'Tard of the Week - Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
While I fully expect to be bombarded by irate Catholics who will threaten me with the fiery pits of hell for this week's 'tard, I just can't let this go.

The Pope is supposed to be God's spokesperson here on earth. Because he has a Batphone directly to the Big Guy, he's supposed to be infallible or some such.

Right?

Then how come every time ole Benedict opens his mouth lately, he exposes his ideas and opinions to be not only archaic and anachronistic, but just plain dumb?

Consider:
  • In 2006 he essentially alienated an entire branch of the Abrahamic religions by saying that Muhammad had brought "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Way to reach across the aisle, there, Your Holiness, especially in light of those pesky Crusades.
  • In 2008 he indicated that the subject of the ordination of women is not even open for discussion and declared that anyone involved with the ordination of women would be automatically excommunicated. Those uppity wimmin just don't know their place.
  • But this year he lifted the excommunication of Holocaust-denier Richard Williamson. I guess the word from the Batphone is that fully including women in religious life is a burn-worthy offense, but denying the deaths of millions of innocents is just naughty.
  • Then there's his utterly retarded commentary on how the distribution of condoms "increases the problem" of the spread of AIDS on the African continent.
Really, Pope Benedict? Really? How fascinating your world must be. Do you mind if we join you there?

Seriously - how fucked up do you have to be as a Pope before Catholics start to publicly call for your impeachment?

The part I don't get is that Joseph Ratzinger is not an unintelligent man. He was a contemporary of Pope John Paul II, who I greatly admired in spite of our differences of opinion. John Paul thought highly of him, and gave him enormous responsibility. So why does Benedict appear to be so thoroughly disengaged from reality-as-we-know-it?

'Tard.

28 comments:

vince said...

In my experience, much of the current hierarchy is completely out of touch with much of the laity on a lot of issues.

Of course, there are splinter groups of Catholics who think Benedict hasn't gone far enough.

Sadly, there are few Christian sects who haven't practiced the "spread by the sword the faith they preached" option.

Christianity has often historically been schizophrenic - capable of great compassion and mercy to those in need who were members of their own sect, while simultaneously capable of the most hideous and violent acts against those who weren't.

And all of this crap out of "love thy neighbor as thyself", the "whatever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me" and the parable of the good Samaritan, etc.

I just don't get it, and I'm a Christian.

mattw said...

Hey Pope Benedict, if the condom is spreading AIDS, then you're doing it wrong. Not that you would know anything about doing it.

Ba zing!

Jon Stewart had some funny things to say on the subject, but of course I'm too lazy to go look it up at the moment.

Jerry Critter said...

I suspect that Catholicism has more to do with the spread of AIDS than the use of condoms.

Janiece Murphy said...

Vince, I don't get it, either. Mostly because in my experience, Catholics are no better or worse than any other cross-section of humanity in terms of being decent human beings.

So how come their spokesperson is such an asshat?

Matt, I was wondering who would take that straight line. Hee!

Hi Jerry - long time, no see. Why do you think that? I would describe condoms as a net-gain in terms of AIDS prevention, and Catholicism as a net-neutral.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

And here I get ready for a tour of Catholic Ireland, witha group of Catholics! I can't wait to get my stick all nice and pointy! Way to go, Pope!
Seriously, this is why I am not a catholic anymore. I just tell people that "the Church and I had some disagreements" and I no longer toe that line.
The forgiving of the Holocaust Deniers just cemented his role of "Most out-of-Touch Person on the Face of the Earth".
Uber-Tard (get it? German Uber for the German Pope??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Random Michelle K said...

Vince, I don't get it, either. Mostly because in my experience, Catholics are no better or worse than any other cross-section of humanity in terms of being decent human beings.

So how come their spokesperson is such an asshat?


Because Catholics don't get to choose who the pope is. Selection of the pope is by a bunch of really old guys who are isolated from the real world.

And let's not forget, John Paul II appointed most of those conservative Cardinals who chose Ratzinger. So it's not like his selection was really much of a surprise to anyone.

John Paul II was very conservative. He just chose to put forward the genial old man. After all, Benedict is just reiterating policies put in place by John Paul II.

And to be honest, I'm not sure for how many of those statements Benedict was speaking ex cathedra. My guess is none.

Janiece Murphy said...

Amy, you crack you up.

::snort::

Don't get burned at the stake while you're in Ireland, okay?

Nathan said...

A couple of tangentially related stories:

1. NY's outgoing Cardinal Egan thinks there should be a discussion about letting Priests marry.

http://tinyurl.com/d958or

2. The Manager who got fired from the NY Palace Hotel for telling a Bell Captain on Ash Wednesday to "Wipe that fucking shit off your face". Ironic double header? The NY Palace leases it's property from the Catholic Church.

http://tinyurl.com/dy53bl

Oh, and yeah. Benedict's something of a 'tard.

Janiece Murphy said...

Michelle, those would be the issues on which John Paul II and I disagreed.

But I admired him personally, and some of his political endeavors resulted in improvement of secular conditions, such as Solidarity in Poland.

As for Benedict's comments being off the cuff rather than ex cathedra, such distinctions only matter to Catholics, in my experience. While dogmatic law is complex, a layman would be far more likely to take such distinctions as "I'm always right, except when I'm wrong."

The Pope is in a unique position in that he wields both spiritual and secular power. He's not doing a very good job of wielding his secular power with care, in my opinion.

Wendy said...

One problem with Rome is the total ban on birth control. Seems if a clear solution exists for another problem that touches the bc issue in any form or fashion, it can't be used.

So, with their way of thinking,
condoms = birth control NOT protection from deadly diseases. With that line of thought, are they planning to support all the AIDS babies that will be born to infected parents? That's criminal.

WendyB_09

Random Michelle K said...

Unfortunately, I think that aside from Benedict looking like a sith lord and John Paul II looking like your favorite grandfather, dogmatically and politically I'm not sure there's a big difference between the two. John Paul II presented his message in a kind and gentle manner, whereas Benedict doesn't seem to care what the world thinks of him.

But politically and dogmatically they're very similar.*

IMO, Benedict was picked because he has a reputation for getting things done and doing what was believed right even in the face of opposition. (ie the pope's pit bull).

In the eyes of most of the council of Cardinals, Benedict is a man of action who is willing to do the work to get numbers up. He wasn't a bad choice when that's your criteria.

Let me be clear there's a reason I'm no longer Catholic, and disagreement over doctrinal and political beliefs is part of it.

But I don't think the blame falls entirely at the feet of Benedict. After all, he's doing what they elected him to do, and continuing the policies set in place by John Paul.

*Excluding WWII. Let's not even open up that can of worms.

Eric said...

What Michelle said (except I've never been a Catholic).

Janiece, I think it sounds like you're judging him as a "secular and religious leader," and the problem is that he isn't. I don't think there's actually a difference between the two things from the papal perspective. He's God's spokesperson on Earth, heir to Jesus' ministry via Petrine primacy.

As Michelle pointed out, Pope John Paul II's public persona in the secular press--Time magazine, American papers, etc.--was that he was the nice grandfatherly old guy and Solidarity supporter who hung out with Bono. In some ways, this was the legacy of a politically convenient story (in being anti-communist during the latter part of the Cold War, the Pope automatically became an "enemy of my enemy" as far as D.C. and much of the press was concerned, regardless of his actual positions on anything; not that JPII's religious orthodoxy was that far from the American religious right on matters of sexuality and birth control). But the truth was that he was a fairly conservative Catholic spokesman-for-God-on-Earth, not your grandpa who you maybe disagree with sometimes but can have an equal and fair dialogue with in which he's curious to hear what you have to say and one of you might have your mind changed.

God doesn't change His mind and the Pope doesn't make mistakes. In a disagreement with the Pope, you lose by default. Automatically. You're not arguing with a dude, you're arguing with the omniscient Author of the universe (or his mouth, at least).

Ratzinger is just less diplomatic and good-humored about it. Don't let that fool you.

Janiece Murphy said...

Hm. I'm afraid I'll have to go with "nolo contendere" until I have an opportunity to look into JPII's positions. Then I'm afraid I'll have to fall on my sword on this one.

But Benedict is still a 'tard. Pbbtt!

Random Michelle K said...

Janiece,

I listened enough to my mom bitching about JPII that you can just fall on your sword now. :)

(I come from a family of liberal Catholics.)

Kevin said...

FYI, the pope isn't always infallible. Look up papal infallibility on wikipedia sometime. In fact, papal infallibility has only been invoked once since 1854. Please make sure you know what you're talking about before saying something that would make millions angry.

Jerry Critter said...

Janiece, You answered your own question.

"I would describe condoms as a net-gain in terms of AIDS prevention, and Catholicism as a net-neutral."

Hence condoms are more effective than Catholicism.

Random Michelle K said...

Kevin, you'll note that here in the comments ex cathedra was actually discussed.

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, Kevin.

I do understand the difference between the Pope speaking ex cathedra and his casual remarks - mostly because I went to Catholic school for 4 years during a turbulent youth.

However, most non-Catholics simply don't have the background in dogmatic law to make the distinction. They don't give a crap about the differences between Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Sacred Magisterium. They've just "heard" that the Pope is supposed to be "infallible." That's why I used hyperbole, i.e., the use of the "Batphone," rather than a strictly factual depiction of dogma.

Since I entitled the post "'Tard of the Week," it seems unlikely that my target audience would be Catholics who understand the dogma of infallibility, but liberals who find his social positions untenable and his viewpoint to be out of touch with modern society.

Since you appear to be the former and not the latter, I will say that my comments were not intended to disrespect any individual Catholic other than Joseph Ratzinger. If you've taken my remarks personally, then I apologize for offending you, while pointing out that you should not assume I believe that all Catholics believe and/or agree with the Pope on every issue.

Jerry, I understand, but you implied your comment that you thought "Catholicism has more to do with the spread of AIDS than the use of condoms." This implied to me that you thought Catholicism had an active role in spreading the disease, rather than being a neutral influence, as I suggested. Perhaps I misunderstood.

mom in northern said...

But...the old boy speaks a lot of languages and wears nice shoes...
:-)

Eric said...

Kevin, in the broadest-possible context, the historic position of the Catholic Church up until the Sixteenth Century was that there was essentially no difference between the secular and sacred--it was all God's business, after all. The Church has backed away from that, and made distinctions between ex cathedra and personal papal statements in the intervening centuries as the Church's influence has waned, and (I would contend) as more of a survival tactic than an actual theological change.

After all, if God says the Catholic Church is His bride-on-Earth on October 30, 1517, and the Pontiff his official spokesguy as the direct linear heir to Jesus' ministry on Earth, it doesn't seem too likely he'd change his mind on November 1, 1517, just because of what a wacky rogue priest does during the intervening twenty-four hours. But what has changed in the intervening five centuries is that the religious monarchies of Europe have been replaced with secular democracies and Protestant sects the dominant flavor(s) of Christianity throughout the first world (to the extent that some of these societies are even religious at all). So it's no longer diplomatic for Church authorities to go around saying, "Hey, the Pope is always right and you sinners are going to Hell," even if that's the logical upshot of the core dogmas.

Ecumenicalism is a nice convenience, and I approve, but let's face it: it's not really doctrinaire.

So of course papal infalliability is no longer formally invoked: it's a showstopper, even secularized Catholics in the United States and France aren't likely to accept it, much less Protestants, Muslims, or state-deists in the superficially-nominally-atheist communist countries.

That doesn't change the fact that when the Pope, speaking for the church, makes a pronouncement, he's not speaking conversationally about, say, family planning and disease control in the Third World and what should we do? He's speaking on behalf of the Church, on behalf of God, and God has written down somewhere that birth control subverts the basic purposes of the procreative act and is therefore a sin in His eyes, even if (maybe especially if) the birth control is actually being used to allow people to indulge in procreation-like activities without making each other sick, with birth-control being an incidental benefit.

Finally: another way of looking at the "infalliability has only been invoked once" claim is to note that infalliability was only defined as doctrine during First Vatican in the 1870s; i.e. it's a recent concept that has been applied retroactively to pre-First Vatican pronouncements to essentially "retcon" Church actions/pronouncements that were dogma at the time but obvious mistakes and missteps in retrospect. Prior to the nineteenth century, one can certainly make the case that there was no difference between statements made "officially" and statements made "personally" by a Pope. This leads one to wonder why there would be a difference now, aside from a revision in church doctrine; i.e. one might well ask, if it's true that the Roman Catholic Church was founded when Jesus singled out Peter and proceeds in a divinely-guided line from the First Century to today, when did the Pope became falliable all of a sudden!

(Naturally, if you don't particularly believe that Jesus was God's son, the whole thing becomes academic.)

Eric said...

This implied to me that you thought Catholicism had an active role in spreading the disease, rather than being a neutral influence, as I suggested. Perhaps I misunderstood.

Not to speak for Jerry, but if the Catholic Church has actively prevented the spread of measures that would reduce the transmission of HIV (i.e. if they've opposed the distribution and use of condoms), I'm not sure the influence can be called "neutral" or the matter of "active" versus "passive" roles more than semantic.

Lysambre said...

Power corrupts, great power corrupts greatly.

As much as I respect people's beliefs, I have absolutely no respect at all for the pope and his clique.
I've been to Rome, I've seen how they live like Kings while preaching to others about sharing and that money isn't important (yeah it's so un-important you should give it all to us).
I also hate how the Pope is nothing more than a dictator, pseudo elected by a bunch of corrupted guys just like him, and then he's there until he dies. He can do whatever he likes, say even more stupid things than Bush (and that's hard mind you) and yet there is no re-election in view.

I'll stop there before I give myself an aneurysm :p

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, Lysambre.

Respecting other people's beliefs and respecting religious institutions are two different kettle of fish of a different color, in my opinion.

(Mixed metaphor, anyone? Anyone?)

Nathan said...

Yes Janiece,

That was two birds of a feather in the hand.

Jim Wright said...

Personally I thought it was a case of the pot calling the kettle late for dinner.

Janiece Murphy said...

Sword > Me > Fall.

Hannah said...

You left off what the RCC (I don't know what Benny thinks) said about the little girl in Brazil.

Janiece Murphy said...

Hannah, you're right about the Brazilian girl. THAT was charming, wasn't it?