Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Media fawning over Papal claptrap

Is is just me, or does pretty much every news story about the Pope's latest emanations annoy you, too? No matter what he has to say, the media is there like hungry puppies eager to lap it up and puke it out in your local newspaper or TV news program. There's usually a whole series of puff pieces trying to add drama to his latest moral pronouncement. Rarely is there any real balance to the stories and the Pope is held up as some great expert on whatever he chooses to blather about.

This week, the media was all about the Pope's latest message about condoms being ok sometimes, but not others. Two stories have run in the Austin American Statesman about this "burning" issue.

Here are my list of gripes:
  1. The media consistently fails to point out that whatever the Pope/Vatican has to say is self-serving. In this case. using condoms to stem AIDS infections would certainly take a little heat off the Vatican from health experts who have rightly pointed out that its policies are tantamount to murder. Condoms also have the very helpful benefit of not leaving DNA behind in the behinds of boys molested by priests. Furthermore the Pope still frowns on any contraceptive usage that might reduce the number of potential future tithers. Self-serving "moral" pronouncements are nothing more than propaganda and they should not be repeated in the media.
  2. Neither the Pope nor anyone at the Vatican is qualified to speak on health issues. They just have nothing valid to say and health advice from anyone so blatantly unqualified should not be repeated in the media. To make matters worse, it's rare to see any news piece that will add at least a little balance by quoting a health expert. Even a junior trainee at a family planning clinic would be far more qualified. I have yet to see an acknowledgment in most articles about Vatican pronouncements that the they are on the wrong side of this issue by consensus of 99% of the people who DO have qualifications.
  3. I personally think the Pope is unqualified to speak on moral issues. I'm sure most atheists would agree. His moral sensibilities are hopelessly broken by his indoctrination in to a church that has perpetrated some of the most ghastly horrors conceived. The Christian holy book is a genocide manual and loaded with atrocities and immoral teachings.
  4. The Vatican is a criminal enterprise. I can't think of any reason why US media should serve as a mouthpiece for an organization that has systematically molested tens of thousands of children in dozens of countries over at least four decades. (This is just the tip of the criminal iceberg, but hopefully fresh enough for journalists to have some awareness.) The Pope himself authored some of the most odious policies and shuffled priests personally. Yes, the Vatican has yet to be brought to justice in the US. This is only because our "tough on crime" elected officials are whimpering pussies when it comes to the guys with the big hats and magic crackers. Even if you want to play the "guilty until proven innocent" card, there's no reason to actively promote the Vatican until they are properly tried. Don't hold your breath.
  5. The Vatican will never accept responsibility for its actions. The Pope's pronouncements are considered "news" because there is an assumption that many people will follow his bad advice. Publishing Papal pronouncements is a tacit admission by the media that a sizable fraction of Catholics are unwilling or unable to reason for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions. The media then completely fails to hold the Pope/Vatican responsible for the impact of its policies on the world. Either Ratzinger's opinion carries no weight and there's no reason to print it, or it does carry weight and the Church is responsible for the effect of their dogma. I see plenty of puff pieces promoting Catholic dogma, but very very few investigative reports on how many people have been negatively impacted by Catholic dogma. I would love to see some real reporting on how many people have become infected with AIDS as a result of the Vatican's condom policies, or the number of women who have become pregnant when they didn't want a child but followed Catholic "moral" teaching for whatever reason. The Vatican is creating victims without any moral accountability. I would like to see the Vatican compensate these victims--especially anyone who may have been impacted who is not Catholic. I think that municipalities should be taxing Catholic charities to recoup the expenses related to Vatican contraceptive misinformation.
If you agree with my complaints, perhaps when you see one of these puff pieces you can write a letter to the editor or provide other feedback pointing out one or more of these problems and ask why the media is so consistently doing the wrong thing. Trust me, until we do, little will change.


  1. It isn't just a problem specific to the pope, but a global pandemic in both the media and society at large that religious 'authorities' are qualified to speak on all issues in life.

    I personally feel that this is a leftover from an age when the 'Church' was the highest authority. Mufti's, Bishops etc are sought out for their advice on everything because the collective consiousness remembers a time when this was the norm, when the local religous figure was the fount of knowledge regarding illness, weather, morality, death, etc. To their discredit, these religious figures do nothing to dissuade the rest of us that they don't know what the hell they're talking about and instead continue waxing philosophical about whatever manages to penetrate their thick skulls.

    Its about time those in a position to disperse information effectively to the 'masses' did so responsibly, by finding people who are qualified to comment on the issues. But I don't see this happening anytime soon. Media bosses veiw their target audience as primarily religious, no matter where in the world that might be. We don't help the matter by talking about it, because that just generates more interest in the stories and more profits for those that publish them.

    Why don't we just treat the Church like a petulant, spoilt brat? Tell it to go sit in the corner and ignore its screams and cries for attention. If it tries to harm us, restrain it until it stops and then put it back in the corner. Let its voice fade as time passes and eventually it will pass from memory.

  2. I think I speak for everybody when I say A-fuckin'-men, Don!

    I've said it before, I'll say it again. I'm not going to give the Pope a goddamn iota of credit for taking a half-assed step towards a position they should have taken long before the bodies started piling up.

    If I can channel Chris Rock for a second... "Catholics always want credit for shit they supposed to do. 'I use condoms to prevent AIDS!'... You're supposed to, you dumb motherfucker!"

  3. I suppose it's better than nothing, but I'm not impressed by the Pope arriving at the proper conclusion after DECADES of having the wrong conclusion and causing harm because of it.

    This is just what the Catholic Church does. They fight an idea tooth and nail, then change their minds decades or even centuries later and expect us to (1) forget the fact that they were assholes for so long and (2) let them take credit for it, which I'm sure they'll do on this particular issue...just give them a bit, they'll do it on this issue too.

  4. I'm not at all impressed by the Pope's "concession."

    Wearing a condom helps prevent transmitting a whole host of diseases between men and women as well. Correct me if I am incorrect, but I don't recall hearing anything about protecting heterosexuals from disease being morally better than unprotected sex.

  5. richard dawkins does not exist...






  6. A good blog post, thanks Don.I basically agree with what Matt said on the Non-Prophets about how the pope is now slightly less evil, and should be given some credit for that.

    While I am certainly no fan of the Catholic church, the pope's announcement will probably mean that less people die unnecessarily, and that has to be a good thing.

  7. How many Catholics do you actually think pay attention to the Vatican's contraceptive ban anyway?

    I can see one reason they'd suddenly realize the value of condoms, though. When you take a little boy up the chute, it leaves less incriminating DNA behind.

  8. How about a greatest hits of the media Don? This one will certainly make the cut. I mean what an amazing story, the Vatican gives out basic sex ed, what will we hear of next, Priests giving marriage advice!!

    Seriously though, how self serving is this? Sparrowhawk hit the nail on the head, how long until they take credit for a turn in the AIDS epidemic?

    Where is the media coverage about the Vatican's hand in creating some of the problem?

  9. I agree with every point but the one about it being reported. Like it or not, the guy is significant....and we need to know what crazy stuff he's telling people.

  10. My prediction:
    Step one: create an AIDs epidemic
    Step two: eliminate said epidemic
    Step three: take credit for the change
    Step four: use it to claim that religion is necessary for a good society

    What a joke!

  11. Just wanted to add that the pope didn't make a concession on condoms. He said that

    IF you are a gay prostitute
    AND IF you are HIV positive
    THEN using a condom, with the intent of reducing harm to others, may be a sign that you are reforming your moral character.

    It's not an endorsement of condoms, he goes on to say that the character reform should continue with the implication that it should continue until you sleep with a woman without condoms and have lots of babies, even with HIV.

    The pope is a twat. Most catholics have a little twatishness about them due to catholicism, the higher up the ranks, the more condensed.

  12. The "sometimes" is a restriction to homosexual male prostitutes. Because the condom is an acknowledgment of the homosexual's immoral behavior. But I don't mind the pope being misreported, as the pope's real opinion is irrelevant.

  13. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prizes_for_evidence_of_the_paranormal



  14. I personally think the Pope is unqualified to speak on moral issues. I'm sure most atheists would agree.

    Indeed. I'd go further and state that the Pope is unqualified to speak on Christian issues.

  15. This is probably even worse then people here make it out. The use of condoms is STILL very much frowned upon and discouraged according to the pope but apparently it is OK for high risk groups like prostitutes. The pope went on to say that he still DOES NOT believe condom use prevents AIDS but insists that for the majority of people abstinence is still the only real way to battle AIDS. So actually the pope has not dramatically shifted his paradigm, he's now started to say that in the most extreme cases condoms may be used but are still sinfull.

    On the other hand I can understand the fact that there have been a lot of positive reactions. I guess that most people involved in battling against AIDS are desperate to clutch any straw that seems to indicate a shift within the catholic church. personally and on principle I agree with Don, but when you HAVE to work with the catholic church (which unfortunately is unavoidable sometimes since it has so much influence in Africa/ South America) I can understand why you would be happy with this apparent paradigm shift within the catholic church (even though I personally doubt it is an actual paradigm shift)

  16. So, has anyone asked the Pope if this means that the previous Vatican policy was wrong?

  17. I see you've banned a number of a certain person's sock accounts.
    Obviously, you've yet to appreciate the one labeled "Dalbert", above.

  18. felix: I get to them as I can. One has to be in awe of the uselessness of the guy's life, that this is what he spends all day doing.

  19. Couldn't a condom be called a "Clap Trap" as well?

    OK, I'll stop.

  20. Giving the pope credit for this is like giving Hitler credit for not killing 10 million jews. The pope is a monster and anything he says or does is selfserving. Matt is usually brilliant in his comments about stuff but this time (on NonPro) I think he missed terribly.
    Anyone hoping to see less evil coming from the vatican is far too optimistic.

  21. I like how abortion is also something Catholicism is generally against, so being against condoms is also counter-productive (pun!).
    So, is trust-in-God a replacement for a condom? Like the bullet-proof glass on the Popemobile? I say, if people can't use protection, neither should he. See how long he keeps up the standards then.

    On the pedophilia point, I'd like to quote William McGonnagal. He's a poet and long dead-as well as being quite possibly the worst poet ever-and so has much expertise as the Vatican on health issues.

    He always took the Bible for his guide,
    And he liked little boys to walk by his side;
    He preferred their company more so than men,
    Because he knew there was less guile in them.

    (from General Gordon, the Hero of Khartoum)

    I think the Vatican should spend more time on selling the ridiculous, gaudy amount of gold and jewels they have (it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, or something like that) and less time with altar boys and attacking condoms.

  22. I remember in high school (catholic school), our sex ed teacher couldn't bring up the topic of condoms (and birth control in general). She told us she COULD answer any questions we had on the matter but she was not allowed to proactively discuss birth control with us. (I wonder if she was even supposed to proactively bring up the fact that she couldnt proactively mention it or if it was her decision to point out that "something's missing here")

    I hope that this new position on condoms means it will at least get covered in sex ed classes in catholic schools. I wouldnt care if they had to teach that condoms should only be used in vatican approved situations. Kids arent stupid, they know condoms are a form of birth control so as long as they are taught HOW to use them properly, that's the important thing to me.

    Also, why is the vatican against condoms anyway? Sure it prevents pregnancy, but if that pregnancy is in god's will, cant he overcome a little peice of latex?

  23. Martin said...
    How many Catholics do you actually think pay attention to the Vatican's contraceptive ban anyway?

    That's easy: go to a Catholic church and count the mini-vans outside. The answer is a suprisingly large number. :(

    Also am I the only one who read Papal as Paypal?

  24. Also am I the only one who read Papal as Paypal?

    I wasn't going to mention it.

  25. I don't like the pope any more than you do, but I think you go too far when you say newspapers shouldn't publish his opinion. They're just responding to demand, this is no different to publishing an astrology column, or the interminably mundane events in the lives of football stars, glamour models and the Royal Family in the UK (I don't know what the tabloids find to whitter on endlessly about in the US, but I imagine there's something just as inane).

    All I'm saying is the media obsession with the pope is a symptom, not the cause, and the only way that will ever change is if an overwhelming majority of people lose interest. Frankly, I can't see that happening any time soon. It took about 15 years before we stopped hearing about the death of Princess Diana, and she was only one person. It's going to take a lot longer to displace an institution more than a thousand years old.

  26. I disagree with some of the points you made.

    For example:
    "Condoms also have the very helpful benefit of not leaving DNA behind in the behinds of boys molested by priests."
    Do you honestly think, priests who are abusing children really care, what the church has to say about condoms?
    Some of my very earnest catholic friends use condoms. They rationalize it. That's what religious people do.

    "The Christian holy book is a genocide manual and loaded with atrocities and immoral teachings." Yes, it does. But as you guys use to say: It's the big book of Multiple Choices. I think, many Christians would disagree, that the bible endorses genocide. The Catholics are rarely literalists (at least here, in Hungary), so they can make a case for it.

    Anyway, I love the show. Keep up the good work!

  27. I have to agree @adamsan on Point 1, but otherwise I completely agree with Don here. I do agree with Matt that this does make the Pope slightly less evil, for whatever that is worth (which is probably not much, and I'm sure Matt would agree).

    I featured this article on my blog at http://advocatingreality.blogspot.com/2010/11/atheist-experience-blog-media-fawning.html.

    Thanks Don and the rest of the Atheist Experience crew. Keep up the great work!

  28. Many people seem to be under the impression that the pope's comments signal a shift in the Vatican's thinking/policy. The thing is, ratface and co. hae made it explicitly clear that this is NOT the case:




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