Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Angels Wanna Wear His Red Shoes

When Joseph Aloisius “Benedict XVI” Ratzinger took over that papacy from the then late Karol Józef “John Paul II” Wojtyła he metaphorically stepped into the “Shoes of the Fisherman”, and literally stepped into some handmade red-leather Italian loafers custom made for his holiest of piggies. In order to ensure that angels, or at least Saints, would want to wear his red shoes he had his predecessor buried wearing a pair, and then set about to beatify him. Karol was beatified on the 11th of May 2011, and in celebration POTUS Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

Karol preferred brown loafers while he lived, but Joseph re-instituted the traditional red loafers when he stepped into them. Unfortunately Joseph will have to give up his red shoes when he steps out of them so that another can take his place without being too crowded.

The modern papacy is shadowed by the cloud of priest sex-abuse scandals. Just yesterday another member of the conclave that would elect a new pope resigned amid accusations of “inappropriate acts” with fellow priests; at least this Cardinal is only accused of frolicking with other consenting adults (at least all that I’ve read so far). Some argue that priests in the Catholic Church are incapable of granting adult consent, and should be thought of as morally incompetent.

The pedophile priest shuffling that occurred under the watch of Karol had many people questioning his sainthood, and these were people who would not otherwise be questioning the intrinsic idea of sainthood. I personally think that pedophile priest sheltering has no bearing on the validity of Karol’s sainthood, but that is due to the trivial idea that sainthood itself is a sham.

I tend to believe that the miracle requirement for sainthood should be a major stumbling block. It turned out to be only a minor setback for Karol. Sister Marie Simon-Pierre prayed to Karol, and her Parkinson’s disease was cured, and then some 9-year-old Polish boy crippled by cancer went to Karol’s tomb, and started walking. Two miracles and Karol had Sainthood in the bag.

Now Karol is the patron saint of “World Youth Day”. Fortunately they also have Anjezë Gonxhe “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” Bojaxhiu as a co-patron saint.   Perhaps to make sure Karol does not perform any inappropriate miracles on the world’s collected youth. As far as I can tell they did not have a WYD in 2012, and may re-schedule 2013 so as not to conflict with the World’s Cup.

Joseph will still be able to wear white dresses after he steps down. I assume that he will be able to do this even between the celebrations of Labor and memorial days, but no red shoes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Crise de Foie

In today’s newsfeed I was treated to the photographic image of a young bare-chested bespectacled blond woman with the words “Crise de Foi” painted on her naked flesh. “Crise de Foie” translates from French to mean crisis of the liver; the young woman’s liver would have been under the letter “F”. While looking at the photo I was struck by how I had never before recognized the similarity of Foi (which translates as Faith), and Foie. It is as if the French have an organ assigned to Faith in much the same way that we commonly assign the blood-pumping heart organ to love.

Since today is Valentine’s Day my news feed has also been flooded with the color pink and anatomically incorrect hearts. The valentine heart is more readily recognizable as a heart than the real thing. Not being a surgeon I think it possible to mistake a heart for some other organ given only a quick glance. Imagine the crossed emotional signals that could occur if your sweetheart mistook your message of love for an enlarged appendix, a spleen, or a kidney.

If the young woman had meant liver I think she would have painted the “e” over one of her kidneys.

What kind of stylized liver could be used to readily signify faith in the same way the valentine heart signifies love? I may have to explore this question further.

The young woman who instigated the hepatic faith connection was not alone. There were several others cavorting through France’s Notre Dame cathedral. “Notre Dame” translates to “Our Lady”, but if you mangled the spelling and pronunciation well enough it would sound like “Notorious Dame”, and require no translation.

The Notorious Dames were attempting to draw attention to important feminist issues the new pope might entertain, but I'm not sure what the specific issues were.  They certainly got my attention, but I am not likely to be the next pope, and I am probably only going to draw a few cartoon livers in response. If I personally had access to the pope’s agenda I would pencil in something about abandoning all the magic mumbo-jumbo in Catholic theology, and staging a big party to celebrate.

It may be important to influence the next pope as there have historically been problems with the chosen replacement popes after a papal resignation, but I’m not sure how partially-naked adult women are supposed to influence someone who has taken the famous Catholic vow of celibacy.

Most histories of papal resignation only go back a measly 600 years to the resignation that healed the Western Schism in 1415. However, if one goes back another hundred-years-and-change to 1294 one comes upon the last pope who resigned because he was tired of the job. Pietro “Pope/Saint Celestine V” da Morrone resigned after just five months because he wanted to spend some time alone.

Pietro had also gotten himself into some bit of trouble for giving away plenary indulgences. These “get out of purgatory free cards” are apparently of great value in the afterlife, and they are usually not just given away for free. On the other hand selling indulgences is considered Simony, and Simony resulted in all sorts of bother in the Catholic Church; including a major portion of the Martin Luther bother about 200 years after Pietro’s death.

Pietro did not get to enjoy retirement the way he wanted to. He was chased down and imprisoned by agents of his successor Benedetto “Pope Boniface VIII” Gaetani . Pietro was rumored to have been treated so poorly by Benedetto that it hastened his death in 1296.

Shortly after Pietro’s death Benedetto hatched a plan to profit off of the remission of sins. He declared 1300 a jubilee year in Rome, and had the Vatican set up concession stands all around Rome. The jubilee was a big hit, and the Vatican reportedly made a mint off of their cut from the concessions.

Dante however thought this profit making from the posthumous torture racket was simony, and famously wrote Benedetto into his Inferno as a figure on the 8th level of hell stuffed head-first into one of the many baptismal fonts reserved for simonizers (sic) there. For eternity his bare feet were to be exposed to the fires of hell.

Benedetto also got himself into trouble before he died when he declared (Unam Sanctam) that all spiritual powers were under the control of the Pope, and that any king was subordinate to the Pope in this respect. King Phillip “Le Bel” IV of France was particularly miffed by this Papal Bul. He sent Sciarrillo Colonna over to fix the problem with Benedetto, but the negotiations went badly and Benedetto is rumored to have committed suicide by gnawing off his own arm.

Philip then went on to have Peitro sainted in 1313, and a few years later the black death that was sweeping through Europe would reach its peak.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Retirement Advice

When I picture “The shoes of the fisherman” I imagine hip waders.

In Utah it is customary for a retiree to announce that they will have more time for some favorite outdoor pastime without the demands of work interfering any longer. No potential endeavor is more lovingly described than fishing, but what does someone who is hanging up the tools of a fisherman as a result of his retirement do? In that case the idea of having “gone Fishin’” does not conjure the image of leisure that it would for others.

In the case of Joe Aloisius “Pope Benedict XVI” Ratzinger the terminology of fishing has additional unfortunate meanings. How can Joe talk about “Jigging some worms” or “wetting a few flys” without raising a few eyebrows?

Perhaps Joe should consider getting involved in cycling for his retirement; if his aging body cannot perch on a bike saddle he could become a cycling superfan.

 In some races cycling superfans dress up to bless or damn riders as they approach the summit of particularly steep climbs. Dieter "Didi" Senft dresses in red tights and waves a trident at struggling riders. A superfan at the Tour of California dressed as a bishop and blessed struggling riders during the tougher climbs of that race. Joe could just dust off his papal garb, and show them how it is really done.

In the south of France there is a wonderful walled city called Avignon, which boasts a generally pleasant climate, and a lovely annual Festival d'Avignon taking place there for three weeks each July. I believe the Vatican still holds a couple of leases in Avignon.

In July of 1987 (17th July) Jean-Paul “Popeye” van Poppel won Tour de France stage 17 in a photo-finish sprint with Guido Bontempi to secured the green jersey after the 239 km (149 miles) ride from Millau to Avignon. Hopefully the 24-year-old Popeye and his Superconfex-Yoko teammates took advantage of the 18th of July rest stage to see the sights of Avignon; the city of popes. This year stages 6 and 7 will rout near Avignon. Perhaps Joe will be able to ride a fishtank over to catch one of those stages.

The last pope who resigned in Rome (Gregory XII ) did so in order to convince a pope from Avignon (Benedict XIII) to also resign. Caught in the mix of resignations was a pope from Pisa (John XXIII) who was also deposed. The Catholic Church on 4 July 1415 effectively went from three popes to none, and they did not elect a new one till Angelo “Pope Gregory XII” Correr died on 18 October 1417. So for about two and a half years the papacy was Sede vacant.

Angelo worked his remaining two years of life as Bishop of Frascati, Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals and perpetual legate at Ancona. Ancona is a lovely little seaport on the Adriatic sea. As recently as 2011 the Giro d’Italia has wound its way along the Adriatic coast through Ancona, and should Joe retire there he might be able to catch a stage of that race.

Baldassarre “Pope John XXIII” Cossa was not as lucky as Angelo. He was tried and convicted of heresy, simony, schism and immorality though he was able to evade capture for a bit. Eventually imprisoned he was released only to die a few weeks later.

Pope Benedict XIII may have had the best nickname of any pope. People called him “Papa Luna”. Papa should not be confused with the other Pope Benedict XIII who was famous for repealing Pope Uraban VIII’s worldwide ban on smoking, and cavorting with the mystic Serafina di Dio (Who has since been cannonized).

Papa Luna was not living in Avignon when he was deposed.  He spent his retirement in the Spanish “City in the Sea”; Peñíscola. In 1981 Stage 11 (2 May) of the Vuelta a España would bring Jesus to the Mediterranean coastal town. The Spanish sprinter Jesús Suárez Cueva would win that stage. Stage 12 that left Peñíscola for Esparraguera the next day would be taken by the French rider Frédéric Vichot.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Just not sayinn'

The Mormon Church has spoken on the gays in scouting issue. This is an important voice since, as a result of the hundred year-old BSA-LDS charter, the Mormon church is far-and-away the largest single group sponsoring the BSA. If the influence of the Mormon Church in scouting was much greater the BSA would ostensibly be a Mormon organization. So the official voice of the Mormon Church demands more BS of America attention than any other single voice.

Official LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy issued two communiqués concerning the BSA decision yesterday. Calling it an “Important Moral Issue” the Church officially declared that: “it has not commented on it”. I guess that is one way to keep the responsibility for maintaining the illusion of objective morality from backfiring.

In order to fill the spiritual leadership gaps the Church leadership creates the organization relies on well organized apologist groups like FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research), the Deseret News, the editorial staff of the Salt Lake Tribune, and when all that fails simple personal testimony. Even Mitt Romney has attempted to provide guidance on this issue where his Church has failed.

“I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” -- Mitt Romney 1994

However, in a shocking move, the LDS Church has distanced itself from its normal sources of non-obfuscated spiritual guidance.

“We caution others not to speculate about our position or to assume that individual Latter-day Saints inside or outside the Scouting movement speak for the church.” – Official LDS church communication 6 February 2013 (church spokesman Michael Purdy)

To make matters more confusing the LDS church has been promoting the idea of “chaste” gays. The name implies one thing, but widely published examples of it describe something else. One “chaste” gay, named Weed, has been a marquee speaker at gay-Mormon and apologist events. He describes himself as having a “healthy” monogamous  heterosexual sexlife, and a considerable level of physical attraction to his female wife; he says that he has never romantically touched a man in any way, and thinks it would be wrong (un-chased) under any circumstances to do so. In other words the term “chaste gay” means neither.

Given this level of message confusion BSA spokesman Deron Smith officially clarified the central governing body of the BSA’s stance on “chaste gays” in scouting by stating: "You raise a hypothetical question which we can't answer without the benefit of knowing the specific details.".

In other words: “If no-one knows you are gay or if they did would not really believe you anyway it may be OK to be in the BSA.

This appearance over substance approach has allowed many atheist boys and parents to participate in the BSA. The participants must simply lie in order to conform to the BSA code of honor. It may even be easier for an atheist scout to get away with lying as the scouts do not demand constant faith, and even the idea of “Proof of Faith” is an oxymoron. The atheist can feign a temporary “conversion moment” when asked the probing questions about spirituality and faith which demand appropriate answers for a scout to advance to some levels of scouting.

So the atheist scout can participate as long as they are a “Faith identifying Atheist”. This is analogous to the closeted gay or the even more convoluted “Chaste Gay”.

The entire “gays in the BSA” question is rooted in conflicting interpretations of core scouting principles. The “atheists in the BSA” question is clearly and categorically stated in the core documents of the BSA, and is itself a core principal.

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” – BSA Article 3

The bigotry towards atheists is central to the BSA core values. There is no room to maneuver on the atheist issue without the BSA re-witting its central policy documentation. Nobody can just receive enlightenment, and interpret the written guidelines differently because there it is, clearly stated for everyone to see.

Though I support in principal the idea that gays should be allowed into the BSA it is clear that any individual gay parent or scout (and others of any orientation) who join scouts is bolstering the idea that it is OK to discriminate against their faithless neighbors.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dub Step Forward

Apparently the BS of America central governing body needs more time to make the decision about some more equality in its ranks. It is important to point out that this does not mean that they are even considering equality for you or your children. Atheists will continue to be excluded, in accordance with  national policy, from scouting.

For that matter gay people will continue to be excluded from scouting. What is being considered is only the ability to let local scouting troops make their own decisions about allowing gays to participate. If any particular troop wishes to engage in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation they will continue to be free to do so. Those that wish to ignore sexual orientation as a precondition to participation will now be relieved of the burden of also ignoring the national organization when doing so.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the national leadership of the BS of America was actually considering the idea of simply letting in any young person who wants to participate in their organization? The charter granted the Boy Scouts of America in section 36 of the United States Code (chapter 309 “BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA”) describes the purpose of the organization as:

“The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues”--36 USC 309.02

There is nothing in the charter about the increasingly demanding parallel purpose of pre-selecting boys who believe in the correct local deity or whom display the correct sexual orientation. The religious and sexual requirements are add-ons meant to enhance the seemingly secular organization described in the federal charter.

The BSA itself presents a false secular front when it describes itself:

"The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness." --"About the BSA"

The BSA statement even sidesteps the central gender-bias of the Boy Scouts by referring to its participants using the gender-neutral "Young People". 

The sexual orientation ban appears to have only been strictly codified in 1991, and re-stated in the middle of last year.

The ban on you and your children is based on the 100-year-old bigotry stated in the core belief that your kids cannot become the best kind of citizen since they do not believe in god.

Should the limp decision by the Boy Scouts of America result in more participation it will not be a step forward for those kids who are still excluded; who are not just excluded but defined as sub-citizens by BSA core principles. Perhaps gay kids, or kids of gay parents, or gay parents themselves, will get to feel the thrill that some of their homophobic counterparts feel today when classifying gays as unable to be full members of society.

Is it really progress to have people with a greater diversity of sexual orientations rallying behind a banner that describes our kids as “less than” anything?

No, it isn’t.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Home Teaching

The following post contains various conflicting elements of perhaps poorly-reported testimony, and none of it should be taken as representing independently validated fact.

Last August (the 2nd) LDS Branch President Efrey Guzman (age 46) knocked on the door of a Millcreek Utah home. It is not uncommon for members of the LDS faith to knock on doors. In addition to the missionaries there are home teachers, and the somewhat regular random fund drive. Perhaps Efrey was acting as a home teacher as he may have had an interesting lesson he wanted to impress upon the occupants of the home.

The occupants of the home apparently knew Efrey by the name of “Frank”. The last time the woman whose house it was, or her 20-year-old son, had seen Frank he was fondling the then 12-year-old daughter in the living room. I assume the mother was attempting to explain that her failure to report the fondling incident was not an invitation to return to the home for additional heavy petting sessions with her daughter when Efrey forced his way into their home while screaming the daughter’s name.

A LDS branch is an organization that is smaller than a ward, or which is organized around the specific identifying features of its members which would not in-and-of themselves prevent the members from participating in the regular district authority structure. When branches get large enough they often become a ward, and the leader is then referred to as a Bishop. Efrey was president of a Spanish-language branch in Sandy Utah. Sandy is a few miles to the south of Millcreek.

Once inside the home Efrey(allegedly) placed his hand over the Mother’s mouth, tore open her blouse, grabbed her breast, and began undoing his pants.

Interestingly the Woman had recently moved into her home because it was a nice crime-free neighborhood. The house was about a half a block down the street from the state headquarters of the Girl Scouts.

Unlike their close ties to the Boy Scouts the LDS church has very little involvement with the Girl Scouts. Maintenance of this distance is facilitated by competition for the attention of young women between the LDS “Young Women’s group” and the Girl Scouts. In some wards the distance is filled with vitriol. Sometimes it is blamed on the refusal of the Girl Scouts of America to unanimously denounce planned parenthood, sometimes it is attributed to the Girl Scout’s stance on allowing lesbians to participate, and often it is attributed to the relative importance of boys and girls in the structure of the LDS church. I don’t think there are any official pronouncements on this, but there are so few pronouncements by the LDS church on those things that affect the lives of its members.

One of the major scriptural reasons given for the lack of interest the LDS church has for the Girl Scouts is that they allow atheists into its ranks. This prevents the Scout organization from replacing the Young Women’s Group as it does not cover goal#1: “to help each girl become personally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ"

It was perhaps a mirror to the relative importance of boys and girls in the Church in which he had such an important calling, but shortly after the 20-year-old son entered the room with two adults in various stages of undress Efrey turned all his attention to the boy.

Somehow, and the descriptions of the alleged incident do not make this clear, through a process of jumping and biting and arms and legs and stomachs, Efrey’s mouth found its way to the young man’s penis. He bit and tugged, and nearly severed it; extensive reconstructive surgery was required.

In front of a Judge yesterday the three victims’ stories have matched up well enough for Efrey to stand trial. He has been in Salt Lake County lockup on $100,000.00 bail since August 8th.

Efrey was delivered to lockup covered in severe bite-marks, and complaining about being held hostage by the family of (allegedly) amateur cannibals who savaged him as he was trying to break free.

Additional testimony suggests that Efrey did not arrive at the home unannounced, and that he had been flagged down by the grandmother of the wounded boy, the girl, and a neighbor who knew him. The girl ran away and started screaming from her house for help. The neighbor then asked Efrey to go to the house and help.

Efrey’s story was apparently shy on details about how the boy received his wound to his little Efrey.

Friday, February 1, 2013

BS of America

If the BS of America decides to “allow” gays into its ranks it will do so only as the result of disconnected local actions. Local leaders will be free to kick boys out, or refuse them advancement if they are not heterosexual. Since this announcement comes on the heels of the huge release (over 14,000 pages) of documented evidence of sexual misconduct between scout leaders and scouts it begs the question of what burden of proof for homosexuality the national BSA will require of those local troops that choose to continue the practices of discrimination.

The Boy Scouts of America maintains the veneer of a secular organization, but almost three quarters of all the boy scout troops in the US are “chartered” to religious organizations. One third of all the troops in the US are chartered to the LDS Church alone. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the charter drawn up between the BSA and the Mormons.

In 1912 boy scout founder Sir Robert Baden Powell traveled to the US across the frigid February Atlantic. He then traveled around the US accompanied by James West to help develop the Boy Scouts of America in the image of his English scouting group.

On the long boat ride the aging bachelor Sir Robert (55) met and wooed a young heiress by the name of Olave (23). By October they were married. Shortly after they moved in together to a large house purchased by Olave’s parents Sir Robert began complaining of terrible headaches which were diagnosed as psychosomatic. When he moved out of his marriage bed to sleep in another part of the house the headaches went away.

It is interesting how Sir Robert’s cure for his headaches echos some of the cures he recommended for a boy’s desire to engage in “self-abuse” . He published the following in the seminal boy scout book called “Scouting for Boys” published in 1908. Apparently he had sent a longer and more detailed set of self-abuse instructions to the printer, but they had refused to print it, so this is an edited down version:

“Sometimes the desire is brought on by indigestion, or from eating too rich food, or from constipation or from sleeping in too warm a bed with too many blankets. It can therefore be cured by correcting these, and by bathing once in cold water, or by exercising the upper part of the body by arm exercises, boxing etc.” – Sir Robert Baden Powell from “Scouting for Boys” 1914 

The rumors of Sir Roberts homosexuality, his long-term relationship with Kenneth MacLaren, the hints at pedophilia, all remain only rumors decades after his death in 1941. It would certainly be awkward for the institution of British Knighthood if evidence of this were produced; that institution is still reeling from concrete allegations of pedophilia and sexual predation from within its ranks.

The association of Sir Robert and the Boy Scouts to fascism is not the stuff of rumors. Robert spoke glowingly of Mein Kampf and Benito Mussolini.

“Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc.” -- Baden Powell diary 1939

England's intelligence agency -MI5- released files in 2010 that describe a Sir Robert eager to align his scouts with the Jugend (Hitler Youth) movement. Robert personally expressed disappointment with the “socialist press when our boys had appeared in uniform at a Fascist Demonstration in Germany”. Robert expressed a desire to meet with Hitler and went so far as to meet with the German ambassador; the Nazi ambassador wrote glowingly of Sir Robert’s personality.

Some of the first badges of the boy scouts had swastikas on them. Boy Scout apologists have long stated that Sir Robert was unaware of the connection between swastikas and the Nazis. I don’t know if that story has changed in the aftermath of the MI5 file release.

Shortly after the Nazi-courting began the octogenarian Sir Robert left England to live in a small shack in Africa owned by his secretary Eric George Sherbrooke Walker. It was in Africa that Sir Robert passed away at the age of 83. Of most of the Nazi-courting happened over two decades after the BSA had established the special charter with the Mormon Church.

James West, who traveled through America with Sir Robert, is not rumored to have had a romantic relationship with him. He was, however, instrumental in shaping the BS of America. He personally pushed for inclusion of policy statements in high-order Scouting documents, like the BSA constitution. He was personally responsible for crafting article 3:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” – Article 3 of the Boy Scout Constitution

He was also undoubtedly responsible for crafting portions of the charter given to the Mormon church. This charter allows the church to choose leaders, types of activities, and mechanisms for advancement based on church doctrine. The LDS church essentially morphed their Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association into a BSA structure, using it as an augmentation for their Aaronic priesthood. In fact the special LDS-BSA charter Jamboree patch has the words “Duty”, “To God”, “Honor”, “Preisthood” encircling a picture of the Salt Lake Mormon Temple.

It is clear when scanning the LDS-BSA scouting handbook on the official LDS website (LDS.org) that the LDS charter is distinct from BSA as a whole. Organizational duties are organized according to the rigid church authority framework.

“Each Scouting unit should be led by a young man who is nominated by the bishopric and sustained by the quorum members.” – Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States Revised June 2012

The LDS scouting handbook also contains directions for “two-deep” leadership. In this section it is clear that adults should not be left alone with Boy scouts, and even goes so far as to spell out that “Adult leaders must respect the privacy of youth in situations such as changing clothes and taking showers at camp, and intrude only when health and safety require doing so. Adults should also protect their own privacy in similar situations.”.

The embedding of BSA into the LDS church is one of the reasons why sexual abuse allegations against the Mormon Church are linked to allegations of abuse in Scouting.

So the Scouts encapsulate much of what is wrong with America: Fascism, Pedophilia, Intolerance, Bigotry…How long does the list have to be in order for sensitive Americans to be done with scouts?