A reader sent me this press release from the Catholic League.
At a news conference yesterday, Senator Tom Harkin denounced President Bush’s veto of a bill that would expand embryonic stem cell research. He questioned, "Who set up the president of the United States, this president, as our moral pope? The president of the United States is not our moral ayatollah. He may wish to be, but he’s not."
Sen. Harkin also said that the president has put himself "in the company of people like Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, who told Galileo it was heresy to claim that the earth revolved around the sun.." He also claimed that Bush is now aligned "with people like Pope Boniface VIII, who banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200s. This stopped cadaver dissection for over 300 years, over 300 years."
Here’s how Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded:
"It’s hard to know what’s worse-Senator Harkin’s Catholic baiting or his ignorance of history. When he votes to allow doctors to kill babies who are 80 percent born, no one calls him a moral pope. But the Iowa Catholic is quick to drop the Taliban card on President Bush for vetoing a bill that was opposed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is just as quick in distorting history.
"Cardinal Bellarmine, as well as Pope Urban VIII, welcomed Galileo’s research, presenting him with medals and gifts. It was only after Galileo persisted in promoting his hypothesis as fact (this was the heresy, not the claim that the earth revolved around the sun) that trouble ensued. As for Pope Boniface VIII, in 1299 he sought to stop the trafficking in bones from soldiers killed in the Holy Land-not to stop all dissection. In any event, dissection began again a few years later, not 300 years later.
"Sen. Harkin’s reckless remarks will anger many in the Catholic community. There is no place in the senate for Catholic baiting, and it matters now a whit whether the guilty are themselves Catholic."
Added with Sen. Specter’s statement it must be false Catholic history week in the senate. Since both Senators Harkin and Specter brought up the cadaver dissection I wonder where this talking point came from? Though I guess it is an old one since it was also included in 2002 as part of the statement of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2002 (which wouldn’t have)
History shows us the devastating effects of tying the hands of scientists for ideological reasons. Galileo was imprisoned for his support of Copernicus’ theory that the planets revolve around the sun. Pope Boniface VIII banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200’s. This set back the understanding of human anatomy and the practice of medicine for over 300 years.
This is in fact an old talking point and I suspect like many other false portrayals of Catholic history that it originated from some Protestants. Many black legends and other bits of false history made it into the public’s consciousness over time via Protestant apologists trying to make the Catholic Church appear to be foolish.
Here is a paper published back in 1911"The Supposed Papal Prohibition Of Dissection" written to answer this slander and addresses the true topic of the Papal Bull by Pope Boniface VIII. So obviously this slander/talking point has been with us for a while.
"Title Concerning Burials.’ Boniface VIII. Persons cutting up the bodies of the dead, barbarously boiling them, in order that the bones, being separated from the flesh, may be carried for burial into their own countries, are by the very act excommunicated.
…The reason for the bull is very well known. During the crusades, numbers of the nobility who died at a distance from their homes in infidel countries were prepared for transportation and burial in their own lands by dismemberment and boiling.
Yes, that paper is the second chapter in Walsh’s The Popes and Science. For your reference, here is the beginning of that chapter.
Incidentally if you want to read the truth about “tying the hands of scientists” I would strongly urge you to get a copy of Jaki’s Science and Creation, available from Real View Books.
“History shows us the devastating effects of tying the hands of scientists for ideological reasons. “
Yes – after Galileo European science was moribund and we had to rely on the Mohammedans and the pagans to invent everything – that is why Europe was an impoverished wasteland until the end of the Papal States and why most people still want to go live in China or India or Yemen….
Please read “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” for more information on how the Church not only advanced science, but practically invented it
When I read that “who set him up as pope?” commit I thought, “er, the US constitution?”
It’s not as if he’s dissolved Congress and declared himself dictator for life or anything. Having a veto is within his allowed powers. You can complain that you don’t like him doing it, but don’t complain as if he has done outside his powers or anything. If anything, it’s strange that he has taken so long before losing his “veto-ginity” as Stephen Colbert puts it.
Anyway, it’s overridable with a two-thirds congress majority vote, isn’t it? If it’s so wonderful, see if you can get two-thirds support. That’s how it works, isn’t it? (I’m in Australia, so if I’ve gotten any of this mixed up, you know why. We’re a constitutional monarchy, meaning The Queen gets an absolute veto, but isn’t allowed to actually use it.)
“Tying the hands of scientists.”
I can imagine Nazi scientists saying the same thing when being put on trial for their “research” on Jews.
I wonder if there’s any moral limit they’re willing to live with. Are there any modest proposals that would make them say, “Well, OF COURSE we wouldn’t go that far?”
Mary Shelley would have a few things to say about this attitude (author of Frankenstein, if you don’t remember.)
Harkin is evil. Back in the ’90s, he also strongly supported fetal experimentation.
Why are you calling him a Catholic? Surely he is self-excommunicated?