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rank 5929
word count 33400
date submitted 16.06.2008
date updated 23.12.2012
genres: Non-fiction, History, Harper True L...
classification: universal


Michael Dickinson

Articles on politics and religion published in 'America's Best Political Newsletter, COUNTERPUNCH.'


Armaggedon a little angry...

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political protest, religious hypocricy, rethink

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December 12, 2007

Pope Rat Gets Indulgent

Say Goodbye to Purgatory


Back in 1984, when His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was a mere Cardinal Joseph Ranzinger, presiding over the Vatican's doctrinal enforcement lobby, he expressed his opinion that he was personally in favour of scrapping the 13th-century notion of 'Limbo', the no-man's land situated between Heaven and Hell and reserved for unbabtized babies, which he termed a mere "hypothesis."

It was the French monk Peter Aberlard who introduced the idea of Limbo. Before the 13th Century, all unbaptized people, including new born babies who died, went to hell because they had not been cleansed of original sin by the Christian baptism ceremony. Abelard said that babies who had no personal sin didn't deserve such punishment
Earlier this year, in his new position of supreme power, the Pope gave his approval to a 41 page document drafted by the International Theological Convention , although adding that its conclusions were not to be considered Roman Catholic Church dogma. Published in US magazine 'Origins', the report announced: "The many factors that we have considered ... give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptised infants who die will be saved."

And so a concept that had been preached and believed in for 800 years has been virtually abolished. It's sad that a baseless fable should have caused so much mental anguish to Catholic parents of stillborn or early-dead children over the centuries, believing that their child would never reach Heaven, and whose little corpse was refused burial in the church graveyard. Instead they can now believe as the Muslims do, that the departing soul of an innocent babe will go straight to Heaven.

The word 'Limbo' comes from a Latin word meaning "the edge", and Limbo was usually described as a sort of dim and foggy place where there was no pain, but no real pleasure either. In Purgatory, that other no-man's-land between Heaven and Hell, there is pain. And plenty of it.

St Augustine, august father of the Church warned that "the pain suffered by those who expiate their faults by purgatorial flames is more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life." The only good thing about Purgatory is that you know it's good for you in the long-run, because the sins you accumulated on earth are being seared away and you'll eventually emerge purified in Heaven. Still, one naturally wants to stay there for as short a time as possible. Is there any way to speed up the process?

As a matter of fact there is. Apart from the temporary forgiveness of sins afforded by confession and penance, there are the esteemed 'indulgences' which the Church can bestow on an individual from its 'Treasury of Merit', and which can grant full or partial remission from one's stay in Purgatory.

In 1517, in order to pay for the rebuilding of St Paul's basilica in Rome, Pope Leo X began the practice of selling indulgences. The idea proved to be a popular money-spinner. They even had a chart that listed a price for each type of sin you could be forgiven. The slogan went: "As soon as the gold in the casket rings / the rescued soul to heaven springs." Then along came an upstart German monk named Martin Luther who called foul. He denounced such transactions and denied the Pope's right to grant pardons on God's behalf. This caused a massive schism and the Christian Church split. Suddenly there weren't as many indulgences being handed out as there used to be.

But now - lucky Catholics! Suddenly there's a unique opportunity for shedding extra time of Purgatorial agony For a limited time only, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary 14 year old Bernadette Soubirsous claimed she saw outside the village of Lourdes in France in 1858, the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decided to specially concede the gift of Plenary Indulgence to the faithful.

In order to qualify for the Plenary, which wipes out a whole lifetime of sins in one fell swoop, Catholics have until December 8th 2008 to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, visit all the officially sanctified shrines - birthplace, registery Office, grotto, etcetera, and "on each occasion pause for an appropriate length of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, the jubilee prayer or other Marian invocation." Following this formula will ensure the cleansing of the soul by the indulgence. Try to be good afterwards, however, as new sins have a habit of ticking up.

To get to Lourdes, naturally, you'll try to make use of the recently inaugurated 'Vatican Airlines', with its official slogan, "I'm Searching for Your Face, Lord," imprinted on headrest covers throughout the plane. The cabin crew is "specialized in voyages of a sacred nature" and instead of standard movies, the in-flight entertainment system plays religious videos. The shrine of Fatima in Portugal where the 3 little shepherd children claimed similar sightings of the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary) in 1917 is another hot destination.

If you can't get to Lourdes, don't worry. There's still a way of getting your plenary indulgence, but you only have 10 days to earn it. In the Vatican's Plan B for salvation, "if between February 2, and February 11, 2008, during the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes and 150th anniversary of the apparition, you visit, in any church, grotto or decorous place, the blessed image of that same Virgin of Lourdes, solemnly exposed for public veneration, and before the image participate in a pious exercise of Marian devotion, or at least pause for an appropriate space of time in prayer" you will be exempt from the pain of Purgatory.

Interestingly, Bernadette was disappointed when she saw the statue of the lady in white with the blue sash, designed for the sacred grotto after Lourdes took off as a place of pilgrimage and a money-spinner for the Catholic Church. She said the virgin was too old. The apparition she'd spoken to had been that of a twelve-year-old girl.

But, hold on a second. Does anybody remember 'Limbo'? That was the place where the souls of unbaptised babies and those unfortunate enough to have been born before Jesus, used to go--a kind of Purgatory but without the pain. Not a bad place, but not good either, because there was no chance of gazing on the radiant face of God.

Earlier this year, after 800 years of official existence, Limbo was officially abolished by Pope Benedick. He said that it was time to let the idea of limbo drop "since it has always been only a theological hypothesis, and never a definitive truth of the faith."

So, if the Pope can do away with Limbo after all these years with the stroke of his pen, maybe he could do the same to Purgatory?

And if Purgatory is abolished, what is to become of Heaven and Hell?

"Imagine all the people, living for today? ... "

Heaven on Earth




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Seringapatam wrote 579 days ago

Yes for what I read, I enjoyed. Very graphic and harsh in some parts. I wish you luck with this int he future. Well done.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R)

EltopiaAuthor wrote 1259 days ago


Well, I had read a little of this some months back and finally got around to revisiting the book. (I just read through Chapter 10.)

While I may not like everything said, and I think the book would be more effective without some of the vulgar language, it is well worth reading. As they say, "If the shoe fits ..."

Gutter talk: Even though I understand and agree that some of the gutter talk is justifiable, I would argue that it is not as effective as sticking to more neutral language would be.

The facts as detailed here are powerful enough to stand on their own two feet.

At any rate, I think every Christian should read this book. The point, for me, is not that every Christian should agree with or identify with every single statement. For me the point is to put the shoe on the other foot and see how our own interpretation of the gospel may look to certain victims of our own bad religion. Perhaps we could do a better job of being Christian by taking more of this to heart.


Michael Dickinson wrote 1318 days ago

All of these articles, most of them composed in a few heated hours, were published online by the famous political newsletter COUNTERPUNCH on the same day as I delivered them. I know there are errors and unrefinements, but what the fuck?, the surge of pleasure I felt as I saw each one included in Counterpunch's choices of the day was orgasmic each time and lasted longer.

As for language, the Vatican's response to the blatently honest question "How about a fuck?" (rarely stated directly), that unwed protected sexual intercourse is a sin for which you deserve to be roasted in Hell...Well...

Your lack of discipline in the use of street language is understandable, but it does detract from the impact of your writing; the graphic language (such as "how about a fuck) draws attention to itself and distrats from the message itself. If you only want to "preach to the choir" then fine. But if you want to cause thinking men and women to pause for thought, you need ot do a careful re-reading and editing for such irregularities, and to correct a few awkward constructions, sentences that have the feeling that they were literally "thrown" onto the page in the excitement of the "kill" so to speak. And that's fine for a draft, but you now need to rework this and refine it a bit if you want to be taken seriously as an author.


EltopiaAuthor wrote 1319 days ago

Your lack of discipline in the use of street language is understandable, but it does detract from the impact of your writing; the graphic language (such as "how about a fuck) draws attention to itself and distrats from the message itself. If you only want to "preach to the choir" then fine. But if you want to cause thinking men and women to pause for thought, you need ot do a careful re-reading and editing for such irregularities, and to correct a few awkward constructions, sentences that have the feeling that they were literally "thrown" onto the page in the excitement of the "kill" so to speak. And that's fine for a draft, but you now need to rework this and refine it a bit if you want to be taken seriously as an author.


Robert Craven wrote 1388 days ago

Formidable prose & succinct arguments - It's clear that you write in anger at the way the middle east is just one big checkerboard at the mercy of one superpower and it's cats paw in the region.

These essays could be embellished with perhaps personal statements or sound bites with representatives as you have shades of old-style Gonzo Journalism ala Hunter S Thompson.

Backed because what your write is real



Jupiter Echoes wrote 1682 days ago

Ok.... a bit Noam Chomsky but more accessible.
The more i read... the conspiracy theories aobut Israel just become more believable. Their lobbying power not only in the US but also the UK is downright scary.
These essays surely will be of interest to readers with a soicial consciousence, but as always, i approach such works not as true, but subjective....
However, how close i feel these perceptions are to actual reality remains a private matter.

Really enjoyed the essays i read, finding them thought provoking.
Very good.


mikegilli wrote 1685 days ago

Brilliant essays..I hadnt read all of them.
Where you triumph is in your unique world view....
the humble engaging personal anecdote that
links us into already fascinating subject matter.
If only there were more brave people like you, willing to risk rejection
or violence in provoking a creative response.
All the best, shelved, mikey The Free

I read this on the Blog...10 times better..Heres the link

David Black wrote 2101 days ago

Maybe it's Diversion Tactic #18: Life is shit, you're shit, I'm shit; why bother arguing about anything?

Michael Dickinson wrote 2102 days ago

Is that a description of your self?

Hope wrote 2102 days ago

You call it pessimistic, I call it realistic. There has never been a time in history free from war and division. Sure, pockets of people managed to live in relative harmony for a while, but experience shows it never lasts. There's always tyrants, war mongers and greedy people ready to take from the meek, and trample over anyone who gets in their way.

David Black wrote 2102 days ago

The argument that "With or without money, people will find a way to oppress, divide and conquer one another" does strike me as pessimistic and misanthropic. To point that out is hardly diversionary..

Michael Dickinson wrote 2103 days ago

Interesting. What are the other diversion tactics, and how many are there?

Hope wrote 2103 days ago

Diversion Tactic #17: When you're losing ground, question the character of the opponent.

Michael Dickinson wrote 2106 days ago

You sound a rather pessimistic misanthropic sort of person. Are you a monarchist too?

Hope wrote 2106 days ago

The existence or non-existence of God doesn't fix the crack in your moneyless utopia Historical evidence proves that cultures throughout the ages didn't use money as a source of exchange, yet there was still division. Money is simply a symptom of the THING that causes division, taking it away won't take away people's pride, greed, lust and hatred. With or without money, people will find a way to oppress, divide and conquer one another.

Michael Dickinson wrote 2106 days ago

Sorry, but I don't believe in Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel or the spiteful, bossy God of the Old Testament.

It is a fact that most crime today is caused by money - theft, corruption, prostitution, and the exploitation of people forced to work in crappy jobs just so they can pay their rent and taxes, a large amount of which goes to the arms industry, making weapons to kill and threaten other people.

Human beings are basically social animals. Get rid of the thing which causes the gross division of rich and poor - money - and then it will be much easier to follow the golden rule of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you', and to start creating the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Hope wrote 2107 days ago

Your premise is seriously flawed. With or without money, people fall short of the Glory of God. Money adds to corruption, sure, but to suggest it's the reason why people commit evil is plain wrong. This can be supported biblically and non-biblically. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell from grace, money didn't exist yet. When Cain killed Abel, money didn't exist yet. And if you comb through the OT, there are more examples to be found. Also, as late as the 1900's, certain primitive tribes, who still lived in a moneyless society, waged war against one another--murdered and enslaved one another. If this isn't evil and corrupt, then what is? The LOVE of money is the root of evil, not the money itself. The LOVE of money refers to the pride, lust, greed and hatred within us--AND as long as these things remain, no matter what system of exchange we use--corruption will continue to exist.

Michael Dickinson wrote 2108 days ago

Man is not naturally corrupt. He is corrupted by money and the capitalist system.

A barter system will not be necessary in the moneyless society. Everything will be provided to everybody free of charge. Do they use money in 'heaven'? I don't think so. You remember the 'Lord's Prayer'? "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." And it says "Give us this day our daily bread", not "Sell us it." And what about "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."? I think you'll have to admit that according to your criteria, it's not me who is the king of twaddle, but Jesus.

Hope wrote 2109 days ago

Talk about twaddle, you're the king. The world existed without money for thousands of years under the barter system and everything wasn't fine. Doing away with money isn't going to fix anything, because money isn't the problem. It's the corrupt nature of man.

Michael Dickinson wrote 2109 days ago

What a load of twaddle, woman!

Can you imagine Jesus, investing in banks and land and swanning around in ermine like the pope having incence swung around him in a palace like the Vatican? Jesus was calling for an end to the capitalist, elitist royalist system that existed in his lifetime and persists to this day. Jesus was a socialist communist. He would be disgusted by the mammon worshipping hypocritical Church built upon his bones, invading third world countries, conquering and commiting genocide in his name. Get real!

You cannot serve God and Mammon. If you call yourself a 'Christian', you will follow this message and pass it on, in order to finally bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth -


If you agree that the abolition of money would be a fine solution to most of our problems, and that we could create a much better system where EVERYTHING - food and drink, clothing and housing, water, heating, education, health-care and entertainment - shall be FREE for EVERYONE - why not join the World-Wide Strike on the opening day of the Olympic Games in 2012?

The Strike will begin the moment the symbolic Olympic flame is lit - the signal for all who support the abolition of money to stop work and demand a new fair world of true freedom and justice.


Wake up! Or you can just go yawning into hell.

Hope wrote 2109 days ago

This book sounds like it was written by an angry ex-Catholic or someone eager to blame a religious group for all the ills in the world (sound familiar?). There's nothing new here, except the same old tired and often unsubstantiated claims about the pope sitting on a vault of gold, and how the Catholic Church is at fault for the ills of the world. Eye roll here. Plus the same silly claim that the Vatican should sell off it's assets to solve world hunger. Most the Vatican's assets are tied up in land--churches, missions, schools and hospitals--makes a lot of sense to sell them off to help the poor, when the majority of the land is used to help educate and minister to the spiritual and physical needs of the poor. This book is filled with unoriginal anti-catholic rhetoric and resembles long drawn-out Jack Schick rant . The writing style is OK, but the subject matter has been done many times over, and it's a great big YAWN.

Michael Dickinson wrote 2218 days ago

A friend tried to access the site to check out my stuff but couldn't, and registration was rejected.

If you asked an agent or a publisher to inspect your work here, would they be able to?

David Black wrote 2218 days ago

Michael, you ask if there is "a message board on this site where comments on particular books might be kept for reference, or where writers could share general tips about writing and ideas?" and answer "No." Well, it's certainly a good question. If there's no answer, then it's more Big Brother house than concentration camp - though in both cases there is no "audience." Or is there? Presumably the answer is "Somewhere out there" (I love that song; those mice are so cute).

Michael Dickinson wrote 2218 days ago

And where do general comments go? Is there a pool on the site where they are collected? No.

Is there a message board on this site where comments on particular books might be kept for reference, or where writers could share general tips about writing and ideas? No.

Is this just a self-congraturatory concentration camp of author rejects? What is the point?