Friday, January 25, 2008

more smack, vicar?

It's always fun to see people's irrational superstitious dogma come shuddering up against the harsh metallic buffers of reality. This particular case is especially delicious, for some reason: legislation is being mooted throughout Ireland to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit from 0.08% to 0.05%, to howls of protest from - wait for it - Catholic priests, who are concerned about being able to reach remote members of their flock after chugging back chalice upon chalice of communion wine at Mass.

Now, I know what you're thinking - hang on, I thought the Catholics believed in the whole transubstantiation thing, i.e. the cheap wine and wafers being miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ? Isn't that what they believe? So, in other words, if they really believe what they purport to believe, no increase in blood alcohol should result from Father O'Fiddly necking what's left of the communion wine, as Catholic doctrine dictates that it's all been converted into the holy blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? Doesn't their admission that communion wine contains alcohol constitute an implicit admission that the whole transubstantiation thing is, well, bollocks?

Needless to say it's not as clear-cut as that. More gibberingly incoherent bollocks has been written on this subject than almost any other, from Thomas Aquinas through to the committee responsible for the rather flabby and uninformative Wikipedia article. For instance (emphasis mine):
Reason, of course, can’t prove that this happens. But it is not evidently against reason either; it is above reason.
To which you might respond: oh, for fuck's sake, and I wouldn't blame you. The original news item has a couple of pearlers as well - try this one, on the same subject:
I don't like to use the word wine, as it is Christ's blood in the Eucharist - but it still has all the characteristics of wine when in the blood stream.
This one is even better:
Irish priests are saying that even if the lower limit is enacted, Catholic doctrine and the needs of their parishioners would trump the law.
Yeah? Tell that to the judge. Failure to realise that the exact same argument could be used to justify, say, Islamic "honour killings" of one's own sisters really does genuinely constitute some sort of mental illness, I think.

The current Irish limit of 0.08% is actually quite generous compared with a lot of countries, though it's in line with the legal limits in the UK and USA. Most places have around 0.05% as the limit, but there are some places where it's as low as 0.02%, including some counter-intuitive places like Norway, Estonia and Russia, where you'd tend to assume that everyone's driving around smashed out of their tiny minds on potato vodka all the time. Or maybe that's a minimum level.

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