I am not a big fan of the Catholic Church. Having spent my childhood in a fairly Catholic city (Pope John XXIII was born in ‘Sotto il Monte‘ a small village in the province of the town where I lived, Bergamo) I have never liked the pernicious influence of the Church in Italian affairs (despite the fact that Italy had the largest Communist party of any western country and hardly anyone goes regularly to church). Even here I bristle when I see George Pell on TV.
However I am somewhat perplexed by how vehemently some commentators vent their anger towards it.
Perhaps is because it is the oldest and biggest Christian institution and therefore it is the primary target. And because it has been around for 2000 years or so it has plenty of incidents that are less than salubrious. From inquisitions, forcing Galileo to deny his correct observations, corruption, wars, being acquiescent about Nazism (which was what Richard Dawkins was referring to when he said Pope Nazi, and not about the current Pope) etc.
The latest stain on the Catholic Church has been episodes of sexual assaults towards children and how the Church’s hierarchy. This is I think a direct result of forcing celibacy on the priesthood which is unnatural and is a recipe for creating unbalanced minds. Considering that many priests (especially those who are older) would have not have had much choice in their careers as parents would have chosen priesthood for them, it is obvious that the denial of sexuality in an individual would create serious psychological disturbances.
Of course this does not excuse any acts. In fact the Church should be condemned to face this issue head on rather than place it under the carpet.
The question is whether this means that the whole Catholic Church should be portrayed and an evil empire full of pedophiles and sexual deviants.
As all big organisations (and the Catholic Church is big) there are plenty of bad things and plenty of good things as well.
There is not very much that Pope Benedict XVI can do to rescue the church from the crisis over sexual abuse. The reforms which would make a practical difference have already been put in place, and he deserves some credit for that – he will not get it. The scandals emerging are all from the 1970s or 1980s but in the popular imagination they might as well be happening now. Many of the most eloquent attacks on the church, such as that from Christopher Hitchens in a recent article in Slate magazine, come from enemies who would never give it the benefit of doubt, and for the moment public opinion is with them.
The Catholic church has been framed as an institution for paedophiles, and truth is no defence to that perception……
Less than half of 1% of the Catholic clergy in the UK over the last three decades or so have been accused of child abuse. That’s too many, of course. Nor do such comparative statistics suggest that two wrongs make a right. But they do show that two wrongs don’t make one wrong even if there is only one wrong in the news.
There are good aspects of Catholicism. Work in East Timor, or the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez. Even our own Father Bob Maguire is not too bad. I also wonder whether lots of this anti-Catholic feelings is more strident in the Anglosphere. Could it be an echo of old fashioned anti-popism? I don’t see people who are against religion mentioning the Uniting Church for that matter.
So while I haven’t been a regular church goer since I was eight, I live with a woman and have a son and never been married (nor I intend to) and as I said before I can’t stand the Catholic Church interfering with the state, I also believe that creating an evil monster out of the Catholic Church is wrong. Let’s criticise the Catholic Church by all means, but let’s also have some balance in the debate.