Sunday, March 31, 2013

No retreat, no surrender, and no bloody new rules ..

(Above: first up, yesterday's skywriting over Sydney. Second up, the paranoia it induced. Why do Xians so cruelly torture the pond?)

It being Sunday, the pond thought it a good chance to meditate on the rule-making game.

A little while ago, Bill Maher did a routine about a bunch of guys sitting around making up new rules, which got the Catholic League and the weird Bill Donohue upset, which must have pleased Maher no end, and now what should turn up as brand new evidence but Garry Wills piece, Catholics and Jews: The Great Change (currently outside the New York Review of Books paywall).

Now as you'd guess from the title, Wills spends most of his time contemplating the appalling history of the Catholic church in relation to the persecution of Jews, and the lengthy struggle to devise a new rule, which is that Jews are alright, and not actually Jesus killers worthy of heaps of abuse, but inter alia, he also takes a moment to deliver a tasty aside on the church's bizarre, surreal attitude to contraception, which involved the repression of liberal forces within the church back in the days of Paul:

... Birth control was a subject Pope Paul had removed from the council’s purview, saying he would settle it himself. He appointed a commission of loyal and learned clerics and lay Catholics to advise him. When it became clear that the commission was going to admit that “natural law” arguments against contraception were groundless, the powerful head of the Holy Office, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, injected new conservative bishops into the commission. When even this stacked commission continued its case for contraception, Ottaviani cooked up a new “minority report” and told Paul that the question was still open and he could continue the ban on contraceptives.
The argument Ottaviani and others used was that Catholic people had for years acted on the belief that Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubii (1930) had declared use of contraceptives a mortal sin, meriting hell if not confessed and renounced. Catholics had borne the economic burden of famously large families or the guilt of living in sin by using contraceptives. Was the pope now going to say that a pope had misled them, that they were not really going to hell or did not have to have that eleventh child? That would destroy the papal claim to certain knowledge of God’s will in matters of basic morality. F.X. Murphy, circulating among the confidants of the pope and the inner circles of the council, said that Paul’s highest priority throughout the council was to retain the prerogatives of the pope. Admitting that the papal statement of Pius XI had misled the world for decades was a blow he felt the papacy could not endure—so he caved in to Ottaviani and his clerical squadron, and issued a renewed attack on contraception in the encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968). (see the original text for footnotes)

Yes, the absurdity of infallibility, the irrational desire to avoid apparent contradictions, in a faith which is riddled with absurdities and contradictions, led the church into a condition roughly equivalent to its new rules and inventions in relation to such quangos as limbo and purgatory.

... the doctrine on contraception rested on a recent (1930) and unequivocal encyclical by Pius XI, which had been reinforced in 1951 by Pius XII’s condemnation of all contraception except “the rhythm method” (abstinence from sex during a women’s perceived fertile period). There was no way, in this case, for Paul to get around blatant contradiction in “church teaching,” so he affirmed a continuity in truth that has been recognized by Catholics ever since as a continuation of error.

The good news, as Wills notes in his last footnote?

...In the most extensive survey ever undertaken of Catholics under thirty, funded by the Lilly Endowment in the 1990s, so few accepted “church teaching” on contraception that pollsters could not register the number; it was proving so low as to fall within the margin of error. It was statistically nonexistent. See Dean R. Hoge et al., Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice (University of Notre Dame Press, 2001), pp. 200–204.

Put it another way, in what we might call pond or Bill Maher speak:

Stupid men making stupid rules that only stupid men could believe or follow.

The other good news was that Pell looked exceptionally strained and stiff - rather like a turnip - in his Easter message - it's up here at the moment if you  can stand it and your idea of a good use of time on a Sunday is watching a turnip in action (but it will move on from the top of the magic faraway tree as the easter bunny disappears over the hill).

The flash splash at the top of the Catholic home page was a doozy, all those thorns, and revolving crucifixion imagery, right out of the old Mel Gibson play book.

Pell must have been feeling the thorns, because yesterday he was feisty enough to force an apology out of Fairfax for a piece written by the irrepressible Barney Zwartz, who when not beating up on the Catholic church loves a good story about Pastor Danny raising people from the dead. (see I was raised from dead, woman tells, and remember it's not Pix or Post, but Fairfax, and see also the humble pie Apology to Cardinal George Pell).

Naturally Barners couldn't resist having another go yesterday - just reporting the facts, frock wearers, just the facts - as you can read in Pell and Hart outraged over allegations.

Funny how the church gets outraged at idle chatter of cover-ups, yet never seemed to summon up the outrage you might have thought decent and honourable when it came to proven evidence of abuse. The pond invites anyone interested to endure the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, and not experience outrage or wonder on which planet Christopher Pearson found evidence that Ratzinger had helped cleanse the church.

As for Pellist thinking, why you only have to contemplate the week-old scribbles of the Cardinal for the Sunday Terror to get a good laugh, as with this moment in the tribute Pope Francis:

Some don't like the Catholic message, but the church provides good copy and cannot be ignored. 132 delegations attended, with 31 heads of state, including a representative of the President of China and the outrageous 89 year old Robert Mugabe, the tyrant from Zimbabwe.

Yes, there's nothing like a shindig blessed by the attendance of a tyrant to provide good copy, but don't go looking for copy noting that Pell and Hart or the rest of them were outraged by Mugabe's presence, or the outrageous conduct of a church that would allow it and stormed off in a righteous sulk...

What's even more admirable is the way Pell manages to make his homilies sound like they've been written for ten year olds or the 'oi oi' brigade:

By a happy coincidence a Sydney deacon, Daniel McCaughan, was one of the Pope's two assistants, who joined him in the crypt to retrieve and carry the ring, just as another Sydney deacon, Nicholas Rynne assisted the Pope in the earlier Mass for the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. On a less exalted note the Australian flag waved by the delegation from the Sydney universities was by far the largest in the Square!

Dinkum? The biggest flag? Why tie me kangaroo down sport, before a gigantic dump truck flattens it ...

Meanwhile, it's only fair to note that Archbishop Jensen has also delivered his Easter message, the last one thank the long absent lord, as She arranges for that smirk to disappear into the great silence, the eternal void.

You can cop it here, on both cheeks if you like, and if you've got absolutely nothing to do this Sunday (Perhaps you could explore tiddly-winks, which can be morally uplifting and character forming. There's no need to prove you're a Spartan by watching a Jensen ...)

Jensen also likes to speak in the sort of twaddle designed to terrify eight year olds:

“Like you, I have a real judge. Think how much more God, who knows all the secrets of our hearts, must be able to hold me to account. It should make us tremble.”

Actually the thought of attending a religious school or living in a country ruled by Mugabe is what makes the pond tremble, and there are a heck of lot of others that are knee-tremblers too, and it isn't an all-seeing, all-knowing god who must have the biggest bloody database and set of super computers in the known universe, buried deep in the heart of planet Jupiter, or perhaps here in good old Teegeeack, thanks be unto Xenu,  to keep track of all the secrets buried in the pond's heart (sheesh, wouldn't it have been more sensible to bury the secrets in the brain?)

What is always amazing, and usually astonishing is the Christian-centric world view peddled by the angry Sydney Anglicans, on display in David Pettett's God turning the other cheek:

How staggering is it that God’s ultimate response to our rejection of him at creation in Eden is that he should become one of us and allow us to reject him all over again at Calvary? And the irony (if that’s the right word) is that this second rejection, this slapping God again as he turns the other cheek, becomes the means of our reconciliation. 
Yes it works. 
Turning the other cheek works not because the Lord Jesus wants us to be seen as weak, to allow the bully to walk over us, but because, understood properly through the Cross, it is an act of reconciliation. Humanity has slapped God in the face and has told him we don’t trust him. The mess the world is in is the direct result of this rejection. At the Cross God has turned the other cheek. He has opened himself up to rejection a second time. Christians have the unique message that in this act of God there is reconciliation.

How staggering is it that the Anglicans still peddle the old Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden routine, but how more remarkable is it that the world is in a mess because a non-existent mythological character, that face-slapping Adam, gave Her a hard time.

It's always puzzled the pond that She simply failed to take account of the way the world would eventually turn, what with all those bloody Buddhists and Hindus and Confucians and Commie atheists and such like breeding like rabbits in India, China and other parts of Asia.

There's Christ peddling the message to the middle east, and in due course it gets carried to other parts of the world thanks to ingenious imperial and colonial designs carried out by looters, rapers and pillagers, but knock the pond down, She overlooked a way to reach the growth centres in Asia and the sub-continent.

Oh sure the Opium Wars were a solid start, but as it turned out, not solid enough.

Now as any decent brand will tell you, looking to the Asian market is all the go, whether it's fast food, 'burgers, pizzas, a decent soda, or computers (Apple was number one in 2012, though it's been hurting recently, followed by Nestle, Chanel, Sony, Samsung, Uni-President, Panasonic, Nike, Canon and Starbucks).

God's a bit like Barbie, who didn't penetrate as hoped, while the pyramid schemes from the United States have also found the path tough. Perhaps that's why pyramid schemes and pie in the sky shonks selling religion have only lately come to the party, with millions of heathens and philistines over the centuries consigned to Hell or purgatory or whatever space you reserve for the hapless lot who missed out on the message from the middle east purely by chance, luck and being in the wrong time at the wrong place.

Why on earth didn't She put in place Facebook a heckuva lot earlier? Or Baidu?

The name Baidu is a quote from the last line of Xin Qiji's classical poem "Green Jade Table in The Lantern Festival" saying: "Having searched thousands of times in the crowd, suddenly turning back, She is there in the dimmest candlelight."

Indeed. Instead She's left it to Raj Gupta in The Brave New Facebook World to explore the new technology, and instead all he can do is grumble about it becoming a grumblefest: least in my observation (perhaps it is just my particular ‘friends’), whereas Facebook may have begun as a social connector, it is now increasingly being used to grumble. It may be about politicians, friends, events or something else. The point remains the same – Facebook, and other social media, can become a grumblefest.

In the pond's observation, Gupta seems completely unaware of the reflexive irony of grumbling about grumblefests, all the more since his grumbling has resulted in the pond grumbling about his grumbling so that we now have a heaps galore grumblefest.

In the pond's observation, the Angry Sydney Anglicans are in fact always angry about something, though you can often distill it down to a few pet themes - women, gays, materialism (except their own), advertising (except their own), and the entire world for being errant sheep who refuse to follow them along their mad chanting path. Like this:

Sometimes, Facebook posts from Christians seem more like they come from a crooked and depraved world than hearts that desire to shine like stars in world, so that others would know Jesus. 
The challenge: how are you going on Facebook?

See? Always angry about something, anything, depravity will do, the whole bloody crooked and depraved world, but never finding a reason to get agitated about the persecution of gays in Africa while they go about their supportive of persecution missionarywork ... or the repression of women in their very own church ...

And so we go full cycle, back to Bill Maher.

New rule. Now it's angry Anglicans telling you how to behave on Facebook, as if there isn't enough of that already from people on Facebook who never shut up ...

Truly what we need this Easter is more of the astonishing, wide-ranging, insightful and inspirational polling conducted by George Pell, who isn't just an expert climate scientist, and a handy Vatican voter and rule-maker. Yep, he's a pollster who could make any of the usual pollster hacks tremble with his incredible understanding of things:

The pope has started well and is broadly accepted as a taxi driver and the waiter who served me a cappuccino both confirmed.

Funny that. Only last week a taxi driver playing classical music and refusing to listen to Alan Jones, and a barista making quite a decent coffee assured the pond they'd never heard as much crap as they'd been hearing from the established church in the period leading up to Easter.

Sadly it was only a sample of two.

If only the pond could conduct a poll as deep and as insightful as the Pellists ...

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different. 
Kurt Vonnegut 


  1. The Angries have once again shown themselves to be the most undesirable of our local religionists. While the others, including the Caflics, Orthodox, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus have been having an
    interfaith love-fest over Passover and Easter, all the Angries can manage is to flip the bird their way. Given the opportunity to participate in a little goodwill and fellow feeling, Jensen rules out any common ground and just blathers on incoherently about Jesus coming for the bad people, or something or other.

  2. Can you afford to ignore Angries Birds?


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