For an organization that claims to be the only true representative of goodness on the face of the planet, the Catholic church sure does a really great job of being horrible. Sadly, it’s getting to the point where I feel like any further writing about the Catholic church would just be an exercise in futility, but the Vatican makes it so easy to get upset! You might expect an institution that offers itself as a significant force for good to make an honest attempt at doing good, but this apparently is not on the official agenda. What can I possibly say against the Catholic church that it isn’t already saying against itself? Well, I suppose there are a few things.
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The church is still working to exacerbate the HIV epidemic in Africa. For its role here, the best possible light in which the Catholic church can be cast is that of the conservative school board who refuses to adopt comprehensive sex education policies out of fear of encouraging sex. (As if sex were something that should be discouraged! It isn’t. Sex is great, and the responsible practicing of sex is entirely positive.) But what are the consequences of a school district’s strict adherence to abstinence-only “education?” Hint: it doesn’t look good. Abstinence-only approaches simply do not work. Young people brought up in these systems still have sex—the only difference is that they engage in far riskier sex. Statistics show that districts with a focus on teaching only abstinence have higher rates of teen pregnancy, and by failing to impart crucial knowledge about safe sex practices, this form of miseducation can actually increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections. This is the inevitable result when people either don’t know how to use a condom or erroneously believe them to be ineffective, and the Catholic church directly contributes to both of these problems. Just like those conservative school boards fail their children, the Catholic church fails its congregation. This has the same dire consequences for African Catholics as it does for those pregnant teenage girls in the United States.
There’s also that whole Catholic resistance to gay rights thing:
Every human being is called to receive a gift of divine sonship, to become a child of God by grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behavior—that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law.
Yeah, that’s right. If you engage in any sort of sexual behavior with someone of the same sex, you are violating “divine and natural law.” The rule is that it’s okay to be gay as long as you don’t act on your gayness. You can want to put your penis in a man’s butt all day long, provided that penis gets used solely for the purpose of making babies instead. This is nothing short of teaching people to be ashamed of who they are, and that’s not a healthy thing. It is entirely in line with the general Catholic message, though. “You are a disgusting creature, and you can never be good enough. You must spend your life trying and failing to make up for your inadequacies. Only through adherence to the teachings of the Catholic church can you make amends to God—but just barely—for being such a horrible creature. PS: Being gay makes you even worse than this.” What kind of message is this that they are preaching? It’s an incredibly depressing one, and I have nothing but sympathy for the people who buy into it. (I cannot imagine how such a belief could possibly make anyone happy.)
If you are in a gay relationship, the Catholic church wants you to know that you are making the baby Jesus cry. Now get back to work making more Catholics.
And then there are all those Catholic attempts to legislate their beliefs upon nonbelievers. Politically active Catholics aren’t content to merely follow their own religious dogmas. No, the Catholic lobby exercises a powerful influence over US politics, putting its weight to bear in an attempt to steer all manner of social issues. Although the Catholic church is certainly not alone in this, they do have a long history of attempting to control the cultural course of the United States. (And they’ve had much more success poisoning people’s minds in many other countries.) Catholic bishops apparently think they’re special, so they want their organizations—even secular ones—to be exempt from the laws that apply to the rest of the country.
I don’t think so.
I don’t think I have to say anything about this.
My Way or the Highway
And now there’s this news, fresh from the Vatican. To the church, the Pope is infallible; he’s the direct pipeline to God—there’s only one person who speaks for God, and it’s the Pope. When he issues a doctrinal edict, all Catholics must comply because the Holy Spirit speaks through him. (If you believe that, I’ve got this great bridge you might be interested in.)
The latest ruling out of Popetown comes in the form of a crackdown on both secular and religious liberalism.
The most recent example is the bishops’ response to the new health care law. After the Obama administration announced that religious universities, hospitals and charities must offer insurance plans that cover birth control, the bishops swung into action.
The group sued in federal court. They warned religious organizations and believers that birth control is intrinsically evil.
[T]he Vatican made two significant announcements in a single week in April: First, that it wants to reconcile with the ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius the X, and secondly, that it will reorganize the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of Catholic sisters.
As justification for the reorganization, the Vatican accused the group of “radical feminism.” It also accused the nuns of failing to emphasize sexual issues like birth control and same-sex marriage as much as their work on poverty and injustice.
That’s right, Catholics: if you attempt to take an evidence-based approach to human well-being, the church thinks you are wrong. Want to use birth control for family planning or STD prevention? Want to make it easier for other people (even non-Catholic) to do the same? If so, you are acting in direct opposition to the wishes of the man who speaks directly for God.
The Catholic church clearly has no idea what the word morality even means. To the pontiff himself, that which furthers the goals of the Catholic church is moral, and that which does not is immoral; they use no criterion of human well-being when judging morality.
Reasonableness Where It’s Least Expected?
Perhaps the strangest thing of all, however, is that this rightward swing has caused something very odd indeed to happen. Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League (which apparently only exists to make other Catholics look bad) has once again said something that I find myself agreeing with:
If people are so dissatisfied, Donohue says, why don’t they just join a liberal denomination, like the Episcopalians?
I couldn’t agree more, Bill. Why don’t they leave the Catholic church?
Frankly, I doubt there will be much of an escape attempt from Roman rule, but it would send a powerful message: We’re not willing to compromise our humanity to satisfy your inhumane interpretation of scripture. That would give me quite a bit of confidence in members of the Catholic church (although at that point, they’d no longer be Catholics). I recognize that the sins of the church, of which those that I’ve mentioned here are only a sampling, are not the sins of individual Catholics. They are the result of the old men who’ve been told that they speak directly for the one true god of the universe, and that kind of power can have a profound effect on someone’s psyche. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as the saying goes. I think most believers know that the church is deeply misguided (dare I say wrong?) in its politics, but they can’t bring themselves to admit it. There might be no better time for individual Catholics to make their voices known. I hope they do.
But I won’t hold my breath. Instead, I’ll be sitting here seething over the Catholic church’s sanctimonious crusade against modernity. If they want to live like we’re still in the 12th century, I certainly have no desire to join them.