New nectar-feeding bat species discovered in Brazil

This video says about itself:

Green Ambassador Brazil Bat Research

11 May 2007

With the University of Campo Grande the Green Ambassadors researched the biodiversity of bats in the Pantanal, Brazil. Where over 700 plant species depend on bats for pollination.

The video is in Portuguese, but its subtitles can be switched to English or other languages.

From Wildlife Extra:

New bat species discovered

A new species of nectar-feeding bat from Brazil has been unexpectedly discovered during a study into the whole genus of Lonchophylla.

The scientists Drs. Ricardo Moratelli and Daniela Dias examined both wild and museum specemins of L. mordax, when they realised, rather than looking at one species they were looking at two different species.

Called L. inexpectata, the new species has considerably paler ventral (abdominal) fur and some of their measurements were inconsistent with L. mordax, including differences in the skull and the teeth morphology.

The scientific description of the new species is here.

First four-legged snake fossil discovery

This video says about itself:

Tetrapodophis amplectus – A four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana

24 July 2015

Tetrapodophis amplectus appears to be a four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana. Dr. Dave Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, says that this discovery could help scientists to understand how snakes lost their legs.

From the BBC:

Four-legged snake ancestor ‘dug burrows’

By Jonathan Webb Science reporter, BBC News

24 July 2015

A 113-million-year-old fossil from Brazil is the first four-legged snake that scientists have ever seen.

Several other fossil snakes have been found with hind limbs, but the new find is estimated to be a direct ancestor of modern snakes.

Its delicate arms and legs were not used for walking, but probably helped the creature to grab its prey.

The fossil shows adaptations for burrowing, not swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

That debate is a long-running one among palaeontologists, and researchers say wiggle room is running out for the idea that snakes developed from marine reptiles.

“This is the most primitive fossil snake known, and it’s pretty clearly not aquatic,” said Dr Nick Longrich from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the new study published in Science magazine.

Speaking to Science in Action on the BBC World Service, Dr Longrich explained that the creature’s tail wasn’t paddle-shaped for swimming and it had no sign of fins; meanwhile its long trunk and short snout were typical of a burrower.

“It’s pretty straight-up adapted for burrowing,” he said.

When Dr Longrich first saw photos of the 19.5cm fossil, now christened Tetrapodophis amplectus, he was “really blown away” because he was expecting an ambiguous, in-between species.

Instead, he saw “a lot of very advanced snake features” including its hooked teeth, flexible jaw and spine – and even snake-like scales.

“And there’s the gut contents – it’s swallowed another vertebrate. It was preying on other animals, which is a snake feature.

“It was pretty unambiguously a snake. It’s just got little arms and little legs.”

Deadly embrace?

At 4mm and 7mm long respectively, those arms and legs are little indeed. But Dr Longrich was surprised to discover that they were far from being “vestigial” evolutionary leftovers, dangling uselessly.

“They’re actually very highly specialised – they have very long, skinny fingers and toes, with little claws on the end. What we think [these animals] are doing is they’ve stopped using them for walking and they’re using them for grasping their prey.”

That comparatively feeble grasp, which may have also been applied during mating, is where the species gets its name. Tetrapodophis, the fossil’s new genus, means four-footed snake, but amplectus is Latin for “embrace”.

“It would sort of embrace or hug its prey with its forelimbs and hindlimbs. So it’s the huggy snake,” Dr Longrich said.

In order to try to pinpoint the huggy snake’s place in history, the team constructed a family tree using known information about the physical and genetic make-up of living and ancient snakes, plus some related reptiles.

That analysis positioned T. amplectus as a branch – the earliest branch – on the the very same tree that gave rise to modern snakes.

Neglected no more

Remarkably, this significant specimen languished in a private collection for decades, before a museum in Solnhofen, Germany, acquired and exhibited it under the label “unknown fossil”.

It was there that Dr Dave Martill, another of the paper’s authors, stumbled upon it while leading a student field trip. He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 they were principally visiting to see the museum’s famous Archaeopteryx fossil.

“All of a sudden my jaw absolutely dropped, when I saw this little fossil like a piece of string,” said Dr Martill, from the University of Portsmouth.

As he peered closer, he managed to spot the four tiny legs – and immediately asked the museum for permission to study the creature.

Dr Bruno Simoes, who studies the evolution of snake vision at the Natural History Museum in London, told the BBC he was impressed by the new find because the snake’s limbs are so well preserved, and appear so well developed.

“It’s quite a surprise, especially because it’s so close to the crown group – basically, the current snakes,” he said.

“It gives us a good idea of what the ancestral snake was like.”

Dr Simoes suggested that alongside several other recent findings, this new fossil evidence had clinched the argument for snakes evolving on land.

“All [the latest findings] suggest that the ancestor of all snakes was a terrestrial animal… which lived partially underground.”

Nut-bashing capuchin monkeys and human evolution

This 2013 video is called Brown capuchin monkeys breaking nuts – One Life – BBC.

From National Geographic:

Nut-Bashing Monkeys Offer Window Into Human Evolution

Brazil’s bearded capuchins know how much force is needed to crack open a nut—a surprisingly human-like skill, a new study says.

By Liz Langley

PUBLISHED July 18, 2015

Give me a hammer, and I’d probably end up bashing my thumb with it. When it comes to tool use, dexterity counts.

So when Saturday’s Weird Animal Question of the Week heard about the famous nut-crushing monkeys of Brazil, we took the prerogative to ask: “How can these monkeys crack nuts so accurately?”

First off, these bearded capuchins open tough palm nuts by putting them on “anvils,” including logs and boulders, and hammering at them, according to research by National Geographic explorer Dorothy Fragaszy of the University of Georgia at Athens.

Fragaszy and colleagues already knew the monkeys are choosy about their nut-cracking tools, for instance by selecting rocks that are heavier than themselves. (Related: “Hercules Monkeys Lift Stones to Crack Nuts.”)

But she didn’t know how the capuchins can skillfully get to their snack without smashing it to smithereens—until now. New observations in the southeastern state of Piauí, Brazil (map) reveal that the animals carefully regulate the force they use in nut-cracking.

After each strike, the monkeys evaluate the condition of the nut and then tailor the force of the next blow accordingly. (See National Geographic‘s monkey pictures.)

That’s called dexterity, “a very surprising skill we never expected to find in a non-human animal,” says Madhur Mangalam, also of the University of Georgia at Athens. (Read about how clever crows use one tool to acquire another.)

“We thought they’d try to break the nut with as much force as they can,” adds Mangalam, who’s a co-author with Fragaszy on a recent study published in the journal Current Biology.

Monkey Practice, Monkey Do

The monkeys’ impressive skill also offers some insight into the evolution of human tool use, the scientists say.

Take stone knapping, or using one stone to strike another in order to shape it into an arrowhead or other useful object—a strategy used by many early humans.

“A novice knapper sort of bangs one stone against another and produces nothing very much that’s usable,” Fragaszy says. (Read how a wrong discovery led to the discovery of the oldest stone tools.)

A skilled knapper, on the other hand, controls the force of the stone “hammer”—much like capuchins.

Our ancestors’ nut-cracking skills likely “allowed us to have a more complex skill of stone knapping,” Mangalam adds. (See “Human Ancestors May Have Used Tools Half-Million Years Earlier Than Thought.”)

Another thing the monkeys have in common with people: They both have to learn their expertise.

Capuchins take a couple of years to learn nut-cracking, which takes a lot of practice and playing with tools nuts and stones in different ways to get it right, Mangalam says.

Practice makes perfect—sounds anything but nutty to us.

New small frog species discovery on Brazilian mountaintops

This 2007 video from Brazil is about a Brachycephalus pernix frog, a relative of the recently discovered species.

This is another 2007 video about Brachycephalus pernix.

And this 2013 Brazilian video is about Brachycephalus tridactylus, another relative.

And this 2012 Brazilian video is about Brachycephalus nodoterga.

And this December 2014 video, recorded in Brazil, is about Brachycephalus pitanga.

This March 2014 video is about the skeleton of Brachycephalus ephipium.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Seven new species of miniature frogs discovered in cloud forests of Brazil

Tiny frogs smaller in size than bumblebees have evolved with fewer fingers and toes to reduce their size to adapt to life on isolated mountaintops

Karl Mathiesen

Thursday 4 June 2015 17.08 BST

Seven new species of miniature frog, smaller than bumblebees, have been discovered clinging to survival on isolated mountaintops in Brazil.

The largest of the new discoveries has a maximum adult length of just 13mm. The frogs, which are among the smallest land vertebrates, have evolved with fewer fingers and toes in order to reduce their size.

Miniaturisation allows the frogs to emerge from their eggs as fully-formed, albeit tiny, adults. This means they do not go through a tadpole stage and can survive far from standing water. Highly efficient absorption allows them to stay hydrated by soaking water from damp ground through the skin on their bellies.

Marcio Pie, a professor at the Universidade Federal do Paraná, led a team of researchers on a five-year exploration of the mountainous cloud forests on the southern Atlantic coast of Brazil. They published their study in the journal PeerJ on Thursday.

“Although getting to many of the field sites is exhausting, there was always the feeling of anticipation and curiosity about what new species could look like”, said Pie.

The frogs are all species from the Brachycephalus genus, which are often tiny in size.

They live on ‘sky islands’, areas of high forest on mountains surrounded by lower altitude rainforest. The tiny frogs are highly adapted to their conditions and sometimes restricted to a single mountain. There they have evolved in isolation over millennia – much like the unique species on separate Galapagos islands that so fascinated Charles Darwin.

Pie said this extreme endemism makes them exceptionally vulnerable to changes in their habitat. Their major threats are illegal logging and changes to cloud forests caused by climate change. None of the newly-described species are in reserves and many live relatively close to cities where the forest can be more easily impacted.

“The really big concern is climate change because the cloud forest depends on the delicate balance between the water that comes form the ocean and the topography. If there’s some sort of warming it’s possible that that sort of really humid forest will disappear and with that all the endemic species, not only our frogs but other types of organisms,” he said.

The study increases the number of recognised species in the genus by 50% to a total of 21.

Luiz Ribeiro, a research associate to the Mater Natura Institute for Environmental Studies, said the new discoveries suggested there were many more to find. “This is only the beginning, especially given the fact that we have already found additional species that we are in the process of formally describing.”

The find comes against a background of catastrophic amphibian decline worldwide caused by a chytrid fungus. At least 200 species of frog have been driven to extinction or declined because of the disease the fungus causes. Pie said the frogs may be protected from chytrid by their ability to survive away from the water sources where the fungus is often found.

Stopping deforestation in Brazil

This 2012 video is called How Brazil is halting deforestation in the Amazon.

From Nature journal:

Stopping deforestation: Battle for the Amazon

Brazil has waged a successful war on tropical deforestation, and other countries are trying to follow its lead. But victory remains fragile.

Jeff Tollefson

01 April 2015

Oziel Alves da Silva reins his horse to a stop near the edge of a pasture, and adjusts a baseball cap that has done little to protect his leathery skin from the tropical sun. Keeping an eye out for his herd, he surveys his 274-hectare ranch located in the eastern Amazonian state of Pará. Where he once dreamed of a vast open field covered with grasses and cattle, he sees nothing but palm trees that he cannot cut down.

The 39-year-old rancher is one of thousands of Brazilian landowners stymied by a historic campaign to halt the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest. He was fined 720,000 reals (US$230,000) and banned from selling cattle after trying to clear this field in 2009. Now Alves da Silva is once again operating legally, and he has little hope of expanding his pasture and increasing his herd. Along with many fellow ranchers in the county of Brasil Novo, he has stopped cutting down trees and is trying to make peace with the law.

“We came together and decided we needed to change,” he says.

Over the past decade, while the world has been busy haggling over future commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, Brazil has lowered its carbon dioxide output more than any other country through a historic effort to slow forest loss. The deforestation rate here last year was roughly 75% below the average for 1996 to 2005 — just shy of Brazil’s pledge to achieve an 80% reduction by 2020. The country has managed this feat while increasing the amount of food it produces, much of it for export to a growing and hungry world.

Brazil’s experience suggests that humanity has a chance to control agricultural expansion and preserve the planet’s most diverse ecosystems. If other countries follow suit by protecting and expanding forests, which lock carbon up in trees and soils, they could slow the growth of global CO2 emissions and buy the world some time to solve the thornier problem of curbing emissions from cars, power plants and industrial facilities.

“There is no question that Brazil has made a fundamental departure from the past,” says Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. “And it has given credence to the notion that forest conservation may be an important mechanism for international cooperation on climate.”

Although Brazil’s downward trend in deforestation has been evident for nearly a decade, it is only in the past couple of years that researchers have pieced together how the country put the brakes on an epidemic of illegal development that has eliminated roughly 20% of the Brazilian Amazon over the past half century. Even today, the story varies depending on who is telling it. This is what drew me to the Brazilian Amazon for two months last year. I travelled throughout the region, talking to scientists, ranchers, politicians, loggers and members of indigenous tribes — all with the aim of understanding how Brazil altered its environmental trajectory and where it goes from here.

Various factors conspired to curtail deforestation. The federal government designated areas in the Amazon basin for protection, cracked down on ranchers, farmers and land speculators, and put pressure on local governments, while environmentalists ramped up campaigns against companies that were exporting beef, leather and soya beans from illegally cleared land. States and communities recognized that their economies were at risk, which drove them to develop their own policies (see ‘How fish and condoms can save the forest’).

Brazil’s success thus far offers potential lessons for other tropical countries where deforestation is on the rise, but the situation in the Amazon remains precarious. Enforcement has increased, but the basic factors driving deforestation — including poverty and the profitability of agricultural land — have not changed. Although the rate of land clearing in Brazil last year fell to its second lowest level since 1988, it had spiked in 2013, and some scientists expect another increase in 2015.

“Brazilians do not want deforestation,” climate scientist Carlos Nobre told me when I visited him in Brasilia, where he was finishing his term as secretary for research and development at the Ministry of Science. But clearing and planting new land remains the primary force for economic growth in the Amazon, he says. “We do not yet have an alternative model.”

Incendiary measures

The battle against illegal deforestation in Brazil starts with satellite images of the land surface. Since 1988, researchers have been compiling high-resolution maps of the forest cover each year. They obtain low-resolution images more frequently to spot fresh openings in the forest. Over the past decade, scientists have begun providing real-time information to Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).

In June last year, I joined an IBAMA team and its heavily armed police escort as they launched raids in southwestern Pará, which remains a hotbed for deforestation. We spent hours barrelling down shoddy roads in search of fresh clearings seen on satellite imagery. One day, the team interrogated landowners, searched homes and confiscated guns and chainsaws, but did not find the suspicious spot. A second outing in a different area looked like it was going to end the same way, but towards evening the crew found a couple of trails off the road. We hiked 50 metres through the underbrush and the sky opened up over a field of felled trees. On the other side of the road was an encampment, complete with a large tarpaulin-covered A-frame, hammocks and a propane stove. The team promptly burned the camp to the ground, putting an end to that operation — at least for the moment.

The culprits that IBAMA encounters on the ground are often bit players, but the government is also investigating criminals higher up the chain, who make money by speculating on illegally cleared land. After I left, last August, the agency cracked down on a crime syndicate in Pará, arresting 22 people. And in February, IBAMA announced the arrest of the “largest deforester of the Amazon”: Ezequiel Castanha, a businessman in Novo Progresso who allegedly headed the syndicate and had spent months on the run. Officials say that deforestation in the region has dropped by 65% since August.

The basic outline of this enforcement strategy emerged in 2004 under former environment minister Marina Silva, a lifelong environmentalist and candidate in last year’s presidential elections. As minister, Silva tackled deforestation by strengthening IBAMA and bringing other government agencies on board. One key change she made was instituting a sophisticated system to root out corruption within IBAMA.

In parallel, the environmental group Greenpeace increased public pressure on companies by documenting the link between soya-bean farming and deforestation in media campaigns in Brazil and internationally, which pushed supermarket chains and food companies such as McDonald’s to declare a boycott on the purchase of illegally farmed soya. All of these changes helped to push the country’s major exporters to sign a moratorium in 2006, banning the purchase of soya beans from recently cleared land. Two years later, IBAMA published a blacklist of counties with the highest deforestation rates. Areas on the list faced increased enforcement by IBAMA, and landowners encountered tighter standards when they tried to take out agricultural loans. Brasil Novo was on the inaugural list, and IBAMA quickly descended on ranchers such as Alves da Silva.

Brasil Novo has since reduced its deforestation rate and is one of the latest counties to make it off the blacklist, but it was a hard road, says Zelma Campos, the region’s secretary of the environment. At a public meeting on land regulation in May last year, Campos told me that all ranchers — even law-abiding ones — had trouble marketing their beef when the blacklist came out. As a result, the local economy shrank and the tax base contracted, which undermined public services. Eventually, Brasil Novo’s only slaughterhouse was shut down. “No one wants to invest in a municipality with environmental problems,” explained Campos.

But this was just the beginning. In 2009, a 27-year-old federal prosecutor named Daniel Azeredo filed a lawsuit against various ranchers and 11 of the largest slaughterhouse operators in Pará, the state with the most deforestation in the Amazon. He warned major purchasers of beef and leather — including the supermarket chain Walmart, McDonald’s and the Adidas clothing company — that they could be held accountable for marketing illegal products. Greenpeace mounted another international public-relations campaign, and the cattle industry in Pará briefly ground to a halt.

For Azeredo, the fundamental problem was that nobody knew who owned what, which enabled outlaws to rule with violence. In a series of legal settlements, he pushed companies and local governments to support a rural land registry in Pará that was designed to help resolve conflicts over land ownership and allow the government to formally license agricultural operations. Greenpeace followed up by pushing major slaughterhouses into signing a moratorium — like the soya-bean companies had three years earlier — on the purchase of beef from recently deforested lands.

The upshot is that the land registry has expanded from around 500 properties in 2009 to more than 112,000 today, covering 62% of the private land in the state. Deforestation in Pará has dropped by more than 57% over the same period (see ‘Food and forests’).

“This was huge,” says Paul Barreto, a senior scientist with the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment, an environmental group based in Pará’s capital, Belém. “The lawsuit was against the big companies but in the end it brought along everyone.”

In 2012, faced with rural protests over the new enforcement regime, the Brazilian Congress revised its forest code. The new law scaled back various forest protections and let some landowners off the hook for past deforestation, but it also created a national land registry that was designed to serve as the basis for federal land management.

The move has triggered its own controversies. The soya-bean industry says that because the federal registry will enable the government to improve monitoring of landowners, the 2006 moratorium on sales is now unnecessary. But environmentalists argue that the registry is not ready. The debate has intensified questions about what caused the drop in deforestation, and what should come next.

Forces in the forest

Scientists have been looking into these questions, trying to pick apart the factors that influence deforestation. In a study published last year, a research team confirmed suspicions that broader economic forces — which reduced agricultural profitability a decade ago — deserve partial credit for the initial drop in deforestation (D. Nepstad et al. Science 344, 11181123; 2014). But deforestation rates remained low even when the economics improved; stricter enforcement and initiatives such as the moratoria seem to be why.

“It’s basically a diffusion of different instruments, some of which have gained traction,” says lead author Daniel Nepstad, a tropical ecologist who heads the Earth Innovation Institute, an advocacy group based in San Francisco, California. “It’s impossible to quantify any of these factors individually, but they are all pushing in the right direction.”

Holly Gibbs, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, says it is possible to identify some of the more successful policies. She and her colleagues found that deforestation was higher in areas not covered by the soya-bean moratorium, including on properties that are already on the federal land registry (H. K. Gibbs et al. Science 347, 377378; 2015). Unpublished results suggest that the beef moratorium has had a similar effect on ranchers, who fear being banned from markets if they clear land.

“These moratoria are really leading to huge changes on the ground in Brazil,” says Gibbs, and that raises questions about what will happen if the soya-bean moratorium is lifted as scheduled next year.

Brazilian officials nonetheless see the registry as the foundation for a new brand of land management. Government researchers are working on a monitoring system to classify and track different kinds of land use across the entire country as a complement to the national land registry. This could lead to an unprecedented capacity to track, study and promote better land use nationwide, they say.

“If we are successful in implementing this, it’s going to be a revolution,” says Francisco Oliveira, who heads the forest enforcement programme at the Ministry of the Environment in Brasilia.

Even if the registry is successful, a fundamental challenge remains. It is cheaper for landowners — and more profitable for rogue speculators — to slash and burn forest than to rejuvenate soils and replant fallowed fields. Brazil is looking for ways to tilt the balance by improving and expanding operations on tracts of land that have already been cleared, using an influx of money designated for forest protection. In 2008, Norway agreed to pay $1 billion if Brazil successfully reduced deforestation and thus CO2 emissions. It was the world’s first large-scale demonstration of a strategy called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). And Norwegian officials visited Brazil last month to talk about a second investment.

Brazil has dispersed more than $150 million so far for projects on issues such as agricultural productivity, biodiversity research and land-use planning. But relatively little money has gone to landowners or programmes that noticeably benefit them. “The farmers are sort of sitting there bewildered, because they are not getting the incentives they were promised,” Nepstad says.

He is working with major soya-bean and beef companies, as well as government officials, on an approach that would help farmers by rewarding those who meet key standards instead of punishing them for poor performance. Landowners in counties that reduce deforestation could get easier access to low-interest loans, for instance. This approach could also involve direct payments to counties and landowners.

Brazil’s experience could inform the rollout of an international REDD programme created in 2013 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Although it is a shadow of the plan that many had imagined, the basic idea remains the same: industrialized nations pay for carbon to be maintained or increased in trees and soils through better forest management.

This approach has received more than $7 billion from countries such as Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Much of that money has been invested in projects that are intended to demonstrate the idea and help governments to improve their forest-monitoring expertise. Last year, Brazil became the first country to submit its baseline forest assessment documenting deforestation to the United Nations. In December, five other countries announced their own submissions.

Initial payments could begin as early as 2017. Although there are no current provisions for long-term funding, negotiators hope to secure money in a treaty that nations plan to sign in Paris this year. Brazil is hoping for some of that cash but is not counting on it; officials say that they will continue to focus on domestic efforts.

International attention is shifting now to Indonesia, which is clearing more forest than any other country. Norway has committed $1 billion to the country if the government can demonstrate reductions in deforestation and emissions. Environmentalists are also transferring their experience in Brazil to Indonesia, and have extracted promises to tackle deforestation from various international corporations that are active in the palm-oil industry there.

Scepticism remains about whether these strategies will succeed in Indonesia, which is building a monitoring and enforcement programme from scratch. But Nepstad points out that a decade ago, nobody would have believed Brazil was about to turn a corner. “There are seeds of what we saw in Brazil ten years ago in Indonesia today,” Nepstad says.

Future of the forest

Despite a decade of progress, the future of the Amazon rainforest remains uncertain. Some lawmakers want to scale back protected areas, and President Dilma Rousseff is encouraging investments in ports and hydroelectric dams, which could trigger more deforestation. Added to that is concern over the impacts of climate change, which threatens both the rainforest and existing crops.

Paulo Moutinho, former executive director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brasilia, fears that the government is overlooking more obvious solutions, such as designating more land for permanent protection. “It’s stupid,” he says, “but there’s a sense in Brasilia that we have too much protected area.”

Others are more sanguine. Back in Pará, Azeredo told me that Brazil’s march towards law and order on the frontier is slowly paying off. With a little persistence, he says, the beef industry could achieve a reasonable level of compliance in several years’ time. “We are creating a system of governance,” he says. “Before, we didn’t even know where to start.”

This is a message that ranchers such as Alves da Silva seem to have taken to heart. “Every day that passes, government enforcement is going to increase,” he says. “It’s only going to get harder to break the law.”

With little hope of expanding his operation, Alves da Silva concentrates on the herd at hand. He ropes and vaccinates a pair of newborn calves and then finishes for the day. As the light fades, we mount our horses and set off through his pasture. Behind us, the silhouette of the forest looms large.

Holocaust denying ultra-right Catholics’ war against Pope Francis

Women sat on one side of the aisle, their heads – even the youngest girls – covered in scarves. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Guardian

This photo shows women during the illegal ordination of a priest in Nova Friburgo in Brazil by ultra-right Roman Catholics. The women sat on one side of the aisle, their heads – even the youngest girls – covered in scarves. This tendency within Roman Catholicism is Islamophobic. However, one hears their fellow Islamophobes far more about similar seating in some mosques (definitely not in all mosques) than about these Catholic fanatics.

Unfortunately, the existence of these fanatics has nothing to do with it being April Fools’ Day now …

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Ultra-traditional Catholics rebel against pope in Brazil: ‘He is less Catholic than us’

In Dutch there is a proverb: ‘To be more Roman than the pope’, meaning fanatical extremism.

Hailing from around the world, a group led by an excommunicated bishop call themselves a ‘resistance’ movement against Vatican reforms. The response from the Vatican was swift and unequivocal: ‘Excommunication is automatic’

Jonathan Watts in Nova Friburgo and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome

Wednesday 1 April 2015 11.00 BST

In a secluded monastery in south-eastern Brazil, a breakaway group of ultra-conservative Catholics gathered to participate in an act of rebellion against the pope.

The setting could hardly have been more tranquil: rolling green hills, purple-glory trees, palm leaves swaying in the wind and a temporary chapel made of breeze block walls and a tin roof left partially open to the elements.

But the 50 or so priests, Benedictine monks, nuns and other worshippers who file into Santa Cruz monastery on Saturday were no ordinary congregation. Hailing from Europe, the US and Latin America, they described themselves as a “resistance” movement against Vatican reforms.

In favour of Latin services – and fiercely opposed to ecumenism, freedom of religion and closer relations with Judaism – they had come to defy the authority of Rome with the ordination of a new priest by an excommunicated bishop, Jean-Michel Faure.

It was the second such ceremony in the past month: Faure was consecrated here without papal approval only two weeks ago by the Holocaust-denying British bishop Richard Williamson. In response, both clerics were automatically ejected from the church, but this has not stopped the group’s drive to build an unsanctioned clergy.

The ceremony harked back to an earlier, more conservative age. Women sat on one side of the aisle, their heads – even the youngest girls – covered in scarves. Over three hours, the liturgy was almost entirely in Latin, as were the hymns sung by a choir of monks accompanied by a nun on an electric organ.

Before his ordination, brother André Zelaya de León prostrated himself before the altar and then rose to his knees for a blessing on his tonsured head by Faure. At times, the prayers were so quiet that they almost drowned out by the cicadas and birds in the trees.

Apart from the digital cameras, cellphones – and the electric organ – the ceremony would have been recognisable to centuries of Catholic believers before what today’s ultra-conservatives consider to be the wrong turn taken by the Catholic church with the democratising reforms of the 1962 Second Vatican Council.

After the mass, Faure told the Guardian the Vatican was smashing tradition, and going against the teachings of Pius X, a staunch conservative who was pope between 1903 and 1914.

“We do not follow that revolution. The current pope is preaching doctrine denied by Pius X. He is less Catholic than us,” he said. “He does not follow the doctrine of the faith that are the words of Jesus Christ.”

The Vatican’s response to the ordination was unequivocal.

“Excommunication is automatic,” a spokesman said. He added: “For the Holy See, the diocese of Santa Cruz in Nova Friburgo does not exist. Faure can say what he wants, but a Catholic, and even more so a bishop, obeys and respects the pope.”

Faure, a French cleric who has worked in Mexico and Argentina, said he did not accept this ruling.

“Canon Law states that excommunication is valid if it follows a mor[t]al sin. But ours is not a mortal sin. We’re just following our religion. To do this, we need priests, and to have priests we need bishops.”

He compared his situation to that of other Catholics in history, such as Joan of Arc, who were initially excommunicated but later recognised for their contribution to the Church. “Although we are a minority now, if you look at history, we are a majority. There [are] all the saints, 250 popes and all the Catholics who think exactly as we think.”

Faure said he only reluctantly become a bishop in case Williamson died in an accident, which would leave the group without the means to ordain priests.

Though he did not say it, the French bishop may also be replacing his British counterpart as a spokesman for the movement. Williamson has repeatedly stirred up controversy with comments denying the Holocaust, … warning that Muslims are taking over Europe, and claiming that women are dominating corporations and the military because they are not fulfilling their natural role “making babies”.

Williamson was one of four bishops illegally ordained in 1988 by a French Roman Catholic archbishop called Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St Pius X and an outspoken critic of the liberalisation of certain church practices following the Second Vatican Council, including the widespread use of vernacular language rather than Latin in mass, inter-faith dialogue and efforts to communicate with the secular world.

Lefebvre and all four bishops were immediately excommunicated for participating in the illicit ordinations, but their movement has been a thorn in the Vatican’s side ever since.

Only about one million Catholics – or .01% of the Catholic population – describe themselves as followers of St Pius X, but successive popes have attempted to heal the rift with them.

In 2009, Pope Benedict ignited controversy by lifting the excommunication of the four bishops and even promised the rebel group autonomy from bishops they considered too liberal.

This quickly backfired when it was revealed that Williamson had alleged that no Jews were killed in gas chambers, that the US orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that freemasons were conspiring to destroy Catholicism.

The Vatican said at the time that Benedict had not been aware of Williamson’s views on the Holocaust. …

In contrast to his predecessor, Pope Francis has paid little attention to the ultra-conservatives.

Williamson has declared that he does not intend to start a new society, but the movement has now created a new bishop and a priest, and Faure claimed that there were at least two bishops in the Society of St Pius X who sympathised with the self-styled “Resistance”.

“If Bishop Lefebvre makes a deal with Rome, many people will leave the society. They won’t accept capitulation,” he said.

In conversation, the traditionalists appear to be hoping for a divine and dramatic intervention. Williamson, who describes himself as a “bloody-minded Brit”, has said he expects a “gigantic chastisement” such as Noah’s flood.

Faure talks more of a coming third world war.

“It would be horrible, but it would change the world. But the day after wouldn’t be like the day before,” Faure said, pointing to the conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. “It would change many things in the world. It would be a new approach in many aspects and why not, in religion.”

For the moment, however, their group of roughly 55 rebel clergy has to rely on stubborn faith.

René Trincado, a priest from Chile, who was expelled from the Society of St Pius X in 2013 because he opposed an accord with the Vatican, is among those at the Santa Cruz monastery, which he described as the base of the resistance operations in Brazil.

“We’re not afraid of excommunication. It has no validity,” he said.

Additional reporting by Shanna Hanbury

Dutch pedophile priest working with Brazilian children

This video from the USA says about itself:

Abuse Documentary: The Shame of the Catholic Church | Retro Report | The New York Times

31 March 2014

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been making headlines for years. Some priests have been punished, but what about the bishops who shielded them?

Read the story here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Pedophile priest still works with kids’

Today, 03:54

The Dutch pedophile priest Cornelio still works with children. In Brazil he accompanies children in making toys, according to a broadcast of the EO [Dutch Protestant broadcasting corporation] television show Dit is de Dag Onderzoek. The program, which will be broadcast tonight, did research on sexual abuse by missionaries.

Cornelio (90 years old) worked from 1962 to 1988 as the leader of the Roman Catholic youth activities in Vught [Noord-Brabant province, the Netherlands]. He organized children’s camps and taught children crafts lessons.


Three men have said to the hotline for reporting sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church [officially recognized by the Dutch Roman Catholic Church] that they used to be repeatedly abused by the priest. They also saw during camps how he abused other boys. The hotline has upheld all complaints and Father Cornelio is also said to have admitted this.

The congregation of the priest promised several years ago to take appropriate action against the man, but Cornelio says he never got any penalty.

According to the investigative journalists of the EO, there are still more pedophile priests not dealt with by their congregations. The congregation of Father Cornelio did not want to respond to the broadcast.

Dit is de Dag Onderzoek, NPO 2 TV, 21:15.