About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Pope questions apparitions of Virgin, but only some
Benedict thinks that one can tell the difference between real and fake apparitions “with utmost rigour,” and his new guidelines call for a series of steps to curtail false claims that might divert some faithful away from the Church and into (other) cults. Here are the steps that will be taken according to the Vatican’s version of CSI (actually the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith):
To begin with, the Church will tell the alleged witnesses to simply shut up. If they don’t comply, this will be taken as evidence that their claims are false. If you don’t follow the logic, don’t worry, it gets worse.
Next, the Vatican will call in some psychiatrists -- interestingly, either Catholic or atheists (what about Muslim or Jewish ones?) -- to certify that the visionaries are not nuts or hallucinating. (Good luck.)
Then the Church task force will consider the subject’s education. You see, if they are too educated they may have had access to reports of previous apparitions, which would have given them the know-how for effective fakery. This essentially eliminates anyone with a computer that can do google or wiki searches.
If the alleged visionary has successfully passed the preliminary tests, then he or she will be questioned by, I kid you not, demonologists and exorcists -- just to make sure that the apparition is divine, and not a dirty trick perpetrated by good old Satan. The implication, of course, is that a relatively well educated person like the Pope actually believes in the literal existence of an actively plotting Satan. Oh boy.
Just in case you were wondering, by the way, today is not April 1st, and the above material is not taken from the Onion.