Make plans to see “Spotlight”

I didn’t watch the Oscars this year and I haven’t watched them much for several years. But this year a picture I wanted to see won the Oscar for best picture. I hadn’t seen it because it never played in Grand Rapids during its initial release. Now, all of a sudden after the Oscar win, it shows up in town. So Carolyn and I made a very rare middle of the week trip to see it on Tuesday night. I was concerned that it would be gone before the weekend and didn’t want to miss our chance. It was well worth taking the time. I’m still puzzled as to why it was so delayed in coming to Grand Rapids. I suspect the Catholic church is very unhappy with it, but I don’t know that they would have raised a stink in town that the theater operator would care about.

The movie documents in a dramatic format the pursuit by the Boston Globe newspaper of a story about the abuse of children by pedophile priests in the Boston area. This occurred in the early 2000’s and involved an investigative reporting team name Spotlight. A team of four journalists who are asked to take on the story by a new editor who has just taken over the news operation. He is responding to some information he noticed in the paper about a single case of abuse that seems to point to a larger problem and wonders why the paper didn’t pursue the story further. The answer is that no one thought it would amount to anything – just a single bad apple priest. The editor challenges them to find out if that is true.

Eventually the team realizes that the problem is massive involving more than 80 priests in the Boston area, hundreds of victims and a community wide effort to suppress the story involving not just the Catholic Church, but government attorneys, the police, a host of public figures and, most disturbing, Cardinal Law and others in the upper reaches of the church hierarchy. Also embarrassing, the Spotlight team realizes that some of them also contributed to suppressing the story when they were in other positions at the paper. They had followed everyone else in deciding it was a limited problem and the church shouldn’t be subjected to further embarrassment for the “good of the community”.

This story is compelling and the dramatization of it is straight forward and feels completely honest. No one comes off as a unblemished hero, but the willingness of the Spotlight team to follow the story to its end regardless is admirable. Almost all of them are portrayed as lapsed Catholics, but we are left to wonder if this story put the nail in the coffin of their faith for good. I also wondered how badly the church in Boston was hurt by this story. The level of disgust and disappointment with the church seems intense at the end of the film. It would be nice if some details on the impact for the church were easily available. Maybe they are, I just haven’t looked hard enough I suppose.

In the end, Cardinal Law is pulled out of Boston and hidden away in the Vatican where he remains. As I recall, the whole scandal fueled the flames of investigation all over the world and we now know that the Catholic Church has been complicit in thousands of abuse cases with hundreds of abusive priests and nuns. It is now suspected that the retired Pope Benedict was up to his ears in the cover up of the problem and resigned to avoid further problems for himself. I’m not sure that the current Pope, Francis, isn’t also guilty at some level. The Vatican is clearly a criminal organization at this point.

If you haven’t seen the film, it is intense and compelling. I don’t know how long it will be in town. Go see it if you can.

A Dubious Saint

Many of you are no doubt aware that the woman known in her life as Mother Teresa has been canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.  The process of canonization is filled with woo — of course, what else could it be — requiring “proof” of at least two miracles.  But this is not what concerns me at present.  The credulity of believing in “miracles” is matched by the credulity of an uncrtical public.  Among probably the majority of Westerners, Mother Teresa is uncritically accepted as a kind and compassionate person.  But this was not the case.

While he was alive, Christopher Hitchens delved into the life and actions of the supposed saint.  His findings were compiled in his well – known (and infamous to Catholics) Missionary Position.  Hitchens’s findings have since been verified by scholars.  Rather than give a litany of them, here is a link to an interview with HItchens conducted by “Free Inquiry” magazine.

Hitchens on Mother Teresa



F—ing barbarians

So tonight, Rachel Maddow showed video of ISIS idiots who had broken into a museum in Mosul using sledge hammers and power saws to destroy ancient Assyrian artifacts. They also reportedly invaded the library and burned all texts not directly related to Islam.  These are barbarians of the first order, worthy of every possible condemnation.  The footage made me sick — these portals into the human past, these markers of one chapter of the human experience, these clues to understanding our collective existence — wantonly destroyed by a bunch of unmitigated morons.  Of course, what these ignorant fools do to living human beings (beating, waterboarding, crucifixion, beheading, etc.) is even more nauseating.  That such Medieval nonsense can gain purchase in the 21st century makes ones jaw drop.

At a Loss for Words…

Many of you are aware of Brittany Maynard, the woman with the malignant glial blastoma who moved with her husband from California to Oregon in order to end her life on her own terms.  Well, the Vatican has condemned her.  On WEIT, Jerry Coyne has reproduced a portion of the Vatican’s “Declaration on Euthanasia, which reads in part:

“. . . According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father’s will.”

This makes my blood boil.  The tumor that led to the inevitable death of Mrs. Maynard is the same that my mother was diagnosed with several months ago.  My mother was able to have the tumor excised, and radiation and chemo have extended her life, though we don’t know how long.  But before we knew she had a tumor, I witnessed firsthand some of the effects.  She was often disoriented — we thought she was developing Alzheimer’s — she was anxious, and she was unable to perform simple tasks she had carried out all her life.  It sounds like in Mrs. Maynard’s case, there were also seizures (which my mother may have had — she fell on a couple of occasions and doesn’t know how she got on the ground) and pain.

This condition is fatal.  My mother will die of it also, if something else doesn’t happen first; all we were able to do is buy her an undetermined amount of quality time, although the quality of her life has been seriously curtailed.

My mother would almost certainly not make a decision such as that of Mrs. Maynard.  But damn it anyway, if she chose to end her life on her own terms as an autonomous human being, shouldn’t she be afforded that right?

You see, there is a point — I saw this with my dad when he died of leukemia — when it is all down, down, down, with never an up.  There is nothing to look forward to.

So the Vatican wants to condemn people who choose to end their life before brain cancer takes everything from them, including their identity.  Let the pope die that way if he wants to, but it is none of their damn business what others choose to do.

And this business about sharing in the suffering of Christ?  What the hell is that?  I thought Christ suffered so we did not have to.  What a stinking crock of shit.

Stupidity Dies Hard

Despite the title of this post, I want to think that humanity is making progress, that as a civilization, we are becoming more enlightened.  But it is always sobering and more than a bit deflating when I come across something like this, as reported in the New York Times:

The Vatican has formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who say they liberate the faithful from demons. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported on Tuesday that the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy had approved the organization’s statutes and recognized the group under canon law. More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man purportedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.”

When will humanity finally leave behind its superstitious infancy?