Friday, October 14, 2011

My Take on the News: Dubious Dissing; Egyptian Killings; Saudi Law; Tattoos

Friday's the day when I give my take on stuff in the news. This week I picked four items. Three, if you count the last two as a pair:
  1. German Bishops Dis Pope? Not hardly
  2. The Pope is "Deeply Saddened"
  3. Soccer Player Arrested - In Saudi Arabia - Over a Tattoo
  4. Tattoos and All That
The most serious of the set is #2, Benedict XVI's response to the killings in Egypt last Sunday. Enough of this introduction. Here's my take on the news:

1. German Bishops Dis Pope? Not hardly

Apparently a rumor is going around that German bishops showed disrespect for the Pope. By not shaking his hand.

As rumors go, this one is more fact-based than many. Pope Benedict XVI really was in Germany. There really is a one-minute, 18-second YouTube video showing the Pope walking down a line of bishops, shaking some hands and not shaking others.

Which, depending on how thin-skinned a person was, and other factors, could mean that
  • Some bishops showed disrespect for the Pope
    • By not grabbing his hand
  • The Pope snubbed some bishops
    • By not shaking their hands
  • The photographer humiliated the Pope
    • By taking photos of other people
And yes, I know about the pedophile priests, which came up in 'related videos' on that YouTube page.

This rumor may be around as long as Elvis sightings were. Particularly since, depending on who you listen to the Catholic Church:
  • Is icky
    • And will fall apart really soon
  • Was just perfect until Vatican II ruined everything
    • And will fall apart really soon
Then there are assorted assertions that the Catholic Church is a Babylonian conspiracy; a Satanic plot; or whatever.

"Ridiculous?" Works for Me

I think what's in this CNA article is a more plausible explanation of what we see in that video. But I would say that, since I'm 'one of those Catholics.' I'll be back with more snide cracks trenchant insights:
"Vatican spokesman rejects claim German bishops disrespected Pope"
Marta Jimenez, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 12, 2011)

"Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., dismissed what he called 'ridiculous' claims circulating online that the German bishops disrespected Pope Benedict during his recent visit to the country.

"Fr. Lombardi said that a YouTube video showing the Pope and German president Christian Wulff has been misconstrued by bloggers and other members of the media...."
Bloggers? And "other members of the media?" I've discussed bloggers, blogging, and old-school journalists before. Back to that CNA article:

Pope 'Ignored?' Reality Check, Please

"...Some have claimed that as the Pope moved down the line and extended his hand to introduce the members of his entourage, he was ignored by a number of German bishops.

"But Fr. Lombardi told CNA that 'the interpretation given to that video that the German bishops were disrespectful to the Pope is absolutely unfounded.'

"In fact, he added, the video 'obviously shows the moment in which the Pope was introducing his entourage - not the German bishops - to the German president at his residency.'...

"...'I have nothing else to add,' Fr. Lombardi said. 'An interpretation of the video that accuses the German bishops of disrespecting the Pope is too senseless to warrant further comment.'

"The video can be seen at:"
(Marta Jimenez, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 12, 2011))
There's more in the article, mostly about the folks in that video and papal protocol. The bottom line, as I see it, is that the Pope didn't shake the hands of his entourage

Think about it: when was the last time you saw the president of the United States shaking the hands of his Secret Service bodyguards? It's not the same thing, of course. Not quite.

Rumors? Par For the Course

My reaction to news of the rumor, the video, and the CNA article, is that this sort of hoo-ha is about par for the course.

The Catholic Church is ancient, has a current membership of over a billion, and makes some remarkable claims. In America, at least, a great many folks know things about the Catholic Church that either never were true: or haven't been for several centuries. I was one of them. When I found out what sort of authority each Pope had, I converted to Catholicism, and that's another topic.

Even if some German bishops had snubbed the Pope, I wouldn't be all that troubled. Miffed, maybe. But worried about the Church? Not so much. Concerned, yes: worried, no.

Two Millennia of SNAFUs

We've been through worse. Much worse. There was that time, about a thousand years back, when where was the Pope, and up to three or four wannabes saying that they had Peter's commission. We're not talking about the sort of nut cases who think they're Napoleon: the antipopes were taken seriously by a fair number of folks.

Sort of reminds me of the 'holier than the Pope' types who decided that Vatican II wasn't to their liking - and so must be against the will of God. Yet another topic.

There's more to this post, but I'm putting the 'Related posts' and 'Background' links that related to this new item here.

Related posts:

2. The Pope is "Deeply Saddened"

It's no wonder that the Pope expressed sadness at Sunday's killings in Egypt. More than a dozen Christians were killed. There's more going on than 'us against them,' though. A whole lot more.
"Pope deeply saddened by Egyptian violence"
David Kerr, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 12, 2011)

"Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sorrow over violent clashes in Cairo that left many Egyptian Christians dead and hundreds wounded.

" 'I am deeply saddened by the violence that was committed in Cairo on Sunday,' the Pope said at the Oct. 12 general audience in St. Peter's Square.

" 'I join in the sorrow of the families of the victims and the entire Egyptian people, torn by attempts to undermine the peaceful coexistence between its communities, which is rather essential to preserve, especially in this time of transition,' he said....

"...The Pope said that the Egyptian authorities - civil and religious - should try to build a new society that 'respects the human rights of everyone, and particularly minorities, to the benefit of national unity.' It is estimated that about 10 percent of Egyptians are Christian."
In a way, Sunday's killings were the fault of the 17 dead Christians. They, and others, had been demonstrating: trying to draw attention to previous attacks on Christians. Obviously, if they'd left the country: this wouldn't have happened.

Religious Freedom: It's In the Rules

I don't see it quite that way, but I live in a country where we have laws against killing someone for going to the 'wrong' church - and enforce them. More to the point, I'm a practicing Catholic. One of the rules is that I have to support religious freedom. For everybody.

I'm not sympathetic with Egypt's 'old school.' On the other hand, I think they're going through a terribly difficult period: getting dragged into a global culture where killing infidels is often considered gauche.

Which does not mean that all Muslims are psychopathic killers. Or a threat.

Like I said before, as a Catholic I have to support the right of everybody to worship - or not worship - according to their conscience. If that's not what you've heard about the Catholic Church, I'm not surprised. There's some background under, what else? "Background," below.

Related posts:

3. Soccer Player Arrested - In Saudi Arabia - Over a Tattoo

I am not making this up.
"Saudi police detain soccer player for showing tattoo of Christ"
CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 11, 2011)

"Saudi Arabia's religious police detained a Colombian soccer player at a shopping mall on Oct. 7 for not covering up an image of Jesus tattooed on his shoulder.

"Juan Pablo Pino, 24, who plays with the Al Nasr Soccer Club in Saudi Arabia, was wearing a sleeveless shirt while out with his pregnant wife at a mall in the capital city of Riyadh.

"Locals who saw the tattoo began insulting him, which drew the attention of the officers from a group known as the Police Force for the Promotion of Virtue of the Prevention of Vice, who detained the couple...."
I'm no big fan of tattoos: but this is ridiculous. On the other hand, arresting a foreigner for offending some local taboo is about par for the course for that desert kingdom.

Like I said before, getting dragged over several millennia of change in a generation can be unsettling.

Related posts:

4. Tattoos and All That

As I said before, I'm no big fan of tattoos. I haven't gotten a tattoo, and neither have my wife or kids. Not yet, anyway.

But I'm not going to rant about how tattoos have brought civilization to its knees and forebode the coming of the End. I'll get back to that, after this excerpt from an op-ed:
"Tattoos: Not just for bikers anymore"
Julie Filby, Catholic Womanhood, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (undated, probably July 27, 2011)

"Once upon a time tattoos were limited to the tough guy population—soldiers, bikers, rock stars.

"Not anymore....

"..It's a fad that's affected virtually every age group, race, gender, industry and religion. A Pew Research Center survey found that 36 percent of Americans ages 18–25 have a tattoo, 40 percent of those 26-40, and 10 percent of those 41-64...."
"Fad?" Here in central Minnesota, I've been seeing tattoos on quite a variety of folks for years. I think of a fad as something that might last a month. Maybe a year or two. Sort of like pet rocks. Or mood rings.

My guess is that tattoos are now part of North American culture: and will probably be around for years. Decades. Maybe a generation or more.

'God is on My Side?' Or 'I'm on God's Side?'

So, is this a sure sign of the coming apocalypse? No, I really don't think so.

Back to that op-ed:
"...Love or loathe them, perspectives continue to differ regarding the appropriateness and morality of tattoos. Which made me wonder: What does the Church say about it?

"In the article 'Physical Graffiti: Tattoo You' in Envoy Magazine issue 7.4, Deacon Robert Lukosh from the Archdiocese of Portland wrote that tattoos are morally permissible as long as they respect the dignity of the person:

" 'Body art as a form of adornment, that is ordered to the ultimate good of the person and to humanity, if it observes modesty and avoids vanity, and if it respects the fundamental integrity of the human person—including the integrity of the body—can be morally permissible.'..."
(Julie Filby, Catholic Womanhood, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (undated, probably July 27, 2011))
As I said before, I'm not going to rant about the Satanic influence of tattoos, how rock and roll is of the Devil, and how God will smite everybody who doesn't share my taste in music and hair styles.

Rules, Leviticus, and Getting a Grip

Julie Filby brings up a few verses from the Bible. The first one, form Leviticus, she puts in context:
"...However some argue that Scripture prohibits tattoos in the Old Testament book of Leviticus: 'Do not lacerate your body for the dead, and do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD' (19:28).

"OK, don't do it. Bible says.

" 'Not exactly,' according to Mark Hart of Life Teen International, who's affectionately known as the Bible Geek. Hart explained that this verse referred to the ancient mourning practices of the Canaanites that were forbidden for the Israelites. The law was meant to communicate to people that mourning wasn’t necessary if they believed in God's salvation. It also sought to prevent people from hurting themselves (tattooing could be deadly back then).

" 'It's not altogether correct to say a blanket statement like "tattoos are against God" or are "anti-Biblical" because they're not,' Hart said, adding that the decision of a tattoo goes beyond what the Bible says about it and should be taken seriously.

"Hart said some of the holiest people he knows have ink...."
(Julie Filby, Catholic Womanhood, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (undated, probably July 27, 2011))
So far, so good. Filby and Hart realize that Leviticus wasn't written by an American. And that specific rules in the book were written for folks who lived quite a while ago.

God, Change, and Two Dozen Centuries

Quite a lot has happened in the two dozen or so centuries since the Pentateuch was assembled. For one thing, Canaanites aren't part of the ongoing Middle East crisis. On the other hand, Abram's domestic dispute - and that's yet another topic.

The point is that the rule about "mutilation" made sense. Then.

But today? Although my hat's off to folks who dutifully follow the rule about leaving the hair of their temples and edges of their beards uncut: I think the important point in Leviticus 19:27, and in Leviticus 19:28, is the principle that we're supposed to love and serve God, and worship Him. Only Him.

I suppose I could try living exactly the way that Leviticus spells out. But I live in central Minnesota, not the east end of the Mediterranean. Starting around this time of year, the treatment program described in Leviticus 17:3-32 would be downright chilly.

Tattoos: There's a Reason; Lots of Reasons

One more excerpt from that op-ed:
"...People get tattoos to memorialize a person; honor a relationship with a child, parent or spouse; commemorate an event or accomplishment; reflect their heritage; express their personality, convey their religious beliefs; and sometimes, to evangelize...."
(Julie Filby, Catholic Womanhood, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (undated, probably July 27, 2011))
It's the "to evangelize" motive that got the soccer player in trouble with the Saudi faith police: that's my guess, anyway.

Stuff I Don't Like is Sinful?

It's very unlikely that I'll ever get a tattoo. And, like I've said, I'm not a fan of tattoos.

On the other hand, I've been on the receiving end of too many earnest 'Bible believers' to be comfortable claiming that what I don't care for is sinful.

Back when tattoos started getting popular, I did a little checking on my own. Remember, by the way, that I've got the authority of "some guy with a blog." I don't speak for the Church.

There's quite a bit about the body in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we're supposed to respect the body - but not worship it.

Folks have taken the idea that God created the human body, which is true: and so we should 'trust God' to heal wounds and cure disease, which is sort of true. Trusting God is good.

But God also gave us brains: and we're not required to be stupid. Organ transplants and autopsies are okay. Even cremation: provided it's not intended to deny the resurrection of the body. I've put links under another "Background" section, below.

The closest thing to a prohibition on tattoos was this:
"Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2296)
Honestly? This isn't all that close to forbidding tattoos. Except for that bit about "disabling mutilation."

Let's see what "mutilation" means.

  1. An injury that causes disfigurement or that deprives you of a limb or other important body part
  2. The act of damaging the appearance or surface of something
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Definition #1 doesn't really describe what a tattoo does. The skin's still there: it's just got some extra pigment. I suppose a big enough tattoo might start interfere with our ability to synthesize vitamin D: but I think that's a stretch.

Definition #2, "damaging the appearance," certainly could cover the effect of getting a tattoo. If I thought that my artistic tastes were the one universal standard by which all humanity should be judged.

I don't need that kind of trouble. I wrote about Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-38, and 41-42 on Wednesday.

A tattoo that I might feel is "damaging the appearance" of someone's skin, someone else might regard as a beautiful work of art.

"Your Body is a Temple...." Context, Please!

The op-ed's author cites another verse of the Bible. It's from 1 Corinthians 6, about the body being the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Placed where it is in the op-ed, it sort of looks like it might mean that we shouldn't be marking up the walls of the temple with tattoos.

Looking at the verse in the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians? Maybe not so much:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple 8 of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?"
(1 Corinthians 6:19)
'Context, please,' which is discussed in footnote 8:
"8 [19-20] Paul's vision becomes trinitarian. A temple: sacred by reason of God's gift, his indwelling Spirit. Not your own: but "for the Lord," who acquires ownership by the act of redemption. Glorify God in your body: the argument concludes with a positive imperative to supplement the negative "avoid immorality" of ⇒ 1 Cor 6:18. Far from being a terrain that is morally indifferent, the area of sexuality is one in which our relationship with God (and his Christ and his Spirit) is very intimately expressed: he is either highly glorified or deeply offended."
(Footnote 8, 1 Corinthians 6)
My take on tattoos is that they're:
  • Part of today's culture
  • Depending on individual taste,
    • Works of
      • Art
      • Satan
    • Eyesores
  • An emotional topic
Getting tattoos can be dangerous: if someone's not careful about properly sterilizing the needles. But if I start claiming that potentially-dangerous activities are 'un-Biblical,' I'd have to start ranting about the sin of driving automobiles, using power tools, and swimming.

And that, in my opinion, would be silly.

Related posts:


Brigid said...

Wrong vowel: "As I saud before, I'm not"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Oops! Fixed, and thanks!

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.