So here\’s a question in The Guardian we can answer

The Guardian asked the Vatican\’s representative in London, the papal nuncio, archbishop Antonio Mennini, why the papacy continued with such secrecy over the identity of its property investments in London.

Hm, gosh, I wonder
.

How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini\’s millions……the church\’s international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini……Since then the international value of Mussolini\’s nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m……..The surprising aspect for some will be the lengths to which the Vatican has gone to preserve secrecy about the Mussolini millions……..The Mussolini money was dramatically important to the Vatican\’s finances…….The Mussolini investments in Britain are currently controlled……..While secrecy about the Fascist origins of the papacy\’s wealth might have been understandable in wartime,

Because, you know, if they were clear and open about it then some shit stirrer is going to write a piece bandying about \”Mussolini\”, \”Millions\”, \”Fascist!\”

All of this quite apart from the fact that this was not all about Mussolini. It was the settlement of the Risorgimento, signed up in the Lateran Treaty.

Effectively the Kingdom of Italy compensated the Pope for having nicked all the Papal Territories back in 1870. And negotiations had been going on since about then as well.

You could, indeed I would, make a rough equivalence between this and the recent Czech compensation of the churches. The Commies and others knicked all the land. Eventually, compensation was paid for having done so.

In which I offer a deal to the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu

My Lord Archbishop,

I do hope that you have been misquoted in today\’s Daily Telegraph. On the off chance that you have not may I offer a small deal? One that should make both of us considerably more use to the rest of the population.

I promise not to spout nonsense about the Sky Fairy, a subject upon which I am less than well informed. In return, you will need to promise to keep silent on subjects where you are in possession of little knowledge.

I use as my example your statement upon inequality and happiness, a subset of that difficult subject, economics:

He argued that it is clear that the British is “not happy” and that “fairer” countries such as China, Japan and Netherlands also have more contented populations.

There is a significant error in that.

The Archbishop was drawing from “The Sprit Level” by Prof Richard Wilkinson and Prof Kate Pickett, which uses happiness indices from different countries to link social and health problems to inequality.

Yes, we know where the idea comes from.

“How many of you would like to be happy?” he asked his audience.

“You need to be a fairer society to be happy – at the moment, Britain is not happy.

“If you look at the figures globally, China is happiest, then Japan, then the Netherlands – because they are the most equal societies.

There are two problems with this statement of yours. The first is that your source, that book, is, how shall we put this, somewhat controversial. Using the word \”controversial\” here to mean political drivel of the highest order. But let us leave that aside, politics can indeed descend into a shouting match of one side against the other and the evidence be damned.

What is rather more worrying is that you seem not to have read the source you are quoting from, and if you did, you\’ve most certainly not understood it. This is not unsusual among those who do not know their economics when spouting about economics but one would hope that an Archbishop recalled Job 6:24 at least occassionally.

China is most definitely not one of the world\’s happiest countries. It is also most definitely not one of the most equal. Indeed, it\’s actually considerably more unequal than the US or the UK. About as much more unequal than those two as they are than Sweden and Denmark in fact.

So our little deal. I\’ll keep silence where I am ignorant. And where you are markedly ill informed you keep your gob shut too. Sound fair?

Yours from the ex-Papist side of the line,

Tim Worstall

Your Christmas controversy is right here

Instead, Jesus was more likely to have been born in Bethlehem of the Galilee, a hillside village in northern Israel, The Times reports.

Aviram Oshri, an Israeli archaeologist, told the paper that the genuine site of the Nativity had been mistaken by thousands.

\”Bethlehem in the Galilee was inhabited by Jews at the time of Jesus, whereas the other Bethlehem? There is no evidence that it was a living site, an inhabited area in the first century.\”

Mr Oshri has found some evidence that Jewish purification rituals took place in Bethlehem of the Galilee around the time Jesus was born. The village is also less than five miles from Nazareth, Jesus\’s childhood home.

Not much that anyone\’s going to do about now of course….

Although anyone who\’s good at PR and marketing might like to buy up parts of the Galilee Bethlehem and try their luck at the religious tourist trade….

An apt observation

There is a difference between being an observant Christian and the way one was brought up. I was baptised and brought up a Catholic but have now ceased to believe in God but I remain a Catholic by my culture and nothing will take that away

From somewhere in The Guardian.

I rather think this happens to a lot of people. Not just Catholics. The culture, the manner in which one thinks about a point or a problem, will persist long after the initial reason for that culture existing does.

Certainly has happened to me. I\’m identifiably Catholic in the way that I structure certain moral arguments for example. Don\’t always come up with the same results, but the structure, the method of approach, is much the same.

The Rev. Moon

As L Ron Hubbard pointed out, if you want to get truly rich, found a religion.

And everyone, but everyone, gets to the point where they find out whether that was a good idea or not. As Dr. Moon just has.

If there\’s no Pearly Gates, no afterlife of any kind, then the decades of high on the hog and whoring might have been a very good deal from a purely selfish point of view.

If there is a weighing of the soul then eternity is very long time indeed…..

I know the Church of England is a strange one but…..

All of which presents an opportunity to clear the decks and say why I am not a liberal. No, I\’m not a conservative either. I\’m a communitarian. Blue labour, if you like. But certainly not a liberal. What I take to be the essence of liberalism is a belief that individual freedom and personal autonomy are the fundamental moral goods. But I don\’t buy this. What we need is a much more robust commitment to the common good, to the priority of community.

So the former Canon of St Paul\’s doesn\’t believe in the idea of individual salvation then? The very basis of all Christian Churches?

Given that they\’ve had Bishops who weren\’t all that certain over the God thing I suppose it shouldn\’t come as much of a surprise.

It worries me how little some people understand of theology when they try to make religious arguments

Over at Liberal Conspiracy we have a Catholic trying to make a religious argument in favour of gay marriage.

I think there are excellent arguments in favour of gay marriage (not least they should be allowed to be as miserable as all us heteros). I think there are even better arguments in favour of a single civil marriage for anyone who wants it with you and whoever having a further religious ceremony from whomever you would like or none and from whomever will have you.

Hoever, trying to argue from within Catholicism for gay marriage doesn\’t really work because of the underlying theology of sex itself. As I explain in this comment over there:

\”What is a non-bigoted argument against gay marriage that actually holds logic?\”

I most certainly don\’t say that you have to agree with this logic (I don\’t myself, despite a Cathoilic upbringing and education) but this is the underlying logic of the Catholic attitude towards sex (not surprisingly, it\’s remarkably similar to traditional Judaic law as well and there are many similarities with Islamic).

Sex must always be open to the possibility of conception.

And that, pretty much, is it. If you really pin down the explanation of it all that is. I\’ve not seen this stated quite so bluntly by a Catholic authority, but I have seen it written by a Rabbi and also an Imam.

Anal sex, oral sex, these things are just fine. If that\’s what turns the parties on, mutually, why the hell not? Sex is fun, it\’s very definitely a gift from God. But such anal, oral, frotting, handjobs, tit rubs, whatever you want to think of, are only allowable as long as the actual male orgasm happens where conception is possible. This was the sin of Onan recall, coitus interruptus.

Now, given that only a woman can get pregnant and only get pregnant if ejaculation takes place at least vaguely in the region of her genitals then the only morally and righteously allowable form of sex is where ejaculation takes place at least vaguely in the region of a woman\’s genitals.

As I say, that\’s pretty much it as the basis to the whole thing.

You can disagree with the premise (I do myself) but that is what the premise is that then leads to all of the other restrictions. The restriction on contraception, to gay sex itself. That sin of Onan again.

Of course, when the premise is accepted (and as I say, it is at the heart of the Catholic theology of sex however much all of us Catholics, nominal, practising or non believing like myself ignore it or disagree with it) then the very concept of gay marriage beomes unthinkable. For marriage is a public recognition of devoting oneself to a sexual relationship (the marriage ceremony really does say \”I thee with my body shall worship\”) and how can that happen with a sexual relationship where conception is not possible and thus is not a moral or righteous sexual relationship?

Just to repeat myself again. I don\’t find this convincing either. But it is an explanation of that underlying religious argument and it is indeed believed to be true by many.

You can only argue from within Catholicism in favour of gay marriage if you are to reject the Church\’s basic teachings about sex. At which point, you\’re not really making a Catholic argument, are you?

What a weird, weird, demand

Yet it is time that foreign churches, as well as sending money and priests to the Middle East, used their influence to reform family law in the region. Who will bring pressure to bear to modernise the dense muddle of Christian personal status laws in the Middle East? The majority of the 14 million Arab Christians there cannot divorce. Many are locked into dead marriages – or convert to another religion so they can divorce.

Being a member of a religion is a statement: that this is the revealed truth about this world and the next.

Some such religions say that marriage is indissoluble. Maybe this is the revealed truth and maybe it isn\’t. But membership of a church which states that it is means taking that revealed truth as being revealed truth.

If you feel that no divorce is not part of the revealed truth then of course you\’re stating that divorce isn\’t part of the revealed truth. Therefore shifting your religious allegiance to another religion, one that does not claim no divorce to be part of the revealed truth, seems entirely logical.

Your desire to divorce is exactly that, a rejection of the teachings of the church you belong to. That you should therefore leave doesn\’t sound all that terrible really.

And there aren\’t any restrictions on being able to move churh. So why is this woman demanding that the churches must change their versions of the revealed truth?

What bugs me about Chris Patten

No, not the europhilia (although that grates) but the Heresiarch has something about his religious faith:

It makes people think I\’m peculiar and lack intellectual fibres because I don\’t have any doubts about my faith, but I\’d be terrified to have doubts.

Which is really a rather odd statement actually.

For his faith is Catholic, Papist, he\’s married to a divorcee (brief marriage, probably shouldn\’t have happened in the first place, but rules is rules) and he\’s been known to complain quite bitterly about not being able to receive communion as someone married to a divorcee (but rules is rules, see?).

It\’s just a bit difficult to believe both things, that the Church is right (\”no doubts about my faith\”) but also that marrying a divorcee and taking communion is just fine.

Archbishop doesn\’t understand Christianity

Not a great surprise in the Church of England of course:

Dr Williams said the Bible made clear it was the duty of the powerful to ensure ordinary people were \”treasured and looked after\”, particularly those without the resources to look after themselves.

\”What about having a new law that made all Cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate, or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home?\” he suggested.

One of the things that rather marks out Christianity from certain other religions (yes, this is a very broad brush statement) is that what you do isn\’t thought to be the most important thing.

Because the duty to serve would be compulsory, those involved would not be able to make political or personal capital from doing it, he added.

Why you do something is thought to be the important thing.

Take, for example, Jimmy Carter\’s (much derided) statement that he had committed adultery in his heart. He had not acted upon the lust he felt for a woman not his wife, but he had lusted and imagined.

Similarly, take John Paul II\’s comment (again, much derided) that a man can committ adultery with his own wife. If he has sex with her as if she is just meat, as a satiation for his lust, then this can be considered as adultery. Only if it is love, sexual love to be sure, making love to a person, is it not.

OK, slightly weird examples, I know, but they do illustrate the point that it\’s what you think about something, the reasons that you do it, that make something a Christian act. Saving a child from drowning is of course an entirely respectable act. But it only becomes a praiseworthy Christian one if it is done to save the child, if done to impress onlookers then, while the act itself is still respectable, praiseworthy, the motivation leaves you open to the sin of pride.

Complicated business, but that latter shows that passing a law stating that the Prime Minister has to go and clean the vomit off Piccadilly Circus once a week would mean that the Prime Minister cleaning vomit off Piccadilly Circus was not a Christian act. For the motivation is that we\’ll jail him if he doesn\’t.

Odd that an Archbish doesn\’t know this really…..

No Emdadur, you don\’t understand. This is a badge of honour for us, not you

Emdadur Choudhury, 26, a member of Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), was convicted of public disorder after burning two poppies during the two-minute silence on November 11 last year.

He added: \”I get more when I get a parking ticket.\”

Judge Howard Riddle imposed the low fine despite saying Choudhury was guilty of a \”calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn them\”.

\”This fine, I will wear it as a badge on my shoulder. I did it for Allah. I did it to raise awareness that these so-called soldiers are the criminals. They are the ones who should be tried for war crimes.\”

Members of MAC were heard chanting \”British soldiers burn in hell\” before the poppies were set on fire at the front of the demonstration near the Royal Geographical Society in west London, Belmarsh Magistrates heard.

Speaking after the fine was handed down Choudhury was unrepentant. Describing the public order charge against him as “insignificant” he said: \”It is ridiculous for them to find me guilty of this crime which is not really a crime. You can see by the punishment they have given me. It was a political issue.\”

Is it illegal to burn poppies? No.

Is it illegal to insult people? No.

Is it illegal to insult the military? No.

The government? People\’s feelings? The dead? Act like a complete tool?

No, all of these things are entirely legal in our country, for we are a free people.

The maximum punishment under Section 5 of the Public Order Act is a £1,000 fine for using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour that could cause harassment, alarm or distress.

You need to actually directly harm someone else (harassment, alarm and distress are indeed harms). Or, the other thing that you could have been charged with, behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace, is about you acting as such a tosspot that someone was likely to beat you up.

Freedom of speech really does mean freedom of speech and that we accord that freedom to all, even those we vehemently disagree with, is a badge of honour for us, not for those who speak freely.

As it should be of course and as it isn\’t in all too much of the world.

Do remember that next time someone decides to call Mohammed a paedophile. It\’s legal to insult the memory of the Prophet, to insult your religious beliefs, even to insult you. What would not be legal is to cause harassment, alarm or distress, nor behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace.

Aisha was 9 when he bonked her, you know?

Cleggy and Catholics

Normally the non-Catholic partner agrees, at the request of the priest, to let the Catholic partner bring up the children in the faith if they are being married in a Catholic church.

Umm, no.

The non-Catholic partner has to agree to let the Catholic partner bring the children up in the faith if they are to be allowed to marry in a Catholic Church.

So there\’s this religious quiz, right?

And agnostics and atheists seem to get better results.

And on the short version you can take yourself, this agnostic/atheist got 100%, aided by two things.

One, a lucky guess on the last question and two, well, try this:

When does the Jewish Sabbath begin?

Possible answers are Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

The correct answer is \”by whose calendar\”?

For the Jewish Sabbath is indeed the Saturday: but in the Jewish calendar which day is which is not defined by when is midnight or noon (both quite difficult things to ascertain with accuracy without watches, although sundials will do for one of them). Rather, as would be logical in a pastoral/nomadic society (when many of these rules were first set), by nightfall or dawn, rather more easily observed phenomena.

As it happens, Jewish tradition chose nightfall.

So, the precise answer to the beginning of the Sabbath is the nightfall before Saturday using our standard western calendar, that is, Friday night.

But in the Jewish calendar the Sabbath starts at the beginning of the day after Friday: that\’s why they\’re celebrating it on what \”we\” call Friday night because to them it is already the Sabbath, Saturday.

So we\’ve a question that (OK, but only by being pedantic, I admit), in this quiz, changes answer dependent upon whether you are Jewish or not.

BTW, no, I\’ll not tell you what the quiz thinks is the right answer. Work it out for yourselves.

And now with added Catholicism

No, really:

The Blues Brothers have received an endorsement from the unlikeliest of quarters – the Vatican.

When you think about it they\’re right too. Despite the faults of the Church on Earth, the Brothers, Jake and Elwood, act as if that Church is indeed their family. And they ignore the secular authorities, indeed strive against them, in order to aid that Church. The true Church, not just the fallible one here.

If we can sing and dance to Praise the Lord, are we not Praising the Lord by singing and dancing?

Tim Aquinas…Tom\’s lesser known younger brother.

Or, in short: Shake Your Tailfeather:

Benny XVI

Has Rowan Williams damned Henry VIII to hell?

Umm, no. For that is not the preserve of Archbishops, however mighty they may be. It\’s only the Big Boy himself who gets to make that decision.

There was an intake of breath among the congregation, yet I wondered if I\’d misheard the Archbishop. I hadn\’t, for the text is on Rowan Williams\’s website: \”If Henry VIII is saved (an open question, perhaps) it will be at the prayers of John Houghton.\”

Of course it\’s an open question. The definition of \”Saint\” is someone that we know is in heaven*. As Henry VIII is not a saint we do not know that he is \”saved\”.

QED.

* Yes, I know that I don\’t believe this and you may or may not. And there are of course any number of different groups with different methods of \”knowing\” and thus declaring sainthood. But if we are to debate matters theological it\’s worth using the terms and assumptions which are used to debate matters theological. There\’s no point in starting every discussion about the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation with an \”of course Jesus was just some itinerant mystic, not the Son of God at all\”.