Great minds thinking alike

This may be a unique event, this blog and the Archbishop of Canterbury (oh, all right then, and millions of other people) speak with one voice. The idea that UK Christians are being persecuted is silly.

Rowan Williams (C of E Archbishop) expressed this so well that it bears repeating:

.. told a congregation at Canterbury Cathedral that “wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness” combined with a “well-meaning and completely misplaced anxiety about giving offence to non-Christians” should not be mistaken for persecution. (in the Guardian)(

Oh, the shame

It seems that I have been channelling the Archbishop of Canterbury…..

(Or vice versa.) (If you can channel living people.) (I’m sorry, I don’t actually know the channelling rules.)

Williams said the credit crunch had been a “reality check” in a climate of unsustainable greed, and it should be used to provoke a fundamental rethink of the pursuit of wealth. It demonstrated that the country had been “going in the wrong direction” by relying on financial speculation rather than “making things”, he said.
It was “a reminder that what I think some people have called fairy gold is just that – that sooner or later you have to ask: ‘What are we making or what are we assembling or accumulating wealth for?’.” (from the Guardian)

Unsustainable greed, relying on financial speculation instead of making things, not believing in fairy gold. I spout this stuff every day.

When you find yourself agreeing completely with the Archbishop, I suppose it must be Christmas.

Muppet disestablishmentarianism

At last an opportunity to work the word antidisestablishmentarianism into everyday conversation. Well, OK, then disestablishmentarianism, but there must be Anglicans who’ll argue against Rowan Williams on this, so the magic longest-word-in-the-English-language should get a few airings over Christmas.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed himself to be pretty much in favour of disestablishing the CofE, according to the Times and the Guardian.

It seems that the Archbishop has been swinging like a pendulum do, being alternately for and against the disestablishment of the church. Now he’s edging to the side of disestablishment. From the CofE’s perspective, establishment seems to come down to whether they have the monarch as their head and whether they have to turn up at state events. I can’t see that they would lose much from a formal separation of church and state. Nor, it seems does the right-wing of the CofE.

Reform, a network of mainstream Anglican evangelicals, at odds with Williams over the divisive issues of gay clergy and women bishops, agreed that disestablishment could be a positive step.
Yesterday its spokesman, Paul Dawson, said: “There are many advantages of being an established church and to lose these would be no small thing. To become disestablished would mean, as Rowan Williams seems to be suggesting, a rethink and sharpening of the prophetic voice of the church to the nation and this would be something welcomed by many.” (from the Guardian)

If these people favour disestablishment, it seems to be because they believe they could take the CofE more easily down their militant “traditionalist” path. In which case, continued establishment looks surprisingly appealing.

Blimey, there may be a reason for liberally-minded non-believers to favour Antidisestablishmentarianism after all.

The archbishop also praises Richard Dawkins’ “panache” and appears to compare himself to Josiah Bartlett, the fictional president played by Martin Sheen in the West Wing.

Oh, and he seems to quite like the Muppets, according to the Guardian.

.. he also discloses that his favourite films are The Muppet Christmas Carol and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev. (from the Guardian)

Oddly unique combination of favourite film choices there. Muppet Christmas Carol? We’ve all heard of it but it would be difficult to squeeze it in to your Top 1000 best films, even if you’d only ever seen 100. The Tarkovsky one? IMDb it and find it’s a 1966 Kruschev-era film about an icon painter. IMDB reviews say it’s brilliantm but even its ardent fans say that it’s not exactly an easy movie to watch. For example:

It is a difficult movie to follow. One might liken it to James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake as a work of genius so monumental and complex, and so disdainful of traditional narrative form, that it requires extensive thought and study to understand it. And even after studying it, watching it repeatedly, and reading Tarkovsky’s own comments about it, one still finds it opaque in many ways. (from IMDB)

Don’t all rush out and get the DVD, then.

Medjugorje apparitions

At the same time that the Archbishop of Canterbury is boosting the claims of one religious “miracle” site – accepting “visions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes as historical fact”, the Pope is trying to put a stop to another, at Medjugorje. (Please don’t make me spell it again.) What’s the difference between Lourdes and Medjugorje?

According to Simon Caldwell, in the Spectator, the “the world-famous pilgrimage site (Medjugorje) may soon be exposed as a fraud.” The Pope’s opposition to it seems to be a factor. (H/t The Times)

A Yugoslav priest, Father Vlasic, got a nun pregnant and sent her to Germany, promising to follow and marry her. (A promise that he had no intention of keeping.) He replied to her anxious letters with typical religious bullshit. However, her landlord read the letters and sent them to the Vatican.

Six years later Father Vlasic is ‘spiritual leader’ of six children who say the Virgin Mary appears to them daily in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. But the local bishop is having none of it. The priest writes to Pope John Paul II to say that Satan is working through the bishop and to request direct intervention against him. But, worse luck, the Vatican official with copies of his love letters takes an interest in the case and sends them to the bishop in question.
Disgraced, the priest then heads for Italy where, with a new mistress, he sets up a mixed-sex religious community devoted to the apparitions and continues to party like a bad dog for the next 17 years until the Vatican official who ruined everything for him becomes Pope Benedict XVI.(from the Spectator)

Then, unsurprisingly, the shit begins to hit the fan for Father Vlasic…..

He is in big trouble, accused of heresy, schism and sexual immorality ‘aggravated by mystical motivations’, as well as ‘the diffusion of dubious doctrine, manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism and disobedience towards legitimately issued orders’

The Spectator article suggests that this about more than just dealing with one shady character.

By striking at Vlasic, the Pope is aiming a killer blow at the Medjugorje phenomenon itself.
Why would Benedict want to do this? Perhaps because the claims are not true.

That sounds as good a reason as any, were it not for the fact that false claims don’t normally cause religions much stress. How could religion survive, if it suddenly became too scrupulous about making up stories?

There’s more to the story than simple “truth”, including a lot of Bosnia-Herzogovina political jiggery-pokery. (If you want detail, read the Spectator link. There’s a limit to how much this can be paraphrased and I’m already pushing it.)

In the early days of the apparitions, Our Lady was not only partisan on the Herzegovina question but preoccupied by it and described the rebels as saints. One of them, Father Iveca Vego, soon made a nun pregnant. Was he having an affair at the time his sanctity was declared? The local bishop, Pavao Zanic, was convinced that Vlasic was puppet-master to the seers and a principal source of the messages imparted by the apparitions.

However, Medjugorje is now such an international money spinner that the Catholic Church is finding it very difficult to dismantle. All its attacks are being misinterpreted and the pilgrim dollars are still flooding in.

All the evidence indicates that the phenomenon is a calculated and cynical con. Medjugorje has grown wealthy and it is no coincidence that so have the seers.

Hmm. How unsurprised am I? They got rich from a get-rich-quick scam? Maybe God just decided they’d be freer to have daily visions if they didn’t have to fret about not having plasma TVs and BMWs.

Libby Purves linked to various Catholic and Orthodox sites with opinions about Medjugorje. Many of the sites blame the phenomenon on the devil.

A priest with the charmingly Medieval name of Father Malachi is reported as having said:

“I think Medjugorje is a Satanic hoax.”

(Ratzinger, Malachi? Was there a Catholic competition for the best Hammer Horror Tribute name? The winner got to be Pope?)

“It is a phenomenon which is absolutely diabolical, around which revolve many underground interests. Holy Mother Church, the only one able to pronounce, through the mouth of the Bishop of Mostar, has already said publicly, and officially, that the Madonna has never appeared at Medjugorje and that this whole sham is the work of the demon.” (from a link picked at random from the page full of links on Unity Publishing.)

So, while the Medjugorje believers think that Mary made a personal visit, many of their opponents think that demons intervened directly in the world.

The rest of us would just see greedy bastards. Who can, of course, only carry out their scams in the context of belief that daily supernatural intervention in the world is perfectly likely. It’s the churches that give these scams any plausibility.

All the same, it’s good to see the Catholic Church making efforts to stop at least one fraud.

Newsbiscuit (Newscookie to Americans)

Newsbiscuit has a couple of posts to interest atheists: