Posts tagged catholicism

50 reasons to boycott the Catholic Church

Two years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long!), I argued that honest and decent human beings have a moral responsibility to openly oppose Pope Benedict XVI.

Adam Lee has now taken my argument one step further, outlining 50 reasons why people should boycott not just Pope Benedict XVI, but the entire Catholic Church.

… whatever individual Catholics may do, the resources of the church as an institution are bent toward opposing social progress and positive change all over the world. Every dollar you put into the church collection plate, every Sunday service you attend, every hour of time and effort you put into volunteering or working for church organizations, is inevitably a show of support for the institutional church and its abhorrent mission. When you have no voice, there’s only one thing left to do: boycott. Stop supporting the church with your money and your time. For lifelong Catholics, it’s a drastic step, but it’s more than justified by the wealth of reasons showing that the church as an institution is beyond reform, and the only meaningful response is to part ways with it. 

Take a look at Lee’s 50 reasons here.

Vlad Chituc on an atheist’s conversion

As I wrote yesterday, Leah Libresco is making waves on the secular and religious blogospheres this week after announcing she is converting from atheism to Catholicism because she believes the Catholic moral framework provides better grounding.

While this has upset many atheists, some atheists have used it as an opportunity to reflect upon their own community:

But I’ve generally found the reaction to be both predictable and disappointing, and I think it shows a serious lack of empathy and intellectual curiosity in many atheists. The most common reaction I’ve seen is just blatant incredulity, which I think not only reflects an inability to understand why anyone would convert to Catholicism, but why anyone would be a Catholic to begin with. I see the “there is no evidence for religion, all believers are brainwashed” narrative almost accepted as the default atheist position (pandered by American Atheist President Dave Silverman at just about every opportunity), but it seems so clearly absurd to me.

Keep reading Chituc’s article here.

Atheist goes Catholic over morality

Atheist blogger Leah Libresco is making waves on the secular and religious blogospheres this week after announcing she is converting from atheism to Catholicism because she believes the Catholic moral framework is better grounded:

I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant.  It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth.  And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth.  I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since). 

And with that, Libresco is a Catholic.

For those interested in trying to figure out why she has converted, Libresco has answered some reader questions here.

Timothy Dolan’s warped morality, part II

I wrote in a recent blog post that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, has some seriously warped views on morality. In case you were still in doubt over whether Dolan’s moral compass could use a major readjustment, take a look at what broke during my break from blogging:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.

Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”

But a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.

Dolan has since replied by sidestepping the issue, instead blasting one of the outlets that broke the story:

“The New York Times does not have a reputation for fair and accurate reporting when it comes to this issue. … So, to respond to charges like that — that are groundless and scurrilous — in my book it’s useless and counterproductive.”

So, in short: Cardinal Dolan is both an immoral leader and a "brazen liar". Which, if you ask me, should cost him his job. Unless, of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t mind corruption and coverup at the expense of young men’s lives.

I’ve written before regarding my disappointment with the global Catholic laity for not publicly rebuking crooked leaders such as Pope Benedict XVI. If Dolan’s actions aren’t enough to get American Catholics to denounce the church’s current hierarchy, then I simply don’t know what they’ll need to finally stand up and reject those who claim to represent them.

Religious belief and budget debates

By Michael De Dora

Recently there has been a prominent public debate between Congressional Republicans and religious figures over the new federal budget authored by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan. In case you haven’t heard about this, or you’ve only given it slight attention, here’s a short rundown.

On March 20, Rep. Ryan proposed a budget that would drastically cut government spending by slashing social programs and lowering tax rates on corporations and the wealthy. Several faculty members at the Georgetown University soon condemned Ryan’s budget as immoral – inconsistent with Catholic teachings on ethics:>/p>

“We would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. … In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was also critical of Ryan’s budget, arguing that it conflicted with the tenets of his (Ryan is a Catholic) supposed religion.*

Ryan responded that, on the contrary, his plan would create the necessary economic growth to lift people out of poverty, as well as manage the government’s crippling debt:

“The Holy Father himself, Pope Benedict, has charged governments, communities and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations, and living in untruth.’ … Our budget offers a better path consistent with the timeless principles of our nation’s founding and, frankly, consistent with how I understand my Catholic faith. … We put faith in people, not in government.”

Now that we’re up to date, let’s take a step back.

This is a familiar debate for anyone who pays attention to American politics. Politicians — along with other public officials and social figures — often use their religious beliefs to justify legislative action. Yet, once again, few people are stating the obvious: that it is completely inappropriate for a public policy debate to center on the religious reasons for or against a proposed law.

Before moving any further, let me state that I’m rather sick of hearing Jesus’ name mentioned in policy debates, if only because it is impossible to know what a person who lived several thousands years ago, and about whom very little is known, would have thought about specific political issues in the year 2012.

I fully admit here that the Catholic Church has, for once, taken a decent moral stance. But that’s not the point. While religiously based political efforts sometimes turn out well, and secular liberals ought to at least consider working with such groups on these issues, the religious method is susceptible to awful consequences (think: marriage equality, reproductive rights, stem cell research; the list goes on). The method is as important, if not more so, as the consequences.

Contrary to what many people think, secularism is not the atheistic position that religious belief has no place in society whatsoever. Secularism is the idea that you can believe what you would like, but your religious beliefs have no place in public policy debates. It asks that laws be based not on faith, which is private and accessible only to believers, but on reason and scientific evidence, which are public and accessible to all. This helps to ensure that our laws are as rational as possible and don’t harm people who practice a different faith, or no faith at all.

Some will counter here that religious views cannot be prevented from entering political discourse and lawmaking.** This is a point based on the simple observation that religious belief, as a matter of fact, is often used in policy debates. Yet that doesn’t mean we should encourage religious views in policy debates, or that we do not have any other option available to us.

I submit that it is also unnecessary to call on one’s religious view, as there are plenty of secular moral reasons for (e.g., Rand-style argumentation) and against Ryan’s budget proposal.

As you might recall, I have previously argued on this blog that economic debates should include a strong ethical component:

“Economic thinking cannot be divorced from morality because one’s values determine which economic structure he or she prefers. There are no such things as purely economic ends divorced from all other ends because economic decisions are made based on moral values. They also have a moral impact on other people.”

My views on how this works in method mirror those of Massimo Pigliucci at Rationally Speaking. First, we figure out our foundational assumptions. For instance, what is the nature of human behavior and desires? How do humans act and interact? What should we value? How should we influence our culture so that it fosters those values? What are — or should be — our shared moral goals?

Then we assess which economic ideas and systems to employ so that our assumptions can be taken into account and that our goals can be realized. Economics is not just about studying and applying knowledge of trends, numbers, math, and business practices. It is also about taking into account the reality of human behavior and our moral concerns before making economic decisions — and then considering the moral consequences of those decisions.

So, is there a good secular moral response to a specific situation such as Rep. Ryan’s budget?

As I’ve written before, I believe in a multi-faceted approach to morality. I believe we ought not harm other creatures capable of experience and agency. I believe people deserve certain rights and respect because of their existence, and that humans ought to help each other, where and when possible, to have a decent living situation. And I believe we ought to hold tight our duties, practice our obligations, and cultivate a virtuous moral character, and help others to do the same.

Unfortunately, Rep. Ryan’s proposal severely slashes or essentially eliminates programs that help children, the poor, and the elderly. This is both ineffective and unethical. Ryan could have lifted tax breaks on corporations and the ultra-rich — both of which are making record profits — or cut the bloated defense budget. Instead, he is seeking to shrink governmental programs that have positive moral value and impact. If you want to solve our debt problems, do you really think it best to focus on privatizing and cutting health care and other social safety nets for the worst off in this country? Would it not be better to stop giving breaks to the wealthiest and most secure in order to improve programs that help many people lead a decent — and perhaps even more moral — life?

In short, that is why I think Ryan’s budget proposal is immoral. And my argument did not require reference to any religious figure or holy book.

One can reasonably argue that public policy ought not to be based on religious belief in any way, as it would necessarily favor religious views over non-religious views, or specific religious views over others. That clearly violates the Constitution and over sixty years of Supreme Court jurisprudence. But one can also reasonably argue that we need not consider religious beliefs because there are plenty of available secular arguments at hand to deploy for and against proposed policies.

Public policy should center on secular reasons, not religious ones. And while that certainly won’t guarantee unfailingly rational government, it might bring us a little step closer to that lofty goal.

* On another note, this is an interesting intersection to ponder: when one’s religious or moral views conflict with one’s views on government, and vice versa. It’s an example of tension between conflicting values.

** Obviously many would argue that religious belief is a wonderful thing, and that Christianity is or should be the national religion, but I do not take up that argument here.

Catholic bishops take on Girl Scouts

No, really. The Catholic hierarchy is investigating a private organization because it’s not sure the group is Catholic enough.

Long a lightning rod for conservative criticism, the Girl Scouts of the USA are now facing their highest-level challenge yet: An official inquiry by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At issue are concerns about program materials that some Catholics find offensive, as well as assertions that the Scouts associate with other groups espousing stances that conflict with church teaching. …

The new inquiry … will look into the Scouts’ “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and various “problematic” program materials …

Some of the concerns raised by Catholic critics are recycled complaints that have been denied by the Girl Scouts’ head office repeatedly and categorically. It says it has no partnership with Planned Parenthood, and does not take positions on sexuality, birth control and abortion.

Ophelia Benson takes the words out of my mouth:

An official inquiry? What does that even mean? What standing do the US bishops have to inquire officially into the Girl Scouts? What business are the Girl Scouts of theirs? …

They really do think they get to tell everyone what to do. They think they get to have “official inquiries” into whether or not some people are liberal and have views antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

You can read more of her work here and here.

Catholic Bishops try to reframe the debate

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops last week held a major news conference in which they attempted to recast the current debates on hot-button issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights as a struggle to preserve “religious liberty” from a government and culture working to restrict the church’s rights, reports the New York Times.

From the Times:

The bishops have expressed increasing exasperation as more states have legalized same-sex marriage, and the Justice Department has refused to go to bat for the Defense of Marriage Act, legislation that established the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.”

The Bishops also lamented a new Department of Health and Human Services rule that requires private insurers to pay for contraception. While churches are exempt from the mandate, Catholic hospitals and universities are not. They also decried that Catholic adoption agencies in several states have lost government funding for refusing to adopt to same-sex couples.

To the Bishops, these are prime examples of attacks on religious liberty. Yet as astutely noted on Daily Kos, the Catholic Bishops have severely misunderstood “religious liberty.”

There is apparently a new drive underway. By “new” I mostly mean “old”, because it is the same campaign as always, it has only shifted fronts. The premise is and always has been that if government does not act to enshrine one particular religious viewpoint into law, it is oppression against that religious group. It is the worst, dullest, and most hollow notion of “religious freedom” possible, because it of course demands that the government reject all possible religious groups and interpretations except for your own. It demonstrates an inherent bigotry on the part of the asserting party, yes, but it also demonstrates a particular philosophical stupidity, one so egregious that it naturally makes the listener suspect all of the rest of the claimant’s philosophical underpinnings. If you devote your life’s work to the supposed study and expression of ethics and morality, but obtusely misunderstand the meaning of the word liberty, then your life’s work seems to have been considerably less productive than you imagine it to be.

You can read much more here.

Bishops issue another insignificant report

Every four years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes a report on how Catholics should think about important political issues in light of church teachings. The report typically discusses the relationship between religion and state, and hot-button issues such as marriage equality and abortion. The most recent edition of was released this week:

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have released a voter guide for the 2012 election that repeatedly calls abortion “evil” without making revisions that some conservatives had demanded for an even tighter focus on the issue.

The document, called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” is nearly identical to the bishops’ guide published four years ago. It gives high priority to fighting abortion while also highlighting social concerns such as ending poverty and war. Catholics make up about one-quarter of the electorate nationwide but do not vote as a bloc. Most don’t base their choice on a politician’s stand on abortion.

Yet as you might recall from my blog post on Sept. 12, a recent poll found that most Catholics apparently ignore this seemingly fundamental document:

A new poll of U.S. Catholics shows that just 16 percent have ever heard of the bishops’ document, and just 3 percent say they have read it.

Most worrisome for the bishops may be that three-quarters of those who were even aware of “Faithful Citizenship” say the document had “no influence at all” on the way they voted in 2008; 71 percent said it would have made no difference even if they had known about it.

Overall, just 4 percent of adult U.S. Catholics say the statement from the U.S. hierarchy either was a major influence, or would have been if they’d known about it.

Which basically means the Bishops have just wasted a good deal of time writing a report few people will read or care about.

Sex abuse victims charge Catholic Church with crimes against humanity

From yesterday’s edition of the British newspaper The Guardian:

Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have accused the pope, the Vatican secretary of state and two other high-ranking Holy See officials of crimes against humanity, in a formal complaint to the international criminal court (ICC).

The submission, lodged at The Hague on Tuesday, accuses the four men not only of failing to prevent or punish perpetrators of rape and sexual violence but also of engaging in the “systematic and widespread” practice of concealing sexual crimes around the world.

It includes individual cases of abuse where letters and documents between Vatican officials and others show a refusal to co-operate with law enforcement agencies seeking to pursue suspects, according to the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a US-based organisation that represents the claimants.

Pam Spees, human rights attorney with CCR, said: “The point of this is to look at it from a higher altitude. You zoom out and the practices are identical: whistleblowers are punished, the refusal of the Vatican to co-operate with law enforcement agencies. You see the protection of priests and leaving them in the ministry and because of these decisions other children are raped and sexually assaulted.”

This is not a publicity stunt, nor is it another example of the so-called liberal war on religion. It is simply a case of decent human beings standing up for justice. As I have previously written, and as detailed in CCR’s article, the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have committed terribly unethical and illegal acts, and should not be exempted from the law simply because they are religious.

Catholics ignore Bishops’ instructions

Every four years, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops publishes a report on how Catholics should think about important political issues in light of church teachings. The report typically discusses the relationship between religion and state, and hot-button issues such as marriage equality and abortion.

Yet this seemingly fundamental document, which is published to align with the U.S presidential elections, is apparently ignored by most Catholics, according to a new poll:

A new poll of U.S. Catholics shows that just 16 percent have ever heard of the bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and just 3 percent say they have read it.

Most worrisome for the bishops may be that three-quarters of those who were even aware of “Faithful Citizenship" say the document had "no influence at all" on the way they voted in 2008; 71 percent said it would have made no difference even if they had known about it.

Overall, just 4 percent of adult U.S. Catholics say the statement from the U.S. hierarchy either was a major influence, or would have been if they’d known about it.

You can read more about explanations for and implications of the poll here.