Friday 21 December 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Missionary Position

American Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks looks at documents after being arrested in a church in Naval town in the island province of Biliran, central Philippines.

Credit: Bureau of Immigration PIO via AP
American priest facing 'horrifying' sex abuse charges during his time as a missionary in Philippines | ABC News.

An American Catholic priest, Rev. Kenneth Hendricks, has been arrested in the Philippines and charged with sexually abusing young boys. He is now facing extradition to Ohio, USA where he is also under investigation for similar crimes in the state.

The case started when two Filipino boys came forward with allegations of abuse to local authorities, prompting an investigation. More boys have subsequently come forward with very similar stories. According to Ben Glassman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Ben Glassman:

Each of these victims got to know Father Hendricks through the course of his official work as a priest... he befriended them, he would invite them to his residence, often to take a bath or shower. That interaction would proceed to kissing... fondle their genitals... [and] ultimately have oral or anal sex with the victims... It is horrible, horrible abusive conduct. It is grooming children, young children who are interested in being involved in church activities and taking those kids and sexually abusing them.

Catholic Abuse News - At Least 500 More in Illinois

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago. "Profound regret".
Investigation identifies 500 Catholic priests and clergy accused of sex abuse in Illinois - ABC News

Contrary to Pope Francis' protestations of regret and promises to root out and put a stop to paedophile and sexually abusive priests and the church's routine cover-up and facilitation, it continues unabated it seems, at least in the six Catholic diocese in the State of Illinois, USA, if the outgoing District Attorney General, Lisa Madigan is to be believed.

An investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priest in the state of Illinois, launched last August following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report showing that 300 paedophile Catholic priests had abused over 1000 children, has already uncovered evidence that about 500 priests have had credible accusations of sexual abuse made against them although the Illinois dioceses have only named 185.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell "Convicted"

Cardinal Pell convicted of sexual abuse in Australia | Catholic News Agency

Despite a gagging order preventing any reporting of the trial, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) is reporting that Cardinal Pell has been convicted unanimously by an Australian court of the historical sexual abuse of two altar servers in the late 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

This has not yet been confirmed by the Australian judiciary, which remains under the gagging order. The same source which reported this conviction the CNA is the same source which reported that a mistrial had been declared last October when the jury was deadlocked at 10-2 in Pell's favour.

The reason for the gagging order is that there is a second trial scheduled for early 2019 concerning allegations of other abuse of minors when he was a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s. The judge decided this trial might be influenced by the Melbourne trial making a fair trial impossible.

Cardinal Pell is the highest ranking Catholic cleric to stand trial on sex-abuse charges, being effectively number three in the Vatican, as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy.

Christian Sexual Abuse News - Others Do It Too!

They were terrorized, trapped and even sexually abused. Now, these former members of independent fundamental Baptist churches share how their experiences will affect the rest of their lives.
Fundamental Baptist church pastors cover up sex abuse, rape | Fort Worth Star-Telegram

In the spirit of Christmas when Christians purport to feel goodwill to all, it seems only fair to Catholics to bring news that shows their priests, bishops and cardinals are not the only Christian clergy who take advantage of their position to sexually abuse children and vulnerable adults. As these two reports show, the clergy of other Christian churches do the same when the opportunity arises.

First, a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram revealing how the practice of sexually abusing vulnerable people by pastors in Independent Baptist churches is commonplace, as is the practice of cover-up and moving priests to other locations where they can continue abusing an unsuspecting congregation, just like the Catholic Church does:

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Earliest Primates Were From North America

The unusual tooth sockets in UF specimen 333700 upended the hypothesis that Teilhardina brandti was a younger species in the genus. The sockets closely resemble those in Teilhardina asiatica, thought to be the most primitive Teilhardina species.

Credit: Florida Museum image by Paul Morse
Oldest-known ancestor of modern primates may have come from North America, not Asia – #FloridaMuseumScience

The earliest known primate may have come from North America!

But! Creationists should calm down! This is not another opportunity for a 'Nebraska Man'-style hoax*. It is from a time when Eurasia and North America were part of the same landmass about 56 million years ago. At that time, Earth was warm enough for palm trees to grow around the Arctic Circle.

This discovery by scientists from Florida University suggests the earliest known example of basal primates, a genus named Teilhardina did not come from Asia as was once thought. A detailed analysis of 163 teeth and jaw fragments recovered from Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, showed that specimens found in North America which had been classified as Teilhardina asiatica were more primitive and were those of an earlier species, now named T. brandti.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Malevolent Designer News - Getting Ready to Hit Back

Staphylococcus epidermidis
The potentially deadly bacterium that’s on everyone’s skin.

You may not have heard of Staphylococcus epidermidis but you have almost certainly heard of its close cousin, S. aureus, that in its antibiotic resistant form (MRSA) has become such a problem in hospitals, causing life-threatening infections in wound sites. Now, scientists have warned that S. epidermidis, an abundant, commensal bacterium on human skin, has the potential to become a serious health risk.

If you subscribe to the intelligent design notion, the only possible interpretation of this news is that a designer with malevolent intent has prepared for the eventuality of human medical science overcoming its current favourite harmful pathogens, like MRSA and Escherichia coli.

S. epidermidis is a close relative of S. aureus, the antibiotic-resistant form of which (MRSA) is a major health risk, especially in hospitals, following surgery. S. epidermidis is a normal, commensal bacterial species found on the skin of every human being. Normally, it is harmless but, in the right circumstances, it is also a serious health risk following surgery when it infects operation sites.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Bash the Gays

Cardinal Müller. Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2012-2017)
"Nobody told me!"
Catholic Cardinal: LGBTQ People Are to Blame for Sex Abuse Scandal

The latest senior Catholic cleric to jump on the bandwagon and join the growing tendency to externalise the child sex abuse scandal by blaming it all on others, is Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

Cardinal Müller is the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In other words, the Pope's enforcer who job it is to make sure the church's dogma and Papal diktats are complied with. He joins a growing list of senior Catholics and Catholic apologists who have formed an alliance with the extreme right and are taking the opportunity to simultaneously try to dissociate the Catholic Church from culpability in the world-wide clerical sex abuse scandals and victimise and stigmatise the LGBT community.

Friday 23 November 2018

Christianity News - Abusing the Gullible in South Korea

Lee Jae-rock. 15 years for "habitually" raping his followers.
South Korean Church Leader Sentenced to Prison in #MeToo Case - The New York Times

Continuing the tradition of Christian cult leaders exploiting the gullibility of their followers for sexual gratification, one such leader of a Christian cult in South Korea has been convicted of "habitually" raping his female followers and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

75 year-old Lee Jae-rock, who founded the mega-church, Manmin Central Church in Seoul, South Korea, has been the subject of allegations of corruption such as extortion, faud and sexal abuse for several years but it was only when the #MeToo movement caught on in South Korea that eight former members of his cult came forward with specific allegations. Some of them alleged that he had lured them to his apartment and ordered them to strip off "as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden", then he raped them.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Malevolent Designer News - Sleeping Sickness

The parasite that causes African sleeping sickness can cause death in humans if not treated.

Credit: College of Science
Researchers reveal secrets of parasite that causes African sleeping sickness

The intelligent designer hates Africans. This is obvious from the way it has designed a nasty little parasite and a clever delivery system, that is designed not only to make Africans sick and die but also prevents them using the same domestic animals that allowed Eurasians to develop agriculture. The nasty little parasite is a trypanosome that causes sleeping sickness.

This parasitic trypanosome and its tsetse fly vector have huge economic importance to Africa because while the African native megafauna are all unsuitable for domestication, the Eurasian animals that were used as transport and to pull ploughs in agricultural cultures are all susceptible to it and so agriculture could never spread south of the Sahara to any significant extent, nor could food sources such as sheep and pigs, save in the highlands of Ethiopia, where the tsetse fly is absent.

Friday 16 November 2018

Catholic Morality News - Fleecing the Flock

Fr. Lenin Vargas-Gutierrez
Court docs allege priest lied about cancer diagnosis, sex addiction therapy and charity projects | Starkville Daily News

According to a report by Ryan Phillips in Starkville Daily News, Father Lenin Vargas-Gutierrez, a pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville, MS, USA, in the Diocese of Jackson, is alleged to have hit on a novel solution to two problems: how to cover up the fact that he is HIV positive, and how to supplement his income and provide a living to which he feels entitled.

The report says:

According to a 37-page affidavit filed Friday by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Special Agent William G. Childers in U.S. District Court in Jackson, an ongoing investigation into Father Lenin Vargas-Gutierrez, a pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville, shows the priest is accused of lying about being diagnosed with cancer and soliciting money from parishioners for treatment and other pet projects.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Vatican Blocks Child Protection Plan

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Vatican tells U.S. bishops not to vote on proposals to tackle sexual abuse, spurns outside investigations - The Washington Post

In a quite extraordinary intervention, the Vatican has ordered the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to drop plans to debate and adopt a code of conduct that would strengthen measure to protect children and prevent their abuse by Catholic clerics.

This proposal was to be debated today at the Conference AGM, but on Monday the Conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, told them that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, acting on instructions from the Holy See, had blocked it pending a meeting of world-wide Catholic leaders next February.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Hypocrisy News - Kim Davis

Kim Davis - Rejected
Apparently, Jesus has decided on a change of career for Christian arch-bigot, Kim Davis, now she has been rejected in favour of a Democrat by Kentucky voters in the midterm elections.

Readers will remember how the (now former) Rowan County clerk gained notoriety and became the poster-girl for white right Christian extremism when she decided her religious prejudices entitled her to victimise homosexuals by denying them marriage licences for same sex marriage, while being paid by Kentucky taxpayers for doing a job she was refusing to do. She even achieved glorious martyrdom by being sent to prison by a court for refusing to do the job she was taking money for doing.

She acquired even more notoriety and the adoration of the extreme Christian right, when she helped Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò embarrass Pope Francis and give hope to the extreme right that his reforms were mere PR and not to be taken seriously. Viganò , then Papal legate to Washington and bearing a grudge, arranged a clandestine meeting between Davis and Pope Francis at the end of his visit to the USA, in which Francis appeared to encourage Davis to continue breaking the law in his host country. Details of the meeting were immediately released to the press by a triumphant Viganò.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Intelligent Designer News - E. Coli Success

Transmission of Antibiotic Resistant E. coli Mapped in Wild Giraffe Social Networks

A progress update on the Intelligent Designer's campaign to make human and other animals get sick and die, using the bacterium Escherichia coli.

The story so far:

E. coli is the name of a highly diverse group of bacteria which displays far more genetic diversity than entire families of multicellular organisms with only about 20 percent of genes being common to all strains. Some authorities believe the taxon is overdue for revision and that some bacteria classified as Shigella should be reclassified as strains of E. coli while some E. coli, for example, the K-12 strain, should occupy a different taxon. Some strains have no flagellum, so lack motility.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Rapid Evolution of Barn Swallows

Barn swallow, Hirundo rustica
Barn swallows may indeed have evolved alongside humans

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) are one of only a handful of species that have co-evolved with humans but are not parasitic on us. This commensal evolution depended on the ecological niches we have provided during our own evolution and, in this case, as with House sparrows, particularly the social evolution of agriculture and settled dwellings on and in which to live. Barn swallows nest almost exclusively in man-made structures, hence their popular name.

Now researchers have tentatively establish when the species took up residence with humans and when they radiated relatively rapidly into the six regional subspecies now recognised.

Wednesday 31 October 2018

Dinosaur Eggs Confirm Bird Evolution

A selection of bird eggs and a fossil theropod egg (on the right).
Image credit: Jasmina Wiemann/Yale University
Dinosaurs put all colored bird eggs in one basket, evolutionarily speaking | YaleNews

More evidence today, if any more were needed, of the dinosarian origin of modern birds. This time it is evidence that the pigments birds use to colour their eggs evolved in dinosaurs who needed to camouflage their eggs in open or partially open nests on the ground.

The study also changes our thinking on how and when bird egg colour evolved.

It had been believed that birds evolved egg colours multiple times according to environmental pressures, however, all bird use the same two pigments, red and blue, in various combinations and patterns to achieve the different markings. This study challenges that view by showing that dinosaurs also had pigmented shells.

Monday 29 October 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Pope's Attack Dog Is Snarling Again

Bill Donohue, Catholic League President
The Pope's Pit Bull
Let Activists Dig Ireland's “Mass Grave” – Catholic League

The self-appointed Pope's pit bull, president of the American Catholic League, Bill Donohue is snarling and yapping again. This time, it is to mock and denigrate those trying to uncover the full horror of exactly what happened at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Galway, Ireland at the hands of sisters of the Catholic Bon Secours order, and give their victims a decent burial.

Saturday 27 October 2018

ECHR Ruling on 'Paedophile Prophet'

Conviction for calling Muhammad a paedophile is not in breach of Article 10 | ECHRPDF

On the face of it, the ruling yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that the conviction of 'E.S.' by an Austrian court for 'disparaging religion' by suggesting that Muhammad had paedophile tendencies, should be upheld, is disturbing to say the least. However, it needs very careful scrutiny.

It does not, for example, as some are claiming, make it illegal to call Muhammad a paedophile. Nor does it give any special protection to Islam not available to other religions.

Ireland - Another Rejection of Religious Bigotry

RTÉ exit poll suggests blasphemy referendum will pass

In another stunning rebuff to basic Christian teaching and to religious privilege in general in the Republic of Ireland, this once staunchly Catholic country appears to have voted overwhelmingly to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, if exit polls are to be believed.

In the last few years, increasingly secular Ireland has voted by very large majorities to legalise same-sex marriages and to decriminalise abortion, both in the face of vigorous campaigns by the Catholic Church and against fundamental church teaching.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Another Failed Attempt at Christian Political Subversion

Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Credit: David Wallace/The Republic
Arizona superintendent fails in last attempt to limit evolution teaching | Ars Technica

Yet another attempt by entitled Christian fundamentalists to subvert the US Constitution and foist their superstition on vulnerable children at public expense, contrary to the Establishment Clause, has failed, just as it has failed in every attempt when brought before the US courts.

This latest attack on the Constitution was by Christian fundamentalist, Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction (an elected position) who abused her position by instructing her staff to edit a set of educational standards to remove any mention of 'evolution'. She later also ordered them to remove any reference to 'climate change'. When these changes were rejected by the Arizona school board she tried another tack and attempted to have the entire educational guidelines for Arizona replaced by those developed by Hillsdale College.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Catholic Abuse News - What Pope Francis Knows

Nicola Corradi and fellow priest Horacio Corbacho, left, are escorted to a courtroom in Mendoza, Argentina, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016.

Credit: AP Photo/Emmanuel Rodriguez Villegas
Argentine abuse investigation involves priest previously reported to Pope Francis

In addition to the unanswered accusations by Archbishop Carlo Viganò concerning Pope Francis's knowledge of Cardinal McCarrick's sexually predatory habits, there are persistent accusations that, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he was informed of the predatory activities of Fr. Nicola Corradi at a Catholic-run school for deaf children in Argentina but did nothing to protect his victims or bring Corradi to justice.

This sorry story starts in Italy where Corradi, a member of the Company of Mary, an Italian religious community which operates schools for deaf children in several countries, including Argentina and Italy, is reported to have sexually abused several deaf children at the Antonio Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children. This allegation came from “Giuseppe” who was born near Verona with a congenital defect that left him deaf and mute. He was eventually enrolled in an Antonio Provolo Institute.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Bringing Christianity Into Disrepute - Really?

Pastor Penuel Mnguni of the End Times Disciples Ministries
'Snake Pastor' feeds dog meat to congregants for communion | News24.

In a slight variation on the Catholic tradition of feeding congregants on pieces of wafer and telling them it's really a piece of real Jesus, a South African pastor has come up with a slightly more nutritious alternative. He feeds them pieces of dog. Admittedly dog meat he has turned into a tasty stew.

In fact, it's so tasty so he says, that it simply must be Jesus.

He has also been known to feed them snake, hair, cockroaches and rat.

Pastor Penuel Mnguni of the End Times Disciples Ministries explained:

[I]t is not what goes through the mouth that disqualifies us and defile us but what comes out of the mouth – The heart matters most than what decomposes (Food we eat) (sic). Christianity has shifted so much from time to time, however at End Times Disciples Ministries the move of God has been seen as many peoples faiths has also been challenged. From changing a snake to chocolate – to partaking octopus and frogs – a dog stew was prepared for the Church to partake as Holy Communion.

Evolution News - Giant Mice Threaten Rare Seabirds

Tristan albatross Diomedea dabbenena
Gough Island restoration programme | RSPB

A very nice, even if worrying, example of evolution in progress was illustrated in a report by the RSPB on one of their programmes to protect the seabird population on remote South Atlantic Gough Island. The giant descendants of the house mice that were introduced accidentally to the island in the 19th century, have become predatory on the estimated more than eight million seabirds of twenty-three different species that nest there.

Gough Island is part of the UK Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha, and is the nest site of the critically endangered Tristan albatross, Diomedea dabbenena.

Fake Dead Sea Scrolls an Intelligently Designed Hoax

'Dead Sea Scroll' display, Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at least partly fake, museum admits | CBC News

In the search for certainty, concern for truth takes a low priority.

The dangers of being over-eager for confirmation of bias were highlighted yesterday when a fundamentalist Bible museum was forced to admit that at least five of its sixteen claimed Dead Sea Scroll fragments were forgeries.

Despite highly dubious provenance, the museum had purchased the fragments which began mysteriously appearing on the international market in about 2002, despite the actual scroll fragments being tightly controlled by the Israeli Government's Antiquities Authority. Bible scholars had warned that these fragments appeared to be intelligently designed to target American evangelical Christians. A Baptist seminary in Texas and a evangelical college in California reportedly paid out millions of dollars for some of them.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Creationism Sent Spinning Over Wheels

Wheels are everywhere these days. Almost every intelligently designed machine needs wheels somewhere, either inside it, like a clockwork clock or outside it like a motor car or a bicycle. Even modern, solid-state electrical machines will probably have wheels somewhere. Even all but the most primitive ploughs have wheels.

Yet wheels are virtually unknown in natural organisms. The only thing approaching a wheel in nature is the tiny molecular rotary proton motor driving the flagellum. Why is this?

The reason wheels, and in that description I include rollers, pulleys and rotating shafts - in fact any rotary component - are used

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Paranoid Pope Again Blames Satan

That Satan! He's out there I tell you!
Pope blames devil for Church divisions, scandals, seeks angel's help | Reuters

Is Pope Francis losing his marbles?

Fleshing out his claim last month, that Satan is behind all the revelations of the activities of his paedophile priests, an increasingly paranoid-sounding Pope Francis has now ordered Catholics to say special magic spells to enlist the help of angels and frighten Satan off.

Presumably, that hadn't occurred to God as he sits watching his favourite church implode and disintegrate into mutually blaming factions while none of them take any responsibility for the scandals.

Catholic Abuse News - "Contraception Turned Priests Into Paedophiles"

Thomas Paprocki, Bishop Springfield, Illinois
Catholic Bishop: Secularism And Birth Control Is To Blame For Pedophile Priests - The Intellectualist

Having faced a sharp rebuke for attempts to wash their hands of the Catholic clerical child abuse scandals by blaming it on the LGBT community, some Catholic clergy have now settled on washing their hands of it by blaming secularism and contraception!

Somehow, it's always something outside the Church, either in the laity or the public at large - the very people whose children were abused - who are to blame. It's never the fault of the predatory priests themselves. They, poor things, are merely victims themselves - sometime even of the children they couldn't help abusing.

The latest bishop to try to deflect blame away from the paedophile priests and the culture of the church which facilitated and covered up their predation on vulnerable children, is Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. Responding to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into child abuse by Catholic priests with an eight-minute video entitled "Sexual Misconduct: Pruning and purification continues within the church", he said:

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Christian Abuse News - When Rape is not Rape

Dr. Don Boys. "It's only rape if they scream."
Rapacious Rape Requires Resistance! | Dr. Don Boys

Dr. Don Boys is a respected (in conservative Christian circles) writer on religious matter, and, as a former GOP member of the Indiana House of Representatives, a leading defender of Judge Kavanagh. He has concluded that Kavanagh cannot be guilty of rape because his victim, Christine Blasey Ford, did not scream.

He reasons that for rape to be rape, the woman has to scream. It matters not that she may be unable to through disability, incapacity or threat to her life, or even if the rapist has his hand over her mouth (like Kavanagh's victim alleged). Why? Because the Bible says so of course. The Christian book of excuses makes it all clear. It's only rape if she is screaming during it.

In an earlier BarbedWire piece, now mysteriously taken down but archived here, Boys wrote:

Sunday 14 October 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Bloodletting Continues

Pope Francis and President Sebastian Piñera in the Vatican
Pope defrocks two Chilean bishops over child abuse claims | BBC.

Yesterday, Pope Francis, in an attempt to be seen to be doing something about the new explosion of sexual abuse scandals to hit the Catholic Church, summarily sacked or 'defrocked' two Chilean bishops without the right of appeal.

They are Francisco José Cox Huneeus, archbishop emeritus of La Serena, Chile, member of the Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers, and Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, bishop emeritus of Iquique, Chile. According to the Vatican press release, the defrockings were "as a consequence of manifest abuse of minors". The announcement came after Pope Francis met Chilean president Sebastian Piñera in the Vatican.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Another Catholic Cardinal - Another Catholic Abuse Scandal

Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
Donald Wuerl, DC archbishop, resigns over clerical sex abuse crisis - Vox

In what must be one of the slowest resignations on record, Pope Francis has belatedly accepted the resignation of the most senior American Catholic cleric to be embroiled in sexual abuse and cover-up scandals, Cardinal Wuerl, former Bishop then Archbishop of Pittsburgh, PA and later Archbishop of Washington DC.

Wuerl was accused in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical sexual abuse in the state of being complicit in allowing sexual abuse of young seminarians and minors by Cardinal McCarrick to continue and of simply reshuffling priests accused of abuses to other parishes, where they could continue to abuse children and have access to vulnerable people in a congregation unaware of their predilections and past activities.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Lessons From Catalonia - Miraculous Lies

The Virgin of Montserrat (Mare de Déu de Montserrat)
The Virgin of Montserrat (Catalan: Mare de Déu de Montserrat), or the Black Madonna of Montserrat, is co-patron saint of Catalonia with St. George.

She is also an example of how legends are created out of whole cloth and then transmuted into sacred truths by the church and fed to the people to keep them in awe and in thrall to the church, its wondrous powers and its oneness with God.

Having just spent a few days in the beautiful city of Barcelona, in my humble opinion, one of the loveliest places in Europe, we decided to spend €35 each on a train ride to the sacred mountain of Montserrat for the pleasure of the ride up a steep mountain railway, the spectacle of the views and the interest of the geology - of which more later in another post. What we were least interested in was the monastery itself, which was fortunate because we arrived hungry and thirsty at about 3.45 pm with everything closing at 4 o'clock, with barely time for a snack and a drink at the cafe.

The story of how carved effigy came to be in the monastery atop Montserrat, north-west of Barcelona is interesting. According to legend, she was carved in Jerusalem by St Luke, who gave it to St. Peter to bring to Catalonia. In 718 she was moved to the site of an old Roman temple to Venus on Montserrat to be hidden from the invading 'Saracens' who were moving north from their stronghold in Andalucia up into south-west France.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Why Did God Wait?

Imagine, you're an omniscient, omnipotent deity and you've created humans who are going to behave badly and disobey you, but you love them and want to save them from the terrible punishment you've prepared for them for behaving the way you designed them.

Because you're omniscient, you know exactly what will save these creations and you desperately want to save them because you love them. You have always known this because you know all things.

The only thing that will save them is to have yourself manifest in human form and have yourself sacrificed as the ultimate blood sacrifice because everyone knows that blood sacrifices impress and satiate gods. It's the only thing that will work; there is no alternative. And you have always know this would be needed.

You even inspire the authorship of a book and in that book, according to some people, you include lots of hints and 'prophecies' about a 'Messiah' coming as a saviour. You even tell 'Isaiah' although you get the name of the 'Messiah' wrong.

But you still don't do anything even though you know what's needed and you've decided to do it. Instead, you wait about another 1000 years, allowing millions of people that you love above all else, to not be 'saved', and keeping them in complete darkness about the solution.

Then about 2020 years ago, for no apparent reason it should be at that precise moment, you decide to act and impregnate a virgin so you can be born and grow up as a human, then you get yourself 'executed' and pretend to be dead for 3 days.

And that does the trick. You can now 'save' people from yourself.

Some people apparently find this story convincing but they never think to ask why God waited so long. Why didn't God do this right away when it saw Adam and Eve begin to go wrong? Why didn't it do it after Noah and the animals got off the Ark?

And why did it tell humans that they needed to be saved and that it had provided this vital way, in a manner which took the best part of another 1800 years before everyone got to know about it, so allowing even more millions to not be 'saved'?

It's all rather odd. It really doesn't sound as though this god was really that bothered.

Can a Christian explain this apparent tardiness?

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Friday 28 September 2018

Baby Beetles Evolve in 13 Generations

Sexton beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides and larva
Neglected baby beetles evolve greater self-reliance | Cambridge University Research News

How do you make your offspring grow big and strong?

If you are a sexton beetle, you feed them on dead mice, neglect them and let them fend for themselves. Well, not exactly their immediate offspring but the offspring of your 11 time great grandchildren who will evolve to be better at fending for themselves than those who are cared for, as this observed example of evolution in a laboratory shows.

Sexton beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides, provide a useful service in the British countryside by burying the dead bodies of mice and other small vertebrates to create food for their offspring. They represent an intermediate level of parental care, between providing for all their needs and providing no care at all. Normally, the females remove the hair from the corpse and make cuts into the skin so their larvae can get into the body more easily. They will also bite off pieces of flesh and feed it to their larvae.

Fruitloops For Jesus

Pastor Paul Begley.
"They're out there you know! Coming to get us! Only Brett Kavanagh can save us!"
Paul Begley: Kavanaugh Allegations Represent 'The Darkest Hour in the Last 150 Years' | Right Wing Watch

A measure of their values and of their desperation to take over the American judiciary can be got from the hysterical response of fruitloop American Christians to the revelations about the character of their nominee for the vacant SCOTUS seat, the religious fundamentalist and right-wing political extremist, Brett Kavanaugh.

For example, here is fellow fruitloop, Pastor Paul Begley's hysterical outburst. Bear in mind that this is an adult speaking:

Monday 24 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Why Francis and Benedict are Staying Silent

Why Francis and Benedict won't answer the accusations dividing their church - CNN

An intriguing insight into the Byzantine machinations in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church is beginning to emerge as the fall-out from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical child abuse continues.

And it's becoming apparent why Pope Francis is under a self-imposed code of omerta concerning the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that both Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, knew of the sexual abuses by disgraced Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick but allowed him to continue in his role as the senior American Catholic Cardinal.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - The Vigilance of Bishop Timlin

Bishop James C. Timlin, Suffer little children.
Some Pa. Catholic priests impregnated the girls they abused,

Buried deep in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic child abuse in the state are some horrific stories that are only just coming to light.

One of them is the account of how a priest in Scranton diocese, Father Thomas D. Skotek, sexually abused a girl over a period of five years while serving as pastor of St. Casimir in Freeland, got her pregnant and arranged an abortion for her.

You might think those facts alone would be

Saturday 22 September 2018

Christians Tax-Free Lying for Jesus, Trump and the GOP

Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons
Atheist Group Tells IRS to Investigate Church That Told Members to Vote for GOP | Hemant Mehta.

Eagle Mountain International Church's Terri Copeland Pearsons may have cost her father's money-making enterprise a hefty tax bill, if the Freedom From Religion Foundation's complaint to the IRS is upheld.

After turning the church into a political mouthpiece for Donald Trump and the GOP, in violation of the Johnson Amendment which removes the tax exempt, charitable status from churches that are openly partisan in their politics, Terri and her co-preacher Paula White, a 'spiritual advisor' to Donald Trump, boasted that since Trump became president they didn't need to bother about that because the Johnson Amendment has been abolished.

The only problem is, the Johnson Amendment has not been abolished and is still the law of the land. Trump promised to abolish it so the conservative Christian churches could have their greatest wish fulfilled so they could have the political power denied them by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. They would, of course, without exception, support extreme right GOP candidates who would naturally be in hock to them and effectively in the pockets of church leaders like Kenneth Copeland and his daughter Terri. To date, however, Trump has failed to keep that promise.

This Week's Accidental Evidence for Evolution

Octopus bimaculoides
Credit: Tom Kleindinst/Marine Biological Laboratory
Octopuses Given Mood Drug ‘Ecstasy’ Reveal Genetic Link to Evolution of Social Behaviors in Humans.

As I've pointed out many times, biologists these days don't set out to find evidence for evolution any more so than physicists set out to find evidence for the Laws of Thermodynamics nor do chemists set out to prove the Atomic Theory. It just happens, because the theories are true, that whatever they do confirms the underlying theories.

This week for example we have a couple of papers that yet again casually confirm that the TOE is true and the only way to make sense of what can be seen.

Friday 21 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Campaign to Blame the Gays

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin. "It was the gays!"
Credit: CNS/Jason Studnicka
U.S. Bishops Blame The Gays For Priests Raping Children, Cite ‘Homosexual Subculture’ | Michael Stone

The current frantic campaign by Catholics to try to combine their need to dissociate themselves from the crimes of paedophile and sexually predatory Catholic clergy with their desire to victimise and demonise homosexuals, did not start with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; he was merely following the party line it seems.

It was the line also taken by Bishop Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, last August when the Pennsylvania report detailing the abuse of over 1000 children by 300 Catholic priest in Pennsylvania was released. In a letter to his diocese Morlino said:

It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord...

New Book: A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything

My new book, A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything, is a bit of a departure for me, delving into other areas of interest - history and Ireland - and combining them into a coherent critique of religion and the harm it does.

Originally conceived many years ago as an objective background to the then prevalent 'troubles' in Northern Ireland, it quickly became inescapable that the underlying cause of them was religion. There are few if any other factors involved. There is no significant racial, linguistic or ethnic difference between what amounted to warring and mutually detesting communities.

The Catholics spoke English as did the Protestants, the 'Old English' had long been assimilated into the Catholic Irish community and the Protestants were mostly Scots whose divergence from the Celts of Ulster had been within the last 1500 years. Both communities now spoke predominantly English which had largely replaced a Goidelic Celtic language so similar and with such recent common origins that they amount to dialects of one another and are mutually intelligible.

The one major difference was religious, and yet the differences ran so deep that the two communities maintained a virtual apartheid; one faction seeing the other as a lesser people destined to be for ever ruled over by the other and that faction seeing the other as usurpers, occupying their ancestral homelands. A hatred that ran so deep that it became more important to avenge some half-legendary wrong done to grandparents than to ensure a peaceful future for grandchildren. A hatred that cost 3000 lives and gained not an inch of territory and not a single significant political concession.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Texas Mormons For Child Abuse

Sam Young - Excommunicated for defending children.
The Mormon Church Just Excommunicated a Man Who Was Trying to Protect Children | Hemant Mehta.

Like so many other Christian churches, the Mormons also have a problem with child abuse and, like other church authorities where the cat is out of the bag and the abuses they thought they were hiding from public view are now common knowledge, the Mormons are acting swiftly. They have taken decisive steps to ensure it carries on by excommunicating a member, Sam Young, who has been campaigning to stop it.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Phoenix Pastor Abusing Girls For Years

Jose Vicente Morales. Pastor of the Iglesia Cristiana Impacto de Fe, Poenix, Arizona
Phoenix pastor sentenced to prison for molesting underage girls.

I'm not sure if this will give Catholics any comfort, but it seems their priests are not the only ones who use the trusted access their position gives them to abuse minors and vulnerable adults.

51 year-old Jose Vicente Morales, pastor of the Iglesia Cristiana Impacto de Fe, a small, primarily Spanish-speaking church in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, was doing exactly that throughout the 1990 and again between 2007 and 2011.

He was sentenced to 12 year in prison followed by a life-time on probation by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville, last Monday, having been arrested in 2016. His offences came to light when one of his victims, then aged 17, began self-harming and told her mother that Morales had been sexually abusing her since the age of 12. Another victim gave evidence that he sexually abused her regularly when she was between the ages of 7 and 12. Her mother was also sexually abused Morales when she was a child.

Pando - Something for Creationists to Ponder

Pando, the Word’s Heaviest Organism, is an Ever-Growing Witness of an Ancient Earth – Naturalis Historia

What is the world's oldest living and almost certainly the heaviest organism?

No it's not the blue whale, a mere minnow by comparison, or 'Methuselah', the 4850 year-old bristlecone pine tree from California and nor is it General Sherman, the giant sequoia or redwood tree.

It is in fact, Pando, a clone of trembling aspen, Populus tremuloides, around Fish Lake in Central Utah, USA. It gets its name from the Spanish for 'I spread' because of the extensive spread of what has been shown to be a clone of all males trees (so they can only reproduce vegetatively, by root suckers). The total weight of this organism is estimated to be 13 million pounds (5900 metric tonnes).

Pope's Popularity Takes a Tumble

Pope Francis Favorability Down Sharply in U.S. | Gallop.

Although Pope Francis still maintains a positive approval rating amongst Americans, the 53% approval recorded by Gallop between 4-12 September this year masks what amounts to a major shift in perception of his 'approvability' by non-Catholic Americans.

Amongst this group his approval has fallen 18 percentage points in the month since the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, from 63% (and from a high of 72% recorded in February 2014), to the present low of 45%.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

174 Million Year-Old Dinosaur Fossil Adds New Information

Artist's impression of dinosaur Lingwulong shenqi
Credit: Zhang Zongda
A new Middle Jurassic diplodocoid suggests an earlier dispersal and diversification of sauropod dinosaurs | Nature Communications

From this week's research papers we have a very nice example of how science is an ever developing picture of reality and a very nice example of a new species of dinosaur.

Despite the sensational headlines, this one doesn't really mean we have to forget everything we ever thought we knew; nor does it mean all the textbooks are going to need to be re-written. It means that what we thought we knew turns out to be not quite right and maybe a paragraph or two will need to be added or altered in the next edition of a book on the evolution of the sauropod dinosaurs.

Monday 17 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Another Bishop Resigns

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, under investigation
Pope accepts resignation of US bishop accused of sexual harassment |

Only hours after announcing an investigation into 'financial irregularities' (i.e fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering) in the running of the Sistine Chapel Choir, Pope Francis had to accept the resignation of yet another bishop involved in a sexual abuse scandal.

This time, as the self-inflicted implosion in the American Catholic Church gathers pace, the bishop to offer his resignation is Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. In a slightly unusual and somewhat refreshing variation on the usual sexual abuse and coverup scandal, Bishop Bransfield's victims were adults whom he allegedly sexually harassed.

Discord in the Vatican as Sistine Choir is Investigated

Don Perosi with his scuola di canto (singschool) c. 1905.
Source: Wikipedia
Sistine Chapel Choir under investigation for money laundering | World news | The Guardian

"When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions." (Hamlet Act IV, Scene V)

"To be or not to be? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them." (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

"Get thee to a nunnery; why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

As poor Pope Francis contemplates the advancing battalions of sorrows and tries to work out whether and how to take up arms against then or suffer yet more slings and arrows, taking himself off to a nunnery must seem like a tempting option.

This time, it's not yet another few hundred of his priests, bishops and cardinals exposed for routine abuse of another thousand or two children and concealing crimes from the law enforcement and child protection authorities; it's something much closer to home involving choir boys - in the Sistine Chapel Choir.

New Jersey Catholic Abuse Hotline Swamped

New Jersey Atorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal
"We're not going to protect those individuals who perpetrated these crimes any more."
New Jersey Priest Abuse Hotline Gets So Many Calls That People Can’t Get Through | David G. McAfee.

In a measure of the scale of the problem, the hotline established in New Jersey for reporting cases of Catholic priests abusing children and vulnerable adults was so overwhelmed with calls in the first few hours that people found it difficult to get through. Extra staff were brought in to cope.

According to this report, calls to the toll-free hotline number (855) 363-6548, are now being answered promptly.

The hotline was established by the office of Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, who has set up a taskforce to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the state of New Jersey, following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which revealed abuse by predatory paedophile priests and routine cover-up on a massive scale in every diocese in the state.

Spokesperson for the New Jersey Criminal Justice Department, Peter Aseltine, acknowledged the problem and explained that some calls were reporting multiple instances of abuse.

Sunday 16 September 2018

I Learned Something New Today

Leo Behe
I learned something new today; something I should have known but which had obviously passed me by unnoticed.

It's not something I'm proud of; I should have known and I'm ashamed I didn't! I have learned my lesson, reflected on my failure and will try harder in future.

I learned that Michael J. Behe's son is an Atheist.

Michael J. Behe is of course the famous inventor of the notion of intelligent design for the Discovery Institute and notoriously pedals the idea relentlessly, pushing ideas that have been refuted and frequently making unsupported claims about science papers that the authors themselves refute. He is also notorious for what PZ Myers describes as the fireship for the creation industry, launched into the wind and causing court cases in which he is brought in as an expert witness for creationism to crash and burn.

Now it seems his son Leo doesn't believe a word of his claims either.

You can read his very thoughtful account of his journey from home-schooled indoctrinate Catholicism and Behe Snr's brand of creationism here. Below are just a few quotes to whet your appetites.

Catholic Abuse News - Now It's The Dutch

Dutch Catholic church accused of widespread sexual abuse cover-up | World news | The Guardian.

The standard techniques of cover-up and concealment of clerical abuse of children was used extensively in the Netherlands, so a report in today's, Guardian claims.

Quoting a report in National Catholic Reporter, the report says that:

Over the course of 65 years, 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops and their auxiliaries “covered up sexual abuse, allowing the perpetrators to cause many more victims. Four [of them] abused children and 16 others allowed the transfer of paedophile priests who could have caused new victims in other parishes".
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