Please perp walk the pope

Not that I have much expectation that these charges will be acted upon, but a couple of German lawyers have filed charges against Ratzinger in the International Criminal Court. My sense of justice rises in terrible joy at the accusation, though.

Their charges concern “three worldwide crimes which until now have not been denounced . . . (as) the traditional reverence toward ‘ecclesiastical authority’ has clouded the sense of right and wrong”.

They claim the Pope “is responsible for the preservation and leadership of a worldwide totalitarian regime of coercion which subjugates its members with terrifying and health-endangering threats”.

They allege he is also responsible for “the adherence to a fatal forbiddance of the use of condoms, even when the danger of HIV-Aids infection exists” and for “the establishment and maintenance of a worldwide system of cover-up of the sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests and their preferential treatment, which aids and abets ever new crimes”.

They claim the Catholic Church “acquires its members through a compulsory act, namely, through the baptism of infants that do not yet have a will of their own”. This act was “irrevocable” and is buttressed by threats of excommunication and the fires of hell.

It was “a grave impairment of the personal freedom of development and of a person’s emotional and mental integrity”. The Pope was “responsible for its preservation and enforcement and, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his Church, he was jointly responsible” with Pope John Paul II.

Catholics “threatened by HIV-AIDS … are faced with a terrible alternative: If they protect themselves with condoms during sexual intercourse, they become grave sinners; if they do not protect themselves out of fear of the punishment of sin threatened by the church, they become candidates for death.”

My one reservation is that by charging the Pope alone, they are letting the whole damnable hierarchy of the church and a few centuries worth of evil doctrines off the hook.

No Catholic hospitals for me, please

There have been some recent controversies in how Catholic hospitals handle ethics — most prominently in the case of the Phoenix hospital that carried out an abortion to save a woman, and got rebuked by the church for it. The Catholic church faces an ethical challenge here, and guess what their response has been: not to change their dangerous and amoral doctrines, but to emphasize emphatically that the church dogma must be followed.

The flaw is in the workers, who must be better indoctrinated in Catholicism. How that would help a dying pregnant woman is a mystery the church will not explore.

Controversies over bioethical standards at U.S. Catholic hospitals show the need for greater Catholic education for health care workers, Vatican officials said Thursday.

They have further decided that mere doctors and professional ethicists are not qualifed to judge medical dilemmas — instead, decisions must be made by old male theologians with no medical training and little awareness of life in the real world.

In the wake of public spats between the Catholic hierarchy and health care executives, the Catholic Health Association publicly acknowledged that bishops — not doctors or hospital ethicists — have the final say on questions of medical morality.

A reader sent along a suggestion, that I take a look at the mission statements for some of our regional hospitals. Mission statements tend to be the places where institutions place a pile of fluffy vague expressions of wishful thinking, and they usually aren’t going to be the places to look for substantive differences, but I was surprised — there was a huge difference. It’s actually rather frightening to see what a Catholic hospital publicly, cheerfully and unashamedly considers the most important job it has.

Mercy Medical Center, a Catholic hospital


The Mission of Catholic Health Initiatives is to nurture the healing ministry of the Church by bringing it new life, energy and viability in the 21st century. Fidelity to the Gospel urges us to emphasize human dignity and social justice as we move toward the creation of healthier communities.


  • Reverence
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Excellence

Mercy Medical Center is strongly committed to diversity at all levels of the Mercy organization and in our community. Our mission, values and traditions firmly embrace inclusion, acceptance and compassion. Mercy is actively participating and responding to the unique and diverse needs of its patients, families, visitors, students and employees.

Hennepin County Medical Center, a secular institution

Our Mission

We are committed:

  • to provide the best possible care to every patient we serve today;
  • to search for new ways to improve the care we will provide tomorrow;
  • to educate health care providers for the future; and
  • to ensure access to healthcare for all.

Our Vision

We are committed to being:

  • the best place to receive care;
  • the best place to give care; and
  • the best place to work and learn.

Whoa. So the job of the Catholic hospital is to “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” and make the church healthier in the 21st century. The job of the secular hospital is to improve medical care for its patients.

Now when you get sick, you know where to go, and it’s not your local Catholic hospital. Unless, that is, you think it important to prop up the power of your bishop, in which case you deserve the medical care you’ll be getting. Make sure to leave a substantial portion of your estate to the church in your will!

Anthropocentrism: All of God’s Special Little Snowflakes

Anthropocentrism: All of God’s Special Little Snowflakes
by Amy Peters

My four-year-old has a book of science activities.  One rainy day not so long ago, my husband and son decided to pull out the book and complete a biology activity on classifying living things.  The objective was to cut out pictures of animals in old magazines and decide how they should be grouped together.  Should they be grouped by the number legs they have?  By whether or not they are plant-eaters or meat-eaters?  Sea or land animals? Daytime or nighttime creatures?

Let’s be honest here.  My boy is only four.  Even with my husband’s help, the project basically turned into playtime with magazine clippings, safety scissors and glue sticks.  By the time they showed off their final product, the animal photos glued on their poster weren’t even close to being classified in the right groups.  Mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles had all been mixed together on his poster board in a beautiful, biologically diverse, gluey mess.  For some reason, amphibians and those spineless invertebrates didn’t make the poster. Maybe we don’t subscribe to the right magazines.

To my rapturous joy, near the top of the poster was a picture of a sleeping Homo sapiens.  That’s right.  My husband had thought to include a picture of a human baby.  It was glued squarely between an ocelot and a rhinoceros (at least they got them in the same phylum and class, right?).  Still, I thought it was quite clever of my husband to use such a simple exercise to demonstrate the characteristics we share with the animals on this planet and, in doing so, show that we are animals too.

Parents expect their children to have short memories, and are thus caught off guard when something we think was overlooked or forgotten ends up being significant.  Several days later, I was pretty sure my son had moved on from the kingdom Animalia to more exciting things like trucks and candy. Out of the blue one day he asked me, “Mommy, are we animals?”  My mind immediately went back to the science activity he’d completed the week before.  “Yes, we are animals,” was my response.

“But, Mommy, we seem… different.”

There it was.  An uncomplicated observation from a very brainy boy.  There was no disputing it. He was right.  We are… different.  So how to help him understand our place in the animal kingdom?  I was taken back to my own childhood where I was raised in a very anthropocentric mindset.  Not only was I taught that human beings were the most significant and special of all god’s creatures, my parents took it even further than that. I was taught that I was god’s special girl, that god knew me before I was even born, and that god knew the number of hairs on my head at all times. Why this hair-counting, voyeuristic god didn’t completely creep me out at the time, I have no idea.  Maybe I wanted very much to hear how special I was and maybe the god myth filled that need.

Yes, humans are different, but are we supreme?  And if we are supreme, was it a god or gods that made us that way? The Bible would lead us to believe so.  Why, it is completely integral to the Genesis story.

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ Holy Bible, NRSV, Catholic Edition

What does science tell us?  Well, for starters science in no way confirms the Genesis account.  Science tells us that we are very tiny life forms in a very, very big universe.  Compare your mass to the mass of the planet.  Then, compare our planet to our entire galaxy.  Then think about our galaxy in terms of the entire observable universe.  It blows the mind.  We are so tiny compared to all of that, how can one ever begin to feel special or significant?  We are not only tiny in size, but in time as well.  The age of the universe is reckoned at approximately 13.7 billion years. The Earth itself is dated at 4.5 billion years old.  Out of that 4.5 billion years, anatomically modern humans only originated in Africa around 200,000 years ago.  This means that for the majority of the life of the universe and, indeed, our planet humans have not been around. How then can we be supreme, the most significant entities in the universe, as Christianity would have us believe?

The answer is that we are not supreme.  We are, collectively, a blip on the radar.  The earth will still be here long after we are gone.

How are we to go about the 80 or so years we have on this planet knowing how tiny and inconsequential we are?  The answer is that we are not insignificant.  We are living things!  You, reader, are the product of millions of years of gradual, inching evolution.  Every cell in your body is a triumph of nature.  You are incredible because you are here and you are alive.  It is not necessary to believe in a deity or that as humans we have something supernatural within us that separates us from other animals.  Our significance is our place in the natural world, and the fact that that place is only temporary.

My little boy is far too young to understand this, so my response was a visit to the new Africa exhibit at the zoo.  My overly-cautious little one looked on as I stood inches away from a chimpanzee, separated only by a pane of glass.  The chimpanzee put his hand up to the glass.  I held mine up to meet his.  His eyes met mine and we considered one another.  In absolute awe (and yes, a little choked up), I looked back at my tiny son as if to say, “See.  Not so different.”

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.” – – Richard Dawkins, Unweaving The Rainbow, 1998.

It’s open season on women and doctors out there!

The economy sucks, so why are Republicans making such obnoxious noises over abortion and birth control lately? (That was an entirely rhetorical question, and it’s obvious why: they’ve got no solutions other than feeding the rich some more, so they’re carrying out a massive campaign of distraction.) Look what Nebraska is poised to do!

Last week, South Dakota’s legislature shelved a bill, introduced by Republican state Rep. Phil Jensen, which would have allowed the use of the “justifiable homicide” defense for killings intended to prevent harm to a fetus. Now a nearly identical bill is being considered in neighboring Nebraska, where on Wednesday the state legislature held a hearing on the measure.

The legislation, LB 232, was introduced by state Sen. Mark Christensen, a devout Christian and die-hard abortion foe who is opposed to the prodedure even in the case of rape. Unlike its South Dakota counterpart, which would have allowed only a pregnant woman, her husband, her parents, or her children to commit “justifiable homicide” in defense of her fetus, the Nebraska bill would apply to any third party.

Nebraska: even more fundamentally deranged than South Dakota!

It’s probably not fair to pick on Nebraska, though. It seems women are fair game even in Canada. A judge just let a rapist off because the victim was asking for it, in the coded language that only rapists can read.

Judge Dewar listed several reasons for this misinterpretation [that the victim consented], including that the victim and her friend were wearing tube tops, high heels and makeup; that the two had implied they might want to go skinny-dipping in a lake nearby and that the circumstances of their encounter with Mr. Rhodes and his friend were “inviting.”

That’s it? That’s all it takes? Except for the skinny-dipping part, then women have been consenting to have sex with me surprisingly frequently, and I’ve been missing all the signals and all the opportunities.

I’m thinking that maybe women just need to move out of the middle of the continent altogether. It doesn’t seem to be a very friendly place.

A man who should be dancing at the end of a rope

I oppose the death penalty, but there are people who challenge my commitment to that principle, and Donald Rumsfeld is one of them. He was on the Daily Show, and I had to watch that evil man with clenched teeth and clenched fists. Here’s part of the interview; the rest is available on Salon.

He shouldn’t be on the Daily Show. He should be facing the people of Iraq, and then we’d see how persuasive his folksy chortling would be.

Christchurch struck by Poe?

After the serious earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, a website popped up that blamed the event on gays and lesbians, prostitution, and baby seal clubbing, a website that has been rightfully denounced by the media and gay and lesbian groups.

But I’m suspicious. There are a couple of things that make me doubt; one is that the site is a little too free in flaunting photos of naked people from gay events in New Zealand, which is not typical of conservative religious sites. Another problem is the excess — it is clearly trying to be sensationalist. And yet there is no one, no church taking credit for the site, which is very peculiar.

This isn’t a site representative of much of anything. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s either the work of an obsessive religious zealot — an individual, not a group — or of someone intentionally trying to discredit religion with an over-the-top fake. Either way, whoever made that crazy site needs some pity.

Big time beast

Little Dougie (aka Ian Murphy) has hit the big time: he punked the Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, by calling him up and pretending to be über-Rethuglican puppet master David Koch…and Walker believed him and babbled like a little kid on Santa’s lap. It’s a self-aggrandizing embarrassment, with Walker bragging about how he was Reaganesque, that he was pitting stereotypical blue-collar workers against the unions, and how he has a baseball bat in his office that he’d use to enforce his demands with the Democrats. It’s dreadful stuff, and when caught with his guard down it’s very clear that Scott Walker is against us, the people of this country, and sides entirely with the plutocrats and oligarchs. As Murphy sums it up:

So there you have it, kids. Government isn’t for the people. It’s for the people with money. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. You want to collectively bargain? You can’t afford a seat at the table. You may have built that table. But it’s not yours. It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class. It’s guarded by Republicans like Walker, and his Democratic counterparts across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule, so that the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the power in the world. These are known knowns, and now we just know them a little more.

But money isn’t always power. The protesters in Cairo and Madison have taught us this–reminded us of this. They can’t buy a muzzle big enough to silence us all. Share the news. Do not retreat; ReTweet.

The revolution keeps spinning. Try not to get too dizzy.

Good work, Mr Murphy.

Oh, wait…that name sounds so familiar. I got a phone call once from Ian Murphy, too! And he interviewed me! At least I don’t think I was as big an idiot as Scott Walker.

They have funny standards of feminine beauty in Maine

The Rethuglican governor of Maine, Paul LePage, has been dismissing the health risks from Bisphenol A, an additive to plastics which is known to be an estrogen mimic. His remarks take “Not even wrong” to whole new levels of crazy:

The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.

Hey, I’ve heard that high densities of homeopaths and other quacks in your state gives off fumes that cause severe mental retardation in civil servants. Could it be?

Ladies of Pharyngula, who knew that if only you increased your estrogen levels a bit more, you too could sprout a lovely beard like me? I’m sure there are better ways to maximize your beauty than stuffing milk jugs in your microwave, though. I don’t recommend ever taking health advice from a Republican.