Religion

Yes, The Pope Should Be Arrested, and I Don’t Care Who Does It

Yesterday morning the big news was an interesting article with a ridiculous headline: “Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI“.

I thought my Tweet summed up my feeling on the matter:

Richard Dawkins is going to personally arrest the pope. I hope it’s like the video for Sabotage but with old dudes http://is.gd/bo707

I was wrong to assume that people would read that and think, “Yes, that is a completely ridiculous headline.” I’m kicking myself for not being clearer, because when Dawkins posted a clarification to say that no, he did not say he’d be personally arresting the pope, a lot of my Twitter and Facebook followers happily declared that it was all a big hoax. A few others declared that it was all a big publicity stunt on Dawkins’ part, and that it therefore hurt “the skeptical movement.”

Bullshit.

Dawkins’ clarification explained that while he was not going to swing into action Beastie Boys-style, he does support the actual effort currently underway to hold the Pope accountable for the systematic protection of child abusers. And that, to me, was the entire point: not that Dawkins is involved (though that is a funny image), but that the Pope may in fact answer for his crimes. So no, it’s not all a big, overblown hoax. It is a real and important story.

On to the second point, that this effort will apparently hurt the “skeptical movement”: it won’t, and it’s completely absurd to suggest otherwise.

I like and admire Massimo Pigliucci, but he is 100% wrong when he posted this (among other things) on my Facebook profile:

naturally, always a good thing to keep one’s baloney detector set to orange alert. though the basic problem remains: two of the “horsemen” are behind a sensationalistic stunt that has no chance in hell (pun intended) of actually succeeding in the real world

Bad Boys II starring Richard Dawkins & Chris Hitchens, by Jen @antiheroineBullshit, Massimo, on several points. Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins lent their support to an effort that was already well underway, and if it weren’t for that support, most people wouldn’t know that this is happening. To describe their support as a “sensationalistic stunt” is pointless cat-fighting. And to describe it as an effort that “has no chance in hell” of succeeding is simply ignorant.

Geoffrey Robertson nicely sums up the case against the Pope, including his alleged violation of the ICC Statute, which defines a crime against humanity as including “rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority.” He also dismisses the Pope’s right to sovereign immunity on several levels.

The original article (with the hyperbolic headline) pointed out that this kind of effort has paid off in the past, as with the arrest of Augusto Pinochet.

This is a serious legal effort to hold accountable a man who the evidence suggests has committed a terrible human rights violation involving the raping of children around the world. If you want to turn up your nose and call it a stunt that’s bound to fail, that’s your prerogative. Just don’t expect to have my respect as a humanist or a skeptic, and do us all a favor and stay out of the way of those who are trying to make a real difference in the world.

So is this effort going to somehow hurt the “skeptical movement?” You may notice that I use the quotation marks here, because I can’t bring myself to seriously consider a movement supposedly based on the defense of rationality that would turn its back on children who are raped by men they trust because those men claim a supernatural being gives them power, wisdom, and the keys to eternal life with a direct line to God’s ear. If we discovered that a world-famous psychic was leading a secretive cabal that protected child rapists, would we be silent? If a world-famous faith healer was using his heavenly persona to molest kids, would we say that it’s not our fight? You might. I couldn’t.

A few people suggested to me that Dawkins’ name attached to this effort would turn off religious people who would otherwise support it but who are too close-minded or stupid to examine evidence for themselves and come to a decision. Apparently I have a higher opinion of religious people than those who are making this argument, since I’d like to believe that there are people out there who don’t need to be told what to do by their preacher, and who can agree with a compelling argument from someone they don’t usually agree with. Yet supposedly this isn’t true, so you know what would be great? If we had a prominent theistic religious leader who could lead this effort.

So step right up, Bill Donohue. The floor is yours, Archbishop Jensen! We’re all waiting, Cardinal Sodano! Lead your flock!

While we’re waiting, I’ll be supporting the sensationalistic stunt.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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153 Comments

  1. The thing about senastionalistic stunts is their aim is to bring attention to something and the thing about the Catholic Church covering up child abuse is that it’s fucking shocking. By combining these two things, hopefully more and more people will become aware about how fucking shocking the Catholic Church’s actions have been.

    It might not work, however the problem of priests raping children isn’t going to go away if people just stick their heads in the ground and hope it will go away.

  2. Thank you, Rebecca. You said exactly what I wanted to say, but better.

    I got turned off by the atheist online community (as far as it is separate from the skeptical community) because it seems like the only thing they ever, ever want to talk about is how much they hate religion (especially christianity), how evil religion is, and how stupid religious people are. That felt good for a while, because I have many legitimate gripes and justifyable anger towards religion, but the subject wears thin after a while.

    I think a lot of other people feel the same way, and are put off by atheist activists because of the association. Skeptics (as in people and communities who identify mainly as skeptical, with atheism being incidental) tend to have a much more balanced view on the subject of religion. Skeptics tend to save our anger for times when it is really necessary, because we have other issues to deal with. I think that this is one of those times.

    We can’t have a knee-jerk, “oh, you’re being mean to religion and making us all look mean” response to something this bad, and we can’t wait for other religious people to stand up against the Catholic church because it “looks better” coming from them instead of us.

    This is a skeptical issue, and an important one. It goes well beyond atheists just having a grudge against religion.

  3. Do you mind if I stand here by you and back you up? I can wave a flag or something.

    And calling it a sensationalistic stunt is just idiotic. Dawkins and Hitchens couldn’t very well not get behind this, could they?
    “Oh, sure, we’re prominent atheists and we’ve written books and articles and all on the subject but this is special, this is The Pope!” – could you imagine any one of the saying that? Of course not. And if they did, surely that would be a senationalistic stunt (and an incredibly bizarre one).

  4. Is the Catholic Church “too big to fail?”

    This seems to be the general American attitude in regards to anything as formidable as it is formidably horrible. Even scholars and journalists who have even entertained the idea that a high-ranking church official can be held accountable in any way in a court of law basically throw their hands up and say “welp… there’s no real reason we can’t do anything about it… but we’re not doing anything about it… because… uh…”

    I don’t know what it is about human psychology that absolutely won’t abide mild annoyances like double-parking but will unceasingly excuse the investment banks, credit card companies, crooked politicians and churches, even a church that has revealed itself to be on a certain level an organized ring of sexual predators, who hold them in financial and emotional bondage and manipulate as many aspects of their lives as they can.

  5. @AJIrving:
    The thing about senastionalistic stunts is their aim is to bring attention to something and the thing about the Catholic Church covering up child abuse is that it’s fucking shocking.

    Actually, I’d say that the thing about senastionalistic stunts is their aim is to bring attention to something and the thing about the Catholic Church covering up child abuse is that they are desperately trying to not bring attention to it.

    In other words, the longer this remains a hot topic, the better, in my opinion.

  6. Call the fucking wahmbulance! Those poor believers would just LOVE to take a strong stance against child rape, but they can’t because Dawkins is tangentially involved. Sorry, kids, you’re just going to have to live with it now! We can’t have people thinking those filthy fucking atheists might be right about something.

  7. Nice piece Rebecca.

    I am bowled over by the amount of damning evidence that is emerging, but even more so by the way the vatican is responding to it.

    This church has institutionally and continually supported terrible crimes.

    Surely even Catholics agree it’s time their organisation had a reorganisation. Arresting the Pope, or preventing his arrival via its threat, would help them on the way.

    No-one is above the law.

  8. As always a wonderfully written and thoughtful article Rebecca so why is it then that the only thought I’ve had stuck in my head this morning is of Hitchens and Dawkins as a pair of crime fighting 80’s cops.

    POPE: DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY

    HITCHENS: IT’S JUST BEEN REVOKED

    ah if only real life was so sweet.

  9. You said everything I’d like to say on this but much more eloquently than I can manage.

    It needs to be shown that nobody is above the law. Whilst I doubt we’re going to see the pope dragged off in handcuffs and spend a night in the cells, even an attempt to arrest him, can make a point that needs to be made.

    On a less serious note, I would so love to have that Bad Boys image as a poster!

  10. Lovely, lovely post. And spot on. I averted wading deeply into a debate on Twitter about this last night becuase I just didn’t have the energy.

    Just because something causes a sensation does not mean it is necessarily sensationalistic (though certainly the initial headline was).

    If he were head of a secular organization and in the same situation, there is no WAY he’d be getting the kidgloves treatment he’s getting now. Everyone would be calling for him to resign at worst and arrested at best.

    The fact that people think that because he claims authority from a supernatural being, he shouldn’t be held responsible for creating an atmosphere where child rape is acceptable is unconscionable. I simply do not understand the perspective that this is not a legitimate target for skepticism. It is.

  11. There’s no better demonstration of Ratzinger’s immorality than his blanket dismissal of inquiries and criticism as “petty gossip”. Rather than saying “I am so, so sorry, and I will fix this”, or even, “we’re looking into it”, he brushed the evidence off as though it were mere rumor. Rather than be a moral leader, he’s just a political leader, deflecting allegations of injustice to protect his political party’s reputation.

  12. Bravo. Dawkins and Hitchens are only trying to do what the elected representatives of every country in the world have long been duty-bound to do: protect ordinary citizens by using the rule of law to confront an organized crime syndicate.

  13. It is quite possible to think the pope should be arrested, despise the systemic rape and cover-up of children, and still think this is outside the scope of organized skepticism.

    When religious people are already quick to judge skeptics as “anti-religion”, support of this grandiose stunt on the part of Dawkins and Hitchens seems harmful to the movement itself.

  14. @heidiho: “It is quite possible to think the pope should be arrested, despise the systemic rape and cover-up of children, and still think this is outside the scope of organized skepticism.”

    It is possible, obviously. It’s also wrong, as I pointed out in the OP.

  15. Dawkins wants to hold the Pope accountable because it is the right thing to do. Someone has to do what is required to stop the abuse from continuing. So what if it shows that atheists have better moral values than Catholics?

  16. One thing I’d like to say to people who say that doing this would hurt the skeptic movement or atheists in general is, so what if it did? The root of what caused the Catholic cover up is that hey put their movement ahead of their morals, and I don’t want to be part of any group that would make the same mistake.

    Let them say we’re just trying to bash religion, let them treat our passionate plea for justice as a publicity stunt. We need to stand up and do the right thing.

  17. @heidiho: i don’t know, is it the first time? neither of us has been involved for very long. i find it hard to imagine that no skeptics had anything to say about the boy scouts scandal in the 90s.

    as far as what’s “good for the movement”, well, if all we’re going to do is sit around castigating other skeptics for ruining skepticism because we don’t agree on every point, we’re going to tear ourselves apart.

    skepticism comes out of a need for independent thought and a questioning attitude. because of this fact, we are never going to get to a point where we all agree on anything.

    we’d do better to recognize this fact and stop trying to be a completely cohesive movement, and instead we should think of ourselves more as a pool of critical thinking individuals, out of which segments will coalesce in support of various things.

  18. If getting behind arresting the Pope is “bad for skepticism”, then let skepticism burn.

    Sending a message to an internationally powerful institution that the world will not tolerate the systematic enabling of child rape trumps Uri Gellar being a douche.

  19. @carr2d2:

    as far as what’s “good for the movement”, well, if all we’re going to do is sit around castigating other skeptics for ruining skepticism because we don’t agree on every point, we’re going to tear ourselves apart.

    Yeah, movement schmovement. If you belong to a group of any kind that could possibly be hurt by standing up and taking action against injustice, there are bigger problems with your group.

    This isn’t about skepticism or atheism or spreading the joys of a Ham Bone jam. This about doing the right thing by the victims for the right reasons.

  20. @Rebecca Watson:

    People who sexually assault children use religious and non-religious superstition to abuse children ALL THE TIME. That is how they convince children to submit. It does not matter if they say “God wants you to do this” or “Your dead mom wants you to do this” or “I will not love you if you don’t do this” or “I will kill your dog if you don’t do this”.

    All of the above are horrible, and the ones based on religion are not “extra evil”.

    The nature of abuse is that one person in power hurts another person with less power. ALL CHILDREN have less power than adults, not just Catholic ones.

  21. @heidiho: Here’s wjhy that doesn’t hold up.

    First, organized skepticism regularly gets involved over child abuse. Sai Baba, as Rebecca noted, but also children denied medical care because of their parents’ beliefs (religious or otherwise).

    Second, if it weren’t for the fact that this was a well-protected religion institution, organized skepticism would likely not need to intervene. In other words, if it were instead, let’s say, GM (purely hypothetical! I just chose a random large company): Once a massive cover-up were unveiled involving pervasive child rape, they wouldn’t be given a free pass by so much of the public. Perpetrators would be quickly arrested, and those who helped create an environment of tolerance would be held accountable, either through arrest, resignation, or by being ousted.

  22. I think – and I can’t speak for her, what Heidi is getting at, and I think it’s an important point that does not necessarily negate what Rebecca is saying – is that as skeptics it IS our job to expose the abuse, and illuminate that it is the same types of abuse of power that practitioners of woo, and hucksters of all types (like police department hired psychics that give the parents of kidnapped children false hope) utilize to take of advantage of innocent people.

    However, when it comes to taking legal action, we should be careful that we are advocating action be taken, and supporting those who are directly affected to take action by providing facts. Like Simon Singh’s successful court battle against Libel reform, that affected him directly. He identified a problem, skeptics supported him, and many scientists and non-skeptics will benefit from his hard work.

    If I were to lodge a suit against the Pope, it would have no weight other than that of my own disgust, and no legal standing as I am not directly affected having not been abused myself.

    To show support for those harmed does show skeptics care, even about those who believe differently than those of us who identify as atheist or agnostic. But any appearance of grand standing would be, in my opinion, less empathetic and more attention seeking. That in itself would not improve the reputation of Atheists and skeptics. This is likely also why Dawkins was quick to clarify the spectacular headlines, with facts.

  23. @heidiho: The point went that-away. You seem to have missed it. The Catholic Church’s abuse of children is systematic. They are hiding and protecting pedophiles. They are using superstition and unearned respect to do this. I’m not sure how you haven’t cottoned on to that thus far.

    Never did I say it was “extra evil” because it’s religious. That’s completely idiotic.

  24. @Elyse: Hear hear. Honestly, all that True Scottsmanning (from people I quite respect) about how certain topics should be outside the scope of skepticism on Twitter last night was driving me mad.

    Who cares if CSICOP didn’t include “systematic institutional toleration of child rape” in their list of targets of the “movement” way back when?

    It’s perfectly fine for those who don’t want to pursue this issue to leave it be. But to criticize those of us who do think that not giving the Catholic church a free pass here as being “bad for the movement” or simply “out of scope” is endlessly frustrating.

  25. Mustn’t alienate the religious, it would be bad for the movement.

    Really?

    If there is a top-down organization called the “Skepticism Movement” I’ll opt out. Especially if everyone in “The Movement” has to consider every action from a viewpoint of political expediency. I think a rough agglomeration of like minded individuals is a more attractive option than a monolithic “Movement”, anyway. Bob and weave, jab, jab. If I can mix any more metaphors, I’ll be back.

  26. @swoopy: Not really sure what you mean here. As I pointed out in the OP, the legalities are being handled by human rights lawyers, not random people on the street. I’m supporting those efforts.

    Also as a heads up, Simon Singh has not won any court battles yet.

  27. The implication that anyone, skeptical or not, who wishes to discuss the pros and cons of the methods with which to hold the Catholic church responsible for the horrific abuse and rape of children are “turning their back on children raped by men” is disgustingly reactionary and dishonest. I would be more than happy to see Ratzinger arrested and jailed and am in full support of the legal action.

    However, Dawkins and Hitchens championing a legal case to bring awareness to the horrifying and life-destroying actions of Catholic priests may do just that while providing validation for a lot of skeptics but for the people, the victims and their families, who felt the actual impact of these crimes I believe that it is misleading.

    We should be demanding that the government withdraw the invitation to allow the Pope to enter the country, that the government open criminal investigations into the crimes and their cover ups and that priests found guilty of any child abuse are derobed and tried accordingly. Skeptics whinging about what Catholic priests can and can’t do because they are Catholic priests only helps to differentiate them from what they are – criminals.

  28. @Rebecca Watson:

    And what I am telling you is that the systematic abuse and hiding and protecting of pedophiles is not unique to the Catholic Church, nor to all religions.

    I have seen numerous systematic abuses of children and the protection of abusers in my career. When we focus on the wrong part of this crime, we will lose the opportunity to really help victims and work on issues that protect children in the future.

  29. @heidiho: When people use religion for sexual assault, of any kind, they have the added bonus of being able to use the afterlife as a means of manipulation. Priests, etc., are also supposed to be “special” and “godly” and are seen as even MORE trustworthy than, say, a teacher (not that they should be seen as more trustworthy than anyone, but by the very fact that they are priests or whatever, people consider them more trustworthy than your normal person).

    Also, this is a HUGE organization – perhaps the largest in the entire world –taking part in one of the largest cover-ups ever. Why shouldn’t Skepticks rally against it? Give me one good reason. And not “Because it might make us look bad!!!”

    Also, is rallying against the anti-vaxxers not included in “getting pissed about child abuse” or what? What about when children die because their parents deny them proper medical care because of religious beliefs? I seem to remember quite a few posts about that subject here and in other Skeptical blogs….

    Do you just ignore those instances of Skeptics rallying against child abuse so that your argument sounds better?

  30. I thought what I said was pretty clear if not fraught with an excessive use of commas. The original flap was over “Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI” – the sensationalist headline that we all linked to. When in fact that wasn’t the case, as Dawkins himself clarified.

    My point being, that yes – this is something the Skeptic movement can get behind, as long as we are just as critical of all types of abuses.

    I am aware that Simon Singh won his appeal – but that the case is on-going. That’s a victory in itself, to my mind but yes – certainly not the end of the work to be done.

    I think we can have a solid discussion here about an important topic – here’s hoping it stays constructive so we can all learn. I appreciated your post, which is why I commented.

  31. @heidiho: “When we focus on the wrong part of this crime”

    What is the “wrong” part of this crime, exactly? That a HUGE organization is covering up a HUGE child abuse scandal?

    Perhaps if everyone makes it known that THIS SHIT IS NOT OKAY, it will make it harder for this kind of stuff to happen.

    Not to mention the fact that, guess what! One can concentrate on one thing while still caring about other things going on in the world. It’s possible, I swear!!

  32. @heidiho: And indeed if any other organization were revealed to have this sort of pervasive problems and were getting a free pass on it, I think most skeptics would indeed get behind efforts to stop the problem.

    Yes, we are all more aware of this situation and are giving it more attention than it if were, say, 1st Methodist church of Raleigh. But that’s becuase the Cathotlic church is the world’s largest non-governmental organization, and they have a systematic, institutional problem with child molestation that they have failed to address properly.

  33. @j3nl3a:

    Skeptics whinging about what Catholic priests can and can’t do because they are Catholic priests only helps to differentiate them from what they are – criminals.

    The argument isn’t “they can’t do this because they’re priests.” The argument is “they can’t do this AND they can’t use the church as a safe haven to continue this.”

    The thing that does separate them from other criminals is that they have an extremely powerful international institution helping them to continue committing their crimes, using the money from the victims to destroy the victims, using their holy status to put them above prosecution.

    Is it worse for one guy to rape a bunch of kids or for a bunch of guys to rape a bunch of kids and then have every one of those rapes excused and overlooked because it makes a single institution look bad?

    The first is bad… no question about it. The second is something so evil I can’t wrap my mind around it.

  34. If the only outcome of all of this is that the Catholic Church behaves responsibly and is no longer tolerant of abuse and sex crimes by its priests then that’ll be fine with me. I personally don’t think the pope is going to get arrested by anyone anywhere but in the end that’s totally beside the point because of the scope and seriousness of what happened and how pathetic the response of the catholic church and the pope has been. I personally don’t see the skeptics involved in this effort as being anything more than reasonable people doing what they can to bring continued attention to this issue, acting on their convictions and wanting the leader of the responsible organization to be accountable for protecting abusers. The benefits could be numerous and I’m not that concerned about a possible down side for the skeptical community.

    If my reputation is somehow tainted by caring for children and standing up against corrupt organizations and child abusers then it’s a taint I’ll wear proudly.

  35. @MelonTarge: Yes. Perfectly put. I’ll

    @Elyse: Also perfectly put.

    Also, apologies for my atrocious grammatical errors in this thread so far. Sometimes I just get so excited to his that “submit” button without reading through my message. I suppose I should avail myself of the edit window.

  36. Cheers for clarifying, its so easy to get wrapped up in the tabloid BS and yes I do think the Pope should be held accountable for his and others actions in the Catholic church. They are pedophiles that should be punished to the full extent of the law!

  37. It was a long, long process, casting off my Catholic upbringing. The final nail in that coffin was pounded in when I found out that a pedophile priest, Romano Ferraro, was sent down to our parish in NJ. He’s in prison now. But, I remember him from when I was a kid as a new priest (our school was attached to the church). He made headlines in the New York Times for proclaiming that Santa Claus was fake during a children’s mass. Ha. Ha.
    But the idea that he was there, in that school with all of us kids…
    I have become coldly angered by all of this.
    That monster was systematically shuffled around for years, just like all of the others. Sick.

  38. The idea that skeptics are singling out the Catholic church for special criticism while letting other kinds of abuse slide is preposterous. Skeptics routinely attack religious fraud when it’s faith-healing and prosperity-gospelling, for example. Skeptics also routinely attack non-religious fraud that harms kids, for example the anti-vax movement.

    In the current case, the fraud being attacked isn’t child-rape itself, it’s the conceit that Catholic clergy are above the law. If you do not support the dismantling of this conceit, regardless of your involvement in the skeptical movement and regardless of the crime, then you are a fool.

    It’s really not about skepticism except in the sense that some people still believe that priests are magic and deserve to be protected from their own sins. It’s about being a citizen of a country ruled by law, whether that country is the UK or the US or anywhere else.

    Put it in context: in the US, there are lots of people, skeptics and non-skeptics, who openly desire to see Bush & Cheney arrested and tried for war crimes. Skeptics do not stand out in that crowd.

    If skeptics stand out among the people who want to arrest the pope for the crime of aiding and abetting child rape, then does that really say skeptics are the hypocrites? I don’t think so. It just means that skeptics are consistent. It’s the rest who are stuck in the habit of maintaining a special class of people who are exempt from the law.

  39. @Skept-artist:

    The pastor at the parish where I attended junior high was never arrested, but agreed to settle in that huge lawsuit a few years ago. He never was prosecuted. He “paid his debt” by having said debt covered by the Church’s funds… you know, the funds collected by us, the parishioners, the friends and family of his victims. You know, the same money that was used to pay for his defense… used to discredit his victim. That money. The money collected while we trusted him, while he was scouting the congregation for victims. While my parents, and other parents, entrusted us in his care… while the higher ups knew what was happening.

    The settlement wasn’t reached until after Fr. Bowman retired. So really, he never had to make any sacrifices. He was inconvenienced by some court appearances… and the fact that some people now actually think he might be dangerous around kids.

    The kicker? The majority of parishioners I talked to still believed he was innocent, and believed it all was a conspiracy to get money from the church. This was not the Fr. Bowman WE knew. This didn’t happen in OUR church. If you asked them, they had no doubt that they would leave their kids in his care at any time. He was our pastor, afterall.

  40. @Elyse: @James Fox: Exactly.

    I call bullshit on the entire idea that the needs of any movement should impede our actions towards protecting our most vulnerable populations. However, if the way to mobilize a worldwide community is through specific channels, then so be it. But my sincerest hope is that so many voices eventually cry out together that the labels are lost in the cacophony of outrage, except to say we all looked past our differences to stand as human beings against those who have and would abuse.

    As for the reality of speaking out…I called bullshit on my ex husband for abuse and lost my entire family because of their refusal to recognize that the “golden boy” was mentally ill. Nevertheless, the protection of myself and my daughter far outweighed the emotional carnage that I continue to sift through in order to rebuild our lives. Who cares about the cost to the skeptical movement of stepping up to defend those who are being victimized? Imagine the far greater cost of being abused.

  41. Dawkins and Hitchens have some power in the media so god forbid (pun intended) they use it to shine a spotlight on child abuse?

    I support equality and human rights.

    I see no harm in standing up for what is right and taking action. You can strip away my skeptic or atheist title or place it on a neon sign above my head. I care not what clique I belong to. I care only about doing what is rational and correct (to the best of my abilities, none of us are perfect). I say let the politics burn in the rubble with all the religions of the past. You sometimes have to light some fires on the path to enlightenment.

    Go get em fellas. ;)

  42. I have never said that the Pope should not be arrested, nor that people should not stand up against abuse.

    What I have said is that supporting the arrest of the Pope is not “skeptical activism”. It IS activism, but not skeptical activism.

    I also still challenge everyone who supports the arrest of the Pope to write a check to your local child abuse victim center and in the memo of the check, write “In Support of the Arrest of the Pope”.

  43. @Elyse: Wow. I’ve never been one-upped in a pedophile priest conversation :)
    But all kidding aside, I think there are websites that “track” cases like this. I’d be interested to know how long it takes to prosecute, what percentage make it to court etc. I’ll have to look it up at some point when I’m not at work.

  44. @heidiho: Okay. Want to pay for my gas for the next week? …no? Didn’t think so.

    Not everyone can afford to give money to charity (this is why I volunteer for causes that matter to me), and your “challenge” is more than a little condescending. “You don’t really care unless you give money!” Really?

    And why CAN’T it be part of Skeptical Activism? Religion is a big part of why there was such a huge cover up. You can’t just ignore the religious aspect of it all. The abuse didn’t happen in a vacuum.

  45. Actually, it was not meant to be condescending at all.

    My suggestion was that if people are so in uproar of child rape, why don’t they do something that actually affects it.

    You can support the arrest of the Pope all you want. As do I.

    But your support is the equivalent of prayer. It has no effect on the situation.

  46. @heidiho:

    My suggestion was that if people are so in uproar of child rape, why don’t they do something that actually affects it.

    Yeah, the only way to help is through your wallet! No other way! Speaking out against the abuse and being as vocal as possible about it isn’t helping…only opening your wallet is. As you imply. Again.

    Thanks for proving my point.

    But your support is the equivalent of prayer. It has no effect on the situation.

    What is so wrong with speaking out and making sure this stays a topic of discussion so people are aware of it and so that the systematic conspiracy and cover-up doesn’t continue to happen? It happened because people were ignoring it and not talking about it. Something is beginning to be done about the whole thing because — guess what? — people stopped ignoring it and started talking about it.

    Why do you seem to imply that it’s not worth it to speak out and discuss this issue? Why do you imply that this isn’t an important thing to do?

    Please explain to me, in detail, how speaking out against this cover-up and vocalizing our approval of having the Pope arrested is the “equivalent of prayer.” I’m curious how they are similar.

  47. @heidiho:

    But your support is the equivalent of prayer. It has no effect on the situation.

    Actually, posting about it on a well-read skeptical blog and publicizing the effort has plenty of effect, even if it’s simply to foster conversation and make more people aware of the situation and to clarify why it’s important and why it is a skeptical issue, much as Rebecca has done.

    I’m still confused how human rights are not a skeptical issue. We didn’t have anyone telling us we were hurting skepticism when we were supporting gay marriage during the Prop 8 stuff and that’s just as political/religious an issue. Equality in law is, to me, an issue for skeptical activism as much as making sure religion doesn’t enter the classroom and church and state are kept separate.

  48. @heidiho: The fact that many of us support this has caused this comment thread to exist. Maybe someone is lurking and reading this who does have the means to get directly involved in a more tangible way. Maybe our back and forth has inspired someone to volunteer, write a check, whatever. All because we’re having a discussion.
    I know it’s a massive hypothetical, but we should realize that every little bit can potentially help. Even a back and forth on a comment thread.

    [edit:]@Masala Skeptic: Holy crap! You steal my thoughts! :)

  49. heidiho: I also still challenge everyone who supports the arrest of the Pope to write a check to your local child abuse victim center and in the memo of the check, write “In Support of the Arrest of the Pope”.

    You’re a bit late — I’ve been writing those checks for years. Without the pope bit, of course: supporting victims of abuse isn’t really about arresting the pope. Nor is doing one somehow exclusive of the other.

    But your support is the equivalent of prayer. It has no effect on the situation.

    What an odd statement. So you’re saying there’s no point in having or enforcing laws against crimes? Or in supporting a movement to have and enforce those laws? Or is it only skeptics who can’t do this?

    It sounds as though you think it’s reasonable to presume that speaking in favor of arresting the pope somehow implies that one has been ignoring the problem of abuse in general all along. If I were to voice my support of, say, an improved government health-care program, would you automatically assume that I’m a hypocrite who has never given to charity?

  50. @heidiho:

    And maybe homeopathy prevents priest rape.

    That’s all you got? Really? He had a very good point and you just had some sarcastic non-reply?! Something tells me we’re beating your “arguments” to a bloody pulp.

    Know what caused me to become so active in LGBQT volunteering/activism/rights? Because of Prop 8 (and Arizona’s Prop 102) and all the hubub that came after it — all the discussion about how hurt people were, and of course the simple fact that it was affecting people I loved (and myself, if I wanted to get married).

    Now I am volunteering for a non-profit at-risk LGBQT youth org. So I am, personally, already helping abused/at-risk kids. What about you? And hell, have you given any money? Or is that all just talk?

    I would not be at all surprised that at least one person — if not many more — have been inspired to give their time (or money) to help in this cause.

    Why?

    Because I’ve done the very same thing.

  51. @marilove: This conversation reminds me of the 2 times that I didn’t go down to the Gulf Coast to help not build houses. I was so inspired by the stories that I heard from other volunteers that I just sat right down and didn’t organize 2 benefits involving dozens of people and state officials. Yup.

  52. I’ll weigh in as the token “religionist”.

    When I was in seminary in the nineties, (not Catholic seminary) part of the curricula required me to demonstrate understanding of power dynamics between clergy and laity and how that dynamic precludes a minister from engaging in sexual relationships with members of his or her congregation. We discussed the ethics of reporting sexual abuse, the consequences of such conduct, the need for accountability, and general good practices to follow to avoid situations that could either be construed as inappropriate or lead to problems. In short, I was part of an institution that was dealing constructively and realistically with issues of sexual abuse. One of the biggest problems with the Catholic church is that its leaders have been either too arrogant or stupid to put aside the interests of the church as an institution to do what is right.

    For those who are concerned about giving skepticism bad press, or seeming like we’re just a bunch of religion bashers, it may be helpful to point out that there are people of faith who agree with us on this issue like Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, with her especially relevant recent blog post Dear Pope: Call Me . (Her book Is Nothing Sacred?, was and probably still is required reading for anyone wishing to become a Unitarian Universalist minister).

    As a Unitarian Universalist, I’ve always been encouraged to be a free-thinker and being a free-thinker in a community of other free-thinkers has always seemed to lead to widely divergent opinions on most topics. It’s awfully similar to the skeptical movement in that regard. We can’t be a movement that encourages critical thinking and simultaneously stifle the voices of those whose approach is not palatable to us. This can be good for skepticism, it’s important. Let’s do it right.

  53. @marilove:

    I have worked for fifteen years in the domestic violence and sexual assault field doing direct work with victims.

    I wake up in the middle of the night and go sit with women who have been raped while they get a medical exam.

    I have helped seek abortion services for a 13 year old girl pregnant by her stepfather.

    I have served in a volunteer capacity on several boards of non-profits, as well as acting as a Guardian Ad Litem for abused children in court.

    I was the Executive Director of a non-profit organization that served LGBTQ youth for over three years, and not only took the agency from a tiny organization to one that had a gay prom and a meeting space, but did so in a town that also housed Bob Jones University. I also marched in the Gay Pride parade while 8 months pregnant, in pouring down rain.

    I attended a meeting with my local Congressman on gay marriage, gay adoption, and gay rights knowing full well that he is a fundamentalist republican.

    Last year, my husband and I donated close to $5k to charity, including the JREF, CFI, and the Atlanta Skepticamp.

    Finally, earlier this year, I physically went up to a woman who was abusing her 3 year old in Toys R Us, and stopped her from doing so, and then provided her with referral sources for parenting classes and mental health treatment.

    NONE of that was done as a skeptic. It was done as a human.

  54. @Skept-artist: Yeah, I can remember my entire thought-process of how I began volunteering. Actually, I can almost remember the livejournal post I made, word-for-word. Too lazy to look it up, but it went something like this:

    “I have such mixed feelings. On the one hand, we have the first African American president, a president I voted for. On another, Prop 8 passed. I now make a vow to volunteer my time. I vow to help in the fight to equality.”

    A month later I was a (volunteer) volunteer coordinator for a local LGBQT org. And now I volunteer with at-risk LGBQT youth.

    It was the realization that shit wasn’t going to get fixed without people like me giving our time.

    Surely, I am not the only one and surely, that is not the only cause.

    And what about Hurricane Katrina? Or the earthquake in Haiti? People tend to come together when disaster hits, volunteering their time or giving their money, or just educating people on the cause or issue at hand.

    Indeed, isn’t that what being a Skeptic is all about? Educating people on important Skeptical issues? Not JUST giving time and money — but educating people. And I don’t by “but this isn’t a Skeptical issue!” so don’t play that card.

    Educating people and talking about important issues is, well, important, just as important as giving time or money to a cause.

  55. @heidiho: I do it as a human, too. AND AS A SKEPTIC. You can be both, you know. The LGBQT cause is close to my heart because it affects people I love (and myself) … AND because I’m a Skeptic. I am a human … AND a Skeptic. I don’t leave my Skepticsm at home when I’m out volunteering. Why would I? Shouldn’t I carry that around wherever I go?

    What is the point of calling yourself a Skeptic, then? Why are you here? You seem to have a problem with using Skepticsm as a way to educate and give back.

    Also, please answer this question, which you conveniently ignored:

    Please explain to me, in detail, how speaking out against this cover-up and vocalizing our approval of having the Pope arrested is the “equivalent of prayer.” I’m curious how they are similar.

  56. @heidiho: Congratulations. But when you say, “NONE of that was done as a skeptic. It was done as a human,” I have to ask: what is it about being an outspoken skeptic that makes one’s desire to arrest the pope less human?

    What’s the difference between you advocating for equality under the law for gay people who want to get married, and us advocating for equality under the law for a man who overwhelmingly appears to be in the business of hiding and abetting child-rape?

    It is exactly the same principle at stake.

  57. @heidiho: And I still don’t understand this snarky non-response to Skept-artist‘s very reasoned comment:

    “And maybe homeopathy prevents priest rape.”

    Especially considering I’m sure you didn’t just wake up, knowing nothing about the causes you’ve volunteered for/given your money to, and suddenly decide to start helping, with no outside influence. Something tells me you caught wind of the need somehow, somewhere…perhaps it started with a discussion somewhere, online or in real life, or maybe you saw someone being abused, or saw a newspaper article, or someone in your family was abused…

    I’m sure your decision to give your time and money didn’t come from thin air.

  58. @heidiho: if the point you’re trying to make with this litany of good deeds is that you fight against these evils as a human, well, no one here is disagreeing with you.

    in fact, i’m pretty sure this is precisely the point rebecca was trying to make when she made the comment you seem to be so hung up on.

    In response to a few of my followers, if arresting the pope hurts the skeptical movement, then the skeptical movement can go fuck itself.

    so what are we actually arguing about here? do we as individuals have to preface everything we say or do as to whether or not it’s “official skeptic activity”?

  59. @marilove: I call myself a Skeptic because I support needing evidence for claims.

    I call myself a feminist because I support the equality of women.

    I call myself an atheist because I do not believe in God.

    I call myself a progressive because I support gay marriage, abortion rights, and socialized medicine.

    I do not require that skepticism contain all of that into its tool set.

    As far as the prayer thing, my point was that thinking something is effective is not the same as having evidence that it is effective.

  60. Is this like some Japanese RPG…we have to put on a specific costume before we can call for the Pope’s arrest? Okay, I change into my Papal Hunter costume! Turn-based battle begin!

    BTW, I owe the IRS almost all my remaining cash for the month…if I pay them instead of an organization against Catholic sex abuse crimes, am I jerk?

  61. @heidiho:

    As far as the prayer thing, my point was that thinking something is effective is not the same as having evidence that it is effective.

    Then explain to me, in detail, how being involved, as Skeptics, and keeping this discussion alive, is not affective.

    Being a Skeptic, capital S, is more than just “I support needing evidence for claims.” Much more than that. If you don’t think so, then you may be in the wrong blog.

    What is the point of being a Skeptic if we don’t educate others about causes we, as a whole, tend to agree on? Like being pro-gay marriage and anti-child abuse? Or anti-creationism in science class? Isn’t that part of being a Skeptic? Why would you be here, discussing issues on a day to day basis, if you didn’t think so? Do you suddenly think Skeptics coming together and discussing important issues is okay … unless it’s about the pope and systemic child abuse?

    BTW, LGBQT issues are very much Skeptical issues.

    I don’t undrestand why you’re here, really.

  62. @chistat:
    Much like religious people think that their religion allows them to see things more clearly and explain the atrocities of the world to the non-religious?

    Skepticism is a tool. The promotion of the use of that tool is a movement.

    The furthering of personal political and social issues is not the goal of skepticism.

    @marilove: I came here because I disagreed that the support of the Dawkins/Hitchens stunt was a given for skeptics. THAT may be the point that I have misunderstood in the OP.

    However, if reasonable cause is found, I am all for his arrest.

    But on your final point, I indeed concur.

    I seem to have unintentionally condescended and hurt feelings, when that was not my point at all. And for that I apologize.

    I think we have different views on what skepticism is, and what it is to be used for. I was assuming you thought like me, and you were assuming I thought like you.

    Clearly we differ. You see skepticism as a movement for social change. I do not.

  63. @marilove: @Skept-artist: I see skepticism as a tool for evaluating things in my world.

    I have never been one to trust my intuition, so when I found a better way, I was thrilled!

    But I was a part of all of the social justice movements way before I was a skeptic, or even an atheist.

    Perhaps with other people, it grows the other way.

    It still feels like we are looking at the same book, and arguing over what it looks like, with me seeing the cover, and you seeing the front.

  64. @heidiho: What’s the point of any intellectual tool if we don’t use it to make life better for others and the world around us? Science, philosophy, statistics, skepticism…we don’t just learn and practice these skills for the hell of it. We do it to make things better. Whether it’s saving lives, calling out criminals, or just being able to tell the difference between shit and shampoo–it all has to have a point. We may disagree on the point, but there is a point.

  65. @heidiho: I had the same progression as you did, so I can understand that.
    I also see Skepticism as a tool for evaluating my world. However, I would never have known there was such a thing as Skepticism without the efforts of the good folks who work in the so-called Skeptical Movement.
    The fact that there are people out there, myself, now, included, talking about the issues that concern Skeptics is what drew me in.
    It’s a community, much like the others I have been a part of. And the more people we have on the bus, then the less people we have to fight against. In my opinion, that’s a social movement.

  66. @heidiho: And what is the point of say, this:

    http://skepchick.org/blog/2010/04/brian-does-the-bay-area/

    then?

    Skeptoid has a purpose, and that purpose is to educate. They don’t want to *just* “preach to the choir” as it were. They want to reach others outside of the skeptical community, too, I’m sure.

    — Jeeebus, I had the hardest time spelling “preach”. Sucks not being able to drink coffee. No coffee=brain mush. Stupid ulcer is affecting my brain, now!

  67. When I was a Christian it was because of the religious things I thought. I now have skeptical non religious thoughts and I’m fine with calling myself a skeptic. My skeptical view of the world does not require any faith or belief so I actually think it’s a more specific description of the human thinking me than Christian was when I believed those things. Also while I think of myself as a humanist I would call that title much less specific and vaguer than being a skeptic.

    @Elyse: If you’re referring to that baseball game I think I’ve heard of it, but it doesn’t happen much around here.

  68. @heidiho: I do not expect skepticism to change the world.

    I expect it to help me use the methods that will actually work to change the world.

    These two sentences don’t mean anything when put together. It seems like you’re trying to blast an intellectual fart into the air and run away into your very smelly smoke screen before anyone notices how utterly full of crap you are.

  69. Can we resolve our differences by referring to this as “applied skepticism?” Similar to the fact that my job consists primarily of applied statistics. I don’t spend most of my time deriving new statistical methods or studying statistics but applying the statistical tools I have learned to the research projects I am currently working on. But I still call myself a statistician while I am doing that.

  70. @heidiho: Skepticism will not heal the world. It will help us heal the world most effectively”

    And what would you call what is going on right now? People ARE reading and learning of these crimes that were committed by the Pope and the Vatican. People ARE reading and learning that there IS proof that they committed said acts. People ARE talking to each other and uniting together on blogs and in chatrooms and on twitter apps about these issues.

    That is how shit gets done, people talking and finding solutions to problems that in other parts of society might get overlooked. Skepticism is about awareness. And when a massive organization like the Catholic Church tries to play their self-made “big dick swinging card” and get out of their own illegalities, Skeptics stand up to speak against their actions.

    This IS NOT about one person making themself into the bridge-building uniter or hero of the Skeptic community, nor is it about famous people pulling off a “stunt” (as you called it many times). It is also NOT about how big or small the amount of Priests that rape boys are in relation to other forms of child abuse.

    It IS about people raising awareness about a dangerous thing that was trying to get swept under the rug by those that are guilty and responsible, who used their religion to mask their crimes for a long time now. And having famous people like Dawkins & Hitchens speaking up and demanding action, it brings more awareness. Which is what Skeptics want. Skeptics, and the world, have proof of their crimes, and are doing our part to see that they pay for them.

  71. @heidiho: Or the most effective methods for helping victims to heal.

    But not to heal the abuse itself.

    More intellectual flatulence. When advocating total inaction on the part of skeptics in the face glaring evidence that a global religious institution has systematically protected child molesters, try to at least speak coherently.

    This is absolutely our fight. Children were victimized and it was covered up. Every step of the way, the perpetrators took advantage of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs. Insisting we ignore the issue and don’t get involved over some bullshit desire for intellectual purity is advocating we commit the exact same offense the Roman Catholic Church did.

  72. My issue with the system-wide abuses of the Catholic Church is mostly that they’re getting a pass. Any time I hear about someone who is violating children or what have you I find it disgusting, but in this case it’s especially disgusting not because OMG TEHR RELIGIONS PPL but because of their situation there’s very little anyone will do about it.

    I support the idea of arresting Pope Palpatine because it seems like there is ample evidence that he has conspired to protect a ring of child diddlers. Anyone doing so should be caught and tried.

    I dislike the Catholic church, but that hardly qualifies as the reason I’m outraged by this. The fact that the notion of arresting this man for his crimes can be construed as sensationalistic is to me all the more reason to be outraged.

    The news lately has been ripe with this, and the repulsive word-play that has come back from representatives of the church. PZ posted last night this link:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/04/an_interesting_admission.php

    which discusses the fact that the Catholic churches in Conneticut are trying to block a change to the law to remove the statue of limitations on child sex abuse cases.

    What we have here is a massive organization that is not wholly bad, but that has for a very long time sheltered monsterous deeds and should be punished for it. I wouldn’t care if it was the Catholic Church, the Freemasons, or the Duran Duran Fan Club, this should be an outrage.

  73. Here’s the thing. Most of the people who have a problem with Dawkins arresting the pope, whether he actually said he would or not, or with skeptics supporting/being involved in a hypothetical or real arrest of the pope, is that we’re supporting the idea just because the pope is a religious figure and the catholic church is a religious organization.

    Yes, we are.

    It is always wrong when someone sexually abuses children. I think we can all agree on that. If systematic sexual abuse of children was taking place within and being covered up by a secular organization, and we were aware of it the way we are aware of the current church scandal, we’d still be talking about it here, and trying to wedge a skeptical angle into it somehow, I’m sure. But honestly, name another case as severe, widespread, and long-lasting as this one.

    We’re talking about the abuse because we care about it, and we are angry, skeptics or not. But the fact is the pope is safe and immune from punishment because he is a powerful religious leader. Because people believe he has supernatural power, divinity, was chosen by god, etc, and that is a claim that is absolutely within the realm of skepticism. As skeptics, we take on people who skate under the law because of superstitious beliefs all the time. What the catholic church has done, with the pope as its leader, is arguably a lot worse than what many religious leaders whose arrest we have advocated have done in the past. Why is he special?

  74. @biguglyjim:
    Ha! Only if it’s lined with tinfoil on the inside.

    Also, how could this hurt the “skeptical movement,” really? People don’t become skeptics because it’s glamorous or they want to be part of a group they agree with. It’s not a political party or a club or a fad. It’s about critical thinking. You can’t be a skeptic without coming to certain conclusions yourself, based on real evidence. If one skeptic does something controversial with which another skeptic disagrees, that doesn’t take away either skeptic’s critical thinking skills. They will both still be skeptics.

  75. I just find it laughable that anyone would think that Dawkins and Hitchens supporting this would dissuade anyone.

    “I was foursquare against child molestation until I heard that Richard Dawkins was too. I want nothing to do with that loudmouth, so as a good theist I’m going to support my local faith-based organization by touching all the neighborhood kids I can. Take that, Mister Smartypants Evolution Guy!”

  76. How do we arrest the Pope? Isn’t he the ruler of an independent state, Vatican City? Where would he be tried?

    I agree that the soveriegnty of Vatican City needs to be revolked and Italy needs to take formal control of it. THEN arrest the Pope and have him tried in a court set up by the United Nations. Then it won’t matter where the actual trial is held.

  77. As a humanist I feel obligated to speak out against these crimes because silence empowers victimizers. If any one of the victims ever feels that they’ve been forgotten, that no one is angry over what was done to them, it won’t be because I kept my mouth shut.

    As a skeptic I feel obligated to shout from the rooftops that if they hadn’t raped those children in the shadow of their all-powerful bullshit cross they wouldn’t have gotten away with it for as long as they have. To pretend that these bastards would have been allowed to rape thousands of children if they hadn’t clothed their cocks in Jesus is turning a blind eye to a huge part of the problem.

  78. @Dale Husband: How do we arrest the Pope? Isn’t he the ruler of an independent state, Vatican City?

    You should read the article Rebecca linked to. It argues that this is not a problem.

    “If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.”

  79. While I was one of those people who originally thought “Bullshit” when I saw the “Dawkins v. Pope” headline, I do wish it were true. The British arresting the pope is one of those things I just can’t even wrap my head around.

    So forgive me for going on an extended bit of OT.

    ***

    Hitchens stomped the pedal and drove like a man trying to avoid being waterboarded. The 2008 Vauxhall Corsa scraped through traffic, sparks left and right.

    “He’s getting away!” He shouted, throwing hands on the horn and swerving to avoid a pedestrian.

    Ahead, the stark white Popemobile loomed large. The bulletproof glass dome sparkled in the sun, and the lumbering Mercedes M-Class SUV took a slow turn to keep the high-hatted pontiff from toppling over in his armored lair.

    A busy intersection was ahead, the traffic no longer halted by the terrified police who now had no idea what was occurring.

    “We’ve got half of four horsemen here, a full one-fucking third of the unholy trinity!” Richard Dawkins shouted from the passenger seat. “I told you to get a car with a sunroof! My plan required a sunroof! I’ll never hit him at this range.” Dawkins drew his sidearm, a long-barreled Colt Anaconda with the phrase “Malthusian Solution” engraved across the grip, which was inlaid with the actual shell of a Galapagos tortoise.

    “Make a new plan!” Hitchens snapped. He wheeled around an old woman with a baby carriage. Dawkins leaned out the window with his .44 and fired, but the bullets hit God’s Protection – 40 mm of armoured glass and plating.

    “Damn!” Dawkins shouted. “It’s like he’s infallible!”

    “Hardly!” Hitchens replied. “Are you buckled up?”

    “I always buckle up. You’re far more likely to be injured in a car crash than… What are you doing?!” Dawkins lapsed into a simple shout as Hitchens swerved the car towards a traffic barrier. They hit, knocking over the barrier into the side of a mini-cooper. The tiny car and traffic barrier created a makeshift ramp, the Corsa went airborne, both men wailing with excitement in a true Dukes of Hazard moment.

    Glass showered across the streets, sparks trailed into the air, and all eyes watched as the Vauxhall Corsa came crashing across the back of the Popemobile. Armour glass crumpled and shattered, airbags popped into existence and deflated, Swiss Guards tumbled about, and the world’s most expensive hat rolled onto the glass-and-fuel strewn streets of London.

    Hitchens was out first, staggered onto the street, looked through the smoke and all around him, people were fleeing. He hadn’t had a reaction like this since he’d set down in Mississippi.

    His gun was on the ground, a few feet away. In the car, Dawkins was still reeling, trying to undo his seat belt. A swiss guard was standing over the weapon, resplendent in his orange, blue, and yellow skirt. The hat was no longer funny, because the man was twirling a vicious halberd and approaching in a very professional manner that seemed to suggest that Oberstleutnant Hauptmann knew exactly how to kill a man with a 16th century polearm.
    Then, in a flash, a lightening pair of nunchaku wrapped around the haft of the halberd and the wirey man behind them yanked the weapon to the ground. He then began a display of nunchaku prowess, slinging the weapon around his shoulders, his waist, each fluid and deadly movement accompanied by the clank of chain and snap of cured oak.

    “Simon Singh!” Dawkins exclaimed as Oberstleutnant Hauptman took a wide variety of blows to the back. “Good to see you!”

    “You two go after the Rat!” Singh said, fending off the Swiss Guard. “I’m going to give this man a bit of free amateur chiropractic.”

    The two ran into the crowded street, caught sight of the fleeing pope though the glitter of his robes.

    “There goes Emperor Palpatine!” A young man shouted, before being cracked in the skull with the Papal Cross of Pius IX.

    Ratzinger turned another corner, waited, the gold-trimmed immaculate papal pallium against the dirty brick walls. He reached into the omophor, pulled out his spare mitre, and placed it on his head. He gripped the Papal Cross and listened, the footsteps coming closer as the two atheists chased him. At this range, he knew he would be infallible.

    Ratzinger whipped around the corner, caught Hitchens right under his pharynx. The anti-theist went down, but Dawkins had fallen behind due to the totally illogical design of the human knee. He held the massive .44 towards the desperate pontiff.

    “Down on the ground! You’re under arrest for rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale!” Dawkins shouted, a real mouthful.

    Ratzinger froze. He had only one recourse – the magic hat. He raised his hands to his head, put them on each side of the mitre, and began to pray…

    Hitchens grabbed his ankle and turned him over, face-first into the street.

    “I have diplomatic immunity!” He shouted.

    “It’s been revoked.” Hitchens said, slapping the cuffs on. “Bishop of Rome, a.ka. Vicar of Jesus Christ, a.ka. Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, a.ka. Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, a.k.a. Primate of Italy, a.ka. Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, a.k.a Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, a.k.a Servant of the Servants of God, a.k.a Benedict the XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger, I hereby place you under arrest.”

    “But I’m innocent!” Ratzinger cried.

    “Tell it to the omniscient tyrant in the sky.” Hitchens said.

    “I’m sure he’ll hear you out first thing. You’ve got a direct line, if I’m not mistaken.” Dawkins said. “Don’t you worry, Father. There’s still plenty of forced sodomy where you’re going to be going.”

  80. These people who don’t want to confront the pope because it wouldn’t be “nice” or “civil” have their priorities screwed up. Martin Luther wasn’t out to make any friends when he stood up against selling indulgences. If we withstood the Thirty Years’ War, we can handle a little embarrassment.

  81. @carr2d2: i find it hard to imagine that no skeptics had anything to say about the boy scouts scandal in the 90s.

    Isn’t the Boy Scouts technically a religious movement? I mean, they do require a proclaimed faith in a monotheistic god (I believe that is a relaxation from believing in the Christian god) and that, to me, make them a religious organisation, while not a religion per se.

  82. Regardless, the beauty of Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ action, together with Robertson’s insight, is that it has received a LOT of international, and for the Vatican and the pope negative, attention.
    To the extent that ‘catholic’ is now for many a synonym for ‘religious paedophile’.

    Before the internet the RCC could sweep things like this under the carpet because only a few would hear about it. Now we can tell EVERYBODY (give or take a few).

  83. @gruk:

    Top three Boy Scouts chartered organizations (sponsors):
    1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (by far)
    2) United Methodist Church
    3) Roman Catholic Church

    As of December 31, 2007, the BSA’s membership report by chartered organization indicated that approximately 62 percent of units are sponsored by religious institutions.

  84. I care about the rape of minors. I do.
    (wrote about it here http://bit.ly/9VBupP)

    But for me the anti-condom policy of the church in the face of scientific evidence that condoms could help prevent AIDS is exactly equal to murder. The church knows condoms could save lives and lies to its members (pardon the pun) with the result that HIV transmission is unimpeded, and the deaths that result should be on the head of the Catholic church.

    My outrage against other AIDS non-science responses such as those formerly in place in South Africa are just as strong, but this is a case where science can clearly show a cheap little condom is a powerful protector against the spread of infection – yet the Church’s ass-backwards policy (pardon) is based on some ridiculous notion of sanctity of unborn life??? So the little AIDS babies are what God wants?

    These ridiculous notions are literally killing people and I know we skeptics know that. If a case is to be made that’ll put the Pope in jail I think the one that ends in a pile of corpses is the one that should be highlighted.

    I guess we have to channel our outrage to its most efficacious ends but I’m still more outraged by the deaths than the molestations – and it worries me when people use the child-rape allegations in the same way politicians do. The most outlandish “child protection” laws can get passed and nobody can speak out against them without being accused of being (at best) weak on child protection and (at worst) a card-carrying member of NAMBLA.

    These are issues which inspire righteous rage from skeptics – and from most reasonable people. But when we’re arguing amongst ourselves I’d like to see more civility.

  85. Spot on Rebecca, I stand right behind you on this one. The media distortion of the facts is the only reason why there is a storm in a teapot over this issue.

    The RCC has long claimed to be the arbiter of morals, conveniently forgetting its history of torture, murder and extortion, to the point that it believes it is above the law. The cover up of child abuse and the systemic protection of pederast priests is clear indication that they have lost the plot on morality.

    You’d think they would have the sense to keep their heads low at the moment, but no, they cropped up only the other day to denounce sex education in schools in Scotland. They can’t even keep their own priests in check, and they are trying to tell us how to control our hormones.

    The very fact that the child abuse scandal is so widespread AND goes back several generations, is reason enough to mount a full scale investigation, but who will do it? If, as in the case of the Irish police, the police themselves turn a blind eye to the vile actions of a multiple child rapist, presumably out of fear of excommunication (And it has been threatened by the scum at the Vatican.), then who will stand up to the RCC?

    Yes, ten out of ten, it’s our old friends, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hichens, who come to the rescue like the caped crusader himself (And I don’t mean the pope!). If the police and governments of several countries haven’t got the balls to stand up to this sick and depraved cult of ‘celibate’ old men, then it is down to decent caring people to do so.

    So there!

    My learned friend makes reference to the RRC’s stance on condoms, and the lies that the pope spreads among those most in need of contraception is clear evidence that they aren’t interested in the people, they are only interested in the church, the only way they can keep suckers paying for their opulent lifestyle is for those suckers to breed yet more suckers.

    Education is the enemy of the RCC, for years they opposed the translation of the bible, but with greater education the churches influence has waned, and the internet has eroded it’s grip yet further, exposing it’s lies and finally the systematic and widespread cover up of wrong doing.

    The only thing that concerned Mr Ratzinger was the good name of the church, well now that his cover up has backfired on him it may cause the demise or belittlement of the church, and the victims STILL haven’t had an apology or their plight recognised by the church.

    Why has the RCC got away with murder (Literally.) for so long, because they used threats and intimidation to keep the simple minded in check, using the threat of excommunication against decent people who would have liked to blow the whistle, but were in fear of their mortal souls.

    Let those pederast priests spend time in prison, they’ll get all the violent sodomising they want, but they’ll be on the receiving end for a change.

  86. @marilove: @delphi_ote:
    At what point in your journey did you decide that being mean was helpful?

    At what point did you decide that when a skeptic disagrees with you, she is fair game for insults and mocking?

    When did you decide that I was being insincere? Why did you not look at what I wrote about my history in this area and realize that I am not a pro-child rape in any way shape or form?

    Skepticism may or may not be harmed by supporting the arrest of the Pope; that is still up for discussion.

    But this level of rudeness directed at someone who shares 99% of your beliefs and is attempting to have a genuine discussion about the scope of skepticism is disheartening.

    And before you say “Oh cry baby, can’t handle the internet, blah, blah, blah” or some other incredibly witty thing that 10 of you will then nominate for Comment of the Week, ask yourself when this forum stopped being about skepticism, and became the junior high lunchroom.

  87. @heidiho: We weren’t being mean. I mean come on.

    You were blowing a lot of hot air trying to sound intelligent, but it did not make any sense. I notice you aren’t even responding to delphi_ote’s comments, just whining about us being “mean”. This seems to be a habit of yours.

    Also please note no neither of us said that you were pro-child rape or even implied it. Now you really ARE being too sensitive.

    And just because we might agree on some things does not mean we will always agree nor does it mean I must kiss your ass.
    You were blowing smoke up our asses and not saying anything that actually meant anything, and instead of responding to delphi_ote’s comments, you whine about us being “mean” which leads me to believe you really don’t understand what you’re trying to say, either.

  88. @heidiho:
    While I have heard what you have said, via facebook and twitter and this thread…I must ask as well,
    then why are you here? You claim to not really care about the skeptical movement. And yet you feel that when someone saying something in reply to you that doesn’t involve proclaiming your work to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, you call it the snark to your sincerity. Guess what, the “snark”, as you call it, is actually sincerity to you and your feeling of superiority. If you don’t agree with something, fine, but state your case and if you feel you have already made your point, just leave it at that. Instigating further responses (whether they are for gaining further personal attention, or to rile people up) only makes you look less likely to be sincere and passionate about the TOPIC AT HAND (which was about specific crimes the POPE committed that have been finally brought to light, not about the broad-scope of child abuse, or how many years you have been associated with that field).

    And furthermore, when you use snark in a response to what you deem to be snark, doesnt bring anything constructive. You are not the victim, you are not the hero. You are just one out of over 6 billion people in the world, just like all of us.

  89. And hey, you’re the one that responded to Skept-artist’s well-reasoned comment with the equivalent of “lol when pigs fly” and yet … several other people chimed in and said, “Uuuuh, Skept-artist’s got a point … and we know from experience.” Indeed, even you posted your own examples that proved Skept-artist’s point. But, not at all surprisingly, you ignored all of that, and instead started in on the psuedo-intellectual farting. And when that was pointed out to you, you ignored THOSE points, and called us meaaaaaaan.

    Again, it seems to be a habit of yours. Ignore actual points being made. Blow smoke up our asses as a “response”. Ignore more of our actual points about your smoke blowing and instead whine about us being mean. Rinse and repeat.

    I don’t kiss ass. Get used to it.

  90. @doctoratlantis: i absolutely agree with you, and i think this is something that we need to start hitting harder on, especially in light of the current scandal.

    what i wonder is this: why isn’t there more public outrage over this? i’ve seen a fair amount of it coming from skeptics over the years, including an excellent p & t bullshit show, but the issue never seems to gain traction among the general public.

  91. I really have mixed feelings about this. As much as I would like to see the pope answer hard inquiries instead of spreading nonsense about HIV and contraception – I am afraid that is just a vain wish for revenge.

    I can’t shake the feeling that this horrible skandal distracts from the really important issue: That faith of any colour stands in the way of reason and plays a pivotal role in suppressing critical thought – especially in children.

    I’m pretty sure that the catholic church will undergo some kind of transformation in the wake of the skandal, which gives them a “positive development” they could point to – and steer discussion away from the crucial questions they fail to answer coherently.

    I would not call Richard Dawkins’ support for the effort against Mr Ratzinger a “publicity stunt”, the issue is far too serious and revolting for that. But I am worried that this easy shot at the high-profile target burns energy better spent elsewhere. Activism might end in actionism in this case.

  92. @heidiho:
    Skepticism may or may not be harmed by supporting the arrest of the Pope; that is still up for discussion.

    Not if you gather your toys and go home at the first sign of a serious challenge. Don’t wave the white flag just yet. You got hit on the nose with the newspaper for making a mess, not barking. Make a coherent argument for your case and respond honestly to criticisms of your argument.

    Sorry if I hit a vulnerable spot, but it wouldn’t be so sensitive if you didn’t know exactly what you were doing. All the circumlocutory pseudo-profundity in the world won’t hide hide half-baked ideas from skeptics.

  93. All in favor of arrests where required. However it *does* matter who is involved.

    “Happily I was spared the misfortune of a Roman Catholic upbringing (Anglicanism is a significantly less noxious strain of the virus). Being fondled by the Latin master in the Squash Court was a disagreeable sensation for a nine-year-old, a mixture of embarrassment and skin-crawling revulsion, but it was certainly not in the same league as being led to believe that I, or someone I knew, might go to everlasting fire. As soon as I could wriggle off his knee, I ran to tell my friends and we had a good laugh, our fellowship enhanced by the shared experience of the same sad pedophile. I do not believe that I, or they, suffered lasting, or even temporary damage from this disagreeable physical abuse of power.”
    -Richard Dawkins

    and

    “Much as I would like to see the Roman Catholic Church ruined, I hate opportunistically retrospective litigation even more. Lawyers who grow fat by digging dirt on long-forgotten wrongs, and hounding their aged perpetrators, are no friends of mine. All I am doing is calling attention to an anomaly. By all means, let’s kick a nasty institution when it is down, but there are better ways than litigation. And an obsessive concentration on sexual abuse by priests is in danger of blinding us to all their other forms of child abuse.”

    -Richard Dawkins

    Opportunistic? No friend of after-the-fact prosecution? More important to push an agenda of what is important to believe than the actual crimes committed against the children involved? Why…you sound an awful lot like your opposite numbers in the Vatican, Richard. Too bad others don’t view it as such a lark. With bonding experiences like these…

    Then there is Hitchens’ cheerleading for the invasions of the Bush administration, which would appear to be a seperate issue except for his regular and vigorous vocal attacks on anyone who calls them crimes, expects the people involved to be persecuted for crimes, and oh yes, waterboarding (used by the beloved Inquisition) isn’t actually torture until he had to live through a couple of seconds of it. Oh, but that’s right, its not obstruction or covering for a crime if its *your* kind of crime.

    Nice.

    Sorry. Just because someone believes some of the same things as you, doesn’t make them worthy of admiration. That’s fanaticism. I’ll support the arrest of anyone involved in this, but I’ll do it far away from Messrs. Dawkins and Hitchens.

    And if you want sources, read Dawkins’ own website and the last several years of Slate and Vanity Fair.

    These things matter because, especially in the case of Hitchens, these people DO have reputations outside of Skepticism. And not just among people who don’t like it when you are mean to the Pope. Some of us don’t like mouthpieces for warcrimes. Ignoring these reputations for the sake of cant is short-sighted and insular.

  94. @eas: No friend of after-the-fact prosecution?

    He used the word “litigation” not “prosecution”. There’s a big difference.

    More important to push an agenda of what is important to believe than the actual crimes committed against the children involved?

    His point was that his sexual abuse did not leave lasting trauma, whereas being told to fear hell does leave lasting trauma. He’s not talking about pushing an agenda. He’s implying both things are crimes.

    There’s nothing in either of those statements that makes Dawkins’ recent statements about the Pope directly hypocritical. I disagree with him about the gravity of child molestation, but he is speaking about his own experience.

    Oh, but that’s right, its not obstruction or covering for a crime if its *your* kind of crime.

    I also disagree with Hitchens about Iraq, but your statement here is completely intellectually dishonest. Hitchens would not agree that these things were war crimes. Of course he wouldn’t agree that people should be punished for something he saw as ethical. It’s not hypocritical to think that someone shouldn’t be punished for something you don’t believe is a crime.

    Just because someone believes some of the same things as you, doesn’t make them worthy of admiration. That’s fanaticism.

    No. Fanaticism is letting the head of an organization that has institutionalized child molestation go free because you don’t agree with some of the people who want them arrested. You can hold a grudge against Hitchens or Dawkins if you like, but don’t abandon causes you believe in just because they agree with you.

  95. @eas:

    So the efforts, already in place before Dawkins and Hitchens jumped in, should be halted because a couple of anti-catholic names are attached to them now?

    If that’s the case, I’m gonna go commit a shitload of crimes. I’m not even going to care if I get caught! If I get prosecuted, I’ll have some vile jerk get involved and start speaking out publicly in favor of the prosecution! They’ll be forced to drop the case because it will seem inorganic! They might look bad for prosecuting me and agreeing with that Nigerian underwear bomber.

    That’s what’s important here, right? Image?

    I’d really hate to be for silencing decades of abuse, at the hands of men threatening people with eternal damnation, but if Dawkins is part of prosecuting that silencing, I think it’s better that we all side with the guy who made rape easy and said that it shouldn’t be discouraged because calling people out would be bad for Catholics.

    The Pope said that putting a spotlight on rape and prosecuting those rapists would be bad for Catholicism. So our reaction is to say that putting a spotlight on the Pope for not putting a spotlight on rapists is bad for skepticism.

    Good logic there, crew. Let’s move on!

  96. Did anyone read before reacting?

    I said that I support the arrest of anyone involved in this.

    I SUPPORT THE ARREST OF ANYONE INVOLVED IN THIS.

    Holy emotional (I mean skeptical because no skeptic could possibly be guilty of not reading the very first words I wrote and jumping to a knee-jerk defense of idols) reactions, Batman.

    Your statement that litigation and prosecution are so different…right…because people who suffered from abuse at the hands of priests and nuns litigated because they were OFTEN DENIED BASIC ACCESS TO CRIMINAL PROCEDINGS.

    And Mr. Dawkins was not simply talking about his own experiences, he actively stated that he was no friend of individuals that went after their ‘aged perpetrators’. Because gosh darn it, there are so many better abstract points about atheism to be made.

    I am opposed to any ideology, religious, atheistic, political or whatever, that views making a point about belief to be more important that the actual suffering of victims. I don’t give a damn if its a bishop dismissing charges as gossip and I don’t give a damn if its Dawkins calling victim’s attempts at justice opportunistic.

    Dawkins was opposed to victims seeking redress in the limited ways available to them for the very trivial and image related issues you are accusing my post of.

    Even though I actively support any and all legal action against these predators and said so from the outset?

    Really?

    Really?

    Or perhaps the issue isn’t these kids, but active defense of a personality against criticism?

    Because I cannot logically explain in any other way how an intelligent skeptic could possibly attack someone who wants to see justice done, accuse them of not wanting to see justice done while defending a person who stated in his own words that he opposed certain types of justice because of how they seemed because that will allow justice to be done.

    Please…

    READ THE VERY FIRST SENTENCE OF A POST

  97. i understand my last comment was harsh, and for making it slightly personal, I apologize to Heidi. I too am passionate about certain things, and something struck a nerve within me and i had to speak up. do i, in hindsight, regret how i phrased it? yes, yes i do. Sometimes we, as people, let our emotions and passions get the best of us and we say things that we should not say publically.

    I am not a mean person, I just hate conflict, and i hate tension, and most of all i hate that there is so much in-fighting when we all should be fighting for a common cause.

    Sincerely,

    Timothy S. Iwan

  98. @eas:

    I guess I got all hung up on the rest of your post where you were talking about how it’s a big deal because the wrong mouthpieces are involved. I’m sorry. I should have known to stop reading after the first sentence.

  99. Is anyone else having a problem with trying to keep up with this thread on one monitor while masturbating to hot schoolgirl porn on the other monitor? I keep forgetting which is disgusting and which is really fucking hot… I mean, here’s this poor girl who just wants to get a B- on her paper and I’m sending the UN to arrest her for crimes against humanity… but her acting is really bad… but that ass should give her diplomatic immunity.

  100. @Elyse: generally when I start masturbating to hot school girl porn, I tend to just ignore rampant posts as I tend to find the porn more interesting. But then that’s just me and I can only multitask so much before I need to just concentrate on one thing at a time.

  101. @eas:

    Wait, what are you trying to say here? You support the pope being arrested, but not if Dawkins and Hitchens have anything to do with it?

    You support the pope being arrested, but Dawkins and Hitchens should not be allowed to also support it?

    You support the pope being arrested, but you also just wanted to mention how much you hate Dawkins and Hitchens?

    I don’t know where you’re going with this. You said that supporting these two men is fanaticism, but I don’t see any fanatics. I personally support this supposed “stunt,” even if the actual stunt was mostly fiction, but I’m no fan of Christopher Hitchens. I can agree with people I don’t like when they happen to be right.

    And Re. this post: @eas: Dude, decaf. Why all the rage?

  102. @eas: What’s wrong with an “active defense of a personality against” unwarranted “criticism?” Your arguments were completely unfair to Hitchens and Dawkins. It seems you’d rather rage out than debate that.

    But at the end of the day, sure. The issue is about protecting children against molestation. You’re making this about the personalities involved. The title of Rebecca’s post states that she “[doesn’t] care who does it.”

  103. Supporting the arrest of the Pope for committing crimes against humanity can be a skeptical position. A position can only be a skeptical position if it is supported by facts and logic and is argued from the basis of facts and logic. The position that the Pope should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity is such a position. I outline the details here:

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-call-goodwins-law.html

    What makes the actions of the Pope a crime against humanity is that he did not intervene in preventing the rape of children by his subordinates when he had the de facto authority to do so.

    This is not a close call. If you read the international conventions that the Holy See has signed (as if it was a state), they state that for “crimes against humanity”, no office shall provide immunity. A head of state is not immune to prosecution for crimes against humanity. If the Pope had raped someone, he could well be immune from prosecution because he can be considered a head of state. If he commits a crime against humanity, he is not immune.

    One can also support arresting the Pope because one feels that raping children is a heinous crime. A position based on a feeling is independent of a position based on skepticism. Skepticism is based on facts and logic, everything else is non-skepticism. Sometimes positions based on feelings do coincide with positions based on facts and logic. The case for arresting and prosecuting the Pope for crimes against humanity is such a position.

  104. @Michael Kingsford Gray:

    True, and this gets glossed over or left out nearly every time the issue is discussed, even more often than the fact that the victims are not all boys gets glossed over and left out. But what does that have to do with the question of whether or not the pope should be held accountable for knowingly hiding these crimes, and whether or not it’s wrong for outspoken atheists to advocte this position?

  105. The nearest secular case that comes to mind is when UN peacekeepers have been found to be directly involved in child sex trafficking. When discovered, those responsible, including those who were involved in cover-ups, were sacked and handed over to law enforcement.

    The fact that this did not happen within the Catholic Church, and that the decision to not do so but instead to cover it up reaches all the way to the top, is what makes this so outrageous.

    No, it is not “specially evil” because it involves religion – it is evil and heinous in and of itself. The extra evil points come from the pleading of apologist Catholics, idiots like Dershowitz, and the Church hierarchy, that special treatment is deserved *because* it’s religious. The Church brought religion into the argument, not us.

    Those responsible – including Cardinal Ratfinker – should be treated no differently from those UN workers.

  106. There are two definite crimes of which the pope is guilty in almost all civilized countries. Aiding and Abetting and Accessory After the Fact. Both are a direct result of his having knowledge of a crime and not reporting it and helping conceal that crime while assisting the perpetrators evade justice.

    If there is truly “Equal justice under the law”, Ratzinger must be indicted, arrested, tried, and serve his time along with the rest of the pedophiles. The “head of state” nonsense is just a legal fiction to once again, give religion a free ride.

    That’s something else that has gone on far too long. Taxes, suppression of freedom of speech, brainwashing of children, all of the special privileges that violate separation of church and state must come to an end.

    Putting the pope in prison will be a good start and a solid message that the days of religious responsibility have arrived.

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