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Stinky Smoke

Sometimes, the coincidental appearance of two unrelated news stories can offer unique suggestions to both of them – like the photo of a weight-loss meeting above a donut shop. This week, one such story focuses on the Vatican’s response to their escalating scandal; the other, a story from China.

Most of us would agree that only a tiny percentage of Catholic Church officials would seriously compare the sexual abuse and cover-up charges against the Pope and Church with the anti-semitism of three generations ago that led to slaughtering millions of Jews. Unfortunately, that small group seems to be running the Church. Even so, trying to identify with the Jewish victims of seventy years ago is an unwise ploy on at least three counts.

• In his youth, Joseph Ratzinger was a member of the anti-semitic Hitler Youth movement. If we believe the tree grows as the twig is bent, this may be the measure of at least part of this Pope’s character. It also has family resemblances to Cardinal Ratzinger’s iron-fisted behavior as the Church’s Grand Inquisitor for 23 years.

• Once Hitler came to power, the first diplomatic treaty he signed was with Pope Pius XI and the Roman Catholic Church, on July 8, 1933. The Nazis agreed to stop their propaganda campaign against the Church, which in turn instructed German Catholics to stop all political protests against Hitler’s Third Reich. Christopher Hitchens reports that at the first meeting of his cabinet after this capitulation was signed, Hitler announced that this official agreement between Nazis and the Catholic Church would be “especially significant in the struggle against international Jewry.” The Vatican had signed the similar Lateran Treaty with Mussolini in 1929, in which Mussolini gave the Church the small part of Rome we know as the Vatican City, defining it as a sovereign state. In response, the Church promised to remain neutral in all future military conflicts. The Vatican knows this history. Pretending to identify with the Jews shows not the scope of their righteousness, but the effect of the blinders they’re wearing – not only on this issue, but also on the subjects of women, chastity, heretics and homosexuality.

• The Nazi assault on the Jews – with the Church’s complicity – was made because of who the Jews were; but the current accusations against the Pope and the Church are made because of what they did. It’s a significant difference. A wise man, also well known to the Church, once said a tree is known by its fruits. The fruits of an inbred male hierarchy are attracting some men who like being around other men and, as Church history shows, like even more being around boys.

The Church’s willfully narrow vision – finding no moral basis for speaking out loudly against the fascisms of Mussolini and Hitler, e.g. – has made them active agents of evil at many points of their history. From 1517-1518, Martin Luther, the first Protestant to leave the Church, was in hiding because the Vatican wished to have him killed – a Christian fatwa. The well-known 13th century Crusades were undertaken to kill Muslims, to murder a million Cathari and French Catholics in Europe’s first mass-scale genocide. The reason they included Catholics in the slaughter was because neighbors of the peaceful Cathars admired them and their lifestyle of trying to do good while living simple unadorned lives. Several priests also left the Church to join the Cathars — and the Cathars refused to pay 10% of their money to Rome. The Cruaders’ orders were to annihilate all of the Cathars, but their neighbors would not identify them. A commander reported to the field commander, a Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amaury, that the Catholics and Cathars were intermingled, and it was impossible to tell them apart. This drew from Amaury one of the most vulgar commands in Church history: “Kill them all. God will know his own!” Afterwards, a monk reported to Pope Innocent III “Today, Your Holiness, twenty thousand citizens were put to the sword, regardless of age or sex.” (

But wars or no wars, throughout their history, the Church’s own records show they have acknowledged priestly abuse of children for over 1900 years, habitually covering for the pedophiles by moving them on to fresh flocks.

Throughout their history, they have seldom recognized legitimate critiques from the larger world around them, as though their actions were automatically beyond reproach. The sexual abuse of children by priests is in the same key. The children entrusted to the church are used as the priests’ sexual playthings. The Pope and the Church are trying to talk their way out of a corner they acted themselves into. So far, it looks like this isn’t going to work. However, it does serve as a segue to another story appearing on the same page.

In the April 9th issue of “The Week,” the Church’s blame-shifting response to their latest sexual abuse charges were featured on page 6 as the “Controversy of the Week.” Directly beneath, under “Good week for cover-ups,” they reported on another odiferous story, from China. After residents of Asuwei protested against the stench of their city’s massive dumpsite, Beijing announced it would install 100 giant deodorant cannon at the site, “which will spray several gallons of fragrance a minute over the mounds of putrefying garbage.”

What if the Church installed a hundred priests waving their perfumed censers around every site of priestly sexual abuse or cover-up? Could they afford a few hundred thousand of the little smoke-making censers scented with cheap perfume? Probably not. They have already paid out more than two billion dollars on sexual abuse charges, with more to come. Every day, more people around the world become convinced that the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have allowed their priests to continue abusing children as though pederasty came with the job. The Church’s cover-ups say that their Pope’s privilege as head of a nation (the Vatican) trumps what he has called the “petty gossip” about sexual abuse of children. This must stop. These are moral deeds that couldn’t be covered up by a hundred perfume cannons, or a million priests waving their censers and blowing smoke.

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A Varied background: musician, The Vietnam Entertainment Officer, combat photographer & press officer with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, studio owner in Ann Arbor (high end wedding and portrait photography), carpenter and drunk. Then earned M.A. in methods of studying religion and Ph.D. in theology, the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science, with and added emphasis on language philosophy (Ph.D. dissertation on THE LEGITIMATE HEIR TO THEOLOGY: A STUDY OF LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN (University of Chicago, 1988). 23 years as a liberal minister (Unitarian). Retired in 2009, is developing a platform to get involved in discussions of religion, science, values, character, politics, etc. Author of AMERICA, FASCISM & GOD: SERMONS FROM A HERETICAL PREACHER (Chelsea Green 2005).