The Vatican’s playbook

Via AP:

Dragged deeper than ever into the clerical sex abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed.  Court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the pope has immunity as head of state, that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests weren’t employees of the Vatican, and that a 1962 document is not the “smoking gun” that provides proof of a cover-up.The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for allegedly failing to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children. The case was filed in 2004 in Kentucky by three men who claim they were abused by priests and claim negligence by the Vatican. Their attorney, William McMurry, is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country.

“This case is the only case that has been ever been filed against the Vatican which has as its sole objective to hold the Vatican accountable for all the priest sex abuse ever committed in this country,” he said in a phone interview. “There is no other defendant. There’s no bishop, no priest.”

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Benedict XVI can be questioned or secret documents subpoenaed.

Do gynos have any business selling sex toys?

Physicians already take flack from some quarters for succumbing to pharmaceutical comanies’ PR campaigns and hoisting possibly unnecessary meds on their patients. This adds an entirely new dimension to product placement in the exam room: Dr. Andrew Schienfeild of New York has a deal with a Swedish sex-toy company to sell their products through his practice. Via Details:

These days the doctor has officially allied himself with Lelo, a Swedish company that designs deluxe, aesthetically gorgeous vibrators, cock rings, and butt plugs, and he’s selling the sex toys directly to patients as part of his medical practice. (So far, though, they are not covered by insurance.) He believes that he’s the first American in his field to do so, and he feels an evangelical sense of mission about it. The way he sees it, spirited erotic exploration is as crucial to a person’s health as nutrition and exercise are. “Sex is a very important part of life,” he says. “These products help us find out what we’re capable of.”

Does “Dr. Horrible 2” have a title?

Felicia Day says yes.

The party of family values

Orange County GOP consultant Erik Brown approved a $2,000 expenditure for “meals” at a bondage-themed West Hollywood nightclub. And it might just cost Michael Steel his job:

Ratzinger is innocent because he looks like Palpatine, or something

It is totally legitimate, fair-minded, and not at all childish to post this picture so as to illustrate E.D. Kain's point.

E.D. Kain claims Ratzinger is being unfaily singled out for crticism not because three offices he saw sheilded at least three (one, two, three) pedophiles from justice, but because he is ugly. I wish I were kidding.

Why a man who is so extraordinarily similar in faith and politics to his predecessor – the much beloved John Paul II – is a question that has been bothering me for some time, and I think I’ve stumbled on the answer. I think it is entirely an aesthetic obsession which motivates Benedicts fiercest critics. Let’s face it, unlike the charismatic John Paul II, Benedict has a somewhat sinister look about him. He has aged in such a way as to make him look less the cuddly grandpa and more the evil villain; he bears an uncanny resemblance to Emperor Palpatine.

 mean no disrespect to the Holy Father in pointing this out. It isn’t exactly something he has control over, nor is it any way to judge a man’s character. But it is easy for us to subconsciously find ways to despise something we find to be ugly or flawed, and I really do think that this entirely incidental feature influences the way people think about the Pope in ways which they’re not even fully aware of. If you doubt me, just look at the pictures critics use in their posts or articles – always the least flattering they can find. And how many people have it in their heads that – unlike John Paul II – Benedict is some arch-conservative? Is there any reason for this belief beyond a dislike of the man’s face?

There’s reason for belief in Ratzinger’s “arch-conservatism” in his record. He re-approved the recitation of of the Latin mass that includes a prayer for the conversion of the Jews to Catholicism barred even celibate gay men from joining the priesthood, and his opposition to contraception is so fervent he spread falsehoods about condoms exasperating the AIDS crisis in Africa. Then, of course, he invited Anglican clergy who disapproved of LGBT-inclusion and women’s ordination to join the Catholic Church, even suspending celibacy requirements to do so.

European bishops urge rape victims to report abusers

Via HuffPo:

Swiss bishops urge victims of clerical abuse to file criminal complaints and are considering creating a national registry for pedophile priests. Danish bishops launch an investigation into decades-old claims. Austria’s senior bishop celebrates a Holy Week Mass of repentance.

A week after Pope Benedict XVI excoriated Irish bishops for gross errors of judgment in handling cases of priests who sexually abuse children, European bishops are admitting to mistakes, reaching out to victims and promising to act quickly when they learn about abuse cases. Their mea culpas and pledges to be more transparent and cooperative in the future come amid mounting public outrage over the scope of the abuse and what victims say has been a pattern of coverup by bishops and the Vatican itself to keep the cases quiet.

“It’s about improving things,” Swiss Bishops Conference spokesman Walter Mueller said Wednesday, as Swiss bishops admitted in a statement that they had underestimated the problem and are now telling victims to consider filing criminal complaints.

In Austria, Cardinal Christophe Schoenborn was to celebrate a Holy Week Mass on Wednesday evening for abuse victims in what is being billed as a “sign of repentance” just days before Easter. Schoenborn was named Vienna archbishop in 1995, tasked to clean up the mess in the diocese after Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer was forced to resign as archbishop over allegations he molested youths at a monastery in the 1970s.

Several years later, the church was again rocked by the discovery of up to 40,000 lurid images at a seminary in St. Poelten, 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Vienna, including child porn and photos of young candidates for the priesthood fondling each other and their older religious instructors. Amid renewed outrage over Europe’s sexual abuse scandals, Schoenborn announced over the weekend the creation of an independent, clergy-free commission headed by a woman to suggest ways to strengthen church guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse.

Switzerland, home of the Swiss Guard who protect the pope at the Vatican, is considering the radical idea of creating a central registry of pedophile priests to prevent them from coming into contact with children.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recently proscribed that bishops only report rapes by their underlings only if the law of their country explicitly obliges them to.

“The resources of the mind are not commensurate with its ambition”

“Intellectual Ambition,” by George Santayana:

When we consider the situation of the human mind in nature, its limited plasticity and few channels of communication with the outer world, we need not wonder that we grope for light, or that we find incoherence and instability in human systems of ideas. The wonder rather is that we have done so well, that in the chaos of sensations and passions that fills the mind we have found any leisure for self-concentration and reflection, and have succeeded in gathering even a light harvest of experience from our distracted labors. Our occasional madness is less wonderful than our occasional sanity. Relapses into dreams are to be expected in a being whose brief existence is so like a dream; but who could have been sure of this sturdy and indomitable perseverance in the work of reason in spite of all the checks and discouragements?

The resources of the mind are not commensurate with its ambition. Of the five senses, three are of little use in the formation of permanent notions: a fourth, sight, is indeed vivid and luminous, but furnishes transcripts of things so highly colored and deeply modified by the medium of sense, that a long labor of analysis and correction is needed before satisfactory conceptions can be extracted from it. For this labor, however, we are endowed with the requisite instrument. We have memory and we have certain powers of synthesis, abstraction, reproduction, invention,–in a word, we have understanding. But this faculty of understanding has hardly begun its work of deciphering the hieroglyphics of sense and framing an idea of reality, when it is crossed by another faculty–the imagination. Perceptions do not remain in the mind, as would be suggested by the trite simile of the seal and wax, passive and changeless, until time wear off their sharp edges and make them fade. No ,perceptions fall into the brain rather as seeds into a furrowed field or even as sparks into a keg of powder. Each image breeds a hundred more, sometimes slowly and subterraneously, sometimes (when a passionate train is started) with a sudden burst of fancy. The mind, exercises by its own fertility and flooded by its inner lights, has infinite trouble to keep a true reckoning of its outward perceptions. It turns from the frigid problems of observation to its own visions; it forgets to watch the courses of what should be its “pilot stars.” Indeed, were it not for the power of convention in which, by a sort of mutual cancellation of errors, the more practical and normal conceptions are enshrined, the imagination would carry men wholly away,–the best men first and the vulgar after them. Continue reading