Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Response to Bulls**t episode on the Vatican

Penn and Teller have a show called "Bulls**t". I added the asterisks. The show is designed to refute commonly held beliefs. They've done episodes on dozens of topics, including violent video games, PETA, and the income tax. They also did one on the Vatican. I will offer a rebuttal to their video.

No Opposing Positions Presented
First of all, they admit at the beginning that unlike every other episode, this one will feature no counter arguments whatsoever. In every other episode, they present a premise, and they always have several guests who disagree with the comedic duo. However, on this episode, they say they will do no such thing. It will be completely one sided. Now, they claim they requested input from some "authorities" within the Vatican. They don't specify who they actually asked. Maybe they sent a letter to the pope himself expecting a reply. They specifically said they asked authorities within the Church. Notice they did not ask someone from Catholic Answers or from a Catholic publishing company or just a pro-Vatican person. They don't seem to care that the episode will completely one-sided. They just brush it off by saying the Vatican has been making its point for 2000 years and they say now the other side needs a chance. As if there has never been someone who disagreed with the Church. Anyway, the episode was designed to be biased.

Italian Comedian Sabina Guzzanti
The first specific story present by narrator Penn Jillette is that of Sabina Guzzanti who said something offensive about Pope Benedicts XVI. You could pretty much add "allegedly" to everything Penn says about her story. She said something offensive about the pope. The pope "allegedly" was upset about this and "allegedly" contacted the prime minister who "allegedly" threatened to charge this comedian with slander for what she said. He then goes off on speculation about how upset the pope was, how he reacted to what she said, etc. All conjecture. Oh yeah, and according to Penn, the pope also wanted this woman to be imprisoned. Again, pure conjecture and not from an unbiased source. Recently a man was charged for exposing private documents of the pope and was sentenced to time in prison. The pope intervened so that the man would not go to jail. Doesn't exactly sound like a man who likes imprisoning people. By the way, we are left in suspense as to what this comedian says as Penn says he will "return" to this later. I guess he will come back after he has defamed the Church enough so that, like a good lawyer, he can say anything about the Church and everyone will believe him.

Vatican and homosexuality
After the first segment, Penn introduces the head of an atheist / agnostic organization in the UK where the representative says he thought John Paul II was bad, but Benedict is much worse. He offers no reason for thinking so himself. The narrator comes on to cite an example of how "bad" Benedict is by mentioning a 2008 resolution introduced in the UN by France. The legislation would seek to remove discrimination against gay people. The show even admits the reason the Vatican opposed this because it could lead to pressuring countries to accept gay marriage, something the Vatican is opposed to. Penn interviews a guy who says this would not happen so automatically more nefarious motives are assumed once again. Penn goes so far as to say the Vatican is okay with gay people being killed. Wow, goodbye any actual evidence. Hello hyperbole! The Vatican has specifically said unjust discrimination against gay people is wrong. But don't confuse Penn with the facts!

It's surprising how the atheist representative can be taken seriously. He goes from the amazingly inaccurate estimate that "20%-50%" of Catholic priests are gay to the conclusion that Benedict XVI must be a really bad person to speak about against homosexual acts. I'm surprised he can't see his own logical fallacy here.

Penn Jillette then makes the surprisingly accurate statement that the Church does not consider homosexuality itself to be a sin, but just acting upon it. He even does a good job of explaining it, by saying the Church is against sex outside of marriage and gay people cannot marry and therefore homosexual sex is sinful. He goes off the rails when he implies homosexual sex condemns someone to hell automatically. He makes it seem like it is that sin in particular which will do this.

Penn then criticizes the Church's position that gays cannot marry or participate in homosexual acts by asking the rhetorical question of whether it makes sense to tell a bird it cannot fly. But this comes from a faulty understanding of sexuality as being uncontrollable and inevitable. This makes no more sense than saying "How can we tell an adulterer he should not cheat? Isn't that cruel?" One can choose to refrain from inappropriate sexual relations.

Back to Comedian Sabina Guzzanti
Sabina is now reintroduced to the show where she talks about how terrible it is to hear in the news the pope's opinion on various matters. Oh the humanity. We are teased once again about some blasphemous things this comedian said. But that will have to wait till later! In this segment, Sabina and the narrator goes on about how people are not free to express themselves in Italy. Well, let's wait and see what happened and how she was ultimately punished. I'm expecting it to be really brutal!

Sex Abuse Scandal
Of course, everyone knew this would be part of the show. This is a major tragedy and deserves to be addressed. There is too much to re-mention here, but I've written other articles addressing this in the past. Once again, the only people being interviewed are victims groups and lawyers of victims. One document that they mention is called Crimen sollicitationis. Penn claims the purpose of the document is to silence the victim on pain of excommunication which he claims means condemnation to hell - an amateur mistake. In fact, the purpose of this document is to maintain the dignity of the accused and the accuser until the process has been carried out. It does not preclude presenting the case to public authorities prior to the Church trial. John Allen Jr. wrote about this document and said it must be understood in the proper context.

In a similar vein, the show mentions a Vatican document which notes the statute of limitation on secrecy for sex abuse is 10 years after a minor has reached the age of 18. This was designed to protect the victims of abuse. I haven't had time to research it thoroughly yet, but again it refers to a statute of limitations, which by definition are beneficial to the victims.

Then Penn pulls out another old canard by claiming the Vatican is somehow responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the deaths of millions of people due to AIDS because of its stance on contraception. Penn also mentions overpopulation as an issue here. Many people see this as a black and white issue (i.e. more condoms = less AIDS). Scientifically this is not the case. For a variety of factors, in the real world, more condoms does not equal less AIDS in the real world. This can be seen in Africa. A couple of countries, including Uganda, implemented a policy of sexual gratification control and monogamy, which had much better results than the places which emphasized the use of contraception. Same thing with the Philippines, where contraception was or is prohibited. In many parts of Africa, condoms are more easily available than clean drinking water. If the theory that more contraception = less AIDS, then AIDS should have been eliminated from Africa by now. The fact of the matter is that promiscuity is what leads to infections. If people did what the Vatican said and waited until marriage to have sex and remain monogamous, this would in fact eliminate AIDS. Of course, people with AIDS would refrain from having sex out of love for their potential partner. But for some reason, people do not think that people can control their sex drive, especially in Africa. This is a very dim view of humanity, in my opinion.

The discussion of condoms as AIDS prevention switches to condoms are being morally permissible within marriage. Of course, they interview many dissident Catholics such as the president of Catholics For Choice. They make it seem like the Church being against contraception is just some silly rule that was just arbitrarily decided and that it can be easily reversed. One of the reasons for the opposition to contraception is that it purposely prevents an act from fulfilling its natural and healthy purpose. The purpose of sex is ultimately procreation. To purposely thwart the actual intention of the act is morally wrong. Plus, we can see all the negative consequences of contraception which were correctly predicted by Pope Paul VI when he published Humanae Vitae, such as promiscuity and the objectification of people.

Penn also claims the pope himself said contraception entering the water from women's urine is having negative effects on the environment. He makes another amateur mistake here, since this is a statement from the L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Newspaper, not by the pope, and it is not an official Church document.

Plus, Penn claims the Church was opposed to the small pox vaccine, a claim I can find no backing for anywhere.

Back to Comedian Sabina Guzzanti ONCE Again
Let's hope this time Penn spits out what this comedian said and the consequences. Already, so he finally gets to it, although I was quite disappointed. This "comedian" essentially says in a very vulgar way that she believes the pope will end up in hell. She adds other things concerning homosexuality which I do not want to repeat here. It was disgusting. Why did she say all of this? Because the pope dared offer his opinion that school children in Italy should not be forced to hear about homosexual acts. For this, Sabina believes Italy is no longer a democracy. By the way, poor oppressed Sabina was applauded by a large part of the crowd to whom she told her joke.

In the end, Sabina was not sentenced to any time in jail and did not receive any penalty. The Vatican issued a statement saying they forgive her for her comments. Amazingly, Penn and Teller are able to spin this into making it seem like the Vatican did something bad. Wow, they must really be desperate!

The conclusion of the video is a collage of the guests basically insulting the Church, calling it greedy, power-hungry, homophobic, etc. Fill in the blanks. You get the idea. Penn ends with a short monologue rehashing some of the grievances and canards presented in the video.

This video was a particularly lop-sided presentation of the Vatican. It has no value for honest truth-seekers. But to a large part of the public which only thinks the Catholic Church is bad, you will probably be cheering for this error-laded documentary.


  1. Penn and Teller, probably, is based on Andrew Dickson White and his "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Andrew Dickson White was based on false news reports to say that Protestant clergy opposed the vaccine smallpox in the plague of Montreal, 1885.No, I am able to assert that there is not even a trace of opposition to vaccination, anesthesia or lightning rod.

  2. Finally anti-Catholic myths begin to unravel. Of course it is wrong to say that Pope Leo XII condemned the vaccine. But the reality is more fascinating. Both the Catholic clergy as many monarchs as "Carlos IV of Spain" actively promoted the vaccination (and before the cinchona bark for malaria), while Cromwell was left to die by not testing the bark Jesuit ...
    In response to a Large Outbreak of smallpox in the Spanish colonies, King Charles IV Francisco Xavier de Balmis Appointed to lead an expedition That Would Jenner's vaccine to introduce These colonies. In 1798, King Charles IV STATEMENTS The Civilian Population That Should Be vaccined. A Year Later, a copy of Edward Jenner's book WAS Sent to King Charles IV by an Italian physician, weitere historical Attracting Attention to the prevention of smallpox. All These events culminate in the Issuance of a royal edict Announcing the Widespread Availability of the smallpox vaccine in Spain in 1800. THIS Vaccination Campaigns Be Supervised by the Catholic Clergy and immunization registries That Be Kept by Priests. I advise you to read this wonderful article:
    The Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition to Bring Smallpox Vaccination to the New World and Asia in the 19th Century
    The Catholic Clergy Gave Their support to the Vaccination
    campaign. In New Spain the expedition and feted in WAS WELCOMED
    cities like Guadalajara and Oaxaca by Their bishops. The bishop of
    Oaxaca Encouraged the Clergy to support the Vaccination Campaign
    Preaching That Should none of Them feel no obligation to do so, thinking
    I Had the care of souls and Not That of teddies; Such a view Would show
    His ignorance, A Lack of charity, and a failure to Understand That He Who
    Is Able to save a fellow human being and do not does so commits a
    crime.The bishop of Puebla wrote a pastoral letter encouraging historical
    flock to get Vaccinate, Himself and I assisted in the formation of a
    Vaccination board. ...

  3. "Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectual."
    A Catholic historian Donald Keefe came across the story when it was repeated by Prof. Daniel Maguire of Marquette University. Keefe tried to trace the source of the quote from Leo XII, tracing it from footnote to footnote, from book to book and found it had emanated from a Dr. Pierre Simon in Le Contredes naissances with no authority given at all. It is probable however, that the myth is much older and dates from the 19th century as it can be found in G. S. Godkin’s ‘Life of Victor Emmanuel II’ from 1880.In conclusion, Leo XII’s alleged ban of vaccination is a whiggish myth which has been repeated and promulgated slavishly ever since, despite having absolutely no basis in fact whatsoever. No doubt in cyberspace it will continue to take on a new lease of life amongst those who will swallow any myth as long as it is anti-catholic or anti-religious.

  4. The Influence of Korean Catholic Church on the Introduction of Smallpox Vaccination by Cheong Yak-yong : A Hypothesis.
    If he did, it was also done in the context of Western culture imported by Korean Catholic Church. Considering the above facts we can suggest the higher possibility of the introduction of smallpox vaccination through Catholic groups with Cheong Yak-yong. Of course other routes could have been available, but its possibility seems to be comparatively low.


    It is sometimes asserted that the Catholic Church in the nineteenth century condemned the use of chloroform in childbirth, but permits its use today. It is then claimed that the Church will one day permit Abortion.

    If you consult medical books, you will often see a similar assertion regarding chloroform. Usually the books are less specific, but have phrases such as: ‘The Church’ or ‘religion’ or ‘the clergy’ opposed the use of chloroform in childbirth.