I’ve been thinking about the Catholic Church quite a lot recently. There was FFRF’s full-page NYT ad last month, vjack’s post two weeks ago about people’s reasons for leaving Catholicism, and Adam Lee’s post last week about the papacy’s apparent embrace of its slow slide into irrelevance.
On top of all that reading, though, there’s a nagging feeling I have about the Catholic Church that I just haven’t been able to shake. Wait. That’s not right. There’s a blood-curdling rage that I have about the Catholic Church that I think more people should have to think about too — so that they actually have to decide whether it makes them furious as well or whether they’re going to continue looking the other way and whistling innocently.
The argument I’m about to make applies to many religious organizations, in my opinion. But I think in the specific case of the Catholic Church at this point in time, its truth is undeniable (whereas in other cases we might quibble over the details). So let’s walk through it together, shall we?
Let’s say that you had an organization that claimed to be based on the instructions of an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent, perfectly moral, loving being. Let’s say that the leadership of that organization claimed to communicate directly with that being in order to get further guidance for their decisions and actions. What could we expect if such claims were true?
I think it would be totally reasonable to expect that the members of this organization should be happier and better off than the average non-member. Also, we should expect that the advocacy and rules of this organization should be good for the world, clearly improving the planet and the human condition wherever they are. Acting on principles of love and benevolence, and under the guidance of a being with perfect morals (and the omniscience and omnipotence to be able to communicate those morals flawlessly), I’d expect this organization and its members to be kind and gentle to each other as well as to the rest of humanity. This is without getting into the nitty-gritty of specific scriptural verses — expecting prayers to be immediately granted, believers’ immunity from poison, or other sorts of miracle-working. All I’m asking you to buy here is, the real followers of this sort of deity, supposing that the deity does exist, should be unambiguously good. I really don’t think that’s too much to ask at all.
We can, as I said before, go back and forth over how well this description should be expected to apply to any specific denomination or sect of any particular religion. You could sputter about free will or mystery if you wanted, in most of these cases. But I really hope we can all agree that even granting a very generous leeway on these expectations, there is not room for the organization in question to be correct about its claims of divine guidance and moral superiority and for it to be an international criminal syndicate whose crime of choice is sexually assaulting children.
And seriously, guys, that’s what the Catholic Church is and has been for decades at least. There’s really no room to deny it at this point. Child molestation by priests has been an epidemic problem in Catholic congregations. The Catholic leadership has been aware of it, and rather than turn these criminals in to the police, or even just to fire them, they’ve enabled, even facilitated the continuation of this morally repugnant activity. They’ve built up a bureaucracy devoted to keeping the victims quiet and covering up any scandal (obviously, though, this dam has relatively recently started to break). They actually joke about the abuses they’ve committed. It is absolutely disgusting and appalling that anyone would take advantage of other people in this way, let alone young people already drawing the short straw in a power asymmetry, let alone on such a massive scale around the world … and add to this the fact that they are doing it while pretending to have not just the moral high ground, but absolute moral perfection on their side!
Could there be anything more viscerally compelling than this, to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is not a true church of a real, loving god? How are there any Catholics left at this point? I just don’t understand. Honestly, it makes me want to vomit.