Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vatican told to pay taxes as Italy tackles budget crisis

End of controversial property tax breaks leaves the Pope facing €600m-a-year bill

After several years of scandal in which the Catholic Church has faced allegations of financial impropriety, paedophile priests and rumours of plots to kill the Pope, the Vatican is now facing a new €600m-a-year tax bill as Rome seeks to head off European Commission censure over controversial property tax breaks enjoyed by the Church.

As the EC heads closer to officially condemning the fiscal perks enjoyed by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Berlusconi administration, Prime Minister Mario Monti has written to the Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, saying that the Vatican will resume property tax, or Ici, payments.

Mr Almunia said in 2010 that the exemption amounted to state aid that might breach EU competition law. A parliamentary proposal by the Italian Radicals party last August to repeal the exemption, with a successful petition on Facebook, upped the pressure. A spokesman for Mr Almunia appeared to give the thumbs-up yesterday: "It is a proposal that constitutes a significant progress on the issue and I hope will be implemented," he said.

"This is a victory for public pressure," said Mario Staderini, the leader of the Italian Radicals party. "We've managed to break down – a little bit – the wall protecting the Church."

The Vatican avoids Ici tax on about 100,000 properties, classed as non-commercial, including 8,779 schools, 26,300 ecclesiastical structures and 4,714 hospitals and clinics.

Estimates of its annual saving from avoiding the levy range widely from €600m to €2.2bn. The Church, however, says the tax exemption is worth only €100m a year. Neither is it clear from Mr Monti's comments how much Ici tax the Church will now have to pay.

Since 2005 church-run organisations have not been considered ordinary commercial structures and have been exempt. According to Corriere della Sera newspaper, tax authorities will judge how much of a property is used purely for religious purposes and tax it accordingly. Thus a church will remain exempt. But a hostel with a chapel would have to make contributions. In addition, Mr Monti said in his letter that by changing the law, and removing some of the church's exemption from Ici, he expected the EC to relent on demands that tax payments be backdated.

"We think the Church should have to pay the arrears," said Mr Staderini. "It should make the payment back to 2005. Given how much the Vatican stood to pay with arrears, I think they will not be that unhappy with the result."

Monsignor Domenico Pompili, a spokesman for the Italian Bishops Conference said the Church hoped the "social value" of their establishments would be taken into account.

Meanwhile, as the Vatican financial authorities do their sums and continue to lobby, the Holy See has announced an official investigation into a series of embarrassing leaks. After the child abuse and financial scandals of recent years, the prospects for another annus horribilis were underlined last week when a document emerged suggesting there was a plot to kill Pope Benedict XVI this year.

"It's now complete war inside the Vatican," said Robert Mickens, The Tablet's Rome correspondent, who has20 years' experience of reporting on the Vatican. "Things are falling apart."

The rancour has been blamed on manoeuvring surrounding the succession of Pope Benedict and the exceptional unpopularity of the current leadership.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Benedict's A History Of Violence: Christendom vs. Islam


On Throwing Stones: A History of Violence- Christendom Past was Not Peaceful.

September 26, 2006

The Pope's Evil Legend

Mohammed's Sword


Since the days when Roman Emperors threw Christians to the lions, the relations between the emperors and the heads of the church have undergone many changes. Constantine the Great, who became Emperor in the year 306--exactly 1700 years ago--encouraged the practice of Christianity in the empire, which included Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title of Pope, demanded that the Emperor accept his superiority.
The struggle between the Emperors and the Popes played a central role in European history and divided the peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some Emperors dismissed or expelled a Pope, some Popes dismissed or excommunicated an Emperor. One of the Emperors, Henry IV, "walked to Canossa", standing for three days barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope's castle, until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication. But there were times when Emperors and Popes lived in peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present Emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a world-wide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "Clash of Civilizations".

IN HIS lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah. As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an Israeli living near the fault-line of this

"war of civilizations". In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul? To support his case, the Pope quoted--of all people--a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had--or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt)--with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

These words give rise to three questions:

(a) Why did the Emperor say them?

(b) Are they true?

(c) Why did the present Pope quote them?

WHEN MANUEL II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.
At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube. They had conquered Bulgaria and the north of Greece, and had twice defeated relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern Empire. In 1453, only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul) fell to the Turks, putting an end to the Empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years. During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the
church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics. In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.

IS THERE any truth in Manuel's argument?

The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256 (strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith". How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down by the prophet when he was at the beginning of his career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he ordered the use of the sword in the service of the faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur'an. True, Muhammad called for the use of the sword in his war against opposing tribes--Christian, Jewish and others--in Arabia, when he was building his state. But that was a political act, not a religious one; basically a fight for territory, not for the spreading of the faith. Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"? Well, they just did not. For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian. True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits. In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith--and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?
What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

WHY? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service--a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion--because it entailed the loss of taxes. Every honest Jew who knows the
history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.

THE STORY about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims--the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions. Why did he utter these words in public? And why now? There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "Global War on Terrorism"--when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.
The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences?

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in
The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pope Benedict Blames God For Holocaust

In the ultimate display of RANK MINDBLOWING HYPOCRISY Pope Benedict (Arnold?) blames God for being "silent" during the Holocaust.

OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) -" Pope Benedict XVI visited the Auschwitz concentration camp as "a son of the German people" Sunday and asked God why he remained silent during the "unprecedented mass crimes" of the Holocaust."

No Benedict, God was not silent he talked to those who chose to listen. Many people stood up to the Nazi's and paid with their lives. Hitler and the German people paid a heavy price for their evil.

"Benedict walked along the row of plaques at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex's memorial, one in the language of each nationality whose members died there. As he stopped to pray, a light rain stopped and a brilliant rainbow appeared over the camp. "To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible - and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a pope from
Germany," he said later. "In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can be only a dread silence, a silence which itself is a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?"

The question is why did the so called German "Christians" support a Satanic belief system and choose to ignore the teachings of God and Jesus Christ? Why were Hitler and members of the Nazi Party never excommunicated from the Catholic Church? Why did Pope Pius conclude a Concordat with the Nazis?

"Benedict said that just as his predecessor, John Paul II visited the camp as a Pole in 10979, he came as "a son of the German people." "The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the Earth," he said, standing near the demolished crematoriums where the Nazis burned the bodies of their victims. "By destroying Israel with the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention."

What role did the German churches and the Vatican play in fueling violent anti-semitism historically in Europe? Why did the Vatican's fear of communism lead it to support murderous fascist regimes? Why does the Vatican continue to try to sanctify war criminals?

Benedict why do you continue to remain silent about the role the Vatican played in the Holocaust?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Vatican Rat Lines & The Destruction of Yugoslavia

Meddelsome Priests

A look at the case against the Vatican "ratlines", Croation gold and the destruction of Yugoslavia.

from Jan Herman's Straight Up blog

January 19, 2006


While a new translation of Eli Wiesel's Holocaust memoir, "Night," is being touted by Oprah Winfrey to millions of Americans, a much less publicized piece of Holocaust history is being played out in a federal court in San Francisco, where a former U.S. Army intelligence officer has testified that the man who became Pope Paul VI "helped hide and launder property that had been stolen" from Nazi victims in Yugoslavia during World War II. The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz has "obtained testimony given last month by William Gowen," who is now in his 80s, which reveals that after the war Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (elected pope in 1963), right, was personally linked not just to those criminal acts but also "was involved in the sheltering and smuggling of Croatian war criminals, such as the leader of the Ustashe movement, Ante Pavelic." Reporter Yossi Melman outlined the intricate, historical background of the case in a story, "Tied up in the Rat Lines," which appeared earlier this week in Ha'aretz, much of it familiar to experts who have followed the issue for many years. But the case is unusual for, among other things, directly accusing the pope by name. Although reams of original documents have already been published about the Vatican's involvement with the so-called Rat Lines, a network that helped hide Nazi war criminals after World War II to keep them from being arrested and put on trial, the term "papal favorite" is the closest that a collection of documents as extensive as The Pavelic Papers has come to actually naming Montini. Montini served as the Vatican's deputy secretary of state during the war, before ascending to the papacy. (Have a look at a declassified 1947 memorandum by Gowen, commenting about Pavelic's contacts in the Vatican.)
Melman notes:

Hundreds of war criminals were provided with church and Red Cross papers that enabled them to hide in safe houses and then flee from Europe, mainly to the Middle East and South America. Among them were Klaus Barbie ("the butcher of Lyon"), Adolf Eichmann, Dr. Josef Mengele and Franz Stengel, the commander of the Treblinka death camp. The Vatican network was also used by leaders of the Ustashe -- the nationalist Croatian Catholic movement that was active in Croatia and collaborated with the Nazi occupation. Melman cites an American document, based on a report from the Italian police and placed in evidence at the trial in San Francisco, along with Gowen's testimony. Gowen told the court: "The Reverend Dr. Prof. Krunoslav Draganovic seemed to be in cooperation with the Ustasha network. And he was given a Vatican assignment as the apostolic visitor for Croatians, which meant he reported directly to Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini." Melman writes further: The leaders of the Ustashe headed by Pavelic are the ones who stole the victims' property: art and jewelry -- silver and mostly gold. After the war they fled with the treasure and laundered it with the help of Vatican institutions. According to Gowen's testimony, Montini, who in 1964 became the first pope to visit the State of Israel, was also involved in the Vatican's help in laundering the wealth. Montini headed the Catholic Church until his death in 1978. The lawsuit, with an amended complaint added last week, demands restitution for the Jewish, Russian, Serb, Ukrainian and Roma victims. It is "based on earlier investigations and reports from American government agencies, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and committees of historians who researched the matter of the Jewish property in Swiss banks," Melman reports. "Led by the Vatican Bank and the Franciscan order and others," the defendants "deny the charges against them and made every effort to have the charges dismissed," he adds. "So far, the court has rejected these efforts outright and determined that the deliberations would continue. But the defendants are tenacious and now they are demanding that publication of Gowen's testimony be prohibited." (Here's a Web site posted by the plaintiffs' attorneys.) Gowen served as a special agent in an American counter-intelligence unit in Rome after the war ended. The unit was assigned to track down Italian Fascists, Nazi war criminals and their collaborators, including the Ustashe leaders. "To try and find Pavelic you had to discover how the Ustashe network in Italy was constituted, how it operated, what were its bases," Gowen testified, according to Melman. Melman continues: A key person in the Pontifical Croatian college was Rev. Draganovic, the Croatian ambassador to the Vatican. Draganovic and the college issued false papers to Croatian war criminals, among them Pavelic and Artukovic. "I personally investigated Draganovic -- who told me he was reporting to Montini," emphasized Gowen. Gowen related that at a certain stage Montini learned, apparently from the head of the OSS unit in Rome, James Angleton, who nurtured relations with Montini and the Vatican, of the investigation Gowen's unit was conducting. [The OSS refers to the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency.] Montini complained about Gowen to his superiors and accused him of having violated the Vatican's immunity by having entered church buildings, such as the Croatian college, and conducting searches there. The aim of the complaint was to interfere with the investigation. Melman writes that "in his testimony, Gowen also stated that Draganovic helped the Ustashe launder the stolen treasure with the help of the Vatican Bank: This money was used to fund its religious activities, but also to fund the escape of Ustashe leaders on the Rat Line." The issue of Vatican complicity in Nazi crimes has echoed for decades long after the war's end, complicated by the Catholic Church's "continuing secrecy," as U.S. News and World Report noted in 1998. This has forced accusers to equivocate, despite mounting evidence. ("We make no charges against the Vatican, but we keep building a very damning picture," Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, told the magazine at the time.) But many of the historical connections, down to current times, have been out in the open in Europe even if less known in the United States. For example, "the Vatican made a huge push to break up Yugoslavia in the early '90s," William Osborne, a longtime observer of Holocaust history, says. "They thus helped provoke the civil war that happened. The Vatican wanted an independent Croatia, which is Catholic." It was "almost an obsession with the Munich newspaper Suddeutscher Zeitung and the ruling political and Catholic elite in Bavaria," where Pope Benedict XVI, above left, comes from. Yugoslavia, which maintained considerable independence from the Soviet Union, did not collapse with the rest of the East Block. But when it did fall as the last communist country of Europe, he says, "the same old dark Catholic forces were a central player in all of it. Croatia supported the Nazis, and those links evolved into the relations Croatia has with Bavaria and the Catholic Church to this day. What goes unmentioned, and which is so ironic, is that the Vatican stands accused of harboring war criminals from the 1990s as well."

Monday, May 01, 2006


Out Of The Mouths of Babes....

A fifteen year old girl asks "What Would Jesus Do?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Christendom's Misinterpretation of The Book of Revelation

Christendom has so twisted and distorted the meaning of Revelation, but that's understandable given that they don't understand it. DragonSlayerWanted

March 23, 2006
Apocalyptic Times

by Maureen Farrell Buzz Flash

"We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit they're dazed and confused. The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic." -- Hunter S. Thompson, Nov. 20, 2000 A few years ago, a Time/CNN poll found that that more than a third of Americans search the news for signs of the Apocalypse. Since Sept. 11, they've not had to look very hard. In the immediate aftermath of World Trade Center attacks, for example, the Associated Press reported on Satan's visage in the smoke clouds, an incident Peggy Noonan wrote about in the Wall Street Journal. "If you are of a certain cast of mind, it is of course meaningful that the face of the Evil One seemed to emerge with a roar from the furnace that was Tower One," she wrote, before reminding readers that a cross emerged unharmed amid the falling concrete and wreckage. Of course Jesus made his fair share of appearances, too. A "winking Jesus" from Hoboken, N.J. was featured in the New York Daily News while a Jesus-in-a-window got considerable airtime on a Texas NBC affiliate. One North Carolina TV station was prophetically prolific, reporting on the Messiah's apparitions on everything from tail pipes to dental x-rays to fish bones. Yes, since Sept. 11, the news has gotten more surreal, with divine sightings and apocalyptic musings becoming more commonplace. Such talk has always been with us, of course, but it's no longer tied to David Koresh or Marshall Applewhite or Jim Jones-type cultists. "One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress," Bill Moyers wrote, regarding the shifting political realities fueling this mindset. From the political to the personal, people are reporting on, and preparing for, the end of the world. And though apocalyptic reports have ranged from the superstitious and silly to the sensational and scary, few can argue that they're not on the rise. How weird have things become? Consider the following:

Former GOP Strategist says 'a lot of Americans have stopped worrying about the economy because they're waiting for the Second Coming.' The Emerging Republican Majority author and former GOP Strategist Kevin Phillips bluntly states that "[T]he Religious Right and the would-be theocrats are the danger now," telling Lou Dobbs that many Americans have literally stopped worrying about the economy "because they're waiting for the Second Coming." Phillips' latest book American Theocracy was also the basis for a question posed to Mr. Bush in Cleveland this week when a reporter asked, "Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse?" It took Bush five minutes to answer, when a simple "Yes or No" would have sufficed. Why? As Phillips points out, with 45% of Americans now believing that the Antichrist is already on earth, Bush risks alienating a large segment of the population, regardless how he answers. "He can't answer the question weather or not he believes in Armageddon or it's happening in the Middle East," Phillips states. "He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't."Madonna is trying to purchase a front row seat for the return of the Messiah. In March 2006, it was reported that Madonna is attempting to buy a house overlooking the Sea of Galilee, to get a bird's eye view of the Messiah when he returns. "US pop diva Madonna wants to buy a house in the Israeli town of Rosh Pina, where the ancient Jewish Kabbalah tradition expects the Messiah to appear at the end of the world," the AFP reported. According to the Times of London, representatives for the singer have been propositioning homeowners "offering to pay any price to secure a property on her behalf," with one resident already agreeing to sell her house, which is worth approximately $500,000, for $1 million. Will Madonna ante up? Will she find her apocalyptic dream house in time? Stay tuned.

London's Independent runs the headline: 'Apocalypse Now: How Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth'Is that headline apocalyptic enough for you? If not, the accompanying article offers plenty of food for fretting. Citing urgent warnings from 200 of the world's top climate scientists, the article highlights the climate changes currently taking place and the consensus that time is running out to reverse this disastrous trend. Floods? Droughts? Oceans turning to acid? Oddly enough, some actually welcome such trouble. "Many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire," Glenn Scherer pointed out in Grist Magazine. "They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that
environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming Apocalypse." In Feb. 2006, despite the Bush administration's attempts to muzzle him, Jim Hansen, President Bush's "top climate modeler," and the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, reported that Greenland's ice cap is breaking up twice as quickly as it was five years ago. "We don't have much time left," he wrote, giving a scientific slant to Biblical and other prophecies. A talking fish says the end is near. Before the start of the war in Iraq, the New York Times and other major news organizations reported on how a talking fish stunned workers in New York City. "A fish heading for slaughter in a New York market shouted warnings about the end of the world before it was killed" the BBC announced in March, 2003, reporting on two fish cutters who heard the fish say 'Tzaruch shemirah' and 'Hasof bah'," which essentially means [in Hebrew] that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is nigh." The Guardian/Observer reported that "some now believe the fish's outburst was a warning about the dangers of the impending war in Iraq," citing George W. Bush's alleged Messianic beliefs as cause for concern. The 'mark of the beast' is making a comeback. In the 1760s, American colonists believed that the Stamp Act, which required a stamp to be placed on legal documents, might actually relate to the "mark of the beast" the Book of Revelation warned against. In the 1930s, some opined that the mark might be found in the "union label" commercial jingles later told us to look for. These days, however, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has people seeing 666. Though the State Department was set to begin using RFID tags in passports beginning this year, the negative reaction was so overwhelming that the government had to hold off on its plans. "No mark of the beast for me you Luciferian beehivers. You can take all those RFID chips wrapped like a burrito in the HR 4(6+6+6) national id bill and stick it up yor [sic] own arse!" wrote one irate poster on the State Department's Web site. Although anti-RFID activists (who despite Harvard educations, also believe these chips might be "the mark of the beast") continue to rail against this technology, RFID implants are being used by businesses and hospitals and are being marketed to parents. "Why is [former Bush administration official Tommy Thompson] volunteering for the Mark of the Beast?" Blogosphere heavyweight asked, just months before RFID implants became the talk of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation hearings.

A Seattle newspaper asks, "Is Bush the Antichrist?"No news of the "mark of the beast" is complete without speculation regarding the Antichrist, of course, and Rev. Rich Lang's sermon "George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism," is a perfect place to start. "You sit atop the nations like the Biblical Whore of Babylon openly fornicating with the military men of might," Lang wrote in an open letter to the president, accusing the entire Bush White House of a "diabolical manipulation of Christian rhetoric" which is "the materialization of the spirit of Antichrist: a perversion of Christian faith and practice." (In a more secular contemplation of evil, former Wall Street Journal editor and Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts openly wondered if the Bush administration would covertly plot another 9/11 -- and perhaps even set off a nuclear bomb to advance its agenda. ) As Christian leaders squared off in a Seattle Weekly article regarding the nature of the Antichrist and his relationship to the current administration, columnists and bloggers wondered whether or not God speaks to (and through) George W. Bush. Recently, Congresswoman Katherine Harris, of 2000 election fame, told those attending a "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference that she believes God wants her to run for the Senate. If so, God surely works in mysterious ways. Legendary American novelists say the world is coming to an end. I'm trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending!," Kurt Vonnegut recently declared, right about the time that Madonna was reported to be looking for real estate for the event. The late Hunter S. Thompson also made a similar observation. "This is going to be just like the Book of Revelation said it was going to be -- the end of the world as we knew it," he wrote in 2003. The Guardian says the world will 'probably' end in 2006. In 1997, former Wall Street Journal journalist Michael Drosnin wrote The Bible Code, based on the premise that hidden messages are embedded within the Bible. Using a letter-based numerological system created by Jewish mystics and facilitated by computer technology, Drosnin searched for signs of the Apocalypse and found that 2006 and 2012 have special significance. How significant? While followers of the Mayan prophecy often point to Dec. 21, 2012 as the day the world will end, in Jan. 2006, the Guardian/Observer cited Drosnin's sequel, the Bible Code II, to make its own tongue-in-cheek prediction.

Q: Will the world end this year? A: Probably. According to Michael Drosnin's Bible Code II, 'atomic holocaust' and 'world war' are predicted in The Bible for 2006. Many people expect the Rapture, Christ's devastating return to Earth, to start 6 June 2006, due to similarities with the number of the beast 6-6-6. Fingers crossed he'll hold off until 6 June 2106 or 3106. US tabloid the Weekly World News states an oil crisis will mean 'the world will return to medieval status'. Sounds like we're there already." A 'crying' statue is given major mainstream attention. While thousands of divine apparitions are reported each year, they are usually attributed to natural causes or hoaxes and are not taken very seriously. In a 1998 article for Forbes magazine, however, when Peggy Noonan penned her prescient warning regarding "the big, terrible thing [certain to occur] to New York or Washington," she spoke of such matters as if they were Gospel truth. "When the Virgin Mary makes her visitations--she's never made so many in all of
recorded history as she has in this century--she says: Pray! Pray unceasingly!" Noonan wrote.
Noonan's superstitious nature aside, by March, 2006, the mainstream media also began taking such apparitions seriously. A statue of the Virgin Mary -- which is said to be crying blood --grabbed national headlines and was featured on national morning television. Most Americans believe that the prophecy in the Book of Revelation is going to come true. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, sales of the Left Behind series jumped 60%, with Book 9, which was published that October, becoming the best-selling novel that year. Two years later, Time/CNN magazine poll underscored why the series was so popular -- finding that 59% of Americans believe that the Book of Revelation is going to come true. If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of last book in the Left Behind series, Glorious Appearing, and publish it across the Middle East, Americans would go berserk," Joe Bageant wrote, of the twelfth book in the series. "Yet tens of millions of Christians eagerly await and celebrate an End Time when everyone who disagrees with them will be murdered in ways that make Islamic beheading look like a bridal shower."
Why does this matter?

1) Left Behind series co-author Rev. Timothy LaHaye -- the political activist Rolling Stone dubbed "Rev. Doomsday" -- reportedly played a "quiet but pivotal role" in putting George W. Bush in the White House. 2) LaHaye shares the same End Times theology as the Islamofascists we're trying to neuter. "And as far as the imminent apocalypse is concerned, they're on the same page as the Mullahs in Tehran," conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote of America's fundamentalists. "Just in case you were sleeping soundly at night." The "Rapture Index" stands at 'Fasten Your Seatbelts'. To anyone paying attention to the Left Behind series phenomenon, it is no surprise that prophetic activity is currently being analyzed and measured. The "Rapture Index," which founder Todd Strandberg calls "the Dow Jones Industrial Average of End Time activity," has been given widespread attention, something that would have been unheard of just a decade ago. Even more importantly, it's being taken seriously. Last year, Jon Carroll spelled out the significance of this new form of prophetic measurement. "What does it all mean?," he asked in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The Rapture Index, as of this writing, stands at 153. Anything over 145 is labeled by the Rapture Actuaries as 'Fasten your seat belts.' In other words: Repent for the End Is Near." A Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich is auctioned on e-bay. Remember when a decade-old Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich fetched $28,000 on e-bay? Soon afterwards, the Virgin Mother miraculously appeared on a frying pan while Jesus manifested on indoor plumbing. Attempts to auction off these and other miracles, however, did not receive national and/or international attention. The White House consults with End Times zealots before setting policy. While the link between the Bush White House and the Religious Right was clear from the start, the connection between those actually rooting for the End Times and Mr. Bush was not. Before the war in Iraq, President Jimmy Carter explained why the majority of Christian churches were against military intervention (except for those literally praying for Armageddon), but few knew why Mr. Bush was shunning mainstream churches in favor of the more rapture-minded.

"Some wonder if the president might be influenced by evangelical teachings that envision an end-of-the-world battle between Israel and its enemies. It would be dangerous for a president to take a particular theology like that and apply it to world events," former Nixon aide Charles Colson mused, a little more than a year before the Guardian reported that "US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy." Ultimately, however, an e-mail unearthed by the Village Voice proved how entrenched fundamentalists actually are. "Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios," Rick Perlstein wrote, in an article that should scare the bejesus out of everyone. Legislation to Turn the US into a Theocracy is Introduced in the House. Remember when Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior James Watt said that we need not worry about depleting our natural resources because, thanks to End Times prophecies, future generations won’t be needing them anyway? Or when Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said he believed that "time is running out ..." as in Armageddon is approaching? Back then, Frank Zappa appeared on Crossfire, shocking panelists when he said that the US was gearing up to become a fascist theocracy. More than two decades later, legislation to complete the transformation was introduced in the House. "If enacted, the Constitution Restoration Act will effectively transform the United States into a theocracy, where the arbitrary dictates of a 'higher power' can override law," Chris Floyd wrote. Columnist James Heflin warned that "If the Act passes, Iraqis would have stronger protection from religious extremism than Americans."
Cosponsored by Sen. Brownback, whose rent is subsidized by the "secretive" religious organization, the Fellowship, the legislation is the work of Dominionists, or Christian Reconstructionists, who call for the "universal development of Biblical theocratic republics."
The crusade to Christianize America in order to prepare for Christ's Second Coming is not one that is going away any time soon. The Act, which was reintroduced in 2005, is currently being marketed by the media-savvy Concerned Women For America, which was founded and is headed by Rev. Timothy LaHaye's wife, Beverly.

Members of Congress try to facilitate apocalyptic prophecy. In the 19th century, a British minister named John Darby came up with a theory of "premillennial dispensationalism," pointing to end times signs such as wars, natural disasters, a global economy, and the return of the Jews to the land promised by God to Abraham. Recently, members of Congress (nearly half of whom are backed by the Religious Right) have expressed their support for what many see as the prerequisite for Christ's return: making certain that Israel fully belongs to the Jews. Though the idea of dispensationalism took root when Darby began preaching in America, Ronald Reagan took things one step further, appointing Late Great Planet Earth author Hal Lindsey as a Middle East affairs consultant to the Israeli government and the Pentagon. But these days, End Times zealots have even greater influence. "Christian Zionist leaders today have access to the White House and strong support within Congress, including the backing of the two most recent majority leaders in the House of Representatives," the Christian Science Monitor explained. Sen. James Inhofe told his fellow Senators that Israel had a right to the occupied territories "because God said so" while former House minority leader Rep. Richard Armey told Hardball host Chris Matthews that he favored "transporting" the Palestinians to other countries. Tom DeLay has been especially active, and George Bush is said to have blessed Christian Zionists with a "videotaped benediction" directly from the White House. While many Israelis welcome such support, author Gershom Gorenberg underscores the underlying ugliness. "They don't love the real Jewish people," he told CBS' 60 Minutes. "They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that's not who we are. If you listen to the drama that they are describing, essentially it's a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act."In a starkly honest essay, Christian Reconstructist Gary North pointed to the elephant in the revival tent. "In order for most of today’s Christians to escape physical death, two-thirds of the Jews in Israel must perish, soon. This is the grim prophetic trade-off that fundamentalists rarely discuss publicly, but which is the central motivation in the movement’s support for Israel, he wrote, regarding fundamentalists' defense of "the doctrine of an inevitable holocaust." Given the Y2K brouhaha, why would anyone take North or any other fundamentalist seriously? Perhaps because, thanks largely to the formation of the Values Action Team, the Religious Right has been given "a direct lobbying line to the US Congress." Middle East Official warns that the "Gates of Hell" will be opened after Iraq invasion. Arab League chief Amr Moussa's famous 2002 prediction that a war in Iraq would "open the gates of hell" in the Middle East was made official in Feb. 2006, when the Australian reported that "the gates of Hell are opened." (Given that prominent conservatives are now issuing mea culpas regarding the war in Iraq, perhaps hell has merely frozen over?) When the war in Iraq began, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story entitled, "War in Babylon has evangelicals seeing Earth's final days" while the Washington Post subtitled one of its pieces, "End-Time Interpreters See Biblical Prophecies Being Fulfilled." Both were criticized by Christianity Today for being inaccurate. Which conjures up the most obvious question. How can anyone measure the validity of any of these predictions? Unless the world actually ends, that is? After all, end times prophecies have been with us throughout history, with each proving more inaccurate than the last. Even so, there is something unique about our post-9/11 world that not only lends itself to bizarre supernatural assumptions, but the idea that such superstitions, if acted upon, could lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. "For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington," Bill Moyers wrote. In other words, prepare for the news to get even weirder.

Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Vatican Attempts To Rehabilitate Its Crusader Image

In a pathetic attempt to mask their bloody history the church seeks to sell a kind gentle version of violent crusaders. The crusaders were motivated by greed not faith and the popes who sent them to the holy land were motivated by a desire for power over new territory. The various popes including Urban II were also motivated by a desire to prevent violent feuding "christian" nobles from turning europe into an endless war zone, encouraging them to fight muslims instead of each other. The crusaders were seduced by false calls to glory as well as the possibility of gaining great wealth, land and markets. Made up of European soldiers and peasants, they managed to slaughter many muslims as well as jews who happened to be in the cities that they marched from along the way to Jerusalem. Consider the scene in this film, Richard the Lionhearted (Henry Wilcoxon): "I fight for the Cross." Saladin (Ian Keith): "No. You wear the Cross of one who gave his life in this very land that men might be at peace. But you have no faith in this Cross." —From Cecil B. DeMille's historical spectacle, THE CRUSADES (1935). DragonSlayerWanted

Vatican change of heart over 'barbaric' Crusades

From Richard Owen in Rome

The Vatican has begun moves to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a conference at the weekend that portrays the Crusades as wars fought with the “noble aim” of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity. The Crusades are seen by many Muslims as acts of violence that have underpinned Western aggression towards the Arab world ever since. Followers of Osama bin Laden claim to be taking part in a latter-day “jihad against the Jews and Crusaders”. The late Pope John Paul II sought to achieve Muslim- Christian reconciliation by asking “pardon” for the Crusades during the 2000 Millennium celebrations. But John Paul’s apologies for the past “errors of the Church” — including the Inquisition and anti-Semitism — irritated some Vatican conservatives. According to Vatican insiders, the dissenters included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict reached out to Muslims and Jews after his election and called for dialogue. However, the Pope, who is due to visit Turkey in November, has in the past suggested that Turkey’s Muslim culture is at variance with Europe’s Christian roots. At the conference, held at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, Roberto De Mattei, an Italian historian, recalled that the Crusades were “a response to the Muslim invasion of Christian lands and the Muslim devastation of the Holy Places”. “The debate has been reopened,” La Stampa said. Professor De Mattei noted that the desecration of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem by Muslim forces in 1009 had helped to provoke the First Crusade at the end of the 11th century, called by Pope Urban II. He said that the Crusaders were “martyrs” who had “sacrificed their lives for the faith”. He was backed by Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge University, who said that those who sought forgiveness for the Crusades “do not know their history”. Professor Riley-Smith has attacked Sir Ridley Scott’s recent film Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom, as “utter nonsense”. Professor Riley-Smith said that the script, like much writing on the Crusades, was “historically inaccurate. It depicts the Muslims as civilised and the Crusaders as barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality.” It fuels Islamic fundamentalism by propagating “Osama bin Laden’s version of history”. He said that the Crusaders were sometimes undisciplined and capable of acts of great cruelty. But the same was true of Muslims and of troops in “all ideological wars”. Some of the Crusaders’ worst excesses were against Orthodox Christians or heretics — as in the sack of Constantinople in 1204. The American writer Robert Spencer, author of A Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, told the conference that the mistaken view had taken hold in the West as well as the Arab world that the Crusades were “an unprovoked attack by Europe on the Islamic world”. In reality, however, Christians had been persecuted after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

The London Times