With priests now having to wear QR codes which identify them as abusers, is it a surprise everyone is an atheist? – Screen Shot
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With priests now having to wear QR codes which identify them as abusers, is it a surprise everyone is an atheist?

It’s official, atheists and agnostics are on the rise, they’re raring to go, and have been growing in numbers. A recent survey, conducted by The General Social Survey, has found that just under 50 per cent of all Americans are unwavering in their belief of God’s existence. The poll also revealed that 34 per cent of Americans never go to church, the highest figure recorded in five decades. Could the tight Bible grip hold on the US finally be loosening?

It’s a well-known fact that trust and loyalty in the Church has been dipping for some time now. The US landscape has been completely transformed over the past 20 years or so, with an uptake in liberalism and progressive politics resulting in a decrease in religious affiliation. Gen Zers have also had a big impact on these figures, with a 2022 study revealing that 34 per cent of gen Z were unaffiliated to any church, compared to 29 per cent of millennials and 25 per cent of gen X.

But the real question is, can we pinpoint a couple of major reasons as to why people are heading towards Starbucks rather than Sunday service? Perhaps it has to do with the obscene number of sexual assault and molestation cases that’ve emerged from directly within the church.

In 2015, a film titled Spotlight recounted the Boston Globe’s extensive investigation into widespread and systemic child sexual abuse in the Boston area by a number of local Catholic priests. It was a massive hit, and also a serious and stark reminder of the prolific crimes that still continue to occur across religious spaces.

In what’s potentially the most dystopian and terrifying move yet, Catholic French priests will now be required to carry QR ID codes to identify whether or not they’re currently being faced with, or have previously been faced with a sexual abuse charge. According to The Week, the new ID cards, announced at the French Bishops’ Conference, can be scanned by a mobile phone, bringing up a green, orange or red light depending on the priest’s status and career history.

The church has stated: “By flashing the QR code, with a smartphone or tablet, an indicator indicates whether or not the ordained minister has specific restrictions on the exercise of his ministry, but without specifying the nature, in order to respect the confidentiality of this personal data.”

The ID cards, which have been evidently brought in to strengthen the fight against systemic child abuse within the Church, have been widely criticised—duh? François Devaux, a former president of La Parole Libérée, described the proposal as “one of the Catholic Church’s top three most stupid ideas.”

It is legitimately insane to consider the fact that individuals visiting churches or convening with religious figures may now need to scan a QR code to check whether or not it’d be safe to bring their children along. If you’re needing to go to such extreme and bizarre lengths to reassure people, there’s clearly a much bigger issue that needs to be properly addressed—a global history of mistrust and abuse across religious organisations worldwide.

An independent inquiry recently found that about 216,000 children are estimated to have been sexually abused by thousands of French Catholic priests, deacons and other clergy since 1950, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Faith is dropping, quite literally. And yes, gen Zers’ renewed perspective on the world might have something to do with it. But in reality, the Church itself is the only concrete thing truly responsible.


COVID-19 shines light on police brutality and abuse of power

By Sofia Gallarate

Human rights

Apr 13, 2020

On the 31st day of my quarantine, I received a call from a friend; he sounded upset and explained that he had just been stopped by the police while going for his daily run around the neighbourhood. According to him, the police approached him and spoke to him aggressively. They then questioned the reason behind his activity by making threatening remarks, repeatedly ordering him to go back home and reminding him that in other countries a man running around for no reasonable explanation would have been thrown in jail. This encounter happened in Italy, where, at the time, running alone in proximity to your house was still allowed.

“I told you the police would start abusing their power,” my friend told me. During the first weeks under lockdown—when the regulations were still blurred and our future uncertain—we did find ourselves repeatedly speculating on the possible threats that a state of emergency could mean regarding the state overpower and potential police misconduct. Yet, I partially disagreed with my friend: the abuse of power by the police isn’t a by-product of the pandemic, it has been happening around us for way longer. The only difference today is that under these exceptional circumstances, what was once only visible to those who were systematically targeted by the police has suddenly become visible to us all.

Law enforcement is playing a big part in managing the COVID-19 crisis as more and more countries all over the world are calling for an increase in restrictive regulations concerning social and physical distancing. As reported by Al Jazeera in a recent article on police violence on the time of pandemic, after a couple of weeks since a mandatory curfew was implemented in Kenya, there have been more deaths from the police than virus-related ones.

Kenya is far from being the only country accused of such behaviour. Stories of police brutality enacted in the name of control and the enforcement of rules have spread like the virus itself, showing officers in India, Mexico, Egypt and other countries threatening people in the streets, using physical punishment in public and forcing people to follow containment measures at gunpoint. As the days pass, it is evident why more concern over the sovereignty of the police is rising.

How COVID-19 shed light on police brutality and abuse of power

“The point is that the police—contrary to public opinion—are not merely an administrative function of law enforcement; rather, the police are perhaps the place where the proximity and the almost constitutive exchange between violence and right that characterizes the figure of the sovereign is shown more nakedly and clearly than anywhere else,” wrote the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben in 1991. Fast forward 30 years from then, one could argue that his words are still relevant. What is happening in front of our eyes isn’t a shift in the way the police act, but rather the unsettling revelation of their unbridled power and sovereignty in countries all over the world.

Of course we should avoid making generalisations, but as police helicopters loom over our heads throughout Easter weekend and the mobility of citizens is (rightly) limited to maintain the spreading of the virus, it’s not just a right but an obligation to scrutinize and question the modalities in which those same rules are imposed on citizens. If we can learn one thing from this pandemic it is that, as solidarity and a shared sense of support are spreading, pre-existing inequalities and state flaws grow even larger.

It is in this mindset that we need to look at some of the police’s coercive attitudes, not as an unavoidable shift in behaviour, but as a testament to a systemic issue. The question right now is not whether law enforcement agencies need to undergo some changes or not; they clearly do and that’s not new. As we witness more and more police violence during the pandemic, the real question is whether this sudden awakening will remain among citizens, and hopefully governments too, once this crisis is over.