Category Archives: Religions

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 Every culture that has ever existed on Earth has had at least one Diety running the show, who is not of Earth,  have you ever wondered……why?

Newsweek Cover: ‘God & the Brain: How We’re Wired for Spirituality’

Maynard S. Clark MSClark@MEDIAONE.NET
Mon, 30 Apr 2001 00:58:43 -0700

Newsweek Cover: 'God & the Brain: How We're Wired for Spirituality'
New Field of 'Neurotheology' Links Brain Activity to Spiritual, Mystical
Experiences, Contemplation

NEW YORK, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- A new field of scientific research is
showing how the human brain responds to -- and may create -- religious
experiences and intimations of the divine. A slew of new books, scientific
publications and the establishment of research centers in "neurotheology"
are trying to identify what seems to be the brain's spirituality circuit,
and to explain how it is that religious rituals have the power to move
believers and nonbelievers alike, Newsweek reports in its cover package in
the May 7 issue (on newsstands Monday April 30).

(Photo: )

All the new research shares a passion for uncovering the neurological
underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experiences and for discovering
what happens in our brains when we sense that we have encountered a reality
different from the reality of an every-day experience, writes Senior Editor
Sharon Begley. In neurotheology, the study of the neurobiology of religion
and spirituality, psychologists and neurologists try to pinpoint which
regions of the brain turn on, and which turn off, during experiences that
seem to exist outside time and space. The studies try to identify the brain
circuits that surge with activity when we think we have encountered the
divine, and when we feel transported by intense prayer, an uplifting ritual
or sacred music.

Brain imaging techniques have enabled scientists to prove that spiritual
contemplation or a religious experience affects brain activity. What they
found is that as expected, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the seat of
attention, lit up, and what surprised them was the quieting of activity. A
bundle of neurons in the superior parietal lobe, toward the top and back of
the brain, went dark. This region, nicknamed the "orientation association
area," processes information about space and time, and the orientation of
the body in space. It determines where the body ends and the rest of the
world begins.

But, the bottom line, says Dr. Andrew Newberg of the University of
Pennsylvania, a radiology specialist, is that "there is no way to determine
whether the neurological changes associated with spiritual experience mean
that the brain is causing those experiences ... or is instead perceiving a
spiritual reality." In other words, as Begley writes, "it is likely that
they [scientists] will never resolve the greatest question of all --
namely, whether our brain wiring creates God, or whether God created our
brain wiring. Which you believe is, in the end, a matter of faith."

In a companion essay, Religion Editor Kenneth L. Woodward warns that the
problem with neurotheology is that it confuses spiritual experiences with
religion. "The most that neurobiologists can do is correlate certain
experiences with certain brain activity. To suggest that the brain is the
only source of our experiences would be reductionist," he argues.

(Articles attached. Read Newsweek news releases at Click "Pressroom.")

Religion and the Brain

By Sharon Begley

One Sunday morning in March, 19 years ago, as Dr. James Austin waited for a
train in London, he glanced away from the tracks toward the river Thames.
The neurologist -- who was spending a sabbatical year in England -- saw
nothing out of the ordinary: the grimy Underground station, a few dingy
buildings, some pale gray sky. He was thinking, a bit absent-mindedly,
about the Zen Buddhist retreat he was headed toward. And then Austin
suddenly felt a sense of enlightenment unlike anything he had ever
experienced. His sense of individual existence, of separateness from the
physical world around him, evaporated like morning mist in a bright dawn.
He saw things "as they really are," he recalls. The sense of "I, me, mine"
disappeared. "Time was not present," he says. "I had a sense of eternity.
My old yearnings, loathings, fear of death and insinuations of selfhood
vanished. I had been graced by a comprehension of the ultimate nature of

Call it a mystical experience, a spiritual moment, even a religious
epiphany, if you like -- but Austin will not. Rather than interpret his
instant of grace as proof of a reality beyond the comprehension of our
senses, much less as proof of a deity, Austin took it as "proof of the
existence of the brain." He isn't being smart-alecky. As a neurologist, he
accepts that all we see, hear, feel and think is mediated or created by the
brain. Austin's moment in the Underground therefore inspired him to explore
the neurological underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experience. In
order to feel that time, fear and self-consciousness have dissolved, he
reasoned, certain brain circuits must be interrupted. Which ones? Activity
in the amygdala, which monitors the environment for threats and registers
fear, must be damped. Parietal-lobe circuits, which orient you in space and
mark the sharp distinction between self and world, must go quiet. Frontal-
and temporal-lobe circuits, which mark time and generate self-awareness,
must disengage. When that happens, Austin concludes in a recent paper,
"what we think of as our 'higher' functions of selfhood appear briefly to
'drop out,' 'dissolve,' or be 'deleted from consciousness'." When he spun
out his theories in 1998, in the 844-page "Zen and the Brain," it was
published not by some flaky New Age outfit but by MIT Press.

Since then, more and more scientists have flocked to "neurotheology," the
study of the neurobiology of religion and spirituality. Last year the
American Psychological Association published "Varieties of Anomalous
Experience," covering enigmas from near-death experiences to mystical ones.
At Columbia University's new Center for the Study of Science and Religion,
one program investigates how spiritual experiences reflect "peculiarly
recurrent events in human brains." In December, the scholarly Journal of
Consciousness Studies devoted its issue to religious moments ranging from
"Christic visions" to "shamanic states of consciousness." In May the book
"Religion in Mind," tackling subjects such as how religious practices act
back on the brain's frontal lobes to inspire optimism and even creativity,
reaches stores. And in "Why God Won't Go Away," published in April, Dr.
Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania and his late collaborator,
Eugene d'Aquili, use brain-imaging data they collected from Tibetan
Buddhists lost in meditation and from Franciscan nuns deep in prayer to ...
well, what they do involves a lot of neuro-jargon about lobes and fissures.
In a nutshell, though, they use the data to identify what seems to be the
brain's spirituality circuit, and to explain how it is that religious
rituals have the power to move believers and nonbelievers alike.

What all the new research shares is a passion for uncovering the
neurological underpinnings of spiritual and mystical experiences -- for
discovering, in short, what happens in our brains when we sense that we
"have encountered a reality different from -- and, in some crucial sense,
higher than -- the reality of every-day experience," as psychologist David
Wulff of Wheaton College in Massachusetts puts it. In neurotheology,
psychologists and neurologists try to pinpoint which regions turn on, and
which turn off, during experiences that seem to exist outside time and
space. In this way it differs from the rudimentary research of the 1950s
and 1960s that found, yeah, brain waves change when you meditate. But that
research was silent on why brain waves change, or which specific regions in
the brain lie behind the change. Neuro-imaging of a living, working brain
simply didn't exist back then. In contrast, today's studies try to identify
the brain circuits that surge with activity when we think we have
encountered the divine, and when we feel transported by intense prayer, an
uplifting ritual or sacred music. Although the field is brand new and the
answers only tentative, one thing is clear. Spiritual experiences are so
consistent across cultures, across time and across faiths, says Wulff, that
it "suggest[s] a common core that is likely a reflection of structures and
processes in the human brain."

There was a feeling of energy centered within me ... going out to infinite
space and returning ... There was a relaxing of the dualistic mind, and an
intense feeling of love. I felt a profound letting go of the boundaries
around me, and a connection with some kind of energy and state of being
that had a quality of clarity, transparency and joy. I felt a deep and
profound sense of connection to everything, recognizing that there never
was a true separation at all.

That is how Dr. Michael J. Baime, a colleague of Andrew Newberg's at Penn,
describes what he feels at the moment of peak transcendence when he
practices Tibetan Buddhist meditation, as he has since he was 14 in 1969.
Baime offered his brain to Newberg, who, since childhood, had wondered
about the mystery of God's existence. At Penn, Newberg's specialty is
radiology, so he teamed with Eugene d'Aquili to use imaging techniques to
detect which regions of the brain are active during spiritual experiences.
The scientists recruited Baime and seven other Tibetan Buddhists, all
skilled meditators.

In a typical run, Baime settled onto the floor of a small darkened room,
lit only by a few candles and filled with jasmine incense. A string of
twine lay beside him. Concentrating on a mental image, he focused and
focused, quieting his conscious mind (he told the scientists afterward)
until something he identifies as his true inner self emerged. It felt
"timeless and infinite," Baime said afterward, "a part of everyone and
everything in existence." When he reached the "peak" of spiritual
intensity, he tugged on the twine. Newberg, huddled outside the room and
holding the other end, felt the pull and quickly injected a radioactive
tracer into an IV line that ran into Baime's left arm. After a few moments,
he whisked Baime off to a SPECT (single photon emission computed
tomography) machine. By detecting the tracer, it tracks blood flow in the
brain. Blood flow correlates with neuronal activity.

The SPECT images are as close as scientists have come to snapping a photo
of a transcendent experience. As expected, the prefrontal cortex, seat of
attention, lit up: Baime, after all, was focusing deeply. But it was a
quieting of activity that stood out. A bundle of neurons in the superior
parietal lobe, toward the top and back of the brain, had gone dark. This
region, nicknamed the "orientation association area," processes information
about space and time, and the orientation of the body in space. It
determines where the body ends and the rest of the world begins.
Specifically, the left orientation area creates the sensation of a
physically delimited body; the right orientation area creates the sense of
the physical space in which the body exists. (An injury to this area can so
cripple your ability to maneuver in physical space that you cannot figure
the distance and angles needed to navigate the route to a chair across the

The orientation area requires sensory input to do its calculus. "If you
block sensory inputs to this region, as you do during the intense
concentration of meditation, you prevent the brain from forming the
distinction between self and not-self," says Newberg. With no information
from the senses arriving, the left orientation area cannot find any
boundary between the self and the world. As a result, the brain seems to
have no choice but "to perceive the self as endless and intimately
interwoven with everyone and everything," Newberg and d'Aquili write in
"Why God Won't Go Away." The right orientation area, equally bereft of
sensory data, defaults to a feeling of infinite space. The meditators feel
that they have touched infinity.

I felt communion, peace, openness to experience ... [There was] an
awareness and responsiveness to God's presence around me, and a feeling of
centering, quieting, nothingness, [as well as] moments of fullness of the
presence of God. [God was] permeating my being.

This is how her 45-minute prayer made Sister Celeste, a Franciscan nun,
feel, just before Newberg SPECT-scanned her. During her most intensely
religious moments, when she felt a palpable sense of God's presence and an
absorption of her self into his being, her brain displayed changes like
those in the Tibetan Buddhist meditators: her orientation area went dark.
What Sister Celeste and the other nuns in the study felt, and what the
meditators experienced, Newberg emphasizes, "were neither mistakes nor
wishful thinking. They reflect real, biologically based events in the
brain." The fact that spiritual contemplation affects brain activity gives
the experience a reality that psychologists and neuroscientists had long
denied it, and explains why people experience ineffable, transcendent
events as equally real as seeing a wondrous sunset or stubbing their toes.

That a religious experience is reflected in brain activity is not too
surprising, actually. Everything we experience -- from the sound of thunder
to the sight of a poodle, the feeling of fear and the thought of a
polka-dot castle -- leaves a trace on the brain. Neurotheology is stalking
bigger game than simply affirming that spiritual feelings leave neural
footprints, too. By pinpointing the brain areas involved in spiritual
experiences and tracing how such experiences arise, the scientists hope to
learn whether anyone can have such experiences, and why spiritual
experiences have the qualities they do.

I could hear the singing of the planets, and wave after wave of light
washed over me. But ... I was the light as well ... I no longer existed as
a separate 'I' ... I saw into the structure of the universe. I had the
impression of knowing beyond knowledge and being given glimpses into ALL.

That was how author Sophy Burnham described her experience at Machu Picchu,
in her 1997 book "The Ecstatic Journey." Although there was no scientist
around to whisk her into a SPECT machine and confirm that her orientation
area was AWOL, it was almost certainly quiescent. That said, just because
an experience has a neural correlate does not mean that the experience
exists "only" in the brain, or that it is a figment of brain activity with
no independent reality. Think of what happens when you dig into an apple
pie. The brain's olfactory region registers the aroma of the cinnamon and
fruit. The somatosensory cortex processes the feel of the flaky crust on
the tongue and lips. The visual cortex registers the sight of the pie.
Remembrances of pies past (Grandma's kitchen, the corner bake shop ...)
activate association cortices. A neuroscientist with too much time on his
hands could undoubtedly produce a PET scan of "your brain on apple pie."
But that does not negate the reality of the pie. "The fact that spiritual
experiences can be associated with distinct neural activity does not
necessarily mean that such experiences are mere neurological illusions,"
Newberg insists. "It's no safer to say that spiritual urges and sensations
are caused by brain activity than it is to say that the neurological
changes through which we experience the pleasure of eating an apple cause
the apple to exist." The bottom line, he says, is that "there is no way to
determine whether the neurological changes associated with spiritual
experience mean that the brain is causing those experiences ... or is
instead perceiving a spiritual reality."

In fact, some of the same brain regions involved in the pie experience
create religious experiences, too. When the image of a cross, or a Torah
crowned in silver, triggers a sense of religious awe, it is because the
brain's visual-association area, which interprets what the eyes see and
connects images to emotions and memories, has learned to link those images
to that feeling. Visions that arise during prayer or ritual are also
generated in the association area: electrical stimulation of the temporal
lobes (which nestle along the sides of the head and house the circuits
responsible for language, conceptual thinking and associations) produces

Temporal-lobe epilepsy -- abnormal bursts of electrical activity in these
regions -- takes this to extremes. Although some studies have cast doubt on
the connection between temporal-lobe epilepsy and religiosity, others find
that the condition seems to trigger vivid, Joan of Arc-type religious
visions and voices. In his recent book "Lying Awake," novelist Mark Salzman
conjures up the story of a cloistered nun who, after years of being unable
to truly feel the presence of God, begins having visions. The cause is
temporal-lobe epilepsy. Sister John of the Cross must wrestle with whether
to have surgery, which would probably cure her -- but would also end her
visions. Dostoevsky, Saint Paul, Saint Teresa of Avila, Proust and others
are thought to have had temporal-lobe epilepsy, leaving them obsessed with
matters of the spirit.

Although temporal-lobe epilepsy is rare, researchers suspect that focused
bursts of electrical activity called "temporal-lobe transients" may yield
mystical experiences. To test this idea, Michael Persinger of Laurentian
University in Canada fits a helmet jury-rigged with electromagnets onto a
volunteer's head. The helmet creates a weak magnetic field, no stronger
than that produced by a computer monitor. The field triggers bursts of
electrical activity in the temporal lobes, Persinger finds, producing
sensations that volunteers describe as supernatural or spiritual: an
out-of-body experience, a sense of the divine. He suspects that religious
experiences are evoked by mini electrical storms in the temporal lobes, and
that such storms can be triggered by anxiety, personal crisis, lack of
oxygen, low blood sugar and simple fatigue -- suggesting a reason that some
people "find God" in such moments. Why the temporal lobes? Persinger
speculates that our left temporal lobe maintains our sense of self. When
that region is stimulated but the right stays quiescent, the left
interprets this as a sensed presence, as the self departing the body, or of

I was alone upon the seashore ... I felt that I ... return[ed] from the
solitude of individuation into the consciousness of unity with all that is
... Earth, heaven, and sea resounded as in one vast world encircling
harmony ... I felt myself one with them.

Is an experience like this one, described by the German philosopher Malwida
von Meysenburg in 1900, within the reach of anyone? "Not everyone who
meditates encounters these sorts of unitive experiences," says Robert K.C.
Forman, a scholar of comparative religion at Hunter College in New York
City. "This suggests that some people may be genetically or temperamentally
predisposed to mystical ability." Those most open to mystical experience
tend also to be open to new experiences generally. They are usually
creative and innovative, with a breadth of interests and a tolerance for
ambiguity (as determined by questionnaire). They also tend toward fantasy,
notes David Wulff, "suggesting a capacity to suspend the judging process
that distinguishes imaginings and real events." Since "we all have the
brain circuits that mediate spiritual experiences, probably most people
have the capacity for having such experiences," says Wulff. "But it's
possible to foreclose that possibility. If you are rational, controlled,
not prone to fantasy, you will probably resist the experience."

In survey after survey since the 1960s, between 30 and 40 percent or so of
those asked say they have, at least once or twice, felt "very close to a
powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself." Gallup
polls in the 1990s found that 53 percent of American adults said they had
had "a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight." Reports of
mystical experience increase with education, income and age (people in
their 40s and 50s are most likely to have them).

Yet many people seem no more able to have such an experience than to fly to
Venus. One explanation came in 1999, when Australian researchers found that
people who report mystical and spiritual experiences tend to have unusually
easy access to subliminal consciousness. "In people whose unconscious
thoughts tend to break through into consciousness more readily, we find
some correlation with spiritual experiences," says psychologist Michael
Thalbourne of the University of Adelaide. Unfortunately, scientists are
pretty clueless about what allows subconscious thoughts to pop into the
consciousness of some people and not others. The single strongest predictor
of such experiences, however, is something called "dissociation." In this
state, different regions of the brain disengage from others. "This theory,
which explains hypnotizability so well, might explain mystical states,
too," says Michael Shermer, director of the Skeptics Society, which debunks
paranormal phenomena. "Something really seems to be going on in the brain,
with some module dissociating from the rest of the cortex."

That dissociation may reflect unusual electrical crackling in one or more
brain regions. In 1997, neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran told the annual
meeting of the Society for Neuroscience that there is "a neural basis for
religious experience." His preliminary results suggested that depth of
religious feeling, or religiosity, might depend on natural -- not
helmet-induced -- enhancements in the electrical activity of the temporal
lobes. Interestingly, this region of the brain also seems important for
speech perception. One experience common to many spiritual states is
hearing the voice of God. It seems to arise when you misattribute inner
speech (the "little voice" in your head that you know you generate
yourself) to something outside yourself. During such experiences, the
brain's Broca's area (responsible for speech production) switches on. Most
of us can tell this is our inner voice speaking. But when sensory
information is restricted, as happens during meditation or prayer, people
are "more likely to misattribute internally generated thoughts to an
external source," suggests psychologist Richard Bentall of the University
of Manchester in England in the book "Varieties of Anomalous Experience."

Stress and emotional arousal can also interfere with the brain's ability to
find the source of a voice, Bentall adds. In a 1998 study, researchers
found that one particular brain region, called the right anterior
cingulate, turned on when people heard something in the environment -- a
voice or a sound -- and also when they hallucinated hearing something. But
it stayed quiet when they imagined hearing something and thus were sure it
came from their own brain. This region, says Bentall, "may contain the
neural circuits responsible for tagging events as originating from the
external world." When it is inappropriately switched on, we are fooled into
thinking the voice we hear comes from outside us.

Even people who describe themselves as nonspiritual can be moved by
religious ceremonies and liturgy. Hence the power of ritual. Drumming,
dancing, incantations -- all rivet attention on a single, intense source of
sensory stimulation, including the body's own movements. They also evoke
powerful emotional responses. That combination -- focused attention that
excludes other sensory stimuli, plus heightened emotion -- is key.
Together, they seem to send the brain's arousal system into hyperdrive,
much as intense fear does. When this happens, explains Newberg, one of the
brain structures responsible for maintaining equilibrium -- the hippocampus
-- puts on the brakes. It inhibits the flow of signals between neurons,
like a traffic cop preventing any more cars from entering the on-ramp to a
tied-up highway.

The result is that certain regions of the brain are deprived of neuronal
input. One such deprived region seems to be the orientation area, the same
spot that goes quiet during meditation and prayer. As in those states,
without sensory input the orientation area cannot do its job of maintaining
a sense of where the self leaves off and the world begins. That's why
ritual and liturgy can bring on what Newberg calls a "softening of the
boundaries of the self" -- and the sense of oneness and spiritual unity.
Slow chanting, elegiac liturgical melodies and whispered ritualistic prayer
all seem to work their magic in much the same way: they turn on the
hippocampus directly and block neuronal traffic to some brain regions. The
result again is "blurring the edges of the brain's sense of self, opening
the door to the unitary states that are the primary goal of religious
ritual," says Newberg.

Researchers' newfound interest in neurotheology reflects more than the
availability of cool new toys to peer inside the working brain. Psychology
and neuroscience have long neglected religion. Despite its centrality to
the mental lives of so many people, religion has been met by what David
Wulff calls "indifference or even apathy" on the part of science. When one
psychologist, a practicing Christian, tried to discuss in his introductory
psych book the role of faith in people's lives, his publisher edited out
most of it -- for fear of offending readers. The rise of neurotheology
represents a radical shift in that attitude. And whatever light science is
shedding on spirituality, spirituality is returning the favor: mystical
experiences, says Forman, may tell us something about consciousness,
arguably the greatest mystery in neuroscience. "In mystical experiences,
the content of the mind fades, sensory awareness drops out, so you are left
only with pure consciousness," says Forman. "This tells you that
consciousness does not need an object, and is not a mere byproduct of
sensory action."

For all the tentative successes that scientists are scoring in their search
for the biological bases of religious, spiritual and mystical experience,
one mystery will surely lie forever beyond their grasp. They may trace a
sense of transcendence to this bulge in our gray matter. And they may trace
a feeling of the divine to that one. But it is likely that they will never
resolve the greatest question of all -- namely, whether our brain wiring
creates God, or whether God created our brain wiring. Which you believe is,
in the end, a matter of faith.

With Anne Underwood

Faith is More than a Feeling   The problem with neurotheology is that it
confuses spiritual experiences -

which few believers actually have - with religion.

By Kenneth L. Woodward

Skeptics used to argue that anyone with half a brain should realize there
is no God. Now scientists are telling us that one half of the brain, or a
portion thereof, is "wired" for religious experiences. But whether this
evolving "neurotheology" is theology at all is doubtful. It tells us new
things about the circuits of the brain, perhaps, but nothing new about God.

The chief mistake these neurotheologians make is to identify religion with
specific experiences and feelings. Losing one's self in prayer may feel
good or uplifting, but these emotions have nothing to do with how well we
communicate with God. In fact, many people pray best when feeling shame or
sorrow, and the sense that God is absent is no less valid than the
experience of divine presence. The sheer struggle to pray may be more
authentic than the occasional feeling that God is close by, hearing every
word. Very few believers have experienced what Christian theology calls
mystical union with God. Nor, for that matter, have many Buddhists
experienced the "emptiness" that the Buddha identified as the realization
of "no-self."

Neurotheologians also confuse spirituality with religion. But doing the
will of God -- or following the dharma -- involves much more than prayer
and meditation. To see Christ in the person of an AIDS victim or to really
love one's enemy does not necessitate a special alteration in the circuits
of the brain. Nor does the efficacy of a eucharistic celebration depend on
the collective brain waves of the congregation. In short, religion
comprehends a whole range of acts and insights that acknowledge a
transcendent order without requiring a transcendent experience.

On the other hand, most of us have at one time or another experienced the
dissolution of the boundaries of the self -- and a corresponding sense of
being at one with the cosmos. But such peak moments need not be religious.
William Wordsworth found release from self in nature, where his spirit
"Rolled round in earth's diurnal course/With rocks and stones and trees." A
very different poet, Walt Whitman, escaped his individual self by merging
imaginatively with the whole of democratic America -- and everybody in it.
What else is a rock concert but an assault on all the senses so that
individual identities can dissolve into a collective high? Even ordinary
lovers can momentarily feel at one with the universe through the mutual
meltdown of ecstatic sex: "Did the earth move for you, too?"

According to the neurotheologians, evolution has programmed the brain to
find pleasure in escaping the confines of the self. Some religious
practices bear this out. As every meditator quickly learns, reciting a
mantra for 20 minutes a day does relax the body and refresh an
overstimulated mind. The Bible, too, recommends contemplative prayer for
the busily self-involved: "Be still and know that I am Lord." But in the
yogic traditions of India, where overcoming the boundaries of the self is
central to spirituality, severe ascetic practices like fasting for weeks
and more.


Same Old Shit With A New Coat Of Paint?

Pope Francis, CIA and ‘Death Squads’

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

17 March 13


In the 1970s, Father Jorge Bergoglio faced a moment of truth: Would he stand up to Argentina’s military neo-Nazis “disappearing” thousands including priests, or keep his mouth shut and his career on track? Like many other Church leaders, Pope Francis took the safe route, Robert Parry reports.

he election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis brings back into focus the troubling role of the Catholic hierarchy in blessing much of the brutal repression that swept Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, killing and torturing tens of thousands of people including priests and nuns accused of sympathizing with leftists.

The Vatican’s fiercely defensive reaction to the reemergence of these questions as they relate to the new Pope also is reminiscent of the pattern of deceptive denials that became another hallmark of that era when propaganda was viewed as an integral part of the “anticommunist” struggles, which were often supported financially and militarily by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

It appears that Bergoglio, who was head of the Jesuit order in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s grim “dirty war,” mostly tended to his bureaucratic rise within the Church as Argentine security forces “disappeared” some 30,000 people for torture and murder from 1976 to 1983, including 150 Catholic priests suspected of believing in “liberation theology.”

Much as Pope Pius XII didn’t directly challenge the Nazis during the Holocaust, Father Bergoglio avoided any direct confrontation with the neo-Nazis who were terrorizing Argentina. Pope Francis’s defenders today, like apologists for Pope Pius, claim he did intervene quietly to save some individuals.

But no one asserts that Bergoglio stood up publicly against the “anticommunist” terror, as some other Church leaders did in Latin America, most notably El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero who then became a victim of right-wing assassins in 1980.

Indeed, the predominant role of the Church hierarchy – from the Vatican to the bishops in the individual countries – was to give political cover to the slaughter and to offer little protection to the priests and nuns who advocated “liberation theology,” i.e. the belief that Jesus did not just favor charity to the poor but wanted a just society that shared wealth and power with the poor.

In Latin America with its calcified class structure of a few oligarchs at one end and many peasants at the other, that meant reforms, such as land redistribution, literacy programs, health clinics, union rights, etc. But those changes were fiercely opposed by the local oligarchs and the multinational corporations that profited from the cheap labor and inequitable land distribution.

So, any reformers of any stripe were readily labeled “communists” and were made the targets of vicious security forces, often trained and indoctrinated by “anticommunist” military officers at the U.S.-run School of the Americas. The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system.

It is noteworthy that the orchestrated praise for Pope Francis in the U.S. news media has been to hail Bergoglio’s supposedly “humble” personality and his “commitment to the poor.” However, Bergoglio’s approach fits with the Church’s attitude for centuries, to give “charity” to the poor while doing little to change their cruel circumstances – as Church grandees hobnob with the rich and powerful.

Another Pope Favorite

Pope John Paul II, another favorite of the U.S. news media, shared this classic outlook. He emphasized conservative social issues, telling the faithful to forgo contraceptives, treating women as second-class Catholics and condemning homosexuality. He promoted charity for the poor and sometimes criticized excesses of capitalism, but he disdained leftist governments that sought serious economic reforms.

Elected in 1978, as right-wing “death squads” were gaining momentum across Latin America, John Paul II offered little protection to left-leaning priests and nuns who were targeted. He rebuffed Archbishop Romero’s plea to condemn El Salvador’s right-wing regime and its human rights violations. He stood by as priests were butchered and nuns were raped and killed.

Instead of leading the charge for real economic and political change in Latin America, John Paul II denounced “liberation theology.” During a 1983 trip to Nicaragua – then ruled by the leftist Sandinistas – the Pope condemned what he called the “popular Church” and would not let Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and a minister in the Sandinista government, kiss the papal ring. He also elevated clerics like Bergoglio who didn’t protest right-wing repression.

John Paul II appears to have gone even further, allowing the Catholic Church in Nicaragua to be used by the CIA and Ronald Reagan’s administration to finance and organize internal disruptions while the violent Nicaraguan Contras terrorized northern Nicaraguan towns with raids notorious for rape, torture and extrajudicial executions.

The Contras were originally organized by an Argentine intelligence unit that emerged from the country’s domestic “dirty war” and was taking its “anticommunist” crusade of terror across borders. After Reagan took office in 1981, he authorized the CIA to join with Argentine intelligence in expanding the Contras and their counterrevolutionary war.

A key part of Reagan’s Contra strategy was to persuade the American people and Congress that the Sandinistas represented a repressive communist dictatorship that persecuted the Catholic Church, aimed to create a “totalitarian dungeon,” and thus deserved violent overthrow.

A special office inside the National Security Council, headed by longtime CIA disinformation specialist Walter Raymond Jr., pushed these propaganda “themes” domestically. Raymond’s campaign exploited examples of tensions between the Catholic hierarchy and the Sandinista government as well as with La Prensa, the leading opposition newspaper.

To make the propaganda work with Americans, it was important to conceal the fact that elements of the Catholic hierarchy and La Prensa were being financed by the CIA and were coordinating with the Reagan administration’s destabilization strategies. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Evidence of Payments

In 1988, I discovered evidence of this reality while working as a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. At the time, the Iran-Contra scandal had undermined the case for spending more U.S. money to arm the Contras. But the Reagan administration continued to beat the propaganda drums by highlighting the supposed persecution of Nicaragua’s internal opposition.

To fend off U.S. hostility, which also included a harsh economic embargo, the Sandinistas announced increased political freedoms. But that represented only a new opportunity for Washington to orchestrate more political disruptions, which would either destabilize the government further or force a crackdown that could then be cited in seeking more Contra aid.

Putting the Sandinistas in this “inside-outside” vise had always been part of the CIA strategy, but with a crumbling economy and more U.S. money pouring into the opposition groups, the gambit was beginning to work.

Yet, it was crucial to the plan that the CIA’s covert relationship with Nicaragua’s internal opposition remain secret, not so much from the Sandinistas, who had detailed intelligence about this thoroughly penetrated operation, but from the American people. The U.S. public would get outraged at Sandinista reprisals against these “independent” groups only if the CIA’s hand were kept hidden.

A rich opportunity for the Reagan administration presented itself in summer 1988 when a new spasm of Contra ambushes killed 17 Nicaraguans and the anti-Sandinista internal opposition staged a violent demonstration in the town of Nandaime, a protest that Sandinista police dispersed with tear gas.

Reacting to the renewed violence, the Sandinistas closed down La Prensa and the Catholic Church’s radio station – both prime vehicles for anti-Sandinista propaganda. The Nicaraguan government also expelled U.S. Ambassador Richard Melton and seven other U.S. Embassy personnel for allegedly coordinating the disorders.

Major U.S. news outlets, which had accepted their role treating the Sandinistas as “designated enemies” of the United States, roared in outrage, and the U.S. Congress condemned the moves by a margin of 94-4 in the Senate and 385-18 in the House.

Melton then testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee first in secret and then in public, struggling to hide the open secret in Washington that Nicaragua’s internal opposition, like the Contras, was getting covert help from the U.S. government.

When asked by a senator in public session about covert American funding to the opposition, Melton dissembled awkwardly: “As to other activities that might be conducted, that’s – they were discussed – that would be discussed yesterday in the closed hearing.”

When pressed by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum on whether the embassy provided “encouragement – financial or otherwise – of dissident elements,” Melton responded stiffly: “The ambassador in any post is the principal representative of the U.S. government. And in that capacity, fulfills those functions.” He then declined to discuss “activities of an intelligence nature” in open session.

On the Payroll

In other words, yes, the U.S. government was covertly organizing and funding the activities of the supposedly “independent” internal opposition in Nicaragua. And, according to more than a dozen sources that I interviewed inside the Contra movement or close to U.S. intelligence, the Reagan administration had funneled CIA money to virtually every segment of the internal opposition, from the Catholic Church to La Prensa to business and labor groups to political parties.

“We’ve always had the internal opposition on the CIA payroll,” one U.S. government official said. The CIA’s budget line for Nicaraguan political action – separate from Contra military operations – was about $10 million a year, my sources said. I learned that the CIA had been using the Church and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo to funnel money into Nicaragua.

Obando was a plodding but somewhat complex character. In the 1970s, he had criticized the repression of the Somoza dictatorship and expressed some sympathy for the young Sandinista revolutionaries who were trying to bring social and economic changes to Nicaragua.

However, after the murder of El Salvador’s Archbishop Romero in 1980 and Pope John Paul II’s repudiation of “liberation theology,” Obando shifted clumsily into the anti-Sandinista camp, attacking the “people’s church” and accusing the Sandinistas of “godless communism.”

On May 25, 1985, he was rewarded when the Pope named him Cardinal for Central America. Then, despite mounting evidence of Contra atrocities, Obando traveled to the United States in January 1986 and threw his support behind a renewal of military aid to the Contras.

All this made a lot more sense after factoring in that Obando had essentially been put onto the CIA’s payroll. The CIA funding for Nicaragua’s Catholic Church was originally unearthed in 1985 by the congressional intelligence oversight committees, which then insisted that the money be cut off to avoid compromising Obando further.

But the funding was simply transferred to another secret operation headed by White House aide Oliver North. In fall 1985, North earmarked $100,000 of his privately raised money to go to Obando for his anti-Sandinista activities, I learned from my sources.

I was also told that the CIA’s support for Obando and the Catholic hierarchy went through a maze of cut-outs in Europe, apparently to give Obando deniability. But one well-placed Nicaraguan exile said he had spoken with Obando about the money and the Cardinal had expressed fear that his past receipt of CIA funding would come out.

What to Do?

Discovering this CIA funding of Nicaragua’s Catholic Church presented professional problems for me at Newsweek, where my senior editors were already making clear that they sympathized with the Reagan administration’s muscular foreign policy and felt that the Iran-Contra scandal had gone too far in undermining U.S. interests.

But what was the right thing for an American journalist to do with this information? Here was a case in which the U.S. government was misleading the American public by pretending that the Sandinistas were cracking down on the Catholic Church and the internal opposition without any justification. Plus, this U.S. propaganda was being used to make the case in Congress for an expanded war in which thousands of Nicaraguans were dying.

However, if Newsweek ran the story, it would put CIA assets, including Cardinal Obando, in a dicey situation, possibly even life-threatening. So, when I presented the information to my bureau chief, Evan Thomas, I made no recommendation on whether we should publish or not. I just laid out the facts as I had ascertained them. To my surprise, Thomas was eager to go forward.

Newsweek contacted its Central America correspondent Joseph Contreras, who outlined our questions to Obando’s aides and prepared a list of questions to present to the Cardinal personally. However, when Contreras went to Obando’s home in a posh suburb of Managua, the Cardinal literally evaded the issue.

As Contreras later recounted in a cable back to Newsweek in the United States, he was approaching the front gate when it suddenly swung open and the Cardinal, sitting in the front seat of his burgundy Toyota Land Cruiser, blew past.

As Contreras made eye contact and waved the letter, Obando’s driver gunned the engine. Contreras jumped into his car and hastily followed. Contreras guessed correctly that Obando had turned left at one intersection and headed north toward Managua.

Contreras caught up to the Cardinal’s vehicle at the first stop-light. The driver apparently spotted the reporter and, when the light changed, sped away, veering from lane to lane. The Land Cruiser again disappeared from view, but at the next intersection, Contreras turned right and spotted the car pulled over, with its occupants presumably hoping that Contreras had turned left.

Quickly, the Cardinal’s vehicle pulled onto the road and now sped back toward Obando’s house. Contreras gave up the chase, fearing that any further pursuit might appear to be harassment. Several days later, having regained his composure, the Cardinal finally met with Contreras and denied receiving any CIA money. But Contreras told me that Obando’s denial was unconvincing.

Newsweek drafted a version of the story, making it appear as if we weren’t sure of the facts about Obando and the money. When I saw a “readback” of the article, I went into Thomas’s office and said that if Newsweek didn’t trust my reporting, we shouldn’t run the story at all. He said that wasn’t the case; it was just that the senior editors felt more comfortable with a vaguely worded story.

Hot Water

We ended up in hot water with the Reagan administration and right-wing media attack groups anyway. Accuracy in Media lambasted me, in particular, for going with such a sensitive story without being sure of the facts (which, of course, I was).

Thomas was summoned to the State Department where Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams heaped more criticism on me though not denying the facts of our story. Newsweek also agreed, in the face of right-wing pressure, to subject me and the article to an internal investigation, which quietly reconfirmed the facts of the story.

Despite this corroboration, the incident damaged my relations with senior Newsweek editors, particularly executive editor Maynard Parker who saw himself as part of the New York/Washington foreign policy establishment and was deeply hostile to the Iran-Contra scandal, which I had helped expose.

As for Obando, the Sandinistas did nothing to punish him for his collaboration with the CIA and he gradually evolved more into a figure of reconciliation than confrontation. However, the hyper-secretive Vatican has refused to open its archives for any serious research into its relationship with the CIA and other Western intelligence services.

Whenever allegations do arise about the Catholic Church’s hierarchy winking and nodding at the kinds of human rights atrocities that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, the Vatican PR department lashes out with sternly worded denials.

That practice is playing out again in the days after the election of Pope Francis I. Rather than a serious and reflective assessment of the actions (and inactions) of Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal Obando, Pope John Paul II and other Church leaders during those dark days of torture and murder, the Vatican simply denounces all allegations as “slander,” “calumny” and politically motivated lies.

 God’s Got It-The Black Crowes



OTA’s 2013 Easter Special: The Reality Of The Resurrection (Debunking Old Urban Legends)????

This ABC News feature explains the near certainty  of the images on the Shroud being created by an intense flash of UV light (ie: lasers)…..the book review  concerns observations and interviews with a large group of English people who identified as Essenes in past life regression studies published by psychologists of a large English University, they tell us where the lasers came from and how they worked. The third article is a wassup on the Shroud , figuratively today , done almost a year ago.

The Shroud of Turin Wasn’t Faked, Italian Experts Say

By Suzan Clarke

Dec 21, 2011 6:56pm
ap holy turin shroud nt 111221 wblog The Shroud of Turin Wasnt Faked, Italian Experts SayAntonio Calanni/AP Photo

Has the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin finally been proven?

A new study by Italian scientists may not be definitive on its origins, but it does refute the popular notion that it was faked during the Middle Ages.

Experts at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development have concluded in a report that the famed purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ could not have been faked.

According to the Vatican Insider, a project by La Stampa newspaper that closely follows the Catholic church, the experts’ report says, “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining which is identical in all its facets, would be impossible to obtain today in a laboratory … This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made.”

The centuries-old shroud contains a faint impression of the front and back of a human body, along with blood, dirt and water stains from age.

Many have long questioned the shroud’s authenticity, and others have suggested that it was faked during medieval times.

The Italian researchers, who conducted dozens of hours of tests with X-rays and ultraviolet lights, said that no laser existed to date that could replicate the singular nature of markings on the shroud. They also said that the kind of markings on the cloth could not have come from direct contact of the body with the linen.

Previous investigation has determined the markings could not have come from pigments or dyes.

The Italian scientists said the  marks could only have been made by “a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation.”

Such technology did not exist in the time the skeptics claim the shroud could have been forged.

The scientists haven’t offered an explanation for how they believe the marks were made, but believers have long thought the shroud was miraculously marked when Jesus rose from the dead following his crucifixion.

The mystery of the shroud has long been a subject of debate and serious research.

Just last year, the History Channel  aired a special in which it revealed a 3D image of the face of Jesus, constructed from the markings left in the cloth.  Artists and scientists studied the Shroud of Turin, and used cutting-edge technology to create a  computer-generated image of the face surrounded by the shroud.

The revelation caused mixed reactions around the globe.  While some people said the image was “realistic” and what they imagined Christ looked like, others were not as certain.

The shroud is owned by the Vatican, although the Catholic church has never taken an official position on the cloth’s authenticity.



The Essenes: Children of the Light and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

The Essenes: Children of the Light [Paperback]

Stuart Wilson (Author)

Book Description

Publication Date: March 2005
Take a trip through time to uncover the mysterious Essene knowledge and secrets that Jesus was taught. * Did Jesus really die on the cross? * Who was Mary Magdalene and what was her real connection with Jesus?* Extensive new information about the secretive Essene mystery schools. It is one of the great tragedies of Western culture that Christianity forgot and eventually denied its Essene roots. Those roots are herein explored from the perspective of past life regression. Fascinating new information emerged, including Essene links with the Druids, the existence of a secret Core Group around Jesus, and contacts with the Order of Melchizedek. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the Essene Jesus is restored to us, bringing to life the wise and loving Being who has been obscured by so much doctrine and dogma. His words speak to us across the centuries and open a clearer understanding of the Way, which he established, and the ultimate goal of that Way. This book makes clear that Jesus did not stand-alone. He had the backing of a powerful and dedicated team of Essenes, including Joseph of Arimathea. Thanks to the technique of past life regression, this story can now be told for the first time, opening up a fascinating window onto a unique and vital time in history.

About the Author
Stuart Wilson was born in Exmouth in the West of England. He came from a conventional background and went to a Scottish public school (Fettes in Edin-burgh). However his mother was fascinated by theosophy and the writings of Alice Bailey, and this led to Stuart’s lifelong interest in esoteric teachings and the Eastern and Western wisdom traditions. After service in the RAF on Christmas Island in the Pacific, he entered advertising as an agency copywriter, rising over some years to become an advertising manager for an industrial company. He then retrained as a counselor and set up a small publishing business, which he later sold to concentrate on writing. He wrote two best-selling name dictionaries, including Simply the Best Baby Name Book, and moved in 1990 to help his friend Joanna Prentis with the development of the Starlight Centre in mid-Devon. He writes of this period: “It was inspiring and fascinating but also exhausting! A stream of visitors came in to the Centre, mainly from the United States and Australia, but some also from Europe. We had an amazing and mind-expanding time sitting at the feet of internationally respected spiritual teachers and workshop leaders. What I remember most about this time was the big gatherings when our friends came in to share a meal and talk about our experiences and all the changes that were happening in our lives. It was a wonderful time, full of joy and laughter, and the special events, like Anna Mitchell Hedges sharing her crystal skull, and the two fire-walks led by Esassani, were simply magical!” Joanna Prentis: I was born in Bangalore in southern India. When I was two my family returned to Scotland where I spent my childhood and teenage years. After leaving school I traveled exten-sively, married and lived in Hong Kong for two years and then ten years in the Australian bush in Western Australia, where my three daughters were born. It was there that my interest began in alternative medicine and education, organ

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real Jesus and His real teachings of The Way March 18, 2007
This book is so astounding and outstanding that I am moved to write my first Amazon review. We are treated to an insider’s experience of not only the Essene community at Qumran, but the travels of Joseph of Arimathea and the true inner teachings of Jesus Christ. I have come to truly understand the Way of the Nazarene as taught by Jesus while He was on Earth in a human body. The teachings are profound and yet so simple–practice love and forgiveness with all. The story of the Essene priests bringing Jesus back to life is a stretch for me, but may very well be entirely true. We see how involved the family of Jesus was in His ministerial training and support. I came to truly feel that Daniel was a good friend and a sense of loss overtook me as the book ended, like losing an old and dear friend to old age. The wisdom in this book is on a par with Conversations With God, and it is just as insightful. The parallels to the work of Dolores Cannon are more than remarkable. They either copied her work or –clearly–their methods of regressive hypnosis reveal the same hidden truths. Unlike Cannon’s work, Daniel is an Essene master of the Mysteries and is trained in clairvoyance, and is therefore able to see that he is talking to beings in the future and obtains permission to reveal the secrets he was sworn to preserve even under torture by the Romans or the Sanhedrin. Having studied with Cannon years ago and taken classes at the Berkeley Psychic Institute, I was well prepared to accept the information at face value. Even if you discount the method, the information and teachings revealed by Daniel and Joseph are true, deeply profound, and as moving as anything I have read in Buddhist literature or from my favorite spiritual teacher and writer, Ram Dass. We come away with a clear understanding of the history and lifestyle of the Essenes. Whether your interest is in the real Jesus, the Essenes, Joseph, the Druids, the Kaloo, Atlantis, crystals, the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the metaphysical truths and secret teachings of the spiritual masters of the world, this book will move you and captivate you. I put it at the top of my list with the work of Ram Dass and Neal Donald Walsch. Don’t miss this one. It is all here, except the truth that energy equals matter and thoughts create reactions on the physical plane. I have been to Qumran and can totally relate to the perspective given here. The history is unique and the teachings profound. I have researched much of this subject matter on my own, and had other psychics look at the same material, and reached many of the same conclusions prior to hearing them from Daniel. I only wish they had asked Joseph if it is true that Jesus and Mary had two children. There is profound truth contained within the pages of this book, and it leaves Cannon’s work far behind. Six stars!
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Essene experience and secrets April 20, 2005
If you have interest in the Essenes, and in the experience of being in Jesus’ presence, this is the book for you. Thanks to the author using past life regression, the reader hears about the Core Group that supported Jesus, the Kaloo (Ancient Ones)who gave their wisdom to the Essenes, the Order of Melchizedek, the meeting before Jesus’ death and events after his death. This book is a joy to read and to aid us in growing to the Light. I have bought extra copies to share with friends. Thank you, Joanna and Stuart, for writing it. I await your next book.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisitely beautiful August 14, 2006
A strange title for a review of a book which is full of historical background? It’s based around some extensive past life regression sessions of those who were once Essenes and one of these was a well-known Biblical figure. So the book is historical in nature and gives us a lot of information, with many fascinating details of Essene life. In essence, they were nothing less than the support group for Jesus. However, it is the beautifully poetic spiritual words which come through from Daniel that, for me, make this one of the most wonderful New Age books that I have ever come across.
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April 8, 2012 9:24 AM

Controversial new theories on the Shroud of Turin

(CBS News) The Shroud of Turin has intrigued believers and non-believers alike for centuries. On this Easter Sunday morning our Cover Story is reported by Martha Teichner:

It’s possibly the greatest “What if …” in the world. What if the Shroud of Turin really is the burial cloth Jesus was wrapped in . . . and the faint imprint on it, the image of a man who has been tortured and crucified, really is Christ himself?

The last time the Shroud was on view, for six weeks in 2010, more than two million people saw it, even though in 1988, after a carbon dating test, it was declared a medieval fake – dating from between 1260 and 1390.

The story was supposed to be over. But tell that to the throngs who waited hours for the chance to spend seconds before it in reverent silence.

And tell that to scholars who think the carbon dating results were just plain wrong, among them art historian Thomas de Wesselow.

De Wesselow – an agnostic, originally a skeptic about the Shroud – has just published a provocative new book about in which he concludes it’s genuine.

He compared it to artwork depicting the Crucifixion created since the Middle Ages, referring to the Station of the Cross at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City: “If you look at the hands on the cross, the nails go through the center of the palms,” he showed Teichner. “That part of the hand is not strong enough to bear the weight of the body.”

Meanwhile, the image on the Shroud shows the nail wounds going through the wrists. “That’s how they would have done it in Roman times,” said De Wesselow, supporting the idea that the Shroud is much older than the middle ages.

He said the Shroud illustrates signs of the events of Good Friday through Easter Sunday. “You start off with the flagellation, and that’s very clearly presented on the Shroud, with these very, very distinct marks of the flagrum,” he said. “You can then see the crown of thorns. He then is beaten and you can see on his face underneath his eyes there’s a swelling. His nose looks as if it’s been broken.” There is also the mark of a puncture of a spear, with “dribbles of blood coming down.”

Just coincidence?

19 Photos

The Shroud of Turin

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But now here’s the provocative part: De Wesselow’s take on the resurrection – what he says happened on Easter Day when Mary Magdalene and two other women went to Jesus’ tomb:

“They go to the body, they lift off the cloth, and they notice this strange shadowy form on the cloth itself,” he said. “Immediately, they would have had this perception of it as a living presence in the tomb with Jesus.”

“They didn’t see Jesus come alive again?”

“No, I think what they saw was the Shroud,” De Wesselow said. “Once they saw the Shroud they understood that he’d not been resurrected in the flesh, he’d been resurrected in the spirit.”

A positive and negative image of the Shroud of Turin./ Durron Books/CBS

According to de Wesselow, each supposed sighting of the risen Christ was actually a sighting of the Shroud. He’s convinced it was what sparked the rapid spread of Christianity, as it was taken from Jerusalem to Galilee, then to Damascus, where he believes Paul saw it and became a Christian.

Next, to a town called Edessa, in Turkey, and in the year 944, to Constantinople. There’s a drawing from the 1190s of what some scholars believe was the Shroud. A French knight wrote about seeing such a cloth in Constantinople before the city was sacked by crusaders in 1204.

“We can show perfectly rationally where the Shroud was all the way back to the first century,” de Wesselow said.

More than a thousand years before it turned up in Lirey, France, where Geoffrey de Charny – descended from one of the crusaders who led the sacking of Constantinople – put it on display in 1355, right about when the carbon dating results said it was faked.

It’s been in Turin, Italy since 1578.

“It could well be the burial cloth of Jesus – I wouldn’t discount that possibility,” said Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School and an eminent New Testament scholar, said of de Wesselow’s book: “That’s part of the case that he makes; the other part is trying to see how the discovery of this cloth might have functioned in generating belief about the resurrection, and that’s much more, in my mind, conjectural.

“However this image was formed, it was formed in a way that’s compatible with the ancient practice of Crucifixion,” said Attridge.

“So that is at least plausible?” asked Teichner.

“That’s at least plausible, yeah, yeah, and the blood stains, for instance, are clearly not paint,” he said.

That much has been proven. But, is it Jesus or someone else? Or is it an expert fake?

In 1898, Secondo Pia was allowed to photograph the Shroud. The image he saw in his darkroom startled the world. The Shroud, it turns out, is like a photo negative.

“There were plenty of other images of Christ which are meant to be imprints of his face, dating from the middle ages,” said de Wesselow. “And none of them look remotely like the Shroud.”

Thomas de Wesselow’s specialty is medieval art. “People did not know about negative images in those days. No one could have seen the realistic image that’s hidden behind the negative image on the cloth.”

In 1978, a group of respected American scientists and scholars calling themselves the Shroud of Turin Research Project (or STURP) were given 120 hours to subject the Shroud to a “CS”-like forensic study. Working 24 hours a day, they set out to discover how the image was made, and if it was a fake. They couldn’t.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


 What seems to have happened is that there was a chemical reaction between the decomposition products on the body and the carbohydrate deposits on the cloth,” said de Wesselow. The conclusion of one of the STURP scientists was that a chemical process known as a Maillard reaction had occurred. (It’s the same reaction that causes the crust of bread to go brown in the oven.)High definition photography has brought new detail to the case made by the cloth itself. Its size, roughly 3 1/2 feet by 14 feet; its distinct herringbone weave; even the way a seam was sewn is consistent with ancient burial cloths found near Jerusalem. Pollen samples taken from it show that, at some time, it was near Jerusalem and in Turkey.For just a moment, suppose Thomas de Wesselow’s theory is right. The implication that the image on the Shroud is authentic, but can be explained by scientific evidence – and what it means to a cornerstone of Christianity – is stunning.”I’m obviously not the first person to deny that the Resurrection happened,” said de Wesselow. “Some people will dismiss [the book]. Some people will be intrigued by it. And some people may change their attitudes on one thing or another by it.”Yale Divinity School Dean Attridge said, “For many, many mainstream Protestants and Catholics, certainly evangelical Protestants, you have a notion that you need the resurrected body in the way that it’s described in Luke and John. That was not Paul’s belief. Paul did not have a belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus. And I tend to agree with Paul. But it remains something of a mystery.”. . . as does the history and meaning of the Shroud of Turin. There is, after all, the carbon dating evidence, confirmed by three different labs. The Catholic Church, owner of the Shroud, accepted those findings. But when it was on display in 2010, Pope Benedict called it “a burial cloth, which wrapped the body of a man crucified in total conformity with what the evangelists tell us of Jesus…”So, what is the truth?


Hot News From The Infallible Men In Skirts Department

True Relgion-Hot Tuna

Was Bergoglio Complicit in Argentina’s Dirty War?

By Hugh O’Shaughnessy, Guardian UK

13 March13


enedict XVI gave us words of great comfort and encouragement in the message he delivered on Christmas Eve.

“God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways,” the pope said. “He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us”.

If these words comforted and encouraged me they will surely have done the same for leaders of the church in Argentina, among many others. To the judicious and fair-minded outsider it has been clear for years that the upper reaches of the Argentine church contained many “lost sheep in the wilderness”, men who had communed and supported the unspeakably brutal Western-supported military dictatorship which seized power in that country in 1976 and battened on it for years. Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did nothing to shake the support of senior clerics, including representatives of the Holy See, for the criminality of their leader General Jorge Rafael Videla and his minions.

As it happens, in the week before Christmas in the city of Córdoba Videla and some of his military and police cohorts were convicted by their country’s courts of the murder of 31 people between April and October 1976, a small fraction of the killings they were responsible for. The convictions brought life sentences for some of the military. These were not to be served, as has often been the case in Argentina and neighbouring Chile, in comfy armed forces retirement homes but in common prisons. Unsurprisingly there was dancing in the city’s streets when the judge announced the sentences.

What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentine hierarchy was any expression of regret for the church’s collaboration and in these crimes. The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment

One would have thought that the Argentine bishops would have seized the opportunity to call for pardon for themselves and put on sackcloth and ashes as the sentences were announced in Córdoba but that has not so far happened.

But happily Their Eminences have just been given another chance to express contrition. Next month the convicted murderer Videla will be arraigned for his part in the killing of Enrique Angelelli, bishop of the Andean diocese of La Rioja and a supporter of the cause of poorer Argentines. He was run off the highway by a hit squad of the Videla régime and killed on 4th August 1976 shortly after Videla’s putsch.

Cardinal Bergoglio has plenty of time to be measured for a suit of sackcloth – perhaps tailored in a suitable clerical grey – to be worn when the church authorities are called into the witness box by the investigating judge in the Angelelli case. Ashes will be readily available if the records of the Argentine bishops’ many disingenuous and outrightly mendacious statements about Videla and Angelelli are burned.



Father Marcial Maciel and the Popes He Stained

Father Marcial Maciel and the Popes He Stained

By Jason Berry, The Daily Beast

11 March 13

arcial Maciel Degollado, a priest from Mexico with an extravagant name, was the greatest fundraiser for the postwar Catholic Church and equally its greatest criminal.

“A life … out of moral bounds,” is how Pope Benedict XVI described Maciel in a 2010 interview, two years after Maciel’s death. A “wasted, twisted life.”

And a life that exposed shocking flaws in the Vatican and the papacy. The saga of Father Maciel opens a rare view onto the flow of money in the Roman Curia across the last half century, a time during which his rise to power and late-life crash into scandal stained the campaign for John Paul II’s sainthood and became a quagmire for Benedict XVI.

In the late 1940s, Maciel began sexually plundering teenage seminarians in the religious order he founded, the Legion of Christ. He also shuttled between Mexico, Venezuela, and Spain, courting benefactors like a senator with silk between the fingers, portraying his Legionaries as a force of resurgent orthodoxy, himself a fearless foe of communism.

That message had booming resonance in Mexico, a heavily Catholic country seared by memories of lethal anticlerical persecutions set in motion by the Calles regime in the 1930s, a milieu powerfully evoked in Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory. Maciel won government support for seminary scholarships in Madrid, after the Spanish Civil War cemented ties between Francisco Franco’s dictatorship and the Catholic hierarchy. Wealthy industrialists and patricians from the Spanish-speaking world poured money into Maciel’s fledgling order.

The youngest of five boys in a family of nine children, Maciel was born in 1920 into the provincial aristocracy of Cotija de la Paz in south-central Mexico, today a crossroads in the drug wars. The surname derived from his father’s Creole French-Spanish ancestry. His father, a rancher with a sugar mill, ridiculed the boy for being a sissy, subjected him to whippings by older brothers, and sent him to work with field hands to shape up as a man. Many years later, he told one of his seminary victims, Juan Vaca, how mule drivers sexually abused him.

On his mother’s side, four uncles were bishops. Maciel as a teenager entered a seminary in Mexico, but was dismissed for reasons yet to surface; he joined a seminary run by Jesuits in New Mexico and was again expelled for “misunderstandings,” according to his official biography. Had it not been for the quartet of uncles, he never would have been a priest. But pull is pull. Bishop Francisco Arias arranged private lessons and ordained his nephew in 1944. A cameraman filmed Maciel in the moment, the footage used in later years for Legion marketing efforts.

Maciel raised money for lodgings and lessons in Mexico City for the small group of followers he had attracted. In 1946 he arrived in Rome and gave $10,000 to Cardinal Clemente Micara, the vicar of Rome, “a huge sum in a city reeling from the war,” a priest with seasoned knowledge of Legion finances told me. Maciel, 26, tall and lean with searchlight eyes, spoke no Italian. But the portly Micara, a former Vatican diplomat, spoke Spanish; he provided an endorsement letter for Maciel’s fundraising and an audience with Pope Pius XII.

Legionaries called their leader Nuestro Padre (Our Father). They were taught that their founder was a living saint. They took private vows, swearing never to criticize Maciel or their superiors and to report on anyone who did. The cultlike insular culture Maciel molded would reward spying as an act of faith and shield Nuestro Padre from scrutiny as the youngest victims grew up and left the order, returning to Mexico and years of grappling with his traumatic impact on their lives.

In 1956 at the Legion seminary in Rome, Maciel spun out of control from an addiction to a morphine painkiller. A priest and older seminarian complained to the Vatican, which prompted an investigation that sent Maciel to a hospital briefly and removed him as superior general. But with no public notice of his suspension, Maciel kept traveling, raising money to complete construction on Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Rome. His victims, bound by the private vows, lied to defend him, as they would admit in interviews many years later.

He got his break in 1959. Pius XII had died. Vatican high officials had to stop their duties in the interregnum before a new pope. Micara, in an apparent violation of canon law, signed a decree reinstating Maciel that no one else disputed. Micara was smiling when the basilica opened.

The Legionaries were easy to spot in Rome, young men with close-cropped hair in traditional cassocks or double-breasted blazers, walking two by two like a spiritual army. In the 1970s Maciel hatched a lay group, Regnum Christi, whose highest members lived as consecrated celibates. Regnum Christi helped run Legion prep schools and raise money for the movement, as the larger culture was called. In discussion groups, followers studied Maciel’s letters in a cult of personality, while Maciel expanded the donor base in America.

In 1971 Maciel sent Father Juan Vaca, 34, to Connecticut as director of the Legion’s embryonic U.S. presence. Vaca, who grew up in a small Mexican town, was 10 when he entered the Legion and 12 when Maciel began molesting him in Spain. Vaca extracted himself from the twisted psychosexual relationship at age 24.

In 1976 Vaca bolted to the Long Island diocese of Rockville Centre. He wrote a 12-page single-spaced letter to Maciel, identifying 20 other victims, “good and gifted young boys … [subjected to] aberrant and sacrilegious abuse.” Bishop John Raymond McGann included Vaca’s letter in a dossier to the Vatican suggesting that it investigate. The letter was acknowledged; nothing happened. The bishop and Vaca wrote again in 1978, when John Paul II became pope.

But again, nothing happened.

In 1980 Maciel sired a son, Raul, by Blanca Gutierrez Lara, whom he met in Acapulco. He was 60; she was 22, with a 3-year-old boy from a previous relationship. Maciel used the name Raul Rivas on the birth certificates of Raul Gutierrez and a second son he had by Blanca. He gave her a house in Cuernavaca with financial support, visiting periodically, telling them that he was a CIA agent and oil-company detective. Meanwhile, he held great prominence in Rome. Cardinals relished the grand dinners with a mariachi band at the Legion college. He traveled relentlessly, each time taking $10,000 in cash with no questions asked from his subalterns.

In 1986 he had a daughter by another woman from Acapulco.

Even as Maciel siphoned Legion funds to support his secret life and shadow families, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey, and his wife made a seven-figure donation for construction of a Legion building in Cheshire, Connecticut, and were memorialized by a plaque.

Powerful men who support the progeny of their mistresses are commonplace in Latin America. But Maciel was a narcissist beyond category. In the late 1980s he brought Raul together in Rome with Normita, his daughter by Norma Hilda Baños. Wearing his Roman collar, he arranged for Raul to attend a private Mass with John Paul in the Apostolic Palace. The photo of young Raul with a clueless John Paul was undoubtedly taken by Nuestro Padre.

Gaining access to the small chapel in the Apostolic Palace turned on a flow of donations Maciel allegedly orchestrated to Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish assistant to John Paul and gatekeeper of attendance at the private masses, who admitted only a few world leaders.

In 1995, according to former Legion insiders, Maciel sent $1 million via Dziwisz in advance of a papal trip to Poland. In 1997, according to a priest who left the Legion and spoke on the condition of anonymity, a wealthy family from Mexico gave Dziwisz $50,000 to attend a private papal mass. Dziwisz, now a cardinal in Kraków, did not answer my questions about the incident, sent by fax in 2010 and translated into Polish. “This happened all the time,” the ex-Legionary told me. “It was always in cash. And in dollars.”

While the Vatican has no constitution or statutes that would make such transactions illegal, a second priest who says he gave funds to Dziwisz said, “You don’t know where the money is going. It’s an elegant way of giving a bribe.”

Maciel’s pivotal supporter, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, became John Paul’s secretary of State in 1989. The friendship formed in the early ’80s in Chile: as Maciel opened a seminary, a prep school, and a radio station, Sodano, as papal nuncio and supportive of the regime, saw Maciel as an up-and-comer. Back in Rome, recalls ex-Legionary Glenn Favreau, now a Washington attorney, “Sodano came over with his entire family, 200 of them, for a big meal when he was named cardinal. And we fed them all. When Sodano became secretary of State, there was another big celebration.”

In Rome, Sodano was a “cheerleader for the Legion,” as several ex-Legion priests told me. “He’d come give a talk at Christmas, and they’d give him $10,000,” said one. Another recalled a $5,000 donation to Sodano. (Sodano has also declined my interview requests.)

In 1989 Vaca sent a long, detailed letter to John Paul in a dossier from his Long Island diocese, via Vatican diplomatic pouch, again including his original statement naming Maciel’s victims. This time he wrote more directly, telling John Paul that because of the abuse, he never should have been ordained. He was about to marry and wanted release from his vows. Several years later Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a document granting that, but on the Maciel charges-again, nothing.

As Legion money flowed through the Curia, seminarians drove across Rome in the days before Christmas, delivering baskets with fine wines and $1,000 Spanish hams to favored officials.

In 1994 the Legion took out ads in major Mexican dailies reproducing a letter from John Paul praising Maciel as “an efficacious guide to youth.” That letter was like a sting to José Barba, a Mexico City college professor who earned a doctorate at Harvard after leaving the Legion and never forgot the grope of Maciel’s paws.

Barba, Vaca, and others found their way to me. Meanwhile, Gerald Renner of The Hartford Courant was reporting on men leaving a Legion seminary-an environment they found overly repressive-in Connecticut. Renner and I connected for a joint Courant assignment. The February 23, 1997, report exposed a history of pedophilia by Maciel through nine victims on the record. The Vatican refused comment. Maciel claimed innocence, but refused to be interviewed. The Legion counterattacked with a website denouncing the accusers as fomenting a conspiracy against Maciel.

And to Maciel and the Legion’s defense rose a glittering chorus of professional Catholics. First up was William Donohue of the Catholic League, calling the men’s claims “balderdash.” Father Richard John Neuhaus of First Things magazine asserted “for a moral certainty” that the charges were false. John Paul biographer and NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel praised the Legion; so did Bill Bennett, a former Reagan Education secretary, now a CNN commentator. Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor who also taught at the Legion college in Rome, scoffed at the charges. She later became U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

To this day, not one of the celebrities has apologized to the victims.

Sodano pressured Ratzinger to overlook the charges. And John Paul ignored the allegations, continuing his praise of Maciel.

Not until 2004, when Maciel was 84 and John Paul was dying, did Ratzinger dispatch trusted canon lawyer Charles Scicluna to investigate the allegations. Shortly thereafter, a Legionary met with Cardinal Franc Rodé, the head of the Vatican office that oversees religious orders. The priest showed him a videotape of Maciel “with a woman and child represented as his,” Rodé told me in an interview for GlobalPost on November 29. Rodé said he reported the information to Scicluna, but did not confront Maciel because “I was not his confessor.”

The Legion had a $650 million annual budget and $1 billion in assets by May 2006, when Ratzinger, as Benedict, banished Maciel to “a life of prayer and penitence.” The Vatican communiqué did not stipulate what he had done. But Maciel had “more than 20 and less than 100” victims, according to an unnamed Vatican official quoted by John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter.

Maciel retired to Jacksonville, Florida, and a house with a pool in a gated community the Legion bought to comply with Rome’s penitential order. He died January 30, 2008, surrounded by several priests, his daughter Normita, and her mother, Norma Hilda Baños. Several days later he was buried at a family crypt in his hometown, Cotija de la Paz.

His son Raul watched the news on TV in Cuernavaca; several years had passed since he had been heard from, though Raul in subsequent interviews said he never forgot how the man he knew as dad sexually abused him through adolescence, a charge now pending in a civil lawsuit against the Legion in Connecticut.

The Legion website announced that Maciel had gone to heaven. It took them another year to disclose his paternity, which sent shock waves through the movement, at which point top Legionaries began apologizing to the pedophilia victims whom they had attacked for years as participants in a dark conspiracy.

At that point the Vatican, which had known about the daughter for four and a half years, announced an investigation of the Legion. In 2010 the Vatican took the scandal-battered order into receivership, something unique in the modern church. Benedict appointed a delegate (read: overseer), Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, a canon lawyer with a background in economics. Among his first duties, after the pope ordered the abolition of the private vows, was to rewrite the Legion’s constitution.

But by then, John Paul’s denial and Benedict’s soft-glove punishment became a liability as information began surfacing.

The Legion had long capitalized on footage of a beaming John Paul praising Maciel at a papal audience to cheering Legionaries, sending cassettes to donors. With Nuestro Padre an impediment to the sainthood juggernaut for John Paul, the Legion withdrew the cassettes and got rid of the photos in a makeover of its website. A scene of John Paul embracing Maciel at the altar was high drama for true believers, like Gabrielle Mee.

Mee was a wealthy widow who adulated Maciel and donated $30 million to the Legion in her later years while living in a Regnum Christi house in Rhode Island. She died four months after Maciel, kept utterly in the dark about his secret life. Her niece has sued the Legion to overturn the will and return the funds.

Why didn’t the Vatican release all the information on Maciel in 2006, when Benedict sent him off to a life of penance? Barba, who filed a 1998 case seeking Maciel’s ouster and has become a news celebrity in Mexico with his forceful analysis of breaking information, is convinced that Ratzinger, after becoming pope, wanted to minimize the damage done by John Paul’s failure, knowing Rome would push to make John Paul a saint. In spring 2011 Benedict beatified John Paul, the step before sainthood. It would be a dicey move for the next pope to take the final step. When Benedict flew to Mexico in spring 2012, he faced damaging media coverage for his failure to meet with Maciel’s victims. As long as those men live, any movement on the story of John Paul’s sainthood should be balanced with the reality of those, like Barba and Vaca, who sent John Paul all the messages he needed, but that he failed to heed, choosing instead to bless the myth of Nuestro Padre.

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