Poped up

I know Rebecca said I was going to write a post about the pope’s visit to Madrid, but I live so close to PopeCon central, I can hardly hear myself blaspheme.

Fortunately, the awesome Escéptica writer Daurmith lives a little farther away and was able to write this report for Skepchick.

Yup. He’s here. Joseph Ratzinger, aka Benedict XVI, aka The Pope™, in Madrid, Spain. Hurray.

Forgive me if I don’t seem too excited, but, you see, I’m not a catholic. I’m one of those atheists this Pope is so set up against, and although I have no qualms with this guy going wherever he pleases, his visit is being more than a tad disruptive for the rest of us.

Wow, I’m so negative. Must be all that brain working or something. After all, the Pope’s visit is going to be so positive for all of us!

First, there’s the traffic. Madrid is rather chaotic to begin with, now it’s going to be a nightmare. Two of the busiests avenues in the city are going to be closed for 6 days straight. But wait, this is good! This is simply a clever plot to encourage you to walk everywhere! Lose those extra pounds! Give your heart a much-needed workout! Temperatures in the hundreds shouldn’t be a problem if you have faith. Oh, and a nice hat that you get when you register, along with the rest of the pilgrim’s kit. It’s worth the money, surely!

Of course, you can always use public transportation. Healthier! Environmentally responsible! Crowded! Oh, wait, it’s 50% more expensive now. But not if you’re a pilgrim! For pilgrims, the tickets can be up to 80% cheaper. What luck! Pity I’m not one of them, I’ll have to pay the full fee. ‘Cause I’m not catholic, you see. I probably deserve it, too.

Well, no matter. Surely the joyous sight of all those young, pious people on the streets is going to be nice. A cheerful picture of songs and smiles and simple, honest faith. And, to be perfectly truthful, that’s how it is for the most part.

Except when there’s an (authorized) march protesting the spending of public money for the Pope’s visit. You know, atheists, gays, even catholics (but these are the bad catholics, of course). These people must be so mean. Did you see their sign? It said: “My taxes are not for the Pope. For a secular state” The fiends! It was, apparently, so radical and offensive that the police had to intervene. To be fair, both sides got a bit overexcited, but still, didn’t someone say something about the other cheek?

Serious aside for everybody involved: that was sad, and moronic, and shouldn’t have happened. I don’t care if you’re catholic or not. Don’t start a brawl. If someone else started it, don’t respond. Violence is completely stupid, and not helpful at all, for either side.

Money is such a crass thing to talk about in these days so full of spirituality, isn’t it? This was probably the reason why the organization decided that even volunteers had to pay. They are told the 30€ fee is to cover, among other things, their medical insurance, even though, by Spanish law, volunteers’ insurance is paid for them.

This said, one of the volunteers was this nice young man who was arrested yesterday. A trifle, really: he was planning an attack with poisonous gas on the critics of the Pope’s visit. Fortunately nothing happened, although he’ll probably have to confess. Well, there’s a good chance he’ll be absolved. If even women that had abortions can be absolved during these 6 days, why can’t he?

Of course, this isn’t the first thing that has been critiziced about the cost of the whole festival, but what do they know, right?

If all this is starting to scare you, don’t worry, there’s hope! Some clever minds have devised Appapa, the app you were waiting for! Your phone needs this right now: an app that will warn you whenever you’re 500 meters or less from the Pope, so that you can avoid him. And if you are not sure why you should avoid this nice old man in red shoes, Appapa will helpfully remind you of some of the things he has said, just so you know.

And now, if you will excuse me, I think I need to go hide under a rock somewhere. At least until Sunday. Once I’ve downloaded Appapa, of course.


Born and raised in Mexico City, Daniela has finally decided to abdicate her post as an armchair skeptic and start doing some skeptical activism. She is currently living in Spain after having lived in the US, Brazil and Italy. You can also find her blogging in Spanish at

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  1. I am an expatriate and live in Germany. I also am a volunteer firefighter in the city, which the popster will be visiting on September 24th. So I get keep fire watch to help protect all the pilgrims from fire.

    They’ll be sealing off the inner city from all traffic here. They were originally thinking of killing all public transportation for three days, but at least they scrapped that.

    The really interesting part though is that most of my fellow firefighters are Protestant, so they are just as “thrilled” as me. Hehe

    1. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of fans coming over :)
      I wouldn’t mind the crowds too much, after all I live in the city where the Fallas happen. But I’m not liking *at all* the shocking animosity of the police against peaceful demonstrators against the Pope. Nor the smugness of the sympathizers, with a “that’s the least you deserve” attitude. It leaves a bad taste. The behaviour, organization and mode of demonstration of secular Spaniards could also use some work.

      All in all, this is all very depressing.

  2. All religion is whacked out, but this ridiculous cult of pope-worship takes the Catholic church to a whole other level of messed up.

  3. I can imagine that it must be a pain having this World Youth Day event in your city. I went to WYD in Sydney a few years ago and saw some long-suffering looks on the faces of some locals who were trying to go about their business and being frustrated in that.
    I have a feeling we’ll see more of the sort of violent clashes we saw this time in subsequent years. I hope not.

    The idiot who planned the gas attack should be dealt with to the full extent of the law, of course. And then, yes, he can be absolved if he admits his sin. People who’ve been involved in abortion can be absolved any time, not just these six days – be skeptical about the way the Guardian reports on Church matters.

  4. The idiot is free right not. The police has been hitting secular protesters with quite a lot of gusto. See one of the videos, which is specially shocking and nasty, at although there are quite a few other examples, as well as a number of blogs recounting similar situations.

    The protesters haven’t been in their best behaviour either, but the level of response from police and institutions have been, in my opinion, disproportionated and wildly biased in favor of the catholics, with a level of poison against secularism that’s frankly scary. I didn’t think it was quite this bad.

    All in all, this has been a very depressing week. Spain is non-confessional only in name.

    1. It does look like the police have got into it with great gusto. Passionate Spaniards?
      How about the level of poison against Catholics?
      Against little old nuns? Frankly scary indeed. The protestors seem to turn their vitriol quite indiscriminately on anyone they like – schoolgirls, elderly, people sitting peacefully. Have a look for the pictures.

  5. Sorry, I meant that the idiot is free right now*

    Also, you’re right, the sacrament of absolution can be administered to women who have aborted any time. But only by bishops, in normal circumstances. The Pope’s special dispensation made it possible for any priest in any of the 200 confessionals to absolve them of that and other sins.

    The catholic’s confession is quite complicated, of course. It involves being genuinely repentant, accepting the penance, and never doing it again and such. And it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with the secular law, if your sin contravenes it too. But this is the theory. The practice is not so clean-cut, of course. Lots of wiggle room. But the bottom-line is that this is all done for the salvation of “souls”. And it seems that the ways to achieve that are suprisingly flexible.

    Sorry, I’m ranting. I’m still processing everything that’s happened this week.

    1. “Also, you’re right, the sacrament of absolution can be administered to women who have aborted any time. But only by bishops, in normal circumstances. The Pope’s special dispensation made it possible for any priest in any of the 200 confessionals to absolve them of that and other sins.”

      “Sacrament of absolution” isn’t a Catholic term.
      And in normal circumstances, by bishops or priests (in greater or smaller numbers depending on any articular diocese) to whom he delegates the responsibility – this is also in normal circumstances.

      It wasn’t the pope’s dispensation but the bishop of Madrid – who has the authority in Madrid, not the pope. (Yes, that’s right – the pope doesn’t just roll into town and start throwing his weight around – the bishop retains his authority, in union with the pope.

      See the errors? Have a go at the Church all you like, but have a crack at getting your ducks in a row first, yeah?

    2. “The catholic’s confession is quite complicated, of course.”

      I’m not sure it’s that complicated :) Normally when you say sorry to someone it’s inherent in your apology that you really mean it and that you’re not going to do it again. Unless you’re a seedy politician or something.

      And of course it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with the secular law. For goodness’ sake.

      “Lots of wiggle room. But the bottom-line is that this is all done for the salvation of “souls”. And it seems that the ways to achieve that are suprisingly flexible.”

      I don’t know – the Church is excoriated for being rigid and unbending; we’re told off for having wiggle room in our discipline, for being flexible … we can’t win!

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