Breaking News: Sweeping Changes at Vatican


A Different Kind of Monster Movie

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God premiered last fall on HBO. It shouldn’t be too long now before the film, about the sexual abuse of young deaf boys at a Catholic institution, is available for streaming via Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, and/or Hulu. The reviews at Rotten Tomatoes and iMDB have been stellar, so here at Moral Compass HQ, we’ve added it to our watch list with a good deal of anticipation.

Here’s a little taste.

Friday Funnies



And another one. Same artist (Dan Piraro); please check out his website.


[Comics by Dan Piraro. Via Godless Girl and Neatorama, respectively.]

Holiness Exemplified: 15 Friday Quickies

All news items are from the past 48 hours.

• Rabbi Yehuda Rosilio stole $130,000 worth of Torah scrolls from his own synagogue, and replaced them with cardboard-and-paper replicas.

• The former pastor of an Arkansas church, 42-year-old Hank D. Guilliams, is in jail, accused of multiple counts of sexual assault. Some of the crimes allegedly occurred in the church.

• A pastor in Jamaica invited the police into his church in an effort to quell rumors that his wife had been sleeping around. The service then erupted in “pandemonium,” according to the Jamaica Star.

• Pakistani-born Lord Ahmed, Britain’s first Muslim peer, caused an accident while he was thought to have been driving-and-texting. Although his sentence was postponed so that he could keep “building interfaith bridges,” that didn’t prevent him from going on a radio show and complaining the verdict was the result of a Jewish conspiracy.

• According to Human Rights Watch, there are at least 15 people on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, and more than 50 people have been killed while facing trial for the charge.

• Indiana pastor Jack Schaap (55, photo) had sex with a 17-year-old girl who had been sent to him for counseling. He told her that Jesus approved of his advances: “Christ wants to marry us + become eternal lovers,” he wrote her in a text message.


• Muslim Mali, a new video game for would-be jihadists, features a button in the corner of the screen that reads: “There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger.” Click on it and it sends a pulverizing black laser beam of death at the French enemy, courtesy of Allah.

• A Toronto pastor, Artelino Vallada, 36, has been charged with sexually assaulting four of his parishioners, including a 14-year-old girl.

• The FBI has apprehended a former Missouri pastor wanted on suspicion of child sexual abuse in New Orleans. George Spencer, 48, was arrested Friday on several charges of forcible sodomy of a child and child molestation.

• Jason Lee Ray, treasurer and youth pastor at a church in Tennessee, admitted to stealing money from the church from more than a year. He is thought to have taken more than $60,000.

• A retired Roman Catholic priest was given an 11-year sentence in a Newfoundland (Canada) court on Thursday for sexually abusing children. George Ansel Smith, 75, was sentenced for offenses involving 13 children he assaulted between 1969 and 1989.

• The deadliest mass killing in Orange County, Calif. history (Seal Beach, 2011, 10 dead) might have been God’s way of protesting the community’s treatment of homeless people, believes pastor Shirley Broussard. City Councilman Michael Levitt offered, however, that God wouldn’t kill a group of people just “because we didn’t pay for housing.”

• More details emerged in the Fairfield, Calif. sex-abuse case involving the Rev. Robert Ruark. Known by parishioners as “Father Silas,” Ruark was charged with more than 30 counts of committing lewd acts on children as young as 13 and, in some instances, photographing them while naked. The victims told detectives that most of the molestations took place either at the church or at his home.

• To prove that he wasn’t hungry for companionship or sex, a 59-year-old priest in Britain who is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl announced he had in fact been secretly married for more than a decade. William Finnegan claims he couldn’t have attacked the 17-year-old because, despite his vows of celibacy, he was enjoying a healthy sex life with his wife.

• Robert Lyzenga, a former pastor at Sunrise Christian Reformed Church in Lafayette, Ind., has been charged with five counts of child exploitation and five counts of voyeurism. He had installed small video cameras inside air fresheners in the women’s bathrooms at the church.

[image via the Chicago Tribune]

Of Human Bonding

Conciliation between Catholics and Jews has been a lung time coming.


[Via ABC News]

On Being Militant

Image via AtheistWorld.



Ebayer Uses God to Justify Her Thievery

Nice images, aren’t they?


The first picture was made by Stephen W. Oachs. The one in the middle is by Ksenia Raykova. The one on the right is by Carol Cavalaris.

Other than the fact that these are images by artists with some serious (and most likely hard-earned) chops, what do they all have in common?

They are among scores of digital works that are being illegally peddled on eBay by a seller named bellasmomgodsway (for the sake of brevity, we’ll just call her GodsWay). She has them listed in an eBay section called ‘Direct From the Artist.’ Yeah. Not really the kind of ‘artist’ that the good folks at eBay had in mind.

Here’s one of GodsWay’s listings:

Photo Picture Image 99 Cent Auction Owl in A Tree Hoot Owl Forest Decor Pic | eBay

Pro photographer Stephen Oachs, who got that shot, wasn’t asked. He didn’t license the image to GodsWay, and doesn’t get a penny from the eBay sale. The same is true for all the other high-end image makers whose work GodsWay rips off.

You see, GodsWay scours the Internet for quality images, copies them with a click or two, and makes them “hers” by putting her watermark smack dab in the middle. Then she lists the stolen works on eBay, and delivers them (sans watermark) to the buyer, digitally. She’s done it hundreds of times, netting as little as a dollar for each sale.

The watermark she applies (it reads ‘bellasmomgodsway’) is an especially chutzpah-filled touch, because like all watermarks, it says “this is mine, respect my copyright.” Wow.

It goes without saying that this thievery is both immoral and illegal, but we’re supposed to think it’s OK, maybe because she has a seller name with the word God in it. And the word Mom. Oh, and the name of a little girl, her future adopted daughter. Is that enough apple-pie schtick for you?

How do we know about the adopted daughter? Because GodsWay tell us in the auction description. In all of her auction descriptions, actually.


I’m not a grinch, and I’m well aware of the monetary difficulties that adoption can inflict on a family of modest means. In the past decade, my wife and I adopted two absolutely awesome girls. They mean everything to us. With a good deal of financial pain (which we knowingly brought upon ourselves when we decided to adopt), we paid all our adoption-related expenses — get this — without resorting to petty crime.

Maybe an all-powerful Creator could get GodsWay to reflect on the fact that some of those expenses were paid thanks to my work as a professional photographer. I work hard to create my images; then I sell them, and I provide for my family with those sales. As a result, I find it ever-so-slightly galling when people invoke the Almighty to screw actual creators out of enough of our livelihoods that it may well affect our own chances of adopting another child — or of buying our existing kids meals, books, toys, an education, and so on.

A friend sent GodsWay a message via eBay, asking if she’ll teach her future child that the Bible says it’s cool to steal other people’s stuff.

No reply yet.


Postscript:  The image guidelines that we apply on this blog are here.

Update: GodsWay’s eBay listings all got pulled Thursday evening EST — whether as a result of multiple complaints about her thieving behavior, we cannot say.

[Big thanks to Michelle Grove for the editorial tip]


George Lucas Meets the Pope

…with maybe a little Futurama thrown in.


What Did the Pope Do in Junta-Era Argentina?

From the mid seventies to the early eighties, Argentina was politically wracked by a military junta that had illegally seized power from the Péron government in 1976. The generals, led by unelected President Jorge Videla, held on to the reins until 1983.

Thousands of people who opposed the regime were murdered, a purge that Videla deemed regrettable but necessary to restore “Christian morals and values.” The dictator saw himself as a bulwark against terrorism, and he defined a terrorist as

…not only someone with a gun or bomb, but also anyone who encourages their use by ideas incompatible with Western Christian civilization.

Suspected dissidents could expect to be arrested or kidnapped, and taken to secret detention centers, where they might undergo torture

…with methods including electric shock, rape, simulated asphyxiation with water, and mock executions. They were left naked in cold wet cells through the winter, and were told their families would be killed if they didn’t tell what they knew.

Perhaps we will soon learn what Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now the new Pope, did and didn’t do during those seven dark and terrifying years.

We already know this: The Catholic Church as a whole did not oppose the dirty war, nor did it publicly protest the treatment of any of the scores of left-leaning activists and intellectuals who were kidnapped, beaten, tortured and killed. In fact, the church did pretty much the opposite. It habitually offered Videla support and advice.

A relative of one of dictator Videla's "disappeared" reacts to the news of his sentencing.

A relative of one of dictator Videla’s victims reacts to his sentencing.

Just last year, around the time of Videla’s long-overdue sentencing, the close ties between Videla’s goons and the Roman Catholic prelates who lent him a veneer of legitimacy was confirmed by none other than … Videla himself.

Argentina’s former military dictator said he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of “disappearing” political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to “manage” the policy.

Jorge Videla said he had “many conversations” with Argentina’s primate, Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta, about his regime’s dirty war against left-wing activists. He said there were also conversations with other leading bishops from Argentina’s episcopal conference as well as with the country’s papal nuncio at the time, Pio Laghi. “They advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation,” said Videla in a series of interviews conducted by the magazine El Sur in 2010 but published only on Sunday [July 21, 2012].

Videla’s confession to El Sur

… confirms long-held suspicions that Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy collaborated with the military’s so-called process of national reorganisation, which sought to root out communism. In the years following the 1976 coup led by Videla, thousands of left-wing activists were swept up into secret detention centers where they were tortured and murdered. Military chaplains were assigned as spiritual advisers to the junior officers who staffed the centers.

In the 2012 book Disposición Final by Argentinian journalist Ceferino Reato,

Videla confirms for the first time that between 1976 and 1983, 8,000 Argentinians were murdered by his regime. The bodies were hidden or destroyed to prevent protests at home and abroad.

It’s debatable whether the ex-dictator truly came clean with that statement. Other sources, including human-rights groups, put the number of disappeared at 30,000 or more.

But the complicity of so-called men of the cloth has long been an open secret. Military cadets of the era recall that Catholic chaplains told them that “torture was not a moral problem but a weapon.”

The vicar for the army, Bishop Bonamin, characterized the government’s actions as a defense of

…morality, human dignity, and ultimately a struggle to defend God … Therefore, I pray for divine protection over this ‘dirty war’ in which we are engaged.

Through it all, where was Father Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis?

It’s a fair question, isn’t it? He was already a star within Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy, recognized for his work rigor and leadership potential.

And there just may be a couple of skeletons in his closet:

On 15 April 2005, a human-rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, as superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina, accusing him of involvement in the kidnapping by the Navy in May 1976 (during the military dictatorship) of two Jesuit priests. The priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, were found alive five months later, drugged and semi-nude. The complaint did not specify the nature of Bergoglio’s alleged involvement, and Bergoglio’s spokesman flatly denied the allegations.

Nothing came of it, but I expect that a tenacious investigative journalist can build substantially on the groundbreaking work of award-winning Argentinian muckraker Horacio Verbitsky, who explored his country’s Dirty War in books and articles. Verbitsky got several of the Videla regime’s henchmen to talk about their crimes. For instance, former navy captain Adolfo Scilingo, now serving a 640-year sentence in Spain for killing suspected leftists in Argentina, told Verbitsky that under Videla, “We did terrible things …, worse than the Nazis.” Scilingo pushed some 30 of his victims out of military planes flying over the Atlantic. Scilingo says he was so disturbed by his first death flight that he went to see a navy chaplain, Time magazine reported in 1995.

“He told me that it was a Christian death because they did not suffer, that it was necessary to eliminate them, that war was war and even the Bible provided for eliminating the weeds from the wheat field.”

The Roman Catholic Church, long criticized for tolerating the military, responded last week with a veiled mea culpa chastising priests who may have condoned the “dirty war.”

Perhaps Father Bergoglio somehow managed to avoid this then-pervasive, nasty political maelstrom. Or he might have found himself in the middle of it — holding, as he did, a position of prominence within the very Catholic Church that collaborated with Videla’s junta at the highest levels.

General Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, beloved by Catholics

General Jorge Rafael Videla, beloved by Argentina’s Catholic establishment

As the brand new Pope Francis, who shepherds more than a billion Catholics and who is their final arbiter of morality, Cardinal Bergoglio should both expect to and be able to withstand a little scrutiny.

For the sake of the Catholic Church and its followers, critical questions about il Papa‘s past should have been raised well before his election today. If they were, within the conclave perhaps, the world is now entitled to the answers. If they weren’t, I’m counting on a few enterprising reporters to begin providing the facts in some detail.


P.S.  For another example of how the Catholic Church too often aids strongmen and dictators, going as far as to encourage oppression and murder, read Luis Granados’ spine-chilling account of the Spanish Civil War. The Vatican, the Spanish Catholic leadership, and Generalissimo Franco all egged each other on to see who could be the fiercest anti-communist. With the Church’s blessing, Franco accepted military aid, including operational support, from both Hitler and Mussolini. More than 100,000 people went missing in the Spanish conflict. In most cases, they were never heard from again. In the Spanish countryside, the bones of the victims still occasionally work themselves to the surface of their unmarked shallow graves, as if begging to be acknowledged.

 [top image via De Volkskrant; bottom image via Cutting Edge News]

Gaybashing New Pope Invokes “Father of Lies”

The new Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, opposes marriage equality (but of course). He is so fiercely against it, in fact, that he claims those in favor have aligned themselves with Satan:

“Let’s not be naive. We’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”


Sadly, he’s not quite as good at speaking out against non-fictional, plain-as-day evil:

Critics accuse him of failing to stand up publicly against the country’s military dictatorship from 1976-1983, when victims and their relatives often brought first-hand accounts of torture, death and kidnappings.


Irony, Thy Name is Religion

Bekasi Pastor Charged With Assaulting Member of Intolerant Group | The Jakarta Globe

[from the Jakarta Globe]

That’s One Way To Win Them Back

A great product needs no advertising, they say. And so:

Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. has a problem: He needs to fill his 1,500-seat evangelical mega-church in Miami Gardens on a Tuesday night. Solution: The holy man is promising to eat a cockroach live onstage tonight if enough worshippers come out. It’s just the latest attendance-boosting stunt from a pastor who’s shaved half his head, waxed his legs, and even been Tasered onstage.