping our embassy to the Vatican and cutting down on church control of schools. So there's that.

*I don't know how it works in the US and other places where Catholics are not the majority, but my impression is that he's not very popular here, even among devout Catholics. JPII on the other hand, still is, despite the scandals.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:57 AM on February 23, 2012


"In Ireland, it's basically Catholics attacking the church and saying unpleasant things about the pope...

What's been really weird for me beginning with Sinead's protest on SNL and then through this period involving the sexual violence cover-up stuff is how different my perspective has been from pretty much everyone else I know. And I think it's because I grew up in the Protestant fundamentalist Bible Belt of the US, but as an agnostic and then an atheist who has always had a strong distaste of religious intolerance of every variety.

That is to say, I grew up hearing a lot of pretty strong anti-catholic bigotry. It was commonly believed by many of my childhood friends that the Pope was the Antichrist. At the very least, it was widely agreed by most everyone that Catholicism isn't really Christianity, but rather an almost pagan idolatrous deviation from it. I'm old enough to have been aware of the controversy about Kennedy running for President (though he died a year before I was born) and quite aware of how a) Catholics in general were widely discriminated against in the US through the WWII era, and b) it was still the case that Catholics in the US were chiefly composed of ethnic groups—Irish, French, and Hispanic—that were tellingly near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

So the night I watched Sinead tear that photo of the Pope on live TV, I was appalled while my spouse was thrilled. My spouse chiefly saw the protest through the prism that Sinead intended it. I, also being an educated and progressive secularist, shared that perspective. But, also, at the same time, being from small town redneck America and not ultra urban Canada, as my spouse was, I had a strong sense of the existence of historical and still present anti-catholic bigotry that my spouse simply didn't share. The audience for Sinead's protest was American, not Irish, it was on American television and a large part of that audience still existed in an anti-catholic context that I'm certain Sinead was, at that time at least, completely oblivious to.

And then when all this erupted with the sexual violence stuff, I had —and still have—a similar reaction. It's not just because I often detect either explicit or implicit or echoes of anti-catholic bigotry, which I do. No, that wouldn't be enough to bother me given how badly the Church's hierarchy has been shown to have behaved. The other part of the problem for me is how much I know about child sexual assault. Well, incest, which is what this really is a form of (incest is best understood as sexual violence committed against a child by someone who is both trusted and in a position of power over the child, and usually occurs over an extended period of time). The only reason why people are perceiving Catholic priests as child molesters is because the spotlight has been turned upon this particular niche, among others, where incest occurs and we're finding them where the light is shining. Are Protestant ministers any less guilty? I sincerely doubt they are; and if they are, they will only be slightly less guilty because of the other factors involved in this. Boy Scout Troop leaders? Little League coaches? Fathers? Uncles? Incest happens all around us every day and we mostly don't see it because we don't want to see it. We willfully ignore that it's happening.

And here's the thing: the only time we truly look for it is when it's attached to a particular strain of moral panic, or a particularly disliked group, or especially both.

I'm all for finding it and stopping it. And I'm 200% opposed to institutional structures covering it up and protecting the criminals who rape children.

What I'm not comfortable with is when it's used as a means of stigmatizing a disfavored group and especially when it's used, inadvertently or otherwise, to direct attention away from the wider reality of sexual violence against children by caretakers and how institutions have always covered this up and protected the criminals who do it.

Frankly, the current Pope scares me. I think it's pretty clear that this guy represents the ascendancy of the more reactionary elements in the church. And I don't really have any problem believing the worst about the authorities that have aided and abetted continuing sexual violence. What bothers me is this particular intense and ubiquitous vituperation expressed against the Catholic Church that is either ignorant of the actual widespread and endemic nature of sexual violence against children and that it's more often covered-up than not (see Penn State), or is motivated by anti-catholic bigotry, or both.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:42 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


What I'm not comfortable with is when it's used as a means of stigmatizing a disfavored group and especially when it's used, inadvertently or otherwise, to direct attention away from the wider reality of sexual violence against children by caretakers and how institutions have always covered this up and protected the criminals who do it.

I think one of the differences (and not just in Ireland) between some forms of institutional abuse and the Catholic church's interaction is the international reach of the church, plus the fact that the Vatican is a state with all the rights and abilities to hide people that that implies. It's not just a case of people being moved within a country's system, it's the fact that the Vatican can move priests anywhere and fall back on its status as a state to impede investigations. Here's an interesting short comment piece in the Irish Times that points out how that has worked in Ireland: Lack of Vatican co-operation over child sex abuse led to closure of embassy.

Of course, in Ireland (and some other countries) it's made worse by the fact that the Catholic church for years has been so intertwined in state affairs: even now it is nominally in charge of most education and is fiercely fighting against losing most of that control. And that they used that power to commit some horrific abuse (the reports are really nauseating reading - I've never got through more than a page or two - how anyone in the church could not read it and weep is beyond me) and then a) covered it up even in the past few years and b) cut a deal with the Irish government that meant they paid only a fraction of the compensation claimed by victims. There's a need for the government to look at how all of this went on for so long, for sure, and how Irish society enabled it, but none of that means the church should get off the hook, given that members of the church used their power to commit horrific acts of physical and sexual abuse for over 50 years, all while shoring up their political power in other ways. And the current pope is as complicit in this as anyone; in fact, I would doubt that there is a single member of the Vatican elite who isn't complicit in some way: given that they can track doctrinal heterodoxy so easily, they sure as hell can track other failings of their clergy.

To get back to the issue of the pope's name: to get respect you also have to give respect. You have to respect your victims, your opponents, and your flock. I get very little sense that the Catholic church does any of that, or, at least, does any of that as a first move. Catholics who disagree with the Church are silenced, even if it's not a matter of doctrine - we have short memories, but when these stories of abuse first came out, the church's move was to attempt to silence or discredit anyone who tried to make them more known. It was only when backed into a corner, that it began to talk of atonement.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:52 AM on February 24, 2012


And the current pope is as complicit in this as anyone; in fact, I would doubt that there is a single member of the Vatican elite who isn't complicit in some way: given that they can track doctrinal heterodoxy so easily, they sure as hell can track other failings of their clergy.

Your "given that" bears no resemblance to reality.

To get back to the issue of the pope's name: to get respect you also have to give respect.

Right, so we'll just all not respect each other than? You'll just say everyone should act disrespectfully towards the Pope because, "to get respect you also have to give respect". But you're complaining about the Catholic Church not respecting people, which as you point out, is a two way street, which ties you all up in knots, because your maxim goes both ways.
posted by Jahaza at 6:05 AM on February 24, 2012


But you're complaining about the Catholic Church not respecting people,

People > Artificial Legal Entities ( and their Officers, Employees, and Agents )

We don't HAVE TO show our inferiors respect.

It's NICE to be polite to them if you care to.
posted by mikelieman at 8:05 AM on February 24, 2012


People > Artificial Legal Entities ( and their Officers, Employees, and Agents )

Uh, no. Because those "Officers, Employees, and Agents" are people. If you don't understand this, I wouldn't want to be your waiter.
posted by Jahaza at 8:20 AM on February 24, 2012


Jahaza, I honestly don't understand your response, any of it. Are you saying the church has no ability to track its clergy, their actions, and what they preach? Are you saying that the initial response to victims of abuse wasn't dismissive? Are you saying the Vatican didn't shield abusers?

Plus, forgive me if I expect decent behaviour of a church that claims to have been founded by Jesus.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:04 AM on February 24, 2012


You wrote that "the current pope is as complicit in this as anyone; in fact, I would doubt that there is a single member of the Vatican elite who isn't complicit in some way"

This is a strong claim to say that the Pope is as complict as anyone, considering that many Catholic clergy have gone to prison and others have paid millions in civil liability claims.

You presented the following argument for the Pope's complicity:

given that they can track doctrinal heterodoxy so easily, they sure as hell can track other failings of their clergy.

But this is entirely bogus. The Church does not in fact track doctrinal heterodoxy easily, it hardly tracks it at all. Cases where the Vatican acts against dissident theologians are highly newsworthy because they are quite rare.
posted by Jahaza at 10:32 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


But you're complaining about the Catholic Church not respecting people, which as you point out, is a two way street, which ties you all up in knots, because your maxim goes both ways.

This is the odd thing here.

Lack of respect 1: Calling one of the most powerful men in the world, who heads a global organization with vast resources and centuries of consolidated power, by a non-preferred name.

Lack of respect 2: Using moral and social pressure to silence victims of child abuse and their families, while using the reach of a global organization to prevent their abusers from facing due process.

Is it me, or does that seem like a false equivalency? And not one the perpetuation of which is likely to do the Church many favors in the long run?

This is a strong claim to say that the Pope is as complicit as anyone, considering that many Catholic clergy have gone to prison and others have paid millions in civil liability claims.

If the argument you're making is that the Pope is not as complicit as people who have actually molested children, Jahaza - well, it's setting the bar low, but fair enough. You have won the least moral victory I've ever seen.

However, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith seems to have been a little lax about taking even doctrinal action against priests reported to be molesting children (as long as they repented), and the fish does seem to rot from the head somewhat. Three separate archbishops were told about the Reverend Lawrence C Murphy, but none reported it to the authorities, and he was quietly moved to a difference parish. Letters sent to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger about the case appear simply not to have been responded to.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it me, or does that seem like a false equivalency?

Sure. Good thing no one argued they were equivalent!

If the argument you're making is that the Pope is not as complicit as people who have actually molested children, Jahaza - well, it's setting the bar low, but fair enough. You have won the least moral victory I've ever seen.

Perhaps you could read the whole sentence. It doesn't just talk about those sent to prison.

However, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith seems to have been a little lax about taking even doctrinal action against priests reported to be molesting children (as long as they repented), and the fish does seem to rot from the head somewhat.

This doesn't make very much sense. You're complaining that people who abused children haven't been punished for heresy?

posted by Jahaza at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure. Good thing no one argued they were equivalent!

Meanwhile, in Jahaza's own words directly previously:

Right, so we'll just all not respect each other than? You'll just say everyone should act disrespectfully towards the Pope because, "to get respect you also have to give respect". But you're complaining about the Catholic Church not respecting people, which as you point out, is a two way street, which ties you all up in knots, because your maxim goes both ways.

It's OK to be trying out your gotchas, Jahaza, but maybe you could do it in a less serious context until you've got the knack of it? At the moment it just seems like the pain of victims of abuse is massively less important to you than winning a fight - which would be pretty unfortunate, generally, but your argumentation is so inept, so dependent on one-line rejoinders and inept gotchas, that it feels kind of even more disrespectful.

This doesn't make very much sense. You're complaining that people who abused children haven't been punished for heresy?

No. Your need to score a point - a need rather in excess of your ability - is getting in the way of your ability to understand simple English. I am noting that the Congregation never completed a canonical court investigation or the Reverend - and suggesting that this kind of laissez-faire attitude has implications in how the three archbishops to whom the molestation was reported behaved. These are two wrongs, which together do not make a right.

Now, if you had some basic knowledge of the workings of the Catholic Church, or any curiosity about it, you would know that heresy is only one role of this Congregation. It investigates the Delicta graviora. These were defined in the Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, an apostic letter of Pope John Paul II. If you had read that, which you appear not to have, you would have read this:
§ 1. Reservation to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is also extended to a delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years.

§ 2. One who has perpetrated the delict mentioned in § 1 is to be punished according to the gravity of the offense, not excluding dismissal or deposition.
Now, it's very possible that you will not see lacking the basic facts, or apparently any interest in finding them out, as necessary or useful to your contribution to this discussion. However, it might be useful for anyone else reading this to understand where you are coming from - which appears to be simply a desire to have a fight, without having to put in the effort required even to have an argument.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2012


Now, if you had some basic knowledge of the workings of the Catholic Church, or any curiosity about it

I hardly ever do this, but: it's like you're new here or something.

No. Your need to score a point - a need rather in excess of your ability - is getting in the way of your ability to understand simple English.

I'm sorry, but your writing is not "simple English," it's very unclear.

lesbiassparrow was talking about the effective action of the CDF against heresy showing that the bungling of the sex abuse cases was intentional, arguing that their effectiveness in handling cases of theological dissent showed the complicity of the Vatican. I disagreed with this based on questioning the premise, saying that they weren't actually very effective in handling doctrinal cases.

So in that context the way you started talking about "doctrinal action" was very difficult to understand. No one talks about action of the CDF as "doctrinal action." I'm well aware that the CDF handles other issues besides heresy investigations.

Meanwhile, in Jahaza's own words directly previously:

No. My words don't draw an equivalency:

Right, so we'll just all not respect each other than? You'll just say everyone should act disrespectfully towards the Pope because, "to get respect you also have to give respect". But you're complaining about the Catholic Church not respecting people, which as you point out, is a two way street, which ties you all up in knots, because your maxim goes both ways.

There's no equivalency here. What I'm trying to point out is a futility. If everyone goes around saying "I'll respect you when you respect me." and "Respect me!" and "You're not respecting me so I won't respect you." we will have constrained ourselves into a form of discourse in which no one can ever respect anyone.
posted by Jahaza at 12:12 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, it has always bugged me when people say "respect has to be earned." That seems to me to undermine the very nature of respect.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on February 24, 2012


"Incidentally, it has always bugged me when people say 'respect has to be earned.' That seems to me to undermine the very nature of respect."

That's a good point. I think perhaps the aphorism intends something closer to "respect is a gift easily squandered and difficult to recover."
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:52 PM on February 24, 2012


I hardly ever do this, but: it's like you're new here or something.

OK, hold on..

Ah - so it looks like you have strong opinions about Canon law which other people find eccentric or questionable. I guess it's possible that you were simply acting as if you did not know the role of the CFD rather than actually ignorant of it. I guess we will never know. Certainly, given the circumstances, I can understand why you would want to avoid mentioning its remit.

Nonetheless. While respect may not have to be earned - we are all entitled to baseline respect - it can certainly be lost. I don't think it's crazy to say that one can squander respect, as Ivan Fyodorovich says. As an example, while many people on MetaFilter might respect Rick Santorum's right to life, it is not unreasonable of them to say that he has surrendered his right for them to respect him as a person or as a politician through his actions and statements.

Thus, for example, one might lose respect for the work of the CFD, and its former head, when looking at a period of decades during which it appears to have fumbled one of the biggest issues facing the claim of the Church to moral leadership - and one specifically within its remit - to the vast detriment of many innocents and the Church itself.

As I said:

Lack of respect 1: Calling one of the most powerful men in the world, who heads a global organization with vast resources and centuries of consolidated power, by a non-preferred name.

Lack of respect 2: Using moral and social pressure to silence victims of child abuse and their families, while using the reach of a global organization to prevent their abusers from facing due process.


To suggest with a straight face that these are comparable is not only a false equivalency, but a real argumentative Hail Mary. If you'll excuse the pun.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:16 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(CFD=CDF. Never write about this and Occupy Chicago simultaneously.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:18 PM on February 24, 2012


Uh, no. Because those "Officers, Employees, and Agents" are people. If you don't understand this, I wouldn't want to be your waiter.

While they're on the clock, and subordinate to an artificial legal entity which itself is subordinate to me, they're not the same as if they were just hanging around. It is, of course dependent on the role.

And just because I don't feel a need to establish some big mutual-respect-thing with the guy bringing me my soup, doesn't mean I'm incapable of tipping well. It just means that while he's punched in, I don't really need to consider him outside of the context of the Artificial Legal Entity directing his actions.
posted by mikelieman at 8:12 PM on February 24, 2012


"And just because I don't feel a need to establish some big mutual-respect-thing with the guy bringing me my soup, doesn't mean I'm incapable of tipping well."

I'm pretty sure that he wasn't referring to your tipping. Your seeing it as tipping and not how he meant it is sort of proving his point.

Because so many people dehumanize service employees and basically don't even much acknowledge their existence, I make a deliberate effort to connect with each one as a person. This isn't as much an affectation as you might think—when I was a small child, I noticed when I was out with my father that he was very nice to all the random strangers he encountered, especially sales counter clerks and the like, and that he was nice in a way that was never patronizing, but just made people comfortable and feel seen and liked as individuals worth liking. It impressed me greatly, I could tell it was unusual, and it just seemed so right and good to me, that I deeply internalized it very early on.

The funny thing is, well, he treated all those strangers and coworkers so much better than he treated his actual family, including me.

But I'm not like that. So he taught me two important lessons by example, not just one.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:52 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thus, for example, one might lose respect for the work of the CFD, and its former head, when looking at a period of decades during which it appears to have fumbled one of the biggest issues facing the claim of the Church to moral leadership - and one specifically within its remit - to the vast detriment of many innocents and the Church itself.

Except that the CDF didn't have jurisdiction over sexual abuse cases (except for solicitation in the confessional) until Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, so there is no period of decades during which the CDF fumbled the sex abuse scandal under Cardinal Ratzinger's leadership.
posted by Jahaza at 9:30 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because so many people dehumanize service employees and basically don't even much acknowledge their existence

But that's not what I'm doing.

I'm just pointing out that the "Chain of Command" is:

Me > Corporation > Employee

And since I *refuse* to consider a Corporation to be my equal, I'm not going to pretend one of their drones is.

If they don't like it, they can clock-out, and I'll buy them a drink and explain how it's not personal. It's just that when they're on the clock, they're a drone.

Which, has the added benefit of denying those Corporations the opportunity to hide behind their Employees. The employee is RESPONSIBLE for nothing. It's all on the Corp, and when they shove an employee forward to take a bullet rather than standing up and doing the right thing, well, that tells you all you need to know about that Corporation, doesn't it?
posted by mikelieman at 5:02 AM on February 25, 2012


And relative to the discussion at hand, when the Corp goes out of their way to blame the victim and cover up for the criminal employees, that makes it a criminal organization. And it's time to stop focusing on the individual perps and put the criminal organization down so it can't hurt anyone else.
posted by mikelieman at 5:05 AM on February 25, 2012


The Church does not in fact track doctrinal heterodoxy easily, it hardly tracks it at all.

Really? The reason why I find this somewhat astonishing is that this is posted below an article that is all about the Vatican coming down hard on various people they feel are being heterodox. They've got an amazing reporting system, which is what you would expect, surely - it's been one of the reasons why in Ireland people keep insisting we should bring back the Vatican embassy.

But to get back to my point about the Vatican hierarchy being complicit in covering up abuse, I'll point to the story that I linked to, which was specifically about how the Vatican, through the papal nuncio to Ireland, refused to hand over information which was requested by various Irish state investigations. Now, it is possible that the papal nuncio made that call all on their own, but it seems more likely that that request went all the way to the Vatican which then made the call not to hand over the information, relying on what is, honestly, a crap excuse. It is also possible that this call at the Vatican was made by the guy that makes the tea, but I suspect not: therefore, there is only one assumption to be made, and that is that higher powers at the Vatican felt it was not important to hand over information about child abuse to an Irish government investigation.

I'm going to quote the article, just in case you don't feel like clicking through:

"Then in May 2001 the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope) contacted every Catholic bishop in the world, including then archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell and then bishop of Cloyne John Magee.

He directed them to send all clerical child sex abuse allegations “with a semblance of truth” to him. On foot of this and prior Vatican decisions the Murphy commission, which investigated abuse in Dublin, wrote to the congregation in September 2006 seeking co-operation. It got none.

Instead the Vatican complained to Dublin that the commission had not used proper channels, ie it had not gone through the Department of Foreign Affairs. As should have been known in Rome the Murphy commission could not use the Irish State’s “proper channels” as it was also investigating this State’s handling of allegations.

So, in February 2007 the commission wrote to the papal nuncio in Dublin asking for relevant documents. There was no reply. In early 2009 it again wrote to the nuncio, enclosing a draft of its report for comment. There was no reply.

During its later investigations into Cloyne diocese it also wrote to the nuncio. This time he responded to say he was “unable to assist”. That was how the Holy See treated two inquiries set up by our government to investigate the gravest of abuses of thousands of Irish children by priests. It ignored them."

The only assumption that I can draw from this is that the Vatican - at very high levels - has been complicit in covering up abuse.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:54 AM on February 25, 2012


Except that the CDF didn't have jurisdiction over sexual abuse cases (except for solicitation in the confessional) until Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, so there is no period of decades during which the CDF fumbled the sex abuse scandal under Cardinal Ratzinger's leadership.

Well, according to Msgr. Charles Scicluna - whom you woud expect to know a bit about this - the 1983 Code of Canon Law created uncertainty about the role of that dicastery in these cases - which uncertainty was only clarified by sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. But possibly you know more about canon law and the role of the CDF than he does. Perhaps we could get him into MetaTalk to talk it out?

I mean, we can wander around the houses if you want. We could talk about the crimen solicitationis and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. We could, for that matter, talk about Peter Hullerman, if you like, or about Alvin Campbell, or Juan Carlos Patingo-Arango. Heck, we could talk about what Tarcisio Bertone was saying as recently as 2010, and what that might be taken to mean about priorities within the church. Or we could talk about Ireland in the present. But I imagine we will encounter similar objections on your part to each of these and other discussions.

I am surprised that you are choosing to rules-lawyer this, but I guess a lot depends on how seriously you think this sort of matter ought to be taken.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:34 AM on February 26, 2012


60 Minutes: The Archbishop of Dublin challenges the Church
posted by homunculus at 7:09 PM on March 4, 2012


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