The “I Don’t Judge” Cop Out

For those of you who are not up to date with Christian traditions, today is the last day of Carnival, and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, i.e. the first day of Lent. Different Christian sects do Lent in different ways. The Orthodox, for example, go vegan for Lent, while the Catholics are supposed to not eat meat on Fridays and give up something else, usually sweets and fatty foods, until Easter arrives.

I mention this because this is how I came to discover the existence of “Father Mike”. An old friend of mine seems to have gone Catholic, as she posted a video by this Father Mike character on her Facebook page talking about what Lent is and what you are supposed to do as a Catholic.

Seeing a handsome man in a collar, I clicked on it hoping that it was going to be an ironic parody of some sort. But no, he is apparently a real priest, chosen to make online videos because of his 1980s-style good looks and friendly manner, who also happens to talk like he’s on speed, and the whole thing was rather boring. What caught my attention, however, were the other videos by Father Mike that popped up as soon as I had clicked play, one being entitled “Father Mike and Transgenderism”.

Oh dear. Oh boy. This seems to be the running theme of the Catholic Church these days, doesn’t it? Don’t change the message, don’t be more accepting, but just keep saying awful things about “the other” with a handsome toothy smile, assuring everyone that it’s not judgement, just love!

Maybe I’m being unfair. I clicked on the video, and forced myself to watch the whole thing this time.

Content note: get ready for some serious transphobia, willful ignorance, all served up smothered to death in condescension.

 

That. Was. Torture.

I knew my suspicions were going to be proven correct from the very first line, when he introduced the video with an anecdote about his nephew pretending to be a puppy, even though some part of me was shocked that he would be so blatant in his putting down of transgendered individuals. No, I thought, he wont, he wont go there….

But he did. He actually equated being transgendered to being a child playing and pretending to be a puppy. He then decided to get a little more “scientific”, and equated being transgendered to being anorexic and having Body Integrity Identity Disorder, which is when healthy people are convinced that they are disabled.

I can’t believe I actually managed to watch the entire thing without barfing, though I came very close indeed. If there is one thing in this world that can really get under my skin, it is condescension. I hated it as a child when people talked down to me, and I care for it no more as an adult. I can handle the scientific ignorance, and the blatant disregard for human decency stemming from that ignorance, because ignorance is something that can be dissipated with education. But this guy is either a smarmy patronizing asshole by default, and therefore cannot help coming off as one when talking about a topic of which he is completely ignorant, or he is pushing his staggering ignorance on his fans knowing full well that he is doing so.

This video is so childishly ridiculous that I don’t want to do it justice by going through it point by point and explaining why being transgendered is not like pretending to be a puppy, or not liking how your genitals look, if anything such an explanation will wind up being condescending in itself. If you want a better understanding of gender identity, how transgenderism is not a mental disease, and the complexity of what the transition entails, there are a number of transgendered bloggers, many of whom are on this network, who discuss the topic in detail and far better than I ever could.

What I am going to say is that this is exactly the kind of thing that I was talking about when I claimed that I want Ratzinger back. This phoney liberal facade is driving me up the wall. That cranky ex-Nazi SOB was honest in his discrimination, and he put the ugly face on hate that hate so justly deserves. The world is changing and society is progressing, and more and more people are recoiling in the face of vehemence and violent, unadulterated hatred. So, of course, hate has to adapt, or risk being lost altogether, and what will an institution like the Vatican be if it can’t other people anymore?

So, everybody! Do you want to still discriminate against people without looking like a tool? Just smile, and say things like love the sinner, hate the sin! Remind everyone that you’re not judging them, you’re just smothering them in your love for them while telling them they are diseased! Talk down to them, and no one will notice, because we all know that SJWs have the intellectual capacity of a toddler. Let’s not ensure the survival of our religion by actually progressing with society, but rather by changing the way we spew our disgusting ideas.

I am so sick of it. If you’re going to be an intolerant douchebag, just be upfront about it. That way, I can at least give you 1 point for honesty, which will bring your entire score to 1, I suppose. Still, there is integrity in honesty, and everyone can see your message for what it is, and dismiss it. Or, at least, Catholics will know exactly what it is they’re signing up for.

When Catholic Fake Science Saved Lives

I think I’ve railed on bad science and woo enough on this blog to make my views on the matter perfectly clear. I think it is exploitative, dangerous, and contributes largely to the dumbing down of our society. However, in an almost “the exception that proves the rule” kind of way (though I never really understood why that phrase makes sense), I have come across an interesting story that I had never heard of before, despite the fact that it took place in my hometown of Rome. In this ironic twist fake science, perpetrated by Catholic doctors, actually saved a good many lives.

In the fall of 1943, German soldiers in Italy began rounding up Italian Jews and deporting them—10,000 people were sent to concentration camps during the nearly two-year Nazi occupation. Most never returned. But in Rome, a group of doctors saved at least 20 Jews from a similar fate, by diagnosing them with Syndrome K, a deadly, disfiguring, and “contagiosissima” disease.

You have probably never heard of this highly infectious and contagious disease. Don’t worry, it has been eradicated, by which I mean that it never actually existed.

The disease did not exist in any medical textbook or physician’s chart. In fact, it didn’t exist at all. It was a codename invented by doctor and anti-fascist activist Adriano Ossicini, to help distinguish between real patients and healthy hideaways. (Political dissidents and a revolutionary underground radio station were also sheltered there from Italy’s Fascist regime.)

The fake illness was vividly imagined: Rooms holding “Syndrome K” sufferers were designated as dangerously infectious—dissuading Nazi inspectors from entering—and Jewish children were instructed to cough, in imitation of tuberculosis, when soldiers passed through the hospital.

OK, so now you’re probably thinking wait, that doesn’t count! They didn’t really believe that there was such a thing as Syndrome K, that’s not fake science! And yes, you have a point there.

Still, they did manage to convince the Nazis of the existence of this deadly disease, contributing to and relying upon their ignorance of medicine and science. Furthermore, these were in fact Catholic doctors, working in a Catholic hospital, risking their lives to save these people not in order to convert them, or because of a Vatican mandate, but relying on their own sense of human decency. I shit on Catholicism a lot for what it has done around the world, but I will certainly acknowledge good Catholic people doing brave and heroic things when they do.

While the overall tally indicates that the world would be better off without both fake science and Catholicism, I still can’t help bringing this story up as the exception to the rule. It was a stroke of brilliance, and it really did work. While it is impossible to say exactly how many people were saved by a Syndrome K diagnosis, it is also true that 9,000 of the 10,000 Roman Jews managed to evade arrest, and the doctors at Fatebenefratelli definitely played their part in that.

Bring Ratzinger Back

It is official. I miss the old Pope, and I want him back.

That may seem like an odd statement coming from a liberal SJW atheist. I mean, we all know that this new Pope is miles more liberal than the old one, right? Sure, we’d all rather there be no Vatican at all, but given the situation, better a liberal Pope than one firmly stuck in the dark ages, right?

Well, I thought that at first, but now I think I’ll take Ratzinger over this new guy any day.

Regular readers will know of the way that the Vatican is trying to evict elderly people and families out of their homes in an attempt to make even more money on their tens of thousands of tax free, private properties in Italy, my own Grandmother included. It was during this personal struggle in my family that I finally realized how much harder all of our battles against the institution of the Vatican has become, and how much better it was to have that old fart who looked like evil incarnate in charge.

Pope Francis has been a marketing genius, there is no mistaking that. He hired a Fox News correspondent to head his PR campaign, who also happens to be a member of the extreme Catholic sect Opus Dei, something in direct contrast to his liberal media persona to begin with. But Greg Burke has been earning his paycheck and then some, and the whole world is enthralled.

But when it comes right down to it, what has really changed with this new Pope in charge? Other than washing a few feet of some Syrian refugees, and kissing a few terminally ill children?

The fact is, the giant eviction of the elderly in Rome, which begun under Ratzinger, is still going on.

The sheltering of pedophile priests and cardinals so that they do not have to face their accusers, is still going on.

Outside of the media spotlight, he is even ramping up the extreme faction of the Catholic church, like increasing the number and legitimizing exorcists and exorcisms, agreeing that there is an international crisis in dire need of such nonsense.

But when you try to point this out to people?

I see people like my Mother, or my friends. I am an atheist, and so I’m just being confrontational, when I criticize the new Pope. He’s wonderful, he’s doing his best to combat the corruption in the Vatican, they tell me. Surely he doesn’t personally know that the archbishop, that he appointed and brought with him from Argentina, is personally making regular harassing visits to my Grandmother, trying to convince her to clear out so that they can make more rent on her apartment. If he knew, he’d put a stop to it! No, I’m just being annoying, I wouldn’t like any Pope, let’s just let this guy do his job, he’s wonderful, did you see that picture of him kissing the dirty feet of that Muslim guy?

This is why I want Ratzinger back. Nobody liked that douchebag. Catholic attendance was plummeting across the world, it was becoming old-fashioned and lame, the picture of corruption, and Ratzinger was the ugly jewel bedecked face of it all. He was honest about being a nasty bastard, and he was a common enemy that atheists and Catholic sympathizers alike could fight.

But Pope Francis? Catholic attendance is back up, despite the fact that the Vatican is not cleaning up their act in any real way. And when sexual abusers are sheltered, it must be a fluke, or Pope Francis had to make a small concession to the other cardinals for the greater good. When they evict people from their homes to make even more cash than they already make, it’s just an oversight, and he’ll put a stop to it all once we write him enough letters and make him aware of the problem. There is nothing to see here, no real problem that is not on its merry way to being fixed.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of watching the wool being pulled over everyone’s eyes, and no one standing up to fight for transparency, and for what is right. I’m sick of this complacency that his perfect PR image is causing, that no one can dare criticize what is going on less it goes against the angelic narrative that everyone has bought into.

Bring back Ratzinger. He may have been a crafty old SOB, but at least he was bringing the trend of Catholic attendance, Vatican support and confidence in the right direction: straight down the toilet.

Elephant in the Room Part IV: The Elephant Has Been Spotted

A few days ago, I posted about a woman who died in Italy of sepsis after miscarrying twins. Her family claimed that she died because the doctor on call was a conscientious objector, and refused to complete the abortion she needed to save her life because he could still detect a foetal heartbeat. The hospital denies the charges, but a manslaughter investigation is still underway to assess whether or not the family’s claims have merit.

While Italian law allows for conscientious objection only in the matter of the voluntary termination of a pregnancy, I pointed out that it should not be allowed under any circumstances, particularly in public hospitals. If performing an abortion goes against your moral values, I argued, you need to go into a different specialization or profession. Similarly, if you are a pacifist and owning or firing a gun goes against your moral code (and Italian law also permits conscientious objection to firearms), you cannot be a police officer. I pointed out that no one was really talking about the deep problems with conscientious objection in the medical field, and how our country has a two-fold problem of Catholic hospitals with emergency rooms, which can lead women needing emergency pregnancy-related care to be brought to those hospitals, and conscientious objectors being hired in non-Catholic public hospitals as well.

Well, the elephant in the room has been spotted at last. The controversy surrounding that poor woman’s death is sparking debate and outrage which is not dying down, and I am finally seeing articles addressing the problem of conscientious objection. A study has been conducted to investigate just how many conscientious objectors there are working in hospitals across the country, and the results are mind boggling.

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The Essence of Romans

There has been a Roman controversy on social media going on over the past couple of weeks. I have been passively witnessing it, and I have decided that these three images perfectly summarize the essence of Rome, and Romans.

It all started with street art. Those of you who have visited Rome but did not venture far from the tourist hotspots might not know this, but Rome is overrun with graffiti. It is everywhere, and most of it is stupid tagging. However, there is also a decent amount of street art, and this most recent mural by the artist known as Maupal is no exception.

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Elephant in the Room Part II: And It Happens In Italy

and I am deeply disgusted with my country.

Many of you will be familiar by now with the story of Savita, who died of sepsis in Ireland when she was miscarrying and medical staff refused to cure her due to the fact that they could still detect a foetal heartbeat. Her death understandably sparked worldwide outrage and a national debate, centered around the fact that it is still, to this day, illegal to obtain an abortion in Ireland.

Despite also being a predominantly Catholic country, Italy legalized abortion back in the 1970s. For the first three months, a woman can seek an abortion for whichever reason, and she can get the procedure done in a state hospital. After three months, abortion is legal for medical reasons. While on its face the law provides Italian women with more reproductive rights than in Ireland, it is not true that Catholicism has not left its mark upon it.

Italian law allows for doctors to be obiettori di coscienza, or conscientious objectors. This means that no doctor in Italy is forced to perform abortions contrary to their religious or moral beliefs. While most Italian states require doctors to register as conscientious objectors, thereby making sure that there is at least one doctor per hospital who will perform abortions, this regulation is not very well enforced and women in more conservative parts of the country can find themselves falling through the cracks.

The results, of course, are predictable.

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It’s An Emergency, Apparently

I remember reading a story a few years back about the old boys at the Vatican getting their skirts in a bunch over Harry Potter and Twilight. One self-proclaimed exorcist for the Vatican went to the media and ranted about the corruption of our youth. The only thing I got out of the kerfuffle was HA! The Vatican still has exorcists?!

Nooo, I was assured by my Catholic colleagues and friends. This guy is fringe, he’s silly, but the Vatican doesn’t actually still employ exorcists, like, to do exorcisms! It’s something that is dying out, he’s probably the last official “exorcist” on the payroll. And now that I’m told that this new Pope is so liberal and carefree, there wont be a single exorcist left, amirite?

Well, then I came across this story, and I laughed so hard I had to make sure it wasn’t published by the Onion.

Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult,  experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said.

Well, at least they seem to agree on both sides of the pond! Let’s continue.

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil. 

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper. 

Guys, there is an International Association of Exorcists. I can’t even. I wonder if they have a website?

Dr Cascioli teaches courses in exorcism at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum, a Vatican-backed university in Rome. “The number of exorcists has increased in recent years, but there are still not enough to deal with a dramatic situation that affects, above all, young people who use the internet a lot.

Well, website or not, you can take University courses in exorcism! How fun is that?

The fact of the matter is, exorcists are far from being a dying breed in the Catholic Church. The International Association of Exorcists apparently sports over 250 members in 30 countries, and not only was it approved by the Vatican, Pope Francis himself has been credited with a rise in membership and demand, and has personally praised them for combating the Devil’s works.

Remind me again how this Pope is liberal, evolved and not bogged down in the old-fashioned again? Looks like his PR man, former Fox News correspondent, is earning his paycheck nicely, as that remains his reputation thus far.

But before I wrap this up, I’d like to leave you with a few more parting words from our dear Exorcist in Chief, Valter Cascioli.

Whereas belief in Satan was common among Christians centuries ago, fewer people now believe in the concept of outright evil.

That was the Devil’s sly intention – to fool people into believing that he does not really exist, said Dr Cascioli.

“His trickery is to make us believe that he does not exist. But the point is the same – to deaden people’s faith.”

The risks of dabbling with the dark arts were often underestimated, he said.

“People whose faith is lukewarm don’t pay enough attention to demonic activity, and the temptation to engage in it.”

Well, the expression isn’t “that sly Devil” for nothing!

Seriously though, don’t believe the hype around Pope Francis. Just because his predecessor looked like, and had the reputation of a Sith Lord, that doesn’t mean that the current Pope is any less superstitious, or any less keen to promote ignorance.

It just means that he did a much better job at hiring people who know PR.

 

I’m Sold

If I were Australian, I think I just might have to vote for the Australian Sex Party. When you come out with a campaign video like this, I’m sold.

 

It’s not just the hilarious musical parody, or their message to get religion out of government. I can actually get behind every single one of the issues they care about. As they put it:

ASXPPlatform

They might as well be the FtB party. I’m loving these guys.

Instructions on how to vote for the Sex Party in Australia can be found here.

Any Australians out there who could give a little more context and background on the Australian elections, feel free to dominate the comments section!

Too Little, Too Late, Too Victim-Blamey

Everyone is raving about this new Pope, aren’t they? Wow, he actually said let’s try to shift the focus away from hating on people, round of applause on that one. Oh, and priests, please try to stop raping the kiddies, mmkay?

In response to the latter request, the Catholic Church in Montreal has issued a decree banning priests from being left alone with children.

According to the decree, the move was to “ensure the safety and integrity of the people to whom we bring the Gospel message and offer our pastoral care”

In an accompanying letter, Lepine said: “Recent events brought to light the horrific reality of abuse of minors and vulnerable people by members of the church. These intolerable situations have shocked and shaken the Universal Church as well as the entire population.”

 

That almost sounds like an admission of guilt, right? Except it wouldn’t be the Catholic Church if it didn’t add some victim blaming into the mix.

 

But, it added, it was also “to preserve the integrity, security and good reputation of God’s people”.

“Imagine if you are alone in a room and a child accuses you of hitting them, how will you react?” Sarrazin said. “Whether it’s true or not, you need a witness. Not being in the room alone with someone who is vulnerable is simply being prudent.”

 

In the grand scheme of things, regardless of the language, not letting the priests be alone with kids is overall a good idea. Even better would be to get rid of the raping priests, have accountability and transparency, and eventually have the entire institution wither away into oblivion. But hey, here’s hoping. Good luck with that band-aid over that gaping wound, in the meantime.

Should You Get Unbaptized?

Ever since I met someone whose father was unbaptized, and thus discovered it was a thing, I’ve been toying with the idea. The difficulties of the process and the pros and cons of the decision will vary greatly between the different religions. In my case, it would be getting unbaptized from the Catholic Church*, and so I started doing a little research into how this is done, and why there is an ever growing number of Italians who are doing it.

Of course it is not necessary to be unbaptized to be an atheist. If you don’t believe that baptism is anything other than a few silly words, a splash of water and a party, no piece of paper will undo one of many meaningless experiences in your life. Rather, the reasons for taking the extra step towards unbaptizing yourself are more about a present distancing from the Catholic Church.

 

*For many religions, unbaptism is not necessary, because your membership to the organization is not based on your baptism, but rather is based on your attendance.

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