Poll: Most Non-Believers Decry CIA Torture, While the Religious Are O.K. With It

Earlier this week, Rachel at Friendly Atheist posted about Bryan Fischer‘s views on torture. Fischer says that when the CIA tortured terrorism suspects, that was OK, because they did so righteously, just like the murderers in the Bible did their work to please God.

For my money, Fischer is the Ann Coulter of the evangelical set: someone with a big mouth, a tiny heart, and a propensity to spout outrageousness. I’ve always considered his views to be on the outer edge of what most Christians find acceptable. But it turns out that at least when it comes to torture, Christians are, overall, broadly in agreement with the man.

Over at MSNBC, Steve Benen scrutinized the results of a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, and concludes:

While many might assume that the faithful would be morally repulsed by torture, the reality is the opposite. When poll respondents were asked, “Do you personally think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists amounted to torture, or not?” most Americans said the abuses did not constitute torture. But it was non-religious Americans who were easily the most convinced that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were, in fact, torture.

The results in response to this question were even more striking: “All in all, do you think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?” For most Americans, the answer, even after recent revelations, was yes. For most Christians, it’s also yesBut for the non-religious, as the above chart makes clear, the torture was not justified.

Atheists and agnostics are much more likely to condemn the gross, inhumane actions of the worst CIA interrogators.

[N]on-religious Americans were one of the few subsets that opposed the torture techniques — and that includes breakdowns across racial, gender, age, economic, educational, and regional lines. The non-religious are effectively alone in their opposition to torture.

[The poll results are] a pretty interesting starting point for a discussion about faith, morality, the law, and the limits of human decency.

In 2009, there was a Pew poll about torture that revealed more or less the same divide between religious people and non-believers.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Wisconsin Priest Who Accused Atheists of Shunning Beauty, Fun, and Civic-Mindedness Is Cited For Indecent Proposal

Two years ago, Monsignor Bernard McGarty was driving by a festive display of holiday lights in his hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin, enjoying Christmas carols on the radio, when a thought struck him: How dismal and cheerless La Crosse would be if the town had embraced atheism rather than Christianity!

So, oblivious to the fact that winter solstice celebrations — with lights! — predate Christmas by probably millennia, Father McGarty soon penned an amazing editorial for the local newspaper that chiefly revealed how unlikely it is that he personally knows any atheists. Consider: If La Crosse had been founded and populated by atheists, McGarty claimed,

The symphony would not have a theater with perfect acoustics, such as the house provided by the Franciscan Sisters. If the symphony were to play in a less august space, any of the religious music of Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Bizet and Verdi would be offensive to atheist ears. … At Passover, Holy Week and then Easter, no hearing Handel’s “Messiah,” celebrating resurrection. The “Messiah” lifts me off my feet. I soar as I hear it. Does atheism produce any comparable composition celebrating nothingness? By their fruits you shall know them.

There would be no YWCA, no YMCA providing a swimming pool, gymnasium, weight room and other programs. Are atheists getting a free ride on we believers?

Do atheists send or receive valentines? Do they sing songs, tell a joke or buy a drink on Paddy’s Day? At Mardi Gras, do they dance? Are atheist children allowed to trick-or-treat or dress in funny costumes? Do they believe in fun?

Right. I guess we are supposed to think that in atheist-majority countries like China and Sweden, there are no pristine symphony halls, no state-of-the-art sports facilities, no celebrations, no exuberance, no humor, no dancing, no sharing and charity and bonhomie. Just millions of moping, indolent sourpusses being miserable together.

I’m writing about Father McGarty today because he just made the newspaper again (the same one where he published his 2012 editorial — that the editors might well have rejected as hate speech if it had been about any minority group but atheists). But this time, McGarty isn’t in the op-ed pages. He’s in the news/crime section, because of the special way that he decided to get an early start on celebrating the Christmas season.

A La Crosse priest was cited Thursday for disorderly conduct after asking a Wausau massage therapist to touch his genitals. Wausau television station WSAW reported that Monsignor Bernard McGarty, 89, was receiving a massage when he lifted the coverings off his groin and asked the masseuse to rub his genitals. The massage therapist refused and left the room, according to WSAW; she told police McGarty then called her a derogatory name.

Happy holidays to you too, Father.

McGarty was not arrested but issued a $250 ticket.

A retired priest, McGarty served in several leadership positions with the Diocese of La Crosse and is a visiting scholar of ecumenical studies at Viterbo University.

We ought to thank Father McGarty for leading by example. Without him, we might never have known that one great way to spread holiday cheer is through sexual misconduct and cursing.

The 9 Commandments? Priests at Two Churches Are Accused of Theft…and They’re Brothers!

What do you call your brother if he’s a priest? Father?

I suppose that mystery was amplified in the Belczak family. Many years ago, Michigan brothers Edward Belczak (below, left) and Thomas Belczak decided that they loved the Catholic Church so much, they wanted to become its professional holy message-spreaders. After a while, they figured that they were entitled to quite a bit more than what the Lord, in His wisdom, had been giving them — and they took it.

Father Thomas Belczak has been required to step aside as pastor of St. Kenneth Parish, Plymouth, pending further steps by Church officials. Law enforcement officials are investigating allegations that he has misused parish funds. During this time, Belczak will not be permitted to be present at St. Kenneth; he will not be working or serving there in any capacity. …

These charges come just months after Belczak’s brother, Father Edward Belczak and his church administrator were indicted for stealing about $700,000 from St. Thomas More Church in Troy over eight years.

It’s unclear to law enforcement officials if the investigation of Thomas Belczak is connected to the investigations of his brother in Troy.

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The money pilfered by Father Edward

… allegedly included most of a $350,000 gift to the church from the family of a dead parishioner and cash donated by churchgoers during special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections, prosecutors said. The priest spent some of the money on a condominium in Palm Beach, Fla., according to the indictment.

I’m sure it’s all a giant misunderstanding… or perhaps the godly brothers have a version of the Ten Commandments that somehow excludes the one about stealing.

Irish Septic Tank Holds the Bones of 796 ‘Illegitimate’ Children Who Died in Catholic Home


Years after a Galway-area Catholic home for unmarried Irish mothers closed its doors, two boys playing on the grounds made a gruesome discovery:

… partially broken concrete slabs covering a hollow — a disused septic tank — “filled to the brim with bones.”

So began the latest scandal to swirl around the Catholic Church, an institution whose reputation in Ireland and elsewhere is in tatters due to a gigantic child sex-abuse scandal and the subsequent cover-up. Irish Catholicism was also rocked by revelations about the cruelty and exploitation that were endemic in the Magdalene Laundries, which I previously wrote about here.

The Galway bones turned out to be human and are thought to be all that’s left of almost 800 children who died miserably in the institution that was referred to locally as, simply, “the Home,” infamously run by Bon Secours nuns. The deaths occurred over a period of 36 years, between 1925 and 1961, the year the Home was finally shut down.

There do not appear to be death certificates for some of the children, which is why a police investigation is now underway. Where there are records, the causes of death have typically been recorded as “malnutrition, measles, convulsions, tuberculosis, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”

Unwed mothers and their children lived at the Home surrounded by eight-feet-high walls, in overcrowded and sometimes squalid conditions. The child death rate at the Home may have been as high as fifty percent, a number also seen in other Catholic institutions that purported to take good care of “fallen girls.”

The Sean Ross Mother and Baby Home, portrayed in the award winning film Philomena this year, opened in Roscrea, County Tipperary in 1930. In its first year of operation 60 babies died out of a total of 120, a fifty percent infant mortality rate, more than four times higher than in the general population at the time.

Statistics show a quarter of all babies born outside marriage in the 1930’s in Ireland died before their first birthdays. As observers have remarked elsewhere, these were infant death rates from the 17th century.

In one year alone in the mid 1940’s in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in County Cork, out of the 180 babies born, 100 died.

Many who were warehoused at the Home near Galway died because of lack of nutrition and medical care.

A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243.

The report described the children as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.” The report noted that 31 children in the “sun room and balcony” were “poor, emaciated and not thriving.” The effects of long-term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly.

It will probably cheer some Vatican lovers that

… the “illegitimate” stigma was not confined to Catholics alone. Reports show that 219 infants died in the Protestant Bethany home in Rathgar, County Dublin between 1922 and 1949.

And “charity” this wasn’t, by and large. An adoption-rights advocate, Susan Lohan, told reporters that

“These were state-funded homes. Anybody who suggests the nuns were doing their best … they were not doing their best. They tendered for this business (and) wanted this business. They got a headage payment for every mother and child in their so-called care, which was greater at the time than the average industrial wage.”

While the mothers didn’t die at the same alarming rate as their children, they experienced pain and misery of a different kind:

Since there was simply no question of the birth mothers keeping their children — the shame was thought too ruinous — they lost all future claim to them. Their punishment was to work without wages for two or three years in atonement for their sins. In the homes they wore uniforms at all times, they had their names changed and they had their letters censored. …

In the few surviving black and white photographs taken at the site no child is smiling. Instead they simply frown at the camera, their blank stares suggesting the terrible conditions.

A local historian and genealogist, Catherine Corless, is trying to restore some honor to the almost 800 children whose remains were found on the grounds of the Home.

[A]s a schoolgirl Corless recalls watching an older friend wrap a tiny stone inside a bright candy wrapper and present it as a gift to one of [the institutionalized children]. “When the child opened it she saw she’d been fooled,” Corless says. “Of course I copied her later and I tried to play the joke on another little Home girl. I thought it was funny at the time.”

But later — years later — Corless realized that the children she taunted had nobody. “Years after I asked myself what did I do to that poor little girl that never saw a sweet? That has stuck with me all my life. A part of me wants to make up to them.”

Corless has helped the story onto many a front page. She’s now fundraising for a permanent bronze plaque marking the site, inscribed with the names of all the children who died at the Home, forgotten in life as well as death — until now.


Update: In the days and weeks after this story burst onto front pages all over the world, questions have been raised about the nature of the infants’ ghastly resting place. There seem to be three different, mutually exclusive claims: that the space was an active cesspit at the time, which now seems unlikely; that it was a disused (stone-slate?) septic tank, perhaps cleaned and rededicated as a burial chamber; or that it was a purpose-built crypt which investigators and/or the media (or Corless?) wrongly presented as a septic tank. See also here and here. Which is it? When we have confirmation, we’ll write another update.

Priest Held in Jewelry Heist of Patron Saint

Gold fever wins from religious fever:

A Bolivian judge has ordered a 34-year-old priest jailed in the theft of the sumptuous collection of gem-encrusted gold jewelry that bedecked a statue of the country’s patron saint, the Virgin of Copacabana.


Also under arrest in the case is the female owner of a hostel where the Rev. Jesus Cortes was lodged when the jewels disappeared April 22 from the basilica in the town on Lake Titicaca’s shore.

The jewels removed from the statue, which was carved in 1580, are worth an estimated $1 million.

Cortes was arraigned Wednesday. He lives in the eastern city of Santa Cruz and was helping out while the church’s pastor was abroad.

Authorities say Cortes was the only member of the church staff who was not mysteriously tranquilized the night of the theft.

[image via My Destination]

Priest Fapping in Church? (Video)

This guy may just be getting a little bit too much comfort from his rod and staff. In the middle of Mass, no less.


Gotta Love This Catholic Pedo’s T-Shirt

From the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

A public school teacher in Newark has agreed to the revocation of his teaching certificates over allegations that he repeatedly groped teenage boys in the 1970s and 1980s, when he was engaged in active ministry as a Roman Catholic priest.


The Rev. John Capparelli reached a settlement with the State Board of Examiners, the body that regulates teachers, ahead of a scheduled hearing before an administrative law judge earlier this month. The revocation takes effect today.

(image by Robert Sciarrino via the Star Ledger)

Child Abuse at Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries: Catholic Asylum Staff Robbed and Raped 30,000 ‘Wayward’ Girls For More than 100 Years

This story was hard to write. Hard to type, even. I had to unclench my fists a few times.

Twenty years ago, shock washed over Ireland. After the Catholic Church sold a parcel of a North Dublin convent’s grounds to a commercial developer, and the construction dig began, 155 bodies were discovered in unmarked graves. The place had been a Magdalene asylum for “wayward girls.” Apparently, inmates who met an early end had been buried in secret — many without a death certificate, without notification of parents or other family, and all without the dignity of even the simplest grave marker.

Initially conceived as rehabilitation centers for prostitutes, the Magdalene asylums — also known as the Magdalene Laundries for the “women’s work” slave labor expected of the residents — eventually grew into houses of horror. The girls, some not even teens, were forced to work seven days a week without pay. The short-term treatment intended by the founders eventually gave way to long-term incarceration. Though conditions varied from one asylum to the next, a strict code of silence was in place for most of the day throughout the Magdalene system. Long prayer sessions were mandatory.

Worse, for over a hundred years, beatings and sexual abuse are thought to have been endemic.


Continue reading my piece over at the Friendly Atheist.

Oz Priest: ‘Finders Keepers Losers Weepers’


When Clyde and Lesley Bevan were told the $6500 gold and diamond bracelet they had lost months ago had been found, they were delighted and grateful to the person who picked it up in a carpark.

Their happiness turned into incredulity when the finder told them he now owned the jewellery under a law that allows finders to keep unclaimed lost property after two months.

He said he would give Mr and Mrs Bevan the bracelet but only if they made a claim under their insurance policy and gave him half the payout.


The couple were surprised when they discovered the finder was a clergyman, the Rev. Terry McAuliffe, of St Paul’s Anglican Church in City Beach.

The Rev. McAuliffe, who said he was a former lawyer, explained he was simply offering to share his windfall with the Bevans.

“It would be nice to keep it but I felt it would be best to get it back to them,” he said. “They can get it back for 50 per cent.”

Ultimately, McAuliffe was overruled by his higher-ups, who made him give the bracelet back to the couple. They have apologized on his behalf.

[photo via the West Australian]

Priest and Catholic Teacher Jailed for Child Rape

In Philadelphia, Father Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero were sentenced to serious jailtime for child molestation.

A judge has sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to six to 12 years in prison and a former teacher to eight to 16 years in a sex-abuse case that brought down a Philadelphia church official.


The verdict supports accounts by a 24-year-old policeman’s son that he was sexually abused by the Engelhardt between 1998 and 1999 and Shero, a former sixth-grade teacher, in 2000 when he was an altar boy.

The victim’s 2009 complaint provided the hook for Philadelphia prosecutors to bring the nation’s first criminal charges against a U.S. church official for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by priests.

The same accuser has also brought down another robed pedophile.

The sexual abuse complaints [earlier] led to the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn, who had transferred Avery to the parish despite concerns he was a pedophile.

Padre Steals Church Bingo Money

Thou shalt not let thine flock’s money go unpilfered. It’s in the Bible. Somewhere. I think

A longtime priest at St. Helena Church on Cleveland’s West Side has pleaded guilty to stealing $176,000 from the Romanian Catholic institution, a prosecutor said.


The Rev. Andre Matthews, 54, used some of the money to pay credit card bills, buy cars and pay tuition for a family member to attend Cleveland State University, according to Assistant County Prosecutor James Gutierrez.

Gutierrez said some of the money Matthews stole was raised through church-sponsored bingo.

Parking for Jesus

Via Reddit.

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