Monday, August 30, 2010

The country is in good hands then

See here.  There are some stock arguments you come across without fail from the ignorant oaf in the pub or the even more ignorant tabloid journalist.  George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of the House of Lords (for absolutely no reason other than he’s a vicar) seems to have collected every single one of these lunatic positions into an imbecilic whine, which is interestingly published on the News of the World blog site. 

Cary is pleased that the Pope is visiting Britain, but he’s concerned:

But I cannot deny there is vicious intolerance in the air. Unfortunately, a minority have been making noises which go beyond reasonable criticism to hate-filled bigotry.

Well, we don’t want intolerance, do we?  It’s automatically bad, regardless of whether there’s something we can’t and shouldn’t tolerate. But more of that later.  We certainly don’t want hatred and bigotry though, so its a good job Carey spells out what these awful people have been saying:

The world’s most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, has declared the Pontiff head of the world’s "second most evil religion", while writer Claire Rayner describes the Pope’s views as "so disgusting, so repellent, and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him."

Hatred?  Intolerance?  Bigotry?  I’m afraid I can’t see it.  Let’s take Dawkins’ comment first.  It’s hard to argue that it’s unjustified.  Do we need to list the bad things the Catholic church has done?  Systematic child abuse and covering up of same; the horrific effects of teaching people that contraception – and especially condoms – are evil and should not be used even in the face of worldwide (and easily preventable) disaster from overpopulation, poverty, starvation and the explosive spread of AIDS; the subjugation of women, bad enough in it’s own right horrific also because female emancipation is the only known remedy for the aforementioned poverty; the stance that homosexuality is an abomination and that homosexuals should receive fewer rights than others….  Any other organisation that behaved like this would be regarded as unambiguously evil by anyone not indoctrinated, even if it did good stuff too.  Second most evil religion?  It’s not really a stretch, is it?  Catholicism doesn’t fly planes into buildings and these days at least we don’t see too many murders of innocent people in the name of the Catholic faith, so I think Islam certainly trumps Catholicism in the evil stakes, but however horrible the other major religions try to be (and they do seem to try so very hard), none really come close to the Catholics in terms of the global reach of their evil acts.

Is Dawkins being intolerant here?  He’s intolerant of evil behaviour, which seems a fairly reasonable position to me.  Hatred?  Not of the pope, as Carey implies, but perhaps of the bad things the Catholic church does under the Pope’s guidance.  Bigotry?  Not in the slightest.  Dawkins doesn’t deny that the Catholic church does some good things.  He protests about the bad.  As we all should.  A bigoted response to the evil done by that church would be to ignore it or worse to sweep it under the carpet, which is precisely what Carey does.

Now to Claire Rayner, of all people.  According to Cary, she has said that the pope’s views are disgusting, repellent and damaging.  I certainly agree with her on that score, so I think I’m probably one of the ‘rest of us’ she’s referring to.  There’s a pretty big rest of us, I think.  It includes all the people – Catholic and otherwise – who don’t see fit to give religious organisations a free pass to commit evil acts.  I doubt Rayner wants to interfere with people’s rights to believe and worship whatever they like (Dawkins certainly doesn’t), but it doesn’t mean everyone else has to like it.  It doesn’t mean they can’t criticise it.  Rayner’s statement doesn’t show hatred, intolerance or bigotry at all.  It’s a criticism of the pope’s views without ever attacking the man himself (other than insofar as he holds these views) and so Carey’s accusations against Dawkins and Rayner are strawmen and presumably libellous.

There have been rumours, too, of plans to arrest him while he is in Britain and countless groups are attempting to mount protests.

This statement stands alone.  We, the readers, are supposed to infer that this both a bad thing and a sign of intolerance.  I expect Carey is keen on people protesting things that he himself doesn’t happen to like.  Who is the bigot here?

The same intolerance is behind much- publicised cases of banning crosses, marginalising the celebration of Christmas and the sacking of Christian civil servants who won’t bow the knee to the gods of equality and diversity.

These are feebly constructed strawmen.  Assuming, that is, that Cary is referring to the zero cases of crosses being banned (for example, when a nurse and an airline worker were politely asked to wear their crosses on the inside of their uniforms because the rules said no visible jewellery of any kind and trumped up charges of discrimination which had no basis in reality.  Crosses were not banned, uniform codes were enforced.  For everyone). 

And assuming that by marginalising Christmas, he’s referring to the well-known ‘winterval’ business, which was not an attempt to marginalise Christmas, but a simple marketing campaign for a shopping centre in Birmingham.  Even if the celebration of Christmas had been somehow marginalised (whatever that could possibly mean), how would that constitute ‘intolerance’?  Isn’t complaining about the supposed marginalisation of the celebration of Christmas (which in this context can really only mean also celebrating other religious festivals, can’t it?) the epitome of intolerance?  Isn’t Carey saying that his shindig is more important than everyone else’s and the others shouldn’t get publicity?

What about all these sackings of civil servants for their simple and selfless devotion to their right and proper Christian values?  Do you think Carey might be referring to Lillian Ladele, the bigoted registrar who refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships?  This wasn’t discrimination against her at all.  It was discrimination on her part against homosexuals.  It seems reasonable to assume that a registrar who refuses to register stuff is failing in her duties and can’t really be expected to continue in that role.  That’s her choice, nobody else’s.  Indeed, it seems as though the council bent over backwards to accommodate her deeply repugnant views. 

It certainly didn’t sack her. Ladele claimed (falsely, as it turned out) that the council bullied and ridiculed her.  But nobody was sacked. 

Perhaps Carey has other examples in mind, but he’s referring to ‘much-publicised’ cases and I’ve been unable to find any more of those.  In any case, why beat about the bush?  Why doesn’t he describe what really happened in these cases and spell out for the slow of thinking like me how they constitute an attack on Christianity?  The answer I’d hazard is that Cary knows perfectly well that he’s flailing at strawmen; that the incidents he’s claiming happened never did; and that he’s relying on the vague outrage and poor memories of his tabloid audience to infer the point for him. 

This is no way to argue and Carey, who is a highly educated man, surely knows this.

Having dispatched his childish arguments, let’s go back to what I said right at the start.  There are some arguments that turn up time and again despite having no merit at all.  There are some people who deliberately perpetuate strawmen even though they surely know that they are strawmen and know therefore that anyone who has looked into any of these cases has caught them in a barefaced, deliberate lie.  AND THEY DON’T CARE.  Well, why should they?  We’re not exactly talking about people who are employed to tell the truth.

Carey hasn’t nearly finished yet, however:

So how should the vast majority of Britons view the visit of His Holiness, Pope Benedict?

I had to read this sentence several times.  It’s an astonishing combination of idiocy and cunning.  The idea that there is a single way that people should view Ratzinger’s visit is as astonishing as it is offensive.  The suggestion that Carey has an answer to this question is as audacious as it is…well…offensive.  It seems on the face of it a blithering statement.  But do you see what he did?  He really did go and put that “vast majority” crack in there and even backed it up with the jingoistic “Britons”.  That’s nice work.  He’s once again hoping that his audience will infer that the Christian view is the ‘official’ one and that these rag-tag malcontents who object to the pope’s embrace of evil are silly, marginal misfits.  He even goes so far as to explain just how holy the pope actually is.  He’s holiness itself, damnit.  It’s great stuff: he should work for a cosmetics company.

So how *should* the majority of people (who naturally agree with Cary) respond?  Read the article.  Carey doesn’t say.  Let me type that again.  After telling us that there’s a way we should respond if we don’t want to be in the supposed minority he has dismissed as a set of hateful bigots, he doesn’t ever tell us what that response should actually be.  Even though there’s still fully half of the article left. 

What does he do instead?

It’s more tabloid pandering, misinformation and outright lies, I’m afraid.  Ah, what the fuck, let’s have a gander, shall we?

Well, let’s acknowledge the positive, to begin with. The Catholic Church is a massive force for good in the world.

Ah, I love this phrase.  A Massive Force For Good.  I’m not sure exactly how it could be called a force or how a force could have a mass, but let’s not quibble about the details.  Let’s embrace the spirit of what Carey is saying and agree that the Catholic church does some good things.  It surely does.

I have seen for myself, in many travels in the developing nations, the leadership displayed by the Roman Catholic Church in tackling Aids and poverty, and in providing education and opportunities to children. Even here, its contribution to our country is immense.

Well, there’s quite an unfortunate appeal to the authority of George Carey in an article by George Carey, but what the hell.  Critical thinking has only been on the scene for a few thousand years so it’s reasonable for people of reason to hobble themselves for a few more millennia until the Catholic church catches up waving a badly forged note from it’s mum.  Let’s give him that one and focus on the astonishing statements he makes next. 

First, tackling Aids (when did AIDS become Aids, by the way?  Is it not an acronym any more?) and poverty.  What has the Catholic church done to combat either?  Well, there are only two ways to tackle AIDS: chastity and condoms (well, and medical breakthroughs of course, but I’m talking about immediate, on the scene stopping more people from immediately being infected).  The Catholic church promotes chastity and actively campaigns against condoms.  It says that people who use condoms are going to hell.  There are anecdotal examples of Catholic (and other Christian) missionaries telling people in developing countries that condoms don’t prevent AIDS.  I can’t quite dismiss these stories as propaganda, although I haven’t done a great deal of research into them.  I don’t need to: the Catholic church prohibiting condom use when it is known that condoms are a very good means of preventing people dying from AIDS is quite enough. 

What about chastity?  Well, it’s the only sure-fire way to prevent the spread of AIDS alright.  But can’t we use condoms to get the infection under control first and then – if we decide we want to – stick to a single sexual partner for the rest of our lives?

No.  You have to do sex the way the Catholic church does.  If you fail in this ideal, it doesn’t matter, because you can say sorry to Jesus and it will all be OK….except for all the people you’ve infected. 

Isn’t is better to say sorry to Jesus for putting a bit of latex on your aad feller than for giving someone a fatal disease?  Catholic doctrine says no.  No it’s not.

But of course Cary has done his weasel trick again.  Did you see it?  He carefully didn’t say that the church was doing a great job actually tackling AIDS.  He said that it was displaying good leadership in that battle.  Now what do you think Cary means by that?  I think he means that the Catholic church is putting up a good moral front by saying I told you so.  Saying I told you so is often irresistible but rarely helpful.  I do it myself on occasion, I freely admit.  I’ve said “I know it’s a pain to pack your phone charger, but your battery *will* run out.”  The satisfaction I got from pointing out that I actually did, for the record, tell him so did not get us fed or out of the rain. 

But it’s rather a different thing to continue to say I told you so when it comes to AIDS.  You have to wonder whether, say, doing something about it, even if you personally don’t agree with the only practical solution, might be slightly better than revelling in the agony of millions of deaths.  Yes, Catholics, you kind of did tell us so (although only after the fact, which probably doesn’t really count).  Do your little victory dance, if you like.  And then do what needs doing to alleviate suffering.  This you will not do.

Poverty.  The only known cure for poverty is the emancipation of women.  The logic isn’t too difficult.  If half the population are stuck indoors having child after child, your economy is going to be at a disadvantage.  Educate that half of the population, allow them to make decisions over who they marry and whether they have children and you know what?  There’s a good chance that you suddenly (really, suddenly) might have a workforce to be reckoned with.  I don’t mean to suggest that the Catholic church encourage poverty or even oppose the education and emancipation of women.  I’m sure it doesn’t in general.  But it discriminates against women.  It doesn’t allow women to do various things, which can only be taken as an official ruling that women are somehow not good enough to do those things.  What kind of message is this likely to spread in an already dangerously patriarchal society?

Let’s move on.  Education…opportunity….immense contribution ‘even here’ (I’m not sure what to make of that last quip).  Does Carey mean that the Catholic church runs some (quite a lot of) schools in the UK?  Those schools would exist if the church didn’t run them.  The government pays for those schools, not the churches.  The churches just exert undue and creepy influence over the students and what they are taught.  Education worldwide?  Well, I concede that point.  I’m sure the Catholic church (and others) help pay for education in places it is needed around the globe.  Good on them.  I say this with the single caveat that I hope this education doesn’t come with any kind of pressure to adopt the Catholic faith.  I have no evidence either way.

Either way, Carey’s arguments for the brilliance of the Catholic church isn’t doing too well.  What’s next?

Take for example, the issue of clerical abuse of children and the chilling cover-ups which have emerged. To a lesser extent other churches are guilty of the same offences. And the same goes for secular institutions too.

It’s hard to express how much I hate this argument.  Shall we call it Guilt by Disassociation?  Let’s create a bit of a strawman to argue this point, then we’ll wonder later whether it’s actually a strawman at all:

If one person in the world commits rape, that’s bad.  If lots of people do it, it’s not so bad.  The amount of badness is inversely proportional to the number of people doing bad things.

Is this a strawman?

Lots of Catholic priests raped children.  But other people rape children too.  So it’s not that bad.

This seems to be what Carey is saying and it is disgusting.  It is also wildly illogical because it fails to take into account the only thing that could possibly be of importance in deciding what’s right and wrong: the suffering of victims.

Tarring others with the same brush doesn’t work unless it is done to highlight some bigoted practice.  Showing, for example, that a group of people who spread hatred about homosexuals contains about the same proportion of homosexuals as any other group can be illuminating and helpful.  Claiming that one group of child rapists isn’t so bad because some other people rape children is disgusting.  But Carey has more to say on this.

Few organisations are without sin as far as the abuse of children is concerned. But it is the scale of these offences in the Roman Catholic Church that is the truly scandalous matter.

Well first I’m going to go right ahead and argue that most organisations are without sin when it comes to child abuse.  Is Carey really saying that the vast majority of schools abuse children (and I think we can take Carey as meaning sexual abuse)?  What about cubs and scouts?  What about charities?  Small businesses?  Does your local post office sexually abuse children?  According to Carey, it almost certainly does.  What about village committees to organise bonfire night or the recycling of Christmas trees?  What about media firms, universities, plumbers?

According to George Cary, most of these organisations sexually abuse children.  But, again according to Cary, that’s OK.  It’s only if you abuse lots of children that it becomes a prob…no…wait…surely that can’t be right….?  That’s what he says.

There are two issues here, neither of which George seems to understand.  First, the scale of Catholic child abuse is due to the opportunity the church itself created.  Surely I don’t need to spell out this point.  If you’d like me to, I charge by the hour and it won’t be cheap.  Second, the scale isn’t the biggest problem.  The infrastructure was already there and as it happens I’m an expert on how infrastructure – particularly in a changing world – can be abused without knowledge of that abuse being widespread. Who knows, something like that might have happened in the Catholic church  over the last few hundred years.  It wouldn’t surprise me.  There would be nobody in particular to blame, although (sorry George) I think we’d have to blame the way the church behaved in how it arrayed itself, which seems to be about the optimum to limit damage due to scandal.

Note that I’m not excusing child abuse, I’m speculating on how it might….possibly… have become rife without the church community at large knowing about it.  I also don’t believe a word of it.  But my opinion isn’t important.  Let’s forget all this.  Because what’s important is how the Catholic church finally reacted when it found out about these abuses.  What it did was cover them up.  For decades.  Even after cases started to leak into the real world, the church tried as hard as it could to cover them up and silence the victims.  This is what we object to.  Not the scale, although that is horrific.  The response.  The denial, the paying people off, the official documents signed by the now pope that instructed bishops to hush these crimes up, the fact that many bishops and priests actually fucking did hush these crimes up…..

That, Carey, you fucking idiot, is what we object to.

People ask if the Roman Catholic Church can be trusted with their children.

What people, George?  And what exactly does this have to do with Ratzinger’s visit?

The recent gaffe when they revised church law, putting the ordination of women in the same category of ‘crimes’ under church law as clerical sex abuse, reveals a Church with an odd set of priorities.

If we’re talking priorities here, then let’s examine the word ‘gaffe’.  A gaffe is a slip of the tongue or anything said by Prince Philip.  It’s a mistake that might offend some but which is easily rectified among reasonable people.  For example, remembering that Prince Philip (what is his actual name, by the way?  I hate to call people by such hateful titles as ‘prince’ but what alternative to I have?  Even his Wikipedia page doesn’t actually say what his actual name is) is a fucking idiot might mollify the slanty-eyed masses and halt them in casting their evil-eye juju bones. 

An official document from the Vatican that sets into Catholic dogma forever more the idea that female equality carries the same kind of judgement and the same punishment as child abuse seems rather different from the ravings of a family whose members can’t count the number of their own fingers on their own fingers.

George isn’t finished yet.

Disturbingly, no open debate is possible or allowed on the issue of clerical celibacy and its link to abuse.

Who disallows this?  I hereby commission an open debate on this topic.  Presumably the people who disallow such things will delete my blog account and nobody will get to read these words.

Earlier this year the great Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, who in 1979 was stripped of his licence to teach Catholic theology, cited celibacy as a cause of the Church’s uptight attitude to sex.

This comes out of absolutely nowhere.  It is pure granpasimpsoning.  I’m certain he had an onion on his belt. 

Actually, I’m being glib.  Carey has a point.  Funny though, it’s not really in the favour of the Catholics he’s been praising so far.  His fearsome logic has led him to the inescapable conclusion that it’s his own lot that’s right.

It has to be said that the Roman Catholic Church in this country has led the way in responding to clerical abuse with child protection measures. Let’s hope the Pope listens carefully to expertise here.

Hm… led the way because they are the only ones accused of it?  Led the way in pure fiction that suggests that the victims are at fault?  Does this actually “have” to be said?  What child protection measures has the Catholic church actually introduced?  Well, what?  And what is this rather odd dig by Carey at the pope?

The danger of next month’s visit is that calls for a greater openness and engagement between the Roman Catholic Church and the world will be lost amid protests. In turn, these will reinforce the Vatican’s defensiveness.

But I hope for a different outcome. A new openness, a candid recognition from the Holy Father that other Christian churches are equally blessed by God, and an acknowledgement that the priesthood of the Catholic Church has failed so many children.

Marvelous stuff, isn’t it?  These Catholics are people of FAITH for goodness sakes.  It doesn’t matter that they believe COMPLETELY DIFFERENT thing than we do.  It’s the believing part that counts.  Even though we’ve all been at war for around six thousand years because of the things we don’t agree about and show no signs of changing that anytime soon.

Carey finishes:

> So you are welcome, Pope Benedict, to Britain—a land truly

> blessed by the Christian message in which the Catholic church has > played and continues to play a part.
> I believe you are here as a friend. Not an enemy. But if we want

> to change the world the Catholic Church must start with itself.

Translation: Ratty, you are awesome.  You go right ahead and kill millions with your idiotic policies and your billions of supporters.  We don’t mind that because it gives vicarious support to us from people who aren’t quite idiotic enough to support us.  Love and kisses, G.

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