Saturday, June 19, 2010

I really should stop reading articles written by Christopher Hitchens. The man has such a vitriolic style, and such an absurdly inflated obsession with himself and his self-acknowledged genius, that I end up screaming at my computer screen with every double standard and piece of false logic. Still, some part of me apparently can't stop reading it, which is why I happened upon this tired stupidity. Basically a rehash of Hitchens' usual arguments, it literally made me want to scream. If you choose, you can read my comments about the more egregious parts below.

Faced with a number of court cases in the United States that have named the pope himself as a defendant in the enabling and covering up of many rapes, the Vatican has evolved the strategy of claiming that the Holy See is in effect a sovereign state and thus possessed of immunity from prosecution.

Vatican City is a sovereign state by every definition of that world of which I am aware. It has a leader and a military (at least in theory) and is not subject to the authority of another sovereign nation. It also has its own set of laws and a well-established history of diplomatic relations with many other states. It also has citizens and a currency. If Hitchens can explain how Vatican City is not a sovereign state, if perhaps he can come up with an alternative definition of sovereignty, then I think that he should do so. Otherwise he's just picking and choosing who gets the protection of international law based solely on whether he likes them or not, which now that I think about it wouldn't be a first for him (he did, after all, support the previous US administration's "war on terror").

It has now been announced that the Obama administration will be advising the Supreme Court to adopt this view of the matter.

I can certainly understand why they would do this, after all if one state can lose sovereignty simply because it's unpopular then how is anybody safe?

It is not usually considered polite to mention that the majority of Supreme Court justices are practicing Roman Catholics.

Perhaps if he considers it impolite, then he shouldn't say it. I think that it would be perfectly polite to bring such a situation up if it seemed to have a bearing on the actions of the Court, however I don't see that to be the case. As far as the Catholics on the Court go (Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Kennedy, and Sotomayor, in case you're wondering), it seems to me that they vote with their political allegiance much more than their religious ones. Scalia, Thomas, and Alito may support restrictions on abortion and a less than favorable view of the Roe decision, but they also decide against Church beliefs on issues like torture and the death penalty. As for the other two, Kennedy has always been a swing vote and Sotomayor will probably be a reliable pro-abortion vote considering the party that put her on the bench. Would Hitchens make a big deal of the fact that 4 of the 9 justices (44% of the total) are Jewish when only 2% of the US population belongs to that religious group? I doubt it. He's trying to incite hatred and fear in order to stigmatize Catholics in Western countries for his own selfish agenda. Hopefully he won't succeed.

We will soon have a Supreme Court that contains no Protestants and no secularists and which is being asked to rule on a matter central to the religious beliefs of a majority of its members, who are bound to regard the man formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger as the vicar of Christ on earth.

More fear-mongering. Besides, just because you're a Catholic doesn't mean that you can't be a "secularist," at least in terms of putting secular agendas over religious ones. Half of the Democratic Party, including many of its senior leaders (Pelosi, the late Ted Kennedy, John Kerry) are Catholics after all, and they see no conflict between going to Mass on Sundays and ignoring the teachings of the Church during the rest of the week.

Even if they do decide the matter in this way, they will not succeed in banishing the terrible question of Vatican responsibility for the destruction of so many childhoods and the protection of so many hardened criminals.

Ah, hyperbole. The Catholic Church is not unique in having abusers in its midst, nor is it alone in having covered up abuse. Most of these cases wouldn't have even been known about at the Vatican, the cover up having been perpetrated by local leaders. I don't see Hitchens getting worked up over the epidemic of child abuse in public schools, or in any other segment of society where children are present.

This all arises because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling that effectively lifted the Vatican's immunity under a 1976 law (the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which governs the extent to which foreign entities can be pursued on American soil).

The Appeals Court overstepped, essentially changing international law and stripping sovereignty from a state without justification. Let's hope that the Supreme Court stops this from continuing, otherwise it'll be open season on the sovereignty of any nation that has enemies (last time I checked the USA has a few of those too).

The church's response to this has been especially absurd, claiming that the pope exercises only spiritual authority and not managerial control.

The Church is not a multinational corporation. The Pope does not sign off on everything that is done by bishops and priests throughout the world. It's more like a group of people with a common purpose (in theory) who collaborate but don't send every single thing up to the top for approval.

Then ask yourself what would happen to a priest or bishop who expressed doubts about the Vatican's teaching on abortion or divorce.

President of a Jesuit college? Call to Action? There are plenty of priests and bishops who actively oppose the Pope's teachings on pretty much every issue, and many of them are still saying Masses and passing off their ideas as the authentic beliefs of the Church. If the Church defrocked every priest who advocated for women's ordination or took a permissive stance toward birth control, then we'd certainly have a lot less priests. If anything, I think that it's harder to find a theologically conservative priest than a liberal one at least in the parishes where I've lived, although that does seem to be changing due to the aforementioned rise of orthodoxy among seminarians.

It was Joseph Ratzinger himself who invited Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson all the way from Argentina and back into the fold in an attempt to conciliate Catholicism's more reactionary wing.

This old lie is getting tired. Bishop Williamson's excommunication may have been lifted, which means that he can once again receive the Eucharist (just like Pelosi and Kerry and the other pro-abortion Catholic legislators), but he doesn't become a bishop in the Catholic Church because of it and as far as I know isn't even incardinated as a priest unless the Vatican says he is (which it hasn't). The Vatican has made it clear that he has to fully renounce his Holocaust denial in order to become a bishop, which he hasn't done. Even the SSPX has restricted his authority, in fact their superior general said that his beliefs were radioactive, so I don't think that the Pope is going to be giving him a position of power in the near future or probably ever.

Kagan and her colleagues should be made to feel the shame of this, as should the president, who talks so glibly about human rights and equality before the law.

I don't think that Obama should be hurt by what is said here, considering that it's said by a man who "talks so glibly about human rights" himself while supporting unjust wars and torture performed in the name of neo-conservative colonialism. Hitchens is a hypocrite, demanding that everybody ascribe to his shallow and cruel worldview while condemning those who he accuses of doing the same thing. Hopefully some day people will stop listening to him, although I'm sure there will always be people willing to listen when he tells them what they want to hear.

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