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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pope John Paul II - fundamentalist

How much longer must we suffer this intolerable perversion? "The Pope died after a courageous battle with illness that gripped the world," The Guardian whispered in hushed tones. I always wished nothing less than a peaceful end for the man admired by over a billion Catholics. In tributes flowing in from the corners of the globe, not a criticism among them. Perhaps it's too soon to seriously critique the true legacy of the Pope or maybe commentators feel it somehow inappropriate to do so. I suspect the thought process is something akin to treating the dead Polish bloke like he was Jesus himself, but with less hair. Who knows how media organisations make their decisions. So let me be one of the first to voice dissent.

Thankfully, others have come before me, such as George Monbiot. Issue number one, birth control:

"Every year the Pope kills tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable people by the simple expedient of forbidding Catholics to use condoms. While his imprecations are dismissed by most churchgoers in the First World as a load of papal bull, in countries in which there is little access to alternative sources of information and in which women have few rights, every papal decree against contraception sentences thousands to a lingering death."

Whenever the Pope preached in the world's poorest countries, he argued sexual abstinence as the only acceptable form of birth control. This shameful ignorance of the true reality on the ground beggars belief. Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, to name just a few, are struggling with massive outbreaks of HIV/AIDS, and bishops still teach that wearing condoms causes AIDS by leaking the virus. As Monbiot rightly states, the Pope should be charged with crimes against humanity. A man of the people, indeed.

Then we come to Pope Pius XII, the Nazi-sympathiser who helped Hitler by crushing opposition in the German Church as well as collaborating with the Nazis. This is a man whom Pope John Paul II was pushing for sainthood. Luckily public outrage, not least of all from the Jewish community, caused these plans to be placed on hold. John Paul went to great lengths during his life to build bridges between the Catholic and Jewish communities, long scarred due to the Holocaust and historical animosities. His blind devotion to Pius XII therefore remains a mystery.

And what about Mother Teresa? Christopher Hitchens has written extensively on this supposedly saintly woman:

"MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."

She embezzled funds from a Haitian dictatorship and while opening numerous shelters for the poor in India never once accounted for the vast amounts of money she had collected in her travels. The Pope rushed to "beatify" Teresa, the first step to "sainthood," only one year after her death, rather than waiting the customary five. Hitchens puts it best: "She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud." His incendiary book on MT, The Missionary Position, is essential reading.

What about the Pope's attitudes to sexual abuse of minors in the priesthood? The sordid tale of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston takes a familiar path. Aside from the fact that Law knowingly reassigned men with a history of sadistic behaviour against children, he now resides in Rome beyond the arm of the law. Evidence is once again overwhelming that both he and the Vatican conspired to cover-up the abuse.

Hitchens reminds us of the recent role of the Vatican in the Terry Schiavo case:

"Terri Schiavo's parents were in court...instructing their lawyer to ask a judge to consider the church's teaching on purgatory and hell, and the state of the late Ms. Schiavo's soul. The Vatican is actually a foreign government, recognized as such by an exchange of ambassadors. Are we expected to be complacent when its clerical supporters try to short-circuit the U.S. Constitution with pleas of this kind?"

By all means, let's remember the Pope's grand achievements, such as assisting the fall of Communism across Eastern Europe and fighting the illegal war in Iraq, but we mustn't forget his myraid of failings.

"Goodbye, nice old man", writes conservative blogger Tim Blair. Only a blind person should agree.

32 Comments:

Anonymous Tim said...

Thanks for your little piece of old fashioned anti-catholic bigotry. It used to be said that anti-catholicism is the anti-semitism of the intellectuals. Your piece reminds us that it's still true.

John Paul II stood fast against the Bush neocon war plans and played a major role in the overthrow of Soviet tyranny in East Europe.

He is worthy of respect, even if one disagrees with him on other issues, as I do.

Rabbi Dalin would seem to disagree with you in your assessment of Pius XII.

One may disagree with Church teachings on birth control, or anything if one choses, that hardly makes him an "enemy of humanity" or whatever epithets you'd like to hurle. Besides there is not much evidence his flock actually follows his teachings on this issue.

Please feel free to use a condom if you desire, the Pope, unlike any of our elected dictators cannot stop you.

What's next exposes of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion"??

It's strange, people who portray themselves as apostles of tolerance are usually the worst bigots.

Sunday, April 03, 2005 3:51:00 pm  
Blogger DREADNOUGHT said...

Well done Tim, biggest let down yet from Antony's increasingly underwhelming blog.

What's next? Laying the boot into cancer patients?

Sunday, April 03, 2005 7:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go Antony,your site is great! As an ex-catholic with a sister a nun, I believe your comments about "old redsox" are reasonable and considered. He has been damaging for the whole world and no tears from this houshold.
More scary, is that outsider, George Pell takes on the mantle.
It's got me back to praying.
Cheers and keep the good work up.

Sunday, April 03, 2005 7:55:00 pm  
Blogger Guy said...

I tend to agree with Tim's comments here - I think you were very rough on the Pope and Catholicism in this post.

Keep in mind when you suggest that the Pope wasn't a "nice old man" you are suggesting the same of literally millions of ordinary (and yes, even nice!) people out there who adhere to the same, admittedly conservative belief structure.

And there is nothing at all wrong with them doing that.

Sunday, April 03, 2005 8:09:00 pm  
Blogger Asher said...

I was wondering how long something like this would take. Congrats for having the guts to post something like this.

Sunday, April 03, 2005 11:08:00 pm  
Blogger Flute said...

If any other organisation broke the law as much as the catholic church it would be disbanded.

Sunday, April 03, 2005 11:10:00 pm  
Blogger Gerry said...

Crappus maximus, Anthony.

Re your Monbiot quote: Forbidding Catholics to use condoms does not kill anyone.

What's doing the killing Monbiot refers to are the people who make stupid choices about which parts of their religion's teachings they adhere to and which parts they choose to ignore. Only the hypocrites get into troouble, Anthony. The pope never told them to be hypocrites. He never told them to be stupid.

I hate it when I have to stand up for Catholics or religions, Anthony, but if you have to resort to quoting Monbiot's sophistry you've already lost the argument.

Yes, Anthony, even the great Monbiot falls foul of the temptation to resort to sophistry in order to slip one in when he gets over-excited, and if you can't pick it, then give up quoting him.

Howzat!?!

Monday, April 04, 2005 12:45:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tim's comments are spot on.
antony, your post was very childish.

Monday, April 04, 2005 2:20:00 am  
Blogger Shyha said...

I could find good things in every statement posted here but imo:
- bad thing is that church tells people that condoms are bad, but people have their own minds and thereofore should think, but imo (I am polish) catholics are very blind-minded...
- good thing JPII did? Did you know that church changed the opinion about solar system? Before JPII the church was sure that the earth is flat...

these are just examples but we should just realize that he was just a human and he had good sides and bad sides.
The judgement is all yours...

Monday, April 04, 2005 6:30:00 am  
Blogger Shyha said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, April 04, 2005 6:30:00 am  
Blogger Ros said...

Thanks Anthony. You are certainly not guilty of anti-catholicism for criticising the actions of this Pope. I will always remember him for his "musn't be tempted to reduce the numbers" attitiude as a condemnation of arguments for contraception. From the affluence and safety of the vatican. In his world women would be constantly having children and be without equality. If they are not the equal of men in the "church" then clearly he did not see them as equal.
It is incomprehensible to me why the world chooses to sanctify an individual who was a great contributor to the misery of millions. What end is it that they think justifies the means of this mean man. Personal charm does not compensate for authoritarian and harmful policies,
Well said, excuse the emotive post.

Monday, April 04, 2005 7:27:00 am  
Blogger Ros said...

Thanks Anthony. You are certainly not guilty of anti-catholicism for criticising the actions of this Pope. I will always remember him for his "musn't be tempted to reduce the numbers" attitiude as a condemnation of arguments for contraception. From the affluence and safety of the vatican. In his world women would be constantly having children and be without equality. If they are not the equal of men in the "church" then clearly he did not see them as equal.
It is incomprehensible to me why the world chooses to sanctify an individual who was a great contributor to the misery of millions. What end is it that they think justifies the means of this mean man. Personal charm does not compensate for authoritarian and harmful policies,
Well said, excuse the emotive post.

Monday, April 04, 2005 7:27:00 am  
Anonymous Naomi said...

Hi Ant, good to see you back in the blogosphere and off the leash.

One of the things I am appreciating about the final passing of the Pope has been a re-evaluation of him and some perspective on his conservatism. He did heaps of 'way cool' things, and that needs to be remembered. A very good profile on RN's The Spirit of Things depicted him as a mystic and a poet, and gave plenty of airspace to those who revered him, and those who despaired of his pontificate (unsurprisingly, a modern English woman). Compass last night was good too, on his charm and talents, his triumphs against communism, but also on his senseless repudiation of Liberation Theology, beatification of Opus Dei members.

What is clear to me is that the experiences he had during World War II, working in Nazi quarries and living under the Gestapo in Poland, shaped him in a particular fashion that is perhaps difficult to understand in our generation. His horror of the Nazi's anti-life doctrines are reflected in his consistent views on the preservation of life at all costs, and the importance of NOT preventing life from beginning, of loving all regardless of disability or disease, of preserving life until one can, as he did, pass away serenely in one's own time.

Perhaps his pontificate was the one we needed to get over the horrors of World War II and to heal Europe. The Pope's modernity made him known all around the world, a face on television, a voice we all knew. Although I find his conservatism stiflingly rigid, the values are logical and in all truth right. They are impossible to work into contemporary existence, but should not we at least aspire to them? In the best of all possible worlds? This does not for a minute exonerate him for his blindness about the fact that it is women who bear the burden of pro-life values, as mothers and carers.

With his passing perhaps the Church can consider a theological position that is more humane, and more sensitive to the realities of modern life. It's unlikely that will happen in the near future, because he's stacked the Vatican so comprehensively. He's excluded women and shunned the women religious who have offered so much to the Church. And these obits made it clear there's been a culture of control over all who might debate the teachings of the Holy See. These are all negatives, but let's not forget the positives, and let's not forget that the Church is an ancient survivor, and though it may be glacial, is capable of change.

Monday, April 04, 2005 9:41:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gerry, if you're going to comment on the man's blog, at least learn how to spell his name. It's Antony, not Anthony. Difficult to differentiate, I know.

I'd like to applaud Antony for having the kahunas to come out and say what many people are too frightened to say (probably for fear Tim Blairesqe recrimination) about the Pope so close to his passing. In fact Tim Blair’s ridiculous knee jerk reaction belies the sentiment of many people: criticism shows a lack of respect. While the Pope may have done many great things, a hypocrite should not be revered. If anything, the millions of people who have suffered BECAUSE of the Pope’s decree should be shown respect by way of this charlatan being exposed from the get-go.

Oh and Dreadnaught, while I don’t have a blog of my own for you to comment on, I went and read yours after seeing your post here. What a load of self indulgent, egocentric codswallop. Is there a university student with a more fragile ego any place in Australia? A voice like yours does very little for the interests of Catholics or other young gay people.

Tash Owens.

Monday, April 04, 2005 10:14:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Thanks for all the comments, friends and foes. Isn't it about time we can talk about these matters without trying to be silenced by 'it's not appropriate to slam the Pope' bollocks? People, it's timely and relevant to seriously evaluate the man's life, now that he's dead.
And yes, it's Antony, thanks Tash.
My original post was simply to highlight many of the Pope's failings, as well as mentioning his achievements. In the current environment of Papal praise, not discussing child sex abuse, use of condoms, birth control etc, is downright selective memory.
Besides, nobody should be beyond criticism, even the Pope, or the Dalai Lama or a leading Rabbi etc. They're all human, strong and weak, like us all, and capable of making woeful decisions. The stain on the church (pardon the pun) re child sex abuse is a legacy not easily forgotten. And the Vatican, with the Pope, tried to hush this up for years. Unforgiveable.
I'm saddened that the mainstream press is presenting the Pope in such a blindly reverential way. Then again, they don't want to offend their readers. We bloggers don't have that concern. Not because I want to offend people for the sake of it, but nothing should be sacred in debate.

Monday, April 04, 2005 10:34:00 am  
Blogger Gerry said...

"Friends and foes", Antony? If we agree with you we're friends and if we disagree we're foes? Is that how it is?

Next you'll be uttering things like "you're either with us or against us" and your conversion to your own brand of fundamentalism will be complete... Shake hands with your opposite number, Tim Blair.

Monday, April 04, 2005 11:04:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Friends and foes. A joke. Tongue firmly placed in cheek. Believe me, I don't just want people here who agree with me. Tim Blair's blog is hilariously only inhabited by people who think he's God's gift to something akin to the Pope. But in human form. Foibles and all

Monday, April 04, 2005 11:17:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You people leave Tim alone. He's an important man with an important job at an important magazine. He even links to the magazine from his important blog. Tim is always on the lookout for irreverent lefties like you. He's smart and funny and dissenting comments on his site are not always removed by the administrator. I've definitely seen at least a handful, maybe more. And they are not all obsessed with Margo Kingston like some people say. They are not envious or misogynous. They are tolerant of lefties and would never go in for ad hominem attacks. Only some of them are troublemakers and bigots - a few bad apples, that's all. And Tim is not one of them. He is not a redneck with too much education.

Monday, April 04, 2005 11:47:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering how many of you, friend or foe, have actually read a single work of John Paul II, cover to cover?
Or have you only ever read what the media reports about his 'papal bull' and thus believed yourselves well-informed - and evidently capable - to pontificate on this man's life?
Sorry guys, but read up or shutup.
When condemning or condoning someone's teaching's, isn't it only fair to quote them directly, and evaluate it in context?
Writing in the fifth person doesn't sound good: "I heard about this guy who told somebody..." (anyone see the Melbourne Comedy Gala last night?) And so far, that's all I've read here.

Cath James

Monday, April 04, 2005 12:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering how many of you, friend or foe, have actually read a single work of John Paul II, cover to cover?
Or have you only ever read what the media reports about his 'papal bull' and thus believed yourselves well-informed - and evidently capable - to pontificate on this man's life?
Sorry guys, but read up or shutup.
When condemning or condoning someone's teaching's, isn't it only fair to quote them directly, and evaluate it in context?
Writing in the fifth person doesn't sound good: "I heard about this guy who told somebody..." (anyone see the Melbourne Comedy Gala last night?) And so far, that's all I've read here.

Cath James

Monday, April 04, 2005 12:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Steptoe Hallelujah said...

All these politically correct right wingers are giving me heartburn mother! The pope smokes dope. There, i said it.

Monday, April 04, 2005 12:20:00 pm  
Anonymous PaterFacio said...

Thanks, Antony, for having the courage to speak out. I was drowning in the all the sweet, syrupy shit that we are being inundated with at the from the papers, radio and television.

Interesting to see how many bloggers who usually have a left-leaning have suddenly become RWDBs. I guess all that Catholic brainwashing and guilt imbibed in youth never truly dissipates.

Monday, April 04, 2005 12:23:00 pm  
Anonymous PaterFacio said...

'papal bull' is spot on, Cath James.

Monday, April 04, 2005 12:26:00 pm  
Blogger Tuppence said...

Tash, I think you'll find it's DREADNOUGHT. All in caps. He's just that kinda guy...
And Antony, I appreciate an altogether different view of the Pope than that presented to us by the mainstream media. Thanks.

Monday, April 04, 2005 1:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Tim said...

I must apologise for calling Ant a bigot. I should have pulled my horns in before I hit the PUBLISH button and used less brutal language. They should have a "ten second delay" on these things. My apologies.

My main comment, that it is the secular community that is probably the major centre of bigotry, holds. Anti-religious bigotry is in the end just another form of religious bigotry. The kind of kitchen sink "litany list" a la Ant's blog is a usual giveaway for this kind of thing. Hence my uncalled for intemperate response.

I certainly don't think John Paul II would oppose any rigorous debate of his legacy. He doesn't strike me as the kind of man who would have wanted to wrapped up in cotton wool.

In contrast, I suspect he would be rolling in his grave listening to the politically inspired 'forked tongue' comments of Bush and co, rather than anything Ant has written.

JP II was a straight up critic of Bush's foreign policy, arguing from the restrictive criteria of the 'just war' doctrine. Bush's fans didn't seem to mind letting the anti-catholic blogosphere crazies off the leash during the run up to the Iraq invasion. I would include that awful chap Christopher Hitchens in this category.

Bush didn't mind exploiting the anti-catholic vote in the US with his Bob Jones university episode. Bush knows the mainstream Christian churches, unlike the evangelicals, are a likely brake in his agenda, not only in foreign policy issues. The mainstream churches, led by the catholics, are to his left on most issues of social and welfare policy.

As for the 'reactionary pope' tag, it is actually a redundant label. It goes with the papal job description. The papal oath obliges the officeholder NOT to make any innovations. Unlike corporate or political leaders in our age of novelty, the pope is obliged not to initiate policy change. Indeed he has no mandate or real capability to do so. The Church may appear as 'top down' to outsiders but historical and doctrinal restrictions give the top less room to move than a UK constitutional monarch.

There is fundamental difference between articles of faith and negotiatable policy positions. Many people do not seem to grasp the difference.

There is some excellent discussion of this job requirement and it's implications in the recent book by the brilliant eccentric (he actually lives in Plan 9's Ed Wood's house) historian Charles Coulomb in his "Vicars Of Christ".

One irony Coulomb mentions is the influence of the pope. He says JPII was probably the least influential pope within the Church of the past century, ...even if his external influence was arguably the greatest.

Coulomb says the real power within the Church now is the big urban archdioceses, many have local financial, organisational and manpower resources greater than the vatican bureaucracy itself.

Monday, April 04, 2005 2:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what do you expect from a 2nd rate bachelor of communications dropout hack who takes his research skills from the Sydney Telegraph Confidential section and hopes to be one the short list for one of Alan Jones cabin boys positions.

Monday, April 04, 2005 6:11:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Tim, no worries at all.
I've just published a link to a piece in today's NYT by Sister Prejean on the Pope's progressive attitude to the death penalty.
As I said from the beginning, despite the unthinking calls of anti-Catholic bigotry, intolerance etc, to simply praise a man, without looking at some of his serious faults, in my mind, is bad karma and bad journalism.
The debate here has been interesting, humorous and informative. And mostly respectful. Bless.
Now, about the Dalai Lama...

Monday, April 04, 2005 6:26:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

By the way, are you a blogger Tim? Please explain...

Monday, April 04, 2005 6:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create."
-- July 3, 1980

"This determination is based on the solid conviction that what is hindering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and 'structures of sin' are only conquered - presupposing the help of divine grace - by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbor with the readiness, in the gospel sense, to 'lose oneself' for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to 'serve him' instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage."
-- Pope condemns excesses of capitalism, December 30, 1987

"We cannot pretend that the use of arms, and especially of today's highly sophisticated weaponry, would not give rise, in addition to suffering and destruction, to new and perhaps worse injustices."
-- Pope opposes Gulf War, Message to George H.W. Bush, January 15, 1991

"A disconcerting conclusion about the most recent period should serve to enlighten us: side-by-side with the miseries of underdevelopment, themselves unacceptable, we find ourselves up against a form of superdevelopment, equally inadmissible. because like the former it is contrary to what is good and to true happiness. This superdevelopment, which consists in an excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups, easily makes people slaves of 'possession' and of immediate gratification..."
-- On the shortfalls of consumerism, March 13, 1998

"Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."
-- Pope speaks out against capital punishment, January 27, 1999

"The Holy See has always recognized that the Palestinian people have the natural right to a homeland, and the right to be able to live in peace and tranquility with the other peoples of this area."
-- Pope calls for a Palestinian State, March 22, 2000

"NO TO WAR! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity."
-- January 13, 2003

"When war threatens humanity's destiny, as it does today in Iraq, it is even more urgent for us to proclaim with a loud and decisive voice that peace is the only way to build a more just and caring society. Violence and arms can never solve human problems."
-- Pope condemns Bush's invasion of Iraq, March 22, 2003

Humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.
-- Pope John Paul II

Modern Society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyles.
-- Pope John Paul II

Once again, through myself, the Church, in the words of the well-known declaration Nostra Aetate, "deplores the hatred, persecutions and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time and by anyone." I repeat, "By anyone."
-- Pope John Paul II

Radical changes in world politics leave America with a heightened responsibility to be, for the world, an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society.
-- Pope John Paul II

The United Nations organization has proclaimed 1979 as the Year of the Child. Are the children to receive the arms race from us as a necessary inheritance?
-- Pope John Paul II

Young people are threatened... by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire.
-- Pope John Paul II

"We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations."
-- Pope John Paul II

"The most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution."
-- Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, April 05, 2005 2:36:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, blatant pope-bashing or reference to him as a charlatan or "conservative prick" as someone I know has said, is hardly courageous. Why? becasue every young person does it. There seems to be a trend amongst us youth to verbally destroy people or institutions based on scraps of information and partial knowledge. We consider ourselves to be so intellectual and also rebelious and noble by blindly and passionately slamming things down with barely any consideration of contraty information or how our opinions can be alienating or hurtful. Certainly we can't always tread on eggshells, but a little restraint and balance could be helpful. What would be courageous, in terms of talking about the pope is to praise him. The media, which I have found to actually be fairly even does not count. I feel that if I were to publically announce that I thought the pope was a good man at the University of Sydney, I'd be lynched by "Keep Left" the Greens and a myriad of other like minded organisations. Of course not literally but I'd probably be branded as someone who's narrow minded and intolerant etc. It's funny how those who fight most aggressively for tolerance, are the least willing to respect other people's views. Back to the pope just quickly, I believe no man is infallible. While I understand why he may have believed what he did, I disagree with a lot of what he said, especially contraception etc. I think judging a man PURELY by what he hasn't achieved in life is not the right way, especially if the good outweighs the bad.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005 10:08:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yes, and I'm prepared for the fact that I'm going to be slaughtered by people for what I wrote above, so feel free

Tuesday, April 05, 2005 10:10:00 am  
Blogger Nic White said...

Blogger needs trackback capability.

http://52nd.blogspot.com/2005/04/in-defence-of-pope.html

Wednesday, April 06, 2005 1:00:00 am  

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