Tag Archives: Catholicism

Religion, Politics, and the Catholic Church in 2012

This is just going to be a quick post. The New York Times recently published a piece in the wake of the 2012 US Presidential Election entitled Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues. It’s a worthwhile read. A few things jumped out at me.

For one, this quote:

“I think good Catholics can be found across the political spectrum,” Bishop Soto said, “but I do think they wrestle with what the church teaches.”

Yep, we have seen this before, when I wrote Being Catholic, Believing Whatever. The idea of a Catholic who believes and acts just as the Catholic church wants is not an accurate one.

Despite this, Mr. Obama retained the Catholic vote, 50 to 48 percent, according to exit polls, although his support slipped from four years ago.

That’s a really weak margin.

In a development that highlighted the diversity within the Catholic Church, the “Nuns on the Bus” drove through the Midwest warning that the budget proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, would cut the social safety net.

That’s the first I heard of it, but good for those nuns. Lately Catholic nuns have been drawing some ire from the Vatican for taking positions different than the old Italian dudes’. It’s exciting, really; it would be a long time if we had for wait for the funny hats to move the Church forward. Thankfully, every couple hundred years, someone forces the issue.

The younger generation is even less religious: about one-third of Americans ages 18 to 22 say they are either atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular.

Huzzah!

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.

What’s the Harm? Installment #3033: Exorcisms

Exorcisms, which are incredibly still practiced by the Catholic Church and by some Protestant churches, hurt people who are either

  • In need of serious medical or psychological attention, or
  • Gay, and in need of nothing more than being left the fuck alone about their orientation.

I don’t know which is worse.

Craig James has more on this incredible Medieval vestige.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI more closely tied with sex abuse

A lot of you know that Pope “Palpatine” Benedict “led Vatican investigations into abuse for four years before assuming the papacy in 2005.” You may know that he makes a habit of [p2p type=”slug” value=”pope-benedict-xvi-more-closely-tied-with-sex-abuse” text=”not addressing these issues”]. Pretty incredible, considering the intentional cover-ups and reassignments of acting pedophile priests that are revealed constantly. But now he is pretending to be unaware of abuses that occurred in his homeland, Germany.

“Nonsense,” said Father Doyle, who has served as an expert witness in sexual abuse lawsuits. “Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope.”

It gets better, too: The super-conservative Catholic church is idiotically maintaining that its mandatory celibacy for priesthood has no influence on child abuse & child rape (AP).

I feel so ashamed that so much of my extended family places their trust, faith, and money in the hands of this evil, corrupt institution!

More here on the New York Times, which is where today’s quotes are to be found. Hat tip to @vjack for first covering this.

Pope Still Ignoring Catholic Child Rape

Absolutely disgusting, the callous insensitivity the evil Catholic Pope has.

If you haven’t seen the documentary Deliver Us From Evil Goons, do so. It makes the abuses of the Catholic leadership personal, as it documents, in particular, the effects paedophile priests have had on one family.

The following is an excerpt from Vatican heaps insult on injury for Irish abuse victims from the National Secular Society.

The Ryan Report found the Catholic Church and Irish government covered up almost four decades of sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns on thousands of children in State care. And the Murphy Report unveiled a catalogue of cover-ups by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin to protect the Church. But in a Vatican statement, the Pope specifically failed to acknowledge the cover-up or formally apologise for the abuse. The Pope also failed to sack under-fire Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan – or even formally accept the resignations of other bishops, who were criticised in the Murphy Report for their mishandling of cases of sexual abuse. We understand no bishop or higher-ranking Catholic prelate has ever been laicised (sacked) for active or administrative misconduct over child abuse.

Ratzinger also ignored the failure of the Papal Nuncio to co-operate with the Murphy Commission’s investigation into abuse in Dublin.

[The] Pope had told the bishops the sexual abuse of children and young people was not only a heinous crime, but also a “grave sin that offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image”.

The … Pope had also told bishops that the “weakening of faith” was a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors.

Maeve Lewis, of support group One in Four, said the Pope’s response was inadequate. “It is deeply insulting to survivors to suggest they were abused due to failures of faith, rather than because sex offending priests were moved from parish to parish, and those in authority looked away while further children were sexually abused,” she said.

Update: See also [p2p type=”tag” value=”pope-benedict-xvi-more-closely-tied-with-sex-abuse”]

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.

Blind Faith

From Gina’s story of why she is an atheist:

Here is the problem, as I see it, with “blind faith.” If someone came to me and said I must buy a house, I must live in this house for my whole life, but I can’t look it over too hard, and I can’t fix anything that is wrong with it, I just have to have “faith” that it is a sound house, that I can live with the things that are wrong with it – I would say “no way.” I’m going to have this thing inspected, I’m going to look in the basement, check out the roof, and if there are things wrong with it, I’m going to fix it. I would never buy a house on blind faith; I would expect proof that it was a good deal. Yet I am expected to give over my life and soul to some god based on faith, with no proof that he was really there. Sorry, no way.

Proof the Christian God is Evil

You know those ridiculously sensationalist headlines that promise the world and don’t deliver? Post titles that make a claim, but end it in question marks so as to deny all liability?

This isn’t one of those posts.

Proving God is Evil

First we have to define our terms.

Definitions

God

The triune god-head of mainline Christianity including Catholicism and most or all Protestant religions, consisting of Jesus (who is God), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (who is also God). This God is revealed in the Bible to be un-changing. See: Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 102:26; Malachi 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:17,18; and James 1:17. For example:

Malachi 3:6 – “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

God, in one manner or another, created the entire Universe, as implied by Genesis 1 (or described by it, if you take it literally).

God does not ever lie.

Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.”

This God is also all-powerful or omnipotent. The most cited verse is Matthew 19:26: “With God all things are possible.” We concede that logical impossibilities are not possible for God (e.g. making a rock so big he cannot move it), though since God created everything, including logic, that’s a debate for another day.

Lastly, God is all-knowing or omniscient. This is proclaimed in Deuteronomy 29:29 and elsewhere. We take this to mean he knows the past, present, and future, and furthermore knows the results of all his decisions before he makes them. (We ignore the likely truth that someone can not be both omniscient and omnipotent because they would not be able to change their future mind.)

The Bible

The collection of writings Christians call the Bible. King James, NIV, Catholic? doesn’t really matter for our purposes. We shall take it mostly literally, except for parables and much of Genesis; this is what most Christian religions do. We also assume this is God’s primary or only means of reliable communication with humankind (ignoring forgeries and legitimate Bible scholars, not to mention intra-Biblical contradictions).

I am teasing you with definitions before the proof. But a definition of terms is important. The next one is perhaps more interesting, so bear with me.

Good

Doing unto another as one would have the other do to them. This, the “Golden Rule,” is widely held as Jesus’ most important teaching. It can be found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.

Evil

Knowingly doing the opposite of good.

Sin

Evil acts.

Humankind

Sinners. Taken as a the most basic tenet of Christianity, Jesus’ supposed sacrifice makes no sense otherwise.

You can’t wait, can you? On to the good stuff.

Proof, version 1

  1. God created everything (given).

  2. God created humankind (by 1).

  3. Humankind is composed of sinners (given).

  4. Sinners create evil (given).

  5. Humankind creates evil (by 3 and 4).

  6. God created evil (by 2 and 5).

  7. God knew the consequences of creating everything, including humans, before he did it (given).

  8. God knew he was creating evil (by 5 and 6).

  9. Thus, God sinned, himself, by definition, as a sinner knowingly commits evil acts.

I dare you to find a hole in that logic, given those definitions.

You want more? Okay. But let’s define another term or two.

More Definitions

Free Will

The ability to choose between two or more options. This does NOT mean omnipotence.

Conscious Beings

Entities that have at least the illusion of free will. This includes humans.

Proof (version 2)

  1. If I were to create a universe and conscious beings, I would create a universe where they cannot hurt each other.

  2. In fact, I wish all humans had free will but could not hurt each other.

  3. It is not logically impossible for conscious beings to have free will without being able to hurt each other. Proof by contradiction / counter-example:

    • Assume free will requires the ability to hurt other conscious beings.
    • Universe X is populated by beings whose only choice is to appear green or purple to observers. This does not inhibit others’ choices or harm them.
    • (Implied: Universe X denizens have no language, as communication involves choice of a message.)
    • Universe X denizens have free will, because they can make a choice; omnipotence is neither required nor granted.
    • This is a counter-example to our initial assumption.
    • Thus, free will does not require the ability to hurt other beings.
  4. God did not do unto me as I would have done to another conscious being.

  5. God defined evil through the Bible (from given).

  6. God did evil according to his own definition.

  7. Thus, God is evil.

I like this second proof a lot, though it did require a sub-proof. I double-dare you to poke a hole in this one, too!

Well, that was easy.

I hope you enjoyed these proofs as much as I did. For more, see this eloquent rebuttal of an apologist (which the apologist attempts to rebut, but has nothing solid to contribute); it illustrates how an omniscient God is necessarily evil. That “problem” is called theodicy. You may also be interested in this wonderful article on God’s immutability.

What’s that? The soft sound of Christian readers not being swayed? “Well, this post must be wrong, because of course God can’t be evil. He is benevolent!” they think. Yet they ignore the alternative: that He does not exist at all.

Much love,

Mr. Atheist