Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion 
Monday, 22 November, 2010, 08:47 AM - Sex, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Isn't the pope just fantastic? He's actually said something sensible about using condoms. This is a landmark day for the Catholic Church. It's the start of a great tidal wave of change, a sweeping revolution in Catholic thought. From now on, the Catholic Church is going to says sensible things about all sorts of things.

The Pope chose the example of a male prostitute using a condom to prevent passing on HIV infection. Using his massive brain and deep understanding of the Invisible Magic Friend, the Pope was able to authoritatively declare that using a condom might just possibly, conceivably, in certain circumstance, be better than not using a condom. An issue that has had the whole world confused for decades has now had the light of dazzling, papal clarity shone upon it.

Thanks to the Pope, male prostitutes throughout the world will be wearing their condoms with pride this morning, safe in the knowledge that they're on the road to having some morality. For as the Pope has pointed out, this is the beginning of their realisation that they are an inherent moral evil, a greater threat to the planet than global warming and all in all worse than Hitler.

What a bright, shiny new dawn this is for the whole world. Catholics, who for years have completely ignored the Pope's teaching on condoms, who have furtively asked school children to pop into the chemist and buy them a packet, can now stride confidently up to the counter and say in a clear voice, "I wish to buy a packet of condoms, yes, the extra large ones please."

Who says the Catholic Church doesn't move with the times?

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Introducing Papa Benny's Own Brand... 
Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 10:52 AM - Not TFTD
...Vatican condoms (male prostitute strength)*.

Are you an amoral, hedonistic, drug addicted, HIV+ male prostitute? If your answer is "yes" then the Catholic Church has got just the product for you - new Papa Benny's own brand Vatican condoms!

They come in a range of sizes (Big, Really Big and OhMyGawdWhatIsTHAT) and a variety of flavours: strawberry, mint and Benedictine communion wine.

For the more adventurous among you, why not try our variety pack. There's the Bishop's Staff with its multiple ribs for extra sensation and the Mitre Head for those really tight situations (parish priests - you know what I mean ;) ).

But don't worry if you're a more traditional male prostitute. We know that many of you are more conservative in your tastes. For you, we still produce the old, style, one size fits all condom, guilt lined, with instructions in Latin

Every condom is stamped with Papa Benny's personal imprimatur, guaranteeing quality control, and each pack contains penances for a wide range of condom related sins. With Papa Benny's own brand Vatican condoms (male prostitute strength), sinning has never been so much fun!

"Just call me Daddy."

*These condoms are not recommended as a contraceptive device.
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Wow! - I mean, just WOW! 
Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 06:49 AM - Sex, Not TFTD
The Pope has said that condom use isn't always wrong.

I've heard one or two cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church say something similar in the past, that condom use to prevent HIV infection could be regarded as the lesser of two evils, but they were usually slapped down or ignored by the Vatican. It's a different matter entirely with the Pope - like it or not, when he speaks, the Catholic Church listens.

The Pope's comments may be caged in caveats, but the very fact that he is willing to make any concession at all on the issue is a major step forward.

Of course, they'll have to spin it as "the Church has always had a more nuanced view on condom use than was generally recognised by an ill informed and hostile press", but who cares, if that's what it takes to square the Catholic theological circle, then so be it.

What next I wonder? The Pope is, and has always been, a staunch defender of gay marriage. Reports suggesting otherwise represent a complete rewriting of history...

The Pope was recently rated the fifth most powerful person in the world. Statements such as this show why. Hundreds of cardinals and thousands of bishops across the world will now instantly discover that condom use can be a good thing.

Sadly, I doubt if many Catholics will now question the almost absolute power concentrated in the hands of just one man. To Catholics he remains the successor of Saint Peter with a hotline to God. The fact that eating meat on a Friday was a sin a few decades ago, but not a sin now, that limbo existed a few years ago, but doesn't exist now, that condom use was always wrong yesterday but can sometimes be right today - none of these contradictions will cause the faithful to question the unchanging and perfect teaching of the one true faith.

If the Catholic Church were like other human institutions, it would simply adjust to the tide of ongoing events and use a bit of common sense. But it isn't. It regards itself as divine in origin, so to change it's mind on anything is a major upheaval that threatens to undermine it's claims to possess a unique insight into absolute truth. To adjust it's position on the reality of AIDS in just a few decades, is almost lightning fast by RCC standards. It's still a shame it took it so long though. Think how much suffering could have been averted if John-Paul II had said this twenty years ago.

p.s. Read the comments on Damian Thompson's blog. They're hilarious.
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Vishvapani (a much nicer name than Simon Blomfield) - I'm ordained you know! 
Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 08:25 AM - Money, Vishvapani
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little platitudinous)

I was relaxing in Sri Lanka the year before the tsunami that brought so much destruction. The Irish economy is suffering a similar tsunami, except in this case it is not natural, does not involve large amounts of water and could have been prevented if banks and governments had not allowed a property asset bubble to grow out of control using financial derivatives with unknown levels of risk. In all other respects the two are completely identical.

It would be very easy to reflect on the moral aspect of the financial crisis, of greedy property magnates and bankers' bonuses - very easy indeed. So I'm not going to mention anything about greed. You won't even find the word "greed" anywhere in this talk. It's all been said before, no need to go over it all again and again.

What the two disasters have in common is our lack of control, except that in the case of the banks we could have controlled them but just didn't. As a Buddhist, I regard every crisis as an opportunity. What was it about the tsunami and the financial collapse that allowed us to be taken in? As I lay there on the beach in Sri Lanka, why didn't I think to myself, there could be a tsunami here in a year's time?

We like to think of ourselves as independent agents, when we're really just not independent agents. We have unconscious instincts for hope, faith, greed and denial. Many other TFTD presenters will tell you that "faith" is a really good thing, but having faith in bad things can be a bad thing. Do not have faith that there won't be a tsunami or another financial crisis any moment now.

If there is a tsunami, consider your instinct to grab your family and run for the hills as fast as possible. This is an opportunity for self reflection that will give you greater insights into the nature of being and bring you closer to enlightenment, right up to the moment when several tons of water crashes down on you.

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The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Baron Aldgate  
Friday, 19 November, 2010, 08:50 AM - Interfaith, Sacks
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily Platitudinous and grovelling)

Happy Inter-Faith week everyone. Yes, it's that jolly time of year again when people of all different faiths come together to discuss how much we have in common and how well we all get along.

But it wasn't always like this. There was a time when some religious people sought to impose their beliefs on others. Thankfully we don't do that sort of thing any more. And I just want to make it clear that it's not because we lack the power to enforce our will in Britain any more. Nor is it because, in an increasingly secular society, we find ourselves forced together to offer each other some crumb of comfort. In fact, even if one of us did come to dominate society as we did in the past, you can rest assured that we wouldn't use that dominance to alter the way things are done. All around the world, where one religion dominates a country, we see models of toleration and liberal values.

When we important religious leaders get together, we can do such fantastic things. A few years ago we got together and said, "Look, there are poor people in the world," something that until then had largely gone unnoticed.

Then there was the year we all went to Auschwitz together and we told the world, "This is really very bad and we don't think this should happen again."

There can be a teeny-weeny tendency for religions to divide people into "them" and "us", perhaps due to us having the true word of the Invisible Magic Friend and them being deluded, heathen unbelievers who stubbornly refuse to recognise the truth. That's why it's so important that we all get together and paper over these minor differences in doctrine.

p.s. I'm not going to mention the Royal Wedding. Inter faith week is far too important to distract you with trivia like that.

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Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh organisations 
Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 08:12 AM - Materialism, Singh
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily Platitudinous and grovelling)

Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet? It's just the sort of thing we need to make us happier in these dark economic times.

But even the happiness that we feel about the Royal Wedding may not be enough. Most of you probably think that a new car or a new kitchen will bring you life long happiness - Radio 4 listeners tend to be shallow that way. The Prime Minister suspects that this may not be the case. The government's going to look into what makes people happy, and when they find out, they're going to change government policy to make us all happier. He understands that money doesn't make people happy. Having money actually makes people very sad, which is why he's taking so much of it away from people.

I want to tell you about a king who was obsessed with his own problems. He was told they'd all be solved if he spent the night in the shirt of a happy man. He searched the land for such a man but found only tales of his downtrodden subjects, who had real problems in life. Seeing all these problems, he decided to sweep away a hereditary monarchy and found a government elected by and accountable to the people. No, he didn't really do that - he decided to have a nice Royal Wedding to cheer everyone up a bit.

We, and by "we" I mean "you", have become far too selfish and obsessed with our (i.e. "your" ) material wealth. We, i.e. "you", have become greedy and vain and selfish. A Sikh Guru said we should help others. A Christian theologian said something very similar, so I'm forced to conclude that it must be true.

So Radio 4 listeners, I urge you to abandon your hedonistic ways and spare some time to help others. You'll find that it really does make you happier, perhaps even happier than the Royal Wedding makes you.

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Vastly Reverend James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, Platitude of the Year Winner 2009  
Wednesday, 17 November, 2010, 08:24 AM - James Jones
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily Platitudinous and grovelling)

Has anyone mentioned the Royal Wedding yet?

Isn't it just wonderful? I love weddings, unlike some members of the clergy. They always make me cry, and what could be more romantic than a Royal Wedding?

And he's given Kate Middleton Diana's ring. Isn't that just so romantic? It's like saying he hopes Kate's life will be every bit as happy as Diana's was.

There's going to be a really big church. All the rich and famous and powerful and glamorous will be there, including a good crop of bishops. Oh please can I be on the guest list? I'm a really good groveller, I'd fit in just right at the Royal Wedding and I promise I'll be good.

And the Invisible Magic Friend will be there and there'll be prayers and hymns and they'll solemnly pledge to love one another until death or divorce do part them. Then they'll turn to face all their friends and families and rich, important people and they'll smile and there'll be fanfares and the bells will ring and everyone throughout the land will celebrate the joining together of these two young people.

But let us not forget that these are not any two young people, for they are one day destined to be King and Queen. Of course that can only happen when his grandmother dies and Charles and Camilla become King and not-Queen ahead of them. He doesn't even get to be Prince of Wales until that happens. He'll just have to scrape by on a duchy or two until he can get his hands on Wales and Cornwall.

Oh, isn't it all such a fairy-tale romance? I'm so excited!

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Sorry 
Tuesday, 16 November, 2010, 09:26 AM
I slept in and missed today's TFTD. So I'm going to have to improvise. Here's what I think Prof. Mona Siddiqui might have said. Tell me how close I am...


Something has happened in the news. This illustrates the importance of faith/spirituality/culture/family.

Islam, which is a religion of liberal, tolerant, gender neutral values, something you could all learn a thing or two from, advocates precisely this. It says so in one of the nice bits of the Koran.

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Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham  
Monday, 15 November, 2010, 08:33 AM - Courage, hope, perseverance etc., Democracy, Wilkinson, Burma
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little Platitudinous)

Isn't Aung San Suu Kyi just fantastic? She's stuck to her pacifist Buddhist principles throughout her long campaign for democracy in Burma. Her Buddhist principles are completely different from the Buddhist principles of the Burmese generals, whose Buddhist principles largely seem to consist of brutally holding on to power at all costs.

Her many critics, such as, well... er... ...they're just too numerous to mention by name, say that maybe if she hadn't been so pacifist, things would be better for Burma by now. Perhaps if she'd led an armed insurgency - regularly blowing up government buildings - that kind of thing, the military leaders would have handed over power to an elected civilian government by now.

Aung San Suu Kyi may not have military power, but like Mandela and Rosa Parks before her, she carries tremendous moral authority and this in itself can bring about change.

Sometimes change happens quickly. Sometimes it doesn't. It can happen overnight or it can take decades. It all depends really on the rate at which change is happening. We won't know how fast change is going to happen in Burma until after it has happened. We'll just have to wait and see whether it's going to be fast change or slow change. But we know from her Buddhist philosophy (this is the good Buddhist philosophy and not the bad Buddhist philosophy of the generals, which probably isn't proper Buddhist philosophy at all) that change definitely happens eventually.

Jesus, who was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and therefore an authority on the subject, thought that peaceful change was a good thing too. This reassures me that peaceful change is a good thing, otherwise I wouldn't be so sure.

Aung San Suu Kyi's way of doing things is as recommended by Jesus and good Buddhist philosophy, and this gives us hope that she will succeed.

This lady is determined to bring about change the right way and for that I am both thankful and inspired.

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Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki  
Sunday, 14 November, 2010, 09:53 AM - Invisible magic stuff, Not TFTD
In theory, any ordained Catholic priest has the magic powers needed to conduct an exorcism. In practise, expelling a demon is a highly skilled speciality that should only be performed by those specifically trained in the ritual.

WARNING: Only Catholic priests who are both legally and morally ordained, as validly understood through the legitimate moral authority of the Church, should attempt an exorcism. Devils are powerful beings and can be extremely harmful to the unqualified.

Here in the USA we're facing a huge rise in demand for exorcisms due to the influx of Hispanic and African Catholics who are more attuned to the supernatural. A new generation of fully qualified exorcists is desperately needed.

The new rite of exorcism was issued in 1999 after 20 years of careful, painstaking research by some of the world's top theological experts on the devil and his minions. But not everyone is happy with the new rite. Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years has conducted 70,000 exorcisms, averaging over three a day over the past 60 years and he says the new rite is far inferior to the previous, 1614, rite.

"There's just not enough smoke or sprinkling of magic water as there used to be and we don't get to call the Invisible Magic Baddy as many names. In the old rite we got to call him: ancient serpent, transgressor, seducer, persecutor, abominable creature, monster, profligate dragon, asp, basilisk. The new exorcism's just rubbish in comparison."

The new rite emphasises that not everyone who behaves strangely is necessarily possessed, some may have more need of a psychiatrist than an exorcist. The modern science of exorcism uses specialist equipment to detect demonic possession. The demonometer contains a small vial of magic water that glows when brought near the possessed. A photomultiplier feeds this into a digital display giving an objective, accurate reading. Most healthy adults read well under 2 in a possession scale of 0 to 10, but the possessed will regularly score 7 or more when tested with the demonometer.

In the 21st century, when neuroscience makes almost daily discoveries to help people with personality disorders, it's good to know that the Catholic Church is still relevant and able to purge the soul of invisible magic stuff.

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