“this overrated medieval entity”

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At the OpenDemocracy site, Fred Halliday argues that the recent visit to Turkey by Pope Benedict XVI “was as redolent with dangerous (if unstated) meaning as it was overblown in media coverage.” In a provocative and wide-ranging argument Halliday places the contentious speech to the Representatives of Science in September in the context of Benedict’s long-running “campaign against the evils of secularism and Enlightenment.” and goes on to round the article off with a hard-hitting criticism of “the acceptance and use by the world as a whole of another extraordinary imposture” before calling for an end to the Vatican’s influence in global politics.Halliday begins his article with a criticism of the management of a complacent media

The concealment starts with media management. Against expectations, there were no massive demonstrations against the visit, far less an attempted assassination: instead, the 12 million people of Istanbul, who evinced little or no interest in the pope, were forced by their compliant state to walk hours to their places of work, while the world was treated by a complacent media to the message of peace and understanding supposedly promoted by his presence on their soil. That the Vatican refused any requests for interviews with the pope by Turkish papers indicates where its priorities lay.

And he identifies and criticises a much wider political project behind the visit, all but obscured by the mananged media message

The flexibility of principle is notable, and much of the outside world has failed to register it. The pope’s real interest is not reconciliation with the Muslim world but the reinvigorated unity of Christians and the long-declared war against secularism and the legacy of the Enlightenment. At the same time he wants to recruit official Islam, be it senior clerics or moderate Islamist leaderships like the current Turkish government, in his campaign against the evils of secularism and Enlightenment.

Such tactical concerns underpin the choice of source in the notorious Regensburg speech, which quoted the Byzantine ruler Manuel II Palaeologus (1350-1425) denouncing Mohammed as bringing to the world only “the evil and the inhuman”. A similar citation could easily have been drawn from a Christian writer of the period: Francis of Assisi, Nicolas de Cusa or the Catalan scholar of Islam, Raimon Llull. What is significant is the political nature of the choice: a crude appeal to the hurt memory of Orthodox Christians about the late days of their empire, before the Ottoman Turks overran Constantinople in 1453.

But the ideological twists and turns involved in the papal visit to Turkey are less important than the Vatican’s wider political project. Few, after all, ask: on what democratically or legally constituted authority do such potentates traverse the world at great public expense and inconvenience, to hold forth on matters of contemporary international politics? After all, the many issues in play these days between the Muslim world and the west – from oil prices to migration, from Iraq to Palestine – are not matters of theology, of faith, of the divine but of politics. Clerical figures have no more qualification to sermonise on these issues than politicians would to rule on the oneness of God, or where to hold hands in prayer.

The claim by clergy on politics, in short, is a fraud. What Joseph Ratzinger is engaged in, abetted by the complicity of those promoting a United Nations-sponsored “dialogue of civilisations”, is a form of ideological land-grab. Nowhere is this clearer than in relations between Europe and the middle east.

In the final section he focuses again on that fraudulent claim and challenges the Vatican’s influence itself

In recent years, under Ratzinger, and for years under his predecessor Karol Wojtyla, this overrated medieval entity has been allowed to play a role in formulating UN policy on matters of major import, notably birth control and use of condoms; it has also, in league with a peculiar and sexually repressive coalition of states (including the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar) promoted policies that, if carried through, will lead to the unnecessary deaths of millions of people. For those looking for such an entity, this is indeed an “axis of evil”.

The only solution to the pernicious and devious antics of Benedict XVI, his acolytes and allies, is to do even more than to challenge the claim of clergy and their leaders to take up political and social positions – it is to place in question the very legitimacy of the Vatican itself. The time has long past when this carbuncle had any right to be treated as a state and given the protection, for its diplomatic, ideological and money-laundering activities that it still enjoys. It would indeed be an excellent goal for reformers of global governance, and for proponents of global civil society, to set the eradication of the Vatican as one of their goals for their years to come.

If this cannot be done by international agreement between states, then other means of attaining this most desirable goal may be considered. The time may come when a mass mobilisation of secular and anti-clerical forces, drawn from across the world, is brought to Rome and simply occupies this anachronistic and pernicious entity; and in doing so abolishes the political and diplomatic authority of popes and cardinals, and turns the Vatican, its wealth and buildings, over to an international, secular, distributive society. It might be a change from demonstrating against the World Trade Organisation, and would target an organisation that has done far more harm on the global stage.

What’s perhaps most fascinating, to me at any rate, is a familiar theme, invoked back on 5th April 2005 by Fintan O’Toole, of the legacy of the long-dead Emperor Constantine

Then, though, Fintan O’Toole asked the question of the church

The question now is whether the church can finally ditch Constantine and get back to Christ. Can it lay the ghost of the Roman imperium and become something other than a male gerontocracy?

Or will the next Pope continue to sit enthroned, with a beautiful crown and gorgeous robes, on the grave of a dead empire?

Interestingly that legacy marks the opening lines of this BBC report

Ceremonial soldiers in white helmets marched into place beside a red carpet at Ankara airport as Pope Benedict’s plane arrived from Rome.

But what Fintan O’Toole didn’t know then, and no-one could have known for certain, when he stated..

The great resonance of John Paul’s death beyond the Catholic world is precisely because it brings a historical era to a close.

He is the last global figure to be shaped by that awful time when much of Europe responded to the loss of familiar empires by attempting to construct new ones, viler and more savage.

..was that the successor to John Paul, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, would have been shaped during that very same awful time.

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  • Nevin

    The Vatican is still troubled by memories of that awful time.

  • Henry94

    The fact that secularists are no unwilling to accept any opposition at all in a sure sign that they are badly in need of it.

    The time may come when a mass mobilisation of secular and anti-clerical forces, drawn from across the world, is brought to Rome and simply occupies this anachronistic and pernicious entity

    How many divisions has Fred Halliday?

  • joeCanuck

    Indeed a very thought provoking essay Pete.
    But I don’t expect a revolution in the Catholic church anytime soon. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, their influence has been in steady decline in (most) countries where people have a good education. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. It will take a long time indeed, however, before the dust settles. We have been, afterall, fighting the wars of the Ottoman succession for 176 years with no clear end in sight. USA politicians, especially, seem woefully ignorant of the grand sweep of history

  • Pete Baker

    Henry

    Halliday, while undoubtedly provocative, surely makes a valid point in that those political decisions should be made by elected and accountable representatives of the people rather than being influenced by, as Fintan O’Toole described it, someone sitting “enthroned, with a beautiful crown and gorgeous robes, on the grave of a dead empire” who is “proof of one of the great political paradoxes – that people are formed in large part by that which they oppose.”

  • kensei

    “Halliday, while undoubtedly provocative, surely makes a valid point in that those political decisions should be made by elected and accountable representatives of the people rather than being influenced by, as Fintan O’Toole described it, someone sitting “enthroned, with a beautiful crown and gorgeous robes, on the grave of a dead empire” who is “proof of one of the great political paradoxes – that people are formed in large part by that which they oppose.””

    The Church has as much right as any other non elected group – be it a Union, a Corporation, Pressure Groups, the Orange Order or whatever, and as much right to attempt global initiatives as any large organisation that crosses borders and to attempt to suppress it is anti everything a free democracy should be about. The Church should have the same right but no more, and the ultimate arbitration must fall with elected representatives.

    So, that’d be what happens now then.

  • Pete Baker

    As long as they are treated in the same manner as any other interested lobby group, kensei.

    Which goes to the core of Halliday’s and, previously, O’Toole’s argument for the need to “lay the ghost of the Roman imperium.”

  • kensei

    Really? Because what it sounded like was another tedious anti religious rant.

    I fail to see how the Church is treated any differently than any other group with large membership or influence in the West.

  • Pete Baker

    As a quick example kensei..

    “the opening lines of this BBC report

    Ceremonial soldiers in white helmets marched into place beside a red carpet at Ankara airport as Pope Benedict’s plane arrived from Rome.”

    I realise this is a sensitive topic.. but there are very valid issues raised in both Halliday’s and O’Toole’s articles.

  • joeCanuck

    So Kensei,
    The Vatican’s tedious, not to say tendentious, rant against the use of condoms, especially in Africa, thus condemning thousands of people to horrible disease and death should be given due consideration in the elected councils of the world?

  • kensei

    “Ceremonial soldiers in white helmets marched into place beside a red carpet at Ankara airport as Pope Benedict’s plane arrived from Rome.”

    Remove the ceremonial soldiers in white helmets and replace them with modern uniformed soldiers. Effective change: none.

    “The Vatican’s tedious, not to say tendentious, rant against the use of condoms, especially in Africa, thus condemning thousands of people to horrible disease and death should be given due consideration in the elected councils of the world?”

    Policy on condoms and their use are decided by government of a particular country. Various other influences and factors matter. Of course, to play Devil’s Advocate for a second, if everyone followed the Church line, then people would only be involved in monogamous relationships after a major commitment and AIDS wouldn’t spread.

  • Pete Baker

    “Remove the ceremonial soldiers in white helmets and replace them with modern uniformed soldiers. Effective change: none.”

    Kensei, you seem to be missing the point about the question posed by Fintan O’Toole back in April 2005

    Or will the next Pope continue to sit enthroned, with a beautiful crown and gorgeous robes, on the grave of a dead empire?[added emphasis]

  • Henry94

    Pete

    I think what happened here is that you came across an attack on the Church and the Pope which was in itself ignorant but contained enough rhetoric to cause a flutter in receptive hearts.

    The primary purpose of the Pope’s visit was to facilitate continued dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox with a view to reconciling the oldest rift in Christianity. That is no business of any politician. The Pope has also met with the Anglican leader. One wonders what the reaction would be if he had refused to have such meetings.

    The second leg of Halliday’s claim is that the Pope seeks an alliance with moderate elements in Islam

    At the same time he wants to recruit official Islam, be it senior clerics or moderate Islamist leaderships like the current Turkish government, in his campaign against the evils of secularism and Enlightenment.

    This is the same Pope has expressed the view that Turkey should not join the EU. If he sought such an alliance then he would support the application.

    The Pope does challenge secularism and he is entitled to do so without secularists indulging in bombastic threats to occupy the Vatican.

    This you find “undoubtedly provocative” while claiming his real point is that political decisions should be made by elected and accountable representatives of the people.

    No, that’s what we all think. What he thinks is that the Church should be silenced by force. That is not a liberal position or a secular one. It is a totalitarian one.

  • kensei

    “Kensei, you seem to be missing the point about the question posed by Fintan O’Toole back in April 2005″

    Apparently I am, because the point:

    “The question now is whether the church can finally ditch Constantine and get back to Christ.”

    Could be lazily made by any Protestant theologian in the past 500 years.

  • joeCanuck

    So the pope persuades some unelightened leader of a poor African country that the use of condoms is sinful and they are banned. It’s now the reponsibility of that leader, not papa.
    jeez, at least Pontious Pilate only washed his hands of one death.
    Hypocrisy at its most ugly.

  • kensei

    “So the pope persuades some unelightened leader of a poor African country that the use of condoms is sinful and they are banned. It’s now the reponsibility of that leader, not papa.
    jeez, at least Pontious Pilate only washed his hands of one death.
    Hypocrisy at its most ugly.”

    So, the elected leader with ultimate authority has no responsibility? And the elected that obviously voted in such a weak spined idiot and refuse to remove him has no responsibility?

  • Henry94

    joe

    Can you name an non-Islamic African country where condoms are banned?

  • Pete Baker

    Henry… and latterly kensei

    I’d appreciate it if you didn’t begin your argument with an assumption on motives but, instead, play the ball.

    “The primary purpose of the Pope’s visit was to facilitate continued dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox with a view to reconciling the oldest rift in Christianity.”

    That’s your interpretation, it’s not one shared by Halliday – or by me.

    “This is the same Pope has expressed the view that Turkey should not join the EU.”

    As Pope, according to what I can discern, Benedict hasn’t actually repeated what he had stated as a Cardinal.

    “What he thinks is that the Church should be silenced by force.”

    I assume you’ve missed a ‘not’ in that line. And far from that being my argument, my argument, as stated in-thread, is that the church, any church, should be accorded the same status as any other interested lobby group.

    Which brings us back to Fintan O’Toole’s question to the church.

  • joeCanuck

    Am not sure of your point Henry94.
    Will you deny that bishops in Catholic Africa have ranted about the use of condoms and tried to terrify people in Nigeria and neighbouring contries from using them on the deliberate misinformation that the condoms were deliberately infected to cause them disease?
    If you are to lazy to do the research, i’ll do it for you tomorrow.

  • Mickhall

    Interesting thread Pete,
    Well even with Blairs help most business organizations, let alone Trade unions etc, do not demand the god given right to have a major say, if not control the education of our children and demand a kick back from the public purse when doing so. Nor do they despite all their faults tell their customers/members that they will rot in hell or what ever the latest frightener is when their flock refuse to bow to the popes authority.

    The Vatican and other religious factions put its tanks on our lawns without being invited to do so by the electorate, so I am all for Fred’s suggestion that it should get a bit of its own medicine if that is what people decide to do.

    Did I not read some statement from the Catholic church today against the governments proposed changes in education, surly these matters should be for elected politicians not god botherers. Still we seem to be moving towards an elected dictatorship these days, so i suppose the church will get a bit of the pie, being greedy so and so.’s who are not content with the massive slice they have already nicked down the years. After all its leadership are not called Princes for nothing.

    regards

  • kensei

    “Henry… and latterly kensei”

    Leave me out of it if you are not going to answer my points.

    There is nothing new here at all; the article you link quotes a 17th Century philosopher. The King James Bible used slightly antiquated language, even when ti was written, to give it more gravitas and authority. So the Church uses some of the tricks it picked up from the Roman Empire almost two millennia ago for almost the same reasons. So it’s essentially PR – the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church in a way that doesn’t really have parallel in the Protestant Churches, so it is probably appropriate. But there is scope within the system for other approaches, and really what the attack on the pomp is, is an attack on the Papacy and its right to lead the Church itself. Whether that is done by a Protestant theologian or a secular humanist is irrelevant; there is absolutely nothing new here.

    “Will you deny that bishops in Catholic Africa have ranted about the use of condoms and tried to terrify people in Nigeria and neighbouring contries from using them on the deliberate misinformation that the condoms were deliberately infected to cause them disease?”

    No. Outright lies probably cross the line even in a free society, but they have the right to push any views they wish. You or anyone else have the right to oppose them.

    “If you are to lazy to do the research, i’ll do it for you tomorrow.”

    Could you research the Churches views on sex outside of wedlock while you are at it?

  • joeCanuck

    at the risk of playing the ball, is priests having sex with other priests and young children fall inside these guidelines you want me to research?

  • Henry94

    Pete

    I take it as some progress that you would rather defend O’Toole’s childish questions than Halliday’s vicious propositions. I’m not interested enough in O’Toole’s view to debate it. I think it is manifestly childish and if it impresses you then I doubt I could change your mind.

    My concern was to draw attention to the proposal at the end of Halliday’s article to suppress the Vatican by force. That is outside the range of democratic views.

  • willowfield

    KENSEI

    Are you unable to discern the distinction between preaching in favour of abstinence from sex before marriage, and engaging in disinformation (by telling congregations that condoms are pre-infected with AIDS)? (i.e. former acceptable, latter unacceptable)

    Really?

  • kensei

    Also, while I’m at it. A speech to the Representatives of Science? Science is essentially amoral and apolitical. It states what the based conclusion are based on results derived form the scientific method. So it may say stem cell research could help a variety of ailments, but it doesn’t say anything on the rightness of otherwise of that research. Those are questions for ethicists, politicians, priests, poets and everyone else. Scientists can get involved sure, but they have taken off their scientist hat.

    The confusion of Science with secular humanism is appalling and it’s ultimate result is to harm Science.

  • Pete Baker

    kensei

    “So the Church uses some of the tricks it picked up from the Roman Empire almost two millennia ago for almost the same reasons”

    I think you’re still missing the import of the reference to a dead empire..

    MickH

    I thought it was an interesting and provocative article, and an echo of Fintan’s earlier piece, in it’s own right without trying to expand the topic. ;o)

    And yes, you did see that statement.. in fact, I blogged it here as well.

  • kensei

    “at the risk of playing the ball, is priests having sex with other priests and young children fall inside these guidelines you want me to research?”

    What has that to do with condoms?

    “Are you unable to discern the distinction between preaching in favour of abstinence from sex before marriage, and engaging in disinformation (by telling congregations that condoms are pre-infected with AIDS)? (i.e. former acceptable, latter unacceptable)

    Really? ”

    Are you incapable of reading? Really?

    “Of course, to play Devil’s Advocate for a second, “

  • kensei

    “I think you’re still missing the import of the reference to a dead empire..”

    At the rate of growth of the Church in Africa and South America, it’ll hardly be dead by the time Benedict goes. Women priests and other nonsense hasn’t helped Anglicanism much. Still nothing new.

  • Henry94

    Joe

    I’m not sure how you could miss my point

    You said

    So the pope persuades some unelightened leader of a poor African country that the use of condoms is sinful and they are banned.

    I asked for an example of that. You can introduce any other criticisms of the Church you like. I may even agree with you. But on the specific point do you know of such a country?

    mickhall

    Imagine the cheek of the Catholic Bishops to offer an opinion on the future of Catholic schools. Don’t worry. those political decisions should be made by elected and accountable representatives of the people

    Are we all happy with that? If the people vote for parties who want choice in education is that what should happen?

  • Pete Baker

    Henry

    “My concern was to draw attention to the proposal at the end of Halliday’s article to suppress the Vatican by force.”

    I have indicated that Halliday was being provocative.. I would like to think the readership can understand that point.

    As for..

    “That is outside the range of democratic views.”

    And attempting to exert the influence of a dead empire is…

    Kensei

    “The confusion of Science with secular humanism is appalling and it’s ultimate result is to harm Science.”

    And that is something that the Vatican should note.

  • Henry94

    Pete

    Provocative?

    turns the Vatican, its wealth and buildings, over to an international, secular, distributive society.

    The Soviet Union which made similar claims for itself tried to murder the last Pope. That was indeed provocative. It is now gone but not before it killed millions. It is sad to see that people still share the illusions it was founded on.

  • kensei

    “And that is something that the Vatican should note.”

    I think the people who are pushing this line should really note it more, though.

  • Pete Baker

    Henry

    Don’t tell me you’ve reduced your argument to an accusation that I’m a communist?

    Once again…

    “And attempting to exert the influence of a dead empire is…”

  • Pete Baker

    Kensei

    As I’m sure you’re aware, that particular reference relates to the pontiff’s Speech to the Representatives of Science

  • joeCanuck

    fair enough Henry seeing that you can’t wait until tomorrow.

    Extracts from HRW.org (Human Rights Worldwide):
    Nigeria

    An estimated 5.4 percent of adults aged fifteen to forty-nine are HIV-positive in Nigeria, the majority of them having been infected through sex. Condoms remain inaccessible or unaffordable for many Nigerians. In a 2002 survey, 75 percent of health service facilities visited by Deliver, a program run in Nigeria by the U.S.-based John Snow International, were missing condoms or contraceptive supplies. One health advocate reported that there had been an absence of condoms in rural communities. Another reported a lack of information about HIV and HIV transmission in rural communities.

    Efforts to improve condom access in Nigeria have sometimes been hindered by restrictions on condom promotion. For example, Population Services International (PSI), a social marketing group that sells condoms in the private sector at subsidized prices, sold a record number of condoms in the first quarter of 2001. However, PSI’s radio advertisements promoting condoms were suspended for four months in 2001 by the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, a Nigerian government organization, (emphasis added) on the unsubstantiated grounds that the messages were “seductive” because they encouraged condom use in premarital sexual relationships.

    Condom promotion in Nigerian schools is similarly limited. While the national approved curriculum for HIV prevention education includes comprehensive education and condom promotion messages, at this writing only three of Nigeria’s fifty state governments have adopted and implemented it in their schools. The reproductive health expert quoted above told Human Rights Watch that this delay results, in part, from state governments bending to religious pressure. (emphasis added.)

  • kensei

    “As I’m sure you’re aware, that particular reference relates to the pontiff’s Speech to the Representatives of Science”

    Oh, probably blindly on a rant on a pet huge annoyance. He has limited call to be making speeches to Scientists either, but it isn’t really the Church pushing the confusion. I’d lay the blame on that one on Dawkins and the like.

  • Pete Baker

    “probably blindly on a rant on a pet huge annoyance. He has limited call to be making speeches to Scientists either”

    probably.. you have read that reasoned speech, haven’t you?.. and, even though he has the title of Supreme Pontiff..

    “but it isn’t really the Church pushing the confusion”

    Of course it isn’t…

  • Henry94

    Pete

    Don’t tell me you’ve reduced your argument to an accusation that I’m a communist?

    I was addressing a quote form the article you posted. I don’t know your views.

    joe

    So you don’t know of any country in Africa where condoms are banned then? I didn’t think there was. Thanks for checking.

  • joeCanuck

    I am truly sorry for your tunnel vision Henry.

  • joeCanuck

    Your church’s priests have banned them and they certainly have more contact with the the peasants and probably more influence on them than remote politicians who conspire with these corrupts stooges of the vatican; just the same as pertained in many catholic countries a generation ago.
    As you sow the wind, so you shall reap the whirlwind.

  • DK

    It seems a bit of a jump from Benedict trying to reach out to Greek Orthodox church, to a conspiracy theory that Benedict is trying to engage a pan-religious alliance to act against the evils of secularism (whatever they are: homosexuality, women outdoors, evolution, condoms, abortion, working on the sabbath, taxation of churches, cartoons of prophets – take your pick). What would this alliance do that the elements of it aren’t already doing? Or is the aim to concentrate on one particular secular “evil” and by concerted action get it sorted out first.

    In which case, which one could Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and Islam agree on? My best guess would be abortion which is suitably emotive and has a good chance of success. Look forward to a UN resolution on the rights of the unborn????

  • Wilde Rover

    Like Lizzie in London, “Papa” is a good earner, and I imagine the Italian tourist board would be alongside the Swiss Guards to repel the abovementioned attack.

    But my oh my how times change: I don’t think that with eight out of ten people in the Republic supporting civil rights for same-sex relationships the current Pope will be in a position to quote his predecessor by announcing “People of Ireland, I love you!”

  • sevenmagpies

    “The Church has as much right as any other non elected group – be it a Union, a Corporation, Pressure Groups, the Orange Order or whatever, and as much right to attempt global initiatives as any large organisation that crosses borders and to attempt to suppress it is anti everything a free democracy should be about.”

    Do religions really believe they are the same as everyone else though?

    I can’t think of any other group or organisation that gets to play that “do exactly what we say or you’ll burn forever in hell” card, though.

    A pressure group, a union, a corporation – their members have the opportunity to study the available information and draw a conclusion. Members of a religion have to simply accept what they are told to do or else. Not much point having a religion otherwise.

  • Mickhall

    Are we all happy with that? If the people vote for parties who want choice in education is that what should happen?

    Posted by Henry94

    Henry

    What you write seems very democratic, however if the church wishes to run schools, I cannot see why the tax payer should finance them. For example if Osama’s boys want to set up a school, should Catholics be asked to finance it out of the taxes they play.

    You may say this is an extreme example but many people regard the church as being just as reactionary, if not as violent as Bin Laden’s outfit and in truth has a history which is not that dissimilar.

    The wealthy have set up their own schools in the UK, to which the children of the upper middle class and aristocracy go. But these schools are not state funded, although they do get a kick back via the charities commission. So I see no reason why the church should get special preference, after all they have a disgraceful record of child abuse in many schools they have run, especially in Ireland.

    So no, even if people vote for choice in education, the state should not provide it in the manner you suggest, I believe it is imperative for the State to be secular and I support the French model for State education with all its imperfections. I say this as someone, who fool that I was, sent his own daughter to a Catholic school, although thankfully she did not repeat the same mistake with her own child.

    The State’s duty is to offer every child a first class secular education, religion must be a private matter, otherwise you end up with a grubby little statelet like that which exists in the north east of ireland or that which did exist in the Free State, that is they are neither foul nor fish.

    In a multi cultural world religious schools also restricts the child’s development so much. For example a child who goes to a catholic school, not only would not meet anyone in a school environment from the other Protestant community, but also would not meet any Muslims, Hindus etc, etc. Thus being unable to make a judgement based on real human contact about people from a different background to there own, they become prey for all the b i g o t e d prejudice that is pumped into our ears day and night.

    I would just pose this question to you Henry, do you keel it is a good idea for youngsters to be educated in the madrassa schools that are in Pakistan and many middle east counties? I am not suggesting either Protestant or Catholic schools are on a par with these schools, but underneath all the froth imo they have the same purpose.

    I would also say you are over egging the pudding when you accuse Fred of threatening the Vatican with violence, or some such.

    Best regards.

  • Nevin

    CHARTA OECUMENICA:

    “We commit ourselves

    to seek agreement with one another on the substance and goals of our social responsibility, and to represent in concert, as far as possible, the concerns and visions of the churches vis-à-vis the secular European institutions

    to defend basic values against infringements of every kind

    to resist any attempt to misuse religion and the church for ethnic or nationalist purposes.”

    There’s a token mention of European Muslims.

  • fionn

    “And attempting to exert the influence of a dead empire is…”

    Hmmm … MI5? or is it MI6?

  • Nevin

    7m, some faith group are more equal than others. The Church of England has clerical members in the House of Lords and the Vatican papal nuncios have diplomatic immunity, as do members of SMOM.

  • Kevin

    Re joeCanuck post34

    I believe HEnry asked for an example of a non-Islamic government banning condoms, last time I checked Nigeria had an ISlamic government

  • lib2016

    From an atheist point of view this is a selfdefeating rant. Sure religion is in decline in Western Europe but it is increasingly powerful in other parts of the world, not least in it’s educational role.

    We’re going to see the Churches go through the same sort of contortions as the more temporal powers as they learn to accept the need for democracy. It’s far too optimistic to think that we will all find a universally accepted truth – scientific or otherwise.

    One thing I do agree with. The reactionary and anti-democratic forces in society seem to be combining at the moment. Opus Dei runs the US Supreme Court and there’s still, amazingly, a state church in England which is approaching ever closer to Rome.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Benedict’s long-running “campaign against the evils of secularism and Enlightenment.”

    Again, an ignorant pundit who doesn’t bother reading or understanding. The Pope has nothing against the Enlightenment. In fact, by putting such emphasis on Reason, he is very much a fan of the Enlightenment. The enemies of Reason and the Enlightenment today are those ignorant people, ranging from pundits to lazy members of the public, who ranted about his lecture without having a clue what he said or what he meant. If it wasn’t so serious, the irony of it would be funny: “unEnlightened people attack Enlightened Pope on the (false) grounds that he isn’t a fan of the Enlightenment”.

    His claim is that religious beliefs can be justified based on Reason (meaning that secularism might be opposed to the Enlightenment and Reason, not in agreement with them). I happen to have a different opinion than him on this, but at least he’s engaging in debate based on reason and discussion. I won’t stoop to telling lies about him just because he came to a different conclusion than I did.

  • Rory

    “…As long as they are treated in the same manner as any other interested lobby group, kensei” Pete Baker.

    In which manner would that be, Pete? In the manner of Standard Oil or ITT or in the manner of a trade union group seeking protection from such groups in a third world country or the mothers of children whose health had been ruined by polltion from mining and other extraction industries?

    Presumably those who recognise that the more powerful must have their lobbying rewarded more than the merely importunate would have the Vatican’s lobbying given great respect because of the power it represents (the secular power of its adherents that is. I would not dream to speculate on Divine power).

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    In the context of the articles by both Fintan O’Toole and Fred Halliday it means removing the trappings associated with the legacy of the long-dead Emperor Constantine.

    O’Toole, in effect, argued that the church should begin that process itself.. Halliday argues that elected governments should do it for them.

  • Henry94

    mickhall

    CND members had to pay taxes that were spent on nuclear weapons. We all pay into the pot and elect people to spend it for us and decide the size of the pot.

    That is democracy. The alternative is directed taxation where we all pick what we want our money spent on.

    Under that system Catholic schools would do just fine.

    What is not democratic is for a cabal of fanatical secularists to make themselves the arbiters of how state money is spent in keeping with their ideology.

  • Nevin

    Aaron, the Pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, is clearly opposed to what he terms Enlightenment culture.

  • Nevin

    Here are links to the four part translation of the Ratzinger speech:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

  • Gram

    If the catholic church is primarily responsible for the spread of aids in Africa why has Ireland not suffered in the same way? We have a higher proportion of catholics than many African nations.

    Regarding Halliday’s article. Would he pen a similar article on the Muslim faith? No mention of the Church’s stance against the Iraq war and it’s key role in support of human rights throughout the world. On the latter point if anything I would like the church to become more involved in global politics in situations where human rights are being threatend.

  • joeCanuck

    I didn’t hear anyone claim that the catholic church is primarily responsible,Gram.
    Ireland has not suffered as much becuse the majority of the young people stopped listening to the priesthood on matters like these a long time ago. Because of the illiteracy rate in many African countries, people cannot read the printed health advice and many rely on the priest or village elder for guidance.

  • riddle me this

    is there *ANY* country other than Ireland (and even than only part of it), where the pope is welcome.

    We are living in a new millenium, and the CC is a dinosaur from the dark ages, the sooner the world is rid of this religion and all others the better it will be.

    In centuries to come people will look back upon our current time, and all the religious strife around the world, and i imagine they will look at it the way we look at people being persecuted for witchcraft centuries ago.

    The pope is (usually) just a frail old man, do people *actually* believe he is ANY better than me, you or anyone else ?????????

    I believe humans are all just intelligent (debatable) mammals and thats it. When we die, thats it, game over, all this heaven and hell is bullshit imho.

  • wtf noob

    Joecanuck

    “Because of the illiteracy rate in many African countries, people cannot read the printed health advice and many rely on the priest or village elder for guidance.”

    what advice is this Joe, advice that condoms are laced with HIV/Aids ??????????

    Or is it the equally enlightening advice that

    a Catholic nun advises her HIV-infected choirmaster not to use condoms with his wife because “the virus can pass through.”

    http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=3197

    A truly dangerous organisation if there ever was one.

  • joeCanuck

    I did mention that much earlier on this thread wtf.
    Although the Catholic Church obviously cannot be held primarily reponsible for the spread of this scourge, the degree of infection would certainly be a lot, a very lot, less, had they not spread those vicious, deliberate, lies.
    [Let's keep to the ball that's on the pitch - edited moderator]

  • joeCanuck

    Dear Moderator

    I thought that it was fair comment to point out the hypocrisy between what is being preached to poor africans compared to what goes on in practice by some of the people doing the preaching.
    Feel free to delete this latest comment but I’d appreciate an e-mail saying why you think my comment was off the ball. I did not play any identified individual.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Nevin,
    ‘Enlightenment culture’ is not the same as ‘the Enlightenment’. The Pope seems to have carefully used the first term only in the article you linked to. I’m not entirely sure what he’s at there, I must go read it fully. I think what I’m saying is that the Pope does (try to) follow reason and logic et cetera (as per the Enlightenment). This attempt is a fact that I don’t think can really be doubted.

    Anyway, another example from the article: The only solution to the pernicious and devious antics of Benedict XVI

    Halliday doesn’t give us any clue what he means by this. He previously mentioned something about condoms and AIDS, but that doesn’t mean that Pope is evil. Maybe he’s really stupid, but that’s not the same as evil! The reasons behind the Pope’s rules are not something I would agree with but I won’t pretend he is being devious or pernicious. I’d say we can quickly state as a matter of fact that the Pope isn’t being devious or pernicious here. Unless somebody can prove that he is deliberately stating something he doesn’t believe.

    The above is simple proof of the prejudices many pundits have before they tackle issues like the Pope’s recent troubles and travels.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Anyway, I’m off to the pub, then I plan to read those links from Nevin (I’ve already read the Regensurg lecture). Apologies in advance for not being able to see responses to my comments.

  • Mustapha Mond

    Lib2016
    “Sure religion is in decline in Western Europe but it is increasingly powerful in other parts of the world, not least in it’s educational role.”

    Any evidence of this, or is it just christianity that is in decline.

    JoeCannuck
    Try looking towards south america if you want sleaze on the church, a wealth of kickbacks, and every -ism you could imagine, and not so long ago a member of the same church labelled England, Germany and Holland as ‘evil’ countries, you could’nt make it up.

    Pete Baker
    Excellent thread, you alway have the most thought provoking stuff.

  • Nevin

    Aaron, perhaps Benedict is more a fan of Thomas Aquinas and the Logos than the ‘godless’ Enlightenment?

  • Aaron McDaid

    Nevin,
    You mention Aquinas and the Enlightenment as if they represent opposing viewpoints; but perhaps Thomas Aquinas would have been a fan of the Enlightenment.

    If one comes to the conclusion that Reason can justify religious belief, then the Enlightenment is ‘godful’ not ‘godless’.

  • abucs

    “If one comes to the conclusion that Reason can justify religious belief, then the Enlightenment is ‘godful’ not ‘godless’. ”

    Makes sense to me Aaron.

    My worry about secularism is that it misleads people into assuming enlightenment necessarily means no god by default.

    I personally think it uses a very narrow view of science and history to perpetuate it.

    That’s not to invalidate a reasoned view that comes to the ‘no god’ conclusion, but the preponderance of a large number of people to not even consider that a reasoned view can come to a God conclusion is very worrying and naïve.

    I think reason, as the Pope has said, should be the basis of these types of discussions.

    Everyone is free to look at logic and science or whatever else and make their own mind up, or they should be.

    There are many different scientific theories as to the REAL nature of reality.

    For me, it’s the created theories that make the most logical sense, but I’d be happy to sit back and digest other peoples CONSTRUCTIVE ideas.

    http://www.bottomlayer.com/

    http://www.bottomlayer.com/myst_vid/double_slit_06.htm

    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bottom/reality/RealityFrame1.html

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/schaefer/docs/scientists.html

  • Nevin

    Aaron, it’s my understanding that Aquinas put forward or identified with the proposition that God was a god of reason whereas the Age of Enlightenment/Reason highlighted man’s ability to reason without the need for God and/or the Churches.

    My own mind is my own church …. Thomas Paine

  • lib2016

    Mustapha Mond,

    The seminaries are full everywhere but Western Europe and North America, Islam is expanding especially in Africa but also elsewhere, and religion is staging a comeback in China, admittedly from a very low base.

    I don’t approve of organised religion but let’s not allow wishful thinking to change the facts. Humanists, secularists, atheists and whatever you’re having yourself haven’t won the debate – yet.

  • Pete Baker

    Mustapha

    Well, you may say that.. I couldn’t possibly comment.. ;o)

    But we seem to have wandered somewhat from the thrust of the original argument – that the privileges granted to the Vatican in global politics, the legacy of that long-dead Emperor, are neither justified nor desirable.

  • abucs

    Pete, for the line you wish to discuss, aren’t these simply subjective viewpoints.

    For example, why does the British family get recieved by certain people in certain ways.
    Why does Britney Spears, George Bush, The Armagh football team, Rock groups, the latest fitness and diet guru, previously Princess Diana and Mother Theresa, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, the Harlem Globe Trotters etc etc.

    Why do these people get recognition, why do they get influence, why do they get media coverage, why are they on the Late Show, why to Prime Ministers meet them, why are some Prime Ministers afforded time ?

    Bono and Geldof are talking about Africa, Gore about climate, the Pope about spirituality and reason, all from their own viewpoints.

    Isn’t it simply how the world goes round. Some people are interested in them, some people listen to them and some people are fans or adherants and some people don’t really take notice.

    What exactly is the arguement ? The Pope gets too much media coverage, the wrong type of coverage, he is listened to by certain people, he is recieved respectfully at a state level ?

    When people say that this medieval entity should be brought to an end, isn’t it simply certain people just having a personal rant about something they don’t like ?

    But sure, go ahead, start a serious movement for the British government to not recognise the Vatican and treat it like Taiwan. It will be all very amusing.

  • Henry94

    The participation of the Vatican in international forums comes from it’s position as an independent state. Fred Halliday proposes resolving that by a mass mobilisation of secular and anti-clerical forces, drawn from across the world, is brought to Rome and simply occupies this anachronistic and pernicious entity; and in doing so abolishes the political and diplomatic authority of popes and cardinals, and turns the Vatican, its wealth and buildings, over to an international, secular, distributive society

    That is at least a consistent position. You shy away from supporting that so what is your plan? Are you calling on your government to propose the expulsion of the Vatican from the UN for example?

    The Holy See has been a member of the United Nations since its inception, In fact, they even had the option to adopt Member-State status the Vatican chose to remain an observer member with no vote at the General Assembly.

    Switzerland is the only other state with the same status.

    The UN was founded on basic rules. One of them is that a member state that “persistently violates” the principles of the UN Charter can be expelled. By threatening to destroy a fellow member state, for example Ahmadinejad’s Iran violates Article 2 of the Charter—and mocks everything the UN claims to stand for. Of course when it comes to bravely challenging theocracies, secularists have their priorities. Who wants to take on Iran when there are much softer targets?

  • Secur O’Crat

    Why not distribute the wealth of Halliday and other loud mouthed secularists? John O’Shea has a nice pension plan for himself, all from the donations that would be better used by the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?
    Halliday thinks people like him should be jetted to Turkey. When you hear him, it is hard not to see the good in the Inquisition. Ex malo bonum.

  • Rory

    Fred Halliday proposes (that) a mass mobilisation of secular and anti-clerical forces…turns the Vatican, its wealth and buildings, over to an international, secular, distributive society.

    In the absence of any such society would he propose turning it over to an organisation aiming to build such a society do you think, the Communist Party for example?

  • Nic

    The current pope and especially his predecessor clearly expect(s)(ed) and claim(s)(ed) for himself the right to interfere in secular politics at will. Karol Wytola diverted Vatican millions to his home constituency (Healy-Rae style) and actively worked to break the Soviet Union in Poland. Even a card-carrying fully committed RC would have to question the morality of that “priviliged” treatment while (less worthy?) disciples in South America and Africa suffered and continue to suffer.

    And surely by any morality, humanist or christian or whatever you’re having yourself, if you preach against the use of condoms, espciallly in areas where the church has enormous (overweaning, perhaps) influence, you must take responsibility for the consequences when AIDS continues to spread and plague exactly these societies at least partly because they follow your teaching.

    Ratzinger has often enough declared his opposition to secular humanism and the enlightenment and his intention to use his influence to reverse them.
    Therefore, as a secular humanist, I take up the challenge and agree with Halliday that secular humanism must fight to protect itself and is justified in aiming to reduce, if not remove the Pope’s meddling in what is properly secular politics.
    Using legitimate secular powers to claim political territory back from the Vatican by removing it’s (misused) special privileges (including peaceful mass deomnstrations) is surely at least as legitimate as deliberately (mis-)using your spiritual influence to shape the constitutional structures everyone else must live under.

  • Secur O’Crat

    Nic

    Glad to see you are rallying to the flag. I am sure the bag ladies of Rome wioll enjoy your company. Now, if oyu could only take osme FPCs with you, Ireland would be all the better for it.

  • http://www.crosscurrents.org/panikkar.htm Kevin McManus

    Something to chew on, for those of us who have grown beyond undergrad posturing and pseudo enlightened ranting against relgious faith:

    Religion, Ireland: in mutation, by Prof. Joseph O’Leary:

    {Also worth checking out is Belfast author Peter Rollins’ book “How [not] to talk of God”}

    http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/12/religion_irelan.html

    Excerpts:

    “…The religious culture of Ireland is one that has suffered greatly from fixities of identity, fixities which because they are false, and in conflict with the texture of reality, have produced a constant practice of self-deception and obscurantism. Rigid doctrinal and ethical views, denominational and national chauvinisms, constricting definitions of social role and individual identity, reductive characterizations of alien groups and minorities…

    …The major pastoral problem of the Irish Catholic Church is that very many people, including clergy, no longer know why they continue to be Catholics. The meaning of the Gospel has become veiled, or even when that is not the case, the link between the Gospel and the activities of the Church remains disquietingly obscure..

    …It is very difficult to undertake a serious quest for religious truth – which must also be a quest for human truth – in a culture where every religious possibility has been mapped out in advance in a conventional frame of reference. Those who find the parish churches deadening often have nowhere to turn. Hence the need of alternative movements running across denominational lines and remaining free of church control. Such movements should breathe the spirit of play and celebration, a mood which more than any other can solicit (cause to tremble) the heavy, dull routine of the institution…

    …If the Irish Catholic Church could become a place of free exchange and communication, untold spiritual energies would be released. Free speech is the foremost clue to the solution of the malaise. The obstacles to it include the sense of inferiority induced in most Irish Catholics by the teaching of their Church, and by the powerlessness and passivity to which its structures condemn the laity and the lower clergy; the cowardice and prudent trimming which are part and parcel of clerical culture; the lack of a secure perspective and an articulate theological language in which to identify the problems – because of this lack people fear to open their mouths lest they reveal their own confusion, making fools of themselves, and disturbing the faithful. The attack on the media conducted by conservative Irish Catholics often springs from a fear of free discussion. A phobic attitude to the media often stems from a fear of being honest, and of having to answer awkward questions…

    …The hope of Ireland is the honesty of its disaffected Catholics (or those clever enough to be able to stay on as à la carte Catholics). The straight talk and penetrating analysis that has been pouring from their lips in recent years has greatly helped to clarify our religious situation. What needs to be urged, however, is that this critical movement need not consider itself to be cut off from the heritage of Gospel faith. It should confidently claim the Gospel for itself, even against the Church. If it does so, it may bring about a wider religious and human vision which could once more make our country’s one of the respected voices in the concert of civilization.”

    “…Since Ireland felt only faintly the impact of the scientific and philosophical Enlightenment, the defining event of modernity, and since her extraordinary contribution to the modernist revolution in literature – Yeats, Joyce, Beckett – was better understood abroad than at home, the notion of a postmodern Ireland can seem doubly misleading. The undermining and/or transformation of Irish Catholicism has mainly been the effect of the emergence of modern (Enlightenment) awareness in Irish society and in the Catholic Church worldwide since the sixties. If the modernization of Ireland was accompanied by an economic boom, the present suggestions of a postmodern mutation verify Fredric Jameson’s diagnosis of postmodernism as ‘the cultural logic of late capitalism’…”

    Joseph S. O’Leary, from Richard Kearney, ed. Across the Frontiers, Dublin, Wolfhound, 1988.

  • Pete Baker

    Kevin

    Despite the earlier attempts to divert the discussion, the topic isn’t actually about whether or not anyone is against religious belief.. that will always be a personal decision, and religion has a long-standing position and, for some, value within society.

    The actual topic is the privileged position accorded to the Vatican from the legacy of the long-dead Emperor Constantine – which Henry, correctly, notes is the current status – even if he uses that position to defend the status quo.

    However, for some, it’s easier to reduce the topic to a more simplistic, and more readily referenced, argument.

  • Nic

    Hi Kevin, if protesting against the overweaning political influence of the RC church is “pseudo enlightened ranting” then the excerpts above are nothing more than nonsensical new-age mumbo-jumbo.
    Not to mention 180 degrees at odds with the Catholic Church’s official position.
    Ratzinger and indeed Wytola before him strongly believe(d) in and enforce an authoritarian church where priests teach the message that the infallible pope and his wise cardinals interpret from the immutable teachings of Jesus and congregations take the message on board.
    It is not a free-for-all a la carte service where everyone can pick and mix their own religion and morality as part of their lifestyle choices.

    Once a Catholic, always a catholic, after all.

  • Nevin

    Should the Vatican’s observer status at the UN and the diplomatic immunity for its officials be abolished or should other religious sects have a similar status?

  • Secur O’Crat

    First of all, the Pope is Christ’s Vicar on earth. As such, he should be listened to, at least. Catholicism is Ireland’s faith and the Constitution should not have been amended to accommodate a pampered minority and others. (George Bush tells us atheists are not patriots and he has a point). Greek Orthodoxism is Greece’s religion and that should not be tempered with either. Fredo Frog Halliday should attack the Muslim faith instead of the Pope so that a fatwa can be issued against him and his croaking. The non Muslim world is too fond of empty shit stirrers.

  • Secur O’Crat

    Here is part of this guy’s bio. Born in Dublin and “educated” in Dundak.

    [Play the ball! - edited moderator]

    And we are supposed to pay heed to him.
    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    Fred Halliday is a well-known and authoritative scholar on Middle Eastern affairs and a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. He appears regularly on the BBC, ABC, al-Jazeera television, CBC and Irish radio, and speaks six languages.

    The author of a number of books, including The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics and Ideology (2005) and most recently 100 Myths about the Middle East (2005), Halliday has a fortnightly column on openDemocracy and has written articles on a broad range of issues.

    Born in Dublin, Fred Halliday grew up in Dundalk. He completed his first degree at Queen’s College, Oxford, followed by an MSc at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. His PhD thesis on South Yemen at the London School of Economics took him 17 years to complete.

  • abucs

    Pete, still waiting for an answer to Henry and I’s question about what the point of this blog is.

    That is, if not just the weekly rant by the usual crew on religion, is there an actual point ?

    Are you advocating Britain not recognise the papacy or are you advocating throwing the vatican out of the UN ?

    If you aren’t advocating anything, then this obviously is the weekly anti religious blog of yours and “no sense need apply”.

    One obvious advantage of the Papacy using it’s neutral state status was in it’s ability to function during the second world war. With the nazi war machine baulking at invading, thus leaving a state “behind Nazi lines” who could co-ordinate the escape of many Jews and enemies of the Nazis.

    Not bad for an “overated medieval entity”.

    http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/destefano/050410

    http://www.catholic.com/library/HOW_Pius_XII_PROTECTED_JEWS.asp

    http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/1999/may1999p6_349.html

    http://www.michaeljournal.org/piusXII.htm

  • abucs

    Kevin, that’s an interesting link. I think many large organisations – government and religions chief among them, are badly in need of finding a way to tap into peoples energy and ideas. You’d think in a time of greater communications this should be easier ? Are we all too self focused or busy perhaps ? I agree the culture of such big organisations is too much of a pyramid shape and is not helping the process.

  • abucs

    http://martinrothonline.com/MRCC11.htm

    http://www.crs.org/our_work/what_we_do/programming_areas/aids/index.cfm

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/1125/

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/special/aids/3268587.stm

    http://ncrcafe.org/node/175

    I spend 1/2 the year in the Philippines and there doesn’t seem to be an AIDS problem there.

    As a disclaimer I have to say that I don’t agree with the Vatican on condoms, especially in the face of AIDS.
    I’m assuming most Catholics, as the links above suggest, are of the same mind.

  • Pete Baker

    abucs

    “Pete, still waiting for an answer to Henry and I’s question about what the point of this blog is.”

    As I mentioned in my response to Kevin’s comment

    “Despite the earlier attempts to divert the discussion, the topic isn’t actually about whether or not anyone is against religious belief.. that will always be a personal decision, and religion has a long-standing position and, for some, value within society.

    The actual topic is the privileged position accorded to the Vatican from the legacy of the long-dead Emperor Constantine..”

    That should be clear, despite the desire of some to divert the actual conversion to a different, more general, topic – I’ll also note that Fred Halliday mentions some specific examples in relation to global politics.

    More importantly, the point is also to encourage some thought about the actual topic and to allow for debate on it…

    Naturally, unless step one takes place, step two falls by the wayside..

  • Henry94

    If for nothing else the thread was worthwhile to see a secularist decrying the role of John Paul II in bringing down communism on the basis that he was overstepping the line between Church and State in Poland!

    But at least that is consistent with international secularist opinion which is really marxist state worship in mufti.

    Local secularist opinion when not quite red is very deep orange.

  • Pete Baker

    At the risk of repeating myself..

    “Naturally, unless step one takes place, step two falls by the wayside..”

  • Secur O’Crat

    I wonder how many Catholics or Muslims are really up to speed on the intricacies of their religion. Not many I would guess. And that is why Popes are needed: shepherds to guard their flocks against snake oil sellers. Relgion has many dimensions to it. Why did it take Mr Halliday 17 years to complete his PhD and why is he so fond of TV appearances instead of doing research? Could the 17 years to do a simple thesis be a clue?
    Let’s hope Prince Charles becomes a Catholic when he ascends to the throne (the overrated medieval entity of Kingship of Britania and her domains, not the Royal toilet)