Tagged: Pope

The Pope thinks kids are wasting time online — he should think about why

Pope Francis has taken aim at today’s youth by urging them not to waste their time on “futile things” such as “chatting on the internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas”.

He argued that the “products of technological progress” are distracting attention away from what is important in life rather than improving us. But even as he made his comments, UK communications regulator Ofcom released its latest figures, giving the opposite message. It celebrated the rise of a “tech-savvy” generation born at the turn of the millennium and now able to navigate the digital world with ease.

So what’s it to be for youth and the internet? Time-wasting and futile? Or the first to benefit from the wonders of the digital age?

This debate has been raging since children first picked up comic books and went to Saturday morning cinema. The media, it has long been said, makes kids stupid, inattentive, violent, passive, disrespectful, grow up too early or stay irresponsible too long. Whatever it is that society worries about in relation to children and young people, it seems that we love to blame it on the latest and most visible technology. Anything rather than looking more closely at the society we have created for them to grow up in.

Fifteen years ago, when children were being criticised for watching too much television (remember those days?), I asked children to describe what happened on a good day when they got home from school and what happened on a boring day. From six year olds to seventeen year olds, the answers were the same: on a good day, they could go out and see their friends; on a boring day they were stuck at home watching television.

And why couldn’t they go out and see their friends every day? Far from reflecting the appeal of television, the answer lies in parental anxieties about children going out. As a 2013 report noted, children are far less able to move around independently than in the past. This is particularly true of primary school children, who are often no longer allowed to walk to school or play unsupervised as they once were. Their developing independence, their time to play, their opportunities to socialise are all vastly curtailed compared with the childhoods of previous generations.

And yet the number of children who have accidents on the road has fallen over the years and there has been little change to the rate of child abductions, which remain very rare.

There is little evidence that children are choosing to stay home with digital technology instead of going out. Indeed, it seems more likely that an increasingly anxious world – fuelled by moral panics about childhood – is making parents keep their kids at home and online. And then, to pile on the irony, the same society that produces, promotes and provides technologies for kids also blames them for spending time with them…

Sonia Livingstone asks useful questions. Questions – in my own experience – not asked often enough. Certainly not asked or answered in conversations with folks in charge of funds for education, funds for recreation, even those in charge of whether or not there will be funds for education or recreation.

Much less what comprises useful education and what roles recreation, sport, fitness and challenge should play in the lives of young people. What to do with communication and a view of the whole world?

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Nun names her surprise child after the pope!

A 31 year-old nun at the Little Disciples of Jesus convent in Rieti, Italy discovered she was pregnant and about to give birth when stomach pains sent her to the hospital on Wednesday.

Hours after arriving at the S. Camillo De Lellis hospital, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Media reported that the nun, originally from El Salvador, has named her son Francesco, the same name as Pope Francis.

Her community was “surprised” by the birth. A local pastor, Don Fabrizio Borrello, spoke to the media about the pregnancy, telling reporters “I guess she’s telling the truth when she says she arrived at the hospital unaware of the pregnancy.”

The nun plans to keep the baby. The hospital is accepting clothing and donations for the new mother and child.

Any claims of virgin birth?

Searching for time travelers on Twitter

At this juncture in time, humanity does not know how to travel into the past, or even if such a concept has any meaning. So if you are an astrophysicist who wants to uncover evidence of time travel, what do you do? If you’re Michigan Technological University astrophysics professor Robert Nemeroff and his PhD student Teresa Wilson, you look for time travelers on Twitter.

Time travel into the future is a fact – we do it every day. Accelerated time travel into the future can be measured using atomic clocks in fast airplanes. However, time travel into the past is a dicier proposition. While it appears that this is not forbidden by any current physics, we also don’t know how to accomplish the task.

There is a (rather short) tradition of attempts to contact people who have arrived here from the future. In 2005, an MIT graduate student held a convention for time travelers. Despite considerable pre-convention publicity, no time travelers owned up at the convention. In 2012, Stephen Hawking held a party for time travelers, sending out the invitations after the party was held. Again, no one came to his party.

Surely one of the main ways to vet someone who claims to be a time traveler is their knowledge of something that has not yet occurred. This concept inspired Nemeroff…and Wilson to search the internet for signs of anachronistic factoids…

It seems there are very few events that can be uniquely identified by a couple of words. Such events have to be surprises to the extent that the descriptive words have likely never previously been combined. The Michigan Tech astrophysicists came up with “Comet ISON”, which was discovered on September 21, 2012, and “Pope Francis”, a name first appearing on March 16, 2013…No comet had previously been called Comet ISON, and no previous pope was named Francis, so these phrases are unlikely to have been used previously…

Although this may seem a silly bit of research…it is actually a reasonable attempt to see if time travelers have left traces of their anachronistic presence in the blogosphere. However, now that the concept of such searches has surfaced, it seems unlikely that any more will be carried out. Fake evidence of time travel would be too easy to retrofit into the collective memories of our history. While time may be out of joint, it appears that no one sent from the future to set it right has left obvious traces, at least on Twitter.

Would make a helluva TV series, though.

Pope blames church corruption on the Vatican’s Gay Lobby

Pope Francis lamented that a “gay lobby” was at work at the Vatican in private remarks to the leadership of a key Latin American church group — a stunning acknowledgment that appears to confirm earlier reports about corruption and dysfunction in the Holy See…

The group, known by its Spanish acronym CLAR, said it was greatly distressed that the document had been published and apologized to the pope.

In the document, Francis is quoted as saying that while there were many holy people in the Vatican, there was also corruption: “The `gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do …” the synthesis reads…

In the days leading up to Pope Benedict XVI’s Feb. 28 resignation, Italian media were rife with reports of a “gay lobby” influencing papal decision-making and Vatican policy through blackmail, and suggestions that the scandal had led in part to Benedict’s decision to resign…

The unsourced reports, in the Rome daily La Repubblica and the news magazine Panorama, said details of the scandal were laid out in the secret dossier prepared for Benedict by three trusted cardinals who investigated the leaks of papal documents last year.

Benedict left the dossier for Francis

Sounds like the history of corruption among our own fascist-minded from Joe McCarthy to Ted Cruz: “I have this list in my hand of communist agents in the State Department/Harvard Law School/Occupy Texas” – just cross out the targets that don’t fit the day’s slander.

In the synthesis, Francis was quoted as being remarkably forthcoming about his administrative shortcomings, saying he was relying on the group of eight cardinals he appointed to lead a reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.

The document quoted him as saying: “I am very disorganized, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the commission will move it forward.”

Cripes, he even has his own Gang of Eight. No doubt as unlikely to place civil rights and civil liberties ahead of personal gain than the average Congress-thug. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s tradition of gay-bashing is dragged-out once again as a weapon of self-defense by a tottering group of old men centuries beyond their sell-by date.

Italy’s Court of Cassation rules for gay adoption rights

Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled homosexuals should be able to adopt children.

The court Friday rejected a claim by a Muslim man in Brescia that his child was being damaged because his former partner is now living with a woman, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. The court called the belief that being brought up by a gay couple is damaging to children “mere prejudice.”

Flavio Romani, president of the group Arcigay, called it a “historic ruling” and said it will allow future governments to enact laws allowing same-sex marriage.

“The Cassation Court today reaffirmed what we’ve been saying for a long time,” Romani said. “Love is what makes children grow, and not the sexual orientation of their parents…”

Politicians across a broad swath from Left to Rightwing [but interested in re-election] said the same.

The Rev. Domenico Sigalini, a Catholic priest speaking for the Italian Episcopal Conference, said courts should not decide on family matters.

Sigalini, of course, is only centuries out of date.

I don’t think anyone interviewed the Pope.

Pregnancy rates fall as Hispanics choose smaller families


The Pope and the Republican Party says – this is the enemy!

Hispanic women in the United States, who have generally had the highest fertility rates in the country, are choosing to have fewer children. Both immigrant and native-born Latinas had steeper birthrate declines from 2007 to 2010 than other groups, including non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians, a drop some demographers and sociologists attribute to changes in the views of many Hispanic women about motherhood…

The decline in birthrates was steepest among Mexican-American women and women who immigrated from Mexico, at 25.7 percent. This has reversed a trend in which immigrant mothers accounted for a rising share of births in the United States, according to a recent report by the Pew Research Center. In 2010, birthrates among all Hispanics reached their lowest level in 20 years, the center found.

The sudden drop-off, which coincided with the onset of the recession, suggests that attitudes have changed since the days when older generations of Latinos prized large families and more closely followed Roman Catholic teachings, which forbid artificial contraception…

Interviews with young Latinas, as well as reproductive health experts, show that the reasons for deciding to have fewer children are many, involving greater access to information about contraceptives and women’s health, as well as higher education…

Prolonged recessions do produce dips in the birthrate, but a drop as large as Latinos have experienced is atypical, said William H. Frey, a sociologist and demographer at the Brookings Institution…

But to Mr. Frey, the decrease has signaled much about the aspirations of young Latinos to become full and permanent members of the upwardly mobile middle class, despite the challenges posed by the struggling economy.

According to research by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the overwhelming majority of Latinas have used contraception at some point in their lives, but they face economic barriers to consistent use. As a consequence, Latinas still experience unintended pregnancy at a rate higher than non-Hispanic whites, according to the institute.

And while the share of births to teenage mothers has dropped over the past two decades for all women, the highest share of births to teenage mothers is among native-born Hispanics.

“There are still a lot of barriers to information and access to contraception that exist,” said Jessica Gonzáles-Rojas, 36, the executive director of the institute…“We still need to do a lot of work.”

RTFA for details and descriptive anecdotes.

Education, understanding, access to contraception and freedom of choice are all opportunities which would be denied by the forces of backwardness – from the Pope to the Republican Party.

Constitutional standards which thrilled immigrants and citizens alike – freedom, opportunity, equal access to a better life – are now progressive concepts needing to be fought for again. As we had to defeat British imperial rule over American colonies, we now confront the same resistance from native reactionaries who would deny freedom, once more.

Theologian preaches revolution to end Catholic dictatorship

One of the world’s most prominent Catholic theologians has called for a revolution from below to unseat the pope and force radical reform at the Vatican.

Hans Küng is appealing to priests and churchgoers to confront the Catholic hierarchy, which he says is corrupt, lacking credibility and apathetic to the real concerns of the church’s members.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Küng, who had close contact with the pope when the two worked together as young theologians, described the church as an “authoritarian system” with parallels to Germany’s Nazi dictatorship…

The Vatican made a point of crushing any form of clerical dissent, he added. “The rules for choosing bishops are so rigid that as soon as candidates emerge who say, stand up for the pill, or for the ordination of women, they are struck off the list.” The result was a church of “yes men”, almost all of whom unquestioningly toed the line.

The only way for reform is from the bottom up,” said Küng, 84, who is a priest. “The priests and others in positions of responsibility need to stop being so subservient, to organise themselves and say that there are certain things that they simply will not put up with anymore,” he added.

Küng…said that inspiration for global change was to be found in his native Switzerland and in Austria, where hundreds of Catholic priests have formed movements advocating policies that openly defy current Vatican practices. The revolts have been described as unprecedented by Vatican observers, who say they are likely to cause deep schisms in the church.

“I’ve always said that if one priest in a diocese is roused, that counts for nothing. Five will create a stir. Fifty are pretty much invincible. In Austria, the figure is well over 300, possibly up to 400 priests; in Switzerland it’s about 150 who have stood up and it will increase.”

Good luck to Kung and those brave souls who dare question some of the most backwards and reactionary theology in the world.

The Catholic Church has advantages in maintaining its ideology from a centralized governance. As long as it rejects advances in knowledge, ethics and understanding, that centralization will provide nothing of value to the church’s membership – or to humanity in the much larger world.

Catholic Church reinstates 17th Century prayer as part of the political campaign against same-sex marriage, death with dignity

The French Catholic Church will revive a centuries-old custom next week with an updated national “prayer for France” opposing the same-sex marriage and euthanasia reforms planned by the new Socialist government.

The prayer, to be read in all churches on Aug 15, echoes the defense of traditional marriage by Pope Benedict and Catholic leaders around the world as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America…

King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country. The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.

In the text, Catholics will pray for newly elected officials “so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands.” This would include support for traditional families “throughout their lives, especially in painful moments…”

Pope Benedict said in January that same-sex marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself…”

Socialist President Francois Hollande pledged during the election campaign last spring to reform marriage laws and his government has said it would do so early next year. Opinion polls say about two-thirds of the French support gay marriage…

Hollande has also expressed sympathy for euthanasia, which is not allowed in France, and named a commission to review whether the current law stressing palliative care for the dying needed to be expanded…

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. Switzerland and the U.S. state of Oregon allow assisted suicide.

I’m never surprised when “defenders of the faith” attack my blog posts as overdoing hyperbole when I accuse the Pope and his Princes of the Church of living in the Middle Ages – or the Dark Ages, depending on the issue.

Kind of heartwarming to see an official order reinstating church politics from the early 17th Century. Affirmation is a trip.

Catholic church continues marching backwards — Archbishop calls for blasphemy law in Germany

A Catholic bishop has called for a blasphemy law in Germany, saying all religions deserved legal protection from attack in order to preserve human dignity…

“Those who injure the souls of believers with scorn and derision must be put in their place and in some cases also punished,” said Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick…

He said there should be a “Law against the derision of religious values and feelings,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Satire magazine Titanic raised the topic of blasphemy and respect for religion last month after publishing an image of Pope Benedict with a yellow stain on his cassock in reference to the Vatican leaks scandal.

The Pope took legal action which succeeded in banning further printing of the image, although copies of the magazine already published were not removed from sale. Yet his legal argument was based on his personal rights rather than any protection of religion…

…The idea of a blasphemy law was slammed by the Green Party, whose parliamentary leader Volker Beck said satire and irony could not be banned…He said that ironic or satirical statements might not be popular among those targeted, but they could not be forbidden.

“Believers do not need any greater criminal legal protection against defamation, slander and attack than other social groups,” he said.

Sharia law has no credibility in a modern educated society. I don’t care whether the theocrats are Catholic or Southern Baptist, Orthodox Jews or Muslims, providing justice by religious ideology should remain catalogued in history books as an aberration leftover from the Dark Ages.