Catholicism and Orthodoxy


So why has Vladimir Putin undertaken perhaps the most dangerous military move since the end of the Cold War? Is it because he is pursuing a policy of traditional Russian imperialism, trying to forestall greater Western influence in Ukraine, seeking to exploit Russian nationalism in his neighbor for strategic advantage? No, according to world-renowned geo-political strategist Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, it’s all because of Teh Gay or something:

What do you get when you combine ultra-nationalist religious and political conservatism along with homophobia and sexism? Some might say you get the Tea Party in the United States, but today that is the toxic mix that is fueling Vladimir Putin’s militaristic moves against the people of Ukraine.

In other words, Pussy Riot is right. The lyrics of this Russian feminist, punk rock protest group, based in Moscow, are exactly on target. The themes of their protest music, as can be seen in Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom connect feminism, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights, opposition to the dictatorial tendencies of Putin, and the links between Putin and the leadership of the Orthodox Church.

Putin’s unholy stew of nationalistic religion, homophobia and sexism needs to be part of informing the diplomatic response to Russia’s aggressively moving troops into the Crimea. This action has drawn condemnation from the new Ukrainian prime minister, who said it amounted to a “declaration of war to my country,” and from Secretary of State John Kerry who has called this “an incredible act of aggression.”

Yes, you read that right. Putin and his allies in the Russian Orthodox Church–the Slavic equivalent of the Tea Party!–have invaded their sovereign neighbor because of religion (most Ukrainians are Orthodox as well, but whatever), homophobia and sexism. Thistlethwaite does not really explain what connection these sins have to do with the invasion of Crimea, but I’m sure that somewhere in the dark recesses of her sexuality-obsessed mind there is an explanation that would at least make sense to a weasel on crack, if not to people.

I don’t know how much of a national story this has been, but the Washington area has been all agog for the last week-and-a-half over an incident at a Catholic funeral. Seems that the deceased’s daughter, a woman by the name of Barbara Johnson, went to the priest who was presiding and informed him that she was a lesbian, then presented herself for Communion at the funeral and was refused. Various non-Catholic activists and journalists became instant experts on Catholic sacramental practice, and pronounced anathema on the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo for his lack of pastoral sensitivity in turning away a person he knew for a fact was living in mortal sin. Then it turned out that the woman in question is not only gay, but a practicing Buddhist. This raises a really big problem for the Big Thinkers, like one of the Washington Post‘s high powered reporters, Michelle Boorstein:

The story we’ve been covering in recent days about a Maryland priest who refused to give a lesbian Communion at her mother’s funeral has set off many sensitive, complicated subjects for Catholics. Who is eligible for Communion? What are the responsibilities of a priest? What’s the spiritual purpose of a funeral Mass?

Now the latest issue: Can you be a Catholic and practice Buddhism at the same time?

No. Next question.

The latter camp, of conservatives, has in recent days circulated an academic paper Johnson, 51, wrote in graduate school, in which she defined herself as a Buddhist. On her Web site, for an arts education program, she describes herself as “a student of many things, from Buddhist philosophy to nutrition and alternative medicine.” She does not mention Catholicism.

“She is not even a Roman Catholic any longer, yet she presented herself for Communion..” wrote blogger Rod Dreher on The American Conservative.

“Aside from her homosexuality, the woman is a non-Catholic, literally an apostate, and she complains about being denied Holy Communion and wants to get the priest fired,” writes Catholicism.org.

This really is an open-and-shut case, unless you live in Postland.

Johnson’s depiction of her own blending of the faiths, while infuriating to purists, appears to put her in the mainstream of American religion. One recent Pew poll on multiple religious practices shows 88 percent of white Catholics cite at least one non-Christian religion that they believe can lead to eternal life, a higher percentage than the number of black Protestants (81 percent) or white mainline Protestants (85 percent) who said so. The same survey also found that roughly a quarter of Americans believe in reincarnation and a similar number believe in yoga not just as exercise, but as a spiritual practice. Among Catholics, the number expressing these beliefs is 28 percent and 27 percent respectively.

Poll numbers are fascinating things. They can tell you a great deal about what people think, believe, and do. What they cannot do is tell you what the truth is. Let’s say that Boorstein is correct, that Johnson’s approach to religion puts “her in the mainstream.” So what? What has that got to do with Catholic sacramental practice? Last time I checked, Rome doesn’t consult with Pew before deciding how it should order the church’s sacramental life.

In fact, this seems to be something about Catholicism–and Christianity in general, properly understood–that American journalists don’t seem to get. It doesn’t matter what a majority think about Christian faith and practice. What matters is what God, Scripture, and (if one is Roman Catholic) what the magisterium of the church says.

Johnson’s depiction of her faith mirrors that even of some clergy, including famed Trappist monk Thomas Merton who embraced and deeply studied Buddhism before his death in the 1960s. More recently, two Episcopal priests — including a bishop — described themselves as followers of Christianity and other faiths, one of Zen Buddhism and one of Islam.

I’ll get back to Merton in a moment. As for the other two, Boorstein bringing them in is a real joke. You’ll remember Ann Holmes Redding, the Islamopalian priest from Seattle, and Kevin Thew Forrester, the Buddhapalian priest who was a candidate for the episcopacy for the diocese of Western Northern Michigan. Even within an ecclesiastical organization as corrupt and shot through with apostacy as the Episcopal Church, these two were over the line. Forrester was the first candidate for ECUSA’s episcopacy  since 1930 to be defeated, while Holmes Redding was defrocked by her bishop. Using them to demonstrate how “mainstream” Johnson is is like using mold as an example of vegetables because it’s green.

As for Merton, there are many things that could be said about his relationships to Buddhism. He respected it, he learned from it, he understood it, he wrote about it, he valued it for its true insights, he engaged in dialogue with Buddhists–but “embrace” usually suggests conversion, and that was a step he never took, nor, I suspect, would his Trappist order have been pleased if he had, given that Buddhism is atheistic and sees salvation as individual extinction rather than as personal deliverance from sin into the eternal presence of the living God. In fact, this article from Thomas Merton Society–which is glowingly positive about the interactions the monk had with Buddhism–would be appropriately quoted here:

Thus, religious dialogue for Merton was not a syncretism or an eclectic accumulation that ignored real differences in an attempt to create a universal religion (without specific roots).

Boorstein goes on to describe Johnson’s approach to Catholicism:

In her 20s, Johnson remembers her growing doubt about Catholic institutions as she wrestled with accepting her sexuality, and later as she watched the clergy sex abuse crisis unfold. She went to services in other Christian churches: Unitarian, Baptist, Episcopalian.

“During that time I found a lot of answers in Buddhist teachings and texts,” she said

Johnson says she never stopped seeing herself as a Catholic, and never stopped attended [sic] Mass or taking Communion – albeit not very regularly.

But no doubt orthodox Catholics would see this approach as a violation of their faith and challenge the idea that she could she seek Communion if she also sees herself as a Buddhist.

Well, yeah. Boorstein and Johnson seem to think that Catholicism–or Christianity–is like a rubber nose that one can shape and form as one pleases. Or like a recipe for beef stew–one can throw anything into the pot that tickles one’s palate, and it will still be beef stew as long as there’s a little bit of cow meat mixed in. They can believe that if they want, but there’s no reason I can think of why the Catholic Church should agree.

UPDATE: Forrester was defeated for the Northern Michigan bishop’s seat, not Western. Thanks to Chris Johnson for the heads-up, and for giving us Forrester’s full name in the comments.

I’ve dealt with the issue of women priests in the Roman Catholic Church before. They are sad, deluded, self-centered individuals who think that the church must bow to their desires rather than be faithful to what it believes is the revealed will of God, all in the name of “diversity” and who knows what all else. I was put in mind of this subject again because of a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that comes with a priceless picture that I’ll get to in a moment. First, the story:

Dressed in a priestly white robe and green stole, Monique Venne lifted communion bread before an altar — defying centuries of Catholic Church law.

Despite promises of excommunication from the Vatican, she and six other women in Minnesota say they are legitimate, ordained Catholic priests, fit to celebrate the mass. They trace their status through a line of ordained women bishops back to anonymous male bishops in Europe.

There have been no “promises of excommunication.” Women who get somebody to lay hands on them and call themselves priests are automatically excommunicated. Monique Venne, for instance. As for her “status,” she is a lay excommunicated Catholic playing dress up. The “line” of poseurs through whom she traces her dress-up privileges have no more standing in the Roman Church than the Dalai Lama.

“We love the church, but we see this great wrong,” said Venne, 54, who cofounded Compassion of Christ Church, a Minneapolis congregation that just celebrated its first anniversary. “Not allowing women to be at the altar is a denigration of their dignity. We want the church to be the best it can be. If one leaves, one cannot effect change. So we’re pushing boundaries.”

Ms. Venne may think she’s Catholic, but she isn’t. She has left the building, crashed through the boundaries, rendered herself utterly irrelevant to the church she claims fealty to. She is a splendid Episcopalian, however.

Several Protestant denominations have allowed women to be ordained ministers for decades. But the Catholic Church views an all-male priesthood as unchangeable, “based on the example of Jesus, who, even though he had revered relationships with women who were his disciples, chose only men to be his apostles,” said Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“Women who claim to have been ordained Catholic priests in fact have no relationship to the Catholic Church because their ordination is not valid,” he said.

An increasing number of Catholics disagree with the church on this. In a poll last year by the New York Times and CBS, 59 percent of U.S. Catholics favored letting women become priests, with 33 percent opposed.

As a matter of polling information, this may be correct. It is a sad commentary on the state of catechesis in the Catholic Church is it is. And not to burst their bubble or anything, but the opinions of those 59% mean absolutely squat. Last time I checked, Rome didn’t determine doctrine on the basis of polls, but what it considers revealed truth. I know that’s a foreign concept to most Americans, but there you have it.

That’s encouraging news for Roman Catholic Womenpriests, founded nearly nine years ago in Europe. It began after seven women were ordained aboard a ship on the Danube River by three male bishops. The group claims their ordinations are valid because they conform within the bounds of “apostolic succession.”

Which is to say that they said the magic words, exchanged the secret handshake, and declared black to be white. It means nothing more that the ravings of the members of the Flat Earth Society.

Dozens of U.S. congregations are being led by women priests, a movement many Catholics view as a means to solving the church’s problem of declining numbers of male priests. Roman Catholic Womenpriests is the first group to claim “apostolic succession,” said Marian Ronan, associate professor at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.

The church sees that as a threat to its authority, Ronan said.

No, it doesn’t. It is enforcing its discipline by declaring these women excommunicate, but it is no more “threatened” by them than the Empire State Building is “threatened” when Hulk Hogan says he’s going to push it over using his head. As for Womenpriests being “the first group to claim ‘apostolic succession,'” I’m not sure what the significance of that is. There have been episcopi vagantes around for centuries, and no one’s ever paid them any mind other than the two or three dozen followers who ooh and ah when they don fancy robes and ridiculous titles. These women are no different.

Oh, and as for those those “dozens of congregations” led by priestesses, if any of them have more than a handful of members, I’ll eat Ms. Venne’s alb.

Asked why they insist on remaining Catholic when they could be welcomed as ministers in other denominations, the women say, in so many words, it’s their religion, too.

“I’m as much Catholic, — I feel like it’s a nationality, — as I am English, German and Polish,” said Linda Wilcox, 64, who felt called to become a priest after working in the St. Paul library system for nearly 35 years. She is one of four women priests at Compassion of Christ.

Venne and other women at Compassion of Christ recall “playing mass” when they were children and pretending to be priests. As young girls, they felt rejected that they could not be altar servers, let alone priests.

“At the core of my being I knew that couldn’t be,” said Judith McKloskey, 65, of Eden Prairie. “Jesus included everybody.” For years at her parish church, Pax Christi, she served as a lay preacher and ran a national association for lay ministry. She was ordained in 2007.

These people would make splendid Unitarians. They’ve never read the Bible, know nothing about Christianity, and think that they are entitled to just make stuff up and substitute it for the real thing.

Anyway, I promised you a picture, so here it is:

Is it just me, or does this woman (Ms. Venne, in case you’re wondering) look like your grandmother pressing you to eat something made out of brussel sprouts and tofu while saying too loudly, “EAT THIS! IT TASTES GREAT AND IS GOOD FOR YOU, TOO!!”

(Via MCJ, where Chris Johnson has a very, very funny takedown of this.)

The debate over gay marriage, and the ways that religious institutions and persons respond to it, has provoked a great deal of sound and fury, much of it amounting to nothing more than a Buffalo Springfield lyric: “Singing songs and carrying signs/Mostly say, hooray for our side.” But occasionally someone writes something so egregiously stupid, so intensely hypocritical, so extraordinarily arrogant that it begs for a response. Such is a column by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, political activist at the Center for American Progress, in the Washington Post.

She seeks to take to task the Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas DiMarzio, who has called on Catholics to stop glorifying Catholic politicians who vote contrary to Catholic beliefs. The use of the term “Catholic” four time in the previous sentence is deliberate, as I seek to make the point that what DiMarzio called for is an internal Catholic matter. The question she is answering even quotes DiMarzio as saying that Catholics are “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected officials, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.” Keep that in mind as we proceed.

Thistlethwaite begins:

How can we expect other nations around the world to create and sustain pluralistic democracies when prominent religious leaders in the United Sates, such as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of New York, fail to grasp the fundamentals of this concept?

Since “other nations around the world” are unlikely to take any notice of Bishop DiMarzio, here’s a better question: does Thistlethwaite go knocking on doors telling people who they can and can’t have in their house?

Elected officials represent the many different people who elected them, not their particular religious organizations.

Like anyone disagrees with that.

The private religious doctrines of these legislators’ faith communities cannot dictate their political positions.  That would be to effectively “establish” their church’s view as the law of the land, something the Constitution forbids.

Really? REALLY? Does that mean that the United Church of the Revolution, of which Thistlethwaite is a member and former seminary president, is going to stop telling politicians what they should do? Her denomination just got through telling politicians (or telling its members to tell politicians) that they should 1) release a pair of convicted terrorists; 2) ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; 3) called upon its members to lobby at the federal, state, and local levels for gay rights; 4) advocate for the right of gay couples to adopt children; 5) advocate on behalf of peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Are we to take this direction from the UCR General Convention as trying to climb over the sacred wall between church and state? Is the UCR trying to…dictate to the government what its stands on public policy should be?

DiMazio cannot “dictate” the political positions of Catholic politicians. He hasn’t even suggested excommunicating them, which might actually make them stop and think. All he’s suggested is that they not be given a platform at Catholic institutions, and Thistlethwaite shrieks “church-and-state! church-and-state!” But this drivel gets even worse:

But Bishop DiMarzio’s position goes even further over the line that should separate church and state when he advocates shunning all state officials for this vote on marriage equality. “I have asked my collaborators not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.” One issue, then, will dictate that these churches should shun all elected officials, apparently on any issue and into the foreseeable future. That’s not pluralism, that’s exclusivism.

And guess what, lady? The Catholic Church has a right under the First Amendment to be exclusive if it wants to be! They can be single-issue all they want, and neither you nor your secularist buddies have any right to stick your nose in and say they shouldn’t be, much less that they are somehow violating church-state separation in doing so. If the Catholic Church, or any other, wants to kick a politician out because he picks his nose in public, there’s not a blessed thing you can do about.

In effect, according to this bishop, “any state official” has to play by the rules of the Catholic Church. That’s not just crossing the line that should separate church and state, it’s drawing a line in the sand that elected officials are not supposed to cross.

Yeah, I’m sure all those Jewish and Protestant politicians are just quaking in their boots, waiting to get their marching orders from Rome. As for the Catholic ones, maybe some of them should try voting their religiously-formed consciences sometimes, just as Thistlethwaite would no doubt want liberals to do, rather than sticking their fingers up to see which way the wind is blowing.

But it get even worse:

Drawing a “line in the sand” preventing marriage equality for LGBT Americans is not where the American people are going. In fact they are going the other way, favoring reducing barriers to marriage equality. It is also not where the Catholic rank and file is going in terms of marriage equality. As of May, 2011, Gallup reports that the majority of Americans now favor allowing gay citizens to legally marry. Interestingly, in the breakdown, Gallup notes “support for legal same-sex marriage is higher…among Catholics than among Protestants.”

Which frankly doesn’t mean jack. That percentage goes way down among religiously active Catholics, which is to say the ones that know and care what their church teaches on a significant moral issue, as opposed to getting their opinions from MSNBC or the New York Times. Then, of course, there’s the question of when Thistlethwaite started caring about public opinion with regards to public policy issues, since she couldn’t care a hoot in heck about what the unwashed masses think about government debt or taxes or global warming or anything else where she’s thinks they’re wrong.

Therefore, not only is Bishop DiMarzio taking a stand that is “over the line” in terms of the proper relationship between church and state in a religiously pluralistic democracy, he’s also out of step, taking a drastic public position based on outmoded and discredited ideas that many Catholic laypeople (as well as other Americans) no longer believe.

Because, you know, the Catholic Church is just like the UCR, where everything is subject to a vote, the Bible can be ignored in favor of the Zeitgeist, and both theology and morality can be changed on a whim if you just get enough people to say so. This DiMarzio guy may be a bishop, but he is so out of touch with Upper West Side opinion and Washington think-tankers. Must come from being stuck in Brooklyn, I guess.

There are many wonderful things about living in a religiously pluralistic democracy, and one really great one is that people of faith start to think for themselves and make their own judgments. And that’s allowed in this country. In fact, it’s often encouraged.

Unless, of course, the judgment you come to is a conservative, traditional one founded on Scripture and two thousand years of Christian orthodoxy. In which case, YOU’RE A BIGOT!

Susan Thistlethwaite–who left her church job presumably because she thought politics more interesting–has really outdone herself with this one. With all the arrogance that only a hard-left intellectual could muster, she presumes to tell a bishop of the Catholic Church (which has more members in its New York archdiocese than the UCR has in the entire country) how to do his job, how to be faithful to his calling, and how he, too, can be a good little religious leftist, if only he would leave that icky Roman morality behind, all while making it sound as if the First Amendment demands that he do things her way. All in all, a regular tour de force.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from a UCR “minister” whose comment ended up in the spam filter (probably because he insists on spreading lies about me, offers no rebuttal to anything in the post except ad hominem attacks on me, and has the Internet ethics of a weasel) that Thistlethwaite is actually still on the faculty at Chicago Theological Seminary, and that she is his “D.Min.” advisor. That makes perfect sense. They deserve one another.

It’s nice to know that the liberal Episcopalians Catholics who held a conference this past weekend in Detroit were right about one thing. According to Reuters:

Members of a liberal group of U.S. Roman Catholics on Sunday called on Church leaders to open talks with their members on controversies ranging from the ordination of women to allowing priests to marry.

Members of the American Catholic Council, meeting in Detroit, said they had grown concerned the church’s hierarchy was not listening to its members on issues such as the role of women, married clergy and the treatment of homosexuals.

This is the one thing they were right about. The Vatican is not listening to them, and has no more intention of listening to them screech about turning Roman Catholicism into American Episcopalianism than it is going to listen to Harold Camping for advice about how to go about being the Whore of Babylon.

“When in God’s name are the conversations going to begin?” asked Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun who addressed the meeting of about 2,000 people — part of a liberal wing that represents a minority in the 1.2 billion-member Church.

When you grow up and stop banging you spoon on your high chair, and insist that a church of a billion people kowtow to a handful of Americans who think that 21st century moral and theological relativism is the way to go.

Some of the people attending the meeting said they were frustrated by local bishops’ unwillingness to discuss their views on issues including the treatment of women.

“They refuse to talk about married priests and the ordination of women,” said Edward Ruetz, an 85-year-old retired priest who traveled to the meeting from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The former is an issue of discipline that can be changed at any time. As for the latter, Rome’s refusal to talk about it makes as much sense as it’s refusal to reconsider the doctrine of the Trinity. Bull-headed obtuseness is all it is.

“They have to listen to us, we want to have an open dialogue,” said Henk Baas, 58, who traveled to the meeting from the Netherlands, part of a European delegation that included visitors from Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Well, no, Henk, actually they don’t.

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online has a column today in which she refers to a play by “Roman Catholic” playwright Theresa Rebeck that got some attention in the New York Times last week. Ms. Rebeck, who claims to be a Roman Catholic, must be a real piece of work.

Her play, written under a commission from the University of Delaware English and Theater departments, is called “O Beautiful,” and is described as being “a satirical look at the politics of the Tea Party, Glenn Beck and the failed Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell,” which is to say that the school gave her $50,000 of foundation money (the Unidel Foundation had the honor of praying for this) to write an extended op-ed. And that’s not all:

“O Beautiful” also deals with suicide, date rape, gun rights, the founding fathers and, of course, abortion — in a subplot starting with the first scene, in which a pregnant teenager, Alice, seeks counsel from Jesus Christ, who wanders through the high school and characters’ homes without explanation. Jesus, rendered as sympathetic to everyone irrespective of their politics, reaches a provocative conclusion when Alice, who has been raped, asks where in the Bible he opposes abortion.

Alice: Did you ever say, “I’m Jesus, and I say that stupid girls who let guys talk them into going to the back seat of their cars have to have babies?” Did you say that ever?

Jesus: No.

Alice: All you talk about is, be nice to each other! You never said nobody’s allowed to have an abortion.

Jesus: No.

Alice: So can I? Can I? Can I?

Jesus: Honestly, I — I don’t really have an issue with it.

It is true that Jesus never said nobody can have an abortion. He also never said that nobody should have sex with a weasel, poison their mother-in-law, pay taxes using camel dung, or refer to God as “Mr. Bojangles.” So I guess He doesn’t have an issue with any of those things, either. Oh, and by the way–Jesus never, ever used the word “nice.”

In writing this opus, Ms. Rebeck didn’t start with Jesus, of course, but with her own politics:

“So I started with Alice’s story, but the politics of our day was also on my mind, and I felt particularly disturbed by how Jesus was being distorted over and over on the right,” added Ms. Rebeck, a University of Notre Dame graduate…

If I was Notre Dame, I’d ask for my sheepskin back. What she’s saying, in essence, is that she’s pro-abortion, so Jesus must be also. I mean, He’d never disagree with me, would He?

The director of the play and chairman of the university’s theater department, Sanford Robbins, justified this nonsense this way:

“Part of the university’s mission is to provoke thought and debate,” Mr. Robbins said. “And even people who may disapprove of her Jesus will see, I hope, that this is a loving, caring Jesus.”

Truth be told, He’s not. He’s a Jesus who doesn’t care about the life of the one to be killed, doesn’t care about the effect of abortion on women, doesn’t care about truth. In short, He’s a 21st century moral relativist who thinks that putting self first is a great way to live. Which is to say that He is apparently the playwright rather than any Jesus anyone has ever actually met.

One more thing. See those ellipses above? Here’s the end of that paragraph, which deserves to stand on its own:

…who, in her 20s, was a ghostwriter of Mass homilies for a company that paid $50 for weekday services and $150 for Sundays. “I have huge admiration for Jesus Christ and for his incredible compassion for all people.”

When I read this, my jaw dropped. There’s actually a company out there paying pro-abortion “Catholics” to ghostwrite homilies for Catholic priests to read at Catholic Masses? There are actually Catholic priests out there who, rather than write their own sermons, use the scribblings of people who repudiate Catholic teaching and make up stuff about Jesus based on their politics? Is there a Catholic bishop out there who’d like to comment on this? Because I’m speechless.

Two German lawyers, grandstanding for attention no doubt, have filed charges at the International Criminal Court against Pope Benedict XVI. The charges: that the Pope is…whisper it…Catholic. According to the Irish Times:

Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel, based at Marktheidenfeld in the Pope’s home state of Bavaria, last week submitted a 16,500-word document to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, Dr Luis Moreno Ocampo.

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”.

And what are the crimes with which Joseph Ratzinger is believed by these two heroic attorneys to be guilty?

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”.

In other words, he’s the Pope. He leads a world-wide church that elected him in a manner that those who are members presumably agree with, and he leads that church through the power of moral suasion. Anyone can ignore him and his pronouncements if they like, and if they are are excommunicated (one of the very few “totalitarian” weapons at his disposal) they would likely not care, because they don’t buy into him having that power (which is why they ignored him in the first place). In other words, the idea that Benedict can “terrify” anyone speaks more to the condescending view that these two have of Catholics than to the power of the papacy.

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”

In other words, he dissents from the modern view of birth control and unbridled sexual license. How very medieval of him. Look, you can argue with the official Catholic view of birth control (a view that is, ironically enough, pretty much universally ignored in the lawyer’s home country and throughout the rest of the West), but they are unquestionably correct that the best way to avoid getting HIV/AIDS through sexual activity is to keep your pants zipped. As far as it goes, I’ve got to wonder if these guys even read the press in their own country–Benedict has said that condom use may be permissible as a way of fighting disease, though that doesn’t make it right for birth control. I’m not sure exactly how you reconcile those two perspectives, but if this a “crime against humanity,” I’m a pimento loaf.

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”.

And now their just committing libel. They have no proof of a such a charge, except that there have been sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests (at a far lower rate than, say, public school teachers, at least here in the States), and that some bishops have covered those crimes up. The link to Benedict, even before he became pope, is basically a figment of some fervid imaginations.

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.

Not sure whether this is the third charge, or merely foaming at the mouth, but in any case what they are again suggesting is that the Pope is the head of a church that teaches and practices certain things. If these junior-grade Madalyn Murray O’Hairs want to ban religious freedom in Europe, they should just say so, and see what kind of reaction that gets. In the meantime, they should be disbarred for legal malpractice.

(Hat tip: Kevin Curtis via Facebook.)

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