What’s Missing in the George Pell Story?

It’s just come to light that Cardinal George Pell is going to appear in court in Australia on sexual assault charges. Good. It’s about damn time.

But what I’m not seeing in all of the coversage I’ve read so far is any mention of the church cooperating with the investigation. They are not, as far as I can tell, sending along any documents showing where Pell may have been at the relevant times, any notes from his personnel files, letters to his past, present, or future supervisors or colleagues.

Credit where credit is due: the Catholic church in Montreal has started a program whereby priests and church volunteers will be fingerprinted before being allowed to work with children and other vulnerable people, and will not be left alone with them. And this seems to be voluntary, as a result of public outcry stemming from earlier sex crimes, but not imposed by a court. So bravo. However, this is just a local program.

The church as a whole still has not come clean, and continues to impede criminal investigations. So don’t let anyone tell you that the scandal is over, because the coverup continues.

Pope Accused of Covering Up Child Rape in Argentina

Just a reminder that the Catholic Church’s child-abuse coverup scandal isn’t over.

According to Le Monde (in French only; sorry. But here’s a story from last year about this case), lawyers are accusing the Catholic church of covering up child rape and abuse in Italy and Argentina, the current pope’s old stomping grounds. Not only that, but they say that Jorge Bergoglio, now better known as Pope Francis, was personally warned about fifteen abusive priests in 2014, and that he did nothing.
One of the victims claims to have given a copy of the letter to the pope in person, in 2015. So this isn’t ancient history, and it can’t be blamed on the previous administration.
The current case involves children at the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Mendoza, Argentina. Not only were the victims children, which is bad enough, but they were deaf, meaning that they had additional difficulties making themselves understood, since sometimes even their own parents didn’t know sign.
Although the Catholic church has allegedly conducted its own investigation, it hasn’t shared its results with the Argentine authorities. In other words, the Catholic church was shielding child abusers from justice, as of just a few years ago.
That makes it a criminal organization. If you’re still a Catholic, why?

Holy Mother Church, Repository of Christian Moral Teaching, Incorporates Child Abuse into Orientation-Day Ethics Training Materials

File this under “about goddamn time”:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ sex abuse commission has scored a victory within the Vatican: Members have been invited to address Vatican congregations and a training course for new bishops, suggesting that the Holy See now considers child protection programs to be an important responsibility for church leaders.

Commission members praised the development as a breakthrough given that bishops have long been accused of covering up for abusers by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police. For decades, the Vatican too turned a blind eye and failed to take action against problem priests or their bishop enablers.

It’s nice that an organization that considers itself the authoritative source of morals has finally figured out that hey, maybe raping kids is enough of a bad idea that it’s worth mentioning during orientation.

The article goes on to mention that pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a handful of bishops. But it remains to be seen what the church knows about child-abusers still in its ranks, or within its purview. The Vatican loves its mysteries, after all.

I Should Have Known the Pope Wasn’t Going to Change Policy

The news today mentioned that Pope Francis I had okayed contraception for women in Zika-struck areas. Yay, liberal hippie pope! My complaint since the beginning of his tenure is that while he gives good press conference, that’s all he does: he hasn’t changed the church’s policy, and that’s the real problem.

At least so far, the Catholic church has been opposed to both contraception and abortion; Catholic hospitals don’t provide contraceptives when they have a choice, the previous pope famously told Africans that condoms make the AIDS crisis worse. Claims that contraceptives cause abortions. So against that backdrop, saying that contraception ≠ abortion is a step in the right direction, no?

Except, well, maybe not so much: according to AP,

Abortion “is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil at its root, no? It’s a human evil,” Francis told reporters. “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one (Zika), such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

That’s a reference to a document from 1968 in which that okayed contraception for nuns in the Congo who were being raped.

In other words, Francis still isn’t changing policy. He’s just reaffirming Catholic policy from fifty years ago, policy that’s slightly less dogmatic than the way it’s usually portrayed.

U.N. officials have called on Latin American countries to loosen their abortion laws to allow women to terminate pregnancies if they fear the fetus may be at risk for microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes brain damage and may be linked to the virus.

But Francis told reporters, “Taking one life to save another, that’s what the Mafia does. It’s a crime. It’s an absolute evil.”

So if you’ve found out that your fetus will likely never develop normal brain function; or if you have an ectopic pregnancy; and decide to abort, well, then apparently that makes you just like the Mafia.

Vatican Values

From AP and the Washington Post, the latest on the Vatileaks story (that I mentioned earlier)

MILAN — A Vatican judge on Saturday indicted five people, including two journalists and a high-ranking Vatican monsignor, in a scandal involving leaked documents that informed two books alleging financial malfeasance in the Roman Catholic church bureaucracy.

I’m surprised at how quickly the Catholic church is moving in this case. I mean, the alleged crimes occurred less than twenty years ago!

I guess the lesson here is that it’s okay to rape kids; it’s okay to be a Nazi. But don’t you dare talk about the Vatican’s finances.

Hey, the Vatican Has Jail Cells! Who Knew?

The Associated Press reports (via WaPo): “Vatican arrests 2 people in latest probe of leaked documents“. In brief: a few years ago, a monsignor and a collaborator leaked documents relating to pope Benedict 16’s finances.

A Vatican spokesman said Vallejo Balda was being held in a jail cell in Vatican City, and that Chaouqui was allowed to go free because she cooperated in the probe.

This is news to me. I didn’t realize that the Vatican had jail cells, and I’d never seen the words “Vatican arrests” before.
But this raises a further question: evidently the Vatican sees leaking documents as a crime serious enough to warrant arrest and imprisonment. But raping children or covering that up? Not so much. Why is that?

Pope Francis Might Not Be A Liberal Savior After All

BillDo, the founder and sole apparent member of the Catholic League, has decided to make himself useful by listing a number of things Pope Frankie Goes to Vatican has said that may not entirely square up with some people’s image of him as the liberalest theologian since Hippie Jesus.

A lot of these quotations are short, and thus I suspect that they’re as cherry-picked as anything, but some of them stood out to me (emphasis added by me, throughout):

“Those with alternative teachings and doctrines [have] a partial belonging to the church. [They] have one foot outside the church. They rent the church.”

which sounds like “make up your minds. Do you want to control your sex lives with contraception, or do you want communion?”

“The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a ‘false compassion,’ that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who ‘sees,’ ‘has compassion,’ approaches and provides concrete help.”

No, you don’t get to control when you have kids or how many, nor do you get any say in when you die. Sorry not sorry.

“If someone says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.

Not a big fan of the US First Amendment, or of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I’m guessing.

“If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

Sure, we love gays! At least, as long as they repent and promise to stop acting gay in public.

“Gender ideology is demonic!”

On the issue of women priests:

“The Church has spoken and said: ‘No.’ John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That door is closed.”


As I said, this is BillDo we’re talking about, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he were spinning some or all of these quotations to fit his right-wing agenda. But I don’t think it’s all him. I’m pretty sure that while Francis may seem progressive in the Vatican, elsewhere that just makes him slightly less reactionary than other cardinals.

Homophobic Pope Distances Self From Homophobic Clerk

The Associated press reports that

The Vatican on Friday distanced Pope Francis from Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, saying she was one of dozens of people the pope greeted in the U.S. and that their meeting “should not be considered a form of support of her position.”

The article goes on to quote a spokesman (I almost wrote spokesperson, but then remembered that this is the Vatican we’re talking about) that the pope meets with lots of people, and doesn’t necessarily agree with — or even know anything about — all of them.

So basically, Kim Davis is like a stereotypical teenage girl who’s over the moon because One Direction waved to her from on stage at a concert, and she imagines herself BFF with the band. Meanwhile, Harry Styles is all, “Who?”.

I do note that Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman (remember? I was talking about the pope a moment ago) is quoted as saying,

“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Lombardi said.

The emphasized weasel words allow the Vatican to play it both ways: they’ll be able to either agree or disagree with her in the future, depending what’s more convenient at the time, because hey, Davis’s position is complex.

And by the way, I’d like to welcome our conservative friends: for years, pope Francis has been quoted by the media as saying some reasonably liberal and forward-thinking things (“Who am I to judge [gay people]?”), and then his people come back a day or two later and explain that ha ha no, he didn’t actually mean it (“no, gays can’t marry or form relationships or have sex, but if they want to come to church and confess that they’re sinners, we welcome them.”). This time, he just did it with a conservative cause instead of a liberal one.

Dead Pope Prankster

Part 1

Achievement unlocked: Attain sainthood
There’s a story being repeated uncritically all over the Net, about a woman who had a brain aneurysm, but didn’t die of it because a dead pope magically healed her.

Oh, and this allows the dead pope to level up. From HuffPo:

Mora, her doctors and the Catholic Church say her aneurysm disappeared that day in a miracle that cleared the way for the late pope to be declared a saint on April 27 in a ceremony at the Vatican where Mora will be a guest of honor.

Now, one might reasonably ask, how do we know that this was really magic? Floribeth Mora presents this compelling line of evidence:

Acknowledging that many people would be highly sceptical of her recovery, and of the whole concept of miracles, she said that “people can think what they want – what I know is that I’m healthy.”

“There are always people who don’t believe me, who say I’m crazy, but what counts for me today is that this ‘crazy woman’ is cured.”

So we know that she was cured because she said so. With evidence like that, who needs to see X-rays or MRIs or lab results? Besides The Telegraph writes:

Even her neurosurgeon seems to be convinced. “If I cannot explain it from a medical standpoint, something non-medical happened,” said Alejandro Vargas Roman. “I can believe it was a miracle.”

But here’s what Reuters wrote last year, when the Catholic Church approved Mora’s cure as the second in the two-miracle-minimum needed for John Paul II’s promotion:

The neurosurgeon who admitted and diagnosed Mora, however, denies he gave her a month to live. Alejandro Vargas says he forecast only a 2 percent chance Mora could bleed into her brain again within a year of her diagnosis, possibly killing her.

“She was sent home with medication that would reduce her blood pressure and was advised to improve her diet so as not to raise her cholesterol levels and thus decrease the chance of her having a second bleeding episode. She was sedated because the headaches were too sharp,” he told Reuters. “We didn’t send her home to be sedated and wait until she died in her sleep.”

That’s all well and good—how many people can you name who survived a disease with a 2% mortality rate?—but how do we know that Dead Pope was involved? Religion News Service:

She claimed her prayers were answered when John Paul II appeared to her in a vision on the day he was beatified — the first step on the road to sainthood — after he was credited with his first miracle.

“When I woke up in the morning, I looked at the magazine cover which showed Pope Wojtyla with his arms outstretched.

“I felt a deep sense of healing. I heard his voice say to me, ‘Get up and don’t be afraid,’” she said, recalling one of John Paul’s signature lines.

I don’t know what else you doubting Thomases want. If you can’t trust someone who’s just been stressed out by a hospital stay, is on new meds, and has a thing in her brain, whom can you trust? There’s no way she could possibly be mistaken!

But she was cured, right? And both Mora and her doctor said that they don’t know how she was healed, so therefore they know how she was healed (it was Dead Pope Magic) (Dead Pope Magic is the name of my next webcomic). That’s just logic.

Okay, so she was dying (but not really dying) of an aneurysm, and now it’s gone. And she can’t think of a better explanation than the one that she really really likes (Dead Pope magiced her back to health), so obviously that explanation must be the correct one. And she won’t provide any solid evidence because, well, doubters gonna doubt.

I’m sold!


Part 2

But apparently there’s some kind of Law of Conservation of Pope Magic, because on the same day that the Catholic church was celebrating Dead Pope John Paul II healing that one woman… Well, I’ll let Italian news agency ANSA tell it:

(ANSA) – Brescia, April 24 – A young man in northern Italy was crushed to death Thursday by a falling crucifix that was built to honor pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Brescia. The 21-year-old’s death comes just three days before John Paul will be canonized in Rome.

Does this count as JP2’s third miracle?