Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Pope, the Gates of Hell, and Useless Apologies

The devil's in the Vatican. Paedophile priests. A history of ambiguous relations to some of the most despotic and villainous leaders of all time (Hitler and Pius XII, for example). Residential schools. Witch-hunts. The selling of Indulgences to Europe's poor to facilitate the building of St. Peter's basillica. The Inquisition. Sociopathic Popes more inclined to murder and rape than teach doctrines of love and charity. Cover-ups and scandals heaped on cover-ups and scandals.

All of these things and more coming out of a church that claims a laughable duology of doctrines that it is the "one true church", and that "the gates of hell will not prevail against [it]". Assuming Catholic claims are true that it is the 'one true church', it would seem stupidly obvious that hell has not needed to prevail against its gates: hell has been rather successfully living itself out within the church for quite a while now. If there's to be any gate crashing, let's hope it will eventually be by an internal movement to get the hell out.

Fortunately, there has been a recent spate of sex abuse scandals in Europe that expose the current pope's collusions and cover-ups, and a rather wide ring of child-raping priests. The current pope, Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and oft-named Pope Palpatine) has, for a long time now, been indisputably involved in not only shuffling off psychopathic priests, but also shuffling off the justice that should be visited upon them.

As Johann Hari reports:
Far from changing this paedophile-protecting model, Ratzinger reinforced it. In 2001 he issued a strict secret order demanding that charges of child-rape should be investigated by the Church "in the most secretive way... restrained by a perpetual silence... and everyone... is to observe the strictest secret."
It doesn't stop there, however. As Christopher Hitchens points out in his article The Great Catholic Cover-Up
The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church's own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated "in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication." (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)
It would be fair of a Catholic apologete to question my sources. Both Hari and Hitchens are, admittedly, atheists. However, given the history of Catholic deceptions, and the urgent spot Catholics find themselves in at present, I have no reason to trust Catholic sources at all. Too much is at stake, and their practice of moonshining the public about their moral turpitude gives them all the more reason to diminish the impact of the situation through sophistry, and doublespeak (e.g., the Catholic church never errs in matters of faith and morals).

And the fact that Benedict XVI has delivered an apology to Ireland's abused today (March 20th, 2010) does nothing more to ameliorate the problem than an abusing husband's repeated apologies for kicking the shit out of his wife: the offense is still alive, and will likely continue to happen. Why? Because it's not the fact that paedophile priests exist in the clergy of the Catholic church that is the greatest concern -- though it is certainly an incredibly important concern. The reason why these kinds of offenses will continue is because the system of the Catholic church that enables and harbours paedophile priests is not likely to change. That, to me, is the greatest scandal in all of this: that there is no way to get rid of the abuse problem unless the Catholic system dissolves itself, a reality we know will not happen, but we'd all be better off with if it did.


Landon O. said...

I'm just now beginning process of converting to Catholicism from protestantism. I'm sure to write in the near future, you're welcome to comment when I do.

As for the abuses, there is much to be said and whenever I have spoken to an honest Catholic they always seem ashamed of Church history and they admit that history is the hardest obstacle in their apologetic.

Kane Augustus said...


Quite right: "history is the hardest obstacle in their apologetic." Which, to my thinking, should indicate that there's something dodgy about their apologetic. Why should I need to be convinced around their history? That is, why should conversion take such circumlocutive tactics? Shouldn't there be a straight line between their doctrinal formulations and the history Catholics lived? Why should history prove to be an obstacle at all?

For example, I think slavery is an awful, wasteful, degrading, and in all ways evil practice. Yet, historically, slavery was practiced. I don't feel guilty for the slavery was practiced in my ancestral home (England). Why? Because it is not a part of my life, and I did not practice it in the past, and I don't accept it now, and will not accept it at any point in the future. I can recognise that it is a treacherous and regrettable portion of England's past, but because I don't choose to identify myself with the sordid history of England, I do not feel guilty for the things the English did.

In the same manner, Catholic history would not be a difficult obstacle for Catholics if they didn't identify themselves with Catholicism. If they removed themselves from any allegiance to the historic Catholic church, the history that advanced Catholicism to its current position would cease to be an obstacle. Instead, it would be what it is: a treacherous series of political collusions sprinkled with exploitation of the poor, ceaseless banter, rape, abuse, simony, idolatry, hypocrisy, war, superstition, anti-intellectualism, and fear-mongering.

Since I see no need to make an apologetic around that, and since a papal "sorry we did it" amounts to a ridiculous repetition of a stage in the abuse cycle, there's really no reason for me to believe that Catholicism has not learned from history and is, sadly, doomed to repeat it.

Once you identify yourself with the credos of any given nationality, or religious entity, you have to account for the rancorous history that people will use to impugn you.

Landon O. said...

It is an apologetical problem because no one wants to join a church that has been populated with such violent sinners. Just as the most attractive thing about any religion is its saints, the least attractive part is the sinners. I do think Catholics feel the weight of past sinners and I don't doubt that it will burden me as well. However, for every great sinner there is a great saint (I'm reading Butler's "The Lives of the Saints" right now).

You bring up slavery in Britian. I do feel shame for some of the things America has done and continues to do (like slavery and abortion). However, I still love my country and am proud to be American. I think of Catholicism much the same way.

I find Church history to be an emotional obstacle to joining the Church but not an intellectual one. I have a few reasons for this: 1) To be a protestant is to "protest" against the Catholic Church, to leave it. Jesus and Paul were both very zealous about church unity. "[M]ay all of them be One." (John 17:21) Now, there will be sin in any organization--religious or secular--and this was known to God, yet He still wanted the Church to be one. What amount of sin justifies me in splitting the Church, splitting Christ's body? Now there are 20,000 denominations because of the arrogance of Christians who think they can correct Jesus. (This unity is not only unity through the spirit as many protestants claims, but in body--see Ephesians 4).

2) There is a difference between Catholic practice and Catholic Doctrine. Practices can be erroneous and are subject to change (for instance, clerical celibacy is a practice, tomorrow the Pope could order that all Priests find a wife). Doctrine, once it is set down is unchangeable and is indeed infallible. I have found many sinful practices, but I still cannot find any Doctrine that I disagree with.

3) While history can be one of the biggest obstacles it can also be one of the biggest helps. For instance the Church Fathers were not protestant, they were very Catholic. They believed in the Real Presence, Apostolic succession, Salvation through Faith and Works, Church authority, praying to Saints, etc. Now the Church Fathers are not absolutely authoritative, but they are much closer to the actual events, the actual persons of Jesus and the disciples than we are. So if it comes down to trusting St. Justin Martyr or Martin Luther, I choose St. Justin.

These are some of the reasons that I think the history of the Church is not a defeater for belief in her but they are still an obstacle for Catholic apologetics.

Kane Augustus said...


"You bring up slavery in Britian. I do feel shame for some of the things America has done and continues to do (like slavery and abortion). However, I still love my country and am proud to be American. I think of Catholicism much the same way."

And I think this is a point of divergence between us. Respectfully, I'm not predisposed to joining institutions because of physical proximity, or a quasi-benign gang mentality (a la Catholicism, and American-style nationalism). I find nothing in those models that smacks of anything I identify with. It's all herding tactics, and I'm not going to be led by a corporatocracy, or a theocracy.

Anyway, like I was failing to point out yesterday, if you remove the veil of religiosity from all of this, what do you have? A 1.2 billion-strong gang that regularly abuses people, ciphons money through moonshining the public (e.g., indulgences), has people murdered through commission or ommission (e.g., the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide), claims an unbroken succession of leadership by glossing past their own qualifications for decency all-the-while knowing that they are not to rape, murder, torture and supress people. Anyone else doing these sorts of things would be met with force, and somehow prevented or destroyed. But because 'religion' is at the back of these atrocities, everyone is suddenly supposed to tread lightly so as not to offend, or misrepresent. I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. It's a load of codswallop.

You comment that Catholic doctrine and Catholic practice are different is a red-herring. If the system that holds to doctrines that even indirectly enable, or somehow provide a shield (e.g., covering up paedophile priests) for bad actions is not seen as intertwined, then that is a blind-spot and a distraction that in the rest of the world is known as an excuse. People act out of their character. The church acts out of the education it promotes. Does the church directly instruct inhumanity to people? No, not as such. However, it does provide a shelter for those who are inhumane, and therefore associates itself in doctrine and in practice with inhumanity and psychopathy.

That's all for now. I'm going to go hang out with my family.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Well, practice and doctrine of the roman church can easily be summed up as codependency gone very, very wrong.

Its tenets as evidenced throughout history and still:

a) Do as I say and not as I do.
b) The devil made me do it.
c) It'll be our little secret... Really. Don't tell or we'll kill you, ship you off to an impoverished remote town with one deputy sheriff who can be bought with a bag of rice, or even better, make you pope.

There. Is that clear enough? I'm sorry, but whatever grey area anyone could lay claim to in the past is quickly gaining serious contrast.

Please do your research (try some secular sources too!!!) before volunteering to support and be controlled by an institution, and more especially a morally bankrupt one like the roman church.

Landon O. said...


Don't worry, I've been doing my research for over 6 months now. I believe that everything I wrote in my posts is true. If you know otherwise, please enlighten me (and provide arguments next time); I do not want to join a "morally bankrupt institution."

I do not know any books or websites of a secular nature that would be useful in protestant/Catholic studies, the notion of a secular author who is caught up in the subject strikes me as absurd. As a Christian, the Bible and the Church Fathers are far more authoritative than any other source. That is why I have been focusing my study on them primarily.


The distinction between doctrine and practice is much like another Christian doctrine that even protestants hold: love the sinner, hate the sin. If we made no distinction between the sin and sinner, we would either have to love sin or hate people. The same with the Church, we can love her as she is yet hate what she does wrong.

Oh, and I am definitely not fond of America just because I'm a citizen, I'm proud because of our freedom and liberality. If it were not because of America's merits it would just be chauvinism.

imogenskye said...


I am not sure I would consider a deliberately one-sided 6-month reading stint to be research, but of course if that satisfies you, then go ahead and do it, but it's to your own peril.

Proper research always includes reading and exploration from the whole spectrum; it is the surest way to determine the relative and/or absolute veracity of your own conclusions. In my own experience, while many tend to think that there's no point in reading copious amounts of text on a subject because everyone has his/her own opinion and we can't trust anyone/can only trust some, my experience has been that after long periods of dedicated, well-rounded (as in full-spectrum) research, patterns begin to appear that allow me to categorise and make the most accurate conclusions that can be made with the available information.

This sometimes takes years, and frankly, 6 months for the person who sees no point in consulting opposing sources, is obviously not nearly enough!!! Once you come to the point when opposing sources are seen as necessary, then you have begun; until then, your exploration is cursory- a survey- and not really research.

Over time, you may find that you prefer certain sources over others, and that's to be expected, but to not even consider the others in order to make your determination leaves you with a very large blind-spot, no matter what your faith or lack thereof.

I hope you'll see the sense in what I've shared. I wish I had done this on a number of occasions in my life when I did what you have described simply out of love and trust in the people who were guiding me, that I allowed to do so. I could have saved myself lots of turmoil had I followed my own advice here; of course it was those experiences that showed me the necessity of doing as I've written above; perhaps you ould come to that place without that turmoil. Wouldn't that be wonderful? I think so!