Friday, May 11, 2007

Pope misses the point

The Catholic Church represents religious corruption at its worst although the current incarnation pales in comparison to the totalitarian religion that plagued Europe during what history refers to as the Dark Ages. Crusades, inquisitions and assassinations were the tools employed by the Vatican to destroy rivals and oppress the masses. Back then the Catholic Church rejected remarkable advancements achieved by the cultures that preceded the Holy Roman Empire. Concepts like sewage containment, medicine and personal hygiene were cast aside along with philosophy, art and science. People who sought enlightenment were tortured and killed.

Today the Catholic Church has stopped murdering people…at least in large numbers. Now the Catholic Church is run by impotent, beet-faced old men who scream their stifling rhetoric from ornate thrones. Although the Pope claims to speak the word of God, he and the rest of the Vatican power elite lack the faith to appear in public without armor and a highly trained security detail. Apparently God can’t be trusted to protect the Pope from those who might wish him harm. That’s your first clue that the Church believes more in power than it does in divinity. The Pope is worshipped as a demigod but he still needs to cruise the streets in an armored car. Ironic, eh?

Recently Pope Benedict dropped by to visit Brazil. South and Central America are Catholic strongholds, a holdover from the brutal manner in which Spanish and Portuguese missionaries imposed Catholicism on the indigenous people. Worship or die was the gist of the Church’s message back then. It hasn’t changed much. The church just can’t follow though on exterminating heretics anymore. They are trying to get back to that place, though. That’s why Benedict, a man with ties to the NAZI party, is there. He knows a thing or two about extermination.

Latin America struggles with overpopulation, under-education, disease, poverty and economic exploitation. Rain forests are being consumed at an alarming rate but the people are not seeing any of the financial gain. Typically American corporations like Cargil purchase huge blocks of land, slash and burn it through some local shell company and farm it until the soil is depleted. American get cheap stuff while Brazilians get the shaft.

Latin America needs protection from exploitation; they need birth control and help in educating the people to improve the quality of life. Did the Pope offer any assistance? Nope. He denounced abortion and encouraged people to devote more time to their faith. Never mind the AIDS epidemic spreading through South America; forget about the alarming number of babies born into poverty. Don’t worry about the literacy rate. Go to church and don’t forget to tithe. In order to bolster support for the Catholic Church, the Vatican opted to throw Latin America a bone and offer up a Latin American Saint. Amen. How about a clinic?

Elsewhere, particularly in places where people can read, the Catholic Church is struggling. In the U.S. the religiots flock toward evangelical denominations because they like an aggressive religion. Conservative Catholicism has all the teeth of Presbyterianism in this country. Our Bible thumpers need people to hate. The Catholic Church avoids hating people and focuses on issues. That’s why South and Central America are so important. The Catholic Church has an endless supply of ignorant people who can be molded into reliable Catholics. It’s not India, but if the church can stamp out birth control it might be soon.

However when it comes to those issues the Catholic Church is as blustery and misguided as Pat Robertson. The Vatican’s opposition to abortion is one thing. There are reasonable people who make solid arguments against abortion. It’s a genuinely debatable subject. But the Church also frowns on the use of birth control. Catholic leaders have taken foreign aid organizations to task for distributing condoms and showing people how to use them in African countries devastated by AIDS. The Catholic Church supports an abstinence only message and feels condoms are simply immoral. There’s no logical reason to oppose condoms. Perhaps the Church should think about making sex without a rubber a more severe sin than sex with one. Seven Hail Mary’s instead of five.

The Catholic Church acknowledges that people will make mistakes and sin, which would seem to provide a reason to support the use of condoms. To Catholics, sex outside of marriage is a sin but so is killing yourself. There are places in the world where sex is practically suicide, so why not deliver condoms to people with a stern message about morality? We have Catholic Priests who can’t keep it in their pants…how can we expect some 17 year-old Brazilian boy to resist temptation? Especially in Brazil!!! Have you seen the women there?

The Catholic Church limped toward progress under Pope John Paul II. He tried to fashion himself into a bit of a humanitarian. He recognized the real problems in the world and tried to create enough flexibility in the Church to address them. Mother Theresa was often criticized by Bishops and Cardinals for not promoting Catholicism aggressively enough but John Paul encouraged her to continue helping people. She might not have put butts in the seats on Sunday but she was doing a lot of good. Bishop Deamond Tutu ruffled a lot of feathers for getting caught up in political skirmishes but John Paul, although Tutu was not Catholic, went out of his way to support and praise Tutu for his efforts.

John Paul II still held to conservative views on sexuality and contraception but not to the forceful extent that Benedict does. It seemed that John Paul II wanted the Vatican to focus on the bigger picture and unify the world to promote peace. Perhaps the grandiose platform ignored the smaller issues the regular parishioner could relate to. Benedict is clearly thinking small.

It’s a dangerous time for that. The gap between the rich and the poor is expanding. The world is a hectic place and people need all the help they can get. An organization as powerful as the Catholic Church should be focused on real problems not rhetorical issues. Fire and Brimstone might sell tickets but what good is that if the audience isn’t there to buy them?

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