Monday, June 18, 2012

A Religious Institution's Moral Authority

It is an interesting habit in society, how we often automatically give religious institutions certain "due" deference. They get a tip of the hat, a quick bow, or a heap of public cash. Just some niceties.

Now, we don't do this for all. When a new religious group arises, they get hazed (Catholics), beaten (Mormons), maybe killed (...Ahem.). But if they persevere long enough, they get in the club.

But, we give groups this deference, not due to actually enlightened thinking and understanding, but because that is what one does. Go back to England. Go back to Gaul. Go back to Rome. Go back to Israel. Go back to Uruk. Go back to the early gathering near a fire at night as a holy man spoke. It's just what we do.

So it falls on us over time to try and look at our little traditions and reevaluate them. See if our old assumptions hold up. And I know they reaction that gets, a hostile and negative one. Religion doesn't care to have to answer questions. At least, it doesn't care to have it's answers fact checked. Or it's actions judged and compared against other choices made.

But let's do that with the Catholic Church now. It is one of the larger religious forces at work in the United States, and has made a point of trying to place itself at the center or government policy and social progress. Trying to stop both.

So let's start there. The Church has worked angrily to try and enforce it's views. It has been a loud voice against expansion of gay rights, from adoption of children, to same-sex marriage, to employment protection. They have also pushed against access to abortion services. Also they have reproached access to contraceptives. This includes even when not payed for by them, or distributed by them. And in education, the Church has been a stalwart fan of misinformation on sex. It pushes abstinence, and has worked hard to spread false information on birth control options, to scare people away from them (And this has had a costly impact across Africa.).

And when the Church has felt push back, like when gay people are allowed to adopt, they threaten to remove their support of the system. And by support I mean, they take public cash to do what the state could do on it's own. So they threaten to dismantle established services, for children.

But they have a moral certainty in these actions. They know what is right and what is wrong. At least they say and suggest they do.

Excommunication, it's a serious act to take against one of faith. But it seems to be a useful tool of deterring people from stepping out of line, damning them for eternity. And recently we've seen a good example of it's use, against a mother and a doctor. A 9 year old girl faced years of repeated abuse by a stepfather (There is also a disabled sister who may also have been abused.). It resulted this year with the little girl becoming pregnant. Having discovered this, the mother agreed to allow an abortion for her daughter. And for this the doctor who did the procedure, and this mother, were damned to the fiery pits of Hell. Nice, huh? And the stepfather? The serial abuser of at least one young child he was raising? He's okay by the church. It's nice. Go to confession. Show contrition. You get to Heaven...unless you have any part in an abortion. Cause that is sick and evil...And at least he'll see his step daughter in Heaven, since she's too young to be excommunicated (The only reason she hasn't been cast into Hell.). And as bad as this one is, remember, this is a NINE YEAR OLD! She was carrying twins at 4 months! And the doctors told the mother, this pregnancy may likely kill your daughter. To save her life, they ended to pregnancy. And the Church has no compassion to share. It feels damn cruel and cold to me.

Response from Cardinal Re:
It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated. Life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian Church is unjustified.
Had a right to live? And the "mother?" What of her? Nothing. And, unjustified attack? Under you D&D magic system you've damned 2 people to Hell for saving a little girls life. And, as a "moral" leader, you feel your church cannot be questioned or challenged. How does any person not feel some level of contempt?

Early retirement is another topic to look at. You probably don't give it much thought, but priest do retire. No, it's not like Father Ted.

There', I don't care, really. It's early retirement I'm interested. And in particular, when it's sought by the Church for priest they'd rather no longer have to deal with. Like, say, their pedophilic lot. In Wisconsin, now cardinal, Timothy Dolan made pay offs to priests he wanted out of his hair. Up to $20,000 was given to these men so they would quietly leave the priesthood (As opposed to going around bragging about sexually abusing children?). So they covered up crimes. Then they made pay outs to the criminals. Then they fought to keep from paying compensation to the victims. And then also lied about the original pay outs to the criminals. This is a lot of messed up shit.

And, again, to tie to the other story, pedophiles in holy robes abusing kids, dismissed from office, but saved from Hell. Heck, many stayed in service. Mom and doctor, damned eternal.

This is an unfortunate attitude. But it's not held by all. Some nuns have taken certain stands. One is Margaret McBride, who was on a hospital ethics committee in California agreed with the rest of the committee to allow a life saving abortion. She was then excommunicated rapidly, with no dithering.

Other nuns, are speaking out still.

Crooks and Liars:

So many Catholics have told me how angry they are at the Vatican for coming down on nuns for the work they do with the poor -- instead of speaking out against abortions. Now some of those social-justice nuns will take to the highways to speak out against Paul Ryan's unChristian budget proposals...

They have opinions, views, and want to be heard. And have been getting louder over time. Hence hostility from the Vatican.
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”

The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

The sisters were also reprimanded for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference, signed a statement supporting it — support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage. 

“I would imagine that it was our health care letter that made them mad,” Sister Campbell said. “We haven’t violated any teaching, we have just been raising questions and interpreting politics.” 
 (Emphasis added.)

I didn't hear this hard of language against...certain priest...And all because they are concerned for the poor and the sick.

Have you also heard of a teacher at a Catholic school who initially was OK'ed to try and get pregnant via IVF, then later fired when Church higher ups learned, they were outraged and disgusted. She was called a "grave, immoral sinner." The Church is now opposed to IVF and all "artificial procreation." The bishop hearing her appeal said it was evil.

Amazing who's a sinner, and what is evil.

But thankfully, much of the membership of US Catholic churches have more evolved and understanding views (Guess they don't watch FOX News.). And offer some hope. But the actual church leadership is proving hard and cold. It is also eager to consolidate it's conservative credentials.

I'd suggest trying to look at these stories on Catholic news sites and organization sites to see how the more devote and single minded view them. It's quite different, like reading WND...or The Onion.

Oh, and feel free to look at the other religious institutions in society. You'll find much the same.

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