Thursday 31 May 2012

Long Live Our Noble Queen

Some people seem to be getting awfully excited about the Diamond Jubilee this weekend. One house down my street is festooned with so much union jack bunting; it looks like Geri Halliwell has moved in, done her washing, and pegged out all her undercrackers to dry in the late May sunshine.

I’m far less enthused at the prospect of a whole weekend of watching a befuddled old lady in a bejewelled hat smiling and waving at a multitude of people in awe of the fortuitous accident of her birth and her tax-funded longevity.

Apparently however I’m a grumpy old git who wants to deprive the nation of day of fond celebrations and awkward street parties with people that we generally avoid making eye contact with in order to save ourselves from a banal conversation about the unseasonable weather.

Nevertheless, I do have fond memories of the Silver Jubilee. I recall spending the day running around the grounds of Clowance Estate (That’s Clowance not Clarence), with all the other children in my village, pausing only briefly to be presented with a Silver Jubilee mug and a hefty saffron bun. At the time I thought all children were presented with a mug and an unfeasibility large saffron bun, but I was later to learn to my dismay, that the poor non-Cornish children probably missed out on the fruity yellow tuck.

The nearest I got to seeing any royalty at the Silver Jubilee was a brief encounter with Gus Honeybun in a large marquee erected in the grounds. Those not growing up in the South West of England during the 1970’s may be unfamiliar with Gus Honeybun’s massive body of work in children’s birthday entertainment, and their childhood memories will be forever and irrevocably void as a consequence.

However, as none of these memories actually involve any members of the royal family (apart from Liz’s beaming face on my mug), I see no particular reason to include them in my plans for this weekend either.

Although I have no particular desire to celebrate the fact that one particular old lady hasn’t died yet, I have nonetheless seen one very plausible argument in support of her Majesty trotted out by many of my sceptical, science loving and godless comrades. I refer of course to her sterling efforts in saving us from the unenlightened reign of King Charles III. No doubt in the sound knowledge that odd numbered King Charleses have set a dangerous precedence for causing the disestablishment of the Monarchy.

If there’s one thing the intelligentsia do respect the Queen for, it’s knowing when to STFU. A crucial royal requirement in which Charles has been desperately found wanting.

His dubious invoking of my home county to aid and abet the whoring of his over-priced cookies could perhaps have been excused were it not for his sideline in inefficacious magic potions.

His desire to be “Defender of Faith” rather than simply “Defender of The Faith” suggest that unlike Charles I, who merely saw himself as divinely ordained by a single mystic deity (as conveniently redefined by Henry VIII), Charles III seems to have a desire to be the earthly representative of all manner of supernatural beings, magical fairies and evidence-free ideologies.

Some of his charitable attempts to dilute scientifically proven medicine with outright quackery may have failed, but his unfounded belief in magic water is undiminished.

But whether or not we agree with Charles’s half-baked raving, we have to accept that his views are more polarising than an all-you-can-eat Marmite buffet.

Upon his succession could he therefore spearhead an Iranian-like national charge back to medieval thinking, or will his incessant and ill-informed meddling be the piece of proverbial dried grass that finally causes a dromedarian spinal injury?

It’s a chance many Royalists are nervous to take and would prefer instead to see the shiny hat and stick skip a generation. Perhaps a future King with such a gangling lack of charisma as Wills, who can be easily upstaged by his sister in-laws millinery, would be just the sort of insipid candidate to not raise the republican hackles and allow his over-privileged family to slip under the radar for another generation.

[Edit, If Anne, as I originally thought was the elder sibling …] My preference would have been to replace the sexist male primogeniture order of succession with an absolute primogeniture. If we have to have to persist in this outdated and outlandish pageantry in order to entertain the American tourists, then when the Queen finally conks out, I think I’d rather have the horsey woman with a lighthouse fetish than the multi delusional unenlightened quack pimp.

Saturday 5 May 2012

More Skeptical Tarot Card Readings

Traditional stupidity maintains that a persons destiny may be foretold by the Tarot Cards.

In order to add a small essence of validity to this extraordinary claim, I have tinkered with the traditional tarot deck and created my very own Celebrity Tarot Cards. These can be used to reveal the hidden destinies of the stars. I’ve included some sample readings to get you started.

"You have a special gift. A precious and rare talent. Unlike other so called psychics, soothsayers and mediums who use cold reading techniques or the Barnum effect to hoodwink their punters, you are the real deal. Your great courage and strong devotion to your craft allow you to help others contact their loved ones who have sadly passed beyond the gates of death. This is especially valiant as you have reportedly had to concentrate extra hard to hear the spirit voices over the undoubted din of stagehands attempting to electronically relay pertinent information about individuals in the audience to you via a hidden earpiece. It is a true demonstration of your spiritual strength that you are able to cancel out the hubbub of your would-be fraudulent psychic accomplices and tune in to the momentous messages seeping in from the astral plane. The fact that the communication you receive from the other side is indistinguishable from the information transmitted by the stagehands is unequivocal validation of your genius. Such a gift occurs so rarely you should ensure you maximize the total profits from it."

“Science progresses by the challenging of currently held scientific beliefs to adjust, refine and occasionally overturn current thinking. However if your pet climate change hypothesis fails to overturn the scientific consensus of man-made global warning, don’t give up on your discredited hypothesis, after all it’s far more likely that conventional scientists only support the theory of man-made climate change because of their egotistical belief that their generation has the power to wreak environmental disaster. Keep telling yourself this, and keep believing that the evidence is on your side. Although there is of course no need whatsoever to actually read the scientific papers regarding climate change research, it’s not your job to read scientific papers, you should concentrate on simply being an interpreter of interpretations. Keep plugging your theories and the media will be more than happy to give a disproportionate amount of coverage to your dissident theory and thus present the illusion that both sides of the argument carry equal weight.”  


“As you appear to value faith over evidence, why not take advantage of the fact that you are the Conservative MP for Mid-Bedfordshire and join the Science & Technology Parliamentary Select Committee where you could then fail to attend a single meeting. Indeed, why not completely ignore the Science & Technology Select Committee’s conclusion that there is no scientific basis to reduce the upper abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks and embark on three dubious  attempts to lower the upper abortion limit anyway. In fact, better still, why not insist that those poor misguided Jezebels seeking abortions should first have a good talking to by someone completely impartial, like say, a religious organisation. Oh no, hang on, here’s a good one, how about we simply indoctrinate children with the most effective form of contraception known to man, abstinence. This would save a lot of effort as you would of course only need to teach abstinence to the girls. However whilst zealously defending the right to life remember that the Trident nuclear weapon cannot possible be a weapon of mass destruction.”


“You possess mystical paranormal powers bestowed upon you by some peculiarly generous passing aliens. Do not allow the fact that all of these mystical powers can be easily replicated by stage magicians performing simple parlor tricks to detract from your original psychic claims. There are simply millions of people ready to proclaim supernatural causes as the only conceivable explanation for deformed tableware. However if people do get a little bored with kinky cutlery and unreliable clocks then why not buy a small Scottish island and dowse for hidden Egyptian treasures brought to the island 3,500 years ago by Tutankhamen’s half sister. It can’t fail. Best to steer clear of predicting sporting events and remember the best place to settle alleged paranormal claims is in the law courts and not the laboratory.”

“I think that it would be best if you decided not to disclose the fact that your research that claimed a link between the multiple MMR vaccine and autism was funded by solicitors desperate to find any evidence against vaccine manufactures. It’s probably also not a good idea to mention the fact that you allegedly applied for a patent for a single measles vaccine before starting your campaign against the multiple MMR Vaccine. These sort of unfortunate coincides are bound to result in some interfering old sod jumping to the conclusion that your research was highly biased due to a conflict of interest. However in the extremely unlikely event that most of your co-authors withdraw their support for your research and the General Medical Council bar you from practicing medicine in the UK on 4 counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children, do not despair. You can always make a killing in Texas preaching the anti MMR vaccination gospel to the parents of autistic children desperate to latch onto anything they can blame.  Even if your research has been thoroughly discredited and your original articles retracted from the medical journal in which they were originally published in, there’s always hordes of uncritical parents willing to trust their “mommy instinct” rather than investigate real evidence. Although it’s probably best not to dwell too long on the rise in vaccine preventable diseases and fatalities that followed the steep decline in UK vaccination that your campaign induced.”

NB This post is a rewrite of this old chestnut from a few years back.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Cardinal Brady’s Statement Translated

The recent BBC Documentary “The Shame of the Catholic Church” included revelations that the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Brady, failed to act when told about clerical abuse of children. Rather than resign, Cardinal Brady has released a full statement of pathetic excuses. As weasel words can sometimes be a little hard to decipher, I have provided a full paragraph by paragraph translation. The following text is the full unabridged text of Cardinal Brady’s statement followed by my helpful translation in bold.

"On Tuesday 1 May 2012, the BBC 'This World' series broadcast a programme entitled 'The Shame of the Catholic Church' on the BBC Northern Ireland network. In the course of the programme a number of claims were made which overstate and seriously misrepresent my role in a Church Inquiry in 1975 into allegations against the Norbertine priest Fr Brendan Smyth."
Bugger, the BBC have found out that I was involved in the 1975 Church Inquiry into Fiddlely Father Smyth and I need to play down my involvement as much as possible in order to hold on to my job.

"In response to the programme I wish to draw attention to the following:"
Here are my bleating weasel words:

"Six weeks before broadcast (15 March 2012) I drew the attention of the programme makers to a number of important facts related to the 1975 Church inquiry into Brendan Smyth, which the programme failed to report and which I now wish to restate for all other media who report on this matter:"
Having realised that my actions at the time would now look pretty bad I tried my hardest to think up some good excuses before hand, but this was the best I could come up with:

"To suggest, as the programme does, that I led the investigation of the 1975 Church Inquiry into allegations against Brendan Smyth is seriously misleading and untrue. I was asked by my then Bishop (Bishop Francis McKiernan of the Diocese of Kilmore) to assist others who were more senior to me in this Inquiry process on a one-off basis only."
I was just a lackey, there were more senior people than me involved and it’s all their fault and absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me.

"The documentation of the interview with Brendan Boland, signed in his presence, clearly identifies me as the 'notary' or 'note taker'. Any suggestion that I was other than a 'notary' in the process of recording evidence from Mr Boland, is false and misleading"
I was just the scribe. It was just my job to write down the string of abhorrent sex offences committed by Father Smyth as instructed. Consequently, I felt no moral obligation whatsoever to alert the authorities to the actions of this sex offender. After all it’s good to just blindly follow the irrational instructions of an authority figure without questioning, that’s what Catholicism is all about.

"I did not formulate the questions asked in the Inquiry process. I did not put these questions to Mr Boland. I simply recorded the answers that he gave"
I was just following orders guv.

"Acting promptly and with the specific purpose of corroborating the evidence provided by Mr Boland, thereby strengthening the case against Brendan Smyth, I subsequently interviewed one of the children identified by Mr Boland who lived in my home diocese of Kilmore. That I conducted this interview on my own is already on the public record. This provided prompt corroboration of the evidence given by Mr Boland"
Intrigued by the alleged depravity of Father Smythe I went to the child in question to get all the juicy details and found out that it was all true. However, I still didn’t see any reason why I should do anything about it. 

"In 1975 no State or Church guidelines existed in the Republic of Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor. No training was given to priests, teachers, police officers or others who worked regularly with children about how to respond appropriately should such allegations be made."
In those days it was pretty easy for priests to get away with kiddie fiddling so there was no need to really do anything.  Furthermore we were never told that paedophilia was naughty and there’s nothing in the bible about it so how was I supposed to know what to do?

"Even according to the State guidelines in place in the Republic of Ireland today, the person who first receives and records the details of an allegation of child abuse in an organisation that works with children is not the person who has responsibility within that organisation for reporting the matter to the civil authorities. This responsibility belongs to the 'Designated person' appointed by the organisation and trained to assume that role. In 1975, I would not have been the 'Designated Person' according to today's guidelines. As the Children First State guidelines explain (3.3.1):'Every organisation, both public and private, that is providing services for children or that is in regular direct contact with children should (i) Identify a designated liaison person to act as a liaison with outside agencies and a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns.(ii) The designated liaison person is responsible for ensuring that the standard reporting procedure is followed, so that suspected cases of child neglect or abuse are referred promptly to the designated person in the HSE Children and Family Services or in the event of an emergency and the unavailability of the HSE, to An Garda Síochána."
Even now the law says you don’t have to grass up your mates if you don’t want to. Anyway, it’s perfectly acceptable to shirk all responsibility as long as you’ve passed it on to someone else.

"The commentary in the programme and much of the coverage of my role in this Inquiry gives the impression that I was the only person who knew of the allegations against Brendan Smyth at that time and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975. I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order. As Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed in an interview with RTÉ this morning, it was Brendan Smyth's superiors in the Norbertine Order who bear primary responsibility for failing to take the appropriate action when presented with the weight of evidence I had faithfully recorded and that Bishop McKiernan subsequently presented to them."
Shit, I come out really bad in that documentary. But the fact is there’s not a lot you do to stop paedophile priests, basically you’ve just got to trust in God and hope some bugger else deals with it.

"The following statement from Monsignor Scicluna had been made to the BBC programme makers six weeks in advance of its broadcast but was not acknowledged by them in any way: 'It is clear to me that in 1975 Fr Brady, now Cardinal Brady, acted promptly and with determination to ensure the allegations being made by the children were believed and acted upon by his superiors. His actions were fully consistent with his duties under canon law. But the power to act effectively to remove Brendan Smyth from priestly ministry lay exclusively with the Abbot of Holy Trinity Abbey in Kilnacrott and his superiors in the Norbertine Order. This is where the sincere efforts of Bishop McKiernan and others like Fr Brady to prevent Brendan Smyth from perpetrating further harm were frustrated, with tragic consequences for the lives of so many children. I know that in his role as President of the Irish Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Brady has worked tirelessly with his fellow bishops to ensure such a situation could never occur again and that the civil authorities in Ireland are now promptly informed of allegations of abuse against children. We have all learned from the tragic experience of the Church in Ireland but also from the sincere efforts of so many lay faithful, religious, priests and bishops to make the Church in Ireland an example of best practice in safeguarding children."
My mate reckons that I’m a really nice bloke and that it wasn’t my fault, he says it's all the fault of the bloody Abbot of Holy Trinity Abbey. Bastard!

"In fact, I was shocked, appalled and outraged when I first discovered in the mid 1990s that Brendan Smyth had gone on to abuse others. I assumed and trusted that when Bishop McKiernan brought the evidence to the Abbot of Kilnacrott that the Abbot would then have dealt decisively with Brendan Smyth and prevented him from abusing others. With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society, and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past."
I was totally shocked to later to discover a repeat sex offender had reoffended. What are the chances of that? Still, no point in making a lot of fuss about it is there?

"As to other children named in the evidence recorded during the Inquiry process, I had no further involvement in the Inquiry process once I handed over the evidence taken. I trusted that those with the authority to act in relation to Brendan Smyth would treat the evidence seriously and respond appropriately. I had no such authority to act and even by today's guidance from the State I was not the person who had the role of bringing the allegations received to the attention of the civil authorities. I was also acutely aware that I had no authority in Church law in relation to Brendan Smyth or any other aspect of the Inquiry process."
Once I passed my notes over I couldn’t really give a shit what happened next.

"Today, Church policy in Ireland is to report allegations of abuse to the civil authorities. It recognises the Gardai and HSE as those with responsibility for investigating such allegations and that any Church investigation should not take place until the investigation by the civil authorities has been completed. I have fully supported this policy and have worked with my fellow Bishops and the leaders of Religious Congregations to put this policy in place."
People have wised up now and the Church can’t get away with half the shit they used to. I preferred it in the old days when we were above the law, but I suppose times change and I haven’t got much choice other than go along with these damned new safe guards to protect the children.

"The programme made reference to a statement I made in the course of an RTE interview in which I suggested that if my failure to act on an allegation of abuse against a child led to further children being abused, that I would then consider resigning from my position. The programme failed to point out, however, that I gave this answer in response to a question specifically about someone in a position of 'Management', someone who was already a Bishop or Religious Superior with ultimate responsibility for managing a priest against whom an allegation has been made. In 1975, I was not a Bishop. I was not in that role. It was misleading of the BBC programme to apply my response to the RTE interview on a completely different situation to my role in the 1975 Inquiry."
Fuck, did I really say I’d resign if my failure to act caused further children to be abused. Bugger, Bugger, Bugger. Oh, no hang on, I had my fingers crossed when I said that.

"It is my view that the 'This World' programme has set out to deliberately exaggerate and misrepresent my role in these events. The programme suggested that no response to their questions had been provided before the programme was completed, whereas in fact a comprehensive response had been provided to the programme six weeks in advance and only days after the 'door-stepping' interview with me in Limerick."
It’s so unfair *stamps feet*

"I deeply regret that those with the authority and responsibility to deal appropriately with Brendan Smyth failed to do so, with tragic and painful consequences for those children he so cruelly abused. I also deeply regret that no guidelines from the State or the Church were available to guide the sincere and serious effort made to respond to the allegations made by the two boys interviewed in the Inquiry process. With many others who worked regularly with children in 1975, I regret that our understanding of the full impact of abuse on the lives of children as well as the pathology and on-going risk posed by a determined paedophile was so inadequate. It is important to acknowledge that today both the Church and the State have proper and robust procedures in place to respond to allegations of abuse against children. I fully support these new procedures which include the obligation to report such allegations promptly to the civil authorities. I have worked with others in the Church to put these new procedures in place and I look forward to continuing that vital work in the years ahead."
I’m really, really sorry that the BBC got wind of my involvement in the whole sorry affair, but if I promise not to ignore any more sex abuse cases can I keep my job please?