Tag Archives: Catholic church

Best Careers For Criminals

Our world has gone topsy turvy, and perhaps it’s always been this way. There certainly have always been people who used corruption, selfishness, exploitation and amoral behavior to further themselves at the expense of others. These people were usually kept in check, or at least the wholesale rampant anarchy was, so that there is a semblance of society, rules and laws by which the majority abides. And it tends to make living a happier and better experience.

Sometimes we get too many laws, and bylaws and requirements and procedures that muddy our lives in bureaucratic paperwork and hoop. But even so,  we usually know who the good guys are. Then again, if you look at the news we’ve been getting of late it might be hard to tell as the lines blur. I’ve already talked about how the good police and RCMP have had their name tarnished by the criminal, unthinking or untrained actions of other members of these forces. Perhaps, because I live in BC I hear more about this province but the police and RCMP here seem to be particularly bad, tasering people to death, shooting them in the back of the head kicking a guy who is complying (the latest from Victoria), or beating and robbing innocent people. We have hit an age of media that lets these events be recorded more frequently, therefore bringing what may once have been hidden to the attention of the common citizen.

So that’s one career for a criminal. If you like pushing people around, abusing power and generally getting away with murder, become a cop and you can avoid the usual criminal prosecution and just get suspension with pay, a desk job, or a worse, dismissed from your job. But you won’t end up in jail. I wonder if these police forces actually understand how much they’re hurting their own image by past denials and cover-ups. Doesn’t say much against corruption, does it?

Then of course there is the Catholic church. If you’re a pedophile, or some other form of sexual abuser, it’s the best place to be. Doesn’t really matter if you believe. After all, the church has gone through a few evolutions, fabrications and resurrections in its 2000 year history. Some of those evolutions involved banning sex in all sorts of forms by the 12th century and making it wrong for a priest to be married to a woman. Of course, we can try to negate the fact that as animals and humans there is a natural drive to procreate, or what the Church really hates, fornicate.

So in the really sensible repression of sexuality, the Church has helped create its own demons. Who needs hell when the Church houses it within its own walls? First Nations children taken from their homes and raised in residential schools often run by a priest and abused different ways. Choir boys and girls sexually abused. Other children and young teens molested in schools or other places. And one sexual pervert after another, still held in the comforting arms of the Catholic church, protected, hidden and defended. Priests moved from one place to another with not word from the Church to warn parents. No, far better to hide it and then pretend it never happened.

The latest in a string of priestly molesters so long it would probably encircle the globe (if we even knew all the names which you can bet we don’t) is Father Murphy alleged to have sexually abused some 200 boys and the church under Cardinal Ratzinger, the now Pope Benedict, just covered it up. When the religious leader of a very powerful and rich institution helps cover this up you know that the disease that eats at the heart of the Catholic church is deep and possibly irreparable. But then they are only human; conniving, lying, deviant, criminally human.

If I was the antiChrist or Satan, you know where I’d go? Not some dark den of Goths, not even into a lawyers’ enclave. No I would go straight to the church. Who would notice amongst that pack of miscreants. And in fact if I needed an army of darkness, well I could certainly pick the best from the Church’s own clergy.

Sad, isn’t it, that these two institutions (law and faith) don’t try to rid themselves, incarcerate or otherwise punish those who have blatantly disregarded the laws. Instead they hide and protect. So this year’s top two jobs for criminals is to become a police officer or a priest. Best place to learn the ropes, to avoid the rope and to have the time of your life at the expense of others. So much for civilization.

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Pilgrimage Tourism

In my research for a story during biblical times I have come across the bizarre business of what I call pilgrimage tourism. By the Middle Ages, parts or bodies of saints had begun to surface, literally. They were found in sepulchers, under churches, in the naves, perhaps a grave yard, and various other places. Some of these saints may have done a lot more traveling after their deaths than they did before they died.

Monasterboice, Ireland

Some traveled far and wide and one was likely to find  the remains of every saint at some point or another. The only person whose remains were never found were those of Jesus because he was supposed to have ascended bodily to heaven and to find his body would have whacked a giant hole in the tenets of early Christianity. So only his image on shrouds and capes, and parts of the true cross came into bearing.

After the first few saintly parts appeared and were ensconced in a church, or in the foundations or a reliquary box, the faithful visited these churches to venerate the saintly body, even though supposedly Christians believe in the transmigration of the soul, which means there is no spirit in the remains. And then, of course, cures or other miracles began to happen in the presence of a dead saint’s remains. In a way you could say that early Christians venerated a certain zombie aura to the dead, considering saints’ flesh or bones reanimated enough vitality to touch the living.

When the faithful flocked to these churches they needed places to sleep and food to eat, which not only buoyed and increased the wealth of the town but also filled out the coffers of the church. A richer church meant a bigger church and more items of gold and jewels, illuminated manuscripts, attention from Rome, larger flocks, etc. Soon, saintly remains were showing up everywhere.

A great many saints seemed to have left the environs of the Holy Land after Christ’s resurrection and traveled to Gaul or southern France. Why, I’m not sure since Italy was closer but it may have been to escape the Romans. And as the business of spiritually imbued remains grew more popular, grave robbing became a pretty regular business. If you were a saint you could bet that there would be no mortal rest for your body, nor for your soul as you would be dug up, dismembered, sold to various churches and pilgrims and then called upon for daily miracles. Busy life, busier afterlife. But of course, Christianity has only maintained that it is monotheistic, worshiping one god. Oops, but then there are saints galore.

Suddenly, or perhaps not that sudden, the early Middle Ages saw grave robbing as almost respectable. The fine line between good and bad was stretched a bit thin. On top of the grave robbing, churches started stealing the venerated saints from neighboring parishes and monks/priests were praised for such actions as obviously the saints had let them know they wanted to be moved.

But a problem started to arise, which neither Christ nor God could control, and it exposed a shady side to religion that was the ultimate downfall of a few churches’ prosperity. The dead saints seemed to multiply. Mary Magdalene had five bodies and numerous legs and arms. There was more than one head for other saints, or enough finger bones to populate a centipede’s legs. In truth the saints became legion and pretty much any suitable grave would be pillaged for body parts for nearby churches. There was no DNA testing then and the distance between towns and cities was much greater, with the only common modes of transportation being by foot or horse/mule. Often it was easy to have the same saint in a few places, until the mother church started to hear about it.

At first complicit in venerating saintly bits, the church had to curb the ghoulish trend. Just imagine a zombie army of saintly limbs and torsos and heads able to not necessarily animate, but to cure a host of ills. And all of this for the longest time brought hordes of faithful to various towns and cities. Popularity of saints waxed and waned but Saints Peter, Paul, John, Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Virgin Mary were popular at different times.

However, the multiple parts that each saint owned, and the full bodies or extra heads started to mar the validity of not only the Catholic church but also the belief that these were the holy remains, which could cure the ill and perform miracles. There was probably a couple of centuries worth of great tourism for pilgrims and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (a pilgrimage route to St. James) is popular to this day by tourists, hikers and the faithful.

It’s obvious that in two millennia of Christianity its role and rules changed and evolved, and perhaps the original teachings of Jesus got skewed quite a few times. What this says about humanity is fascinating: that for the sake of religion (and fame and fortune within that) even if you’ve taken a vow of poverty but you live in a monastery, you’ll do anything, even the illegal things, to bring glory to God, Jesus or the saints. You’ll cheat, swindle and create fake holy items. And if you’re just a worshiper, you’ll forget that it’s the soul that’s supposed to matter, and venerate desiccated body parts, that if ever tested might show the wrong gender or someone of origins other than Jewish for those first Jewish-Christian saints. Makes for an interesting evolution of a man-made religion with creative intervention.

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Book Review: The Word of God

You might think this is a religious book and in a way it is. The Word of God, or Holy Writ Rewritten, by Thomas Disch, (Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2008) was written not so much as a refutation to other religions, but, as Disch puts it, to establish himself as a deity. He begins his book discussing that the only way to talk to many religions, especially the fundamental ones, is to argue on their own level and point out that he too is a god and what his religion looks like.

It is witty, scathing, funny, illuminating. In part this is an autobiography of Disch’s life, but as a pastiche, not as a whole. It is part philosophy and condemnation of many conservative religions, especially Christianity. Disch was raised a Catholic and was publicly gay and since this is his “holy writ” it of course talks of religion in many guises quite a bit.

The book is also a collection of some poems and short stories, interspersed to give examples of birth, afterlife, reincarnation and judgment: “The New Me,” “Room Service,” “The Second Coming of the Christ,” “A Man of Mystery” “A Ranch House on the Styx,” “The School for Traitors,” “On the Road” and “Deus Ex Machina” almost all string together (some continuations of the same story) and of course all do touch on religion and the events that came together to create Thomas Disch. He was the illegitimate child of Thomas Mann, the prolific German writer and Nobel prize winner, though you will not find this listed in either Disch’s or Mann’s Wiki entry (and his father is missing altogether in his entry).

Many of these stories have Philip K. Dick in them, as a sort of antiChrist and in hell. It’s hard to tell from this if Disch had always hated Dick (since he wrote a poetic eulogy for Dick, which is in the book) or if he only came to despise Dick’s right-wing, bigoted, perhaps drug-induced opinions later, when Dick reported Disch to the FBI as a subversive. What the outcome of Dick’s confabulations were is unclear.

Thomas Disch was known to the SF community and was nominated numerous times for awards (and won some), but he also wrote a great deal of poetry, criticisms and other works, and had earlier aspirations in architecture. The book starts out in the present, around Christmas of 2005 when he began to write it, and he finishes on February 2nd, his birthday. Disch lived with his long time partner, Charles Naylor who died in 2005. Disch himself suffered from several illnesses and had a string of personal setbacks, besides being depressed by his partner’s death.

He took his life in July, 2008, just months before Word of God was published. It is somewhat ironic to read his words in this book that proclaims his deity and see where he was at and where life took him to. This is not his last book as I believe a posthumous work will be published this year. I enjoyed Word of God and it gave me a new look at Disch, his mind and his life. I had read his works, On Wings of Song and The Priest which was pretty scathing to the Catholic church while at the same time being deftly written enough for you to care for the very corrupt priest.

And if nothing else, I’m very curious as to what went on between Philip K. Dick, a great experimenter of drugs, married five times, and Thomas Disch, an openly gay man, all those years ago. They were both brilliant writers and characters in their own ways. Here’s to the god Disch and his ascension to his own heaven. Word of God, definitely worth a read, informative and entertaining throughout.

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Pope Benedict, Shake Your Head

When is the Catholic church going to pull its head out of the Dark Ages where it first firmly entrenched itself and burned/destroyed any symbols, artifacts and writings of other beliefs (hence bringing on the “Dark Ages”)? I’ve always wondered about any religion that freezes in time. Not that the Catholic church is the only one but wearing the frocks and habits of fashionable dress from the 11th and 12th centuries gets a little…old.

Besides traditions stuck in the past, so is Benedict’s and the Church’s beliefs: “Homosexual acts are a ‘destruction of God’s work,’ he said.” (CBC  http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/23/pope-speech.html )  The article is a little vague in connecting his comments to anti-homosexual statements. The Vatican site doesn’t list it yet in English but someone posted the rest. Here is a significant part that talks in roundabout terms of men and women as the only natural way of relationships: “It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man, understood in the right sense. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.” 

The Church has always said go forth and multiply. It’s part of the reason we have overcrowding and poverty, and consequently more disease. If we had statistics that went back centuries I’m betting that they would show that homosexuality rises with overpopulation: perhaps Ma Nature’s way to control population growth besides disease. I know I once read about a study with rats that showed they moved to homosexuality when overcrowded. I’m not sure what the other factors were, if there were equal numbers in genders but it would be an interesting aspect of the Gaia hypothesis.

Pierre Trudeau (past Prime Minister of Canada) once said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Likewise there is no place for the Church. It really is no one’s business and if they actually decided that the soul was jeopardized and unsalvageable (if it commits homosexual acts), then there would be no reason to rally against it.

I mean really, there is no need for every human being to keep multiplying. Condoms are okay. Homosexuality is okay. They help control the population. More people do not necessarily equal Christian converts and the Church just doesn’t seem to get that its outmoded view is alienating more people than it’s bringing into its folds. Granted the Vatican is still one of the riches entities in the world, but that could subside (maybe they have secret stocks in condom manufacturers).

I do believe that Benedict on one level thinks he’s trying to save souls and that he sees homosexuality as a “disorder” that harms the spirit and will keep that person from getting into heaven. However, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote a very long letter to the Bishops on care of homosexual persons in 1986. It’s very long, it goes into great detail on spirit and will and culpability. He is so concerned in fact that I think “he doth protesteth too much.”

We’ll never know but can only conjecture. But I wouldn’t doubt if Ratzinger joined the Church to avoid that holy union of man and woman, which God sees as natural. Odd that, how the Catholic church says it is what God wants but won’t let its priests and nuns marry or have sex. Hmmm. Ratzinger, then in trying to lead a pious and holy life devoid of all sex, including deviant, disordered sex, had to resist  his own inclinations and if he can do it, then anyone can and he can save those poor homosexual persons, because he saved himself.

That may only be a tale but I would like to think that perhaps that’s what the Pope believes. He does caution in 1986 against acts of violence on homosexuals but he certainly is vehemently against it.

Still, I wonder about the Church’s view and railing against homosexuality when there are worse crimes. There is murder and burglary and rape and other violence. Oh and there is pedophilia, perpetrated so often by the Catholic Church’s priests that they’ve been forced to make some apologies. Doesn’t Jesus say something like, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I’d suggest that the Pope check his glass walls before he starts tossing stones on gay people. Excerpts below, from Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html

 However, the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life…

Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder…

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society’s understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action….

Given at Rome, 1 October 1986.

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