The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'pope'
As revelations of endemic child rape supported by the Catholic Church for decades (if not centuries) emerge, including claims that the current Pope was instrumental in protecting rapists, the Church has responded,
apologising profusely, handing suspects over to authorities and liquidating its assets to pay compensation, rubbishing the accusations as "petty gossip", blaming "gay culture" for child abuse and comparing criticism of the Church to anti-Semitism. Some are calling for the Pope to be dismissed, though, unfortunately, there is no way to sack a Pope, what with him being infallible and all that. Now, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has called for Pope Benedict XVI to be put on trial by the International Criminal Court; Robertson argues that the sovereign immunity of the Vatican is too flimsy to stand up, and even if not, heads of state who preside over atrocities can be stripped of it to face trial:
It hinges on the assumption that the Vatican, or its metaphysical emanation, the Holy See, is a state. But the papal states were extinguished by invasion in 1870 and the Vatican was created by fascist Italy in 1929 when Mussolini endowed this tiny enclave – 0.17 of a square mile containing 900 Catholic bureaucrats – with "sovereignty in the international field ... in conformity with its traditions and the exigencies of its mission in the world". The notion that statehood can be created by another country's unilateral declaration is risible: Iran could make Qom a state overnight, or the UK could launch Canterbury on to the international stage.
This claim could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights. But in any event, head of state immunity provides no protection for the pope in the international criminal court (see its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.
Head of the Holy Inquisition and arch doctrinal hardliner Cardinal Ratzinger is elected as the next Pope; as white smoke drifts into the Roman sky, one can almost make out the strains of the Imperial March.
Security guru Bruce Schneier turns his professional paranoia to the Papal election, and looks at how vulnerable it is to fraud or rigging. The answer: not very. There are a few minor flaws, though much of the mechanism is quite robust.
What are the lessons here? First, open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder. Every step of the election process is observed by everyone, and everyone knows everyone, which makes it harder for someone to get away with anything. Second, small and simple elections are easier to secure. This kind of process works to elect a Pope or a club president, but quickly becomes unwieldy for a large-scale election. The only way manual systems work is through a pyramid-like scheme, with small groups reporting their manually obtained results up the chain to more central tabulating authorities.
And a third and final lesson: when an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good.
A new comic book from Colombia has Pope John Paul II return as a superhero, donning a cape, a utility belt holding holy water and communion wine and special "chastity pants" and battling the forces of evil. "El Increible HomoPater" (which means "Popeman", and not "Gay Dad") is scheduled to go on sale in Colombia and Poland, to be followed by Popeman action figures. A sample page is here.
Approximately 5% of the population of Poland is expected to go to Rome for the Pope's funeral this week.
Pilgrims have been queuing at Warsaw's central station all week hoping to land a coveted seat on the trains leaving today. LOT, the national airline, is struggling to cope with the demand and Poles are said to be buying tickets for any destinations heading south that may get them closer to Rome.
(I wonder if the Polish mass exodus will spread to London. If so, don't count on food stalls at street markets being open this weekend.)
Pope John Paul II has died, aged 84. He was the most widely travelled pope in the history of the Catholic Church, and extended the religion to new audiences; he also was an ideological hardliner, a veteran of the battle against communist totalitarianism who then turned his guns on secularism and liberalism; or, to quote a Guardian article on his legacy:
"I think this has been a papacy of missed opportunities and lost years, leaving scars that will persist for decades. I would say the Pope has left the church in a shocking, sad state. There is an arrogance and a lack of spirituality in the Vatican, ecumenical relations are at their worst ebb for many years and we have a church crippled by clericalism. I think the Pope lacked faith to allow for a rebirth and renewal of the church."
As the old Pope's grip on power loosened, those around him issued proclamations that amplified his natural doctrinal conservatism, incautiously suggesting non-Catholics were not really Christians, casting anathemas at homosexuality and, most recently, suggesting that girl altar servers should be banned.
There was even an attempt to force God into the European Union constitution - a miscalculated political intervention doomed to failure on a continent where many parties were formed to fight Catholic clericalism in countries which had struggled free of an authoritarian state religion into secular and religious pluralism.
My views on his legacy are mixed; on one hand, he was clearly a man of personal integrity, who deeply believed in both social justice and the dignity of the individual, and was instrumental in ending Soviet tyranny in eastern Europe. On the other hand, the hard-line positions he took on issues such as contraception and the role of women caused much misery in the world. (Still, misery in the temporal world makes demand for hope for the next, and thus is good business if you're running a church. Though I doubt that he thought of it in such cynical terms.) The John Paul II Vatican, having ruled out compromise and rolled back many of the changes of Vatican II, has alienated a lot of liberals, though arguably gotten more converts in need of a strong religion demanding of absolute submission. Whether this is enough to maintain the relevance and power of the Catholic church remains to be see.
And here is the list of the leading candidates for the next Pope, who are also the conclave set to elect the successor. Given that John Paul II had a history of appointing theological conservatives on ideological lines (one cleric accused him of selecting cardinals the way U.S. presidents select Supreme Court judges), there is unlikely to be a radical about-turn during the next papacy. There are a number of Italians there (as expected) and a few other Europeans (notable among them head of Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Office for the Doctrine of the Faith, a.k.a. the Holy Inquisition), but the other bloc expected to exercise sway is from Latin America.
A new book from the Disinformation troublemakers: 50 things you're not supposed to know, with "irrefutable evidence" of factoids like "Nearly all American milk-cows are infected with Bovine Leukemia Virus", "Pope Pius II wrote a best selling erotic novel", and "One of the heroes of 'Black Hawk Down' was a convicted child molester". (via bOING bOING)
The Pope condemns sarcasm. Yeah, whatever. (via Reenhead)