Saturday, August 29, 2009

Penn And Teller Have Catholic's Panties In A Bunch - Again

I came across this release from the Catholic League last week in regards to an upcoming Penn and Teller Showtime show, Bullshit!, that takes aim at the Vatican. Of course knowing that the Vatican is well known for their sense of humor (yes, sarcasm) I wondered what could have them in such an uproar.

The Catholic League was calling for Showtime and CBS (Showtime's parent network) to cancel their contract for the show due to Penn and Teller's history of being less than nice to the Church and it's leaders.
CBS management has spoken to the Catholic-bashing duo before, but to no effect. Though we are not calling for CBS/Showtime to cancel the upcoming episode, we are saying that the time has come to pull the plug on their show; their contract should not be renewed.

Ok, not being much of a fan of the Catholic Church myself, I was really wondering now what was going to be on the show that had the church so worried, especially considering that by the wording of the press release, it was obvious that they had not seen the latest episode in question. So being the good little non-believer that I am, I setup the Tivo and recorded the show when it aired on the 27th and below I've summarized the 4 main points Penn and Teller hit on. (I have the video but looking around the web it is apparent that unlike Bill Maher and HBO, Showtime doesn't see the benefits of allowing clips of Bullshit! to go viral on the web)

First they look at the story of an Italian comic who criticized the Pope and his staunch stand against homosexuality in her act. She said some obviously less than nice comments about the Pope meeting up and spending time with some large gay men in hell (use your imagination from there). The Vatican as you can imagine wasn't laughing and pressured Italian authorities to press charges against the woman who for awhile was in danger of spending 5 years in prison for expressing her opinions.

The Italian courts eventually dropped the case for obvious reasons and to make the story even more bizarre, the Catholic Church then tried to spin it to their advantage by saying they had forgiven her despite the fact she still uses that bit in her act to this day.

They next went into the homophobia exhibited by the bunch of old men with the funny hats that make up the rules for the millions of Catholics worldwide. Specifically they discussed how in 2008 the Vatican opposed a UN resolution that would have decriminalized being gay. Even in the 21st century, 81 countries actually put gays in prison for no other reason than that they are gay and 7 of those still put them to death. Hypocritical? Considering the church does not consider homosexuality a sin (sex out of wedlock is and they are against gay marriage so gay sex is a sin by extension) and that some studies have anywhere between 20 and 50% of all Catholic priests being gay, I would say yes.

In the 3rd segment, Penn and Teller then went after the obvious hot button issue whenever the Catholic Church is discussed, the ongoing sex abuse scandal and cover up. Specifically they touched on the recent revelations from the release of the "Crimen Sollicitationis" written in 1962 that told church leaders how to handle all accusations of child abuse by clerics which provides proof that as far back as 1962, the Vatican has been trying to cover up the hobbies of some of their priests.
"The document thus imposed absolute secrecy on the conduct of the trial, even after it had ended and its verdict, favourable or unfavourable, had been put into effect. An oath of secrecy was to be taken not only by the members of the tribunal but also by the person or persons denouncing the priest, by the witnesses, and by the accused priest himself, who was free to discuss it only with his defence counsel"

Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI was not immune in this scandal either. It seems that before he was the Pope, he was the "Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" and issued a confidential order that all sex abuse investigations were to be held secret for at least 10 years after the victim had reached adulthood, again under penalty of excommunication.
This letter reminded them of the strict penalties facing those who revealed confidential details concerning enquiries into allegations against priests of certain grave ecclesiastical crimes, including sexual abuse, which were reserved to the jurisdiction of the Congregation. The letter extended the prescription or statute of limitations for these crimes to ten years. However, when the crime is sexual abuse of a minor, the "prescription begins to run from the day on that which the minor completes the eighteenth year of age."

Of course despite this damning information, Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict will never be prosecuted in the US because in 2005 President George Bush granted him full immunity from prosecution. Nice...

Finally, Penn and Teller delved into the Vatican's unwavering condemnation of birth control, specifically Casti Connubii, the Encyclical written in the 1930's that among other things bans the use of birth control including condoms and diaphragms. More hypocrisy? You mean the fact that those that have vowed never to have sex are still making rules on sexual activity for those that do? Absolutely...

This strict adherence to the Casti Connubii isn't just affecting the size of the average Catholic family, it is killing people. One needs not look any further than parts of Africa where 1000's of women die each year from AIDS and birth related complications. These deaths are due at least partly to the Catholic Church's ridiculous stance on birth control making condom availability and use almost non-existent among the mainly Catholic population.

There you have it, the Bullshit! episode in a nutshell that has the Vatican, via the Catholic League, upset. Of course I left out most of the f-bombs and snide comments like how "being a gay Catholic seems like a Jewish Nazi to us" that Penn Jillette is known for but I am sure you get the idea.

It is obvious why the church would be upset with this show but my question would be to them, like it or not is any of this false? Did Penn and Teller make this up or is it a somewhat embellished satirical look at the true recent history of the Catholic Church? I am leaning towards the latter and would hope that Showtime and CBS do the right thing and give the Catholic League's protests all the attention it deserves. Throwing it in the circular file...

UPDATE: Here's the video for however long it stays up

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