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March 26, 2010


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I am not at all Roman Catholic, but from my vantage point in Boston (from the non-Catholic peanut gallery), as I watched the abuse scandal erupt in Boston, and then the USA generally, I noticed the very same pattern Sinead O'Connor just wrote about.


I agree. That was an excellent op-ed piece.

Lisa Simeone


Sir Charles

The Post must have thought she was endorsing the child rape. That's the only reason I can think that they would publish something like this to go along with Thiessen's torture apologism and the other odious things that they routinely publish.

Okay, I have to quote the closing grafs from the Onion article:

"What kind of a message is the pope sending today's children? That it's okay to seduce priests?" said one concerned Baltimore priest who asked to remain anonymous due to a pending court case. "With the pope's announcement, the church is essentially telling its youngest members, 'Go ahead and let Father So-And-So reach into your swim trunks at the church-youth-group pool party. It's okay, the pope will forgive you in the end.' Without fear of eternal damnation, how are these provocative young lotharios ever going to learn?"

"As the creep of secular humanism continues to chip away at our most sacred institutions, the Vatican has established a dangerous precedent," the priest continued. "We look to the church's authority for justice and righteousness, not politically convenient solutions that maintain the status quo. These nubile sinners should be held accountable for the damage they've done."

Satire aside -- where are all of our friends on the right who are so devoted to preserving the lives of unborn children? I guess the living children don't count for much.

And for fuck's sake, how can the Catholic Bishops be treated as a legitimate force on the Hill? How can these fuck sticks show their faces in public, never mind preach to us what is just and right.

If I were a U.S. Attorney for a year, I would put this rotten institution out of business. And the Pope would never dare set foot in this country.


I guess the living children don't count for much.

You weren't aware that life begins at conception and ends at birth?


Sinead O'Connor is awesome and, as I have said, my favorite female vocalist of all time. "Troy" is the only vocal performance that I feel total awe when listening to. I just can't believe someone is capable of doing that with their voice. Total, uninhibited power.

She is one of those performers that you feel close to, and protective of, without actually knowing her (not that she need protection or anything), so it is nice to read an op-ed by her that avoids all the usual eccentricities and failings that seem to follow celebrity op-eds. It was informative, clear-cut, and polished, while still being very personal, but without the self-infatuation or self-conscious rhetorical excess I expect when people like, say, BONO are writing. She should be proud.

Thanks for the tip, mhb.

Krubozumo Nyankoye

SC - Here here, I would willingly serve as a clerk.

As to Ms. O'Connor her voice and her use of it are truly outstanding. Yet there is an odd kind of contradiction in her otherwise righteous opinion piece. She doesn't seem to recognize that the most horrific aspect of the betrayal constituted in these heinous acts is that it is founded upon the same authority that she apparently accepts, god belief. I find that pretty weird.

I think this goes to the motive for WAPO publishing this piece. Topically it is appropriate, good time to rag on the RCC. But the underlying message is still faith in superstition. She believes in the sky fairy that is all good and niceness and only allows children to be raped, intellectuals to be burnt alive, women to be treated as chatel, infidels to be slaughtered, because the paternal ultraomnipotence is too focused on the future viability of zygotes to care about the systematic destruction of living individuals.

Oddjob hit the nail on the head.


Every sperm is sacred!
Every sperm is great!
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate!

Neil the Ethical Werewolf

I like her folk songs best. "The Parting Glass" off of Sean Nos Nua is incredible.

low-tech cyclist

where are all of our friends on the right who are so devoted to preserving the lives of unborn children? I guess the living children don't count for much.

No, Sir Charles, you don't get it! When a woman has an abortion, that's one less child available for a Catholic priest to abuse, a few years down the road. That even explains why the RCC regards contraception to be sinful as well: can't interfere with the supply line.

low-tech cyclist

IMHO, this is the Catholic Church's "Impeach Nixon" moment. Either the College of Cardinals meets and forces Joseph Ratzinger (I refuse to dignify him with papal nomenclature) to step down, or the Church has lost its last shred of moral credibility.

Back in 2006, I missed this story: that in 2001, Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, had

sent out an updated version of the notorious 1962 Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis - Latin for The Crime of Solicitation - which laid down the Vatican's strict instructions on covering up sexual scandal. It was regarded as so secret that it came with instructions that bishops had to keep it locked in a safe at all times.

Cardinal Ratzinger reinforced the strict cover-up policy by introducing a new principle: that the Vatican must have what it calls Exclusive Competence. In other words, he commanded that all child abuse allegations should be dealt with direct by Rome.

Exclusive Competence. Ratzinger made sure that Rome had exclusive authority over every case where a priest was accused of molesting a child, in order to keep a lid on things. Now the responsibility for Rome's response since 2001 is all his.

A Church that looks to him for moral authority and guidance, knowing everything that is now known, is an abomination.

Lisa Simeone

Oddjob, touché. Your comment should be printed on bumper stickers and T-shirts.

As for O'Connor's faith, yeah, it's weird, I agree. But it's a losing battle to tangle with believers, of any stripe. Far better I think to quietly acknowledge it and move on. In this case, many readers will give her more credence because of it, and thus get the message of her op-ed loud and clear. Hope so, anyway.


KN, I think that's a pretty gross mischaracterization of O'Connor's own beliefs.

My extended family is very catholic, and by very catholic, I mean thinks the Virgin Mary makes personal visitations to people, and follow all the rules. All of them. And they are all thoroughly nice people! Just wonderful and kind and polite. So it always chafes me a bit to see people go after lay members of the Church, because while it doesn't mean anything to me (my parents went through the ordeal of leaving it so I didn't have to) it still means a lot to people I care about, and I can't help but get offended on their behalf.

Neil, as folk songs go, I think her version of "The Butcher Boy" is divine, and no one does "The Foggy Dew" better than her and the Chieftains.


Lisa, yes.

Corvus, yes to you, too. There is personal spirituality, personal faith, or the lack thereof; and then, there are those who embody some sort of dogmatic, everyone-who-doesn't-believe-exactly-as-I-do-is-damned-to-all-eternity-so-let-me-get-a-jump-start-and-eliminate-their-manner-of-thinking-if-not-their-actual-beings belief system. What we're seeing too much of, sadly, is the latter.

Personally, I don't think any human beings are intellectually capable of understanding, much less being certain of, a number of life's mysteries, so I am willing to leave it at that. I take lessons from many of human history's greatest thinkers, including figures from classical philosophy as well as people like Jesus, whose ideas, incidentally, seem more relevant than ever lately, despite a couple of thousand years of men twisting them to their own selfish ends. But I don't buy any of the back-stories (also known as "religious texts") written by men. (And I do mean MEN, as in penis-havers, as well as men, the general collective noun we use for humans.)

As for the existence of a deity or deities, whatever that means, I think the only reasonable, rational approach is to allow that it's a personal, individual philosophy each of us comes to, and I truly believe that as intelligent as humans can be, we are not equipped to know and understand certain concepts, so let's leave it at that and rather than keep fighting and killing each other, see if we can't instead work on caring about each other and our world. So maybe love has something to do with it, with this Big Unsolved Mystery.

minstrel hussain boy

here's the deal with sinead and faith. she believes. she believes that there is good in us, and that this good can be accessed through things like prayer and meditation.

ok. i don't. we have had many long and sincere talks about this. when me da's brother died in ireland, he was refused burial in the village yard by the local catholic priest on account of he had lived with a woman for nearly 25 years. the two of them had been in horrible marriages when they met, but, with the influence of the church on irish law, divorce was illegal.

instead they moved in together and carried on their loving and fulfilling relationship without any blessing of the church. sinead is an ordained priest in the reformed catholic church of ireland and she graciously performed the ceremony for our family.

she talks about things like love, charity, compassion, and she does it with sincere depth of emotion. she also follows her speaking with actions.

if christians were all like her, it would be a much finer thing.

i don't get into the whole knocking believers bit. i figure if that's what makes them happy, go for it. i'm that way with the mormons too. yeah, they are some freaky ass wierdos in a lot of ways, but, without the intervention of some mormons who trucked food, clothing, and other supplies up to our rez in 1958, there would have been a whole lot of hungry apaches who froze to death that winter. i was able to attend an accredited high school because of the mormon's indian placement program. without it, i would have had no chance for any kind of a decent education.

in their hearts most of the mormons i know are fine people. fine people who believe some pretty whack shit but still fine people.

my favorite folk song from sinead is bhaiden fheillimi. i also love her description of the song.

"back in the days of st. patrick one of his very first converts was a fisherman named fheillimi. fheillimi used to take his little boat up and down the coast where he spead the gospel and baptized converts. his boat was wrecked off the coast of toreagh and he was drowned. the irish mothers, being irish, said to themselves 'what a grand subject for a lullaby.'"

there have been lots of folks in my career that i played the gigs solely for the money. there have been lots of folks i played with because the music we made together was worth a mutual putting up with each other.

sinead, i adore. i would walk barefoot over dogshit and ground glass if she were to ask it of me.

she could give me a blank sheet of paper, say it's a contract, and i'd sign in a heartbeat.


oddjob, that's one of my FAVORITE Python songs. Of course, asking me to pick a favorite is like asking me to name my favorite wine, chocolate, or position. ;-)


My favorite part of that scene is actually what immediately follows, which is almost as brutal a skewering of Calvinist Protestantism.


Perhaps the Pythons could be our ad hoc deities at this blog, then?! I say that with tongue only partially inserted in cheek.

Lisa Simeone

Oddjob, actually, I was talking about:

"You weren't aware that life begins at conception and ends at birth?"

But the Monty Python ditty is fun, too!


BRIAN'S MOTHER: What sign is he?
WISE MAN: Uh, Capricorn.
BRIAN'S MOTHER: Capricorn? Ehhhh, what're they like?


Oddjob, actually, I was talking about:

"You weren't aware that life begins at conception and ends at birth?"

Oh! Thanks! Feel free to use it!

Lisa Simeone

Apropos of this discussion, here's a thought-provoking article from the NYT:

College Breaks a Tradition of Silence Before Games


Krubozumo Nyankoye


I wasn't even trying to characterize what Ms O'Connor believes, I was just pointing out that it struck me as weird that one still (according to her) holds some beliefs whose source (RC) one so thoroughly repudiates as an institution. I also tried to explain that I think the WaPo was the "villian" of the piece for the reasons mentioned. I am sorry if I offended you.


Quite true. The part about the finer thing. Is there any reason to think that love, charity and compassion are the exclusive province of those who hold some belief in the supernatural? Not that you implied that but many believers I have encountered have made that specific claim.


Nicely expressed, you appear to be agnostic not only about belief and the supernatural but about knowledge and the universe as a whole. Also as you say, everyone is entitled to their own personal philosophy. I tend to align more strongly with the affirmative claim that though we individually cannot aspire to inclusive knowledge, we can certainly add bits here and there. Whether or not it will ever be complete? Well perhaps not but it is still worth trying.

I really did not mean to change the topic to Ms O'Connor's personal philosophy, I just made the observation that it struck me as a weird. So now I will risk drawing a parallel with the core issue.

You may or may not be aware that a certain individual by the name of Charles Taylor is currently on trial at the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. One of the charges levied against him is the practice of impressing child soldiers. I will not recount this in any detail but I personally see strong similarity in the gravity of that crime with the crime of child molestation by authority figures. No doubt Mr. Taylor's minions were more directly responsible for carrying out his crime in that respect yet he is on trial. So my rhetorical question is, since no or virtually no RCC clergy have ever been prosecuted for this global criminal activity, why should not the pope be on trial?


I wasn't really offended, KN, so the apology is not really necessary, though it is appreciated. As how weird it is that "one still (according to her) holds some beliefs whose source (RC) one so thoroughly repudiates as an institution," I think it perhaps is necessary to draw a distinction between the Church and the clergy, if such a thing can be done. The Church is not just the men in robes, but a community and a tradition of thought and belief and ritual. The Catholicism is, in many ways, the oldest religion in the world (or at least the western world). It's really the only religion that still has priests as separate entities from the people, and that has such a heavy role of ritualized acts, such as the Eucharist. Mostly other religions, even those that are actually older, are usually based some idea of a teacher or overseer, as a spiritual guide, with is quite different from the role that a priest (or priestess, for that matter) would play in the ancient religions, whether we are talking Roman, or Druid, or Ancient Judasism before the fall of the Temple). As such, it can be a pretty heavy aspect of a person's sense of self, even if there are ways that one disagrees with the clergy or even certain doctrines. Being a Catholic just might be who you are, even if you don't believe in it all.

FWIW, I'm agnostic, by the way. Like I said, my parents were ex-Catholics, so I wasn't really raised by with any religion, and I am very happy for that. But I also find issues of metaphysics really, really interesting. It's like something I tinker with. And a lot of the people who tinker with it are religious thinkers—or, in Sinead O'Connor's case, since I known she often talks about how we have to rescue God from religion, theological thinkers—so I like hearing them talk about this stuff. Maybe they it by talking about God, but usually people talk about God because there is no way to talk about such things in straightforwards terms, you have to give it a face in a name before you can start rearranging it's faces and giving it more names (Spot the oblique Dylan reference!).

Or something.

Krubozumo Nyankoye


Well I certainly appreciate the response.

Just to equalize the playing field so far as I can remember I have always been an atheist. My thought processes and the viewpoints that differ from mine have increased in number and detail but so far nothing has disuaded me from the pragmatic position of show me evidence, any evidence at all.

But I am not particularly militant about my own point of view. That is to say, I never undertake to convince or persuade anyone else.

Interestingly enough I have had a considerable number of deeply intimate relationships with catholics, and people of many other persuasions as well but for our purposes here let us focus on the catholics for just a moment.

I guess the ultimate assessment of the outcome of such interactions was that I was able, not with intention per se, to seduce them into at the very least a dalliance with the heresy of truly embracing free will. Some of them embraced it whole heartedly and many I must say were already well on their own way to becoming independent.

That last word has interesting implications. All of us are thrown into circumstances where we are defined as either among or outside certain arbitrary groups. All of them but one are meaningless to me. I am myself on the one hand, and on the other, I am a small part of humanity.

kathy a.

mhb, your comment is absolutely lovely. thank you.

low-tech cyclist
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan...the leader of the nation’s second-largest diocese[,] urged his congregation to pray for the pope, saying he was suffering some of the same unjust accusations once faced by Jesus."

That's right: in the Gospels, Jesus is being accused all the time of covering up the crimes of child rapists, and enabling them to find new victims.

Ratzinger makes Richard Nixon look good by comparison. As bad as Nixon was, the crimes he was covering up didn't include sexual abuse of children. And I agree with Matt Tiabbi: the Roman Catholic Church is a criminal conspiracy that, in the U.S., ought to be prosecuted under the RICO laws.

Sir Charles

kathy a,

Welcome back! How was Japan?

l-t c,

It is absolutely a criminal conspiracy. Seriously, this is the kind of shit that RICO was designed to deal with -- I'd love to see it employed here. That New York priest's prayer reminds me again of the Onion article.

kathy a.

japan was great! trust me, we never go anywhere, and this time we spent 10 days trekking all over the damned place, overseas, and got to spend time with our wonderful daughter, too.

if you should happen to be in tazawako, japan [1 hour from akita, 3 hours from tokyo via shinkansen], be sure to check out the That Sounds Good! Inn and Cafe -- they are jazz fans running a sweet inn by a beautiful lake, and we were treated to a jam session after dinner. great food, too.

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