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April 19, 2005

Comments

Neil T.

Judging by how the Catholic church is handling the AIDS epidemic in Africa I imagine the church will be much smaller very soon.

howard

I can't help but notice the tone from most people making this sort of comment/prediction. People seem to have the notion that the church is meant to be some pop marketing machine, like a spiritual subsidiary of GE or some other business conglomerate.

Whatever your view of the church, it bears observing that it is essentially (ideally) a top-down operation, not a democracy. I know some people lament the lack of democracy in religion, but I'd think those people would be perfectly content to ignore Catholicism and just go invent their own flavor of religion, as opposed to criticizing the one(s) with which they disagree.

I'm not a Catholic, but if Ratzinger/Benedict turns out to be a poor "salesman" because of the orthodoxy he embraces, then at least I'll know he hasn't sold out to impress those who are unlikely to adhere to Catholic doctrine in the first place.

Karen M.

I don't think it's the issue of democracy that offends so many of us, but the cognitive dissonances...

decrying poverty while not allowing women to control their reproductive systems, at least in preventing unwanted pregnancies;

refusing to recognize that for many women in this world, marriage and its 'demands' are the source of HIV-transmission;

criticizing those who make war, yet not allowing women (half of the world's population AND the ones who produce the soldiers) to have full participation in the church that would see itself as a peace-maker;

denouncing homosexuality, yet disallowing either married priests or the ordination of women, while denying the true impact of priestly pedophilia.

None of those issues should be decided by majority rule, but according to what is right. At least half of the world (women & girls) are still waiting for the practical application of Christian charity to their own very real (not abstract) concerns.

Keith Z-G

Howard: remember that yours is a Post-John Paul II opinion. Before he dismantled the work of the Second Vatican Council, it was not so clear-cut as to the "ideal" organization of the Catholic Church.

Owen

I don't think we're talking about marketing strategies...we're talking about earthly manifestations of faith that demonstrate just how strong the church is in addressing the needs of God's children.

The problem for many with strong ties to Catholicism is that the philosphy, politics and personalities of the Pope morph into the expressed will of God, and that blows in different directions in different ages. Pius XII and John XXIII represented some profoundly different attitudes and approaches than John Paul II, and all are significantly different from the violence, debauchery and corruption of the medieval papacy.

If, by definition, the Popes all represent the will of God in matters of doctrine, does that mean He vacillates or that one or the other heard Him incorrectly? Either has profound dogma implications. For many of us, the humanity of the Pope -- any Pope -- means his resistance to facing real world problems is something less than a perfect reflection of divine will.

Similarly, if Catholic "authorities" differ on the real meaning of papal infallibility -- and they do -- why should the faithful be criticized for disputing a given version, or for expecting the teachings of Christ to be actively applied to contemporary problems, not passively contemplated in cloistered enclaves?

Confusing human institutions like a church denomination or congregational identity with God is simply a matter of our arrogance. As philosophers have long observed, if humans can have complete understanding of God's will, it's probably not God we're looking at, but a mirror.

Sorry, didn't mean to go on so, but dismissing Catholic critics of Papal intransigience or irrelevance as being out of touch with the "right" meaning of the church misses the point.

craig

Owen,
I've read your comment four times and I still have no idea what you're trying to say.

Dan's point was this (I think): If the Catholic church takes the hard line, they will lose members who cannot live with the rigidity. It's a process that's already started. If the process continues on long enough, the church will only attract rigid hard line members who will continue the hardline stance until catholicism fades into irrelevance.

This isn't about agreeing or disagreeing with the present direction of Catholicism. I, for one, really don't care. We're just speculating on the long term effects of the present path of the church and how it's going to affect the church membership.

Eamonn Fitzgerald

Don't know if Catholic Church history is one of Dan's strong points, or of some of those commenting here. Fact is, Ratzinger was one of the liberal pro-reform theologians from the Second Vatican Council and now, without any great altering of his views, he is portrayed as an "arch-conservative", a "hardlineer" and so on. Suggests a certain bias, bitterness, if you ask me. Personally, I am glad that he was elected. He understands that truth, faith and morals aren't relative and should not and can not be altered by fads of the day. As Pope, he's playing a long game and he knows that his team has endured 2,000 years. Not bad, going, eh? Oh, one final point. If you look at the stunning growth rate of the Catholic Church in Africa, he's not going to end up with a smaller church any day soon.

Owen

Eamon, his period of "liberalism" was over 40 years ago, and according to biographers it dissipated after the council ended, after what he saw as the moral excesses of the late 60's. His profile has been staunchly traditionalist for more than a quarter century, particularly after John Paul II named him in the early 80's to head what was formerly the Holy Office (nee' Inquisition).

Owen

Craig - sorry to be so obscure. I was reacting to those who dismiss criticism of the new Pope as if we're trying to get the church to adopt the religious equivalent of politicians' market polling to help him establish what the church should stand for.

The Pope defines what Catholics are supposed to stand for, and that stance is critical to the church being more than an anachronistic old boys' club. But it's based as much on personal philosophy, personal history and church politics as anything else, and therein lies the problem for many Catholics and most Protestants.

I'm not Catholic, but I DO care about the direction he lays out...it profoundly affects hundreds of million of people and many nations, and as such ought to be of concern to us all.

OneWithEverything

KarenM wrote:
I don't think it's the issue of democracy that offends so many of us, but the cognitive dissonances...

Agreed... and I think that's by design. Fundamentally the church isn't about "god" (of whom there's no more or less proof than there is proof of Tinkerbell's existence). Fundamentally, the church is about crowd control, as outlined in the DaVinci Code (I don't know how well that book's description bears up in terms of relevant scholarly scrutiny, but in terms of making plain sense it's a much more convincing read than the bible). And here's the reason cognitive dissonance is so prevelant in the church's teachings: because to continue to exist as an organization, they have to have something "relevant" to preach. If they preached things that were well understood and made sense - like "enjoy your lives", or "sex is good", or "the power of life is within you, not within Tinkerbell" - then everyone would (a) agree, and (b) exclaim, "by the way, church, no offense, but we all already knew what you were saying... why dontcha pipe down." So instead, the church preaches dissonance, and clings to some distorted notion of "relevance".

Jeff Walden

I don't think it's the issue of democracy that offends so many of us, but the cognitive dissonances...
"Cognitive dissonance" is very much in the eye of the beholder.

decrying poverty while not allowing women to control their reproductive systems, at least in preventing unwanted pregnancies;
You can control your reproductive system by not having sex. (Yes, I'm intentionally ignoring the case of rape, which is in the grand scheme a much smaller consideration than situations where other choices existed.)

criticizing those who make war, yet not allowing women (half of the world's population AND the ones who produce the soldiers) to have full participation in the church that would see itself as a peace-maker;
By their interpretation of the Bible, this isn't dissonant. By yours it may indeed be dissonant.

None of those issues should be decided by majority rule, but according to what is right.
By their interpretation of the Bible, this is indeed what is right. You, of course, can feel free to disagree.

Karen M.

Yes, of course, it is so easy for a man to control his reproductive system merely by choosing not to have sex. It is less so for women, and not only because of rape. Though... I must ask, how dare you ignore that one?

"in the grand scheme a much smaller consideration" ????? I suppose that may be true if you want to reduce everything and everyone to numbers, but I didn't think that was what Christianity or Catholicism were supposed to be about.

And, most of the Church's increasing membership is in countries where "married" women do not really have the "choice" to abstain that you make so much of. You might be surprised, too, to know how true that can be in the developed world, as well.

But, then you are a man, and apparently have no clue (just like both the previous and current popes) about the real down-to-earth phases of a woman's life. (John-Paul II lost his mother--and the rest of his family-- at a very early age, so I must give him some slack on that account. Don't know about Benedict XVI.)

As for the Bible, my experience is that most Catholics are shielded from it. Growing up, I know I was.

Can it really be "right" for one interest group to determine what is best for everyone else? Only if the real issue is Power... as both Means and Ends. That's not what I understand the NEW Testament to be about. I thought the idea of Dominion was OLD Testament.

David Shaw

Two thoughts here:

The Wall Street Journal, a few days back, had a front page graphic which noted that the population of Roman Catholics had grown 50+% in the last 30 years, to just over 1 billion. According to the same graphic, there were just about 100 million more Muslims than Roman Catholics, and that's with Catholics being just a hair over half of all Christians.

And American Catholics represent just under 6% of the church's total population. Not 50% or 75%. Just a tiny minority of the total population.

Perhaps our American understanding of Catholicism is as culture-centric as our American understanding of Islam.

Karen M.

David: Those are good points (I ran across them somewhere, too) but how can one really step outside of one's experience?

Besides... apparently, the numbers aren't what's important anyway (unless one is trying to minimize rape or pedophilia), because the Church is really not about Democracy. And if the cardinals had thought otherwise, they would more likely have chosen someone who was not European.

(Personally, I think they want to try and bring the Europeans back into the fold, sort of a re-consolidation. After all, the developing and third world countries aren't going to have much to contribute materially, and there are some serious financial considerations facing the new pope. And at this point, the EU is looking stronger in the long run than the US, which must appear to Rome like a black hole re: money.)

Keith Z-G

Karen M.: You are quite correct in saying that many Catholics are actually shielded from the bible growing up. Part of this, I think, stems from the nature of the Catholic Church. Dogma is taken side-by-side with the actual writings in the bible, hence a reduced emphasis on the scriptures. There are points to be made for and against this, but that's too much to go into now.

And, I think it's an interesting note on the rigidity of the Church; willing to make changes sometimes, but then steadfastly clinging to those changes once they've been made, ignoring the fact that they weren't there eternally before. In this case I'm referencing the choice of the new Pope. JPII was a change from a long, long line of Italian popes, if my memory serves . . . and though that was relatively a large change, it also was part of a re-assertion of traditional, pre-Vatican Council II ideas in the Church, and now, instead of continuing along logical lines and choosing a pope that could represent more of the billion Catholics, a close aide of John Paul II is chosen. Odd how the status quo is always the way it's meant to be for all time . . . even when it has changed time and time again.

tomjedrz


>
Karen wrote:
Yes, of course, it is so easy for a man to control his reproductive system merely by choosing not to have sex. It is less so for women, and not only because of rape. Though... I must ask, how dare you ignore that one?

In this discussion, (birth control), rape is ignored because it is not relevant. How many women choose the pill or the diaphragm primarily to avoid pregnancy in the event they are raped. Virtually zero.
>

tomjedrz

There have been a number of comments presuming that the return of a rigid doctrine is leading to the membership decline of the Catholic Church. That is a presumption, and in fact don't see it being borne out in reality.

My perception is that people, particularly young people, respect and want to follow a leadership that a strong and true to what is right. The young people in the church, even here in the USA, are on fire with faith and passion. How many of you remember the tremendous outpourings of love and reverence at the various "World Youth Day" celebrations?

There is in my view a Catholic revival beginning, started by JPII and his passion, his faith and his steadfastness. Can Pope Benedict XVI continue this? We shall see.

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