'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

July 25, 2011

Vatican more upset by Catholic Prime Minister's criticisms than clergy sex crimes against children

Chain The Dogma - July 25, 2011

Vatican more upset by Catholic Prime Minister's criticisms than clergy sex crimes against children

by Perry Bulwer

Almost two weeks after the Irish government ordered report on cover-ups in the County Cork diocese of Cloyne between 1996 and 2009,  the Vatican has finally responded by recalling its envoy to Ireland. The Vatican statement said the envoy was recalled not just to consult on the report, but "in particular due to the reactions to it." An anonymous Vatican official reiterated that the Vatican was "slightly surprised and disappointed at some of the excessive reactions" to the report.

Every investigative report on Catholic clergy crimes and the cover-ups of those crimes has elicited condemning reactions from a wide range of interested parties, many of which could be considered by the Vatican to be "excessive reactions", such as the calls for criminal charges against the Pope and other church leaders. How could Vatican officials be even "slightly surprised" that similar reactions would follow the publication of the Cloyne report? And how could they be disappointed in those reactions when they know that most usually come from very vocal advocates, activists and critics? It seems to me that the Vatican's surprise and disappointment is mostly directed at the Irish Prime Minister's speech on the Cloyne report.

The Irish PM, Enda Kenny, is not only the longest-serving parliamentarian in a country that until 1973 gave the church a "special position" in its constitution, but he is a devout Catholic. His harsh, but accurate, criticisms of the Vatican's role in covering up clergy sex crimes against children surely must be the source of the Vatican's surprise and disappointment. More than surprise and disappointment, the Vatican hierarchy seems to be running scared, retreating into its enclave to consider a politically correct response to Kenny's charges, rather than simply doing the right thing.

I think it was Prime Minister Kenny who was genuinely surprised at the reactions he has received from thousands of people around the world, including from many priests. "The numbers of members of the clergy who have been in touch in the last few days, to say it is about time somebody spoke out about these matters in a situation like you are, has astounded me."  That's what really scares the Vatican. More and more priests are gaining the moral courage to publicly criticize the Vatican or publicly protest against certain doctrines, and Kenny's speech will hopefully encourage many more to do so.

Blogger Michael Nugent has compiled 35 examples in the Cloyne Report of diocese officials covering up clergy child sex crimes. They are the sorts of things Prime Minister Kenny refers to in his speech. You can read Kenny's full speech here.  I'll just provide a few excerpts from that speech after an excerpt from Nugent's blog. Remember, the Vatican has so far expressed surprise and disappointment in Kenny's reactions, but has said nothing about the sex crimes and cover-ups by priests and bishops.

Bishop Magee lied and deliberately misled, says Cloyne Report by Michael Nugent (excerpt):

Putting aside the content of the sexual abuse allegations, which are of course shockingly serious, the Cloyne Report reveals that various permutations of the Cloyne Diocese, Bishop John Magee and Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan “positively lied” [21.79], “positively misled” [21.79], “deliberately misled” [21.91], deliberately created two different accounts of the same meeting, a true one for the Vatican and a false one for the local diocesan files [1.48], gave false assurances to the Government Minister for Children and the Health Service Executive [1.77], “tried to bury the matter” of the requirement to report “evidence of a vicious sexual assault” [16.19], advised that statements to the gardai should be “minimal” [9.84-85], failed to give its own advisory committees full information [1.36], “put out an erroneous view” about a report [1.40], produced crucial documents that were wrongly dated [12.29], held three different versions of one meeting in diocesan files [21.27], and misled people in at least 35 ways which I detail below. [click on the link above to read the entire list of examples]

Excerpts from Prime Minister Kenny's speech:

... for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic...as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.

And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism...the narcissism...that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.

The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'.

Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict's "ear of the heart"......the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.
This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.
I believe that the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who - like me - have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of Church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State's authorities in line with the Children First National Guidance which will have the force of law.

Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland's brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy Reports.

This is the 'Republic' of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws...of rights and responsibilities...of proper civic order...where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version...of a particular kind of 'morality'...will no longer be tolerated or ignored.

Where the law - their law - as citizens of this country, will always supercede canon laws that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.

This report tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children. If we do not respond swiftly and appropriately as a State, we will have to prepare ourselves for more reports like this.

I agree with Archbishop Martin that the Church needs to publish any other and all other reports like this as soon as possible.

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said, "Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church."

As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.

Not purely, or simply or otherwise.


July 21, 2011

Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

Chain The Dogma      July 21, 2011

Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

Religion and Politics - Two Sides of the Same Con

By Perry Bulwer

The slang term I use in my subtitle, which plays on the word coin, is derived from the term 'confidence trick' and refers to the intentional deception of people after gaining their confidence, usually in relation to a financial fraud. Not all confidence artists are swindlers out for monetary gain, however. Politicians and religious believers also use confidence tricks to exploit others. Confidence artists, or fraudsters, exploit various human characteristics such as greed, credulity and naïveté, and emotions such as compassion and fear, to trick their targets into trusting them. Politicians do the same by using ideology, propaganda and demagoguery to misinform and mislead their constituents. Believers do it by using religious dogma to exploit the gullibility, superstitions and fears of adults, or the innocence, ignorance and inexperience of children.

Many aspects of both religion and politics are aptly described as con jobs. Here is how the New Testament describes religious faith in Hebrews 11:1, first in the King James Version and then in the Common English Bible: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see”. Choose any translation you want, they basically all say the same thing. But it is illogical to claim that the act of believing some thing exists is actually evidence of that thing, that merely having faith or hoping for something to be true is proof of its reality. Faith is not substance or reality, it is merely a belief or a feeling that is not based on evidence. Faith is simply wishful thinking, which sounds nice and harmless, but it can turn deadly when acted upon, as in the case of faith healing parents who allow their children to die  tortuous deaths without any medical intervention. Their confidence in the authority of the Bible has tricked them into killing their own children through neglect.

Children also suffer from the religious confidence trick of indoctrination. There is a reason most religious evangelism focuses on children.  They are easy targets for spiritual fraud because they already have confidence in authority figures such as their parents and religious teachers. It is easy to exploit their credulity and naïveté to trick them into believing in faith-based fantasies rather than evidence-based reality. But the con doesn't stop with just convincing little children that God or gods are real, or that they will live forever in paradise if they just believe, otherwise most children would eventually out grow their belief in imaginary religious figures and places, just like they out grow their belief in Santa and his toy factory at the North Pole.

No sane parent continues to push the Santa story on a child that has grown to reject that particular myth because of common sense and observable evidence, so that belief is easily discarded at a certain stage of childhood. The myths of religion, on the other hand, are constantly reinforced throughout childhood and adolescence with dogma that prevents critical thinking and disables a child's ability to discern the difference between reality and fantasy. By the time a child subjected to such indoctrination reaches adulthood it is extremely difficult to escape the imposed religious worldview. For example, any child convinced to accept the religious fantasy of creationism over the scientific reality of evolution is a victim of a con job of the highest order as it can infect their worldview throughout their life. Nothing could be more childish than to believe that the Biblical creation myth, and other events in Genesis such as the flood and Noah's ark, were literal events that happened exactly as described. Yet many adults who were indoctrinated with creationist lies as children retain that childish belief contrary to the advice in I Corinthians 13:11 to “put away childish things”. The childish thing in that example of creationism is holding a belief or an opinion on an issue when there is no evidence to support that view and all the evidence supports the opposite position.

That sounds a lot like how many politicians work. Political campaign promises are a common example of a con job. Everyone knows how it works. A politician makes an election promise, often with no intention of keeping it, that helps gain the confidence of voters, but once elected the promise is not kept. That is a confidence trick, a con job that everyone can recognize as such and yet voters continue to get taken in by such lies. There are many examples of confidence tricks, or con jobs, in the political realm. The Iraq war waged on the basis of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist is one recent example. But it is the far more disastrous global 'war on drugs'  that I want to focus on here, given the recent report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, comprised of mostly former heads of state and other world leaders.

The Commission's report is just the latest of many that concludes the prohibition of some drugs has been a complete failure “... with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” It has not been a war on drugs, but a war on citizens, often fought along racial lines particularly in the United States. The commissioners, like many others before them, recommend the legalization of cannabis and other prohibited drugs. Whether or not those high profile individuals can help bring the insanity and injustice to an end remains to be seen, especially given the fact that most of them failed to do anything about it when they were in office and had more power to effect change. Ending prohibition will not be easy as long as political leaders like President Obama and Prime Minister Harper continue to base their drug policies on ideology rather than scientific evidence.

President Obama promised in his presidential campaign  that his administration would not prosecute medical cannabis patients and providers in states that have legalized it, yet that is exactly what he is doing today. He gained the confidence of large numbers of voters interested in the issue of medical cannabis by deliberately lying about his intentions. He could have easily kept that promise and taken one small, progressive step towards ending the disastrous war on drugs, but he didn't, which is why I think it was a deliberate campaign lie. After all, the prohibition of cannabis was originally premised on, and is perpetuated by, deliberate lies and propaganda. In fact, the prohibition of some drugs, but not the most dangerous ones that cause the most harms to individuals and socities, is a con job on an international scale, started and led primarily by the United States.

The evidence for the efficacy and safety of cannabis as medicine  is overwhelming.  Yet, under Obama the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to not just ignore that evidence, but to declare without any evidence of its own, that cannabis has no accepted medical use.  If that is true, then on what basis have 16 state legislatures legalized medical cannabis? The DEA's lies are absolutely absurd and easy to disprove.

Cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years.  There are thousands of scientific research studies showing the effectiveness of cannabis for a wide range of health problems. Cannabis was even listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and used as commonly as aspirin, another useful drug derived from a plant but more toxic than cannabis.

In 2009, the American Medical Association reversed its opinion (an opinion informed not by science but by political propaganda) that cannabis had no medicinal application, and called for more research. Ironically, the AMA's original position on cannabis was that it has a great deal of therapeutic value for a variety of ailments, and in the 1930s the organization argued against prohibiting it in the first place because it considered cannabis a potential wonder drug, which it is. That call for more research has so far gone unheeded, except for a few exceptions, even though the American College of Physicians has called for the same thing.  The National Cancer Institute,  part of the U.S. Department of Health, refers to cannabis as alternative medicine and admits it has been used as medicine for thousands of years, though the political climate requires it to refer only to potential benefits of cannabis for cancer patients. If you ask the multitudes of cancer patients who use cannabis whether the relief they derive from it is a real benefit or merely potential, I am quite sure I know how they will reply.

In 1997, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review the scientific evidence of the health benefits and risks of cannabis. The IOM's report  emphasized evidence-based medicine as opposed to ideology-based medicine, and concluded that cannabis has therapeutic value for pain relief, control of nausea and appetite stimulation. In fact, the U.S. government still grows and supplies cannabis to a handful of medicinal users under an investigative program that was cancelled in 1992.

Furthermore, the new pharmaceutical drug, Sativex,  is derived directly from the cannabis plant, unlike other pharmaceutical cannabinoid analog drugs that are solely synthetic. Sativex has undergone vigorous regulatory testing successfully and is approved for sale in several countries, including Canada, for various medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and cancer. More countries are testing it, including the U.S., where the first large scale trial for cancer patients had positive results and the next development phase is underway. Finally, the evidence from Portugal  puts the lie to all claims that the legalization or decriminalization of all drugs will increase drug use and harms to individuals and society. After ten years of one of the sanest drug policies in the world, the evidence shows the opposite is true.

So, on what basis has Obama approved the DEA's latest attacks against desperately ill people for whom cannabis is the most effective and safest drug they could use, and one which they could produce on their own very easily and cheaply? It is certainly not on the basis of any credible evidence. Does Obama really believe the DEA's propaganda that cannabis has no accepted medical use, or is he merely playing politics with people's lives? As Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego, said: "It's always a danger if the government acts on certain kinds of persuasions or beliefs rather than evidence."  Obama's ally in this immoral war against sick people, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, also seems to prefer ideological propaganda over scientific evidence. He has proven that by his government's efforts to shut down North America's only medical center where drug addicts can legally inject illegal drugs.

All of the evidence proves that Vancouver's INSITE  effectively saves the lives of individuals and improves the community, yet Harper has used the courts to try and shut it down. When the case recently reached the Supreme Court of Canada, British Columbia's lawyers presented the justices with stacks of scientific evidence demonstrating that INSITE was effective public policy.  What evidence did the government's lawyers present to the court to counter that? None, because there is none. Incredibly, the government's argument relied solely on a jurisdictional issue.  In other words, federal government lawyers argued on the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments. They admitted to the Supreme Court justices that there was no credible evidence that the program does not work, but insisted that the province of British Columbia had no jurisdiction in this matter because it is a criminal law issue falling under federal jurisdiction, and not a public health issue which is governed by the provinces.

Just a week after that Global Commission recommended ending the failed drug war, the Canadian government pledged $5 million to keep fighting it in the Americas. Prime Minister Harper does not care much for scientific evidence,  not wanting the facts to get in the way of his religious ideology. I say religious rather than conservative ideology because the prohibition of drugs, particularly cannabis, is not a conservative position.  As Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who supports legalization of cannabis, recently wrote:

William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman, two of the most respected conservative intellectuals of the late 20th century, were among the drug war's high-profile critics. These great thinkers did not argue that recreational drug use should be celebrated -- far from it! Instead, they argued that the prohibition of drugs was causing far greater harm to society than drug abuse itself. And they were right.

So, if Harper's drug policies are not based on scientific evidence or on conservative values, what could they possibly be based on other than his religious ideology. (I will have much more to say about Harper's religious affiliation in future posts.)  Harper had the gall to recently crow that "Conservative values are Canadian values. Canadian values are conservative values.” Nothing could be further from the truth. He bases that hubris on his recent election victory that finally gave him a majority in the House of Commons. However, the majority of Canadians, around 60 percent, did not vote for Harper or his Conservative party. Only 40 percent of Canadians support Harper, yet over 50 percent support the legalization of cannabis, showing just how out of touch with reality Harper is.  That latter number would be much higher but for decades of prohibition propaganda that deliberately obscures the facts.

As part of Harper's tough-on-crime agenda, also based on ideology rather than evidence (e.g. spending billions on new prisons when the crime rate has fallen to lowest level since 1973),  he plans to impose mandatory minimum sentences for various crimes, including small-scale cannabis cultivation. The U.S. experiment with mandatory minimum sentences has been a failure, especially for drug cases, and is being discontinued in many states. Yet despite that strong evidence from the U.S. that such sentences are ineffectual and a massive waste of money, Harper seems to think they will work in Canada. Harper's rejection of evidence in favour of ideology has many international observers bewildered.

Continuing to prohibit some drugs that have proven health benefits, but not others that are far more dangerous, and imprisoning users based purely on ideology rather than on evidence of harm caused to individuals and society is immoral. As Sam Harris recently wrote: “The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time.” And it is not just jailing harmless people that is immoral. Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer needlessly from great pain simply because of hyperbolic drug war propaganda and policies that prevent them from accessing a common, cheap drug that could free them from their misery. The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, thinks that the war on drugs is a conservative value and a Canadian value, but it is neither. It is an inhumane, immoral injustice and a complete failure.

I wonder what those who dishonestly hold to the dogma that Cannabis has no scientifically confirmed medical benefits would say to the father and son in the following video?

Dad gives two year old son battling with Brain cancer Medical Marijuana

"Marijuana Moms"  A group of moms in California, where medical pot is legal with a prescription, have declared that marijuana makes them better parents and partners.

International Law and the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health Care: Using Safe Injection Facilities to Control and Prevent Epidemics

Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest

A modest proposal to end homelessness in Canada

Asbestos, Abortion and the Canadian Prime Minister's cats

July 19, 2011

Philadelphia archbishop resigns due to old age, not for failing to protect children

Chain The Dogma    July 19, 2011

Philadelphia archbishop resigns due to old age, not for failing to protect children

by Perry Bulwer

Pope Benedict XVI formally accepted the resignation of Philadelphia archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali today. When I read the headline I assumed Rigali resigned because of his role in endangering children by protecting dozens of priests credibly accused of child sex crimes, as alleged by two separate grand juries. The archdiocese is facing criminal charges for transferring known pedophile priests without warning their new parishes, which is a common practice in the Catholic church. Even the archdiocese's own lay review panel  on clergy abuse accused the archbishop of failing to be open and transparent with regard to clergy crimes against children. Cardinal Rigali, like so many other cardinals and bishops, put the protection of the church before the protection of children,  and thereby lost all credibility as a moral authority. So has the Pope.

Instead of demanding Rigali's resignation when it became clear that he had mishandled clergy crimes, endangering children and bringing the Philadelphia archdiocese and the entire church into disrepute in the process, the Pope not only kept him in his position, but ignored for more than a year church law that required Rigali to resign when he reached the age of 75. Rigali turned 75 in April 2010, 15 months before the Benedict accepted his resignation. The Pope, who has almost instantly excommunicated some priests  for disobeying church law, simply ignored those same internal laws by allowing Rigali to remain in office long past his due date.

Apparently, the Pope thinks priests who attempt to marry or ordain women  deserve no place in the church, while priests who cover-up sex crimes against children and enable other priests to continue sexually assaulting children get special treatment. The Bible prescribes in Matthew 18:6 the special treatment such offenders ought to be subjected to. Something about being tossed into the sea with a rock tied around their neck. But the Pope ignored that imperative too. I suppose the three decades Rigali spent as a Vatican diplomat and administrator payed off and made him many powerful friends, as Benedict chose to reward rather than punish him for his criminal activity.

The Pope had a chance to show some real moral courage and leadership by cleaning house in Philadelphia and appointing a replacement that would put the protection of children before the church. Instead, the Pope's pick to replace Rigali, Denver archbishop Charles Chaput, is just more of the same. The Denver archdiocese had its own child sex crimes scandal to deal with, which should have put Chaput out of the running for the Philadelphia position. After the Denver diocese settled with 43 clergy crimes survivors Chaput stated that “he could not judge actions of the bishops who handled White's case, since they have all died.”  But the cover-ups by those bishops was clearly evident, otherwise the diocese would never have settled the lawsuits, so why couldn't Chaput judge those dead bishops' actions? Would he have judged their actions if they were still living? I think not, since it is extremely rare for bishops and cardinals to criticize each other.

Will Chaput's attitude better serve to protect the children in his new archdiocese or the bishops and priests under his command? Perhaps it remains to be seen, but we already know that archbishop Charles Chaput is one of the most conservative bishops in the U.S., which is probably why the Pope picked him, has a history of politicizing issues, and discriminates against children because of their parents' background.  None of that is good news for the children of Philadelphia who have the misfortune of being raised Catholic.

July 14, 2011

Catholic child protection policies are merely public relations ploys

Chain The Dogma      July 14, 2011

Catholic child protection policies are merely public relations ploys

Undermined by Popes and bishops, they fail to protect children

by Perry Bulwer

The latest report on Catholic clergy abuse in Ireland  reveals, not for the first time but with new details, how the Vatican undermined efforts by Irish bishops to implement new child protection measures starting in 1996, which included a duty to report suspected cases of child abuse to police. Those efforts were not voluntarily initiated by the bishops, but forced on them by abuse survivors who began publicizing their lawsuits, which blew open the doors to this hidden scandal.

A year later, those bishops received a confidential 1997 letter from the Vatican  warning them that their child protection policies were invalid under canon law. As a result of that interference by the Vatican more Irish children were endangered and harmed by priests. Pope John Paul II was directly responsible for crimes against children that could have been prevented but for his pastoral neglect and his preference for protecting a corrupt institution over the lives of innocent children.

According to this latest government investigation, which focuses on clergy abuse in the diocese of Cloyne, Bishop John Magee and his senior staff did not report child abuse cases to the police from 1996 to 2009. But his crimes went beyond neglect and endangerment. Encouraged by the 1997 Vatican letter, Magee did more than just fail to enact protection policies, he actively set out to cover-up clergy abuse. He suppressed information on 19 priests suspected of child abuse. He set up a fake committee, ostensibly to review abuse cases, that never met once after 1995. He produced two different written reports on a priest who admitted abusing children, omitting that admission from the report to diocesan officials. The Vatican got the full report. I assume that the police got no report.

The Vatican's culpability for crimes against children doesn't stop with John Paul II. In a 2010 pastoral letter to Ireland's Catholics, Pope Benedict continued his predecessor's pressure on the bishops, blaming them for failing to follow canon law. He wrote that there had been “serious mistakes” in the way bishops responded to abuse allegations. But apparently the bishops did try to respond appropriately by drafting child protection policies. It was Pope John Paul II who told them they could not protect children. So, one Pope tells the bishops that they cannot report child-abusing priests to the police because that would violate canon law, and the next Pope blames them for not responding properly to clergy abuse. And neither Pope has admitted any responsibility for the Vatican's role in protecting child-abusing priests, not just in Ireland, but around the world.  

This latest Irish investigation shows the sham and shame of Catholic leaders making empty promises and phony policies to protect children. For example, Irish bishops withheld over 200 abuse cases  from its own child protection board and impeded a national audit of clergy crimes. The same thing happened in Philadelphia where cardinal and bishops hid problem priests  from their own clergy abuse review board, and put church law before civil law. The credibility of all Catholic child protection policies   is now seriously undermined by the continuing cover-ups.

If the abuses and cover-ups reported in this investigation of the Coyne diocese occurred after child protection policies were supposedly put in place, then how safe are the children in the twenty-three Irish dioceses that have not yet been investigated and what abuses are yet to be exposed? We may never know as so far the government has resisted calls  by survivors to investigate all of them. And likewise in the United States, where loopholes in clergy abuse guidelines continue to endanger children. The Catholic hierarchy just doesn't get it. As recently as May 2011, the Vatican announced new guidelines stating that the responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases within the church "belongs in the first place to bishops".

It is hard not to conclude that the Catholic hierarchy consists entirely of “... aging men who have no life experience with children and show not the slightest regard or empathy for them. They claim it their duty to protect the 'unborn child' but offer no protection to the children in their schools and parishes.”