Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Posts Tagged ‘Pope’

Here’s a Picture of the Pope Blessing Uganda “Kill the Gays” Bill Proponent

Posted by Ethan Clow on December 14, 2012

Here’s a picture of the Pope blessing Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga who is also a “Kill the Gays” bill proponent, which she is trying to force through Uganda’s parliament.


Sick to your stomach yet?

In more hopeful news, it appears that the “Kill the gays” bill has been delayed until February 4th, 2013. More time to bring as much pressure on Uganda (and the fucking Pope) to stop this.


Posted in Blogs, Ethan's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Protests in Spain over Pope’s visit and Abortion Forgiveness Week

Posted by Ethan Clow on August 18, 2011

The Pope just can’t get a break. You’d think that when visiting a predominantly Catholic country like Spain (the Catholic population of Spain is 94%), he would be greeted with cheers and adulation. Not protests and snarky atheists.

But protesting is what a large group of Spaniards are doing.

The Pope is in Madrid to celebrate World Youth Day (WYD), which is a Catholic festival for youth, which is August 16th to the 21st. Organizers of the event expect up to a million people will join in the celebration which will culminate in an open air mass by the Pope on Sunday.

However, large numbers of people in Spain aren’t too happy about this. A large percent of the dissatisfaction comes from the huge cost of the event. The 15-M Group in Spain, an anti-austerity spending group which takes issue with spending cuts so social welfare and anti-democratic actions.

“We are not angry about the Pope’s visit, which some will agree with and others won’t, but rather over the financing of it with public money, especially at a time when many services are being cut because it’s necessary to curb government spending,” 15-M said in a statement. – source

Event organizers are stating that most of the money for the event is being funded by the pilgrims themselves, nevertheless, in a Spain that is facing serious economic hurdles, a visit by the Pope is not what people consider prudent economic planning. Apparently people have been carrying banners that read “The pope travels, the pope pays”. Critics of the visit have put the cost of the whole event around 100m euros ($144m) but that hasn’t been confirmed by the government.

In addition, there are a number of the other groups protesting the Pope’s visit, including large groups of Gay Rights activists who oppose Catholic ideology.

According to this BBC article reports how protesters have been clashing with the pilgrims in Madrid’s Sol Square, there were also reports of protesters clashing with police, although I haven’t heard too much in terms of violence.

Protesters fill much of Madrid's landmark Puerta del Sol square/Susana Vera

The Police in Spain did arrest a young man from Mexico who was allegedly planning to gas the anti-Pope protesters.  The man was a chemist student and had made several threatening remarks online and was found in possession of “two notebooks with chemical equations not related to his studies and a computer “allegedly used to recruit on the internet”, police said.” –source

Whether the threat was real or not remains to be seen. However, it does point to the extreme tension the Pope’s visit is provoking.

Along those lines, there is another issue I’m sure many are upset with. The Pope has offered a six-day abortion forgiveness option. In the divine wisdom that only the Vatican could come up with, over 200 confessional booths are being set up in Madrid for women who have had abortions. Of course, one must thank the Catholic Church for this, after all, abortion is a sin worthy of excommunication and you know what that means. Hell. Forever.

You really have to hand it to the Catholics. For a religion that’s leadership is exclusively male, they sure know how to respond to a situation that they lack the necessary organs to even experience.

In an article on Slate Magazine by Amanda Marcotte, a very good point is made. This is a very expensive abortion get-out-of-hell-card. For Catholics in America, Canada or elsewhere, to get your forgiveness you need a last minute ticket to Madrid, find accommodations, food, and not to mention, forget about whatever was going on in your life right now, because you have to go to Madrid to be forgiven! Of course an less expensive option would be to stop being Catholic. That doesn’t cost anything.

I shouldn’t need to point out the huge hypocrisy of the Catholic Church holding women to some higher standard about what they do with their bodies when they can’t even control the pedophilia within their own organization. Maybe that’s why the Catholic Church hasn’t been able to stop these sexual predators, a few moments in a confessional booth appears to be the perfect cure for anything bad. “Are you sorry that you raped that child?” “yes” “Are you going to do it again?” “No” “Good, I’ll send you to another parish.”

I wonder if the Catholic Church has a special dispensation for women who were raped by clergy or those within the church? Surely they don’t have to be forgiven for having an abortion? Surely these poor women wouldn’t have to fly all the way to Madrid to be “forgiven” for removing the off spring of a rapist?

I’m sure any moment now the Catholic Church will make such an announcement.

Posted in Blogs, Ethan's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Evil of Secular Society

Posted by Ethan Clow on January 2, 2011

Recently the Pope made a bold statement that childhood sexual abuse by the Catholic Church was partly the fault of a secular society that considers sexual abuse a non-absolute evil. This was discussed in episode 95 of Radio Freethinker.

Pope Benedict XVI discussed with Vatican officials the church’s culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also blamed a secular society, which he claimed that the mistreatment of children was common.

He stressed that the scandal must be seen in a broader social context, in which child pornography is considered normal by society and drug use and sexual tourism are on the rise.

The Pope is basically saying that the Catholic Church failed to protect those children who were sexually abused; but society was so secular and godless that everyone was failing to protect children…so you can’t really blame the Catholic Church.

He is quoted as saying that “as recently as the 1970s, pedophilia wasn’t considered an absolute evil but rather part of a spectrum of behaviours that people refused to judge in the name of tolerance and relativism.”

He also suggests that secular society views child pornography as normal and references the rise of drug use and sex tourism. Since those are reasonable testable claims, let’s explore them for a bit.

Does secular society consider child pornography as “normal?”

I’m not sure to what specifically he’s referring to when he says “secular society” but let’s assume for a moment he’s talking about the scientific community and secular laws.

A quick review of Wikipedia indicates that child pornography is taken very seriously by law enforcement across the world:

“Ninety-four of 187 Interpol member states had laws specifically addressing child pornography as of 2008 … both distribution and possession are now criminal offenses in almost all Western countries. A wide movement is working to globalize the criminalization of child pornography, including major international organisations such as the United Nations and the European Commission. ” – link to source

Further, a review of child pornography seems to indicate it is illegal because by nature it involves the exploitation and abuse of children for sexual purposes. What does science have to say about sexual abuse of children and pedophilia?

The ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10)defines pedophilia as “a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of prepubertal or early pubertal age.” According to the ICD, which is a coding of diseases and signs, symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances and external causes of injury or diseases, as classified by the World Health Organization, pedophilia is a disease that needs to be addressed by health professionals.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) outlines specific criteria for use in the diagnosis of this disorder. These include the presence of sexually arousing fantasies, behaviours or urges that involve some kind of sexual activity with a prepubescent child (age 13 or younger, though puberty may vary) for six months or more, and that the subject has acted on these urges or suffers from distress as a result of having these feelings. The DSM is the document mental health professionals use to diagnosis mental disorders.

It looks like both in terms of law enforcement and science, pedophilia and child pornography are taken very seriously. Law enforcement has well defined rules and regulations to monitor sexual abuse and makes considerable effort to prevent it. Science appears to have classified sexual abuse as a disorder and clearly do not consider it “normal.”

But the Pope also implied that secular society is far too morally relativistic when it comes to sexual abuse of minors. It’s true that the DSM and the ICD don’t describe child sexual abuse as evil or morally bankrupt.

But what is important to remember about these documents? They are not moral guidelines. They are scientific parameters defining mental and medical states. You will never find words like “evil” and “moral” in these documents because they’re not making moral judgements on medical and mental states.

The ICD will never describe cancer as an “evil” disease or likewise, medical breakthroughs as “miracles.”

The pope condemns a relativistic view of pedophilia, yet the Catholic church’s previous policy was to put the offenders into therapy and not hand them over to law enforcement. He seems to be blaming secular society for something while glossing over that under his watch, the Catholic Church did the same thing. We should also keep in mind that Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the sexual abuse of minors by priests was his responsibility to investigate.

Another issue that Ratzinger raises is the notion that sexual abuse is more common in today’s “secular” society. A simply look at most statistics relating to sexual abuse do show there are far more cases of child sexual abuse being reported in recent years than ever before. Does that mean there is more abuse going on now or that abuses weren’t being reported in the past?

Let’s consider the notion that there isn’t more sexual abuse taking place, but rather its getting reported and prosecuted more often. If this is true we should see the laws getting progressively more encompassing over the years in preventing child abuse and punishing its behaviour.

According to Victims of Violence, a Canadian charity that works to protect and help victims of abuse. Prior to 1988, laws governing child sexual abuse did not reflect the reality of the situation. Some of the problems were as follows:

1. Gender bias – many offences were only applicable to female victims and male offenders.

2. Limited range of sexual activity – many offences only covered vaginal intercourse

3. Requirements of previous chaste character – girls who had some previous (consensual) sexual experiences were not considered “of chaste character” and were not protected.

4. Time restrictions – the offence had to be prosecuted within a year of the offence. Many victims take many years to gather up the courage to report their victimization.

The laws have been since updated and according to Victims of Violence:

” A study of the effects of the changes made to the law governing child sexual abuse in 1988 was done in 1992. It found that more and more cases were being reported. More charges were being laid due to the fact that the law now covers more forms of abuse. More cases involving younger victims were being prosecuted, and younger victims were being allowed to testify in court. More cases involving male victims were being reported because the gender specific crimes were eliminated. And higher conviction rates imply that the changes are successful.” – link to source

In addition, there are now laws on child sexual abuse that are enforced world-wide. The United Nations passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that legally obliges states to protect children’s rights. Articles 34 and 35 of the CRC require states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. This includes outlawing the coercion of a child to perform sexual activity, the prostitution of children, and the exploitation of children in creating pornography. States are also required to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children.  As of November 2008, 193 countries are bound by the CRC,  including every member of the United Nations except the United States and Somalia.

We live in an age of unparallel secularization and concurrently we see some of the most widespread laws on child sexual abuse ever recorded.

In conclusion, and my humble opinion, the Pope is making a demonstrably false argument. He is trying to pass blame for his organizations obscene failure to prevent horrific crimes on children onto society at large. What is all the more insulting is that he, Ratzinger, was in a position to change the Catholic Church’s policy on dealing with sexual abuse of minors. If he did indeed feel that the Church was adopting a relativistic stance on sexual abuse, why didn’t he do anything to stop it? For him to blame society when he personally was partly responsible for the church’s policy is extremely hypocritical.

Posted in Blogs, Ethan's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Should the Pope be Banned from the UK?

Posted by Ethan Clow on August 19, 2010

One of the on-going discussions that we’ve been having on Radio Freethinker has been the Pope and the recent allegations and revelations about the childhood sexual abuse committed by priests of the Catholic Church. Our latest round of debate has been the Pope’s upcoming visit to the UK. You can listen that episode here.

Back on Episode 57 we discussed whether or not the Pope should be considered a criminal. The origin of the debate was that Pope Benedict, formally Cardinal Ratzinger, was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1982 until becoming pope in 2005. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was the council responsible for dealing with any case relating to misappropriate behaviour of priests. As the man in charge of this group, Ratzinger was in the most potent position to punish or at least stop pedophile priest from harming more children.

Instead, many priests escaped punishment, their crimes were not publicized and in several cases, these pedophiles were able to continue harming children.  How this linked back to Ratzinger is that he was the person directly responsible for investigating these cases and based on several allegations, he failed to do so. He may have even been directly responsible for allowing a priest to escape punishment. As in the case of Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy who allegedly molested over 200 boys while serving at a school for the deaf in the U.S.

In September the Pope will be visiting the UK which is the subject of intense debate. People in the UK and many outside it are wondering why the British government is rolling out the red carpet for the Pope when he in the middle of a storming controversy over the abuse of children the world over.

A lot of people and a number of organizations in the UK are doing the best they can to have the visit cancelled or even have the Pope arrested upon arrival.

Why would someone want to ban the Pope? There are lots of reasons why someone might want to keep the Pope out of your country:

–          Pope Benedict opposes women’s ordination (a misogynist position to take)

–          The Pope says artificial contraception is a sin (how unfortunate for those who wish to have children but can’t do to medical reasons)

–          The Pope rejects potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research (Since he’s not a scientist one wonders on what ground he could object)

–          Benedict XVI has denounced the use of condoms, even to stop the spread of HIV. He has also claimed that condom usage may “increase” the rate of HIV infection (Does he have any scientific evidence to back up his claim?)

–          In 1992, When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.” (How does he know homosexuality is evil?)

While these are all intolerant, ill-informed and deplorable views, they are however opinions the Pope is allowed to have. Whether or not he should be allowed to state these as facts is another question. However it would seem a violation of freedom of speech to ban someone from coming to a country because they hold vile opinions. The Pope is representing some of the worst views our civilization has held, rather than ban him though, a stronger message, embracing the notions of free speech and open discourse, would be to voice one’s objection to these draconian ideas.

If the Pope is going to be banned, we’ll need a different set of reasons than what he says.

Money is a good place to start.

The UK tax payer is paying for the visit, a visit that will cost around 24 million pounds. About 12 million will be paid by the British government. Not only is the Pope’s visit a “state visit” (he is the head-of-state of the Vatican) but it’s also a faith based visit with lots of religious activities planned. Surely the UK tax payer can expect assurances that public money will not be used to advance a religion that many of them don’t ascribe too.

Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols addressed that point,

“I would like to stress from our point of view that not a penny is expected from public funds for those aspects of the visit which are an expression simply of the Catholic faith.”

Economics aside, is the Pope a criminal?

This is the huge issue. If the British people are being asked to pay 12 million of tax dollars on a diplomatic visit by a head-of-state, they deserve to know if that head of state is guilty of criminal charges.

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have been spearheading an attempt to have criminal charges placed on Ratzinger. Hitchens wrote in a recent article in Free Inquiry (Vol. 30 No. 5) that the Vatican announced that any legal action against the Pope will result in a claim of “sovereign immunity.”

In the research I did, I could not find a definitive answer to whether a claim of “sovereign immunity” would hold up. Hitchens doesn’t consider the treaty that created the Holy See legitimate, which is probably not a widely held belief, however some sources indicate that “sovereign immunity” can only protect head of states from other nations courts, but not international courts. While other sources say that the only way to gain true diplomatic immunity is to have confirmed by the UN.

Part of the difficulty is knowing what exactly Ratzinger is the head of state of, The Vatican, or Vatican-City is sometimes thought of as a sovereign state, created by a treaty between the Vatican and Mussolini in the Treaty of Lateran. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, two law professors evaluated the Vatican’s claim to statehood based on four criteria in international law. They argue that it has neither significant territory nor a permanent population. It has a functioning government, but no justice or education system, and only ceremonial defence. As to the fourth criterion, an ability to engage in international relations, the authors write this is “decided by whether other states treat it like one.” See the National Post article for more details.

The Pope is considered the head of state of the Holy See, which encompasses all of Catholicism. Presumably, that includes Vatican City.

From my visit to Vatican City

By most legal definitions of what states are, neither Vatican City nor the Holy See qualify. However, for some reason, they both seem to have a separate and distinct legal status as independent states.

Ultimately I think we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Should the main goal of all this be to figure out this complicated mess of international law and treaties, trying to define what the Pope can legally be charged with, or should this be more of a symbolic effort to embarrass the UK into taking a concrete stand on spending tax payer money on a religious figure who not only could be the subject of criminal investigation, but also considered a perpetrator of crimes against humanity?

Posted in Blogs, Ethan's Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Makes a Cult? Does Your Religion Qualify?

Posted by Ethan Clow on September 15, 2009

We recently talked about cults on the show. Last week we discussed questions like “what is a cult?” and how do we determine what is a cult and what is a religion. If you get a chance why not download that episode right now, you can find it on Itunes or at–RadioFreethinkers

If you liked that episode be sure to tune in tomorrow when we spend the whole episode talking about scientology!

But getting back to cults, on the show we discussed how a cult may refer to a religious group with relatively few adherents whose beliefs or practices are regarded by others as strange or sinister.
Since about the 1970s, the word cult has attained much more derogatory, negative and judgmental connotation. Oftentimes we use the term to refer to any religion we deems “dangerous.”

Rhetorical question: What if we deem all religions dangerous? Never mind, let’s get to that later.

Now, if a movement displays all or most of the following traits, you might have a cult on your hands. But…and I want to be careful here, most mainstream religions also have these traits. Now I don’t want to suggest that mainstream religions are cults in the same sense that the Ku Klux Klan is a cult…because they aren’t, but it’s interesting to note the parallels.

Central Authority in a Single, Charismatic Leader: Check. Classic examples could be the Pope but also figures such as the Dali Lama.

Control Over Life and Death: Depends on how we classify that. Do we mean the religion has control over which of its members live or die? If so, well we’ve spoken of many religions that “discourage” science based medicine. Could that be interrupted as control over life and death? Or what about the Pope stating condoms will spread HIV? Or what about the churches sanctioning exorcisms that are glorified torture sessions that often result in the victim dying?

Commission of Felonies: To continue to pick on the Catholic Church, it was the current Pope Benedict XVI that wrote an order that all sexual abuse cases were to be kept private by the church.

Strict Control Over Lives of Members: Most religions impose rules and regulations about what is considered moral and what isn’t. I’m sure we can all think of a few examples.

Separation From Contacts Outside the Group: Depends on how you look at it. Many religions want to convert more people so there are often pressures to bring more people into the faith.

Polarized Worldview: Again, this is true of all religions. But again, it’s true of virtually all people.

Living in Communal Isolation: When we talk about isolation we should also mention economic and social status. The Pope lives in a giant palace.

Large Required Donations: Most religions request donations. But so does the Red Cross.

Conformity: Subjection of Individual Desires and Thoughts: Again, depends on which religion we’re talking about here. Some are actually very open to new ideas.

Punishment for Defection or Criticism: Excommunication.

Group Is Small: Well this one probably doesn’t sync up very well. Most religions aim to be big.

Since most religions – including mainstream – show at least a few of these traits, mostly in a moderate degree so care needs to be taken before denouncing an unfamiliar belief system as a dangerous cult. But I think purely as a thought experiment, it’s interesting to compare how some religions have cult like elements.

Ethan “the Freethinking Historian”

Posted in Blogs, Ethan's Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »