Is it excusable to still be Catholic?

I recently read an opinion piece by a Catholic woman, Elizabeth Scalia, on how she is still Catholic even with her Church in the news almost daily regarding new revelations regarding how so many bishops, archbishops, and the Pope himself have actively covered up and enabled child-molesting clergy.

Before I even respond to her piece, I need to point out that I could never consider it moral to be an active Catholic — one’s donations, in part, are used to pay the families of abuse victims to be quiet, keeping the truth under the rug and the youth in danger.

The question has come my way several times in the past week: “How do you maintain your faith in light of news stories that bring light to the dark places that exist within your church?”

Interesting phrasing; she seems to be quite fond of light/dark imagery. Anyway:

When have darkness and light been anything but co-existent? How do we recognize either without the other?

Ah, that explains the word choice.

It’s a poor analogy and a shameful argument.

Elizabeth seems to be making the argument that we could not recognize how brilliantly great most of the Catholic church is if we didn’t have a few pedophiliac child-rapists with black collars.

I wonder if she would like to explain this reasoning to the victims. I can’t imagine the family from the documentary Deliver Us from Evil Goons would find any comfort here.

Seriously, Ms. Scalia. Stop thinking in metaphors.

I remain within, and love, the Catholic Church because it is a church that has lived and wrestled within the mystery of the shadow lands ever since an innocent man was arrested, sentenced and crucified, while the keeper of “the keys” denied him, and his first priests ran away.

I approve of slavery because it has been practiced at least somewhere in the world ever since a supposedly innocent man was said to have been arrested, sentenced and crucified؟ (Yes, that’s the irony mark, perfect for sarcasm.)

This is your reasoning, Elizabeth? It’s a non-sequitur. The longevity of an organization does not affect the morality of being a member!

Through 2,000 imperfect — sometimes glorious, sometimes heinous — years, the church has contemplated and manifested the truth that dark and light, innocence and guilt, justice and injustice all share a kinship, one that waves back and forth like wind-stirred wheat in a field, churning toward something — as yet — unknowable.

Does this mean anything? To anyone? If anything, it sounds more Taoist than Catholic to me. Again, we have no argument, no reason, and no morality.

The darkness within my church is real, and it has too often gone unaddressed.

This is the core complaint the outside world has with the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church (and other religious organizations with recent sex abuse scandals). It’s not that some church members did horrible things. To err is human, after all. It’s not even that supposedly trustworthy authority figures abused their super-human images (doubt it? Catholic priests use magic to turn wine into blood and sin into absolution!) to the detriment of children. It’s that over and over the people highest up in the church did nothing to stop these crimes from being committed again!

So it seems Elizabeth, too, is aware of the evil of inaction at the top of her Church. Right? Let’s continue:

The light within my church is also real, and has too often gone unappreciated.

Too often for whom?

What real harm came from this supposed inattention?

A small minority has sinned, gravely, against too many. Another minority has assisted or saved the lives of millions.

Elizabeth is now arguing that the net effect of the Church is positive. As an atheist, I would tend to disagree — cough, Galileo; cough, the Crusades; cough, Nazi complicity; cough Northern Ireland — but the claim bears investigation. After all, there are those who work under the umbrella of the Church to do good works.

Like Mother Theresa, right? Except that she didn’t really help people — she was primarily an anti-contraception activist and self-promoter who caused more poverty and misery than she ever solved.

But surely the other missionaries Elizabeth alludes to have bettered mankind? Valerie Tarico has written a fantastic examination of this claim. It’s not so clear-cut as many would think. Missionaries’ main goal isn’t to help in this world. It’s to convert followers, which they do by tying aid to religion (the modern way) or killing those who don’t convert (the old way). Forced conversion. A direct violation of human rights.

Wouldn’t it be more ethical to give money to a secular aid organization? You know, one that doesn’t have a long history of forced conversions and child abuse cover-ups?

So now, Elizabeth has only successfully argued for trading in a Roman Catholic rosary for a Red Cross receipt.

But then, my country is the most generous and compassionate nation on Earth; it is also the only country that has ever deployed nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Debatable! Ah, the arrogant patriotism of a U.S. citizen.

And does she really mean to say that we must support warlike activities if we want to be compassionate? Does she truly believe sending one’s taxes to a government that doesn’t bomb civilians to be no more moral than the alternative?

My government is founded upon a singular appreciation of personal liberty; some of those founders owned slaves.

And look at the progress we’ve made. She doesn’t have much of a point here, if we consider than any good of the Catholic church (e.g. aid) can be had without the huge negatives (e.g. child rape). And it can.

The rest of her piece is no better. She talks more about child abuse.

But she completely misses the point.

Until the cover-ups stop, it’s unethical to be a Catholic.

One thought on “Is it excusable to still be Catholic?

  1. Arizona Atheist

    Great post!

    The inaction by the church speaks volumes about their supposed ‘morality’ than anything. I don’t see how anyone could be religious with so many hypocritical religious individuals out there. They preach one thing, but do the complete opposite. It’s sickening.

    But on a lighter note, how have you liked the spike in the temp. out here lately?

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