I have a problem with the Catholic church, which for nearly two-thousand years has been a dark blight of ignorance on the otherwise bright mind of humanity. I don’t have any problem with individual Catholics, who can be good and decent people, but their church is the greatest force for evil in the world.
There are a number of things about the church that have been good, I suppose. They did provide some continuity of government after the fall of Rome, and there have certainly been individual Catholics out there who have done considerable good in the name of science and morality.
However, there’s also piles of evil the church has done. I’m not just talking offenses of the Dark Ages, like the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition (I bet you didn’t expect to see that here!), or the church’s cruades against science. No, I’m talking about more modern evils the church commits.
First, let us consider the Catholic policy on birth control. What a barbaric, fundamentally ignorant policy. This removes the woman’s right to control her own body; to decide when/if she wants to have children. The pressure from the church against governments in Africa to not allow condom distribution is part of why AIDS became such a major crisis there. Much of the poverty there, as well as in Central and South America can be directly attributed to the fact that people don’t have families; they have litters. It is not healthy for a woman to have five or six kids. It’s not ecnomically healthy for a poor family to be that large.
There’s also the church’s complicit involvement in the Holocaust. This was an outgrowth of the various evil things the church had done to Jews through the centuries, and was really no surprise. Hitler, after all, was Catholic, though I think what he mostly believed in, and wanted as a god, was himself. If the church really was the bastion of goodness and light it pretends to be, they would’ve gone out of their way to get as many Jews as possible out of the way of the Nazis and off to places of safety. But, hey, in the end, they came out ahead. Places like Poland, which is majority Catholic, now no longer had Jews to worry about. Win/win for the church, huh? (please note, btw: that I am not making any issue of Pope Benny XVI‘s involvement in the Hitler Youth as a child. Lots of kids belonged to that, and it didn’t mean anything to them long-term, so I don’t hold it against him)
Another evil of the church is their continuing support for poverty. That’s the only way I can think of to describe a situation where they urge/require even the poor people to give them 10% of their income while the Pope lives in a palatial art museum. Surely if the church had any decency, they’d be selling their artwork and using the money to build schools, hospitals and homes.
Then there’s the whole abuse scandal, where not only were priests molesting children, they were doing so with, occaisonally, the full knowledge of their superiors! Rather than turn the priests over to face temporal justice (whatever happened to rendering unto Caesar?), they instead played “Hide the Priest!” and moved them around to other diosces. This is shameful in the extreme, but even more shameful was them lying about it later and trying to pretend it never happened.
Then we have the church’s attempts to stop gay marriage, abortion and pornography, the general oppresion of women, as well as Benny 16 making comments about justice being dependant on God (who, as anyone has read the Bible knows, is not the most just being in the universe). There’s other things, as well, that I don’t have enough documentation on to really write about, like the support of the Rwandan genocide, which was sometimes done with the full support of various priests.
None of this of course touches on some of the bizzarre theological positions of the chuch, like the Trinity, Original Sin (an evil little concept if I’ve ever heard of one), the transformation of Mary Magdalne into a prostitute (The da Vinci Code was fiction, but the church really did present her as a whore), and the concept of the Pope, which doesn’t seem to be supported in any Biblical verse I’ve come across.
Some people say the church can be a source of good in the world. They point to Mother Teresa as a favorite example, and I’ll admit that even now criticizing her is like kicking a puppy. But we cannot ignore the problems she caused the world. Interestingly, as we recently learned, she was experiencing great issues of faith, and was having trouble believing in God. This didn’t stop her form telling other people they should still believe, mind you. It also didn’t help her wake up to the real issues of poverty in Calcutta and allow her to start distributing condoms and educations to the people around her. She, in fact, as we’ve learned over the last few years, was more into pain and suffering than in helping people. An account of this can be read here, in an article which was actually written before she died. Guess we should’ve all paid more attention then.
I look longingly forward to the day when the Popes are a forgotten and ignored relic of an earlier, more ignorant age, and the Vatican is regarded as the greatest art treasure in the world, holding no religious significance at all. It’ll probably not happen until after I’m dead, but it’s still something to hope for.