Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Penn and Teller: Bullsh!t" take On The Vatican over gay issues

11th Commandment: Beware of editors bearing story ideas.

I admit to not being a regular viewer of Showtime's Penn & Teller: Bullsh!t, so when the boss asked for a volunteer to write up the season finale, I raised my hand like someone who hadn't been in the military (I was, and so should know better). I thought Penn & Teller did magic tricks, not attack what is arguably the most powerful person on earth who doesn't have access to nuclear weapons.

As the opening credits show, the irascible duo don't just go after conservatives, but take on sacred cows of the liberals as well: taxes, stress, video games and organic foods have all been targets of their commentary. I won't call what they do comedy exactly, because they're really too angry to be funny. Think Lewis Black without the facial expressions.

"If your morality is governed by anything personal, ethical, rational, or humanitarian, then The Vatican is bullsh!t!"

That's the basic principle the show starts with, and then goes on to rationally build the case that the Vatican and the Pope are responsible for much of the suffering in the world, as well as gross abuses of power — especially when it comes to gay people. And that the church actively covers up their sins. To quote Penn's rather pointed translation of policy:

"That's Vatican for 'Shut your fu**king mouth, or go to hell!'"

Which things do they lay at the feet of the church throughout history? The Crusades, the Inquisition, condoning slavery, denying the Holocaust, as well as the oppression or outright persecution of Muslims, Jews, gays, women, Africans, children, the poor, and nonbelievers. No punches are pulled, and little hyperbole is used.

A brief history of the oppressed. 

A lot of time is given to subjects such as birth control, sexual abuse by the clergy, and wealth hoarding. But the two things that stood out for us though were the current pope's opposition to condom distribution in Africa to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, and his decision to oppose decriminalization of homosexuality at the United Nations last year.

Condoms are from the Dark Side. Sex should only make babies.

That issue came up when the French introduced a U.N. resolution making homosexuality legal worldwide since we're still illegal in 81 countries, and punishable by death in seven of those. Even many who dislike the Pope were surprised when the Vatican — which espouses treating gays with "respect and dignity" — opposed the resolution because it might somehow lead to gay marriage.

Better we let countries lock up gays for being gay than risk some countries letting them get married!

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