Catholic church shrinking in Brazil as more become non-religious and secular.

Hmmm... God looks kinda familiar...

The Catholic church has been having a rough time of it lately. What with the pedophile priest scandals around the world and the increasing number of Catholics leaving the faith in the U.S. and Europe. Now they have more bad news coming out of Brazil which was once considered a bulwark of Catholic faith:

Brazil’s Roman Catholics shrink as secular rise – Yahoo! News.

At the start of the last decade, millions of Brazilian Catholics joined flashy Pentecostal congregations expanding in the world’s biggest Catholic country. Now, Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation finds, the country’s Catholics are still leaving the church and at a higher rate than ever, but many younger parishioners, like Maragato, are simply becoming nonreligious.

Experts say this new twist poses a more potent threat to Catholic leaders than earlier losses. Now, the church isn’t just competing against the Pentecostals, but courting people who have decided organized religion has no part in their lives.

“It’s the most important phenomenon in this study, the abandonment of religion and the Catholics,” said Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo. “A considerable part of the Brazilian youth today are agnostic.”

Such news does warm my old atheist heart. I can think of no Christian denomination — with the possible exception of the Westboro Baptists — more deserving of having its membership numbers collapse than the Catholics.

The number of people under the age of 20 in Brazil who say they follow no religion is growing three times more quickly than those 50 and older, with 9 percent of young Brazilians saying they belong to no religion, according to the study. That mirrors a similar trend in the number of people leaving the Catholic Church.

This seems to be a growing trend everywhere. More and more of the younger generations are becoming non-religious. Some of them are seeking out their own personal version of spirituality, but more and more are becoming atheist and agnostic and it’s got the Catholics running scared. Just 30 years ago the Catholic church was embraced by 90% of Brazilians, today that number is down to 67.4%. Still a majority, but probably not for much longer the way things are going.

So what’s the primary cause of this decline? The study’s authors think it’s the improving quality of life in Brazil:

“As the economy has improved, people have more access to cinema, theater, to just take a trip,” said Silvia Fernandes, a sociologist at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro who focuses on those who switch religions. “So we’re seeing that people no longer need to go to church for social reasons if they have these other options.”

Altemeyer said the ability of the previously impoverished to acquire goods like TVs and computers means even more distraction.

“The improvement of people’s life conditions is adding to this phenomenon of secularization and the rejection of religious institutions,” Altemeyer said.

Having access to computers and the Internet is probably a big part of it. When you’ve got instant access to the knowledge of the world you don’t have to rely so much on church leaders to tell you about reality. Plus you can find out about all the other people who manage to live good lives without relying on belief in a higher power to do so. Plus it doesn’t help when you cling to dogma that is detrimental to people’s quality of life:

Experts say the changes have accelerated as many women turn away from the Vatican’s prohibitive views on contraception and abortion, which remains illegal in nearly all cases in Brazil.

“The Catholic Church is literally losing its future, and the loss of women and young people is the most important driver of the fall,” Neri said.

The situation is so bad for the church in Brazil that the Vatican has announced their next World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro in hopes of slowing or reversing the trend of young people leaving the church. They’re already doing everything they can think of to stop the losses, but so far it’s not having much impact.

With any luck this trend will continue around the world and it won’t be too long before the Catholic church fades into irrelevancy. Now, if we can just get the same trend going with Evangelicals.

Priest in Archdiocese of advisor to Pope on pedophile priests arrested for pedophilia.

Pic of stained glass window.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious.

If God exists then he must have a very nasty sense of irony:

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday, May 13, on pedophilia and drug charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues,” he allegedly said. Genoa Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, had been working with Benedict to establish a tough new worldwide policy, released this week, on how bishops should handle accusations of priestly sex abuse.

[…] According to investigators, Seppia told a friend — a former seminarian and barman who is currently under investigation — that the town’s malls were the best places to entice minors. In tapped phone conversations the two cursed and swore against God. The priest is charged with having attempted to kiss and touch an underage altar boy and of having exchanged cocaine for sexual intercourse with boys over 18.

via Priest Sex-Abuse Case in Archdiocese of Benedict’s Adviser – TIME.

Considering that the Vatican just released a report on the pedophile priest scandals that have been rocking the Church for the past few years that put the blame squarely on the “sexually permissive” 1960’s and 70’s, this makes them look pretty stupid. If not outright evil. Now add in the fact that the Vatican released new guidelines for dealing with accusations of molestation that insist the initial case should be handled by Bishops and not the police and you’ve got a recipe for disaster:

A document drawn up by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, concludes the responsibility for dealing with child abuse cases within the Church “belongs in the first place to bishops”.

[…] “This document is simply meaningless words – they have been forced to act but it is not enough,” said Marco Lodi Rizzini, a spokesman for an Italian victim-support group. “The Vatican has said it will co-operate with the authorities before, but only because it has been forced to.”

Mr Rizzini pointed to a case that has recently emerged in the northern Italian city of Genoa, in which a 50-year-old priest has been arrested by police investigating a drugs and sex ring. Though Church leaders suspended Father Riccardo Seppia, there were claims the Vatican had been warned of his behaviour. Piercarlo Casassa, a retired priest, said: “I told the Church about him in 1994 but was ignored. I told them he was not the right person to have around youngsters.”

The Vatican clearly doesn’t seem to understand that their past habits of covering up and shuffling of pedophiles in their ranks is why they’re in trouble. That or they simply don’t give a fuck so long as they maintain their position of power over the masses. I’m inclined to think they simply don’t give a fuck. Who cares if a few priests diddle some of the kids in their congregation so long as the kids end up in Heaven in the end? Little fucks should be grateful for the attention considering the Hell they were headed for before these priests came along and saved their worthless little asses. Ingrates! Why we’re even letting them do drugs so they won’t feel the rape they’re going through so clearly. Try to show a little appreciation, eh?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand how anyone can follow the Catholic faith given the complete lack of moral authority and corruption at the very top of the church’s hierarchy. These people have repeatedly demonstrated that they are the last people on the planet you should be listening to for direction on ethics and morality. How can they save your soul when they’ve clearly lost their own decades ago?

Catholic Church committing bankruptcy fraud to protect assets from abuse victims.

The Catholic Church likes to promote itself as a beacon of morality in a fallen world. Shame the reality isn’t anything close to what they’d like you to believe:

‘Dan Rather Reports’ Exposes Coordinated Effort by the Catholic Church to Protect Assets From Abuse Victims

From the Vatican on down, the church has vowed to make peace with hundreds of victims of a decades-long epidemic of sex abuse by its priests. But “Dan Rather Reports” found evidence that the church has done just the opposite: Wealthy U.S. Dioceses from California to Delaware have claimed to be broke and have filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying damages; Bishops have exploited arcane corporate laws to shield church assets from liability; and, in San Diego, parish priests have been caught literally hiding money in safes, according to court records.

“If you or I did what the Diocese of San Diego did in that bankruptcy, we’d be charged with bankruptcy fraud, and we’d probably be in prison,” said attorney John Manly, who has represented dozens of priest abuse victims in lawsuits across the country.

“Dan Rather Reports” found evidence that some high in the church hierarchy have provided guidance.

“One of the comments that came from one of the bankruptcy attorneys is that, ‘These guys make Enron look like altar boys.’ Pardon the pun,” said Don McLean, who was abused as a 10-year-old altar boy, and sought damages from the San Diego diocese.

“Dan Rather Reports: Spiritually Bankrupt” premieres on HDNet, Tuesday, June 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET with an encore at 11:00 p.m. ET.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand how anyone can call themselves a Catholic without being filled with shame and self-loathing. If I were to ever meet the Pope I’d have no other choice, in good conscious, other than to slap the shit out of him as soon as he started to make some bullshit moral proclamation.

Probably best the likelihood of me ever meeting the Pope is even less than the chances that God actually exists.

Yet another Bishop accused of covering up for pedophile priests.  (#Blogathon)

I am too tired to muster the usual outrage over what is becoming an all too-familiar story so I’ll let it speak for itself:

Bishop remained silent about 25 abusive priests – Chicago Sun Times

The former No. 2 official of the Catholic church in Chicago admitted that he knew 25 priests broke the law by sexually abusing children but did not report them, according to depositions made public Tuesday.

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Raymond E. Goedert’s statements show “the lengths they went to to protect their reputation and the priest at the peril of the child,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents men who have sued the archdiocese over alleged childhood molestation.

“I knew the civil law considered it a crime,” Goedert said in the deposition. “But I’m not a civil lawyer. I think we just relied on—a lot on our—we knew it was wrong, what was done. And we used our common sense and prudence with the help of people—expert in the field to assist us in resolving these cases.”

Goedert, the past president of the national Canon Law (Catholic Church law) Society, said families of the victims were not seeking to get the police involved and have the priests criminally charged—they simply wanted to prevent any other children from being victimized. So while now the church calls police when it learns of credible allegations of abuse, in those days—the ‘70s and mid-80s—it did not.

“I simply would not talk about it to anyone except those who had a right to know because of their position in the diocese,” Goedert said.

OK, I can still manage a little indignation here. Once again we have a Catholic Bishop telling us that he considers the reputation of the church and its clergy more important than the welfare of a child being molested. He covered these allegations up for 25 fucking years because he considered the wellbeing of the children in his church to be less important than the church’s image. This man should be charged with multiple counts of aiding and abetting for each child he allowed to be molested. What he allowed to take place for 25 years is quite simply inexcusable.

Catholic rehab center uses beatings to cure you of your addiction.

Apparently the Catholic solution to any problem it comes across is to beat the shit out of it. That was the approach taken—in addition to sexual abuse and rape—with Irish children in the Church’s care for decades on end and now it appears to be the preferred solution at a Serbian Catholic drug rehab center:

BELGRADE, Serbia —  The Serbian priest running a church-backed drug rehab center was removed by his bishop Wednesday following the publication of videos showing him and members of his staff beating patients with a shovel.

Bishop Artemije ordered the removal of Branislav Peranovic but stopped short of closing the Crna Reka center in southern Serbia even though Serbian Orthodox Church elders had demanded it.

Artemije said in a statement that the center will be shut down if the beatings recur. He appointed Father Dejan Jakovljevic to run the facility “in line with Christian principles.”

Clearly this was just one bad apple, right? Surely the priest put in charge now will get things back on track, right? Right??

Jakovljevic — previously Peranovic’s assistant — has publicly approved of the beatings.

[…] Crna Reka priests have said beatings are a necessary part of the therapy and are carried out with the consent of patients’ parents.

Remember that kids! It’s not really physical abuse so long as your parents give their consent. Now hold still. Those priests aren’t as young as they used to be and they have a hard time hitting you what with all that squirming and screaming you’re doing.

Nine year investigation of Ireland’s Catholic reform schools reveals Hell on Earth.

It’s taken nine years and the final 2,600 page report goes into detail on the systematic abuse and rape of children living in reform schools run by the Catholic church in Ireland:

Catholic Church shamed by Irish abuse report – Yahoo! News

Wednesday’s five-volume report on the probe — which was resisted by Catholic religious orders — concluded that church officials shielded their orders’ pedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.

“A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from,” Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.

Victims of the abuse, who are now in their 50s to 80s, lobbied long and hard for an official investigation. They say that for all its incredible detail, the report doesn’t nail down what really matters — the names of their abusers.

“I do genuinely believe that it would have been a further step towards our healing if our abusers had been named and shamed,” said Christine Buckley, 62, who spent the first 18 years of her life in a Dublin orphanage where children were forced to manufacture rosaries — and were humiliated, beaten and raped whether they achieved their quota or not.

The Catholic religious orders that ran more than 50 workhouse-style reform schools from the late 19th century until the mid-1990s offered public words of apology, shame and regret Wednesday. But when questioned, their leaders indicated they would continue to protect the identities of clergy accused of abuse — men and women who were never reported to police, and were instead permitted to change jobs and keep harming children.

The Christian Brothers, which ran several boys’ institutions deemed to have harbored serial child molesters and sadists on their staff, insisted it had cooperated fully with the probe. The order successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report. No real names, whether of victims or perpetrators, appear in the final document.

It’s outrageous enough that the abuse took place for multiple decades in an institution that likes to claim itself as a moral authority, that the Vatican itself knew of the problem, and that the church as a whole covered up the crimes without ever removing the people involved in them from their positions, but to then publicly admit that you’re going to continue to protect the guilty from being revealed?!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How anyone can continue to be a Catholic after these revelations is just beyond my understanding. At the very least you should be at the Vatican with pitchforks and torches demanding to know how this was allowed to happen for so long and who’s going to be held accountable for their actions. There’s a lot to account for such as:

The report found that molestation and rape were “endemic” in boys’ facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers order, and supervisors pursued policies that increased the danger. Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.

“In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine. … Girls were struck with implements designed to maximize pain and were struck on all parts of the body,” the report said. “Personal and family denigration was widespread.”

I haven’t even tried to read the report itself because the news summaries are already pretty upsetting. It gets worse, though, there’s a second report due at the end of June:

A second damning report, due to be published by the end of June, will detail the abuse of hundreds of children in the Dublin archdiocese from 1940 onwards. More than 100 priests are facing allegations and 400 people have been identified as victims.

For the moment it doesn’t appear that anyone involved in the abuse over the years will so much as be named, let alone prosecuted, and the Irish government has now called upon the Vatican to continue the investigation further. How likely do you think that is? I’m not holding my breath in anticipation.

Ohio priests given rules on touching kids.

Apparently the pedophilia scandal didn’t make things clear enough for the priests in Ohio as the Church felt it necessary to put out a do and don’t list:

CINCINNATI (AP)—The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has issued a detailed list of inappropriate behaviors for priests, saying they should not kiss, tickle or wrestle children.

The newest version of the archdiocese’s Decree on Child Protection also prohibits bear hugs, lap-sitting and piggyback rides.

But it says priests may still shake children’s hands, pat them on the back and give high-fives.

Oddly enough there’s nothing about not touching their genitals or asking the kids to touch them. You’d think that’d be obvious, but you know someone’s going to say it wasn’t on the list so they didn’t know. The above strikes me as an attempt to avoid the appearance of inappropriateness without actually, you know, dealing with inappropriate behavior itself. Then again perhaps I’m just being nitpicky as I haven’t seen the full list.

Save the Cracker! Save the Lord!

For your amused consideration: Save the Cracker!

Verily I say I didth indeed laughth.

Suddenly I have a speech impediment.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

At last we find out who’s really running the Catholic church:

I have no idea what’s actually going on here, but it’s pretty amusing just the same. Found over at this Icelandic (I believe) blog and originally discovered through Fark.com.

How’s this for irony? Catholic film ciritics liked “The Golden Compass.”

If ever there was a sure sign that the movie version of The Golden Compass has had most of its anti-religion tone ripped out by its roots it’s the fact that two Catholic film critics who write for the Catholic News Service are giving the film high praise. Needless to say some folks aren’t happy about that:

“Two weeks ago there was a lot of buzz about a boycott, but now the talk is about the review,” said Joe Towalski, editor of the Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

And a lot of it is angry talk. The Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Front Royal, Va.-based Human Life International, which describes its mission as “upholding the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” used his website to call for the dismissal of movie critics Harry Forbes and John Mulderig of the Catholic News Service, the church’s official news arm. Their review raved about the movie while dismissing concerns that Phillip Pullman, the author of the fantasy trilogy on which it’s based, is a professed atheist who is on record as saying, “My books are about killing God.”

In particular, the review noted the movie departed from Pullman’s book in its explicit references to the church. “Most moviegoers with no foreknowledge of the books or Pullman’s personal belief system will scarcely be aware of religious connotations, and can approach the movie as a pure fantasy-adventure,” they said, adding: “… this film—altered, as it is, from its source material—rates as intelligent and well-crafted entertainment.”

Forbes and Mulderig “have summarily put our hierarchy on record as giving glowing praise to the work of a militant atheist,” Euteneuer told the Star Tribune. “This is utterly irresponsible.”

No, they gave praise to a seriously watered down movie based on the work of an atheist. Still it’s fun to see the Catholics arguing amongst themselves over something as stupid as a movie. For all the talk of how strong the Christian faithful are in their beliefs you’d think this movie was causing people to become instant atheists with the way they’re reacting to it.

And mad props to DaBroad for linking to this article in another thread.