Irish Government demands full cooperation from the Vatican

On Monday I analyzed how the Vatican, in its response to the Irish Government about the Cloyne sex abuse report, had said only that its Bishops should “cooperate” with the Irish civil authorities, and had failed to say that they should “cooperate fully”. Since then the Irish Government has twice highlighted this important distinction. On […]

Atheist Ireland meets Government Forum on Primary Education Part 1

Yesterday, Tuesday September 6, Jane Donnelly and I attended the Department of Education’s Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. We were there to elaborate on, and answer questions about, the written submission that Atheist Ireland previously made to the Forum. We were questioned by the Advisory Group to the Forum, which consists […]

Is the Vatican cooperating fully with the Irish Government?

The most significant sentence in the Vatican’s response to the Irish Government about the Cloyne Report comes on the second-last page, just before the concluding remarks. It says: “From the foregoing considerations, it should be clear that the Holy See expects the Irish Bishops to cooperate with the civil authorities, to implement fully the norms […]

Vatican compares child abuse with ordaining women

Apologists for the Vatican have recently claimed that the Catholic Church does not compare sexually abusing a child with attempting to ordain a woman, but that it merely included both crimes in the same document as a procedural matter.

However, this is not true. A Vatican official has explicitly described the crimes contained in this document as being “on the same level” of seriousness. They are the “Delicta Graviora”, the crimes which the Catholic Church considers the most serious of all, and which are reserved to the Holy See for judgment.

In 2007, the Vatican published a pamphlet on Paedophilia and the Priesthood, written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This pamphlet explicitly states:

“The seriousness with which the Church evaluates and judges acts of pedophilia is shown by the fact that with a new law passed in 2001, the Holy See (and not the local bishops) decided to reserve the right to judge those crimes…

The fact that the Pope wanted to reserve to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a dicastery of the Holy See — judgment of the acts of pedophilia committed by priests, shows that the Church considers those acts to be very serious, serious crimes on the same level of the other two serious crimes — reserved to the Holy See — that can be committed against two sacraments: the Eucharist and the holiness of confession.”

In 2010, with the updated document Normae de Gravioribus Delictis, the Vatican has now added the attempted ordination of women to this strange list of the most serious crimes of all.

And the direction of the comparison is not that they consider these theological crimes to be as serious as sexually abusing a child, but that they consider sexually abusing a child to be as serious as these theological crimes, to be judged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which used to be the Congregation of the Inquisition.

For example, sexually abusing a child is listed not as a crime against the child, but as a crime against the Biblical commandment forbidding adultery. And attempting to ordain a woman attracts a more serious punishment than sexually abusing a child. This is the type of morality that results when people put theology ahead of reality.

Ethical issues should be evaluated on the basis of human rights, compassion, well-being and suffering, not on the basis of theological dictates from people who believe they are getting messages from the creator of the universe.

The resurrection of Jesus in the Bible

One of Atheist Ireland’s campaigns is to encourage people to read the Christian Bible and the sacred texts of other religions. The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenet of Christianity. But the evidence for this extraordinary claim is nonexistent outside the Christian Bible, and contradictory within the Christian Bible.

In the earliest written Biblical reference, Paul says the risen Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people at one time [1 Cor 15:3-8]. Yet in the earliest written Gospel, called Mark, the allegedly risen Jesus does not appear to anybody. A different writer later added that part [16:9-20] to the Mark story, with the risen Jesus saying that people who believed in him could safely drink poison.

The Gospels called Matthew and Luke, written a decade or more later, were the first to include the risen Jesus physically appearing to people. But in Matthew, this seems relatively commonplace, with the bodies of many dead people being physically resurrected, coming out of their tombs, and appearing to many people [27:52-53]. None of the other Gospels mention this incident.

Nor do the Gospels agree on where and how many times the risen Jesus physically appeared. In Mark he does not appear at all. In Matthew he appears twice, to the two Marys on a road [27:8-9] and to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee [27:16-17]. In Luke he appears three times: to a man and his companion on a road [24:13-32], to Peter in an unspecified place [24:33-34], and to his disciples and others in a house [24:36-53].

In John he appears four times: to Mary Magdelene who thinks he is a gardener outside his tomb [20:11-18], to his disciples twice in a house [24:19-23, 26-29], and to some of his disciples for breakfast after a fishing trip [21:1-12]. None of the Gospels include Paul’s remarkable claim that the risen Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people at one time.

These fantastic and wildly inconsistent stories may have seemed convincing in more primitive times, written as they were as standalone stories in different places for different audiences, many of who believed the world was coming to an end within their lifetimes. They are no basis today on which to build a worldview about the nature of reality or how we should live together as sentient beings.

Jesus the raging ruler of Revelation

Moderate Christians sometimes argue that Jesus changed the violent message of the Old Testament God. But this argument ignores the New Testament portrayal of Jesus as the raging ruler of Revelation.

A prophet called John believed that Jesus appeared to him on the Greek island of Patmos, to show him what the end of the world would be like. Jesus had white hair and eyes like flames, a sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth, he wore a golden sash over a full-length garment, his feet were like brass, he carried seven stars in his hand to represent seven angels, and he stood between seven golden candlesticks that represented seven churches in Turkey. Jesus dictated letters to the angels of each of these churches. These included some strong rebukes. He told the angel of one church that a woman called Jezebel had seduced his servants to fornicate, so he was going to kill her children with death.

After dictating these letters, Jesus brought John to Heaven through a door in the sky. God was sitting on a throne being worshipped by twenty four elders with gold crowns, and four beasts with six wings each. God had a book sealed with seven seals, and nobody was worthy enough to open it except Jesus, who now appeared as a lamb. Jesus took the book from God, and opened the first six seals. Four horsemen brought disasters to the earth, but 144,000 Israelites were saved. Jesus then opened the seventh seal, and seven angels brought more disasters to earth, with various beasts killing some people and torturing others but not letting them die.

The angels in Heaven then cast the Devil down to earth in the form of a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. The dragon attacked a pregnant woman, but the earth protected her. Then a beast arose from the sea, and the dragon gave the beast his power and authority. The number of the beast was 666. Seven more angels then poured seven golden vials of God’s wrath onto the earth, bringing seven more plagues. The seas and rivers turned to blood, people were scorched with fire, and giant hailstones fell from the sky. A woman, the whore of Babylon, was sitting on the back of the beast, and an angel destroyed the city of Babylon.

Jesus himself then went to war with the beast. Jesus was on a white horse, and his robe was soaked in blood. Jesus cast the beast and his false prophet into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, and killed the beast’s army using the sword that came out of his mouth. An angel then jailed the Devil in a bottomless pit for a thousand years, after which the Devil returned and deceived various nations. God cast those nations, the Devil, Hell and Death itself into the lake of burning brimstone for eternity. God then sent a new Jerusalem, made out of gold, from Heaven to earth, and the righteous lived there in peace for eternity. Finally, Jesus assured John that the time for all of these prophecies to happen was soon coming.

Jesus as the raging ruler of Revelation is inconvenient to moderate Christians, because he is just as vengeful and violent as was the Jewish Jehovah of the Old Testament. Even before he brought John to Heaven, Jesus was threatening to kill the innocent children of the prophetess Jezebel because of the sins of their mother, which is straight out of Old Testament morality.

Of course, this Jesus may have been just a vision that appeared to John on the island of Patmos, but he was either as real, or else as imaginary, as the Jesus that appeared in a vision to Paul on the road to Damascus. There is no valid reason to give either of these hallucinations any more or less credibility than the other.

And this Jesus was adamant that his message was not to be revised: before he left, he told John that God would curse anyone who either added to or removed any of his words. So there’s not much room there for cherry-picking the bits that sound nice.

Time for action on child sex abuse report

A year after the Ryan Report was published, we must not forget the decades of crimes it uncovered by Irish religious orders against children in their care. A new coalition of children’s groups is now calling for faster government action on the report. And two men are on hunger strike outside the palace of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin seeking arrests and an international criminal investigation.

Between 1936 and 1970, about 170,000 children were sent to about fifty industrial schools, and were kept there for an average of seven years. The religious orders systematically abused the children in their care. They hit, beat, flogged and kicked children. They scalded and burned children and held them under water. They sexually molested and raped children. They told children they were worthless, and lied to them that their parents were dead. They left sick and injured children untreated. They neglected to provide children with basic standards of care, food and clothes. They shaved, beat and humiliated children who ran away and were caught.

The religious orders did all of this as a matter of policy, treating and beating children in similar ways in different schools. They wanted to create a climate of daily terror, with children not knowing where the next beating was coming from. They knew their behaviour was illegal: they reported abusive lay workers to the police, but protected priests, brothers and nuns. The Department of Education failed in its duty to inspect and monitor these schools. Despite knowing that violence was endemic, it saw its role as facilitating the religious orders.

The men on hunger strike outside the Catholic Archbishop’s palace are John Ayres and Kevin Flanagan. John was physically abused and seriously beaten as a child, both by his parents and in institutions. Kevin’s brother Mickey was assaulted with a brush in Artane industrial school, suffering concussion and a broken arm, and was then locked in a shed for sixty hours and denied medical assistance.

The eight groups who have come together to lobby the Government to carry out the Ryan Implementation plan are Barnardos, CARI, Children’s Rights Alliance, Irish Association of Young People in Care, ISPCC, One in Four, Rape Crisis Network of Ireland and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Here’s what they want the Government to do…

Pope’s letter protects church, not its victims


The Pope’s letter on child sexual abuse holds lessons for civic society. What he writes to Catholics about religion is a matter between him and them. But the Catholic church also operates within civic society, acts as a quasi-State at the United Nations, and sends ambassadors to real States. And the Pope’s letter on child sexual abuse includes assertions about secular society that are factually wrong.

Having read the full pastoral letter, the following seems clear:
1. The Pope’s main priority is protecting the church, not its victims
2. The Pope wrongly blames secularism for priests raping children
3. The Pope’s apologies are incomplete and his appeals self-serving
4. The Pope’s “concrete initiatives” are a distraction not a solution
5. The Pope is evading the church’s responsibilities to civic society

The full article below elaborates on each of the above five points and concludes that if the Catholic church will not voluntarily face up to its responsibilities within civic society, then the institutions of State must ensure that it does so. And we the people should lobby our politicians to make this happen sooner rather than later.