I normally try to not kick around the Catholic Church too much. While I certainly have some problems with its history and doctrine, my philosophy of “do what you want, just don’ try to impose it on me” means that I have little concern over its internal practices. I only get concerned when their beliefs and practices force themselves to my attention.
For example, their reactions to some of the proposed policies for ObamaCare. Their threat to shut down their hospitals should there be attempts to coerce them into providing birth control or abortions is a potent and valid one; their hospitals represent a very large segment of health care in the US, and they have an absolute right to exercise their rights in such a way.
But every now and then, I’ll see some prominent figure tout their proud Catholicism — while insisting that they can just blow off major aspects of official Church doctrine and beliefs.
I tend to see this mainly in Democratic politicians. The Church has some very strict prohibitions about birth control and abortion — they’re fiercely opposed to both. I happen to think they’re nuts on the first one and a little too extreme on the second, but hey — I’m not a Catholic, and no one is forced or coerced into becoming a Catholic. You wanna be a Catholic and live by those rules, be my guest. If the Church tries to put its beliefs into law, then I’ll have an issue, but until then — whatever.
Where I do get slightly miffed, though, is when the aforementioned soi-disant Catholic politicians try to gain the benefit of their “faith” while touting their rejections of key aspects — the aforementioned doctrines on abortion and birth control (which, as I feebly understand, are pretty much the same thing in the eyes of the church.) A good example would be when Joe Biden showed up with his Ash Wednesday mark. But the most egregious one has to be the discussion of faith by former (thank god) Speaker and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-PALAMINO!). (Look it up.) Pelosi said, apparently, that the Church (and, apparently, too many members) have this whole “conscience thing” that they really, really need to get over, and that her both possessing and having used ovaries and a uterus puts her in a superior position than the Pope to make judgments about issues involving reproduction.
This actually reminds me of some comedian once making a similar statement towards the Pope — “you no play-a da game, you no make-a da rules!” And I have to admit, it has a certain appeal to me, intellectually.
But it is nothing short of a gross violation of several core Catholic teachings, as I understand them.
Here’s another thing I probably understand imperfectly about Catholicism: it’s a very hierarchical faith, quite possibly the most hierarchical of the major faiths. I know that Judaism and Islam have no equivalent authority figure to the Pope, and nor do most other Christian faiths. In fact, in some cases, that non-hierarchical structure has been a great strength to some of them; during the great purges and persecutions of the Jews, the lack of a central authority has helped them to survive. And in Islam, one of their greatest strengths is that they have no single authority that we can deal with, threaten, entice, or just plain talk to who can put some kind of restraints on the crazies.
But the Church does. It’s spent a couple of millennia creating and preserving and expanding and perpetuating that central authority. It’s fought like hell to keep it (in the literal sense, on many occasions, but — thank heavens — not recently), and it’s pretty much one of the defining aspects of the Church.
And here is a leader of great power and influence (shudder) who is not just defying the teachings of the Church, but openly dismissing them. Worse, she’s proclaiming her right to do so, and declaring that all Catholics should put their own beliefs and ideas and principles above that of the Church — while remaining members of the Church in good standing.
For decades, this has been so with the Church in the United States. Politicians have proclaimed their faith, and benefited publicly from that, while cheerfully backing laws and policies that violate what the Church says is right. President Kennedy took it on, but struck a fairly decent balance — he said that he had obligations both as president and as a Catholic, and would keep the two separate. And, I think, he did a halfway decent job — not that it came up too much in those pre-Roe, pre-Loving days.
His successors, though — his brother Ted, Pelosi, Biden, Mario and Andrew Cuomo, Jerry Brown, and a host (no pun intended) of others — have gone considerably farther, and the Church is at risk of losing much of its authority and credibility.
While Googling up some info for this piece, I came across a rather remarkable article on this very issue, written by two very prominent Catholic scholar and layman. They lay out a compelling summary of the problem and propose a solution that I think has some merit.
As a non-Catholic, I look at much of their arguments and find myself sneering a little. I wholeheartedly support birth control, support euthenasia under restrictions, and accept abortion. Their argument hold no sway for me whatsoever.
Which is fine, because I’m not their target audience. Their audience is the Church itself — directly, through appeal to the authority figures, and indirectly, through trying to get the laity to help them push their arguments. And on that basis, this infidel thinks they make a
damned darned good case.