Archives for posts with tag: Catholic

“The color line is distinctly drawn by Jehovah himself; it is drawn in nature and in history in such a form as to make it a sin and a crime to undertake to obliterate it. “

– Rev. Benjamin Palmer, 1887

“It is certainly a matter of faith that this sort of slavery in which a man serves his master as his slave, is altogether lawful. This is proved from Holy Scripture…”

Leander, Catholic Theologian, 1692

“Christianity confirms the subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in plain language and by positive precept. []  But, while conferring on her these priceless blessings, it also enjoins the submission of the wife to the husband, and allots a subordinate position to the whole sex while here on earth. No woman calling herself a Christian, acknowledging her duties as such, can, therefore, consistently deny the obligation of a limited subordination laid upon her by her Lord and His Church.”

Susan F. Cooper, 1870

“According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. []  But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, 2012

In a speech to the Vatican Curia today, Pope Benedict made what is considered to be one of his strongest attacks yet on gay marriage. Over the past few years, the Pope has made known his opposition to homosexual conduct in no uncertain terms, previously describing it as an “objective disorder“. This view has been repeated by numerous representatives of his senior executive team throughout the world.

A few days before, the news came through of a major breakthrough in the Philippines. After years of opposition by the Catholic Church, women in this country are now one small step away from government subsidised contraception and the right to family planning choices previously only available to those who could afford it.

Around the same time, Catholic bishops in Ireland came out forcefully against government plans to introduce abortion legislation in 2013. Even though most commentators expect the legislation to be restrictive and limited – merely clarifying the conditions by which a termination can be conducted in a medical context – it didn’t stop some more hysterical bishops announcing the onset of a “culture of death” in Ireland.

The Church’s priority does not seem to be common human compassion, nor the alleviation of poverty, nor the highlighting of injustice, nor calling the powerful to account. No. Instead the Church is preoccupied by the imposition of an absolute, unbending version of morality. Having no regard to the inevitable complexities and contradictions at the extremes, the Catholic Church shows itself to lack compassion. Its moral stance has become an immoral one, imposing suffering where alleviation is possible. By choosing not to accept reality, it has lost touch with common humanity.

This is the Catholic Church leadership in the early 21st Century, holding fast to positions that are becoming less tenable with each passing year. Through the stories of people whose lives have been blighted by injurious Church attitudes, it finds itself on the wrong side of history, playing the wounded soldier as the demands for greater liberty and common respect rise ever stronger. The point is missed entirely when these demands are rejected as nothing more than rampant secularism in the ascendent.

We are witnessing, in real time, the demise of this once powerful organisation. Should it choose to adhere to the course it is on, it will cease to exist as a force for change within our own lifetimes. The stance of this church is one of defensiveness, elitism, and deafness to a growing public clamour for renewal. By choosing to ignore the real desires of women, the poor, homosexuals, transexuals and those who clamour for meaningful change within the organisation, it is consigning itself to terminal irrelevance.

I am an atheist, so I am under no illusions as to how this essay will be taken by many people of faith. I am unconvinced, however, that religion is, necessarily, a manifest force of evil. In a free society, people must be permitted their beliefs and the comfort that they may derive from them. Religion provides breathing space to millions of people across the world, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. Through acts of selflessness, charity and compassion, many deeply religious people across the world deliver encouragement to the needy of this world with no expectation of compensation, material or otherwise.

For a religion to thrive in this century, it needs to accept and understand the real world, with all its conundrums, confusions and contradictions. It needs to reach out to people, listening to their stories, walking in their shoes before setting forth an opinion. Despite axiomatic differences, there are no good reasons why humanists and convinced Catholics cannot share many similar values and work together on common causes. Right now, however, by elevating moral absolutes over what is practical, fair and achievable, a gulf exists where it need not be. Like those religious people who used their holy scriptures to justify slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women, its only a matter of time before the harm caused by these stances will be plain for all to see.

Photo via Marino González (Flickr : Merlin1487) CC Licensed

Over the weekend, Carol Hunt wrote a thought provoking piece about the prospect of the Irish Catholic Church going its own way, free from Vatican influence. Plenty of food for thought. In an article covering 1500 years of Irish history, she explains how the “Romanisation” of Irish Catholicism, with its contorted theology, unquestioned paternalism and petty proscriptions, is a relatively recent phenomenon; emerging primarily from the aftermath of the 1847 potato famine. Irish Catholicism had ploughed its own furrow for centuries, she argues. Maybe, it’s time for it to return to its roots.

Fascinating though a wholly Irish Catholic Church might be, I can’t see it happening soon. Even if the Vatican insult the lot of us when they respond to Enda Kenny’s Dáil speech, I don’t see the bulk of practicing Catholics here doing anything about it. Ultimately, it comes down to inertia. Many of those most likely to have had the energy to change the church from within have long since left the church in disgust and frustration, with no intention of ever going back. The remainder are split unequally along two lines: a core of deeply committed Catholics who prefer to believe that the whole scandal is a secular assault on their religion and a larger, more moderate group who, while affronted by the behaviour of the clergy in the past two decades, are unwilling to do anything about it.

There are likely to be a multitude of drivers motivating the second group to do nothing. For many, obedience to the Church is the respectable thing to do. Public dissent and argument have always been strongly discouraged within the Church, so why raise your head above the parapet? Some are keenly mindful of their “Catholic” identity, as opposed to a “Protestant” identity, in an island where too much blood has been spilled over these minor theological differences. In the background is the lingering fear of damnation, both in the putative next life and this one too. In the end, no matter what anachronistic pronouncements are uttered from on high; no matter what will emerge from the scandals of the future, most moderate Catholics will put up with it all for the sake of an easy life.

It’s not as if home-grown Catholicism, as opposed to Roman Catholicism, isn’t attractive to many within this second group. Most Irish Catholics would do away with the failed ban on contraception in the morning. They would welcome married clergy and women priests. They certainly wouldn’t mourn the passing of Vatican countenanced clericalism and secrecy, particularly when we have all seen its devastating effects in Ireland and around the world. It’s just that, for Irish practicing Catholics, desiring something and doing something about it are two very different things.

Protests and dissenting voices have been limited and sporadic.  Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, has been highly critical of the Catholic hierarchy’s behaviour and is an uncompromising advocate of reform. He has been a lone voice, however, increasingly marginalised even if he is saying what many Catholics are privately thinking.

When a few trogloditic priests around the country revealed their true colours over the past few weeks – comparing Enda Kenny to Hitler and referring to the Cloyne aftermath as being part of a secular Jewish agenda – a few brave souls walked out of Mass and there were a small number of letters to the newspapers. The vast bulk of people remained silent. It seems that the spirit is willing, but the motivation to do anything about it is about as strong as a wet straw.

So, no. I don’t expect any real changes any time soon. Irish Catholicism will continue to ally itself with Rome, despite what outrages might emerge involving the Vatican in the coming years. The prognosis for this church is a slow and steady decline into irrelevance and backwardness while old age and disillusionment steadily swabs up the remaining bulk of congregants.

* Photo “Broken Cross” by Merlin1487 (Marino González) on Flickr (CC Licensed)

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