Note: Whenever I write essays like this, some friends say “what are you talking about I never act that way, I never saw any of this.” If that’s you, please put a sock in it: I don’t have to give you full context for everything I see and hear in my travels just to write about something. Not everything I do appears on my timeline for your easy digestion, and not everything is about you even if you and I once or twice had some exchange that seem to relate.
Nor do I have to provide you with proof that people talk like idiots about the Catholic Church. Nor do I have to prove that they like to fling this kind of poop around me. Sometimes it’s from people who I just don’t want a public fight with. And sometimes the material is so vile I consider it no better than KKK materials* and I don’t want to give it more traffic.
But no, everything is not about you personally. Nor am I “angry” or “ranting.” I’m just blunt, and far less polite than most Catholics. Thanks for noticing.–DE
I’m sick of hearing bigots squawk about the Roman Catholic Church and “Hitler’s Pope” and “ratlines” and “pedophile priests” and “enemy of science” or “burning Galileo” or “the Jesuits invented the SocJus movement” or other gross distortions or outright fabrications. A lot of people these days seem to just love throwing that crap around in casual conversation, as if half-assed generalizations and spitting on people you know won’t hit back makes you some kind of hero.
Here’s the truth: the Catholic Church today is almost certainly the least violent institution on the planet for anything close to its size and scope of operations–and in your heart you damn well know it. Any reasonable analysis shows that Christianity brought peace throughout its history far more than it brought war and suffering and intolerance. Christians almost never live perfectly up to their ideals but the Church is inherently nonviolent. Honest people admit this.
Furthermore, when you fling out some accusation you and your friends heard about, maybe you have a duty to investigate? To at least discover if what you’ve heard is really true exactly as you heard it before you hurl it like a bullet at some unsuspecting Catholic who may or may not even know what you’re talking about? Catholics don’t owe you any apologies for being Catholic nor do they require defense attorneys to follow them around to answer random charges you might fling at the Church at any given moment. Nor do they have to answer for your mom who beat you over the head with Jesus or Mary inappropriately, although we’re sorry, she shouldn’t have done that.
You aren’t being brave to bash the Catholic Church and you damn well know it. The worst reprisal you’ll face is a non-clerical guy like me telling you to piss off, which a priest would probably chide me for but which I think is necessary to get through to some people.
Defending ourselves with rhetorical firmness, and letting a jerk know she’s being a jerk: these are not out of bounds for good Christian manners.
So if you’re going to bring up crap about the Church around me, do me a favor: notice that we have here a 2000 year old institution with a membership in the billions if you go back through time, and it has NEVER been as rigidly centrally controlled by the Vatican as people so often fantasize about. Renegade priests and Bishops have always been a thing, just as corrupt or abusive men and women are found in every other walk of life–although given how high standards for the Priesthood are these days, a smart person would wager corruption among them is probably lower than, say, a completely unaccountable “independent Bible church” or, for that matter, your local grocery store manager.
Furthermore, being ex-Catholic or saying “I went to Cathechism when I was in gradeschool” does not convey expert status. Ex-Catholics do not have special license to bash their fellow Catholics who still think the Church is wonderful and awesome and wrongly maligned. Catholics who’ve left the Church, especially if they did it while young, are frequently hostile and often paint a distorted picture based on subjective experience–and sometimes are driven by personal motives that obviously have nothing really to do with the Church itself.
Short form: “I was an altar server!” or “I went to catholic school!” does not make allegations you fling hold any special weight.
Furthermore, as a fellow child abuse survivor, one who was abused by people outside the Church, I say this without apology: NO, you damn well don’t get special dispensation to tar innocent people if you were abused by someone within the Church. Innocents do not deserve to have you hold the crimes of others against them for all eternity. The Church leadership made mistakes. It was unbelievably painful. We owned it. Now how are Protestants doing with their own problem here?
And, bigger question, for you smirking nonreligious and atheist secularists: what are you doing about the much bigger problem among government employees like teachers and female prison guards?
To be clear, someone being ex-Catholic doesn’t mean we can dismiss what they say. But you get no points for being particularly authoritative either. People who leave any religion are frequently the most hostile, and sometimes have a personal agenda they aren’t even conscious of: maybe they’re mad at the Church for something legitimate, or they may just want to hurt their family or make a political grandstanding point. Or seriously, they could be just plain nuts.
Or they could be telling the truth and they may have a valid point. But “ex-Catholic” gets you NO special consideration either way.
Furthermore, being a Horsemanite atheist does not in any way shape or form make you intellectually or morally superior, you twat. Nor does it make you “objective.” In fact, you’re quite possibly less objective than anyone else, since you go into the conversation, most of the time, with the assumption that the orthodox Christian faith is all fairy fluff and unicorns for fools and old people who are afraid to die–in other words, most of you tend to behave as if you just can’t get enough of the smell of your own farts when you talk about religion. Take your pose of objectivity and superiority and shove it.
Your copy of The God Delusion didn’t come with a free license to throw garbage at people.
Ditto if you’re from some ethnic group that some people at some time in the Church’s history somewhere mistreated. Find me any nation or any movement that’s lasted more than a few decades that doesn’t have someone it’s wronged somewhere along the line. If the Church still owes you reparations, explain them to me. Otherwise take your ancestral grievance-mongering and stick it in with the #BlackLivesMatter punks.
Oh and if you’re gay, spare me: the Church was on record opposing the persecution, tormenting, and imprisonment of homosexuals long before most other religious groups in America . Countless nonreligious people and ideologies have historically been more anti-gay than the Catholic Church ever was. And while many people in the gay community were protesting in the streets, the Catholic church ran most of the AIDS hospices for free during the worst of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s–whether they gave the best or right care all the time, they were at least the ones stepping up to actually take care of those dying men.
That’s because our Church teaches against hating anybody, and helping anyone who needs it regardless of their personal lives.
If you don’t like that the church considers gayness sinful, ask yourself why you care what the Church thinks, since the Church does not advocate persecuting or jailing you or forcing you to be Catholic. Why do you need our approval? Shouldn’t you be more concerned with things like secular ideologies and religious extremism that is still busy jailing and torturing and killing gays? You might ponder that the next time you decide it’s OK to be nasty toward your Catholic friends who actually do care about you even if you don’t approve of their religion.
Now, all of that leads up to some things I want to mention: As Catholics, we are constantly, constantly hammered with conspiracy theories that have long been debunked but won’t die anyway. And that doesn’t even count the snooty, centuries-old Anglican agitprop about how primitive and barbaric Catholic thought is, which still floats around English and Episcopalian circles culturally. Nor does it count the madness of some of the more deranged Sola Scriptura Protestant Fundamentalists (or their bizarre atheist children who can’t stop ranting about the Bible).
The Catholic Church is a lot of people’s favorite target. Sometimes what is said is true, some of it’s half-true, some of it’s outright lies–but it’s not any individual Catholic’s job to sit in the stockade and listen to whatever your personal grievances depending on wherever you are in your menstrual cycle at the moment.
In fact, I have a particular loathing for Catholic-bashing since I did not grow up Catholic but always saw the hate spewed at them. I grew up Protestant. And I was atheist for years. I don’t have the average Cradle Catholic’s long-learned “just grit your teeth and be silent” muscles built up as much.
By the way, teeth-gritting silence in the face of obnoxiousness allegations and name-calling? It’s something every religious minority also has had to learn–and yes, Catholics are a religious minority in the USA, one that’s been hated for centuries unabated not just in the US but in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States, i.e. pretty much the entire English-speaking world.
So, know a few things before you bitch at me or other Catholics. For example:
Today, Protestant ministers molest children more than Catholic priests. But both are less likely to offend than the average man on the street. Meanwhile, female public schoolteachers and prison guards at government-run juvenile facilities molest kids at an epidemic rate much higher than any of the groups of men I’ve mentioned.
So please, make all the jokes you want about Pedophile Priests, just don’t pretend that makes you brave, and don’t pretend you care enough to do something about children who are abused.
And by the way, do you think there’s something cool and witty about tarring the reputations of the literally hundreds of thousands of completely innocent men who happen to be Catholic priests and Bishops? I don’t.
That is just the tip of the iceberg on false allegations about the Church. We could go into far more: phony charges of complicity in terrorism like Guy Fawkes or the IRA; people like Giordano Bruno who were executed as heretics versus people like Galileo who were not; valid allegations of occasional anti-Jewish problems versus unfair or one-sided allegations of same; whether the Reformation was really so wonderful; or a score of other things. I love to talk to people about history, as long as they don’t come into the conversation like an atheist version of Cardinal Ximénez:
(By the way, special note to fellow MRAs: can you think for two more seconds about that false allegation and reputation smearing thing, regarding the half a million or so men in the priesthood? Or are priests undeserving of the concern you sat have for for the rest of the falsely-accused? I’m just sayin’.)
Furthermore, if you want to talk to Catholics about their Church, you might want to know some things they believe: we believe the one and only Catholic Church to be the authentic Body of Christ as established by Jesus on the Twelve apostles at Pentecost. As the Book of Acts showed the Apostle laying hands on others to make new Apostles, we believe that process never stopped, and continues from the original 12 all the way to today, with each living Bishop (“apostle” and “bishop” are the same root word in Greek) tracing back to one of the original 12 Apostles who ordained his line (most frequently Mark, Thomas, Bartholemew, or Peter, if would seem). Those Bishops hold the Deposit of the Faith, of which the Bible is an indispensable part but is not the whole.
The Church we are blessed to be a part of is, in our view, a massive force for good in the world beyond anything any organized atheists have even attempted or, frankly, more than most if not all other religions in world history.
Yes, no matter how enamored you are of Buddhism or the Gnostics or whatever else floats your boat, odds are we’ve done more tangible good that you can measure. While we try not be prideful about it, a fact is a fact.
And by the way, we reject categorically the idea that anyone is capable of just reading the Bible alone and understanding its message properly. No, not even if you read all its original languages fluently. Sorry if that annoys you, but we’ve always thought so and never changed our minds. Most of you sound perfectly insane when you read the Bible to us or tell us how we’re supposed to interpret it. Especially most modern atheist “Bible critics,” who reason like prepubescent children with cartoonish interpretations and an obsession with Creationist loons.
We’re just usually too polite to say something about all this.
Furthermore, on more prosaic and secular matters: As a matter of record we also were, and are, the cradle of European culture from at least the 5th Century until the Reformation, and arguably really until the Industrial Revolution. Even when Church officials were in occasional (yes, occasional) conflict with creative types, those conflicts usually were because the Church was working hard to support the arts and sciences not crush them. We were actively supporting science, art, philosophy, and education going at least back to when Constantine and Augustus made our religion legal after centuries of persecution–and we’ve never stopped, thank you very much.
In a very real sense, the history of our Church, the one you mock and hate, is the history of Western civilization. And that is true whether you like it or not. So even if your’e not religious, it’d be nice if you’d acknowledge it’s done good for you as well as any ill you perceive.
Western Christianity was the main sponsor and preserver of the arts and the sciences and of philosophy and history for countless centuries. We have most of what we have of ancient history, philosophy, math, and science because of the Church, not despite it. And of course, the Protestants also helped promote all this once they showed up. Even sundered by the Reformation, Christianity continued to be the main force pushing scientific, philosophical, and artistic innovation up until at least the 19th Century, and it is still a significant force in those areas today.
You’re welcome, you snooty “scientific” atheists.
So you might want to stop being morally smug just because you can find people who acted badly within the Church. Everyone in the Church knows there will always be bad people getting into authority. There are multiple warnings about it in the New Testament, the first example being Judas himself. History is replete with other examples, some of which you like to throw in our faces–and some of which were even true!
But the Church also also strives more than any institution I think you can name to come forward with its own history, good and bad, and to at least try to make amends, even if those amends aren’t always as swift as you’d like, or in exactly the form you’d like.
Furthermore, while you may not like the “spin” that Catholics put on events when they defend themselves, what on Earth makes some of you feel entitled to dismiss the Church’s own answers to pernicious charges? Just because Catholics formulated a response, you think you can dismiss it because they were Catholic? As the Brits say: u wot mate?
Anyone coming into conversations about the history of anything as big as the Catholic Church is biased: atheist, agnostic, ex-Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, or even Pope Francis himself. Nobody gets a special claim on objectivity but God. So if we defend ourselves and you brush it away with “well naturally you defend your Church you zombie,” you aren’t saying something clever at all. You’re being a gigantic ass with pretensions to a fair-mindedness when you talk like that–a fair-mindedness you have just demonstrated you do not possess.
Reality is that our Church, the one still seated in Rome, is the largest non-Government operator of low-cost or free medical services, hospitals, orphanages, schools, food programs, and scientific research in the world. We’re also the largest charity doing those things. Do people hate us because we do all that and they don’t? Or because they want governments to do it instead, whether those governments can afford it or not?
Anyway, in summary, my Church is the subject of many conspiracy theories and many false allegations. It gets old. Furthermore, treating me and my fellow Catholics as if we owe you some personal apology for the genuine misdeeds of our coreligionists is pretty narcissistic behavior on your part. Especially when you throw your prejudices on some innocent Catholic who may not be very well-educated on whatever issues you raise. Abusing random Catholics is not just narcissism on your part, it’s outright bullying.
If you want to ask me serious, non-loaded questions about the Catholic Church, ask them. I really don’t mind that. I’m not an evangelist, I’m just an unapologetic and slightly unorthodox orthodox Catholic who has not one word of apology to you for it. But I love talking about history, and I love arguing about religion and politics and science and history with people who are genuinely interested in a useful exchange. Even with people who think I’m wrong.
But if you approach it like a pompous ass, ask “questions” which assume your conclusion, behave as if my answers don’t matter because I’m Catholic, hurl accusations at the unprepared, or, possibly worst of all, bray that you’re being subjected to “PC Thought Police” when I tell you you’re being an ass, save your breath. I don’t particularly care what a horse’s ass thinks. But I will ponder horses asses while I consider your integrity.
Now, may God bless you and may you have a good day. 😉
* – Was I out of line with the Klan reference? Nope. Nobody likes talking about it but the KKK of the 1920s and 1930s hated Catholics about as much as Jews and blacks and even lynched a few of us. In fact the Klan in that era was generally more concerned with immigrant Catholics than it was with blacks in much of the United States. Furthermore, many smears on the Church which are provably untrue trace straight back to KKK and other White Nationalist groups going back a century and more. Indeed, my fellow MRAs may want to ponder that maybe I knew what prejudice against a wrongly reviled group looked like before I became an MRA.
PS: If you approach me with “there’s something to” The DaVinci Code, I will abandon all Christian morality and beat you over the head with a King James Bible until you submit to Islam in a synagogue.
More thoughts at #PapistConspiracy