Tag Archives: Catholic Dogma

Women’s Suffrage and the Catholic Church

★ Fun fact: With Saudi Arabia giving women a vote in 2015, Vatican City will be the only nation where only men vote.
@mr_atheist
Mr_Atheist

It’s true. According to Wikipedia, there are only three countries that do not let men and women vote equally.

  1. Lebanon requires women to show proof of elementary education before voting, unlike men; men are required to participate in elections.
  2. Saudi Arabia does not allow women to vote, but plans to let them do so in 2015 (this is the latest in a series of delays).
  3. Vatican City (which is its own country, geographically but not legally within Italy) only permits Cardinals to vote. As women are not allowed priesthood, much less allowed to be bishops or Cardinals, they’re out of luck, denied a vote.

There you have it. Pending changes in plans, come 2015, Vatican City will be the only country on planet Earth that only allows men to vote.

So Yes, That Is Why

Women are not allowed to wear bikinis in public in the Vatican. Paper burqas — I mean, paper clothes with sufficient coverage — are available for purchase on the streets.

Do Female Catholics Care?

A tangent, if you will.

Restricting the priesthood to men is an old tradition. Yet the question of gender and priesthood has been discussed by the Papacy at least as recently as 1994, when Pope John Paul II officially declared the Church does not have the authority to ordain women.

Given enough political pressure, these things can change. Consider the recent revocation of the dogma of limbo, for example (the idea of a baby-hell for infants who died without baptism, dropped in, what, 2009?).

So I wondered, do women in the Catholic Church care about their denial of priesthood?

I am not aware of any poll data on parishioners in general. If you are, do please contact me.

But I am encouraged to see some sites cropping up to further the cause.

On the flip side, however, consider Ann Widdecombe, a Catholic, female member of British parliament. When asked in a fantastic Intelligence Squared debate (opposite the brilliant Messrs. Fry and Hitchens; viewable on YouTube) if it bothered her that she was permitted a role in government but not her own Church, her reaction was, to me, unbelievable. She seemed almost shocked or affronted by the question. Quoted below (thanks to a transcript; PDF here).

Zeinab Badawi: Ann Widdecombe, one specific question to you, why not women priests in the Catholic church?

Ann Widdecombe: Well, no, the specific question was, why is it not alright for a woman to be a priest but it is for a woman to be an MP, that’s the specific question. And I have to say to you, that really does betray a vast ignorance. A Member of Parliament, male or female, does not stand in persona Christi at the point of consecration. But I don’t believe that it is any more possible for a woman to represent Christ at the point of consecration than for a man to be the Virgin Mary.

Um, I was raised Catholic. I understand that Mary required a uterus and other reproductive plumbing to, you know, give birth.

But somehow I missed the day in Sunday School they must have explained why a penis is required to consecrate the Host. You know, praying over the crackers to make ’em into bits and pieces of Christ.

How on Earth does one’s gender matter then?

But, whatever. That’s religion for you.

The Two Levels of Theological Understanding

It’s funny, really.

Most major religions have accepted evolution. The last two Vatican Popes have stated support for the evolutionary observation (it’s not just a theory). Yet about half of American Christians believe evolution isn’t the best explanation of human life on earth, and only 58% of catholics support the idea of evolution.

Where does the disconnect come from?

Plainly this is largely because pastors & priests mostly neglect to inform their flock that, despite a religion originally based on Jewish mythology, the creation story just doesn’t hold up. I would argue — influenced, no doubt, by the excellent book The God Virus — that these pastors intuitively realize that without the Garden of Eden, there’s no “original sin” to be erased by “the blood of Jesus,” thus nullifying tho whole religion. This is just common sense. And part of the application of memetic theory to religion implies that church leaders are not going to do anything that risks losing followers.

Now I know, and you know, that Catholicism has an official response to that problem in the form of sophisticated, convoluted theological arguments.

These arguments are wholly unconvincing to me, and, I have to imagine, quite a lot of laypeople and casual churchgoers. Or any convincing element is mostly an “argument from authority” sort of deal.

This is what I’m driving at with tho two levels of theological understanding: There’s the “professional” level which accepts, to some degree, modern scientific understanding and works around it with complicated theological contortions, and there’s the everyday understanding of God creating a world, Man immediately screwing it up, and then Jesus saving us from “our” mistakes.

And the result is a flock that isn’t on the same page as its shepherds.

I don’t really have a point here — just thinking out loud. See also: Being Catholic, Believing Whatever and “Free Will” Can’t Solve Theodicy.

Catholic Church “donates” $500K to restrict gay rights

Oh good, another reason for me to hate Catholicism (and Christianity in general):

Of the donations supporting the anti-gay Yes on 1 measure in Maine, 89% ($3 million) came from churches, Christian organizations, and their employees. The Catholic Church alone directly contributed $553,608.27.

Ah yes, Christian charitable giving. Warms the cockles of the heart.

Does anyone care to explain why Catholics think preventing gay couples from happy commitment is worth half a million dollars?

I’ll take a stab at it: Because the Catholics are all about creating guilt for, and instilling control over, the sexual and reproductive nature of, well, everyone. Their dogma is that sex (which they define to include masturbation and oral sex) is only appropriate for married couples attempting to procreate. Gay sex — indeed, homosexuality itself — is a direct challenge to that idea; for if God made men who have sex with men, procreation can hardly be the only purpose of sex, can it?

And then where will the Catholic babies come from, if Catholic couples no longer fear damnation if they use birth control?

Disgusting.

Being Catholic, Believing Whatever

While the Pope claims to speak for a billion people, his beliefs and statements do not actually reflect the beliefs of those who call themselves Catholic.

Part of this is due to a lack of education, and part is due to a lack of a comprehensible, comprehensive compendium of Catholic dogma. Catholic tradition states belief should come from the top down; the idea that people can believe whatever they want is the least Catholic idea there is. Yet as a former Catholic and as an atheist who often wonders what the Church’s official stance is, I am very aware of a lack of such a compendium and the lack of the unity of belief the Pope would have us expect.

Some examples:

  • The Vatican is not opposed to the theory of evolution, but only 58% percent of American Catholics believe man evolved, a priest on Fox news seems to take Genesis’ creation stories literally, and anecdotally some of my Catholic family members do not subscribe to the theory.
  • A Sunday school (CCD) teacher once told me we could pick and choose which bits of Catholicism to believe.
  • Many Catholics do not believe that the Host, or communion wafers, are actually non-metaphorically Jesus’ body, as doublethink-like Catholic dogma claims.
  • It is common knowledge that the Pope prohibits the use of condoms and indeed all forms of birth control (besides the rhythm method, which they call Natural Family Planning; apparently the high error rate lets God to his thing). Yet it would be foolish to think that every Catholic considers their usage a sin.
  • Even dead Popes disagreed with the current one on many issues, be they vulgate Bibles, limbo, indulgences, the Crusades, and Hitler’s Nazi party.
  • (Update, early 2014): A full 60% of US Catholics “do not oppose” gay marriage, despite the Church’s stance. 76% say abortion is sometimes or always acceptable; 79% support the use of contraception; and 64% want to see women priests. In each of these statistics, the majority of Catholics disagree with Catholic dogma. (Source: Univision, as quoted in The Week)

Of course, this may all be a moot point since no Christian really understands how the Trinity is three separate people but one God. If the most basic of doctrines doesn’t make sense, it may be too much to ask for the rest to be believed with any consistency, as well.