The twisted fathers

The Vatican is different from you and me; it has an eccentric way of ordering its priorities – a way so eccentric that it passes human understanding.

It has this secret tribunal, you see, which it has only now decided to open to the public, or rather to that portion of the public known as ‘the faithful.’ This secret tribunal ‘handles confessions of sins so grave only the pope can grant absolution.’ Ooh – the pope’s a busy guy, so they must be some truly grave sins then. (But then, ‘sin’ is a silly idea, and the Catholic church’s ideas of what sin is are also silly – but still, the pope is a busy guy, so they’re not going to get things too backward, surely.)

By lifting the veil of secrecy surrounding the tribunal’s work, the Vatican hopes to emphasize the fundamental role the sacrament plays in saving souls, the Vatican’s No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said in a paper delivered at the conference. “Today it seems as though the sense of sin has been forgotten,” he said.

The sacrament saves souls, and if souls are not saved, bad things happen, though the bad things happen to souls, not bodies, so whether what happens has anything to do with actual burning or not is not altogether clear, at least not to me. But that’s okay, because people who believe it are bound to be scared in some way, and that’s the important thing. It’s very worrying when the sense of sin has been forgotten, because then people don’t have this pervading but nebulous sense of anxiety and worry and dread in case they are commiting ‘sins’ without knowing it.

Confessions of even the most heinous of crimes and sins — such as genocide or mass murder — are handled at the local level by priests and their bishops and are not heard by the tribunal. Its work involves those sins that are reserved for the pope — considered so serious that a local priest or bishop is not qualified to grant absolution, said Cardinal James Francis Stafford, an American who heads the Apostolic Penitentiary. These include defiling the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ. Stafford said this offense is occurring with more and more frequency, not just in satanic rites but by ordinary faithful who receive Communion and then remove the host from their mouths and spit it out or otherwise desecrate it.

Read that carefully. Then read it again. Then again. The Catholic church actually thinks that spitting out a cracker is a more serious ‘sin’ than genocide or mass murder.

I thought I already knew how horrible the Vatican is, but it just isn’t possible to know, is it; they keep so much of their horribleness a secret. I should have known – I did know they put Montaigne’s book on the Index partly because he was against torturing heretics before killing them, and said so – I did know how they treated Irish children until shockingly recently – I did know they tell credulous people that condoms don’t work. And yet, I still didn’t know. They take spitting out a cracker more seriously than genocide. And they mean it.

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