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al-Benedict Strikes Again

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By Gus Van Horn from Gus Van Horn,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Quick. A cleric makes death threats against political figures who refuse to use government power to enforce edicts based upon his religion, and yet calls his opponents "terrorists" when they take reasonable steps to counteract his influence. Who is it?

Osama bin Laden? Not this time. Try Pope Benedict, who is threatening politicians with excommunication unless they toe the line in his crusade against the reproductive rights of women:

Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked
from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion. [link added]

In other words, unless a pro-choice politician repents to the Pope's satisfaction before he dies (or better yet, starts opposing legalized abortion), the Pope may decide not to allow him to receive sacraments. This act will pretty much expedite the trip of said politician's immortal soul to Hell, where it will reside forever, as far as this former Catholic understands.

Yes, the soul and the afterlife are imaginary, but such things are more important than real, actual life on this earth to the faithful. And yes, the premise is that the Pope is just God's messenger. But then, there are lots of people these days claiming to be messengers for lots of Gods, each of whom is supposedly the only "true" God. Whip out the yellow crayon and color my eye jaundiced.

So the Pope is threatening members of his flock with a fate worse than death if they don't do as he says. Leaving aside the emptiness of this threat and the complicity of anyone who takes it seriously, is there anything substantively different from terrorism about it?

Yes and no. Due to the emptiness of this threat and the fact that this threat involves the sanction of its victims, what the Pope did is not legally terrorism, but an exercise of his freedom of speech. But on a moral level, it looks about the same to me. Except that anyone who caves is also to blame. Most importantly, these threats will force other people, many not even Catholic, to live to some extent according to Catholic doctrine. This last is due to the fact that the government is entrusted with the right to use force in defense of the rights of its citizens, and the Pope is demanding that his followers betray that trust, and to use that force to make them do his bidding instead.

And if you think I am being heavy-handed in my moral criticism of the Pope, consider the fact that he has already implicitly branded me -- and any other intellectual critic -- as a terrorist. Here's what got someone in Italy denounced by the Vatican for "terrorism":

At the concert, held every year in front of the Saint John in Lateran basilica -- Rome's cathedral where Pope Benedict sits as bishop -- one of the presenters, Andrea Rivera, spoke out against the Pontiff's stand on a number of issues.

"The Pope says he doesn't believe in evolution. I agree, in fact the Church has never evolved," he said.

He also criticized the Church for refusing to give a Catholic funeral to Piergiorgio Welby, a man who campaigned for euthanasia as he lay paralyzed with muscular dystrophy. [bold added]

Please tell me how this exercise of freedom of speech has threatened anyone -- bodily or "spiritually". It has not, although I am sure some theologian somewhere has concocted an argument that it has. I don't care.

Men making threats on behalf of imaginary beings in order to elicit obedience from other men: That's the essence of religious "authority". The world will either perish in an orgy of this soon, or mankind will finally reject religion once and for all.

We may one day thank Pope Benedict for making this crystal clear by emulating the Moslems with his inane threats of hellfire and wild accusations of terrorism.

-- CAV


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