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A bridge to nowhere

The title of the head of the Roman Catholic Church is “pontiff”, which means, basically “bridge-builder” (in Latin: pontifex; I gather it’s thought by some that the Roman priests would bless new bridges, and the bishop of Rome inherited the term when ROme was Christianised).

Evidence that the title is undeserved comes from his head of state (really? A few square kilometres of Rome is a state?) visit to the UK, in which he declares that the Nazis, who appealed to God and Christianity (and in particular Catholicism) at every opportunity, were the “sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century”. Bullshit. They were, as the Telegraph’s blogger Tom Chivers notes, the outcome of the individuals and society of the day, and to call them an atheist movement is worse than calling them a Christian movement, because there is plenty of evidence that most Nazis were Christian. Basically, it’s historical revisionism.

That’s not building bridges. That’s building ghettoes. A new title is due to be added to the Pope’s already overblown list. It should come after “protector of pedophiles”.

Larry wonders if accommodationists will criticise the Pope for this. Here’s a criticism. I suspect he won’t think it’s enough.


  1. I’m actually somewhat astounded that a man of Benny’s presumed intelligence and education would perpetrate such a bare-faced historical falsehood. I expect that from the nastier Protestant morons, but I figured a senior Catholic figure would be above it. But there doesn’t seem to be anything the RCC is above these days, does there?

    • J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

      The Nazis being atheists seems to be one of those things that everyone “knows,” the truth notwithstanding

  2. Is he just trying to distract the Brits from remembering that he was in the Hitler Youth at the time of the bombing of London?

  3. Snarkyxanf Snarkyxanf

    I think the best summary of the Pope’s talk I’ve seen on twitter has been “God-win? Sounds like a great idea!”

    • Snarkyxanf Snarkyxanf

      @edyong209 was the source there, credit where credit is due.

  4. D D

    “Evidence that the title is undeserved”

    As Pontifex, the Pope’s job is to build the bridges that the other trolls live under. His title is well deserved.

  5. sbej sbej

    Shit, we good citizens of Edinburgh pick up the cost of the security bill for that little outburst.

    How nice. Get my entire day disrupted with security as he is visiting someone who lives just round the corner and I get insulted as well.

    A picture of members of the catholic church giving a nazi salute with Joseph Gobels does not seem inapropriate as the pope is drinking from the same cesspit of historical manipulation and falsehood.

    Or a mention of Father Charles Coughlin, one of the first shock jocks on radio in the 1930’s. An anti Semitic, suporter of Hitler in the U.S. As the Woody Guthery line goes

    “Yonder comes Father Coughlin, wearin the silver chain, Cash on his stomach and Hitler on the brain”

    Facisim and the racial fantasy that surrounds it was a product of European society not the bogey- man.

  6. groki groki

    for pontiff, “bridge between God and man” is my folk etymology (though as a non-theist I am surely not to be trusted). in any case, since His Nazience took the job, “bridge” ought to be replaced by something more like “detour,” “barrier,” or maybe “sulfury poisonous smokescreen.”

  7. Hitherto, I’ve deplored the whole “Ratzi the Nazi” meme. I felt it was a bit unfair to dump on him for basically being a typical young male German of his unfortunate generation. Yes, it would be to his credit had he been better than that, but it’s not like he was a Party member, Gestapo operative, or concentration camp guard.

    Somehow, I’m not feeling quite so charitable towards the old bastard today….

  8. Kirk Job Sluder Kirk Job Sluder

    Funny, I just noted elsewhere that these debates are almost never about God, but about values that are claimed to be the exclusive provence of religion and lacking from us atheists. Funny that Pope Benedict would provide another point of data in this.

  9. Thanks.
    Did you forget the second part?

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Second part of what?

  10. sbej sbej

    “Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things.”

    ‘Caritas in Vertate’ (Charity in Truth) Introduction.

    Benny certainly moved beyond ‘historical limitations’ on this.

  11. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    I was pissed with the cardinal who said that the UK was a third world country, and then someone in the Vatican compounded the error by saying he was talking about multiculturalism: something I can only interpret as saying “black and brown people live in the third world”. Now Ratzi comes along and stomps all over the British tolerance (AND insults Stephen Fry, National Treasure). If he wants the UK to become a less secular state, he should check the history books to see why Thomas Moore was beatified.

    I was so pissed off, I almost blogged about it.

  12. The vatican is even smaller than you think: It’s less than half a square kilometre. Hence the quip “Statistically, the Vatican city has 2 popes per square kilometre”

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      That explains Avignon…

      • There’s a pun lurking in there about “pontiff” and “Sur le pont d’Avignon…” but I’m not nearly clever enough to work it out.

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          And I don’t read Italian, so I’m no help.

  13. The reason that the British tax payer is picking up a large part of the security pad for this visit by the Pope is because it’s an official state vist arranged by Tone ‘the slime’ Blair shortly before he left office and converted to Catholicism.

    However judging by his speeches he is using his visit as a propaganda campaign for the Catholic Church. I think that if any genuine head of state had used an official state visit as a platform for such vilification of the British public it would be regarded by the British Parliament as a massive diplomatic affront and a stern diplomatic note would be sent post haste to the offending country. So why is Bennie the Rottweiler excused such diplomatic bad manners?

    • What Thony said (because I’ve also said it in a few places, even weeks ago). He can be a church leader (in which case his church pays for the visit) and then he can exhort his flock and scold all us sinners (who will respond with some combination of ignoring him and laughing at him) all he likes, or he can be a Head of State (though his medieval fiefdom has no reason to exist, and no economy except as Roman tourist attraction, and head office of a religious corporation), in which case he can observe the customary diplomatic protocols. (Passing thought: doesn’t that make all local clergy agents of a foreign power?)
      If anyone wants to see a blatant example of outrageous religious privilege and exceptionalism, this is it.

      • Passing thought: doesn’t that make all local clergy agents of a foreign power?

        In the 16th and 17th centuries Catholic priest were treated as hostile foriegn agents in England.

  14. That should read ‘security tab’ !!??

  15. chris y chris y

    Certain Roman priests were called “pontifex” for uncertain reasons. The title of Chief Priest, Pontifex Maximus, was adopted by the early Emperors as part of their power grab, and was maintained by the Popes after the empire fell. So basically it means he thinks he’s Julius Caesar. If it was just an individual, he could be detained in a comfortable but secure environment until he got better, but since there’s a powerful world organisation dedicated to maintaining the delusion, it gets a bit trickier.

  16. It is with the prosperity of religions as it is with climate change. There are cycles inside cycles. While England, like the rest of Europe, has become more secular over the last couple of hundred years, it’s my impression that the Catholics have done better than the Protestants in keeping and gaining adherents. The same thing is true in the U.S., where the Catholics have become the largest Christian denomination. Setbacks related to recent scandals may just be wavelets superimposed on a longer trend. Part of the relative success of the R.C. is demographic, but I find it interesting how influential the church has become among a large number of political and intellectual figures: Tony Blair actually converted, of course, but Obama’s outlook is a lot closer to Catholic social thought than to anything Protestant or secular. Niall Ferguson is on the record in bewailing the outcome of the English Civil War–my impression is that he, like quite a few other conservatives, buys into the theme of the political utility of religion as a way of controlling the plebs. The Catholic influence isn’t always rightist or even pro-papal. In the U.S. lay Catholics like Gary Wills, who is famously critical of the hierarchy, nevertheless express loyalty to the tradition. Their religiosity, if that’s what it is, focuses on human relationships and values and doesn’t obviously have much to do with metaphysical or mythological propositions.

    It’s easy, for me at least, to dismiss the church as a fundamentally corrupt organization promoting an absurdly elaborate system of superstition. I was brought up on tales of Black Legend, and I have a visceral dislike of Papism and its accouterments. The hierarchy is not the whole story, however; and anybody seriously interested in cultural politics has to get beyond snorting about Pope Ratzi

  17. Michael Fugate Michael Fugate

    Now he is claiming that Britain wants to ban Christmas – like the retailers would ever allow that to happen.

    • Presumably he’s bitching about the trend to use “Happy Holidays” and similar non-religious salutations. Once again, his Arse-Holiness emulates the stupider of the Protestants.

  18. chris y chris y

    Now he is claiming that Britain wants to ban Christmas – like the retailers would ever allow that to happen.

    Hey, we’ve done it before!

    • Michael Fugate Michael Fugate

      Who – the puritans. There’s a happy bunch.

  19. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    Perhaps it would have been apposite if someone had reminded Herr Ratzinger that it was in Edinburgh that Thomas Aikenhead became the last person to be executed for blasphemy in Britain on 8th January 1697. His offense was atheism. Unwisely as it transpired, he made no secret of his beliefs and his downfall was brought about by his uttering atheistic remarks in the company of what he mistakenly thought were friends. Macaulay’s oft-quoted passage cannot be bettered: “The preachers who were the boy’s murderers crowded round him at the gallows, and, while he was struggling in the last agony, insulted Heaven with prayers more blasphemous than any thing that he had ever uttered.”

    Alarmingly, there are parts of the United States where attitudes have changed little in 313 years.

  20. sbej sbej

    Perhaps not it may give him ideas. Macauley also stated

    “The ministers demanded not only the poor boys death but his speedy death.”

    The trail bears an uncanny resemblance to new labours vision for the prosecution of anti-terror law suspects.

    The offence of blasphemy was specificaly railing and cursing against God
    The railing and cursing against God was not proven but infered by the jury. He was also not granted a defence council.

  21. cromercrox cromercrox

    What everyone else said. All this from a person whoseChurch – not atheism – colluded with te Nazi’s in the Final Solution. And I read this on Yom Kippur, noch. Truly, there are no words.

  22. sbej sbej

    I read a bit in the paper today by Dominic Lawson who is an athiest. He suggested the pope had got the better in this argument. He cited Micheal Burlieghs work on the third reich citing Hitler

    “The was will be over one day. I shall then consider that my life’s final task will be to solve the religious problem…The organised lie must be smashed”

    Hitler’s views were shaped by distorting a range of subjects to fit his own prejudices.

    I think both sides come out as losers. Both are playing the same old political game with history, distorting it and shaping it to make a contemporary point.

    I am more disapointed with my own team as I expect far higher standards.

    We take religion to task for distorting and presenting a range of false beleifs about the world around us but in the interests of attempting to win an argument do exactly the same thing with history. Or cobble together an ill thought out idea like the meme and present it as if it’s a scientific fact.

    Its no better than claiming the earth is 6000 years old.

    Its seriously sad. I dont wish to see one type of bullshit replaced by another. I expect something more.

  23. sbej sbej

    That should read “The war will be over……”

    The warning from history the Nazis present is not the danger of what other people we don’t like can become, but what we can become. They were a product of our European culture and society and attitudes that existed within it not apart from it.

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