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Catholics denying that foetuses are people? There’s a reason for that

One thing everyone knows about the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world is that they are very hot on the sin of abortion, and asserting the humanity of unborn foetuses. Which is why it’s caused something of a stir that they’re now arguing in a case going through the courts that the unborn aren’t really people at all.


Personhood subject to legal advice

It’s hard to resist the comical and cynical vision of the church fighting aggressively to protect the unborn, right up to the point where they realise that if everyone agreed with them, it might cost them money. I imagine a priest getting a message from the lawyers in the middle of his sermon, and instantly denying everything he’s been saying. It’s a funny image. But while I have little love for Rome, I don’t think it’s entirely fair. Read More…


Devil’s Advocate – What the Romans did for us

Groupthink is a terrible thing, one of the greatest threats to critical assessment of the available evidence and one of the easiest to slip into. It’s all too appealing to surround ourselves with people who agree with us, and to settle into self-perpetuating thought patterns that are increasingly extreme and complacent because dissenting voices are filtered out. And that’s why you have to give the Roman Catholic Church a lot of credit.

DevilI think the invention of the role of Devil’s Advocate in the 16th century under Pope Sixtus V was one of the most impressive acts of critical thinking in history. It created a formal role purely to challenge and question the received wisdom. For someone to be considered for canonisation, opinions of them would have to be overwhelmingly positive, but the Devil’s Advocate would ensure that groupthink didn’t turn the process into a mere formality. Read More…

The Curious Incident of the Herald in the Night-Time

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Disc jockey, TV presenter, charity fundraiser, knight of the realm, and now alleged rapist and paedophile, it seems everybody has an opinion on Sir Jimmy Savile. Or as I suppose I should call him, devout Catholic Sir Jimmy Savile. Read More…

A plea to Catholics: Stand up for equality

I passionately believe that most people are basically decent. I know from experience that people often disagree violently with the official views of their chosen denomination. I know what it’s like to be a member of a church which often stands for things you don’t agree with, and I know what it’s like to be caught in a difficult situation where you’re caught on the hop by a surprisingly unpleasant, reactionary comment in church. There are many times I wish I’d made a point of objecting to some form of ignorance or bigotry from the pulpit, but ended up sitting tight and quietly seething.

So I hope that Catholics in England and Wales are prepared for this weekend. We know that a letter from Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, is to be read out at every Catholic church, and we know what it will say. As a result, we are also in a position to check the facts and consider the issues beforehand, rather than having to assess the situation as it arises. Read More…

Santorum’s all froth and no substance

Rick Santorum has done it again, getting into trouble while trying to pandering to his base. Here’s what he had to say on the subject of rape and abortion:

Asked by CNN’s Piers Morgan what he would do if his own daughter approached him, begging for an abortion after having been raped, Santorum explained that he would counsel her to “accept this horribly created” baby, because it was still a gift from God, even if given in a “broken” way.

“Well, you can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that that, too, could ruin her life. And this is not an easy choice, I understand that. As horrible as the way that that son or daughter and son was created, it still is her child. And whether she has that child or she doesn’t, it will always be her child, and she will always know that,” Santorum said.

“And so to embrace her and to love her and to support her and get her through this very difficult time, I’ve always, you know, I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. As you know, we have to, in lots of different aspects of our life we have horrible things happen. I can’t think of anything more horrible, but nevertheless, we have to make the best out of a bad situation and I would make the argument that that is making the best.”

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are upset that he seems to be saying that rape’s a gift from God. Read More…

Pope revealed to be Catholic

Pope Benedict XVI has been making news by stating (to no one’s great surprise, I would have thought) Rome’s opposition to gay marriage. It’s interesting enough that this unremarkable restatement of a Catholic doctrine qualifies as news, but what I found particularly revealing is the way this is stated:

He told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper “settings” and that “pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”

“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” he said

Now, if I was a cynical, snarky type, I’d point out that if everything has to revolve around family units of one man and one woman as “the fundamental cell of every society”, the Catholic church should be sorting out its own beam of compulsory priestly celibacy before worrying about the mote of permitting people who are in gay relationships anyway to have some sort of legal recognition of that relationship. And as I just did, I suppose I must be a cynical, snarky type after all. Oh well. Read More…

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