Monday 31 January 2022

The Old Dead Gods of Wiltshire are Still Hiding Their Secrets

Stonehenge at dawn
Photograph: Chris Gorman/Getty Images
How science is uncovering the secrets of Stonehenge | Heritage | The Guardian

Rosa's Laws of Theodynamics.

First Law of Theodynamics

Gods can be created out of nothing and will disappear without trace.


Third Law of Theodynamics

Gods disappear completely when the number of believers in them reaches zero.

The vast complex of Late Bronze/Early Iron Age monuments, burial chambers and earthworks on Salisbury Plain, in central southern England about which I've written before, continue to remind us how, when a religion and its god(s) disappear into the mists of time and no-one remembers them, unlike a science could be, they cannot be reconstructed from real-world sources, because they were never founded on real-world sources in the first place. They arose entirely in the imaginations of people who lacked the scientific method to discover the truth about the world about them.

But to their believers, as we can see by the evidence of the resources they devoted to them, they would have been no less important and no less 'proven' than are the modern gods of present days religions. The evidence for them would have been 'all around them'. It would have been in the 'design' of trees, sunsets and flowers and in the way they always answered prayers like ensuring the sun rose in the morning and the crops continued to grow in the fields, and when they failed this was proof of the failure of their followers to pray hard enough or to believe with enough faith or not having performed the required ritual correctly, or because the god(s) said no, for reasons which could only be guessed at.

Religious Child Abuse News - Pentecostals Cover Up Down Under

Brian Houston, charged with concealing evidence of child abuse
"Stepping aside as global senior pastor"
Facing trial, Brian Houston steps aside as global senior pastor of Hillsong

I doubt anyone will be the least surprised that another Christian sect is embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal.

This time it is the Australian Pentecostal mega-rich Hillsong megachurch and global Christian music publishing empire. Its founder, Brian Houston, has agreed to step aside as global senior pastor until the end of the year, while he faces criminal charges in Australia alleging that he concealed the predatory paedophilia of his father, Frank Houston, who died in 2004.

Christian Hate News - Pastor Greg Locke Says Children With Autism are Possessed by Demons.

Pastor Greg Locke, Global Vision Bible Church, Tennessee.
"Autistic children are possessed by evil demons"
Greg Locke Says Autistic Children Are Demonized: ‘Ain’t No Such Diagnosis in the Bible’

Preacher of hate, Talibangelical Pastor Greg Locke of the Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, USA has turned his hate from face masks, social distancing, anti-COVID vaccines and people who didn't vote for Donald Trump, to autistic children.

Failing to find any mention of autism in the Bible, he has concluded that autistic children must be possessed by evil demons. There is no mention of cancer, diabetes, sickle-cell syndrome, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s dementia, viruses or bacteria in the Bible either, but Locke seems blissfully unaware that when he tells us the Bible disagrees with science, he is telling us the Bible is wrong. This is something we have known for hundreds of years of course, ever since the scientific method gave us the tool to discover the truth and we discovered the truth was very different to what the Bible said.

Sunday 30 January 2022

Covidiot News - Antivaxxer Claims Are Becoming Indistinguishable from The Claims of Lunatics

Dr Sherri Tenpenny
Osteopath and self-proclaimed 'expert' on the anti-COVID vaccines
Anti-Vaccine 'Expert' Sherri Tenpenny Says COVID-19 Vaccines Will Turn People Into 'Transhumanist Cyborgs' | Right Wing Watch

Is fanatical Trumpanzee covidiocy a form of insanity?

I pose this question because Dr Sherri Tenpenny, an osteopath and self-proclaimed expert on the anti-COVID vaccines, who has had no formal training in immunology or epidemiology, puts me in mind of a distressing incident I and my crew mate had to deal with as ambulance Paramedics many years ago. It involved the lawful detention of a female doctor and pathologist under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act (MHA).

The unfortunate lady was being held under Section 136 of the MHA in a local police station as a place of safety, having been apprehended running around the town stark naked and shouting hysterically for people to take cover from an invisible, odourless gas that was pervading the streets and turning them into automatons.

Saturday 29 January 2022

Covidiot News - New York Unvaccinated 26 Times More Likely to Die of COVID-19 Than Vaccinated

At the peak of the Omicron wave, New York City saw 26 times more deaths among the unvaccinated than vaccinated people. A pop-up COVID-19 testing site is shown in a neighbourhood among those that have seen some of the highest number of city deaths on February 23 in the Queens borough of New York City.
Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Unvaccinated New Yorkers 26 Times More Likely to Die of COVID at Omicron Peak | Newsweek

Antivaxx covidiots, scraping around for something to support their selfish stupidity will often point to the fact that vaccinated people are still catching the omicron variant of COVID-19 as evidence that the vaccines don't work. At least only the lunatic fringe conspiracists are still coming up with the more insane claims such as that the vaccine is designed to turn you gay, or make you magnetic so you can be controlled by Bill Gates, or that it is designed to kill you as part of some nefarious eugenic population control.

But what are the merits of this claim of non-effectiveness, as though governments worldwide are spending vast sums of money to give their people something that doesn't work, as well as being in on a vast global conspiracy involving tens or hundreds of millions of people?

The facts are, as explained in this Newsweek report, not on the side of the antivaxxers, not because they are wrong to claim that vaccinated people can still catch COVID-19, but because they are wrong to claim this means the vaccines are not effective.

In fact, the evidence is that, as the vaccine manufacturers always claimed, that, while not 100% effective and while not giving permanent protection as immunity was likely to decline over time, so top-up boosters will be needed, the vaccines give you a very significantly increased probability of avoiding serious illness and death. And this is borne out by the facts, both in the USA and in the UK.

Friday 28 January 2022

COVID-19 News - It Doesn't Matter Which Booster You Have, So Long as You Have One!

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (gold) within endosomes of a heavily infected nasal epithelial cell.
Credit: NIAID
Mix-and-Match Trial Finds Additional Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Safe, Immunogenic | NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

My first two anti-COVID vaccines were the Astra-Zeneca vaccines but, for reasons of availability, my booster was the Pfizer vaccine. None of the vaccines caused anything more than the slightest discomfort at the injection site which lasted about 2 days. However, a friend of mine declined an offered booster because it wasn’t the same as the initial vaccine and thought there might be a smaller boost as well as doubling the risk of an adverse reaction.

So, which of us was right?

The preliminary results of a clinical trial by the US National Institute of Health, show that there is certainly no disadvantage in a mix and match approach and there may even be a benefit. The trial results are reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.

As the NIH News release explains:

Malevolent Designer News - How the Omicron Variant of SARS-CoV-2 Was Created

The Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana in October 2021 and has quickly spread throughout the world. A large international team of researchers, including Maciej Boni, associate professor of biology, Penn State, was the first to describe the genomic profile of Omicron and explore the origins of the variant.
Credit: Justice Hubane, Unsplash.
Omicron genetics and early transmission patterns are characterized in new study | Penn State University

Creationist mode:


A team of scientists led by Maciej Boni, associate professor of biology, Penn State University, USA have discovered how, where and approximately when the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was created.

Of course, being proper scientists they say this was an evolutionary process, but, as any devotee of Creationism's divine sadist will tell you, evolution doesn't happen so all these changes must have been intentionally designed by their beloved malevolence.

We have seen SARS-CoV-2 generate three major variants — Alpha, Delta and Omicron — in about 16 months, which is very surprising because other viruses do not make such repeated big evolutionary leaps. The latest variant — Omicron — is extraordinary because of the even bigger jump it made in the evolution of its spike protein.

Associate Professor Maciej Boni
Penn State University.
The discovery is that omicron (B.1.1.529) is a descendant of the alpha (B.1.1.7) variant, that replaced the original virus at about the beginning of October, 2020 and caused the second major wave of infections. Alpha was of the B.1.1 lineage but was much more transmissible. It was itself replaced by the delta (B.1.617.2) variant which caused the third wave starting in about June, 2021.

Despite expectations that a subsequent variant of concern (VOC) would evolve from delta, the team found that omicron is not closely related to delta, but is a highly modified version of alpha.

The team's findings are published in Nature, sadly behind a paywall. However the abstract can be read here and a PDF is available to download from here.

What this means is that although Omicron belongs to the same lineage as the Alpha variant, it has changed to such a great extent that it is largely unrecognizable as a cousin or nephew of the Alpha variant. When the Omicron genome was first sequenced, it became clear that this virus had the potential to be phenotypically very different from previous SARS-CoV-2 variants that we were familiar with.

This finding led to our conclusion that adaptive evolution played a significant role in the early emergence and establishment of Omicron. This finding suggests that Omicron is likely the result of an evolutionary process that created a highly transmissible virus that partially evades our antibody responses.

Maciej Boni
The Penn State news release explains:

Catholic Child Abuse News - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Misled Enquiry into Munich Abuses

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Future Pope Benedict XVI.
Complicit in the abuse of 4 children by paedophile priests in Munich.
Editorial: In penance for mishandled abuse cases, Benedict needs to give up 'pope emeritus' | National Catholic Reporter

More information is emerging from the enquiry into the sexual abuse of children in the Munich-Freising Archdiocese, Germany, when, as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of the archdiocese.

The enquiry by the law firm, Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, who had been commissioned by the Catholic Church to investigate the numerous reports of cases in the dioceses, has concluded that Ratzinger was complicit in the abuse of 4 of the 65 victims by failing to act, even though he was aware of the predatory paedophile nature of the priests involved. The investigators also concluded that Pope Benedict's 80 plus page submission to the enquiry contained claims and assertions that were not credible - in essence, accusing Pope Benedict XVI of lying to them to try to cover up his culpability.

They also revealed that he had stated that he did not think a priest acted improperly when he masturbated in front of pre-pubescent girls, because he didn't touch them!

According to this editorial in the National Catholic Reporter:
In his 80-some pages of written testimony for the report's investigation, the 94-year-old Benedict initially denied any wrongdoing and drew some disturbing conclusions, such as indicating that a priest did not "act improperly" because he didn't touch prepubescent girls while masturbating in front of them.
In the same document, Pope Benedict XVI claimed he was not present at a 1980 meeting to discuss the transfer of a priest accused of misconduct. The enquiry team called this claim, "not very credible" and produced the minutes of the meeting which clearly recorded his presence. As I reported earlier, Benedict’s initial response was to claim that the minutes were "only proof that something was written down, not evidence that he read it". Through his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, has since admitted that Ratzinger was present at the meeting and his denial had been "a clerical error - an oversight in the editing of his statement."

Funny how one of the most damaging allegations - that the then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger was aware that a predatory paedophile priest was being moved around in his dioceses and allowed to continue working as a priest - was the subject of a clerical error that should have been edited out, but was not!

According to this report in the Guardian:
In one of the cases examined by Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, a now notorious paedophile priest, Peter Hullermann, was transferred to Munich from Essen in western Germany where he had been accused of abusing an 11-year-old boy. He was reassigned to pastoral duties despite his history.

In 1986, he was convicted of molesting more children and given a suspended prison sentence. He continued to work with children for many years and his case is regarded as a pertinent example of the mishandling of abuse by the church.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the current archbishop of Munich and Freising, was also found to have failed to act in two cases of suspected abuse. Although he tendered his resignation to Pope Francis, this was rejected.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is calling for Benedict to give up his title as "pope emeritus". There are also calls for Pope Francis to impose sanctions on 94-year-old Benedict XVI, but, since a Pope is elected for life being officially chosen by God who guided the Conclave of Cardinals that elected him, and since having two popes in the Vatican simultaneously is unprecedented, the rules are being made up as they go along, so it is not clear what authority, if any, Pope Francis has over Benedict or whether Benedict can even resign his position and title.

For Benedict to be convicted of misconduct by a special Vatican tribunal would be cataclysmic for the Catholic Church and would raise all manner of questions of basic doctrine such as the doctrine of papal infallibility and divine guidance as God's personal representative on Earth. It would undermine the entire credibility of the Papacy.

There is probably more of this scandal to come and, if I can obtain an English translation of the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl report in full, I will post it here. So far only the index and the first 21 of the more than 1200 pages have been translated and published. A German language version is available here [PDF].


Thank you for sharing!









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Thursday 27 January 2022

Malevolent Designer News - If Frogs can Regrow Limbs, why Can't Amputees?

A normal African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.
“It’s exciting to see that the drugs we selected were helping to create an almost complete limb” - Nirosha Murugan.
Photo: Pouzin Olivier, via Creative Commons
Scientists Regrow Frog’s Lost Leg | Tufts Now

Discounting the account of the almost laughably fake 'miraculous' regeneration of Miguel Juan Pellicer's leg in Calanda, Spain in 1637, there are no authenticated accounts of a mammalian limb ever having regenerated or having been miraculously restores to an amputee. And yet, as scientists have now shown, the ability to regrow an amputated limb is stull present, having been inherited from remote salamander ancestors whose salamander descendants can still regenerate missing body parts. All it needs is the right cocktail of drugs to stimulate it.

Admittedly, this is only for frogs so far...

The scientists in question work at Tufts and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. According to Mike Silver, writing in Tufts Now:

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Unintelligent Designer News - Birds Have a Unique Immune Pathway and Viruses are Finding a Way Round It.

A New Avian Immunological Pathway Discovered
Scientists discover new avian immunological pathway | News

Here is one of those papers where its difficult to decide which discovered facts best refute Creationism when so many do - at least for those who understand both Creationism and biology, which sadly, hardy ever includes Creationists.

Scientists lead by biochemists from the University of California, Riverside, have discovered a hitherto unknown immunological pathway, unique to avians but absent in all other vertebrates.

Covidiot News - Unvaccinated People Are Still Worse Off Even if They Survive an Infection

Vaccination before or after SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to robust humoral response and antibodies that effectively neutralize variants

A second research group has reported that vaccinations against COVID-19 given before or after breakthrough infections, significantly enhances antibody levels, again making the case for vaccination unarguable. Readers may remember how I reported on a similar paper a few days ago.

This time the research comes from the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Portland, Oregon, USA. The team found that it makes little difference whether you have the vaccine after being infected with SARS-CoV-2 or whether you are unlucky enough to get a 'breakthrough' infection after having been vaccinated. However, with the virus now being so common in the environment, the chance of a breakthrough infection, post vaccine is high, though not as high as for an unvaccinated person. Without the vaccine, however, natural immunity following infection is much lower.

It makes no difference whether you get infected and then vaccinated, or if you get vaccinated and then a breakthrough infection. In either case, you will get a really, really robust immune response — amazingly high.

The likelihood of getting breakthrough infections is high because there is so much virus around us right now, but we position ourselves better by getting vaccinated. And if the virus comes, we’ll get a milder case and end up with this super immunity.

Fikadu Tafesse, Ph.D., Senior author
Assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology
OHSU School of Medicine
Portland, Oregon, USA
The OHSU news release accompanying the team's open access publication, in the journal Science Immunology, explains:

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Unintelligent Design News - Did Creationism's Beloved Pestilential Sadist Blunder with Omicron?

Researchers from the University of Kent, UK and Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany find explanation why the Omicron variant causes less severe disease – Aktuelles aus der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Creationist mode:


It's beginning to look like Creationism's divine malevolence may have blundered badly in its eagerness to modify the SARS-CoV-2 virus so it could overcome the vaccines made by medical science and kill more people and leave more with long-term disabilities.

At least this has to be the conclusion for Creationists who are obliged by dogma to reject the idea that a natural, evolutionary process could be behind the modifications which can only occur if their putative intelligent (sic) supernatural designer makes the changes.

Our study provides for the first time an explanation, why Omicron infections are less likely to cause severe disease. Obviously, Omicron can in contrast to Delta not effectively inhibit the host cell interferon immune response.

Prof Martin Michaelis, co-Lead author
School of Bioscience
University of Kent
Canterbury, Kent, UK
Scientists from the University of Kent and the Goethe University, Frankfurt have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant is less effective than delta at blocking a cellular defence mechanism against viruses - the so-called “interferon response”.

The researchers have shown that omicron variant viruses are particularly sensitive to inhibition by the so-called interferon response, an unspecific immune response that is present in all body cells. This provides the first explanation of why COVID-19 patients infected with the omicron variant are less likely to experience severe disease.

Covidiot Antivaxx News - The Child-Like QAnon Dupes are Turning to Violence to Avoid Facing the Truth.

Kirsten Weldon, Pro-Trump, Antivaxx QAnon conspiracist.
Died of COVID-19, 04 Jan, 2022.
'It's Gonna Get Bloody': Anti-Vax QAnon Conspiracy Theorist Scott McKay Threatens to Put 'Bullets Inside' Health Care Providers | Right Wing Watch

A couple of weeks ago, Cirsten Weldon, a vociferous Pro-Trump QAnon conspiracist and antivaxxer, died in hospital of COVID-19, another in a long line of similar covidiot antivaxx nutters, so doing their bit for the self-inflicted genocide being waged by Trumpanzee cult loons against their own core supporters.

According to this report in the Daily Beast:

Monday 24 January 2022

Fruitloop Loon News - Is David Barton Paranoid or is His Lying a Pathological Condition?

David Barton
Bigger and better lies or increasingly paranoid?
David Barton and the Evolution of Lies | Right Wing Watch

It's difficult to know whether professional liar and pseudo-historian, David Barton, is just becoming more imaginative and creative in his lies, or whether he is becoming paranoid, believing himself to be the victim of conspiracies, but his lies are certainly becoming more and more elaborate. Perhaps he just ratchets them up a notch every time he gets away with them, hoping to fool more fundamentalists with them, or perhaps he really does believe people are out to persecute him.

For example, here he is telling the right-wing Christian organization, City Elders, two lies that have gotten more lurid over the years:
  1. 'They' [Wikipedia] literally spent a million... er... millions of dollars a year to discredit me and keep my name high on Google searches.
  2. Congress placed me on a domestic terrorism watch under Obama.
The first has grown since he first tried it in 2011 when he said he had been told that the ACLU had spent a million dollars trying to discredit him. It has now metamorphosed into the bigger and better lie, that Wikipedia spends millions of dollars a year to discredit him. A brief glance at his Wikipedia entry probably explains his eagerness to try to discredit it.

The second has grown since 2012 when the Southern Poverty Law Center included him in a list of "30 New Activists Heading Up the Radical Right", which Barton claimed was a terrorist watch list. By 2016 this lie had become that the FBI had put him and his "WallBuilders" organization on a list of hate groups. Now he claims Congress under Obama included him in a domestic terrorist watch list.

Barton, who has no formal training as a historian (his degree is in Christian education from Oral Roberts University, where he appears to have been taught that Christian education requires lies to be taught to Christians as fact) but, because he tells the lies they require their supporters to believe, he is adored by the Republican Party and plays a leading part in developing policies and campaign platforms. One of his best-selling books, with the deliciously ironic title The Jefferson Lies[sic] was pulled and pulped by the Christian publishers, Thomas Nelson, because it was full of inaccuracies, misleading quotes and unsubstantiated claims, and had been slated by real historians.

Showing his customary disregard for the truth, Glenn Beck, who wrote the forward to Barton's book, published it under his Mercury Ink imprint and then with their traditional penchant for publishing lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories, the extreme right-wing 'fringe' publisher, WND Books published a 'revised edition' of Jefferson Lies in 2016.

Barton's aim is to fool people into believing America was founded as a fundamentalist Christian nation as a prelude to the creation of a self-appointing Taliban-style evangelical theocracy in the USA, despite the expressed intent of founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, who explicitly intended to build a 'wall of separation' between church and state, in order to prevent exactly what Barton and his extreme right-wing allies would like to establish.

Every time he opens his mouth, Barton discredits himself and unwittingly proves the old adage:

When you show the world you know you need to lie for your faith, you show the world you know your faith is a lie that requires fools to believe falsehoods

Covidiot News - Boosters Give the Same Protection as Catching COVID-19, Without the Risks

Breakthrough infections spur strong antibody responses | Newsroom

Scientists working at the University of Washington Medical School (UW Medicine), Washington, USA, have shown that either a third (booster) vaccination or infection with SARS-CoV-2 gives comparable magnitude and breadth of protection, but those who have been vaccinated twice but still get a breakthrough infection usually do not have a severe infection.

Of course, anyone who is unfortunate enough to get a breakthrough infection or who is unvaccinated, runs a far higher risk of serious illness and long-term complications than those who have all three vaccinations, so the case for vaccination remains unarguable. The news release from UW Medicine explains:

Saturday 22 January 2022

Child Abuse News - The Evangelicals are Copying the Catholics

Former Youth Pastor, William Stefan Wahl, The River church, Kimball, Michigan, USA
Charged with six sex crimes against minors
UPDATE: Former The River church youth minister charged with six sex crimes Friday | Port Huron Times Herald

The Pro-Trump QAnon Inc, in alliance with fundamentalist evangelical Christians and their political wing, the Republican Party, has concocted a lurid conspiracy theory with absolutely no evidence, alleging a massive, world-wide satanic paedophile and child sex-trafficking ring involving prominent Democrats, and just about anyone who contradicts their increasingly lurid and ludicrous claims.

However, if you want to find real paedophile rings, you hardly ever need to look any further than a nearby evangelical church, like The River church in Kimball Township, St Clair County, Michigan, USA.

According to this report in Port Huron Times Herald by Laura Fitzgerald
William Stefan Wahl, 28, of Port Huron man [sic], was arraigned Friday on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct [with a] victim younger than 13, two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct [with] victim between 13 and 16, distributing obscene matter to children, aggravated indecent exposure and using computers to commit a crime.

His bond was set at $25,000 cash/surety.

Wahl is accused of sexually abusing four juvenile victims that he fostered a relationship with through The River, St. Clair County Sheriff Mat King said. King identified Wahl as a former youth minister at the church.

Friday 21 January 2022

Catholic Child Abuse - How Cardinal Ratzinger Protected Paedophile Priests

Pope Benedict, formerly, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich
Pope Benedict XVI knew of abusive priests when he ran the Munich archdiocese, investigators say - CNN

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the predecessor of Pope Francis and the first pope for centuries to resign, knew of the abuse of children by Catholic priests in his diocese when he was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

This is the devastating finding of an enquiry, commissioned by the Catholic Church, into historic sexual abuse at the Munich Archdiocese over several decades. In effect, this finding accuses Pope Benedict XVI of lying when he denied any knowledge of the abuses.

He was informed about the facts. We believe that he can be accused of misconduct in four cases; two of these cases concern abuses committed during his tenure and sanctioned by the state. In both cases, the perpetrators remained active in pastoral care.

During his [Benedict's] time in office there were abuse cases happening. In those cases, those priests continued their work without sanctions. The church did not do anything. He claims that he didn't know about certain facts, although we believe that this is not so, according to what we know.

Martin Pusch, Lawyer.
Westpfahl Spilker Wastl law firm.
Lawyer, Ulrich Wastl, produced a copy of the minutes of a meeting of Church leaders in Munich on January 15, 1980, when a decision was taken to appoint a known abuser (referred to in the report as "Priest X"). Pope Benedict denied being present when this decision was made, but this is contradicted by the minutes of the meeting. Benedict's incredible response to this evidence of his lies was that the document is only proof that something was written down, not evidence that he read it. However, the charge is not that he read the minutes but that he was present when the decision was made to appoint a known paedophile priest in the diocese of which he was head.

The building of lies to protect Pope Benedict has just collapsed with a crash. Benedict was complicit in the abuse of numerous victims after 1980, victims of Priest X

Matthias Katsch, Abuse survivor.
Leader of "Eckiger Tisch" which seeks justice for abuse victims.
In 2019, the then former Pope, Benedict XVI wrote an essay in which he sought the shift the blame for the paedophile priest scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church, away from the priests and the Church and onto society at large and liberals in particular by claiming it was the result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the liberalization of the Church's moral teaching. He also blamed homosexuals whom he claimed had established cliques in seminaries which significantly changed the climate in the seminaries. In other words, it wasn't the fault of senior clerics such as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who turned a blind eye to the abuses and allowed abusers to continue their abuses under the protection of the Church, but the fault of those high in the Catholic Church's demonology, 'liberals and homosexuals'.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was effectively Pope John Paul II's deputy and enforcer and was widely believed to be behind efforts to suppress reports of clerical abuse of minors in an effort to protect the reputation of the church and minimise compensation paid to its victims.

According to this article:

Thursday 20 January 2022

Christian Child Abuse News - How a Christian Cult Facilitated Child Abuse at a Leading UK Private School

Winchester College

Photo: Dov Makabaw Sundry/Alamy
Winchester college society was cult-like, finds report into child abuse | Schools | The Guardian

There is an old saying about people, known as Wykehamists, who were educated at Winchester College, Wiltshire, UK - "Never trust a Wykehamist!" Whether there is any truth in that or not, I really couldn't say, but it's certainly true of an evangelical Christian cult that operated in the school during the 1970s and 1980s. They provided cover for the systematic abuse of boys at the college by a powerful and charismatic barrister to groom and sadistically abuse boys with impunity, according to a review of the case made public yesterday.

Winchester College is a leading UK public school - the equivalent of the fee-paying American private school - constituted as an educational charity. In their response to the review report, the college says:
John Smyth QC, who died in 2018, was Chairman of the Iwerne Trust, a charity which ran evangelical Christian holiday camps for young people. Smyth abused young people in several countries over many years. This abuse was brought to public attention by Channel 4 in 2017 and has since been the subject of a book, Bleeding for Jesus, by Andrew Graystone. In the light of the Channel 4 disclosure, the College commissioned a review from two independent expert reviewers, Ms Jan Pickles OBE and Ms Genevieve Woods. Jan Pickles was assisted in the review of current arrangements by Ms Mary Breen, formerly Headmistress of St Mary’s Ascot.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

The Self-Inflicted Cull of Covidiot Americans is Working Best on Young, Uneducated Republicans

Global Vaccine Tracking

The astonishing situation the Trumpanzee Republicans have gotten themselves into where the antivaxx fears they've spread to their credulous supporters is encouraging them to die of COVID-19 rather than accept the minute risk of an adverse reaction (many of which have been exaggerated or imagined anyway) is paying off in the USA, where the anti-COVID vaccine take up is lower than any country other than Russia.

As the latest weekly survey of 52,222 Americans shows, vaccine scepticism is at 28% with vaccine take-up at only 66% with just 6% saying they still plan to get vaccinated, although with no shortages and no difficulty getting the vaccine, and with infection levels at a record high, it is unclear why that 6% still haven't done so.

The real success for the right-wing antivaxx movement has been in deterring 20% of Americans from ever getting the undoubted protection that the vaccines give against serious illness and death and making a further 8% hesitant.

Let's recap briefly on how the Trumpanzee right in America got themselves into the idiotic position of encouraging their own credulous supporters to die of COVID-19 in what amounts to a cull of the most gullible and, as figures show, the least well educated of them - in other words, the bedrock of Republican voters:

In the early days of the pandemic, in February, 2020, the acutely narcissistic and notoriously incompetent president Donald J Trump was hopelessly out of his depth and beginning to panic because he had, early in his presidency, in his fanatical zeal to undo everything the first black (and therefore in Trump's white supremacist eyes, illegitimate) president Barak Obama, had achieved in Office, had dismantled the contingencies for just such a pandemic, including stockpiles of PPE for health-care personnel.

Being psychologically incapable of accepting that there were experts in health care and epidemiology who knew more then he did because his narcissistic personality disorder meant he had to pretend to be the best at everything, Trump panicked and began to try to explain his inaction by claiming, despite the evidence, that the growing pandemic was variously, a Democrat Party hoax, a Chinese Communist plot, a mild condition that was no worse than influenza, a virus that would be killed off when the weather got hotter in summer (because either the virus was only in the USA, or the whole world has summer when the USA does, obviously), and a short-term problem that would all be over by April.

He then began promoting wackadoodle 'cures' and preventative measures such as taking antimalarial drugs with known dangerous side effects and no proven efficacy, bullying the epidemiologists and medical experts who contradicted his claims and who were advocating a lockdown and other measure to mitigate the growing disaster, swallowing or injecting bleach and inserting a UV light source into various bodily orifices.

New cases by country (19 Jan, 2022)

Any concern for the welfare of their fellow Americans was swept aside by Republican Party politicians when they realised Trump was deliberately polarising America and making the pandemic a political issue and so threw their weight behind Trump's disastrous and dangerously muddle-headed policies and tried to present them as the right response - i.e., minimise the risks and encourage people to ignore the advice of the experts because they were clearly on the 'other side'.

On top of that, the Christian evangelical megachurches run by unscrupulous, multi-millionaires, were panicking over the loss of income that any lockdown would cost them if they couldn't preach to crowded churches and hector gullible attendees into giving more money. So, the evangelicals, who supported Trump already, believing he would give them the political power they craved, threw their lot in with the anti-science position of the Republicans and began inventing 'religious' reasons not to wear facemasks or observe social distancing. So, not wearing a mask and not getting vaccinated 'on religious grounds' became a prime cause of vaccine scepticism and courts fell into line, declaring it to be unconstitutional to mandate vaccines because that violated the right to religious freedom! After 60 years of campaigning for greed and selfishness by the political and religious right in the USA, the notion of collective responsibility and regard for the welfare of others was presented as somehow 'Socialist' or 'Liberal' and even 'Communist'. And unscrupulous Republican politicians were able to present their opposition to anti-COVID measure as a defence of religious freedoms, and ‘American values’.

Despite catching the virus himself and spending time in ICU where his life was saved by the experts he despised using expensive medication not available to ordinary Americans, Trump's White House became a dangerous COVID hotspot and his disinformation campaign culminated in his doomed re-election rallies turning into super-spreader events where social distancing and wearing a face mask was seen as a sign of disloyalty and an anti-Trump political statement, and so the pandemic ran out of control and the body count mounted until Trump was thrown out of the White House by the largest majority in US polling history, as the first presidential candidate to lose the popular vote twice and one of the few sitting presidents not to win a second term.

And we all know of the failed coup d’état by Trump and his extremist cult to overturn the democratic vote and continue the incompetent reign of someone who is probably the worst American President in history.

So, we now have the situation where, despite the abundant evidence that the vaccines are safe and hugely reduce the risk of serious illness and death, and the evidence that any side effects are exceedingly rare and usually short-term in nature, and the evidence that unvaccinated people are more infectious to others, the political and religious right are supporting and encouraging policies that will harm their own supporters because the political risks of backing out of their rabbit hole and admitting they (and by implication, Donald Trump) got it disastrously wrong and so have been culpable for the deaths of over 850,000 Americans and actively hampering the attempts of the Biden administration to contain the pandemic.

It is clear too that the ludicrous Republican campaign to encourage the self-genocide of its own supporters had been most effective on the younger and least well-educated demographic.

The final chart above shows what little success there has been in countering the disinformation and antivaxx lies coming from the political right and their allies in the pro-Trump QAnon propaganda machine and the extremist evangelical churches, especially with those who had decided not to get vaccinated. There has been some slight movement in those undecided but the 'unwilling' proportion has remained fairly consistent across all demographics.

It seems that this ludicrous self-genocide campaign the Republican's under Donald J Trump's disastrous leadership has blundered stupidly into, may be amongst the most successful political campaigns in recent history. Never before have so many credulous idiots allowed themselves to be fooled into risking serious illness and death to save the face of a handful of cynical political incompetents who put their own political self-interest above the health and welfare of their own supporters.

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Tuesday 18 January 2022

Anger as an Indian Court Acquits Catholic Bishop of Charge of Repeatedly Raping a Nun

Bishop Franco Mulakkal
Judge ordered acquittal of charge of raping a nun
Kerala court clears bishop in nun's rape | BBC

In a verdict which shocked and angered the leaders of women's groups who supported the nun, sessions Judge G Gopakumar, in a brief order last Friday, declared that the prosecution had failed to prove all the charges against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of a diocese in Jalandhar in the Punjab, Northern India. His accuser was a nun in the Missionaries of Jesus, a congregation from Kerala, that is part of the Jalandhar diocese. The prosecution case was hampered by the sudden death in October 2018, of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, a key witness, vociferous supporter of the nuns and a critic of Bishop Mulakkal.

Readers of this blog may remember how the nun finally went to the police after repeated complaints to the Church authorities, and a letter to the Pope, were met with indifference. Several other nuns from the mission also came forward with allegations of harassment, intimidation and sexual assault by priests.

As head of their diocese, Mulakkal wielded immense power over the mission, including budgets and job allocations. His response to the accusation was to claim that Sister Villoonnickal of trying to blackmail him into giving her a better job. Sister Villoonnickal is one of the nuns who supported the accuser. A prosecution was only brought after a prolonged campaign including public demonstrations, which themselves were met with persecutions, bullying and vilification of the victims and expulsions.

Sister Josephine Villoonnickal, left, sister Alphy Pallasseril, center, and Sister Anupama Kelamangalathu, at St. Francis Mission Home, in Kuravilangad.
Credit: AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Sister Lucy Kalappura, a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation and a teacher at Sacred Heart High school at Dwaraka, Kerala, who was at the forefront of protests against Mulakkal and one of the five nuns who took part in a sit-in near the Kerala High Court in Kochi, was removed from her teaching post and expelled from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation.

According to Sister Villoonnickal, the rapes took place in Room 20 of a small convent at the end of a one-lane road in rural Kerala. She alleges that every few months, Mulakkal would visit the St. Francis convent and summon the nun. Then, according to a letter she wrote to church officials, he raped her, a total of thirteen times; the first time on May 5, 2014; the last time on Sept. 23, 2016. The dates of these visits are corroborated by entries in the convent’s visitor logs.

Reports of the sexual abuse of Catholic nuns in Karela, one of the oldest Christian communities in India, are widespread. Legend has it that Christianity was brought to southern India by St Thomas the apostle, in 56 AD.

Rural Indian Christian culture is one of deference to male authority and especially to the authority of Catholic priests. Nuns are required to be celibate and any who admit to sexual experience, even non-consensual, risk alienation and even expulsion from their order, so there is enormous social pressure on them to comply with the demands of priests and then to keep silent about it. Some are so naive they may even think it is normal and even part of their duty to minister to a 'celibate' priest's needs. Some may even blame themselves for the assault.

Often these offences take place in private and the nuns are reluctant to report it immediately, so there is never any forensic or medical evidence of the offence and any trial comes down to one word against another.

The scandal surrounding the allegations, the obstruction by the Church and the arest of Mulakkal prompted the Pope to admit publicly that the abuse of nuns by priests was a problem the Church needed to confront, admitting for the first time that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, had been forced to shut down an entire order in which nuns were being kept as 'sex slaves' for priests. It also prompted Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad, a former Vatican diplomat, to issue an apology to the victims of sexually predatory priests.

However, Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council defended Mulakkal and criticised the nuns who campaigned for justice, accusing them of helping "the Church’s enemies to attack it and its leaders and disdain the Sacraments, causing much pain to all those who love the Church." Three bishops showed their support by visiting Mulakkal in prison during the three weeks he spent in custody before being released on bail.

The prosecution has announced that they will be appealing against the acquittal, to the Indian High Court.

Abiogenesis News - Science Is Closing the Gap - Still no God(s) Found or Magic Needed

New Study Sheds Light on Origins of Life on Earth | Rutgers University

A team of researchers led by scientists from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, have brought us a little closer to understanding how the first self-replicating organisms arose on earth. And it didn't need magic supernatural deities to make it happen.

The Rutgers-led team have discovered the structures of proteins that may be responsible for the origins of life in the primordial soup of ancient Earth. They have published their findings, open access, in Science Advances
.
Writing in Rutgers Today, John Cramer explains:

Sunday 16 January 2022

David Barton is Caught Lying Again.

David Barton
Pseudo-historian and professional liar
Are his lips moving?
David Barton Needs to Hire a Fact-Checker | Right Wing Watch

Q. How can you tell when David Barton is lying?

A. Watch his mouth. If his lips are moving, he's lying.

Here, for example, the pseudo-historian and professional liar for Jesus, is lying to a Talibangelical church group, eager for a fundamentalist Christian theocracy to be running the USA, safe in the knowledge that, so long as they hear things they want to be true, none of them is ever going to risk fact-checking his claims, and most of them will be ignorant of most of the real American history. A blank sheet on which liars such as Barton are free to draw whatever designs they want, and be paid handsomely for it.

Barton's subtext, as always, is that the American 'Founding Fathers' were intentionally creating a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, but somehow the liberals stole it, so this is the form of government that should be imposed on Americans today to create the nation the Founding Fathers intended. In his lecture, he makes specific claims about the contents of a letter from John Adams to a man named Hezekiah Niles in 1818. Niles had asked Adams which people were most responsible for the founding idea and principles of the nation that Adams had helped to create.

True to form, Barton casts aside any constraints on bearing false witness, considering it more important to fool his credulous audience than to tell the truth, so he makes claims, including naming specific individuals as 'right up front', which are not born out by the facts. He claims Adams stated that it was preachers like Samuel Cooper, Jonathan Mayhew, George Whitefield, and Charles Chauncy who must be placed at the top of any such list.

In fact, what Adams actually wrote, on Feb 13, 1818, was:
There might be, and there were, others who thought less about religion and conscience, but had certain habitual sentiments of allegiance and loyalty derived from their education; but believing allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, when protection was withdrawn, they thought allegiance was dissolved.

[…]

Those principles and feelings ought to be traced back for 200 years and sought in the history of the country from the first plantations in America. Nor should the principles and feelings of the English and Scots toward the colonies through that whole period ever be forgotten. The perpetual discordance between British principles and feelings and those of America, the next year after the suppression of the French power in America, came to a crisis and produced an explosion.

It was not until after the annihilation of the French dominion in America that any British ministry had dared to gratify their own wishes, and the desire of the nation, by projecting a formal plan for raising a national revenue from America by parliamentary taxation. The first great manifestation of this design was by the order to carry into strict execution those acts of Parliament which were well-known by the appellation of the Acts of Trade, which had lain a dead letter, unexecuted for half a century–and some of them, I believe, for nearly a whole one.

This produced, in 1760 and 1761, an awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings, with an enthusiasm which went on increasing till in 1775 it burst out in open violence, hostility, and fury. The characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent and influential in this revival, from 1760 to 1766, were first and foremost, before all and above all, James Otis; next to him was Oxenbridge Thatcher; next to him Samuel Adams; next to him John Hancock; then Dr. Mayhew; then Dr. Cooper and his brother.

John Adams, Letter to Hezekiah Niles on the American Revolution, Feb 13, 1818. [My emphasis]
The treaty of Tripoli, Nov 4, 1796.
Presented to Congress by John Adams on May 26, 1797.
Ratified without dissent on June 7, 1797.

Not only were those Barton claimed, not 'right up front' but the ones he mentioned who were in the list, were some way down it, a Whitefield and Chauncy are never mentioned anywhere in Adams' long letter. Barton made those up to make his claim sound more believable. Nor is there any suggestion that the ideas and principles of those who inspired the revolution, were those of fundamentalist Christians.

Astonishingly too, for someone who hopes to have some credibility as a genuine historian, Barton appears to either be unaware of, or to have forgotten entirely, the single most embarrassing document for those who try to claim, as he does, that the USA was founded as a Christian nation, the Treaty of Tripoli, and particularly Article 11 of that treaty:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Islamic] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, Nov 4, 1796.
Presented to Congress by John Adams, May 26, 1797.
Ratified without dissent or debate, June 7, 1797
It is perfectly clear then that John Adams did not express the views Barton tried to fool his audience into believing he had, as anyone with the slightest interest in the truth could have found out in a few minutes searching through readily available documentation, including the letter to Hezekia Niles that Barton cited.

But then, David Barton could have been the inspiration for:
When you show you need to lie for your faith, you show you know your faith is a lie that needs fools to believe falsehoods.


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Saturday 15 January 2022

Malevolent Designer News - More Astonishing Brilliance By Creationists' Favourite Sadist

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii (red) causes mitochondria (green) to shed large structures of their "skin" (yellow).


© Xianhe Li/Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, 2022
Hostile Takeover in the Cell | Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Cologne

Creationist mode:


Here is yet another example of the evil genius that Creationists believe created everything, including parasites that, if they were designed at all, could only have been designed for the sole purpose of making humans and other animals and plants sick and die.

One of the problems the allegedly intelligent designer had to design a solution to was the mechanisms it had designed earlier for protecting us from these nasty little products of its sadistic mind. In this paper, researchers led by Lena Pernas of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany, have shown how parasitic pathogens can turn off mitochondrial defence mechanisms by hijacking a normal cellular response to stress.

As the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging, news release explains:

Covidiot News - SCOTUS Does Its Bit to Keep the Covidiot Trumpanzee Cull Going

Donald Trump, Republicans Rejoice as Supreme Court Knocks Down Biden Vaccine Mandate

Donald Trump's efforts to turn SCOTUS into a partisan, Repugnican tool, paid of yesterday as his appointed majority voted as a block to overturn President Biden's rule requiring employers with more than 100 employees to mandate their employees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit a weekly negative test before being allowed to enter the workplace. As expected, SCOTUS voted along partisan lines with Trump's appointees doing their master's bidding and voting to thwart efforts to control the spread of the virus. The mandate for workers at federally-funded healthcare facilities will be allowed to continue.

Friday 14 January 2022

Trumpanzee Insurrection - How Close They Came to a Full Coup D'etat on 6th Jan 2021.

Elmer Stewart Rhodes III,
Founder of the American neo-Nazi 'Oath Keepers' domestic terrorist group
Charged with sedition
“Seditious Conspiracy” Charges Against Oath Keepers Mark a Major Advance in January 6 Investigation – Mother Jones

According to this report and the US Department of Justice, FBI agents have arrested the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi terrorist group, the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, 56, of Granbury, Texas, on a charge of sedition in connection with the failed coup d’état at the Capitol on Jan 6th, 2021. FBI agents also arrested Oath Keepers member, Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, on the same charges.

According to the Department of Justice:

New Spheres of Knowledge on the Origin of Life - University of Tsukuba

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, in collaboration with East China Normal University, show that Escherichia coli cells become spherical when grown in conditions mimicking a primordial environment.

Image by Maximillian cabinet/Shutterstock
New Spheres of Knowledge on the Origin of Life - University of Tsukuba.

The point of this piece of research is not only what it tells us about the probable morphology of the earliest cells but what happened next.

It has long been assumed that the earliest cells would have been the simplest structures for maximal exchange of nutrients and waste with their environment and this would have been small spheres, since these give the maximal surface area to volume ratio. However, that remained an assumption until this experiment showed how a primordial environment would have favoured it.

The really interesting thing, however, is how the resultant organisms continued to diversify into, in this case, six distinct lines, with different sets of mutations all being selected to give the same advantages in that environment. This is perhaps best explained by the Tsukuba University press release:

Thursday 13 January 2022

Talibangelical News - A Fundamentalist Christian Theocracy is a Little Closer in South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem delivering the State of the State address on Jan. 11, 2022.
Photo: Erin Woodiel/The Argus Leader via AP
Noem to push abortion ban after 6 weeks, conservative vision

The dream of every American evangelical Christian is to have control of the entire United States, at least in the short-term with world-domination to follow, backed up by a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the world several times over.

This much was obvious from a the PRRI 2021 American Values Survey in which 57% of white evangelical Protestants stated a preference that Christianity should be the predominant religion in the USA. Only 13% had a preference for religious diversity.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Homophobic Archbishop Demoted as Vatican Civil War Hots Up

Archbishop Giacomo Morandi,
former Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Source: Catholic Herald
Pope demotes Vatican official who championed statement against blessings of same-sex couples - Catholic Herald.

In a move which has focussed attention on the struggle within the Catholic Church as it tries desperately to modernise and come more into line with recent developments in cultural morality, the Pope has demoted the former Secretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, an old-school homophobe, widely believed to be the author of a document instructing Catholic churches not to bless same sex marriages on the grounds that "God cannot bless sin", despite Pope Francis' attempt to liberalise the Church and welcome same sex couples into it, if not to specifically conduct same sex marriages, to try to give the traditionally homophobic church a more LGBTQ-friendly face.

The Church's intolerant homophobia is often cited as a reason for leaving the church as the Catholic Church, in common with other Christian churches, continues to haemorrhage members throughout the developed world. The call to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages had come from several German bishops in response to their declining congregations.

In the document, Morandi had claimed the Pope had been informed of its contents and had given his consent to it, yet Francis was reportedly taken by surprise by it. Francis is either finding it difficult to keep up or trying to ride two horses, or Morandi was lying. Morandi is also believed to have opposed another reform initiated by Pope Francis, intended to restrict further the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

Archbishop Morandi has been appointed bishop of a small Italian diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, although he will be allowed to retain his Archbishop title "ad personam", so not so much a punishment as a reduction in his work-load.

However, the Vatican has moved to deny that the effective demotion has anything to do with the reactionary document, so trying to minimise the impression of an internal civil war in the Vatican between the old guard and the reformers led by Pope Francis, by portraying it as nothing more significant than a simple reorganization. According to this report in the Catholic Herald:
Some of this was fuelled by a meeting between Archbishop Morandi and Pope Francis on December 18, the day when further restrictions against the Latin Mass were announced in a highly-controversial responsa to a dubia about Traditionis custodes, the Holy Father’s motu proprio limiting the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

But Vatican sources told The Pillar website that his departure is not directly connected to the responsa, which introduced further restrictions – prompting questions about its legality – and that such speculation was “nonsensical”.

They say his move is most likely simply the first steps of a reshuffle which will allow the Pope to ultimately appoint Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to the CDF and prepare him to take over as head of the dicastery when Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect who turns 78 in April, steps down from office.

One source said Morandi’s appointment was a way of “making room” at the CDF for the promotion of Archbishop Scicluna, an experienced canon lawyer and ally of the Pope, who at present serves as adjunct-secretary of the department.

It is generally agreed however that Archbishop Morandi was instrumental in the publication of the responsum ad dubium to a question about the legitimacy of liturgical blessings for same-sex couples.
However, although allowed to retain his title, being appointed to head up a minor diocese in southern Italy from his position as a senior member of the Curia and someone who would normally be expected to be appointed as a cardinal and promoted to head of the CDF, can't honestly be presented as anything other than a ritual humiliation and a warning to other die-hards not to oppose Pope Francis.

Covidiot News - Another Cleric Catches Covid After Attending a Super-Spreader Event

Patriarch Porfirije, Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
Head of Serbian Orthodox Church tests positive for virus

The Head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, 60-year-old Patriarch Porfirije, has tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a super-spreader event last Sunday in Republika Srpska, the Serb-run part of neighbouring Bosnia, established as an autonomous republic at the end of the war following the collapse of Yugoslavia, in which Serbian Orthodox Christian forces, with the support and encouragement of the Orthodox Church, indulged in ethnic cleansing and genocide against Bosniak Moslems. Last Sunday (January 7) was the Serbian Orthodox Christmas.

Patriarch Porfirije's immediate predecessor, Patriarch Irinej, died of COVID-19 but the Serbian Orthodox Church has continued to hold masses in which few participants wear masks, despite the rapidly-spreading omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Weekly Covid-19 cases (top) and deaths (bottom), Serbia
Last week there were 47,749 new cases and 152 deaths in a population of 7 million. Since the pandemic started, there have been 1.3 million cases in Serbia, of which nearly 13,000 have died.

According to Reuters, a number of Serbian Orthodox clergy have contracted the coronavirus since early 2020, including Irinej and Metropolitan Amfilohije, the church’s patriarch in neighbouring Montenegro who died from the respiratory disease last October. Despite the pandemic, the Orthodox Church - with some 12 million faithful mainly in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, has continued religious services and most of its clerics including Porfirije have appeared in public without face masks.

In common with other Christian churches and other religions, the Orthodox Church has been a major factor in spreading the coronavirus by continuing to hold mass gatherings in which social distancing and wearing face masks is generally ignored or even discouraged. Consequently, despite early pronouncements that the pandemic was a punishment from God, selectively directed at unbelievers, Clerics of all religions, and worshippers at their services have been some of the people most at risk from dying of the virus, yet they have continued to demand special exemptions from any measures to mitigate the pandemic, believers apparently believing their piety gives them special protection.

The reality is that the most pious are also the least likely to be vaccinated, the most likely to catch the virus, the most likely to spread the virus to others and the most likely to die from COVID-19.
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