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A Miscellany 144
In the news: Brief comments on recent items in the press

by JT

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This virgin is a mummy

A rib bone venerated as coming from the remains of Joan of Arc was revealed to be from an Egyptian mummy dated to about 2000 years before Joan was burned at the stake.

While it is easy to make jokes about this sort of thing, the Catholic Church is to be commended for its willingness to allow at least some of its sacred relics to be scientifically tested to determine their validity.

Political correctness gone wild

In Germany, a judge refused to grant a Muslim woman a speedy divorce, a divorce requested on the grounds of continuing physical abuse. The judge based her decision on the grounds that the Koran sanctioned such abuse, and it was common in a Moroccan cultural milieu. (The husband was Moroccan, the wife was born in Germany.)

In a handful of schools in northern England, teachers have stopped teaching the Holocaust in history classes. They don't want to offend predominantly Muslim students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.

These decisions are being overturned by more responsible judges, and school officials. But still, why should supposedly educated individuals in positions of authority makes such bonehead decisions in the first place? It is political correctness gone wild.

We should make reasonable accommodation for religious differences. However, here is no excuse in Western society for permitting women to be treated as property or for teaching blatant falsehoods to children just because it somehow falls under the umbrella of religious belief

Defying the Vatican

Bishop Kevin Dowling, the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Rustenberg in South Africa, has been distributing condoms for the past several years. He has been rebuked three times by the papal nuncio and formally condemned by a conference of bishops.

Bishop Dowling's diocese is home to a large population of migrant mine workers far, and numerous women who service their needs as a way to alleviate the poverty. AIDS is, of course, rampant.

According to the Bishop, "Abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in a marriage is beyond the realm of possibility here. The issue is to protect life. That must be our fundamental goal."

This man is a hero for going against Church policy in the battle against AIDS. It's too bad that he will not be getting any more promotions. The Catholic Church needs more such clear and compassionate thought.

Kurt Vonnegut 1922 - 2007

The author Kurt Vonnegut died a little over two weeks ago. I consider him an influence on my thinking, though I never followed him into pessimism, socialism, and outright pacifism. His early books gave me an appreciation for anti-authoritarianism, skepticism, and black humour. And he taught me that even if you are fighting on the side of right, your side can commit evil horrific deeds.

I lost my taste for him in his later books; part of that is the aging process. His writing style appealed more to high school and college students, and he remained popular on the college lecture circuit. If you have not read his works, Slaughterhouse-Five is a must-read and I would also recommend Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions.

He was a fellow humanist and non-believer; he was Honorary President of the American Humanist Society. His passing is a loss.