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Putting Aside a Scandal-Ridden Church, Among Other Childish Things

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As a child, the Catholic Church overwhelms you. It vice-grips the imagination. High ceilings ringing with stentorian echoes, all blood-red and gilt, intoxicatingly incensed and aromatic, dotted with black and red-robed men who seemingly glide a few millimeters above the earth we mere mortals walk. Secretly, they "transmogrify" matter in rituals creaking and venerable with age and import.

It's like fairy tales with princes and dragons evoking lands long lost and golden -- touched with the luster of the unattainable. I went to Catholic schools back in the day when witch-garbed nuns shamelessly beat students with rulers if they failed the flash card quiz. The schools imposed a militaristic authoritarianism, enabled with outright brutality both physical and psychological. They beat you, promised heaven and threatened hell. Again, a perfect exploitation of a child's simplicity; great reward through heaven, unendurable pain through hell, and an absolute arbiter of your fate in the Church and its minions. Mindless authoritarianism at its most pure.

As I matured, I saw past the costumes and stage paint. The very aspects so entrancing to a child became repellent to a teen: The insistence on men of flesh and blood being greater than other men and snatching the right to dictate to them. Black and raised by southern parents, the notion of the god-made elect lording over the unwashed masses repulsed me. It bore such resemblance to home-grown American race hatred and the despicable behavior so many whites believed that god gave them the right to sling at me.

Further examinations into church history and doctrine only deepened my alienation. An institution that grants itself the power of "infallibility" was hilariously absurd on its face. An organization that insisted that I submit to its functionaries' wills was offensive in the extreme. My decision was easy. This institution did not have the kindness, the intellectual rigor, or the moral right to guide my walk through this life in any way.

The years worth of priest-abuse scandals and the Church's reaction to them only underlines my point. Now, with evidence that the current Pope enabled the rape of children by his priests through inaction, it is appropriate to examine the Church's suitability to dictate morality and spirituality to the rest of the world.

The Catholic Church is a government. Vatican City is an independent city-state with the Pope as its absolute monarch in which cardinals hold legislative authority. It is also a bank; the Vatican Bank is worth billions and faces accusations of money laundering while sitting on a past worthy of a particularly lurid pulp thriller.

Which of the sane among us would appoint politicians and bankers to guide our spiritual development? A creation of St. Paul that invokes the thin veil of Christ as self-justification, the Church is an international financial and governmental institution with a past both corrupt and bloody. Popes have instigated and financed unprovoked wars, committed torture and incest (among the supposedly celibate you might call that a 'twofer'), and sat mute in the face of the deportation of Jews by the Nazis. See here and, for a more sprightly take, here.

Yet, Church doctrine declares that itself and its Pope can be infallible. And the current Pope, in his tone deaf, tommy-gun barrage of pathetic and/or repellant self-defenses displays the ungodly arrogance of the rich and powerful when faced with facts that threaten their empires.

The institution that turned a blind eye to its priests, its holy men, serially raping children is the same institution that insists that we suffer unimaginable agonies for as long as possible as we die. It is the same institution that tells a woman that she must sacrifice her health, he family's well being, her sanity, her aspirations or even her life to the single-celled blastocyst she carries in side her as a result of being viciously raped in an alley. It is the same institution that insists that men or women loving each another is offensive to god. I have no doubt that such love is an offense to their god -- the one who condones child rape by the extravagantly self-titled and self-indulged.

After a point, an institution so besmirched by sin (by its own definition), cruelty and scandal must lose all right to claim moral and spiritual authority. That point has come.