Southern Religion

Put the pope on trial (literally)? Possibly in several jurisdictions

British legal expert Geoffrey Robertson QC with painstaking care argues in the Guardian that the Vatican is not a state, the pope is not immune to prosecution and crimes appear to have been committed:

The truly shocking finding of Judge Murphy’s commission in Ireland was not merely that sexual abuse was “endemic” in boys’ institutions but that the church hierarchy protected the perpetrators and, despite knowledge of their propensity to reoffend, allowed them to take up new positions teaching other children after their victims had been sworn to secrecy.

This conduct, of course, amounted to the criminal offence of aiding and abetting sex with minors. In legal actions against Catholic archdioceses in the US it has been alleged that the same conduct reflected Vatican policy as approved by Cardinal Ratzinger (as the pope then was) as late as November 2002. Sexual assaults were regarded as sins that were subject to church tribunals, and guilty priests were sent on a “pious pilgrimage” while oaths of confidentiality were extracted from their victims.

The claim to immunity is under challenge in the U.S, and Robertson argues:

This claim could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights.

Equally provocative is the possibility of prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He argues:

But in any event, head of state immunity provides no protection for the pope in the international criminal court (see its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes 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. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. 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.

Certainly the Pope deserves and is granted respect as a spiritual leader. Because that does not automatically confer upon him the rights of an immune sovereign, the once imponderable likelihood of some overarching resolution in a court of earthly law now seems reasonable.


April 2, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI | , | Comments Off on Put the pope on trial (literally)? Possibly in several jurisdictions

Freedom of (offensive) speech

Prize-winning British author Philip Pullman has attracted outrage with his book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Naturally, for Pullman gives us a Mary who bears twins, one of whom is persuaded by a dark stranger to play the role of Judas so that a wealthy institutional church can be founded and sustained. All of which entertains and instructs in a way that befits his atheism, as reviewer Christopher Howse explains.

The nature of his tale does not detract from his defense of freedom of speech any more than family minister and street preacher Shawn Holes’ attack on homosexuality changes the free speech implications of his arrest in Scotland:

[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Law, Religion | | Comments Off on Freedom of (offensive) speech

Graph of the day: Jobs

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly “graphs monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession.” Red is under the Bush administration and blue is under the Obama administration.

You can see from that last blue bar that nonfarm payrolls have surged, as the New York Times reported:

Employers added 162,000 jobs last month, and employment numbers in the previous two months were revised upward. Nationwide, the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent.

To many ordinary, out-of-work Americans, the recovery may finally start to feel real.

“The key message from this report is that we’ve finally turned the corner,” said Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight. “Going forward, we should expect things to strengthen further over the rest of the year.”

Is it not both Good Friday and a good Friday?

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Economy | , | Comments Off on Graph of the day: Jobs

What do Christians believe?

Which Christians? Gary Laderman, professor and chairperson of the Department of Religion at Emory University, writes at Religion Dispatches:

Same-sex marriage, euthanasia, immigration, race relations…the list of topics that demonstrate the vast and often heavily contested views of Christians goes on and on. Indeed, it’s much easier to talk about how Christians differ than to identify just what they all agree on, and that may be the point. Perhaps all agree about the life and teaching of Jesus? Or that the New Testament is God’s revealed word? Any investigation beneath the surface of these possibilities would reveal the impossibility of consensus. Just take a quick glance at conservative responses to Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity to get a feeling for the way this debate takes place in real time.

We may despair of a valid, modern definition, yet still find, sometimes, people who are gently clear about what they believe. Yet launch no inquisitions.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Religion | | 1 Comment

Unexpected/backhanded support for Christianity

Ruth Gledhill writes:

It comes to something when even [atheist, secular humanists, skeptic and scientific rationalist] Richard Dawkins is defending Christianity. He told me yesterday why he had mixed feelings about a putative end to Christianity:

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”

April 2, 2010 Posted by | Religion | , | 1 Comment

Bad headline/important story: ‘U.S. Preacher Fined for Calling Homosexuality a Sin’

In Scotland, not in the U.S. The gentleman ran afoul of Scottish law in an illustration of the dangers of hate speech (not “hate crimes”) laws.

Skipping right past Christian Post, the source of the bad headline, to where the headline is “Preacher is fined for homophobia:”

A STREET preacher has prompted concerns over religious freedom in Scotland after being fined £1,000 for telling passers-by in Glasgow city centre that homosexuals deserved the “wrath of God” and would go to hell.

Shawn Holes admitted breaching the peace earlier this month by “uttering homophobic remarks” that were “aggravated by religious prejudice”.

The American Baptist, who was touring Britain with colleagues, was arrested by police while responding to questions from people in Sauchiehall Street on 18 March.

. . .

The Roman Catholic Church, which backed stiffer “hate crime” penalties, said the fine seemed to criminalise anyone who repeated a widely held conviction.

Peter Kearney, its spokesman, said: “We supported this legislation but it is very difficult to see how this man can be charged for expressing a religious conviction.

Holes’ case exemplifies the dangers of hate speech laws. Ed Brayton relates that Peter Tatchell, “a very outspoken gay rights activist in the UK,” is standing up for Holes.


Tatchell said: “Shawn Holes is obviously homophobic and should not be insulting people with his anti-gay tirades. He should be challenged and people should protest against his intolerance. However, in a democratic, free society it is wrong to prosecute him. Criminalisation is not appropriate. The price of freedom of speech is that we sometimes have to put up with opinions that are objectionable and offensive.”

In close Tatchell quotes Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who in a characterization of Voltaire’s view wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”


April 2, 2010 Posted by | Crime, Law, Religion | , , | 1 Comment

Woes of the SBC Pharisees

Enid, Ok., pastor Wade Burleson is conducting more than a personal homiletic exercise when he flogs the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) through Matthew 23. His whip of the “Woes of the Pharisees” does burn, and rankles some SBCers.

Burleson cuts immediately to the bone with his (2) “pastors and self-proclaimed leaders of the SBC have seated themselves in positions of authority” who even demand (6) “that they be called “Dr.” by those who know them.”

No, prez Johnny Hunt isn’t the only SBCer with with a fake Phd. on his resume. Nor does Burleson gloss his excoriation with footnotes. Whether he has Hunt in mind is from the text unknowable.

Likewise, readers may find any number of SBC controversies among Burleson’s other broad hints.

Or choose to read his short-form allegorical satire – not quite Dante’s Divine Comedy – as straightforward experimental sermon.

It’s surely a stretch (unless perhaps you’re from Missouri, Georgia, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho, and others on a growing list) to read (23) & (24) as somehow in part commentaries on the Great Commission Resurgence Task force recommendations. He writes:

(23) Woe to you, SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders, hypocrites! For you emphasize giving, giving, and giving, but you neglect the weightier things: justice and mercy and faithfulness. Don’t neglect these things while you seek the dollar! (24) In your blind greed you are straining gnats and swallowing camels.

Whereas it is hard not to read (29) through (33) as criticisms of what David Flick in a different context usefully calls the “conservative insurgence.” Burleson writes:

(29) Woe to you, SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders, hypocrites! For you exalt other pastors and you build monuments to their legacy, (30) saying, ‘If we had lived in the liberal days of our forefathers, we would have helped them them in turning around our convention.’ (31) Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered your brothers. (32) Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. (33) You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to judgment yourselves?

Tim Dahl found it useful to ignore SBC political implications and read himself into the text. As did this writer.

If Burleson’s whip stings, is it because your back needs it?

April 2, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | 1 Comment