Pope Combats Fraud (Cancels Out Self?)

This is rich.  The UK’s Daily Mail reports that Pope Ratzinger “is declaring a ‘holy war’ against people who claim falsely that the Virgin Mary is appearing to them.”  As if a) anyone every really claimed truthfully that this has happened and b) that Mary really was a virgin when she conceived her oldest child and c) that either Mary or Jesus ever existed to begin with.  (Actually, the Pope’s new initiative covers all sorts of stuff, like appearances by Jesus, stigmata, etc.)

One gets the feeling that sometimes the Pope feels a little like John McCain at an Alabama Republican rally.  I mean, it’s one thing for the funny little guy at the podium to make all manner of ridiculous, unprovable claims, but when your followers start to run away with it – when your garden variety housewife, or Mexican day-laborer, or overzealous nun starts “makin’ stuff up” - well, now it gets a little embarrassing.

Frankly, his High Holeyness could save the Vat a bundle by putting Joe Nickell on speed-dial.  But since that’s not gonna happen, here’s what Mr. “Galileo Had It Coming” proposes in order to root out pious fraud:

The first step will be to impose silence on the alleged visionaries and if they refuse to obey then this will be taken as a sign that their claims are false.

WTF?  So if I refuse to stop speaking out on something I think is real, I’m automatically suspect?  This smells an awful lot like a threat of excommunication to me.

The visionaries will next be visited by psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health and to verify whether they are suffering from conditions of a hysterical or hallucinatory character or from delusions of leadership.

Huh.  It would seem to me that if any psychiatrist thought the person was telling the truth, he or she would automatically be declared delusional!  So the choices are, you’re either lying or crazy.  Not that I disagree, here, but this sounds like one of those “when did you stop beating your wife” situations.  (And why would you send an atheist, since we all know you can’t trust those guys.)

The third step will be to investigate the person’s level of education and to determine if they have had access to material that could be used to falsely support their claims.

I love this one.  Educated people can’t have visions of the Virgin Mary.  Only ignorant hicks who couldn’t possibly know anything about the world.  Nice.

If the visionary is considered credible they will ultimately be questioned by one or more demonologists and exorcists to exclude the possibility that Satan is hiding behind the apparitions in order to deceive the faithful.

Mmm…yes.  Demonologists and exorcists.  In other words, experts in bullshit.  Experts in nothing.  (Also men who show up in fancy outfits to terrify the delusional kook who thinks the Virgin Mary lives in her toaster into thinking that Mother Church might declare her in league with the devil.

What kind of ass-over-teakettle logic is the Pope following here?  Believe me, I understand his desire to rein in the bullshit.  But he’s just protecting the accepted bullshit.  He wouldn’t dare expose his own crazy claims to the above-mentioned filtering process.  He believes that an unleavened cracker becomes the actual human flesh (which isn’t cannibalism, no, no), and the lady in Conyers, Georgia who’s hearing voices is crazy???

I almost forgot to mention that this report includes the tidbit that of 295 apparitions reported over the last century, “only 11 were recognized as genuine.”  (Emphasis mine.)  Man, if I had 11 confirmed miracles, I wouldn’t use the word “only.”

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