Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Old Cretin’s At It Again.

Everybody’s favourite Emperor Palpatine look-alike is attempting to paint education as the enemy of religion in general and, of course, his own religion in particular. Bizarrely, he has done so as part of an address to various ambassadors to his own country, in a direct attack on the governments they represent.

You almost have to admire the bastard. Not everyone would have that level of honesty. Or sheer balls. One is reminded of Sir Humphrey’s assertion that one official meeting between politicians can negate two years’ patient diplomacy behind the scenes.

But seriously, Popeatine. The only reason this hasn’t caused an international incident is that nobody pays any attention to what he says. Oh, they notice; and people like me with a bit of an axe to grind will chew him out; but he doesn’t have nearly as much influence as he’d like to think. Even relatively friendly governments are much more concerned with the opinions of the actual Catholics on the ground who vote for them, than they are with the official opinion of the Church.

As I was saying, though, I almost admire his honesty. Education — real education, the provision of facts and techniques for rational thought and inquiry — has long been a threat to religion; but as it’s usually also seen as a good thing, religion is usually hesitant to openly oppose it. It’s refreshing to see a major religious leader come straight out and say he doesn’t want facts taught in schools.

And, despite his supposed lack of experience with the subject, he’s once again speaking out about sex. Not long ago there was an utterly bewildering suggestion from the Vatican that condoms were A-OK for preventing disease, but only among sex workers, whose existence I was pretty sure the Church was not OK with in the first place. The “only among sex workers” bit stinks of retcon: the Pope isn’t supposed to be capable of being wrong when speaking on matters of doctrine, so they couldn’t retract it in this information age, but they were able to restrict its scope.

The very idea that education somehow constitutes an attack on freedom seems initially incoherent, as more information can only make one more free. It may illuminate one’s lack of certain freedoms, but it doesn’t remove them itself. But what he means, of course, is that parents are no longer free to keep their children in ignorance. I honestly cannot fathom how he considers this to be a good thing. Children have a way of finding these things out one way or another; better it be from a trusted and accountable source, in an open environment that encourages tolerance and inquiry.

If parents are given the right to withdraw their children from classes, it is the children’s freedom that will suffer. Children have a right to education, and deserve equal opportunity in this, regardless of who created them.


  1. Sigh.

    I brought up the Pope's condom statement with Claire. She's Anglican, but seems quite sympathetic with the Catholic position. She said something about the church having to go through massive discussion and reach consensus before the Pope makes any statement about anything... so this is their idea of progress so far. It seems so terribly pointless to have a Pope and a Vatican "leading" the global Catholic church, when they are trailing about forty years behind the Catholic people they represent.

  2. Actually, I believe it wasn't "condoms are ok for sex workers". I recall it being "condoms are ok for sex workers with AIDS." So any sex worker who uses a condom in order to prevent getting AIDS in the first place is going against Catholic doctrine.