The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Why Francis, anyway?(insert animal joke here).

This little missive comes under the sub-title:

‘Know Your Enemy’

A lot of fairly cheap capital has been made on the choice of the new pope’s name: Francis. Hilarious references to preaching to animals, as well as jokes about how feeding the poor is a new idea. Etc., ignorant etc.

The fact of the matter is that the name is astonishingly significant. Why has there never been a pope called Francis, do we think? It’s simple. Francis and the movement, initially outlawed and persecuted by the inquisition, that loosely took his name and (even more loosely) espoused his ideas, were a social and spiritual force that came close to tearing the mediaeval church apart. There were riots, massacres, and a long forgotten bloody and brutal battle. Check out Fra Dolcino at the link below.

What was so destructive about the Franciscans/Dolcinians? I’ll do it in point form.

  • They believed that the adjuration to poverty should be taken literally, i.e., that the church and all its clergy should be literally poor, rather than calling themselves poor on the basis of the claim that they cared not for the mountains of gold that they sat on.
  • They believed that the ‘secular clergy’ (priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.) were heretics simply because they had accepted rank and status, and should be killed – a belief that many Dolcinians, at least, put into practice.
  • They believed that the second coming had been delayed for reasons that they repeatedly explained (and which I still don’t understand) and that the program would resume normal function once everyone they didn’t like was dead, or something like that.

Needless to say, most of these beliefs arise from the fact that they were completely insane. The important thing, though, is that, say whatever you like about the church (I always do), the pope’s choice of name is in fact as significant as they say. It suggests revolution, upheaval and, potentially, a complete re-casting of ‘THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’ as ‘the catholic church’.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you wish to criticise the papacy, the fuss about the name or the Church at large without knowing this, you are going to look a fool, and a blindly partisan one at that.

If you intend to make cheap jokes about preaching to the birds and feeding the poor without understanding what the name ‘Francis’ means to an organisation that never forgets – well… suffice it to say, if you don’t know what you are talking about, there is no good reason for anyone to listen to you. This would be a shame, especially in light of the election of what’s shaping up to be one of the most popular popes of all time. It would be a crying shame if all we atheists started looking like tiny-minded bigots just as the church enters a period of likely resurgence, headed, of course, by the smiling Francis, forgiving us all for our malice.

There are several fundamental things deeply wrong with the church’s values, ways and very existence. None of these have anything to do with hats, gowns, funny names or Darth Vader’s boss. 

It annoys me that so many people are willing to undermine this central truth, as well as the credibility of all who espouse it, for nothing more than a cheap and not very intelligent joke.

Eeny meeny miny… Pope

Sometime tomorrow, all of the 115 Cardinals who are eligible for conclave will gather at the Vatican, shut off all communication with the outside world, and attempt to elect the new leader of the world’s one billion Catholics. But all is not well.

Intrigue. Scandals. Secret gay sex. Media bans. Stupid hats. This election has it all. In just one such example:

The Italian cardinals are prepared to back Brazilian cardinal Odilio Scherer of Sao Paulo, a Vatican veteran, provided he appoints an Italian or Curia veteran as secretary of state [aren’t they all veterans?]. This [rumour] has been around for some days, but now is supposed to have brought together the bitter rivals of the past two holders of the job, Angelo Sodano and Tarcisio Bertone.

And that’s just for starters. My secret spies tell me that the situation is more dire than any of us imagine, and many of the Cardinals have grievances that may not be overcome in time, threatening the entire election.

Cardinal Tuto, for one, is upset that Cardinal Fuzz gave his dog a Schmakos, despite being told many times that his dog Saint Bernard, a dalmation, is a vegetarian. Cardinal Fuzz, on the other hand, is furious at Cardinal Jinkerbottom for ruining last night’s spaghetti, which was clearly well short of al dente. But Cardinal Jinkerbottom only ruined the spaghetti because he’d been fighting with Cardinal Giancarlo Luigi di Matteo di Napoli over who got to take the life drawing class with Massimo Pector, the hot Vatican window cleaner. Meanwhile, Cardinal di Napoli has lost his fancy Cardinal’s dress because he left it at a “Saints and Sinners” fancy Cardinal’s dress party (he went as a sinner), so he can’t go to Conclave anyway, unless he borrows a spare dress from Cardinal Barry Black, who was at the same party (dressed as a saint), but was sent home early for trying to start a game of “Spin the Zucchetto” with the young exchange deacons, which is not only an extremely immoral game for celibate Cardinals, but is also very hard to play, on account of the zucchetto being round. None of that matters to Cardinal Fluff, though. He hates all the Cardinals because they’ve spent the whole week calling him “Cardinal Muff”, even though Cardinal Bees waxed him the week before last.

Seems like a right kerfuffle.

I have an idea though. If they really believe in god, and they really believe that nothing happens without god’s approval, and they know god hates their endless bickering and scheming and games of Spin the Zucchetto, then they should just stick everyone’s stupid name in one of their stupid hats, and draw out the next Pope with one of their jewel-encrusted, withered old hands.

If god is there, he’ll sort it out.


Priorities… Catholic style

Still not as dirty as the Bible

So it turns out that the German Catholic Church owns a company that has published over 2,500 erotic novels. Is it a cynical ploy to profit from the vile sins of the great unwashed? An ingenious form of market-making? The prudent minimisation of investment volatility via diversification? Or simply garden-variety Church hypocrisy?

Whatever it is, the story lines are a hoot. I managed to get my hands on a few of their best sellers.

Missionary: Impossible
Allen and Doreen are a married Catholic couple from the suburbs. One night they try but fail to have passionless sex in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation.

Bill and Ted’s Sexcellent Adventure… of Sin
Bill and Ted have been friends for years. One day, after a tough gym session, they hit the sauna. Ted sneaks a peak at Billy’s willy and has an impure thought which we shan’t go into. After confession, Ted heads home to his wife and has passionless sex in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation.

Child’s Play
A strapping young man from the country resists the temptations of the village beauties, and commits himself to the priesthood. He takes up a position at the local Catholic school, which enables him to follow his true passion – children. He spends the next ten years being shuffled from parish to parish for completely legitimate reasons, before retiring to the Vatican, where he lives out his days making incense and enjoying diplomatic immunity.

Meaty Friday… of Sin
Tired of passionless sex in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation, George tries to convince his wife that she can eat his meat on Friday.

The Gift… of Sin
Phyllis is head of Embezzlement & Condom Destruction at the Vatican Bank. One day, a nasty Jesuit colleague gives her a dildo as a joke. Not realising the gift’s true potential, she mistakenly uses it as a door snake. This ends up saving her $15.30 on her energy bill, which gives her just enough joy to smile at her husband during passionless sex in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation.

As good as these books are, though, I’m still not sure why they’re needed. There’s more than enough porn in the Bible.

This is just weird

There are a few religious websites I like to check out from time to time. Sure, most of the time it fills you with either unquenchable rage or bottomless despair for the future of mankind, but every now and then it’s just frikken hilarious. And by hilarious I mean weird. The letters page of the Australian Catholic Weekly recently provided just such an occasion.

Check this shit out.

Bernard, from Clayfield, QLD
I heartily endorse the proposal by Martin Kerrigan to revive and promote the Holy Name Society. Ever since the Catholic Church disbanded its armies, the devil and his minions have pretty much ruled the roost. It’s high time we regrouped not only the Holy Name Society, but also the Children of Mary and the Sacred Heart Sodality. By all means let us invite our fellow Christians of the non-Catholic persuasion to join us in this holiest of endeavours.

Colin, from Leumeah, NSW
For Martin Kerrigan’s information, the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus is established in Sydney. Members wear the Holy Name badge, receive the confraternity’s newsletter and say the litany of the Holy Name, etc.

Pat from Doonside, NSW
There is something unholy about motion pictures depicting animals as having human qualities, in particular a conscience.

Fr Tom from Bellevue Hill, NSW
The easy way to make heaven on earth for anyone is to make sure that there are angels all about you. Angels are where God is and as God is everywhere we can be sure that there is a multitude of angels always with us filling our world with sweet music because heaven is where God and his angels are. To experience their presence we need the awareness that God and his angels are with us all the time. For such experience of heaven here to be fruitful we must see God in everyone and in everything.

Next we make a strong bond of friendship with the angels by acknowledging their presence, greeting and chatting, making them share the joys and sorrows of our life, inviting them always to join us in our travels, requesting their assistance in our troubles, and always thanking them for the help.

They are ever ready to help anyone. But they cannot do anything unless we ask them.

Richard from Carindale, QLD
If same sex unions are recognised as legal marriages, why not polygamous unions also, and even unions of humans and animals ? In this age of constant incremental change, redefining marriage to include same sex couples could be the first step on a very slippery slope.

I swear I didn’t make any of that up.


What political honesty sounds like

Here is the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, publicly rebuking the Catholic Church, following the release of the Cloyne Report.

Great stuff.

With all this Uren, it’s definitely time to break the Seal

As I mentioned the other day, the Irish Prime Minister (or Taoiseach, which by the way, is apparently pronounced “Tea-shock”), has called for the Catholic Church to do away with their cherished “sacramental seal” of confession.

Needless to say, the Church hasn’t exactly warmed to the idea. Given the paucity, (or rather, non-existence), of cases where paedophilic abuse was reported outside of the confessional seal, their reluctance is hardly surprising. What is surprising are the feeble attempts at wrangling such a cynical position into secular legitimacy.

Which brings us to Father Bill Uren, Jesuit priest, and Rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne. Unencumbered by such trivial concerns as empathy and common sense, Bill set his mighty intellect to work, and managed to coax three “arguments” out into the open. And here they are, in all their glory, paraphrased for your convenience:

1 – It’s all too hard
We have no idea who comes into confession, because of our fool-proof privacy measures. We may have been clever enough to figure out that god exists, is Catholic, wants his Church to be an obscenely wealthy dictatorship, and perfected (but declined to patent) the art of virgin birth, but how on earth do you expect us to see through that little curtain?

2 – We’d break the law anyway
Even if we knew who the confessor was, no one likes a snitch. Well, except Harry Potter, but don’t get me started on him.

3 – Confession would become boring
Faced with the possibility of being turned in, no more paedophiles would come to confession, which would leave us with just the blasphemers and chronic masturbators to listen to.

Pens down, Church wins!

Well, not really.

For one thing, it should be immediately obvious that his second and third arguments cancel each other out. I mean, if Bill is right, and Catholic priests never break the confessional seal, why would paedophiles suddenly be afraid of going to confession?

But let’s indulge Bill for a moment. Suppose that the laws of logic are temporarily suspended, and we concede that paedophiles will stop going to confession for fear of being turned in by someone who would never turn them in. If this happened, Bill argues, Catholic priests would lose the opportunity to convince paedophiles to turn themselves in.

So, let me get this straight. A paedophile won’t go to confession if he thinks the priest might dob him in, but he’s happy to go to confession knowing the priest will try and convince him to dob himself in?


Anyway, all this is irrelevant, unless Bill can point us towards a single instance of a paedophile following a visit to the confessional with a visit to the police.

Well, Bill, can you?

Somehow, I very much doubt it. Unless, of course, I just happened to be away on the day that hundreds of paedophiles ran into the Police station yelling “We surrender! Yay for Catholic priests!”.

Now that I think about it, his efforts at logic remind me of the Flashbeer guy. I mean, Father Uren seems like he’s doing his best, but he looks so ridiculous that you can’t really be sure that he’s not taking the piss.