Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, has said, "Penn & Teller's Nazi-like assault on Catholicism that took place on August 27 will go down in history as one of the most vile, obscene programs ever aired in any nation." However, will the show also go down in history for airing the most number of lies, falsehoods, and misleading statements in a single half-hour show?
Not counting credits, the guilty episode runs less than 26 minutes. Here's a lie-by-lie list of the falsehoods that Penn Jillette and his guests aired in that time:
1. Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2001, issued a "confidential order to every bishop" and "ordered the cover-up" of sex abuse.
As canon lawyer Ed Peters wrote years ago, the Vatican published Ratzinger's document in its official journal when it was first issued. Catholic press reported on the document in early 2002. The Vatican also posted the document on its web site.
In other words, nothing was ever "confidential." Not ... even ... close. As far as Jillette's wild charges of a "cover-up," keep reading.
2. Sabina Guzzanti, a self-described "political satirist" from Italy, "got in serious trouble with the Vatican when she told a joke about the pope in the middle of Rome." "[P]ressured intensely by the Vatican," the Italian courts threatened to charge her with slander and "throw her sexy a** in jail." (A lot of time in the episode was spent on this story.)
Stop and think for a moment how ridiculous this claim is. People say crude and awful things about the pope and the Vatican all the time. Does anyone really think that the Pope actually cares about what some two-bit entertainer says about him? C'mon.
The truth is that Guzzanti was never "in serious trouble with the Vatican." Neither did the Vatican "pressure" anyone to charge Guzzanti.
In her various routines, Guzzanti's "No. 1 target" has long been Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. And when Guzzanti publicly attacked the pope, an overzealous prosecutor in the Italian government sought to charge Guzzanti under an obscure 1929 agreement. Within a week of the story breaking, Italy's Minister of Justice denied the prosecutor's request. The Vatican had nothing to do at all with this episode.
Penn and Teller's claims are simply bogus.
3. Because it opposed a U.N. resolution "that would de-criminalize people for being gay in countries," the Vatican "seems to be O.K." with gays being violently persecuted in many countries in the world.
Penn and Teller conveniently left out the fact that it is already part of official Catholic teaching that gays be treated respectfully. Look at paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
[Those with homosexual inclinations] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
There's also the 1986 document, "Letter to the Bishops of The Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons." It says,
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.
And who wrote this document? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, when he was Prefect to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith!
Why didn't the Vatican support the resolution? Well, like a lot of people, it smelled a hidden political agenda. (Gay marriage, anyone?) But within days of opposing the U.N. resolution, the Vatican re-issued its call to eliminate criminal penalties against homosexuals.
The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges States to do away with criminal penalties against them.
Penn and Teller conveniently left out these important facts while making their smear.
Honesty? Not from Penn and Teller.
(***IMPORTANT NOTE: There's more. A lot more. In the interest of brevity, I have posted only a shortened, edited version here. For the full version, check out TheMediaReport.com: "Did Penn & Teller Set a World Record For Most Falsehoods in One Show? (Full Version)" ***)