… and Hitchens isn’t helping matters either – Stating the case for justice

Well, not as much as he could.

In his piece in Newsweek, calling for the Pope to be brought to justice for his complicity in the paedophile scandal he had this to say;

The so-called Vatican City, a political nonentity covering about 0.17 square miles of Rome, was created by Benito Mussolini in 1929 as part of his sweetheart deal between fascism and the papacy. It is the last survival of the political architecture of the Axis powers.

This is, of course, an ad hominem attack against the legitimacy of the Papal State.

Hitchens should really know better than to use the failed rhetorical device of the Christian vox populi against itself.
Unless he is using it in a veiled attempt at irony, it has no real purpose in his piece.

The legitimacy of the Papal state is not determined by it’s close historical association with Fascism any more than the legitimacy of the atheist viewpoint should be influenced by Communists historical promotion of atheism.
They are concepts that are independent of each other and whose legitimacy should be evaluated independently.

The Papal State is not recognised as a state by international accord, as Hitchens himself points out;

… it is exempt from the annual State Department Human Rights Report precisely because it is not considered a state. (It maintains only observer status at the United Nations.)

This is a a far more convincing argument that the statehood of the Vatican has little international legal weight behind it than it’s historical association with Fascism.
He could also have pointed out other members of the UN with Observer Status, like the IOC, which, although also an ad hominem attack, has far more relevance to the pieces argumentative thrust on the current international legitimacy of the Vatican’s Statehood than the ad hominem he chose to use.

So how should we go about stating the case for bringing the Pope to justice?

The problem that Hitchens, Dawkins and others of their ilk (including me) have with convincing Christians of Papal culpability is one caused by a problem to do with human perception.
More specifically cognitive bias.

Christians immediately see an attack of the Pope, the Church hierarchy, or even a pedophiliac priest, all Christians, as an attack upon themselves.
And so they rush blindly to their defence.
[And the fact Hitchens, Dawkins, and myself, are all atheists probably does not help matters either!]

This is not something unique to Christians. It is a normal human failing that everyone, including atheists, succumbs to.

The best way to present anything that will induce such a cognitive bias to a group is to reframe or re-contextualise the issue at hand. That is, take it outside of the groups natural reaction and see how they react. For instance;

The CEO of a popular major US corporation was found to have aided and abetted paedophiles within his orgnaisation while serving as the companies COO. Although he himself was not involved in the actual abuse, he moved paedophiles from division to division, and country to country, bribing, threatening and humiliating victims, all in an eventually futile attempt to cover up the abuse.
When the abuse, and his complicity, was discovered, national governments and judiciaries decided not to prosecute him because it would upset the shareholders of the corporation.

Once the issue has been placed in a secular context it is quite clear that the CEO has acted with total opprobrium.

Any calls for leniency should quite naturally evapourate to anyone with even a shred of intellectual honesty.

One thought on “… and Hitchens isn’t helping matters either – Stating the case for justice

  1. Jambe says:

    I think I love you.

    I like Hitchens; he’s a caustic button-pusher but it’s all deliberate. He’s said in various interviews and speeches that he likes to jab at people’s soft spots if only to get them to think about their own perception (to start the skeptical ball rolling, so to speak). Surely those initial jabs produce lots of head-in-shell reactions, but many less reactive folk go on to consider his points. I’ve had talks with once-religious folk who were swayed by his polemics; clearly his method is effective.

    Perhaps not as nuanced as yours, but still effective.


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