Earlier in this series about the dislike of some Catholic elements being a separate issue from the presence of the Holy within Catholicism, we saw that Niccolò Machievelli’s The Prince advocates deception.
According to Machievelli, lying to the masses is necessary for public leadership. Some believe this isn’t a cynical but, rather, a realistic approach. For example, in postwar times government officials tend to paint a different picture about a given conflict than that of actual wartime reports. During wartime it seems that disinformation is standard procedure.
If you went to the C.I.A. and said “How is the situation today in South Vietnam?” I think they would say it’s worse. You see it in the desertion rate, you see it in the morale. You see it in the difficulty to recruit people. You see it in the gradual loss of population control. Many of us in private would say that things are not good, they’ve gotten worse. Now while we say this in private and not public, there are facts available that find their way in the press. If we’re going to stay in there, if we’re going to go up the escalating chain, we’re going to have to educate the people, Mr. President. We haven’t done so yet. I’m not sure now is exactly the right time.
From Morris’ perspective, it seems that former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara believed he was acting in good faith, given the political realities of the Vietnam war. Hindsight is 20/20. But those in power don’t have the benefit of hindsight and must make tough decisions, usually with scant information. So McNamara, now in a safe place to do so, admits to having made egregious mistakes.
Cover-ups and Sin
What does wartime leadership and disinformation have to do with the dislike of Catholicism? To answer this question, consider the Catholic hierarchy’s response to the sad fact that not a few priests sexually abused young people.
Some argue that Catholic officials tried to cover up priests’ transgressions with dubious politics reminiscent of a medieval kingdom. Pedophile priests were shuffled around to different parishes with hardly a slap on the wrist. And some victims were allegedly paid off to keep quiet. Most likely disturbed religious officials believed they were doing the right thing. Why else would they have done it? For them, the Church’s public image was more important than the reality of its scandalous practices. Either that, or their own jobs were on the line. It’s hard to know the potential complexity of the situation.
As reprehensible as all this is, it does not in any way diminish the holy within Catholicism. Instead, it’s an example of human sin and corruption. And practically every human organization contains some degree of sin and corruption. If we upheld sin and corruption as a key indicator for worthlessness, then virtually no human enterprise would be of any value.
The parable of the good and bad seed (Matthew 13:24-29) suggests that God knows about and permits evil for some mysterious reason.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”
Another reason some people dislike Catholicism has to do with the belief that Catholics perpetuate outdated teachings that are legitimized under the guise of sacred Tradition.
For those unfamiliar with Catholicism, the idea of Tradition refers to Church teachings that are said to complement biblical scripture with equal weight and authority. Tradition and scripture are “like two branches of the same tree,” to quote a popular Catholic saying.
At odds with the Catholic Tradition is sola scriptura. Sola scriptura means the Bible is the only source of God’s revelation to mankind. One form of sola scriptura, sometimes called solo scriptura, selects individual passages from the Bible to apparently prove a particular perspective.
We’ve probably all encountered this approach. Believers in solo scriptura uphold the Old Testament book of Leviticus, for instance, to allegedly prove the evils of homosexuality and gay marriage.
If a man lies with a male as a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them (Lev. 20:13).
But these same people often overlook other passages from the Old Testament concerning the evils of usury.
You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit (Leviticus 25:35-37).
So Christians earning interest from a bank or any other kind of investment would be sinning if this Bible passage were taken as an eternal truth. But it’s convenient for some hypocrites to rant and rave about prohibited behaviors that they don’t practice, and to completely ignore prohibitions that they do break 24/7.
Another dislike of Catholicism involves the exclusion of women from the upper end of the Catholic hierarchy. For critics, the absence of female priests leaves the entire faith assembly with a lopsided, dry feeling. That yin-yang sense of balance and complementarity just isn’t there.
By way of contrast, the depth psychologist Carl Jung, coming from a Protestant background, argued that the visible presence of the Virgin Mary in Catholic dogma was a step in the right direction. Jung believed that Mary played an important compensatory role for Catholics’ psychological needs.
But some feminists don’t buy it. They point out that the Virgin Mary doesn’t help real flesh and blood women who yearn to enter the priesthood. Nor does it help women and men who are bored of the mostly male presence at the Catholic altar.
Celibacy and the Perception of Women
Critics of Catholicism also believe that celibate priests conforming to pre-established, chauvinistic religious routines essentially avoid dealing with women as equals.
As far back as 1972, the US Catholic bishops conducted a Freudian study indicating that many priests are psychologically arrested at a young adult stage of emotional development.
This and other studies have been cited as alleged proof that arrested emotional development is a by-product of celibacy, the exclusion of women, repressed or clandestine homosexuality, or some combination of these factors.
Questioning the validity of this study, Patrick Guinan, M.D. says
Freudian theory is incapable of acknowledging religious experience or integrating the concept of chastity or asceticism into its idea of healthy human development.
Likewise, the Canadian writer and historian Elizabeth Abbott argues that celibacy can be a healthy choice. She points out that cultural attitudes about celibacy are quickly changing, especially with the drastic and sometimes deadly increase of sexually transmitted diseases.
Meanwhile, the Church maintains its stance on gender equality. Men and women are equal but different. Obviously this idea does not sit well with those deploring the absence of women in the upper register of the Catholic hierarchy. Critics tend to see this as culturally backward sexism based on sexist scripture and Tradition. The Bible, they point out, was written during sexist times. So it’s no surprise that many of its supposed eternal truths are, in fact, cultural.
For these critics, the Church’s stance on gender difference perpetuates sexist ideologies that serves to exclude women from positions of power. It also contributes to the dire shortage of newly ordained priests.
Copyright © Michael W. Clark, 2014.