Much Ado About Nothing

It seems like the “atheist movement” is quick to be up in arms about things it knows little or nothing about, and usually about things that really mean very little.  We’ve seen it in the whole “sexism” nonsense and now we’re seeing it regarding the conversion of Leah Libresco to Roman Catholicism.

So what?

If that’s what makes her happy, more power to her.  I’m not going to tell her that she can’t convert to whatever religion she wishes and I’m certainly not going to tell her that she was never an atheist, as some people have done.  Clearly, she had no belief in god(s), thus she was an atheist.  That’s all it means, after all.  I think the word everyone is looking for is “skeptic” and I might agree that she was never a skeptic.  In fact, let’s investigate that right now.

Since I don’t have Leah here to question directly, I’ll have to go by her introduction on her blog.  Let’s dissect that, shall we?

I was raised by in a non-religious household on Long Island, so I didn’t meet any outspoken Christians in real life until I went to college. I had seen people like Jerry Falwell on TV, but my community was so isolated from religion that, when we learned about the Reformation in AP European History, one student raised his hand to ask if Lutherans still existed.

Now to be honest, I find that a little hard to believe, that she never knowingly encountered a Christian until she was in college?  Christians supposedly make up more than 80% of the U.S. population, it is somewhat inconceivable that she’d never have met one.  Certainly she passed by churches in her travels, right?  I don’t think the community was that isolated, perhaps she simply ignored it all, knowingly or unknowingly.

When I went to college, and started hanging out with a politics and philosophy debating group, I met smart Christians for the first time, and it was a real shock. My idea of a Christian was the Young Earth Creationists, and now I was meeting people who not only were converts to Russian Orthodoxy and math majors, but they thought the beauty of mathematics was evidence for God. I still thought my new friends were wrong about the existence of God, but I had to recognize I’d been pretty wrong why they believed what they did. And if I hadn’t really understood their arguments in the past, it was only prudent to give them a second hearing.

Immediately here, we have problems.  She identifies “smart” Christians, but what I feel she meant is “smart people who happened to be Christians”.  I have plenty of friends who are religious and, in most areas of their lives, I would consider them very intelligent people.  However, religion is a different story.  Religion is an entirely emotional, non-intellectual pursuit.  It has nothing to do with being smart, in fact, people have to compartmentalize their beliefs away from the rest of their intellectual lives because the two do not mix.  Where they may be entirely rational, logical and critical people in other aspects of their lives, with religion they simply cannot be and remain religious.

I was ready to cross-examine them, but there were some big gaps in my defense of my own positions.  When a friend turned one of my own questions around on me and asked “What would convince you that Christianity was true?” I came up with bupkis.  I realized I didn’t have a clear enough idea of what Christianity entailed to be able to imagine a world where it was true.  I felt embarrassed and told my friends to take their best shot at convincing me.

That demonstrates that she was never a skeptic right there.  There were big gaps in defense of her own positions?  What gaps were those?  The only position an atheist has is that the existence of any god has not been demonstrated by their followers.  Full stop.  A skeptic, however, has a full toolkit of methods for examining claims and logical and rational standards to measure them against.  Of course, the biggest signpost here was the fact that, instead of going out and finding what Christianity said and evaluating it critically, she asked her friends to prove it to her.  Certainly, she got only the “good” side, the happy claims, the empty promises and all the blind faith they could find.  It’s hard to rationally evaluate the claims of any position, religious or otherwise, if you only listen to the practitioners.

I started dating one of these smart Christians. We knew that religion could be a pretty big impediment to our relationship (the title of this blog comes 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers”). We ended up making a deal: I’d go to Mass every week with him, and he’d go to ballroom dance class with me. And we both recommended books or blogs to each other that fueled our all-night debates.

Yet another problem.  Now don’t get me wrong, you really can’t control who you fall for, but you can, and indeed must, decide if there is a future with someone that you share so little in common with.  Here, you had a Christian boyfriend and a passably, default atheist woman, it’s no wonder he was able to talk her into his irrational beliefs.  She had neither the background in skeptical evaluation, nor the emotional interest to find out the truth.  In fact, she had a vested emotional interest to open herself up to just about anything he wanted, just because she wanted to be with him.  Their deal was nothing to be proud of either.  She went to an indoctrination center with him every week and he went to something that had nothing whatsoever to do with religion with her.  Some deal.  A better deal might have included him going to “freedom from religion” meetings or something, although I have no idea if such things actually exist.  That would have been more equal and might have ended up with things going quite differently.

He gave me Lewis and Chesterton (I’ve got an apologetics bookshelf, now), and I kept having trouble finding books to pass back. A lot of atheists are focused on rebutting evangelicals –after all, they tend to be the biggest political threat — but I had more trouble finding people who address the more sophisticated ideas. Atheism spends a lot of time playing defense, so I had even more trouble finding books and blogs talking about what we should believe instead of what we reject.

Clearly she didn’t look very hard.  There are plenty of books out there that aren’t aimed at evangelicals, but even those books are quite useful when arguing against theist ideals.

Here’s what you should believe:  the truth.  Why you needed a blog or a book to tell you that is beyond me.

So I started this blog to try and crowdsource my arguments and to find more people to ask me tough questions and force me to burn off the dross in my philosophy. I talked with deacons, priests, and Dominicans and attended RCIA classes (until I got kicked out). Neither my boyfriend or I looked likely to switch teams in the near future, and, after two years of dating, we were at the point where a relationship that was incompatible with marriage seemed foolish, so, regretfully, we had to split up.

I’m not going to say that wasn’t probably a good idea, just because I have yet to see an atheist and a strong believer actually make a long-term relationship work.  I’m guessing that her ex-boyfriend was a serious theist, not just someone who gave it lip service and that tends to be a problem.  Someone who insists that God must be inserted into every aspect of life isn’t going to have a long-term relationship with someone who is just as adamant that God has no place in life.  This causes issues with finances, children and upbringing, etc.  It is fundamentally problematic which is why I don’t suggest that atheists and theists become romantically involved.  It almost always ends in tears.

I hadn’t changed my mind about the existence of God, but here are some things that arguing with people on the internet and in real life has convinced me I was wrong about: I’m now in favor of covenant marriage, I’ve abandoned my former commitment to stoicism, and I think some forms of Christianity are internally consistent and even attractive.

There are some things in religion that are attractive and probably even some that are good ideas, although for bad reasons.  It really doesn’t matter what’s attractive, that has no bearing on what’s actually true.

I just still don’t think they’re true.

And that right there ought to be the only thing that matters.

I’m still seriously exploring Christian claims, especially as atheists and Christians have ganged up to tell me that some of my beliefs (objective morality, teleological sympathies, transhumanism that bears a passing resemblance to Gnosticism) logically imply the existence of a God, and probably a Christian one. So I look at Aquinas and Augustine to see if they’re right, and I post about my best understanding of ethics and metaphysics so people can call me on my errors and be swayed by what I get right.

Ethics have nothing to do with the factual correctness of a position.  It’s not like I haven’t shown that there is no objective morality already, but I can’t really speak for her other positions because I know nothing about them.  However, here’s the problem, what someone claims “logically implies” a god, any god, that doesn’t actually provide a shred of evidence that said god actually exists and that should be what’s important.  No actual evidence ought to mean no belief, period.

On this blog, I try and skip past the normal scripts and have the weird arguments. You can go somewhere else on the internet to find Christians who rely on Leviticus to explain why they disapprove of gay marriage, and don’t understand that the people they talk to don’t accept the bible as authoratative. The Christian who guest-posted here for a debate on gay marriage wanted to talk about the importance of having friendships that you know will never be sexually charged. And I talked a bit more about the way marriage restricts our choices (in a good way), and a lot less about the live and let live arguments you may be used to from my team.  (Other guest posters welcome!).

There’s nothing wrong with going for the oddball argument, those get overlooked far too often but the fact remains that most Christians who seriously oppose gay marriage do it for no other reason than the fact that it appears in their ancient book of mythology.  I will agree that it gets pretty boring if that’s all you talk about, but it’s unrealistic if you restrict arguments entirely away from the mainstream.  Let’s be honest, there are no valid, rational arguments against gay marriage, any more than there were valid, rational arguments against interracial marriage.  Every claim I’ve seen that hasn’t relied on the scribblings of a holy book has been fundamentally flawed at it’s foundation, little more than “ick, I don’t like it so nobody can do it”.  Honestly, I should do a deconstruction of some of the non-religious reasons people dislike gay marriage and show why they’re all fundamentally unsound.

The one thing I’m certain of after a couple years of blogging about religion is that a lot of our arguments are unproductive because we don’t understand what the other side is saying. I set up an Ideological Turing Test, where atheists and Christians tried to imitate each other well enough to pass for each other, and we found a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings on both sides.

I’m sure you found a lot more of them on the Christian side because the majority of atheists started out being religious.  We understand religion.  We were there.  In fact, we probably understand religion better than most theists, it was our degree of understanding, as opposed to blind faith, that led most of us to abandon religion in the first place.  I think you’d find more about religion by asking ex-Christians than you ever would by asking current Christians.

So welcome to the conversation. Play nice, but play to win. And don’t be afraid to show your hand. If you’re doing someone a service by pointing out their errors, be grateful when someone catches you out in one.

The problem is, the skeptic, if acting in a consistent skeptical manner, has very few errors to be caught.  Skepticism is a methodology, not a belief system.  It examines claims rationally, it looks for objective evidence, it seeks to remove emotional biases and if all of it’s standards are not met, the claim is rejected, at least temporarily, until the evidence becomes more clear.

And, as we all know, the religious don’t welcome anyone pointing out their errors, mostly because they have so many.  Especially from a skeptical point of view, they are very unhappy when people point out that their beliefs are full of logical holes, rife with scientific error and void of objective evidence.  I don’t think you’ll find many theists who will welcome having their beloved faith shredded by a skeptic and certainly you won’t have many of them admitting that their beliefs are factually wrong, no matter what is brought to bear against them by skeptics.

In other words, Leah has very unrealistic expectations from her audience, which makes me wonder about the entire endeavor.  Worse, it makes me wonder why anyone is taking any of this seriously.  What’s the point?

Of course, after we read this, it becomes obvious that Leah had some problems to begin with.  Clearly, she had no initial experience with the religious, especially personal experience where she was invested with a religion, upon which she could rely.  She never grew up a Christian, she never had any openly Christian friends and during her formative years, according to her, she never encountered any open Christians anywhere in her life, except on TV.

Next, it becomes clear that her primary motivation for learning more about Christianity is emotional.  She had a boyfriend who was actively trying to convert her to Christianity and she wanted to stay with him.  She had friends who were pressuring her regarding religion.  She clearly had never researched religion, but allowed her religious friends to frame the debate and provide all the data.  So I’m confused where the problem is, we have a default atheist being talked into religion without having the proper tools or expertise, clearly influenced by her emotions.

Happens every day.  Why is this a story?

In closing, I wish her the best of luck in whatever she chooses to believe.  Certainly, she didn’t adopt it for rational reasons, any more than she adopted atheism for rational reasons.  She’s just blowing in the wind, wherever her emotions take her, at least that’s as much as I can glean from her writings.  I don’t agree with living one’s life that way, but it’s her life to live and she deserves to be as happy as her actions and beliefs can make her, so long as she hurts no one else.

Maybe one day she will actually embrace rationality and logic and look at Christianity through those lenses, rather than the clearly rose-colored ones she’s currently using.  Either way, this remains much ado about absolutely nothing.

8 thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing”

  1. Respectfully, Cephus,

    1. I really don't recognize Leah Libresco in the emotional, wishy-washy caricature you've constructed here.

    I think any person building a sense of her personality and thinking habits by reading her blog posts from the blog's inception up until, say, shortly before her "conversion announcement" would find little correspondence between their impressions and the impression you've formed *after* learning of her "conversion." I think that knowing about her conversion beforehand, along with your own expectations about what that implies about the person, has tainted your observations.

    2. Likewise, intelligent persons who are religious and who are analytical, critical thinkers about their faith — and there are plenty of these — would not recognize their worldview and mental habits in your description quoted below (nor, I think, would non-religious folk who know them):

    "Religion is an entirely emotional, non-intellectual pursuit. It has nothing to do with being smart, in fact, people have to compartmentalize their beliefs away from the rest of their intellectual lives because the two do not mix. Where they may be entirely rational, logical and critical people in other aspects of their lives, with religion they simply cannot be and remain religious."

    This simply is false. People whose intelligence and religious thought are entirely integrated have existed and do exist. They are a small minority among the religious, but are not chimerical. Perhaps you've never met any, but they are out there.

    From the way you write, I suspect you are very attached to the notion that a person could not think carefully and analytically about religion and still remain religious that you've developed a mental habit of excluding evidence to the contrary. "A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest." I can see that view might be comforting, but it's a strange old world out there and humans are one of the stranger parts of it.

    3. Also, while Leah Libresco's announcement on her blog certainly indicates a significant commitment to her change of view, I wouldn't entirely call her a "convert" myself, just yet. To Theism, perhaps, but not all the way to Catholicism.

    Libresco seems to have concluded that some personal transcendent being communicates morality to human persons in some fashion. I'd gather she thinks it likely that the same being created the physical laws of the universe, too. Now, that's a fairly thick slice of "God" as understood in general conversation, but it's a pretty thin slice of "God" as understood in Catholicism.

    The process of conversion to Catholicism, specifically (R.C.I.A., the "Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults"), requires at its conclusion that the person assent to all the doctrines that the Catholic "Magisterium" teaches as definitively true.

    Libresco is at the start of that process. But she may find herself unable to finish it, or, unable to finish it soon. Catholic converts find that they have a lot to think about and wrestle with, and some may go through the process three or four times (it's usually a year in length) before ultimately deciding whether to enter full communion or abandon it as a bad idea.

    So, check back in four years, and we'll see if she's a Catholic, a Deist, or what.

    1. Thank you for your comment, but it was far too long to respond to adequately in a simple comment, therefore I've made a post out of it. Hope to see your response there. Thank you.

  2. Religion has nothing to do with being smart- I'd agree, but there are two types of religion according to Pope Benedict XVI- rational religions and non-rational religions.

    They worship utterly different Gods.

    Certain sects of Islam are non-rational religions. Their definition of Allah is such that if he decided to turn off gravity on your house, just for you, he could do it. This kind of religious assumption kind of suggests that the laws of science can't exist and we can't know ANYTHING for certain about the universe because God is irrational and could change everything tomorrow, or make up all the evidence and every atom of the universe yesterday or one second ago, and we wouldn't know the difference.

    Rational religion on the other hand is more like Deism (though not as non personal): God made up certain rules for this universe that all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, and under normal circumstances (and even abnormal ones) he follows those rules. A miracle in a rational religion is what a skeptic would call a fortunate coincidence; evil in a rational religion is what a skeptic would call an unfortunate coincidence, and the only real difference between the two is personal perception. Thus, changing one's attitude, and thus one's perception, becomes the key to the problem of evil under a rational religion, and since God follows His own Rules, we can look at nature to catch a glimpse of the Mind of God- and even discover how to become creators ourselves to a minor extent (well, minor in comparison to the universe or multiverse- you can meta this but God will always out-meta-your-meta, it's the opposite of the God of the Gaps argument, call it the God of the Boson argument).

    And rational religion has a lot to do with being smart; it is not only compatible with science, but downright demands it- because the true scripture of rational religion isn't the Bible or some book written by man, but the very structure of the universe and time itself.

    Scientists are therefore theists- rational theists- and it takes skepticism about science itself to eliminate God.

    1. I would reject what you term as "rational religion" because you still can't rationally, intellectually or with objective evidence demonstrate that the "god" actually exists. It makes no more sense to use "god" there than it would to use "unicorn". It's no less credible to say "A unicorn made up certain rules for this universe that all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle…" Ultimately, it falls to the biggest fallacy that besets theists of all stripes, the argument from ignorance. They claim that there must be something "more" there. Why? Because it makes them emotionally comforted to think that it is. Unfortunately, they cannot reason out what might be there or why there must be something there, so they invent a placeholder and call it "God".

      Deism isn't compatible with science because it presupposes the existence of things which are not scientifically testable. There is no objective evidence from which to draw a "god" conclusion. In fact, the deist here must engage in yet another logical fallacy, a subset of the "argument from ignorance" above: the argument from personal incredulity. They can't explain something, thus they invent an explanation and declare it must be so because they can't come up with anything better. It's not based on evidence, it's based on the discomfort of not knowing, and the reality is, there's nothing wrong with saying "I don't know" to a question that you don't have an answer for. That's how science operates. It proposes solutions and then sets out to test them. Only when that proposition is thoroughly tested and demonstrated objectively does it become a theory and do scientists give provisional assent to it's truth. That process doesn't describe anything any religion does.

      Besides, I wouldn't be using Benedict as a source of good, rational thinking. The guy has made his career knowingly defending and hiding pedophile priests from prosecution. I haven't seen a quote specifically stating the above, but are you suggesting that the Pope openly acknowledges that his own religion is irrational?

  3. Cephus:

    I've spent too much time here already, but,

    1. No, the current pope did not make "his career knowingly defending and hiding pedophile priests from prosecution." Rather the opposite, though crusading against it wasn't within the bounds of what he knew or could do at the time.

    While Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin and reporter John Allen are not unbiased sources, their fisking of these kinds of charges being directed at Razinger is backed up with sufficient documentation to be definitive. As with the "He's a Nazi" accusation, that then priest/bishop Ratzinger ought to be faulted in the sex-abuse scandal is such an urban legend it ought to be on Snopes.

    2. I don't find your arguments from "emotion" compelling, inasmuch as they sound derived from caricatures of Christians but disconnected from the actual emotional experiences of Christians.

    I mean, while there is the popular stereotype of the person with the substance abuse problems hitting "rock bottom" and "turning to God," and while that's surely based on factual examples (e.g. Johnny Cash), my (admittedly anecdotal) experience is that converts and re-verts don't have any uniform emotional state prior to their conversion or reversion. They're all different, and anyway the process often takes long enough (months, years) that a person would naturally pass through all kinds of emotional changes. (One doesn't hold a single emotion for months, unless we're talking something like Clinical Depression or PTSD.)

    So a causal connection from Person A Feels X to Person A Will Find Jesus seems implausible to me.

    Likewise, I don't think you can attach the outcome of conversion to a particular emotional reward, either anticipated or realized.

    While "comfort" may be promised in the end by Christianity, that promise is more about heaven than about life on this earth. Unless one is listening to one of those "Jesus Will Make You Rich And Healthy" televangelist types, I suspect the chief impression one gets prior to conversion is a pretty good balance of "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" and "take up your cross and follow Me."

    There is, of course, the promise of forgiveness of sins, sure…but who really wants to think about their sins deeply enough to confess them? Especially, in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox world, to a priest? That would seem a potential deterrent.

    And in the modern era, how many folks who aren't already religious have much of a deep sense of personal sin, anyhow? If anything, Christianity seems to first require convincing a person that they have sinned: Hardly an enticing prospect! That's part of what bisexual, pro-choice, left-leaning Leah Libresco has to look forward to: If the Catholic church is right, she's wrong about a lot of opinions and past behaviors. What's the attraction?

    Now, admittedly, human psychology is fraught with contradiction. Some people seem to believe things out of wish-fulfillment; others out of a sort of pessimism: Nightmare-fulfillment if you will.

    So you could write conversion off to a sort of masochistic streak, I suppose. C.S.Lewis (I think) famously commented that when he concluded that God was real, against his profound desire to believe otherwise, he was perhaps "the saddest, most dejected convert in all England." He seems to have gotten over that, later, but that would stand in contradiction to your original theory about "comfort."

    So: People with all kinds of emotional states, including no particular emotion at all, occasionally convert to Christianity, for which their emotional inducements beforehand were mixed in character and their emotional payoffs after the fact vary widely over time and from person to person.

    So I don't think the "comfort" argument flies, as a motive. In general people sometimes do things because they long for the emotional impact that'll result, and other times because they dread it but feel fated to it nonetheless. Whichever side of that divide Mr. Hypothetical Jones falls on, he may start from any emotional state, have no clear expectations of emotional outcome from Christianity prior to conversion, and get no unambiguous payoff afterward.

    1. 1. Ratzinger was responsible for writing Vatican policy on molestation, "Crimine solicitationies", which specifically attempts to keep it an internal matter. Diocese are told not to report such crimes to the police, but instead to turn over pedophiles for church trials. At best, this would result in being defrocked, not criminal charges and social penalties which would embarrass the church. Even as late as 2001, Ratzinger was writing to bishops that said law was still in effect and encouraging them to hide molestation cases from proper authorities. There are many cases where Ratzinger was personally involved, such as the 1980 case of Hullermann, where he was transferred to Munich for "treatment", but subsequently returned to active pastoral duty, resulting in his conviction in 1986 for child molestation. Ratzinger was informed, in a copied memo, that Hullermann was going to be almost immediately provided access to children before his treatment was even performed and did nothing. There are many, many other cases which can be presented where Ratzinger took direct action to stop the defrocking of Father Murphy in 1996, who was accused of molesting upwards of 200 deaf boys from 1950-1975. The trial was stopped after Murphy made a personal plea directly to Ratzinger. Of cases reported to the Vatican since 2001, less than 20% have gone to a canonical trial and of those, less than 10% of priests accused of molestation have been defrocked. There's no question that Ratzinger, both before and after being named Pope, has been directly involved in covering up potentially embarrassing cases of molestation.

      2.Emotional comfort is a basic human need, people do things all the time which cater to their own comfort, it's certainly not limited to religion. Battered wives will rationalize away their partner's abusive behavior because they are desperate to feel loved, for example. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be comforted, but when trying to make a rational decision, based on objective evidence, emotional comfort certainly gets in the way of being able to critically evaluate claims. There are plenty of studies, like Nieuwkerk (2008) and Rambo (1993) that demonstrate that religious conversion due to emotional and social pressure are extremely common.

  4. Cephus:

    I think your information on the "Crimine Solicitationies" thing is mistaken.

    Take a look at John L. Allen, Jr.'s two articles at National Catholic Reporter on the topic. One is from the issue dated August 15, 2003 and is titled "1962 document orders secrecy in sex cases" and subtitled, "Many bishops unaware obscure missive was in their archives." The second is "Explaining Crimen Sollicitationis" (The document's title is actually "Crimen Sollicitationis," not "Crimine Solicitationies." Not sure whether the latter resulted from bad OCR or what.)

    The document is not a document on molestation but on the canonical crime of solicitation, e.g., when a priest asks a penitent for sexual favors (or the other way around) in confession. Four paragraphs assign the relevant (canonical) penalties for such a (canonical) crime to also apply to homosexual acts, pedophilic acts, or acts of bestiality; but the document is about solicitation. The Wikipedia article on Crimen Sollicitationis is a pretty fair overview.

    Re: Ratzinger's involvement in the Murphy case, Jimmy Akin's analysis of March 30, 2010 at National Catholic Register and the update on Thursday, April 01, 2010 demonstrate that it was essentially nil. Of the personal appeal from Murphy to Ratzinger as head of the CDF, it was not answered personally by Ratzinger. The response denied Murphy's request that the matter be dropped on a statute of limitations basis. The response did not forbid the bishop from proceeding to trial but did offer, in view of Murphy's failing health, that the trial, with its likely complexities and difficulties potentially stretching out for years, might not be the optimal response. Murphy died a month later.

    Re: Hullermann, check the Saturday, March 13, 2010 Jimmy Akin article on National Catholic register titled "Pope Benedict Transferred Paedophile?" Also examine "A Response to Christopher Hitchens' The Great Catholic Coverup" by Sean Murphy at the Catholic Education Resource Center.

    As for the percentages you report, why shouldn't they be accurate? Does every accusation produce a criminal trial in civil law? (No: Some result in immediate confessions, leading directly to sentencing. Sometimes deals to avoid a trial are worked out with the prosecutor. Some accusations are thereafter retracted. Some result in a he-said, she-said and there's insufficient evidence to do anything else. Sometimes one or both parties die before anything can be done.)

    And one would certainly not expect every accusation to produce a conviction and a "defrocking" (laicization). But of course priests caught in sexual scandal are known to request a laicization. (It isn't always imposed as a punishment; sometimes it's desired by the accused.)

    I'm not sure which other "many" cases you have in mind; so far as I'm aware, the two you listed are those which came closest to implicating Ratzinger.

    Naturally I have no intent to defend either (a.) Members of the Catholic church, lay or clerical, who actually covered up the sex scandal, (e.g. Weakland), or (b.) the deplorable acts being covered. Those who willfully engaged in the coverup ought to be punished; prison time seems appropriate. Even if we grant that the rate of this sort of thing is lower for Catholic clergy than married men in general or male school teachers in general; still, the whole thing is a huge evil and a reason for great shame.

    But I know of no reason to think that Ratzinger was one of the guilty.

    Of course, I'm open to changing my mind on that, given good evidence. The one accusation you gave above for which I could find no evidence was, "Even as late as 2001, Ratzinger was writing to bishops that said law was still in effect and encouraging them to hide molestation cases from proper authorities." I don't doubt that CDF, if asked whether a given canon law was in effect, would look it up and reply to say that, yes, it was. But Google it as I might, I can't find any evidence of a letter from CDF generally, let alone Ratzinger himself, saying, "Oh, and make sure you don't tell the police anything about any such case."

    I'm skeptical that such a letter exists. I suspect the only reason someone has characterized a communication from CDF as saying "don't tell the authorities" is because the letter from CDF said Crimen Sollicitationis is still in effect, and the person doing the characterization believes Crimen Sollicitationis prevents going to the police, which it doesn't.

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