The Catholic League’s Newest Enemy: Latin Phrases

My friend Anu Garg runs the popular website Wordsmith.org. One of the best parts of the site is the Word of the Day section where Anu selects a word/phrase and explains its pronunciation, etymology, etc.

For example, this week’s theme is “Latin terms in English” and today’s phrase is corpus delicti:

Cool! I learned something new.

As he always does, Anu set up the week’s theme with a little introduction:

Latin is the preferred language of the Vatican, but don’t hold it against the language. It had no say in the matter.

A language never hurt little kids, if you don’t count all the schoolchildren who had to memorize all those “amo amas amat” conjugations.

Latin is often perceived as an ancient or dead language, something for stuffy old people. But many Latin terms can sum up in just a few letters a whole concept that would otherwise take many words or sentences to describe fully.

Did you catch the little joke in that first sentence?

Bill Donohue‘s Catholic League did. And they sent Anu an email accusing him of anti-Catholicism:

So… tongue-in-cheek humor is now bigotry against all Catholics…? Wow. Talk about oversensitivity.

For what it’s worth, Anu has referenced other religions, too. Remember: He’s not pushing an agenda; he’s just trying to make people enjoy learning new vocabulary. When he introduced a week of “Words that appear beheaded” (like the word “estival”), his introduction told the story of how the Hindu deity Shiva once chopped off his son Ganesha’s head because he thought the son did something wrong… when he later found out Ganesha was innocent, he replaced his head with that of an elephant:

It’s unclear why an all-knowing god couldn’t figure out the truth in the first place without needing to decapitate someone. It’s also not clear why an all-powerful god couldn’t reinstate the original head instead of having to sacrifice a pachyderm. But gods are like that. They fall apart as you begin to consider things logically, no matter what the religion.

This week’s words look somewhat like Ganesha before the restoration job. They appear beheaded (some more than others), though they can survive like this too. Your role is that of Lord Shiva. Can you find a letter for each word to rehead it?

It’s funny. It’s entertaining. And it’s not “bigotry against Hindus.”

By the way, if you’re not already subscribing to the Word of the Day, you can do that here.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • observer

    I don’t think you know what bigotry is, Mr.  Donohue. But it shouldn’t be that surprising, considering that you are a bigot, and you have poor self-realization to, well, realize it.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Latin is the preferred language of the Vatican, but don’t hold it against the language. It had no say in the matter.

    Oh my gosh! Did he really say that? The bigotry and hatred are just dripping from it. Catholics everywhere must be collapsing in pain and disgust, or exploding in murderous rage. The magnitude of this insult against the Church cannot be measured, and is beyond words.

    (I don’t know this Jeff Field character, but now it appears that Bill Donohue, surely one of the world’s greatest assholes, looks for the same characteristic in his employees.)

    • Edmond

      Wasn’t the questionable part in the SECOND sentence?  About how a language never hurt little kids?  I can see how that might piss off a Catholic, especially someone in “management”, as it does seem to imply that the Vatican DOES hurt little kids.

      On the other hand, it’s pretty amusing that Mr. Field made NO effort to rebut this claim, but was only hoping that Ana would bother someone else more.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        No need to imply that the Vatican hurts little kids — we have decades of evidence of the Vatican doing just that…

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    You all don’t understand. The Catholic League is entitled to its privileged position of being criticism-free, intent be damned (ha!). You are infringing on this privilege. Therefore, you all are bigoted, evil and now hold reservations for specific rotisseries in Hell.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The martyrdom these people show is truly laughable. 

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    Ahhh, the old Christian persecution complex.  It’s weird how Catholics (and Protestants too) use “persecution” as a way to validate their religion.  It may work to excite those on the inside, but the rest of us just think Bill Donahue has a corncob stuck up his a…

    • kagekiri

      It’s unfortunately rather effective at making Christians double down instead of waking the heck up. 

      “Jesus said we’d be hated and persecuted, and that means we’re doing something right! All this criticism couldn’t possibly be thrown our way because we’re actually hypocritical bigots! That was the Pharisees!” Honestly, as a former Christian, it strikes me less as weird, and more like “insidious and horrifying”, like some sort of brain eating parasite. It’s yet another trick in the collection Christianity uses to sabotage actual thinking or doubts in its followers, and I have close friends and family who are still quite infected by this and similar ideas.

      • NickDB

        Whilst it is definitely insidious and horrifying, it is also fairly impressive.

        The guys who set it up really really understood humanity and have nearly all the bases covered. As a mechanism of populace control it is very well done.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IKVVNPKPMBDXQJDAIREAS5IQLM Mike

    Everyone hates government, except those who are in government themselves.

    Jeff Field’s response helps us to define where the Catholic League fits in.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Jeff Field needs a dictionary, so he can look up the definition of bigotry.  

    big·ot·ry
       [big-uh-tree]  Show IPAnoun, plural big·ot·ries.1.stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.2.the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.

  • http://twitter.com/SciencePundit SciencePundit

    inflagrante delicto!

    • Coyotenose

       Please god don’t make me associate that phrase with your icon.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “Or is it just the Catholic Church that falls victim to your bigotry?”

    So it’s OK to equate atheism with nazism or to claim homosexuality and gay marriage is a threat to humanity but not OK to hold  the ” Catholic Church” to the standards it sets; that would be bigotry.

    Excuse me while I laugh.

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

    My first thought was “corpus delicti” is something Hannibal Lecter would say. http://youtu.be/iVlkZVAw8Gc

    • Coyotenose

      Well, we here are atheists, not cannibals.

      What’s Latin for “Delicious Baby?”

  • Guest

    Well yeah.  That sort of ‘Catholicism equals hurting children’ is right up there with ‘all Jews are greedy’ and ‘all Blacks like watermelon.’  Overwhelming evidence shows that over 95% of the Catholic leadership had 0% to do with the scandal.  Less Catholics as a whole. So whenever people invoke the ‘Catholic equals harm to children’, especially if they don’t do so to the modern education system (far worse percentages), there are two options: 1) they are ignorant of the facts and are either unable or unwilling to learn, or 2) they know the facts, and are counting on hatred and bigotry to continue the attack.  Choice is, of course, based on further study of the individuals at hand.

    • Randomfactor

       95 percent of the leadership had a direct role in covering it up.  And that goes all the way to the top.

      • Ginas

        Even now in the Church you risk getting excommunicated for reporting a child rape to the authorities, not for raping a child.

        • Guest

          Do you?  What Church document said that?

          • Ginas

             From: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2010/03/the_great_catholic_coverup.html
            Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.”

      • Guest

        That’s funny, most reports and articles I’ve read that trace the history of the scandal have the number around 4-5%, with perhaps a slightly higher number if you do count those indirectly involved. Though I should point out these are the numbers in the US, and they only focus on cases that were shown to be valid, not all accusations (back in 2010, Newsweek ran a story reminding everyone that priests were no more likely to abuse children than any other men.  If Newsweek is backing up the stats for the Catholic Church, that pretty much ends it right there – though Newsweek did prefer the higher 1 in 10 if I remember correctly, but that was only because it was set against the finding that 1 in 10 men in general commit abuse (like all stats, it’s subject to debate with a +/- error rate)).  The stats could vary in other countries, I do admit.  In Germany I think they were slightly higher, though not so much that the German Government issued a statement reminding everyone that the overwhelming majority of the abuse cases (and that was over 90%) had nothing to do  with the Catholic Church at all – as is always the case.  Most abuse is done by friends/family.  Another ugly fact.  But 95% of leadership?  Really?  What leadership?  Bishops only?  All religious?  Lay leaders?  Is that a worldwide stat, or just in the US?  Pretty hefty number there, and probably some details would help.

    • David

       Perhaps you could reference your statistics. Or perhaps not, as there is plenty of evidence that paedophilia has been carefully swept under the carpet by the catholic  church, so it is unlikely that we will ever be able to compare properly.

      Whilst paedophilia is inexcusable anytime, it seems to me and people I have spoken with about this subject, that it is even more inexcusable when committed by a man of the cloth. Couple this with the cover up, failure of bishops to resign, failure or reporting to the police world-wide and the wilful ingoring of the ban on contraception by the vast majority of catholics in the Western World and it becomes clear why the catholic church is becoming a laughing stock.

      • Guest

        Nobody is saying that it was good.  Few people have been more upset than Catholics I have spoken to and those affected by this scandal.  But go to any actual site that has done the actual research and you will see, and if you’ve gotten your information from sites who only hate the Church to begin with, you might be shocked, that the numbers are only around 4-5%.  That’s it.  So yes, to say ‘Catholic equal hurt kids’ is nothing other than promoting an untruth about a vast number of people based upon the actions of a few.  Back in the day, that was considered a no-no.

        • Erp

           Only 4-5% are child rapists still sounds a bit high to me, but, that is not the scandal.  The scandal is the coverup that seems to have been almost universally encouraged by the upper echelons of the hierarchy though might have varied from diocese to diocese or bishop to bishop.    Perhaps it is a remnant of the old medieval view that only the church could try priests and that the civil authorities couldn’t touch them unless and until the church handed them over.    Not that the Catholic hierarchy is alone guilty (the Boy Scouts of America have had similar scandals as do some Baptist conventions as well as various other churches that ran boarding schools for Native American/First Nation children) but the Catholic Church is the biggest single organization in the world and its hierarchy claim a moral leadership that most others don’t.

          Also the term ‘Vatican’ is often used for the Church hierarchy especially the top rather than the Catholic Church as a whole (otherwise saying the Vatican has problems with many US nuns wouldn’t make sense). 

    • kagekiri

      Insulting Catholicism is equivalent to insulting someone’s race?  
      They choose to support a church whose non-elected theocratic leader (supposedly infallible, speaks to God directly, etc.) directly took part in systematically covering up sexual assault and rape on children. Yeah, that’s EXACTLY like being born a certain race! You can’t help it! It’s not like there are non-Catholic churches you could choose to join, or thousands of other religions whose absolute leaders didn’t personally help increase incidents of child-rape worldwide, right? How dare we attack Catholics for something their priesthood does in their churches using their money and via their tacit support! That’s EXACTLY like racism!

      • kagekiri

        Oh, forgot sarcasm tags. Oops.

      • Guest

        Yeah.  Since more people in the 20th century were slaughtered because of ideals and beliefs than because of race, I would think it no better. 

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          Yes, and when people are killed for their religion, it is typically done by someone who holds different religious beliefs and views these people as evil.
          Pointing out harmful religious beliefs is entirely appropriate.

        • kagekiri

          You missed the point entirely.

           A moral decision to stay in a church whose highest leaders are considered God’s own voice and infallible means you’re willfully condoning child rape that they covered up while claiming moral rectitude. So yeah, Catholics who fail to try to change their church or leave it are worthy of criticism.

          But being black or Jewish? That’s not a moral failure, nor a choice, nor harmful to children.

    • Baby_Raptor

      It was a joke. It was not an equivalence, nor was the writer insisting that all Catholics harm children. 

      Unlike the Catholics, who show no qualms whatsoever about making such statements RE gays, women who make their own choices, Atheists, ect. 

      • Guest

        I would have to see some quotes from Catholics who make such statements about gays or women or atheists.  Personally, if they base jokes on ill informed stereotypes and urban myths most often used to whip up hatred, then I wouldn’t care for such jokes either, whether from Catholics or anyone – and that includes non-Catholics aiming at the Catholic Church.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Actually, the Catholic church has directly accused gay people of harming children. The Vatican itself says that same-sex parenting is “gravely immoral” and “would actually mean doing violence to those children.” Their words, not mine.

        • kagekiri

          Hmm, have you even read the Bible that Catholics claim to follow?

           You know, the one that says God makes people homosexual because they’re sinful and deserve to be left to their evils? The one that says atheists all know God exists but are saying he doesn’t so that they can partake in evil acts? The one that says women must submit to men in all things, especially church or spiritual matters?

           Try reading Romans, for fuck’s sake. Your Bible isn’t even joking, and it’s full of defamation of non believers and utter bullshit about atheists, gays, and women. So no, as long as you consider Scripture holy, sorry buddy, no free pass for Catholics from criticism.

           You can’t hide your religion’s obvious bullshit; don’t even try if you’re going to come up with such terrible excuses. It’s just pathetic.

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

    The thought for the day at the bottom of the Word of the Day page is strangely appropriate. I wonder if that was updated with Mr. Field in mind.

  • LesterBallard

    I truly loathe and despise Bill Donohue and I make no apologies for it. When Jesus sliced him in half on South Park I cheered.

  • Guest

    The Catholic League is upset at something!? Shocking!

  • Gunstargreen

    People like Bill Donohue are just projecting. They want so badly to stop taking the heat for their anti-gay, anti-women policies that they have to label themselves as the real victims.

  • Tim D.

    Am I seriously going to be the first person to point out that it says “to your” twice in the complaint? As in, “to your to your bigotry?” lol

  • A3Kr0n

    Speaking of tongue-in-cheek fun, I found these two Higgs bosons on Thingiverse today:
    http://www.thingiverse.com/derivative:35816

  • kimpatsu

    Interestingly, the British serial killer John George Haigh (the “Acid Bath Murderer”) used to dissolve his victims in acid because he misunderstood corpus delecti, and thought that without a body, he couldn’t be charged with murder (i.e., he confused the absence of corpus delecti as described in the example above with the absence of a body). As it was, the pathologist Bernard Spillsbury found human fat, dentures, and kidney stones that had not been fully dissolved by the acid, thus showing that a human body had been present, after all.
    But here’s the thing: Haigh was a member of the Plymouth Brethren, who taught that they and they alone were going to Heaven, and they generally viewed everyone else with contempt. Whilst undoubtedly a psychopath, which cannot be blamed on the Brethren, I do wonder if their insistence that only they were “True Xians” fed his psychopathy, enabling him to view his victims as somehow less than human…

  • Antinomian

    May I suggest a new word of the week to enrage Mr. Donohue and his ilk?

    How about “butthurt”? The Catholic church is an expert at displaying it and criminally dishing it out?

  • MegaZeusThor

    If the Catholic institution is right, they’re being over-sensitive. They have GOD – the most powerful being in the universe – in their corner. 

    If they’re wrong, and their deity is imaginary, then their entire organization (the one that has shuffled rapists around to avoid prosecution) is built on what?

  • Michael

    Amamus amatis amant.

    Vero. Latinum diceo.

    So yeah.

  • Agnostic

    I don’t remember the full story but the essence was something like this. Someone kept looking at a speck of dust on his neighbors eye but could not see the big blob of dirt on his own eye. I have long drawn the conclusion that American jokes are almost always at someone else’s expense. I am always amazed how people can find someone falling down so funny. I don’t know if I should laugh at the person who fell or the people laughing at him.

    • Coyotenose

      Soooo you’re saying that you don’t get why the only reactions the RCC has earned are rage and ridicule, and that of the two, only ridicule allows us to keep our sanity when observing such hate and evil?

      Or are you saying that you don’t get that in the analogy of the mote and the beam, the beam would be in the eye of the RCC, the entity with all the power, money, and willingness to use both to judge and harm helpless people?

  • Coyotenose

    The simple fact that religionists will have such insane reactions to trivial comments is evidence enough that such comments are necessary. The culture has to be desensitized to the idea of religious organizations being treated like other organizations, like religious ideas being treated like other ideas. Religion used to survive by making criticism out to be blasphemous. Denied such power, they then had to settle for making it socially taboo. Now that that power is fading, they have to resort to claiming that criticism is gauche.

    Compare to Stephen King’s three levels of achievement in writing in his most famed genre: Terror, if not Terror then Horror, if not Horror then go for the Gross-Out. That’s all theists have left. They can’t write a better narrative, because society has evolved past the only literary tools they ever had. They might as well write Mary Sue fan fiction for all the deference they can expect now.

    And they know this, which is why they have tantrums instead of developing more mature ideas for review.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Seems like Stephen King goes for the full trifecta more often than not — Terror, a healthy dose of Fridge Horror/Unfortunate Implications, AND the Gross-Out.

  • Jennifer Cowgill

    If he wants to keep it light and entertaining, he should leave out references to inflammatory and painful experiences like institutionalized child victimization and molestation. What does he want his “Word of the Day” to be, educational or debate?  If he doesn’t allow a comment section on his posts, then he can expect people emailing him to discuss it.

    The point is learning the word, come up with something a little more clever to keep your posts interesting. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/FRJD66AT6LQ6CZZ46XJO43A4FM Artor

      So nice of you to volunteer! I’m sure that satisfying your sensibilities with every daily post is  a simple thing, so you wouldn’t mind helping write witty, universally non-offensive introductions for the next 365 posts, would you? Anu will certainly appreciate the help.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I’m always confused when it’s appropriate to accuse someone of being oversensitive. Feminists in particular always seem to be offended by that term no matter how small their grievance is. So it ever okay to suggest someone is oversensitive, or is the problem that the one using the word actually isn’t being sensitive enough?

    • amycas

      When one is a member of an historically protected and privileged class (whether it’s race, religion, gender, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation/identity) and they are offended by the mere fact that they are being criticized and try to compare said criticism to the experiences of marginalized groups that have ACTUALLY been harmed by centuries of bigotry, then they are being over-sensitive. I thought this was an obvious concept.

      Edited: forgot a word while typing and the sentence didn’t make sense. Fixed now.

  • http://winlb.wordpress.com/ ToonForever

    Bill Donohue is a douchebag.  The proper response to him would have been abject ridicule.  When he starts caring as much about kids getting raped as he does a slight on a vocab site…

    What am I talking about?  Of course that will never happen.  Buggering kids = Ok, but for Pete’s sake don’t take vague pot shots at the Vatican.

  • HughInAz

    When I was growing up in Ireland, there was a bunch of blue-nosed old busybodies who called themselves “The League of Decency”. They were forever complaining about “smut” on television. Well, one evening there was a flash of nudity on some show – I didn’t see it myself but apparently it was a non-sexual situation, an artist’s model posing nude or something. Anyway, the chief poobah of the LoD was so enraged, he had a heart attack and died. I must admit I had a good laugh when I heard the news. Bill Donohue reminds me of that guy. We need a Catholic equivalent of Draw Mahommed Day… keep bombarding Donohue with trivial stuff that will set him off until he chokes on his own bile and hatred.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/FRJD66AT6LQ6CZZ46XJO43A4FM Artor

      Hey, it worked for Andrew Breitbart. Let’s do it!

  • The Other Weirdo

    I must be dense. And tired, it’s 1:25am. What is this joke in the first sentence of which you speak?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    I don’t think it’s the first sentence that is the problem… it’s that second paragraph that poses a problem.  Still not bigotry and Mr. Donohue is much to sensitive to exist in contemporary times.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Not seeing a problem with that second paragraph at all — it’s 100% truth.

  • Chris Kilroy

    I have been subscribed to Anu’s newsletter for over a decade now and I am a huge fan. I really wish people wouldn’t get their panties in a wad over something like this. I’m glad that someone in the Catholic League is at least trying to remain well-educated in some realm lol. 

  • Martin

    Come on guys!  “A language never hurt little kids”??? 

    I won’t come here to defend the Catholic Church (could you imagine that?) but in order to honor the truth we have to admit that the second sentence is a little harsh and a silly generalization.

    I mean… kind of a clear reference to child abuse… hello?

    A part of being an [atheist / secular humanist / freethinker / rationalist] as I understand the term is being objective enough to recognize even when one of ours made a mistake. I think this is one of those ocassions.

    Only my two cents.

    • amycas

       But the Catholic Church did hurt little kids by covering up child abuse and hiding the abusers. I fail to see the mistake in this.


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