This week I have mostly been getting annoyed … (part 2)

So straight on to part 2 – the Pope.

Bit of a heavy one this, so no photos or media.

I should probably point out as well that I’m not a Catholic.

As you may know, off the back of his Middle East Tour, Pope Francis spoke “informally” to reporters on board the papal aeroplane (who knew there was a papal aeroplane!), taking questions on a range of subjects, including child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. According to a CNN report, Pope Francis described sex abuse as a “horrific crime”, he called for a “zero tolerance” approach and compared it to, “by comparison, holding a black Mass”.

Now I admit I had to look this up.

From a quick bit of research, the actual practice is somewhat unclear, but I’ve gathered that it is a ritual characterised by the inversion of the traditional Catholic Mass, often featuring upside crucifxes and in the modern era it is linked/associated with Satanic worship sacrifice. Serious stuff.

The BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen agreed. On Radio 4’s Today programme he said this was strong language from the Pope, language to be taken seriously. I agree – if the Leader of the Catholic Church, Christ’s representative on Earth is comparing child abuse to Satanic worship that is surely a sign he is taking the matter in hand and dealing with it*.

Isn’t it?

Well, that is a matter for debate.

From my admittedly limited knowledge of Catholic law excommunication is the ultimate sanction against a Catholic – cannot receive blessings or attend Mass and at least it used to also mean that unless the Pope interceded on their behalf they could not ascend to Heaven – again pretty strong stuff. So has Pope Francis excommunicated any of the Catholic priests convicted of child sexual abuse?

Um. Not that I can see.

Most recently an Australian priest was excommunicated for supporting gay marriage and women’s ordination. A Brazilian priest was also excommunicated for refusing to rescind a statement which he made regarding his belief that two people of the same sex could be in love. Now there is the possibility that I’m wrong about excommunication and it’s not the severe punishment that it a) sounds like or b) I think it is.

Or Pope Francis has not acted against at all against Catholic priests convicted of child sexual abuse. Referring once again to the CNN report, three bishops are apparently under investigation. One has been found guilty and the “penalty is being considered”. I’m sorry, considered? Surely turn all your evidence over to the courts and let him be found guilty and sentenced (one would hope strongly) by the laws of the land.

In my view, if Pope Francis is to be the reformer that many hope he will be/is (acknowledging that the Jesuit Order from whence he came is quite conservative) he needs to take decisive action on this issue, above all else. It will show the world (well beyond the Catholic population on the planet) that he truly believes this heinous crime is a “betrayal of the body of the Lord” and that he has the strength of will to deal it with properly and slowly begin the healing process for the victims of Catholic abuse around the world.

* I should like to point out that a learned colleague of mine has pointed out to me that arguably child sexual abuse is “even worse than mumbling a bunch of gibberish with an inverted cross on display”. I do agree.

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in this age of rhetoric

whilst listening to the radio in the week i got to thinking about rhetoric. one of the subjects on the phone-in was this billboard which has been put up in merthyr by PETA. i got very angry and annoyed at the idiot woman from PETA trying (and miserably failing) to defend comparing feeding a child meat products was the same as child abuse (see very angry tweets from yesterday).

i’m not saying that the PETA billboard is going to cause gun crime or is going to be actually taken seriously by anyone with half a brain; i’m simply trying to link together the problematic use of fiery rhetoric and the problem of the use of words.

using words or a phrase like “child abuse” or “exploitation” is very serious. incredibly serious and words like that should not be thrown around for the sake of attracting media attention (clearly this is why PETA used the phrase on the billboard – for attracting media attention for their single issue obsessions). to use a phrase like “child abuse” in relation to something as tiny and insignificant as feeding a child meat is not only ridiculouse but also significantly demeans and cheapens those people who have been subject to child abuse. it also means that any sane person who looks at your campaign or in this case billboard will not engage with your issues or your arguments but will (and rightly so) reject them out of hand because of your stupid use of rhetoric and poor choice of words.

people who use phrases like this to simply attract media attention for their campaigns are not only be offensive but obtuse.

rant over. but i’m sure i’ll return to the issue.