28 October 2007

Street fights in Rome after beatification

Street fights in Rome after beatification—
(From The Independent)

Pope Benedict XVI today waded into a fierce political battle in Spain over its bloody past, beatifying 498 priests and nuns killed in the civil war in the largest ever ceremony of its kind.

Addressing the 30,000 mainly Spanish pilgrims that flocked to Rome, the Pope paid tribute to the “martyrs” of the 1936-39 war, who had “paid in blood for their faith in Christ and his Church” and put them on the path to sainthood.

“Their words and gestures of forgiveness towards their persecutors should enable us to work towards reconciliation and peaceful coexistence,” the Pontiff said.

But far from healing the rifts left by the conflict, the lavish ceremony in St. Peter’s Square stirred anger among those who fought against General Franco and suffered under his subsequent 36-year dictatorship. The Roman Catholic Church largely supported Franco’s side during the war and its aftermath and critics said it was again choosing sides by honouring victims on only one side.

Street fights broke out in Rome following the ceremony when a group of faithful attacked left-wing protesters carrying a banner that read: “Those who have killed, tortured and exploited cannot be beatified”. Around 30 enraged pilgrims tore the banner to pieces along with a large reproduction of Picasso’s “Guernica”, the most famous depiction of atrocities committed by Franco’s side. Italian police arrested seven people and impounded a van that protesters had used to film the fighting.

Others critics said the Pope should have recognised the Church’s role in supporting a fascist dictator that killed untold thousands and overthrew a democratically-elected government.

“The Catholic Church has missed an opportunity to recognise its deeds during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship,” said Spain’s Association for Historical Memory, which is exhuming mass graves of those killed on the Republican side to give them a proper burial. “As long as the Church accepts only its role as victim and not executioner, it will simply be contributing to...the partisan use of the past.”

Spain’s Socialist Government has clashed repeatedly with the Roman Catholic Church over issues ranging from its legalisation of same-sex marriage to the easing of divorce laws and plans to introduce civics lessons into schools. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose own grandfather was executed by Franco’s forces during the war, has likened his government to the Leftist Second Republic that was overthrown by Franco in the war.

Mr Zapatero has caused howls of protest from conservatives after introducing a law aimed at redressing the injustices suffered by victims of Franco’s regime. Among other measures, the law orders the removal of any remaining symbols of the dictatorship, which arguably include the shrines in many Spanish churches to the dead on Franco’s side. By contrast, Republican victims still lie in dozens of unmarked mass graves dotted around the country.

On this occasion, however, both the Government and the Vatican have striven to avoid confrontation. The Government sent its Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, to lead the Spanish delegation at the ceremony. And the Vatican has strenuously denied that the beatification ceremony as anything to do with the Government’s controversial “Historic Memory” Bill, which comes to a vote next week.

“The beatification process began well before Zapatero came to Government,” the Spanish Cardinal, Julián Herranz, said in Rome. “Those wishing to see the ceremony as political or as having an anti-Government intent are distorting reality and telling a lie.”

But critics have pointed out that only priests aligned with Franco’s side during the war were honoured today. “Priests that were killed in Catalonia or parts of the Basque Country loyal to the Republic are not being beatified,” said Alejandro Quiroga, professor of Spanish history at Newcastle University. “It is a very selective, political reading of the whole thing.”

Families of several Basque priests, executed by Franco’s men because they supported the Government side or were Basque nationalists, have complained that their cases have been forgotten.

“Are we nothing, or what?” asked Vicenta Sagarna Uriarte, whose brother José was shot in his church by Franco’s men in 1936.

“We feel so helpless seeing the Vatican ceremony. What about our own? No one has asked for our forgiveness,” she told Spain's El País newspaper.

Some 500,000 people, mostly civilians, died during the three-year Spanish Civil War. Bands of Communist and Anarchist irregulars on the Republican side burned churches and killed thousands of priests and nuns, while Falangist death squads executed tens of thousands of Spaniards suspected of harbouring Leftist sympathies.

The conflict was seen as a dress rehearsal for World War II, with Nazi Germany supporting Franco’s side and the Soviet Union backing the Republic.

26 October 2007

Catholic Stuff, Beer, and Masturbation

Padre Pio a Fraud?—
Padre Pio a fraud! The Catholic League, as is their wont, have issued their predictable response.

Beer and Gay Sex—
The Catholic League has also gotten its panties in a twist over Folsom Street Fair and Miller Beer's sponsorship of said street fair. Who would guess that such deviant behavior would be sponsored by such a wholesome industry?

Miller later apologized, but it was not enough:
"The Miller Brewing Company and the Board of Directors of the Folsom Street Fair have both issued press statements this week apologizing for the offensive Last Supper poster that was used to promote the event. As such, they have insulted Catholics one more time. Let me be specific.

“The poster was the least offensive part of this Catholic-bashing forum. What was even more offensive was the sight of Christian symbols being sold at this Miller-sponsored fair as sex toys. The obscene and blasphemous names of these vulgar sex toys are so disgusting that no mainstream newspaper would print them. Then there was the incredible sight of a stripper and a man dressed as Jesus hoisted in cages above a Catholic church on a Sunday. This was done to provoke, taunt and insult Catholics. And who greeted everyone at the street fair? Men dressed as nuns. Had they been dressed like Al Jolson—with blackened faces—they would have been run out of town as racists.

“The Folsom Street Fair news release on this subject shows how utterly clueless its officers are. It says, ‘The mission is to create volunteer-driven leather events that provide the adult alternative lifestyle community with safe venues for self-expression while emphasizing freedom, fun, frolic and fetish and raising funds to benefit charity.’

“To which I say: If your idea of a ‘safe venue’ ‘self-expression’ and ‘fun’ includes men being beaten with chains in broad daylight, men who masturbate in the street, and men who perform oral sex on each other in public—I have pictures of these acts—then spare Catholics of your ‘fun.’ Leave us out of it and you can do to each other whatever you want.

“The only thing Miller is worried about is its logo appearing on a poster for an event it could not possibly defend. Not until it pledges not to sponsor Catholic-bashing events will the Catholic League call off its boycott and its anti-Miller PR campaign. We’re like that proverbial fly who just won’t go away.”

The part about men masturbating in the street is actually quite accurate. I went to Folsom Fair on a lark in 2002 and had the distinct pleasure of observing a man—to whom time had not been kind— with purple, throbbing, greasy member in hand, masturbating at a galloping pace in a doorway. It was gross.

24 October 2007

The Times Are A'Changin'

Starting immediately, the format of this blog is not restricted to religious studies. I've decided to turn Sacred Heart of Odin into a locus of everything that I think is interesting. Narcissism and endless jabber of personal issues/events are still strictly off limits. I welcome your comments--if indeed I have an audience...shit, man, you post comments on what interests you too.

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus—
MRSA has been in the news recently, and it is a very interesting bug—and killing more Americans than HIV/AIDS.

What makes MRSA so resistant against the penicillin family is that all penicillin-like antibiotics contain a ring called a β-lactam ring which is enables hydrolysis of such antibiotics by producing an enzyme called penicillinase. Without the β-lactam ring, the drugs are ineffective.


Natural Philosophy and the Renaissance Man—
It seems that Renaissance men are hard to come by these days. From this space in time, it seems that the intellectual giants of yesteryear (meaning pre-Renaissance) were versatile individuals, not interested in any one single subject but rather the totality of the world.

I wonder if perhaps the disappearance of the Renaissance Man is related to the Enlightenment and the subsequent development of the scientific method. (By the by, why did it take human beings so long to come up with the method anyway?) As scientific knowledge increased, specialization was a necessity. One of the cool things about natural philosophy was that it was friendly with conjecture—think Pliny's Natural History. Bummer.

07 October 2007


The New York Times reports on the controversy surrounding Evangelicals' use of Halo as a recruitment tool (emphasis mine):

The alliance of popular culture and evangelism is challenging churches much as bingo games did in the 1960s. And the question fits into a rich debate about how far churches should go to reach young people.

Far from being defensive, church leaders who support Halo — despite its “thou shalt kill” credo — celebrate it as a modern and sometimes singularly effective tool. It is crucial, they say, to reach the elusive audience of boys and young men.

Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”

Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church.

But the question arises: What price to appear relevant? Some parents, religious ethicists and pastors say that Halo may succeed at attracting youths, but that it could have a corroding influence. In providing Halo, churches are permitting access to adult-themed material that young people cannot buy on their own.

“If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a nonprofit group that assesses denominational policies. “My own take is you can do better than that.”

Daniel R. Heimbach, a professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that churches should reject Halo, in part because it associates thrill and arousal with killing.

“To justify whatever killing is involved by saying that it’s just pixels involved is an illusion,” he said.

Focus on the Family, a large evangelical organization, said it was trying to balance the game’s violent nature with its popularity and the fact that churches are using it anyway. “Internally, we’re still trying to figure out what is our official view on it,” said Lisa Anderson, a spokeswoman for the group.


David Drexler, youth director at the 200-member nondenominational Country Bible Church in Ashby, Minn., said using Halo to recruit was “the most effective thing we’ve done.”

In rural Minnesota, Mr. Drexler said, the church needs something powerful to compete against the lure of less healthy behaviors. “We have to find something that these kids are interested in doing that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol or premarital sex.” His congregation plans to double to eight its number of TVs, which would allow 32 players to compete at one time.

Among parents at the Colorado Community Church, Doug Graham, a pediatric oncologist with a 12-year-old son, said that he was not aware of the game’s M rating and that it gave him pause. He said he felt that parents should be actively involved in deciding whether minors play an M-rated game. “Every family should have a conversation about it,” he said.

Mr. Barbour, the youth pastor at the church, said the game had led to a number of internal discussions prompted by elders who complained about its violent content. Mr. Barbour recently met for several hours with the church’s pastor and successfully made his case that the game was a crucial recruiting tool.

In one letter to parents, Mr. Barbour wrote that God calls ministers to be “fishers of men.”

“Teens are our ‘fish,” he wrote. “So we’ve become creative in baiting our hooks.”

This is nuts. Desperation is a stinky perfume, as they say. And what pediatric oncologist in his right mind could still believe in God?

Other Christians think that relevance is irrelevant.


Bart reports on the Oregon-Russian-Anti-Gay-Violence connection.


CDF rules on pulling the spoon.