Sunday, 29 March 2015

Dutch Catholics Vindictively Castrated Abused Boys.

Harreveld Catholic boys home, Netherlands, were at least ten boys were abused by monks then vindictively castrated.
Most people are probably familiar with the way the Catholic Church used to routinely castrate choir boys before puberty to prevent their voices breaking so they could provide the 'female' voices in cathedral choirs. Obviously women couldn't be allowed in church choirs because the Bible forbade women to speak in church:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

So suitable boys, usually those from poor families who had entrusted their children to the care of the church as de facto slaves, and whose sole purpose in life was to sing in the choir, were unceremoniously castrated (in the days before anaesthetics or any understanding of aseptic techniques) rather like a race-horse owner will geld a racehorse to make it perform better. The last such 'castrato' retired in 1956, the practice having been banned in 1902.

You might be tempted to think that the practice was banned because the Catholic Church had adopted some of the enlightened humanism which was becoming more influential in European culture at the end of the 19th-century what with all the scientific progress we were making, but the truth is probably more to do with the increasing rejection of Church dogma and less inclination to be deferential and allow the Church to get away with its traditional abuses.

In fact, the Catholic Church has been fighting a desperate rearguard action to resists the European Enlightenment and scientific progress at every turn and cling on to its medieval dogmas, social stratification, autocratic principles and fundamental racism and has only ever bowed to the pressure of public opinion when it began to threaten its income and drive people away in disgust, just as it's doing now in respect of gay and transgender rights, women's rights and, eventually, the right to effective family planning.

It stopped castrating boys not because it suddenly realised it had been wrong all along and it was an unacceptable abuse of the children's fundamental rights, or because treating the children of poor people as animals rather than human beings was wrong, but because it thought it might cost them members and money.

How do we know this?

We know it because the practice was continued in at least one branch of the Catholic Church - the Dutch Catholic Church. Here it was used late into the 1950s in at least one Catholic boarding school as a punishment for reporting sexual abuse by the monks and as a deterrent to others against doing the same. To compound this abuse of human rights, the Catholic Church then appears to have been complicit in an attempt to cover this up.

In 2012, the investigative journalist, Joep Dohmen, uncovered the case of Henk Heithuis who was castrated in St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel, aged 20 (then legally still a minor under Dutch law). In 1956 he had reported two monks to the police for sexually abusing him at the Roman Catholic Harreveld boarding school. The monks were prosecuted and convicted but Henk was taken by the police to a Catholic-run psychiatric hospital where he was declared to be homosexual. The main abuser had been the brother superior, "Gregorius". Although no written consent has ever been produced, Heithuis was apparently castrated 'at his own request'. He died in a car accident in 1958.

Wim Deetman
Further investigation found 'strong indications' of ten other such vindictive castrations. All of the victims, if still alive, would now be old men and were from a generation where being castrated for 'being homosexual' in what was then a deeply conservative culture, would carry an enormous stigma. Who is going to take the word of a 'homosexual' against that of a 'man of God' in a culture where victims of this sort were assumed to have been to blame for leading the poor, celibate priest astray? A 'defence, incidentally, which is still tried today in places.

Henk's case was reported to the the Deetman Commission, which had been set up by the Catholic Church (sic) to investigate cases of abuse by Catholic clerics, by a family friend, the sculptor, Cornelius Rogge, who testified to having seen for himself the evidence of the castration, but the evidence was ignored and the case was omitted from the final report. Although the Deetman Commission received some 1,800 reports detailing 'tens of thousands' of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics in Holland since 1945, it failed to include anything about the Heithuis case or follow up the reports of the other cases of punitive castration carried out on Harreveld boys.

Victor Marijnen, leading Catholic politician who was complicit in the abuses and tried to secure a royal pardon for the abusers.
Minutes released in 2012 show that the government was aware of these abuses, government inspectors being present at the castrations. The minutes also show that those running the Catholic boys home decided there was no reason to involve the boys parents in the decisions to castrate their children. The chairman of the Harreveld boys' home was the late Victor Marijnen, a leading member of the Catholic People's Party (KVP), later to become Dutch Prime Minister, and, at the time, vice-chairman of the Dutch Catholic child protection agency (sic). Marijnen died in 1976.

Dohmen has since uncovered evidence that Marijnen personally intervened to try to secure a royal pardon for Gregorius and other convicted abusers from Harreveld by writing directly to the Queen on their behalf. This intervention, and the existence of this letter, were also omitted from the Deetman Report.

So how does this have any impact on the Deetman Commission that they should appear to have turned a blind eye to some of the worst abuses?

Victor Marijnen's KVP later merged with several Protestant parties to become the Christian Democrats (CDA), the party to which the chairman of the Deetman Commission, Wim Deetman, belongs. It would have been enormously embarrassing to show a direct political connection between the Deetman Commission chairman and the leading Catholic politician who not only knew of the abuse and did nothing about it but actively tried to defend the abusers and secure a royal pardon for them.

But, as Robert Chesal for the Guardian suggested, there may be an even deeper, more sinister reason:

But this may be too narrow a view. The bigger picture is this: Marijnen was just one member of a wider elite of Catholic notables who wielded vast power in the 1950s. They were captains of industry, chairmen of commissions, judges, high-ranking civil servants and politicians. They could reign supreme in Catholic circles thanks to the rigidity of Dutch society back then.

All of public and private life was organised around the church you belonged to. If you were Catholic, you married, shopped and voted Catholic. You knew, unquestioningly, what school you would attend and what clubs you could join. Dirty laundry was never aired in public, certainly not outside your religious community. And in this setting, a small group of men, the old boys' network that Marijnen belonged to, could hush up the abuse at Harreveld and other Roman Catholic institutions. In short, the Harreveld castration story reveals collusion between institutions, bishops, politicians, the police and the justice system that enabled sexual abuse in the church to continue unpunished for decades on end.

It's now clear that the critics were right when they complained that a church-installed commission of inquiry could not, or would not, get to the bottom of the abuse scandal. There must now be an impartial inquiry whose integrity is beyond doubt. Only parliament can fulfil this role. And perhaps the first witness called to testify under oath should be Wim Deetman himself.


But should we really be surprised by the moral standards of people brought up to regard the Bible as the ultimate source of morals when it has nothing whatever to say about child abuse or a lower age at which a child can be regarded as able to take part in consensual sexual activity? This same Bible endorses slavery and racism, summary execution without trial and celebrates genocide and land theft. It sees nothing wrong with selling daughters as sex slaves, stoning disobedient children to death, or rape as a means of securing a wife, who must then remain the obedient and compliant property of her rapist. The Bible is far more concerned with securing obedience to the priesthood and to the rulers and with maintaining rigid hierarchies in society, with the priests sitting alongside the autocratic despots at the top table to be feted by the lower orders.

Treating vulnerable children as merely the recreational playthings of predatory priests who maintain a front of sanctimonious piety as an excuse to meddle in all aspects of our lives, is only to be expected of people who go into the priesthood for the power and privileges it gives them, and for a superstition which regards life as merely a rehearsal and wrong done to others as something that a few muttered spells and magic hand movements can set aside, without needing to bother with making amends to those wronged. And what's wrong with a little victim blaming when your superstition tells you that they are all unworthy sinners who are probably going to Hell anyway?

With this repugnant creed to give them an air of smug moral superiority, these vile people feel entitled to condemn us humanists as immoral as we drag them kicking and screaming and hurling curses at us, out of their early Medieval barbarity into the 21st-century and require them to behave like decent, civilised people.


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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Moral Compass - The Catholic Church and Excommunication

Fr. Jose Mercau, Excommunicated
Last November, Pope Francis defrocked and excommunicated a convicted paedophile priest from Argentina. Of course, many priests have been excommunicated by the Catholic Church before, but the case of Fr. Jose Mercau was unusual; he is one of the only Catholic priests to have been excommunicated for sexual abuse (technically rape) of a minor.

Pope Francis was apparently trying to convince the world that the Catholic Church had recognised the error of its ways and would no longer tolerate, facilitate and protect priests and nuns who abused children and vulnerable adults and now took a dim view of these previously accepted clerical recreational pass-times.

More Fascist Catholics

Fr. Josef Tiso with his friend and role model, Adolf Hitler
In addition to their close involvement in creating the first fascist state in Europe in Portugal, and their support for Italian and Spanish fascism, the Catholic Church was actively involved in another even more extreme fascist regime in Slovakia.

Unlike Portugal and Spain which stayed out of World War II and have no history of sending Jews to Hitler's slave labour and death camps, Slovakia, under the leadership of a Catholic priest and fascist dictator, Fr. Josef Tiso, enthusiastically shipped around 60% of Slovakian Jews (over 52,000 of the population of 89,000) to the death camps, mostly Auschwitz.

Fr. Tiso had been trained at a Viennese seminary and after spending a period as an assistant priest was appointed Spiritual director of one of Slovakia's largest seminaries, whereupon he started meddling in Slovak politics, joined the fascist party and took over the role of editor of Slovak newspaper in which he wrote a number of extreme antisemitica articles.

He quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the fascist Slovak People's Party and set about shifting it even further to the right, bringing it into line with the German Nazi Party, based on clerical nationalism and right-wing, anti-democratic, openly racist and socially stratified Catholicism. When German troops occupied Czechoslovak Sudetenland in 1938 and then the whole of Czechoslovak a short time later, Tiso enthusiastically joined forces with the Nazi Party and was installed as the puppet dictator of Slovakia.

It is interesting how this little Catholic priest Tiso is sending us the Jews!

At this point, 16 of the 63 member Slovak Parliament were Catholic priests. It quickly set about introducing more and more repressive anti-semitic legislation and became the first country to begin exporting Jews to Germany to be used as slave labour before being exterminated in the death camps, effectively starting the Holocaust.

Officially, Tiso claimed the Jews were being sent to Germany where the kind Fürer was setting them up in a state of their own. He dismissed the letters he received from a Polish priest telling him what was really happening as lies and waved aside the fact that Eichmann had refused to allow a delegation to check on the welfare of exported Jews (because they were nearly all dead).

Tiso was indiscriminate in who fell victim to his genocide, exporting even neighbours, friends and colleagues, including an early supporter, Fülöp Faith, who had supported and welcomed his 1923 election victory and had written admiringly about him with, "Individual men make not only civic but national history."

As the Nazi regime began to disintegrate, with the Red Army steamrollering across the Hungarian Plain towards the Slovak border, the Pope's Italian fascist friend Mussolini being overthrown and kicked to death in a popular revolt and Allied forces advancing on Rome from the south, the Vatican suddenly announced that Tiso had 'retired' from his position as monsignor to the Vatican, just as the Slovak National Uprising against the fascists began.

Not for the first time was the Vatican to try to distance itself from an especially unpleasant ally as soon as it looked like they had backed a loser, and to begin to position itself to favour the winners with an ingratiating smirk, a welcoming hand and protestations of ignorance, as though the very idea that it had ever supported the other side was ludicrous, and anyway they wouldn't have done so if they had known what they were up to. Honest, gov! As God is my witness! Would I lie to you?

After liberation, Tiso went into hiding but was arrested by American forces in June 1945. He was hanged for treason in 1947.

Throughout his career, Josef Tiso had remained a Catholic priest. At no point did the Catholic Church seek to restrain or sanction him and never was a word spoke against him, at least in public. He was of course, like the entire Catholic German Nazi High Command, the entire Catholic fascist leadership in Portugal and Spain, or the devoutly Catholic leaders of the many odious right-wing regimes in Latin America, the Philippines and elsewhere, never excommunicated by the Vatican for his crimes against humanity, including genocide, which, unlike aborting the results of rape, or getting a divorce, is not considered serious enough.


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Mother Teresa and the Paedophile Priest

Fr. Donald McGuire, Jesuit, serial paedophile and spiritual advisor to Mother Teresa
Catholicism's favourite new demi-saint, "The Blessed" Teresa of Calcutta, was a friend of a paedophile priest and intervened to get him reinstated in his parish, where he subsequently carried on with his predatory paedophilia, sexually abusing more boys before finally being arrested and imprisoned.

This was revealed in papers leaked to the San Francisco newspaper, SF Weekly in January 2012.

The priest in question was Fr. Donald McGuire, currently serving a 25 year sentence for what the judge described as:

[P]articularly detestable because he abused the trust of parents and had perversely taken advantage of their children. [His Actions were] abhorrent, unacceptable, and‘a very, very serious sin.

USA District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer
(quoted in Chicago Sun Times online, February 11th, 2009)

This sentence exceeded federal guidelines for sentencing for these offences because Judge Pallmeyer felt the crimes were exceptionally serious.

It transpired that Fr. McGuire, who had been closely associated with Mother Teresa since 1981 and had been appointed her confessor and spiritual advisor, had been suspended and sent for psychiatric assessment following his abuse of a young boy in 1994. In her letter to Fr. McGuire's Jesuit superior, Mother Teresa acknowledged that she knew of his crimes but still pleaded for Fr. McGuire to be reinstated as a parish priest.

I understand how grave is the scandal touching the priesthood in the USA and how careful we must be to guard the purity [sic] and reputation of that priesthood... I must say, however, that I have confidence and trust in Fr. McGuire and wish to see his vital ministry resume as soon as possible.

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu
(Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

McGuire, of course, immediately resumed his predation on young boys.

As with very many other senior church figures, what characterizes Mother Teresa's intervention is a concern only for the predatory priests and defending the reputation of the church. There is little or no regard nor compassion for the victims of these unrestrained predators operating under cover of a priesthood in a church that acted more like facilitators of abuse and providers of their victims, rather than guardians of vulnerable people in their care.

It is very clear that there was little or no vetting of people who obviously went into the priesthood for the opportunities it provided to practice their depravity disguised as people who could be trusted, and little concern, even when they were known about, to prevent these abuses continuing.

And these people still lay claim to be the guardians of society's morals, to set standards of behaviour for the rest of us, to be consulted over matters of ethics and law, and to meddle freely in the private lives or others, whether wanted or not. Yet we see time and again that the piety they put on display is a sham; a cover to hide under. There is no belief in a god of honesty and integrity who condemns abuse of children and will one day hold their abusers to account.

If we didn't now take it so much for granted, this nauseating hypocrisy would be shocking. As it is, people now barely raise an eyebrow when another priest is caught abusing a child or a bishop or cardinal is found to have covered it up, and avoided compensating their victims by financial sleight of hand and legal maneuvering.

And no-one bats an eyelid when a paedophile-defending nun, who systematically deprived dying people of effective pain relief in the perverted belief that Jesus would appreciate it, gets fast-tracked to beatification.

If Pope Francis is serious about atoning for the Catholic Church's crimes, then he could make a start by reversing the beatification of this repugnant nun and apologising to the families of her victims. And yet he hasn't even told her order, the Missionaries of Mercy, to repay the stolen money she accepted from people like Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier of Haiti and convicted fraudster, Charles Keating to stuff into her order's bank account while her nuns begged for food on the streets of Calcutta to feed her dying victims.


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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Even Monkeyflowers Ridicule Creationists

M. lewisii (A), an F1 hybrid (B), M. cardinalis (C), and examples of variation in floral traits found in F2 hybrids (D–L).
Pollinator preference and the evolution of floral traits in monkeyflowers (Mimulus)

Imagine for a moment a species of flowering plant with a three important genes, each of which has two different alleles. Let's say Gene A which can be A1 or A2, gene B which can be B1 or B2 and gene C which can be C1 or C2. Gene A determining flower shape, gene B determining flower colour and gene C determining how much nectar the flower produces.

Now imagine two different pollinators which transfer pollen from one flower to another while gathering nectar, one having a preference for one shape and colour and the other having a preference for a different colour and more nectar.

It doesn't take a genius to work out what will happen. The flowers with the alleles which attract one pollinator are much more likely to pollinate other flowers with those same alleles and those with the other alleles will be much more likely to pollinate the flowers with these alleles.

In effect, there will be a premating or 'prezygotic' barrier to cross-pollination between plants with different combinations of alleles and selection pressure against permutations of alleles

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Seeing Evidence Of Inept Design

Müller cells separate between wavelengths to improve day vision with minimal effect upon night vision : Nature Communications : Nature Publishing Group

Although they will probably deny it, even creationists must be aware of the inept design that is the vertebrate eye where the retina is wired backwards, so the nerves from the photoreceptor have to travel towards the source of light then across the surface of the retina to join up with the main optic nerve and finally back down through the retina, causing the 'blind spot' - an area of the retina where light doesn't register.

Our neural circuitry has to infill this area for us so we don't notice it. Consequently, there is a small risk that we won't notice pieces of grit, small flies and other foreign bodies that get in our eyes, and the nerves going in the 'wrong' direction inevitably create a barrier for the light to get through.

In effect, the photoreceptors are are actually shielded by their circuitry. It's like the designer of a digital camera putting all the wiring and processors between the lens and the detector. Creationists call this 'intelligent'.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Catholicism's New York Meltdown

St Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York, USA
Patric D’Arcy Is N.Y. Archdiocese’s Only New Priest - NYTimes.com

I came across this while researching for another blog and it illustrates just how low Catholic fortunes have sunk in New York since the world-wide scandals of physical and sexual abuses of minors and other vulnerable people began to hit the Church.

In 2012, the Catholic Church in New York ordained a priest by the name of Patric D'Arcy. Nothing remarkable in that you might think.

However, he was the only one to be ordained in that year. In the 1960s the average was somewhere

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mother Teresa's Fake Miracle

On the subject of the Catholic Church's faked miracles, in the style of a phony televangelist or 'faith healer' fraudster, we have the example of the faked Mother Teresa 'miracle' which was used as evidence to support her accelerated beatification by the Vatican when poor old Pope John Paul II was in his dotage and had been reduced to reading prepared speeches in an almost inaudible voice.

Mother Teresa (real name, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu) head and absolute ruler of the 'Missionaries of Charity' order had been carefully building up a reputation for caring for the poor sick and dying when in reality, they had been merely collecting them together in missions where they could be denied effective pain relief and given almost no medical care because Mother Teresa had an obsession with pain and suffering, believing in some perverted way that being made to suffer like Jesus did was a privilege, or 'the kiss of Jesus' as she called it. Meanwhile, the vast amount they collected in donations was amassed in bank accounts whilst Mother Teresa jetted around the world first class and, when in pain herself, booking into the top American hospitals to get the best cardiac care available rather than entrusting her care to her own order's tender mercies.

See How Christians Lie To Us - Birth Of A Myth and How Christians Lie To Us - Fact And Fiction for details of how the myth of Mother Teresa and the fiction of the good works her order was doing was created almost out of thin air, including testimonies of many people who worked with her.

The final piece the Vatican needed to fast-track this beatification was an authenticated post-death miracle attributable to her, showing how she could intercede with God directly and cause the laws of nature to be set aside, so causing things to happen for which there could be no scientific explanation.

Monica Besra
Miracle of miracles! This was dutifully supplied by the nuns of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta (Kolkata), India. According to their 34,000 page submission, on the first anniversary of her death, a poor peasant woman named Monica Besra had come to them for assistance suffering from acute abdominal pains which she said was caused by a cancerous tumour. They then placed a photograph of Mother Teresa and a locket over the pain, which promptly went away, along with the tumour. Quite why they chose this novel and untested method of treating a painful abdominal tumour was never explained.

The facts however were slightly different. Monica Besra had been treated at the government-run hospital in Balurghat where an ultrasound investigation had revealed a tuberculous mass (not a cancer) on one of her ovaries for which she was treated, according to the hospital's records, by Dr.Tarun Kumar Biwas and Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, a gynaecologist. After leaving hospital her care was continued as an outpatient at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital until she was discharged, fully cured in March 1999, a final ultrasound scan showing no trace of the tumour. The treatment and cure were perfectly straightforward and Monica's condition progressed exactly as expected.

The hospital's superintendent handed Monica Besra's entire medical records, including the ultrasound scans, details of medication and doctors notes detailing a perfectly normal treatment and cure, to Sister Betta (sic) of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, who appears to have promptly lost them. After first claiming that they had misplaced these records, the Missionaries of Charity then changed their story and now claim they were never given them, simply denying in best theological tradition, the mass of evidence to the contrary. Bearing false witness would appear not to be regarded as a sin by these devout Catholic nuns.

Then another miracle happened. Although Monica Besra is illiterate and speaks only her local dialect with a smattering of Bengali and English, never the less she was able to prepare a statement in perfect English and which revealed details of Catholic doctrine to which she could never have been privy, to be handed by one of the sisters to Brian Kolodiejchuk who was investigating the claims on behalf of the Vatican.

Along with this miracle, several statements by 'doctors' from the hospitals which treated Monica certifying that her recovery was miraculous and could not be explained by science, also appeared amongst the 34,000 pages. The only slight problem was that the hospitals have no record of ever having had doctors with those names working for them and attempts to trace them have all been unsuccessful. The entire 34,000 pages of evidence supplied to the Vatican by the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata contain not a single word from any of the medical staff actually involved in Monica Besra's treatment, her entire medical records now having disappeared, presumed destroyed, the last person known to have handled them being Sister Betta (sic) who refuses to comment when asked about them. Meanwhile, protestations by Dr. Ranjan Mustafi that her condition was not cancerous, was curable and was cured by him and the staff at Balurghat Hospital using perfectly standard medicines and procedures went unheeded.

My wife did feel less pain one night when she used the locket, but her pain had been coming and going. Then she went to the doctors, and they cured her. My wife was cured by the doctors and not by any miracle.

Monica Besra's husband, Seiku
Monica's husband, Seiku, has never made any secret of the fact that the reported miracle cure was never anything of the sort. Irritated by the constant stream of sick people coming to his door expecting a miracle cure themselves, he freely tells people it was the doctors at the hospital who cured his wife, not a miracle.

In 2008, Monica herself began to claim that her miracle cure was nothing of the sort when the stream of poor people seeking a miracle cure reduced to a slow trickle. At this point the third miracle appears to have happened. The Vatican decided that Monica was suffering from amnesia and the poor family now needed a great deal of money, which they channeled to them via the Missionaries of Charity who explained that this was a perfectly normal charitable donation to a poor family in need, and places were suddenly found for Monica's four sons at an expensive Catholic-run private school. Monica's faith in the miraculous nature of her cure and the saintliness of Mother Teresa seems to have been restored almost as quickly as her 'cancer' was cured and she now even remembers the miraculous light that shone out of the photograph and into her body, curing her instantly. No doubt a case of poverty-induced amnesia being miraculously reversed with holy money.

Would you please ask Jesus to stop kissing me?

Dying patient denied pain relief
to a smiling Mother Theresa
And so the world had a new Catholic demi-saint by the name of "The Blessed" Teresa of Calcutta, based on carefully constructed myths, forged documents and false testimonies by people whose mission in life was to deny dying people pain relief and effective medical care because this loathsome old woman told them this is what Jesus would have wanted, and one who in life amassed a huge fortune from people who believed they were actually giving to aid poor people and help them die in dignity and free from pain and suffering in the care of ministering angels.

Another miracle is required for this fake to be elevated to full sainthood. Presumably, someone somewhere is working on that at the moment.

After her death it was revealed that Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu had written to a friend admitting that she had never been able to find God and doubted that he was there. Her entire life's work had been for her own self-aggrandisement and in the hope that Jesus would appreciate what she was doing to recognise his suffering by making others experience it and so would reveal himself to her.


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Pope Francis Faking It in Naples

Pope Francis showed his honesty and personal integrity by participating in the fake 'miracle' of appearing to turn the dried blood of a saint into liquid blood in front of a crowd in Naples gathered at the cathedral to witness this conjuring trick, which is performed three time a year, and so fool the credulous masses into thinking he has magic powers and is somehow chanelling the long-dead, legendary first bishop of Naples, Saint Januarius, or San Gennaro as he is known localy. Inhabitants believe he keeps Naples safe from the over-looking Vesuvius volcano.

Naples Cathedral is easily the worst cathedral I have visited, and I have been to very many all over Europe. It is located in a run-down and over-crowded slum just north of the dock area and was actually locked when we tried to go in last year.

Perhaps this was to protect the treasures inside from the surrounding poor in the crime capital of Europe where the devout Catholic inhabitants will steal anything that isn't bolted down, only to have their sin counter reset in confession on Sunday. Meanwhile, the rubbish piles up in the streets and bins remain unemptied because the organised crime syndicates who run the collection service haven't had a big enough bribe this month. Maybe the inside of the cathedral is better than the grim facade, but if this is the best San Gennaro can do by way of protecting the city he loves, he's a sorry excuse for a patron saint.

The fraud miracle is performed on a sample of brownish, dry powdery substance that, from a distance, could look a bit like very old dried blood, especially to someone who's never seen any. When the container is shaken is appears to turn liquid. Then the officiating bishop pronounces the miracle to a fanfare of trumpets and declares this shows San Gennaro still love Naples. On the rare occasion that the miracle fails this is taken as a sign that the saint has withdrawn his love. Obviously, as with all these 'holy relics', the Church refuses all applications to subject the 'blood' to scientific analysis because this would inevitably involve destroying some of the sacred substance.

Occasionally, due to rough handling when carrying the bottle of 'blood' from its safe keeping place, locked away from prying and sceptical eyes, in the crypt of the Cathedral, the blood will already have liquified before a pope or bishop gets anywhere near it. On these occasions, San Gennaro is declared to have been so keen to show his love for the city that he started the miracle early, presumably in an example of premature liquifaction such as we might expect of a celibate saint. There's always a sensible explanation for these things.

Often, failure to 'liquify' is followed in the coming weeks or months by an earthquake, which happen frequently and unrelated to whether the 'miracle' occurred or not, in this part of Italy which is so seismically active that the western suburb of Naples is called Fuorigrotta, or 'smoking field'. This earthquake will be presented as evidence that San Gennaro had withdrawn his love and Neapolitans should give more money to the Church. When earthquakes happen anyway, this is definitely not a sign from San Gennaro at all... got that!?

So, the blood can turn liquid on it's own, or when handled by a pope or a bishop, or not turn liquid at all, and these are all miraculous signs from San Gennaro - and they all mean give more money to the Church. Isn't religion marvelous!

As B.F.Skinner showed, you can get the same effect with operant conditioning of pigeons when you randomly give a reward, dissociated from the pigeon's actions. They also become religious and perform random and pointless rituals, apparently ascribing success to their actions and failure to their own failures in not performing the actions correctly.

If you want to perform this 'miracle' for yourself, all you need is a glass bottle partly filled with a brownish substance called iron chloride mixed with calcium carbonate and salt. Apart from the bottle, all these things can be found near Naples, especially around Vesuvius and Fuorigrotta. It can even look quite like you would imagine nearly 1700 year old dried blood to look like. When you shake the bottle, however, it becomes quite liquid for a while until it settles back into the dried powder. With any luck you should be able to find some credulous and gullible people to fool but generally it works best when done by someone whom the people have been conditioned to believe already have magic powers anyway.

Just as with his veneration of the obviously fake Shroud of Turin which attracts visitors from all over the world to give money pay homage to the miracle in the hope of a reward for themselves, Pope Francis has shown himself to be perfectly comfortable with trying to keep the faithful faithful with the time-honoured Catholic tradition of faked miracles. The only miracle here is how the Catholic Church has managed to keep people from finding out they've been duped.

Honest Uncle Frankie, the 'reforming' people's Pope, is not the least concerned about using the tactics of the snake-oil seller, the faith healer and the confidence trickster to keep the wool between their ears pulled over the eyes of the Catholic Church's victims. After all, who's bothered about honesty and integrity when there's money to be made and privileges for clerics to be defended?


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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Creationist Nightmare Approaches

Chemists claim to have solved riddle of how life began on Earth

The creationist nightmare scenario came a little closer a couple of days ago when a team of scientists published a paper in the Journal of Nature Chemistry, demonstrating that the three chemical precursors for building the basic components of a cell - RNA, lipids and proteins - can all be built by the same chemical process.

The nightmare scenario for creationists is of course the closure of one of the few remaining gaps in which they arbitrarily sit their favourite god and claim this proves its existence. This transparently circular reasoning and deliberate use of the false dichotomy fallacy is also a major plank in the under cover, pseudoscientific form of creationism, intelligent (sic) design. The belief seems to be that, if they can find something science can't currently explain then the only alternative explanation on offer is that their imaginary invisible friend did it. In normal life this form of argument would be seen as laughingly childish but religion has managed to get away with it for centuries.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Faith-Inspired Genocidists To Face Trial

Bosniak victims of faith-based Christian genocidists
BBC News - Serbia arrests seven over 1995 Srebrenica massacre

News that the former Yugoslavian states of Bosnia and Serbia are cooperating over war-crimes committed during the Bosnian war marks a welcome replacement by humanist standards of the murderous faith-based morality which led to the Bosnian genocide of Muslims by Orthodox Christian neo-Nazi fundamentalists, and acceptance that those who committed these atrocities weren't nationalist heroes but murderous thugs whose religion told them killing people for having the 'wrong' religion was the right thing to do.

Giant Arctic Camels And Another Gap Closes

Giant Arctic camels (Artist's impression)
Image credit: Julius Csotonyi PR
Mid-Pliocene warm-period deposits in the High Arctic yield insight into camel evolution | Nature Communications

Modern camels come in two species - the one-humped dromedary or Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius) and the two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus). Although both exist in their wild forms in central Asia, they are normally seen as the domesticated beasts of burden in Arabia and the Horn of Africa. Their closest relatives are the South American guanaco (Lama glama) (domesticated as the llama) and vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) (domesticated as the alpaca).

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Science Closes Another Gap - God Still Not Found

Macrauchenia patachonica (Artist's impression)
Ancient proteins resolve the evolutionary history of Darwin’s South American ungulates | Nature/

News that evolutionary biology has closed another gap and found no gods in it, left creationists totally uninterested again today.

The gap was one that Darwin pondered over - the origin of two of the recently-extinct (geologically speaking) South American ungulates. They seemed to be a mixture of hippopotamus, rhinoceros, rodent, camel, and even elephant in that they appeared to have a small trunk. Some biologists had suggested they may be related to African species such as elephants or aardvarks while others thought they may be related to South American species like armadillos and sloths.

Creationism Fails Again - Human Evolution in 2014

Like 2013, 2014 has been another very bad year for creationism as more and more of those 'missing' intermediate fossils are found and the human evolutionary story becomes more and more complete.

Perhaps I should say it's been a good year for those who might be tempted to believe the disinformation put out by creationist pseudoscientists but who still remain objective and open to evidence and reason.

Diehard fundamentalist creationists of course will remain stoically and proudly resistant to evidence, no matter how strong it may be, simply waving it away as wrong or lies, so we are never going to see a committed creationist, least of all one who earns a living by misinforming others, announcing that this or that piece of evidence has convinced them that they have been wrong all along. In many cases, that degree of honesty would be more than their job's worth and would earn them the immediate approbrium of their colleagues.

This little list was produced by a quick search of the science magazine sites. I don't claim it to be exhaustive or even particularly representative, only a random sample of the sort of science shedding light on the human evolutionary story and the way it is growing and being

Monday, 16 March 2015

Pope Francis May Soon Throw In The Towel


And it's goodnight from him...
Pope Francis says he 'doesn't mind' being Pope but wishes he could go out for a pizza unrecognised - People - News - The Independent

Will the Catholic world soon have three popes in the Vatican?

That was the clear implication of Pope Francis' strong hint again that he might retire early like his immediate predecessor Benedict XVI. In an interview with the Mexican TV station, Televista, to mark his second anniversary he said he longed for anonymity and a private life and even hinted that his retirement might be very soon.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Is This Bronx Scam Artist Getting Too Greedy?

Minister Creflo Dollar asked parishioners to buy him a $65 million dollar jet for Jesus « Why Evolution Is True

Bronx-based Manuel de Dios Agosto is going to have to do much better if he is to come anywhere close to matching another Bronx-based religious scam artist who has just asked his victims followers to stump up for a brand new $60 million top of the range G650 Gulfstream jet for him and his family.

The humorously named Creflo Augustus Dollar,

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Religion and Mental Illness

Religious Fundamentalism 'May Be Categorised As Mental Illness & Cured By Science'

The opinion that extremist religious beliefs in particular may be symptoms of mental disorder and psychiatric illness seems to gaining ground in informed neurophysiology and psychiatry circles, though this is hardly news to those of us who spend a while trying to engage religious fundamentalists and creationist in intelligent debate on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

Psychosis and paranoia often seem to be endemic in these people, for example the unfortunate individual whom I stopped trying to engage on Facebook recently when he told me he

Friday, 13 March 2015

Catholic Child Abuse, St.Josephs, Bronx

Father Robert Harrison
Bronx School Ousts Priest After Admissions of Abuse - NYTimes.com

An assistant principal at Cardinal Hayes Catholic High School in Bronx, New York, has been dismissed for sexually abusing ten minors in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Rev. Robert Harrison, of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St.Josephs, had worked at the school since 1989. The abuses came to light just before last Christmas when it was discovered that Father Harrison was borrowing money from colleagues at the school. When asked why, he admitted it was to pay an abuse victim. He then admitted to the sexual abuse of other boys in Manhattan, Milwaukee and the Bronx during the 1970s and 1980s. None of the abuse victims are believed to have been students at Cardinal Hayes High School.

A spokesman for the province said that none of the victims had ever reported the abuse.

Father Harrison has been permanently relieved of all ministerial duties and placed in a 'facility' where he does not have contact with children. The matter has been referred to prosecutors.

[I] personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for having sexually abused children. We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed.

Pope Francis
New York of course isn't the only Archdiocese in the USA to suffer from endemic child sexual abuse by Catholic clerics.

In Minnesota the rearguard action designed to deny or delay compensation to the Catholic Church's victims continued. The Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just a week before going to court to defend lawsuits from victims of child sexual abuse by its priests. With assets estimated to be between $10 million and $50 million and liabilities estimated to be between $50 million and $100 million, this is the twelfth US Catholic Archdiocese to file for bankruptcy because of the compensation claims from their victims.

The lawsuit will now be delayed while the bankruptcy application is heard. Patrick Noaker, lawyer for some of the victims, said the bankruptcy filing robbed him of the chance to reveal information that could help protect children. "I don't think it's any accident that they filed a week before this trial was going to start," he said.

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Creationists All At Sea Over Water On Earth

Ganymede
Huge ocean confirmed underneath solar system’s largest moon | Science/AAAS | News

To read a creationist disinformation site, you'd think Earth was the only body in the Solar System - the entire Universe even - to have water, and that the only explanation for how it all got there must be that a magic man magicked it all.

Take this piece of scientific illiteracy and Bible babble, or this attempt to mislead their victims by Creation Misinstries International about the discovery that there is a lot of water bound up in hydrated minerals in Earth's mantle - a false claim that was so easy to predict at the time.

Clearly, creationists pseudoscientist frauds would like their dupes to believe that the presence of water on Earth is some sort of scientific mystery; a miracle - another gap in which to sit their god and explain with "God did it!" Water is, of course, essential for life on

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Church Claims Religious Freedom to Cheat Abuse Victims

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York, former Archbishop of Milwaukee.
Catholic Church Claims It Can Refuse To Pay Victims Of Sex Abuse Because Of Religious Freedom | ThinkProgress:

The Catholic diocese of Milwaukee has suffered a setback in its attempt to avoid its moral responsibilities to the victims of its abusive priests. Its former archbishop, Timothy Dolan, now a cardinal and Archbishop of New York, had tried to insulate its funds by transferring $55 million into a trust fund for maintaining the diocese's cemeteries and mausoleums, then claiming they were not the Church's funds but belonged to the Trust, so the Church had no money with which to compensate its victims, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Recent Evolution In The Caribbean.

Prehistoric fighting conch Strombus puglis (L) and modern shells of the same species (R) show how the shellfish has decreased in size over time.
Image credit: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Aaron O'Dea
Evidence of size-selective evolution in the fighting conch from prehistoric subsistence harvesting.

Scientists working for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have discovered a lovely example of environmental change driving evolution, this time the environmental change being the presence of humans who predated on the Caribbean fighting conch, Strombus puglis, as a source of food.

Juveniles of this species live in muddy sediments and only emerge to mate when they reach sexual maturity - at which point they become easy for humans to catch - but only after they have developed a thick outer lip as a protection from predators. This means that having attained sexual maturity can be assessed in ancient shells by measuring the thickness of this lip.

Careful observation and measurement of modern

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Can The 'Intelligent Designer' Get Any Nastier?

Dinocampus coccinellae
Who is the puppet master? Replication of a parasitic wasp-associated virus correlates with host behaviour manipulation | The Royal Society Proceedings B.

Here's a pretty little insect from the wasp family. Like a lot of members of this family, it is a parasitoid species, the females of which lay their eggs in the living bodies of other creatures, often other insects. This particular one, Dinocampus coccinellae, lays its eggs in ladybirds.

For several weeks an infected ladybird will carry on hunting aphids as though nothing much is happening and oblivious of the maggot growing inside it and eating its internal organs, apart from those essential to the ladybird, obviously. The ladybird needs to be kept

Monday, 9 March 2015

Evolution of a Strange Pair of Geese

The thing about knowing you don't know all the answers, but also knowing that nature is amenable to reason, is that when you see something that makes you curious, you know you will probably find the answer if you look hard enough. With nature, that answer will be interesting, thought-provoking and will mean you will understand nature just a little better.

We saw these two wild geese on on lake near Oxford the other day when we went for a long country walk with our grandson and his parents. My grandson would much rather talk about Minecraft and wasn't even interested when I showed him the hole where the little gall wasp came out of an oak-apple gall - how can that not be interesting? He'll soon be old enough to have that copy of Richard Dawkins' "The Magic Of Reality" I bought him when he was about 4.

Anyway, what we noticed about these geese was that, while they are obviously a pair and the one on the right is a perfectly normal-looking greylag goose, the other was a slightly odd-looking Canada goose. Canada geese are an alien species in Britain but have spread very rapidly throughout the Thames Valley and beyond.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

2013. Another Very Bad Year For Creationism.

The Most Fascinating Human Evolution Discoveries of 2013 | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

This is another of those articles I stored away intending to deal with later, but then left them to sink towards the bottom of the stack as other topics intervened. It deals with the most significant discoveries related to the evolution of modern humans in just one year - 2013. It goes without saying that a number of them involved more of those pesky 'intermediate forms' creationists are having to work so hard to ignore so they can pretend there aren't any.

The list is based on an article by Kate Wong, published in Scientific American in January 2014. The commentary is mine. Feel free to hit creationists over the head with it.

No Soul? Rats!

Nobel prize find: search for ‘soul of rat’ revealed brain’s navigation system | Science | The Guardian

I meant to write a commentary on this at the time, but it just kept getting shuffled down the stack as other topics intervened. Last year's Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was shared by Professor John O'Keefe, University College London, for his work on understanding how the brain maps the world around us so we can navigate. He jokingly claims he was looking for the soul of the rat when he discovered 'place cells'. It has now been found by Edvard and May-Brit Moser, that these 'place cells' form a grid of recorded coordinates.

We have known for some time that the hippocampus is involved since a UCL team led by Eleanor Maguire found that as London Taxicab drivers acquire 'The Knowledge' their hippocampus enlarges. 'The knowledge', for those who haven't heard of it is the detailed street knowledge London Black Cab drivers must demonstrate before they qualify for their licence to operate.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Beware of Abusive Imitations

Please Note: This is my only blog.

Others purporting to be by me or bearing my ident will contain plagiarised and altered material from this site or material presented as being by me. They will usually be run and maintained by a well-know unemployable Internet abuser, fraud and expelled Catholic seminarian who appears to have developed an obsessive fascination with me, bordering on the psychotic and who seems to be trying to ride piggy-back on my popularity to lure traffic to his beggar blogs.

Go to his blog and you will find well over 60 articles fantasising about me with all manner of lurid tales. Bear in mind though that he will count the hit as a triumph and routinely deletes comments he doesn't want others to read.

You can read about him here.

Still Making A Difference - Thankyou

Great news that my AdSense account has reached another payment threshold, so I have donated it to Oxfam again.


This donation also benefits from the UK Government's UKAid scheme which doubles donations, in effect making it £140, plus another 25p per pound donated in GiftAid as a UK tax-payer.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Yet Another of Those 'Missing' Transitional Fossils

Fossil jawbone with distinctly hominid teeth
Photo: Arizona State University/Kaye Reed
BBC News - 'First human' discovered in Ethiopia

A fossil lower jawbone with five intact teeth, discovered in 2013 in the Afar region of Ethiopia, may well have pushed back the earliest known hominid by about 400,000 years to 2.8 million years ago. The huge significance of this, if it turns out to be true, is that it sits neatly in time and place between the undoubtedly australopithecine Australopithecus afarensis from the same area about 3 million years ago and the undoubtedly hominid Homo habilis, from about 2.4 million years ago, previously the earliest known hominid.

The key to this new find is the distinctly hominid small teeth. In our evolutionary history, teeth reduced in size

Unreasonable Faith - Robert G. Ingersoll

Why is Robert G. Ingersoll not better known in America, or the rest of the world, for that matter? He wrote and spoke with such power and passion, and regard for truth and honesty above all, that his writing is a joy to read, more lyrical even than that of Thomas Paine and worthy of Christopher Hitchens at his best.

Here he is delivering a 'Thanksgiving Sermon'. This is a cut-down version; the full sermon can be read here.

A THANKSGIVING SERMON.

MANY ages ago our fathers were living in dens and caves. Their bodies, their low foreheads, were covered with hair. They were eating berries, roots, bark and vermin. They were fond of snakes and raw fish. They discovered fire and, probably by accident, learned how to cause it by friction. They found how to warm themselve — to fight the frost and storm. They fashioned clubs and rude weapons of stone with which they killed the larger beasts and now and then each other. Slowly, painfully, almost imperceptibly they advanced. They crawled and stumbled, staggered and struggled toward the light. To them the world was unknown. On every hand was the mysterious, the sinister, the hurtful. The forests were filled with monsters, and the darkness was crowded with ghosts, devils, and fiendish gods.

These poor wretches were the slaves of fear, the sport of dreams.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Some Pictures Just Speak For Themselves

I'm sometimes accused of using too many words in my blogs, which might well be true, though I can appreciate how Mozart felt when he was accused of using too many notes, so it's refreshing to be able to make a point with a few pictures:

Hunting With Wolves - To Catch Creationists

Artists impression: Wolves hunting mamoths in the Upper Pleistocene Epoch
Photo: Alamy
How hunting with wolves helped humans outsmart the Neanderthals | Science | The Guardian

In a book, The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction, to be published this month, US Anthropologist, Pat Shipman, of Pennsylvania State University, puts forward the idea that domestication of wolves played a key role in the conquest of Europe by modern humans, and may have given us the edge over Neanderthals, so driving them to extinction. I haven't read this book so what I know of it is second hand.

Her argument is that wolves, Neanderthals and

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Vatican At War As Pell Lives it Up in Rome

Cardinal George Pell arrives for a morning session at the Vatican.
Photo: Alessandra Tarantino
Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's financial watchdog, slammed for lavish spending

In a leaked document, Cardinal Pell, the former Archbishop of Melbourne who was put into the Vatican by Pope Francis to sort out its finances and root out the endemic corruption, has been accused of living a lavish lifestyle and handing out money to a chum in the form of an inflated salary.

But the real story here is the leak itself and what it shows is going on behind the scenes, as the Pope accuses the Curia of of suffering from fifteen 'spiritual diseases' including 'spiritual Alzheimers' and 'theological schizophrenia and Pell himself reveals that heads of departments in the vast Vatican bureaucracy had been salting away tens of millions in secret bank accounts, made possible because of shoddy bookkeeping and an almost complete lack of financial accountability with no records of where the money came from nor what it's to be spent on. The discovery of these large secret bank accounts potentially transformed the Vatican's financial position from precarious to very healthy.

Pell was put in soon after Pope Francis replaced the odious Pope Benedict who had done nothing to put a stop to the corruption revealed by his 'butler' in the 'Vatileaks' affair.

How Science Works - European History

Bouldnor Cliff submerged pre-historic site
DNA recovered from underwater British site may rewrite history of farming in Europe | Science/AAAS | News

An interesting example of how science works appeared in Science a couple of days ago. It concerns DNA evidence that domestic wheat, normally associated with farming, was being used by hunter-gatherers living in what is now southern England 8000 years ago, 2000 years before agriculture is believed to have reached north-west Europe.

Rather annoyingly, the article quotes archaeobotanist Dorian Fuller, of University College London, who was not involved in the research, as saying "[The work confronts archaeologists] with the challenge of fitting this into our worldview". Now, I'm not entirely sure what a 'worldview' is exactly but I suspect it's some sort of post-modernist nonsensical construction implying that all sorts of views of the world are possible and even equally valid, but reading the article it's very clear that what might need to be adjusted is this 'worldview' itself because this particular 'worldview' is a conclusion based on evidence. There is no fitting of new facts into a pre-existing conclusion; just the opposite in fact. The conclusion is adjusted to allow for the new information, just as the title of the article itself implies.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Britons Now Find Atheists More Moral Than Theists

I must be slipping as my attention was only drawn to this survey today in my copy of BHA News.

An opinion poll carried out for Huffington Post by Survation last November confirmed the astonishing rejection of religion in favour of non-belief in the UK in recent years and a consequent shift in the perception of the relative morality of Atheists and religious people.

Despite the 2011 census in which 55.3% of people in England and Wales described themselves as Christian and only 25.1% described themselves as having no religion, this survey revealed this to be

Sunday, 22 February 2015

More of Those 'Missing' Transitional Forms

Mammalian and non-mammalian jaws. In the mammal configuration, the quadrate and articular bones are much smaller and form part of the middle ear. Note that in mammals the lower jaw consists of only the dentary bone.
Evolutionary development in basal mammaliaforms as revealed by a docodontan

An arboreal docodont from the Jurassic and mammaliaform ecological diversification

Two papers published in last week's Science by the same team of researchers, describe two more of those 'non-existent' transitional fossils on which so much creationism depends.

They both deal with fossils of two members of an early and now extinct order of vertebrates which seems to sit somewhere between pre-mammalian reptiles and true mammals in that they have a transitional jaw joint closer to the 'squamous' joint typical of reptiles, where the mandible articulates with the squamous bone, and the mammalian jaw joint in which some bones have become reduced and now form the ossicles of the mammalian inner ear, allowing a new jaw joint to form between the quadrate bone and the mandible.

In all other respects these early proto-mammals have a mammalian skeleton and dentition. Because of this difference in jaw joint, the order is not universally accepted as a true mammal but are normally referred to an 'mammaliaforms', i.e., mammal-like - exactly the sort of taxonomic problem we would expect of something which is part-way between two others.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Collapsing Catholic Church in USA

St. Agnes Catholic Church, Chicago.
It seems it's not just in Europe where Christianity is declining at an accelerating rate, Catholicism no less so than the other Christian denominations.

Catholicism is also rapidly approaching the point of no return in the USA, as its congregations dwindle, churches close, parishes have to be amalgamated to reduce costs as donations dwindle accordingly, and recruitment to the priesthood of people of the right personal qualities, who are not going to embarrass the church later, becomes increasingly difficult.

Everywhere from Boston to Minneapolis, Catholic churches have closed or been consolidated into regional clusters. The chief reason is declining Mass attendance.

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