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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pope blathers on about evil of same-sex marriage, etc., etc., yakety-yak.

We see stories like this every day. But one of the odd things I've noticed in talking to groups in the US is how there always seems to be someone around who is not Catholic but is prepared to praise the Catholic Church for the supposed subtlety and secular cogency of its arguments. It seems that some of the Church's endless stream of propaganda about itself is starting to have an effect, even on secular people.

Many Catholics are fine - I have no great quarrel with the many (probably a majority in Western countries) who are opposed to the Church's moral teachings and its opportunistic attempts to meddle in politics. But please, everyone, stop making excuses for the Church itself or for its official teachings or its twisted idea of its political role.


NewEnglandBob said...

Agreed. The RCC is a corrupted stench on the world.

ColinGavaghan said...

'Many Catholics are fine - I have no great quarrel with the many (probably a majority in Western countries)'

Explaining this distinction is particularly difficult in societies like Scotland, where the Church hierarchy has skilfully (or at least, pretty successfully) conflated opposition to its leaders & their teachings, with prejudice against ordinary Catholics.

In fairness, the situation is not much helped by the fact that, historically, many anti-Catholic narratives were in fact thinly-veiled attacks on the immigrant communities (mostly Irish) from which the Catholic population was largely drawn. Neither is it helped by the fact that the 'ordinary Catholic' population, historically, were among the poorest, most marginalised sections of society (a situation that no longer persists, thankfully.)

That an organisation as powerful as the RC Church would take refuge behind these 'human shields', in between attacks on another historically marginalised group, is pretty repellent. Nonetheless, they are nothing if not skilled political operators, & it does presents a significant challenge to atheists and secularists in those communities. I'd welcome more discussion about how to avoid the pitfalls that such situations present.

Russell Blackford said...

Well, there's certainly a question as to why they don't leave the church, and perhaps become Anglicans/Episcopalians or something else with less rigid moral teachings. In the past I've urged moderate or liberal Catholics to do exactly that, but I'm sure they have their reasons for staying put.

It would be interesting to see what those reasons are if anyone wants to reply to Steve. Identification with a cultural group, perhaps? A belief that it's still the true church, even if it's lost its way at the moment? Something else?

ColinGavaghan said...

I assumed Russell meant 'fine' in the sense of being basically decent people, as opposed to 'fine' in the sense of wholly beyond reproach. Yes, by remaining (however notionally) within the Church, they enhance (however marginally) the political clout of that orgnaisation. And yes, that's a legitimate ground for criticism and argument. But it's surely incumbent on secularists - or those of us actually concerned with achieving change, rather than just 'being right' - to attempt to understand the complex psychological and sociological underpinnings of the inertia that keeps so many people attached to an organisation, even after they become entirely aware of its flaws.

In some cases, I suspect this may owe something to a sense of family loyalty, or community membership. It may be unfortunate, but some minority communities seem to see their 'religion' as more of a cultural tie than as anything theological. Thus, many 'Catholics' in Glasgow (and, I dare say, 'Muslims' in Bradford) cling to those identities even when their lives become, in other respects, very secular.

I don't know how we persuade them away from this, but I suspect it won't be by shouting abuse. An essential element, I suspect, will involve trying to understand just what it is they get from the continued association with a religion, and whether those needs can adequately be met elsewhere (step up, Mr de Bono?). In the meantime, we should continue to be nuanced & accurate in our criticism, because picking a fight with a whole bunch of people who don't, actually, disagree with us on anything substantive is just crappy tactics.

steve oberski said...

“One redeeming factor,” Windle noted, “is that it would appear that the victims involved are of Polish descent and their respect for the priesthood and the Church has made them refrain from making these allegations public or laying a criminal charge against a priest.”

An excerpt from a letter by Canadian RCC bishop Joseph Windle to the Vatican warning about the serial sexual predator and RCC priest Bernard Prince.

I'm trying to imagine in what sense these Canadian catholics of Polish descent (my background by the way) "disagree with us on anything substantive" and how it would be "crappy tactics" to point out to these people that they are complicit in the rape of their children and that they are as much to blame as the priest that preyed on their children.

ColinGavaghan said...

Well I dunno, Steve; you could always imagine that I'm not being so ridiculous as to suggest that those involved in covering up child abuse should be excused. And you could imagine, like me, that the substantial majority of 'Catholics', Polish or otherwise, do not fall into that category, while targeting your thoroughly merited scorn and those who actually were.

But the passage you quoted refers to 'the victims involved' being reluctant to report their own abuse because of their respect for/fear of the clergy. If so, then they sound more like victims of a combination of serious psychological trauma and systematic brainwashing, than 'hypocrites', 'enablers', or whatever other epithets you want to throw around.

Lorenzo said...

The moral reasoning, particularly on sexual matters, is of much lower quality than is often pretended.