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Catholic Church goes green
September 22, 2007 8:53 AM   Subscribe

The Catholic Church is traditionally not seen as a progressive institution, but when it comes to global warming, Vatican City is aiming to become the worlds first fully carbon-neutral state, and the Pope is expected to use his first address to the United Nations next April to deliver a powerful warning over climate change in a move to adopt protection of the environment as a "moral" cause for the Catholic Church and its billion-strong following.
posted by stbalbach (81 comments total)

 
This promised encyclical will be like all those other times the pope told a billion Catholics to do something and they all did something else. No one really listens to the pope except his employees.

Or maybe I'll be wrong and Catholics, en masse and in mass, will give up their cars and start using trains, buses, bicycles, ... ha! If the pope pulls that off, I promise to convert. And eat his hat.
posted by pracowity at 9:43 AM on September 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think that's great and I hope other leaders of whatever ilk follow suit. The need to preserve the planet and our environment should cross all boundaries, politics and religions. Ideally, it should be one value upon which we could all agree.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:48 AM on September 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think you misunderestimate the Pope, pracowity. John Paul 2 sent out the "culture of life" message in the 80's, and it came right out of Bush's mouth in the 00's. And he isn't Catholic.
You don't have to get a billion followers doing something, you just need the right ones.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:54 AM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought this guy Ratzinger was supposed to be a bad dude, a theological enforcer, etc. WTF?
posted by chlorus at 9:55 AM on September 22, 2007


No one really listens to the pope except his employees.

Most Catholics will at least take what the Pope says under advisement, even if they do not comply. There are over 1 billion Catholics in the world. You honestly think what he says makes no difference? There are also many non-Catholics who have respect for the Pope.

I wouldn't actually characterize the Catholic Church as 'non-progressive,' FWIW, except on certain stubborn issues such as birth control. But perhaps I have a different perspective because I see more of the details; most of my family is Catholic.
posted by zennie at 9:58 AM on September 22, 2007


Making the Vatican carbon neutral will more than compensate for what its hard line on birth control has done to the environment in places like the Philippines.
posted by rhymer at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


His role in the suppression of Liberation Theology would certainly help, zennie.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2007


I think you misunderestimate the Pope, pracowity. John Paul 2 sent out the "culture of life" message in the 80's, and it came right out of Bush's mouth in the 00's.

Sure, John Paul wanted to end Abortion, War, and the Death Penalty. We can see how well his message took.
posted by delmoi at 10:08 AM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought this guy Ratzinger was supposed to be a bad dude, a theological enforcer, etc. WTF?

Global Warming really has nothing to rightwing/leftwing stuff. It's simply a desire not to see the planet flooded. It has nothing to do with theology.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 AM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Catholic Church can be progressive in some respects, at least in comparison to the highly conservative status quo of US politics nowadays.

It does tend to discourage wars and huge income disparities, while favoring prisoner rights and such. It seems as if they make at least a passing attempt to pay attention to some of that stuff in the old book. But Ratzinger, as Pope Guilty said (Or bragged?) has spent most of his time with the Church's darker angels.
posted by washburn at 10:14 AM on September 22, 2007


I'm all for it if it means they'll stop burning that damn-stinking incense.
/Former Thurifer
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:15 AM on September 22, 2007


A little skepticism is perhaps in order. The side effects of global warming: namely, more violent and unpredictable weather, flooding, drought, famine — these all affect the bulk of Catholic membership. We're talking thousands of missionaries in less-developed countries; hundreds of millions of people who do not have the resources to deal with these issues. I'm not sure God cares as much about membership numbers as the church's leadership.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:18 AM on September 22, 2007


Oh man, now I have to agree with Darth Benedict XVI about something.
posted by Foosnark at 10:19 AM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Without population control - which the Catholic church will never countenance - no amount of environmental propaganda from the Holy See is going to make a damned bit of difference.
posted by three blind mice at 10:26 AM on September 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, if the Pope's address ends up having an effect on climate change, I think I'll find it hard to care too much about the motivation behind it.
posted by danb at 10:27 AM on September 22, 2007


Most Catholics live in the developing world, which has the most to lose from Global Warming, and the least to give up to stop it. It's kind of a no brainer.
posted by empath at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2007


The whole "carbon neutral" movement is largely corporate PR, and we all know it -- you can buy little carbon offsets for your plane trips on Expedia. Every company is pretending to do "carbon surveys." Not that I think the Vatican is cynical, but are they planning to cut out the little white smoke for a new pop business? What about all the fecal matter and hot air the spews from the lips of their priestly minions? There's some carbon right there.

If the Vatican cared about the earth, they would get behind a massive birth control effort.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


No one really listens to the pope except his employees.

Most Catholics will at least take what the Pope says under advisement, even if they do not comply.


Actually, it's really how faithfully the Priests (aka his employees) carry out the Pope's message. It can be argued that it's not really what the Pope says that matters- its what is taught to the congregation on Sundays and in Catholic Schools that matter.

This encyclical also doesn't surprise me one bit. I've worked extensively with nuns in the past and currently work at a school where the superintendent is a nun and there's a convent on the same area of land. They're all very aware of the environmental issues out there and are active in "saving the environment." I've heard more than one Sunday serman about doing your part to be a good steward of the earth and helping the environment. Then again, most of the nuns I know are all for gay marriage and female Priests so who knows.
posted by jmd82 at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2007


new pope, not new pop
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2007


Popesi Blue.
posted by box at 10:32 AM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


His role in the suppression of Liberation Theology would certainly help, zennie.
posted by Pope Guilty


Eponysterical!
posted by papakwanz at 10:32 AM on September 22, 2007


It will be interesting to see how the huge number of American Catholics who also identify themselves as American conservatives will deal with this cognitive dissonance; conservatism has convinced them that this is a partisan issue. A significant percentage of the strict Catholics I know, including many of my family members, could safely be called global warming skeptics. Similarly, I remember my father having a difficult time in the 80s when the Pope reiterated that the death penalty had no place in a "culture of life." He became, after a while, reluctantly anti-death penalty, but his heart's not really in it.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2007


I remember going to Catholic elementary school in the 80s and even then they were all about environmentalism.
posted by empath at 10:46 AM on September 22, 2007


What, are you telling me the Catholics are a bunch of hippies now?
posted by Talanvor at 10:54 AM on September 22, 2007


Considering the fact that having children is the single most polluting thing you can do, I wonder how this is going to impact their stance on birth control.
posted by mullingitover at 11:03 AM on September 22, 2007


American Catholics who also identify themselves as American conservatives will deal with this cognitive dissonance

That was my first thought as well. Perhaps the Pope's recognition of global warming will be enough to convince those unwilling or unable to deal with the scientific process and its ambiguities.

Talanvor's yes correct, the worlds leading scientists are "hippies".
posted by stbalbach at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2007


As others have said, until the Vatican supports efforts to make birth control and women's sexual education universal in the developing world, this isn't going to make much of a difference. Furthermore, claiming to be carbon neutral by buying offsets is often compared to buying indulgences. I can see why it would come so naturally to the Church.

Of course, this isn't saying that the Vatican isn't sincere about wanting to do something about climate change, just that it isn't likely that they will be doing anything about it. Wasn't it just last week that they announced a new Vatican airline? That's real compatible with being carbon neutral.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:28 AM on September 22, 2007


I get all hot and steamy in churches. Perhaps they'd like to use me as a fuel source........no!?
posted by doctorschlock at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2007


The whole "carbon neutral" movement is largely corporate PR, and we all know it -- you can buy little carbon offsets for your plane trips on Expedia.

Explain how carbon offsets work for me. I thought you were funding environmental projects. Didn't realize they were simply Indulgences. No wonder that stinky evil cult is involved!

It will be interesting to see how the huge number of American Catholics who also identify themselves as American conservatives will deal with this cognitive dissonance

Yes, especially those hard-core right wing states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Being against abortion doesn't mean Catholics are conservatives. There's certainly been an uptick in the percentage of conservatives among US Catholics, but that's probably a function of age, at least among white Catholics in the US. Or maybe you meant Hispanics. They're all Fox News viewers as well.

I am shocked, shocked this thread is more about Metafilter member's hobbyhorse objections to the Catholic Church than it is about the effect of this particular effort.
posted by yerfatma at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2007 [7 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, if the Pope's address ends up having an effect on climate change, I think I'll find it hard to care too much about the motivation behind it.

As a general concern, I do worry about the ends justifying the means, but an address seems pretty harmless. More power (or less?) to him.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2007


The Catholic Church is traditionally not seen as a progressive institution...

Except for all that "love your brother," "protect the poor" and "war is evil" stuff that they've been preaching off and on for, um, 2000 years (depending on how you count).
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:02 PM on September 22, 2007


They've, um, had a few wars and inquisitions and stuff in that time, mind.
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2007


I am shocked, shocked this thread is more about Metafilter member's hobbyhorse objections to the Catholic Church than it is about the effect of this particular effort.

You mean the objections many of us have to policies on sexual health and morality that have lead directly to suffering in the developing world that rivals the Holocaust for vitcims? Yeah, that's just us Mefi angry atheists railing against sincere religious values we don't care to understand, right?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:06 PM on September 22, 2007


Plus the Popes a nazi.
posted by Artw at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2007


See, I went out and got me one of those fancy new brains that can hold two ideas without exploding. So now I can be happy with the Church's environmental politics and angry about their sexual politics.

Best investment I've made in years. Y'all ought to look into one.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:17 PM on September 22, 2007 [10 favorites]


"I am shocked, shocked..."

Yeah yeah, course you are.

Powerful Religion Baby's comment does not seem to be that of a mocking outsider laughing at Catholics, but rather of someone within the Catholic community (if not the church) interested in the effect that the Pope's stance will have.

To put it another way: "Oh, blow it out your ass, Howard".
posted by howfar at 12:21 PM on September 22, 2007


A Nazi? Wikipedia article says:
Following his fourteenth birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was enrolled in the Hitler Youth — membership being legally required after December 1939[4] — but was an unenthusiastic member and refused to attend meetings[5]. His father was a bitter enemy of Nazism, believing it conflicted with the Catholic faith. In 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was killed by the Nazi regime in its campaign of eugenics. In 1943 while still in seminary, he was drafted at age 16 into the German anti-aircraft corps. Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness precluded him from the usual rigours of military duty. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family's home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established their headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of the War in summer 1945. He reentered the seminary, along with his brother Georg, in November of that year.
posted by Cranberry at 12:24 PM on September 22, 2007


...Darth Benedict XVI about something.

Benedict XVI: A New Pope?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:34 PM on September 22, 2007


this thread is more about Metafilter member's hobbyhorse objections to the Catholic Church

Yeah, some jerk's always putting down the pope.
posted by pracowity at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2007


"Oh, blow it out your ass, Howard"

There's the reasoned discourse I was hoping for.
posted by yerfatma at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks, howfar. yerfatma, this is hardly a hobbyhorse for me--I grew up Catholic, and my entire family practices the faith. My father happens to be one of these guys; in fact, he's currently studying the Latin Mass so that he can start rocking our worlds pre-Vatican II style again. My "Catholic insider credentials" are not in question here.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2007


Hey, what do you expect? The Catholic church is an agent of intolerance and corruption in American life (if not elsewhere). Pardon some of us for being cynical about their fine intentions. They preach plenty. Practice is another question.

Sorry to be so dour about carbon offsets. I guess every little bit helps, but it's like spitting into the wind of climate change. You can't "offset" without alternatives or conservation, and while I realize the idea of offsets is to incentivize the development of alternatives and the practice of conservation, I'm not a big fan of the view that market forces will change fundamental human behaviors in time or in sufficient degree to avert utter catastrophe.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:09 PM on September 22, 2007


See, I went out and got me one of those fancy new brains that can hold two ideas without exploding. So now I can be happy with the Church's environmental politics and angry about their sexual politics.

Sure, it's nice that the Pope has decided something has to be done about global warming. If the Vatican truly becomes carbon neutral, that really is a positive step forward, and they deserve to be commended for making the effort. If they just buy offsets, as I strongly suspect they will, that is simply paying for the privilege of passing the buck. Sure, it's somewhat better than passing the buck and not paying, but it still fails to address the root of the problem, because the Vatican is not actually eliminating their net carbon contributions, just paying someone enough to putatively reduce their emissions enough to compensate.

It's easy to see why this isn't a real solution. It can only go so far, and what can be accomplished through offsets is nowhere near what actually needs to be done. Of course, this assumes offsets on the whole do indeed reduce emissions, which I think is still very much an open question.

Finally, we come to the elephant in the room. Leaving aside the millions of needless AIDS deaths that have resulted from policies of the Church, overpopulation is one of the key factors driving virtually every modern environmental problem, especially climate change. Until the Vatican accepts that there is a moral imperative for crowded developing nations to promote family planning as a means of population control, the Church will be doing far more harm than good for the environment, regardless of any positive efforts they engage in. This is why I'm not terribly excited about the Pope's latest initiative, not because of any cognitive dissonance, as you so glibly suggested.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:27 PM on September 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


You mean the objections many of us have to policies on sexual health and morality that have lead directly to suffering in the developing world that rivals the Holocaust for vitcims?

Oh, right, stupid doctrine which proscribes birth control is just like murdering millions of people. Of course the backwards inhabitants of the developing world have no choice but to obey their pointy-hatted puppetmaster and constantly fuck sans condoms so they can squeeze out tons of babies who will someday rob us of our mealy-meal. A fate worse than warming!?!
posted by generalist at 1:31 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was more refering to the Church's abhorrent persistence in telling the developing world that condoms are immoral and even spreading the vicious lie that they are a conspiracy to spread HIV. I never said it is the exact moral equivalent, but a decent case can be made that it is killing people in commensurate numbers.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:09 PM on September 22, 2007


Oh, right, stupid doctrine which proscribes birth control is just like murdering millions of people.

Yep, pretty much.
posted by Malor at 2:16 PM on September 22, 2007


Catholic Church tries to stop second global flood; says "We didn't mind the first time, but this time, we're the evil ones."
posted by tehloki at 2:20 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


To put it another way: how many sub-saharan Africans have died from AIDS because instead of Church policy? The Vatican could have accepted that AIDS was a serious threat, and that their current birth control policies would lead to undue suffering and harm. They could have helped control the spread of the diesease. Instead, they chose to disseminate lies about the nature of AIDS and the effectiveness of condoms. They chose to promote the view that condoms are inherently evil. The continue this today all over places that are the worst hit by the AIDS epidemic. How many lives has this claimed? We can only speculate, but it doesn't to take much imagination to see that this number could easily reach into the millions today, and tens of millions in the near future. How is the Holocaust not a fair comparison for numbers of victicms?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:22 PM on September 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


the Church is a very complicated institution and, say what you want about them (I do, too) they're in business since about 1700-1800 years ago. it means they're good, because they've survived everything, unlike every other institution that's as old as the Church.

they're also way too smart to paint themselves into an apocalyptic corner the way the dumber, cruder Evangelicals have been doing, especially in America. you won't see them preach easy-to-ridicule shit like the young earth theories, dinosaurs in the Bible, etc , because they've been carefully checking out Darwin since the late 1940s -- stuff like that allows you to make a killing (ie, to gain a lot of acolytes) in the short term, but apocalyptic cults have been always short-lived in human history, the Church knows this so well. just read how Paul himself tried to steer his flock away from the apocalyptic mojo of the historical Jesus, and how Paul's followers have been careful to steer away from the idea that Jesus was about to come back in a matter of months, the way all of his followers who had actually met him thought he would.

the moment they shifted the goalposts from "Jesus is coming back on earth in a matter of days and we'll have the Kingdom of God here and now" to "do not sin, live a life of faith and try to gain access to the presence of God in the afterlife; after that, we'll all resurrect in the end, eventually. no rush".

most of the stuff this Pope has been preaching is cannily, impressively anti-modern; but don't underestimate his intelligence, you won't find him saying that global warming is an invention of Al Gore and his communist friends the way, again, other dumber and much less historically successful sects do nowadays. also, being pro-global warming positions very smartly the Church in an anti-freemarket-savagery place that's very very good for them -- you attack greed and modernity (two birds with a stone) and you also position yourself on the side of good solid science. it's win-win.

these guys are good. my bet is they'll be there when most of the nations we know now will have become something else (what, I fear to imagine)


John Paul 2 sent out the "culture of life" message in the 80's, and it came right out of Bush's mouth in the 00's

do you mean the way Bush adopted JP2's views on the death penalty, ie that the death penalty is barbaric? and that's why he blocked all executions in Texas and he's been advocating the repeal of the death penalty in every state that carries it?

or the way Bush accepted JP2's pacifist views and declined to attack Iraq, just as the Pope requested?
posted by matteo at 2:35 PM on September 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


(to learn more on the Church and evolution just google "humani generis", the relevant 1950 encyclical, a speech by JP2 in the mid 1990s to the pontifical academy of sciences, and even Ratzinger has been, if much more lamely, endorsing some form of evolution of biological life. the trick is of course to argue that evolution has been God's tool to create human beings as we know them)
posted by matteo at 2:39 PM on September 22, 2007


the Church is a very complicated institution and, say what you want about them (I do, too) they're in business since about 1700-1800 years ago. it means they're good, because they've survived everything, unlike every other institution that's as old as the Church.

Longevity of existence has nothing to do with being 'good'. Longevity is just longevity. If you argue that only the force of 'good' kept them going so long, you're not looking at the facts.

The Inquisition alone disproves your thesis. It was the most appalling set of crimes in history until the Holocaust: organized, systematic, and unbelievably monstrous. I haven't heard this 'lying about condoms' thing before, but if it's true, they're killing people by the millions. And it's certainly true that they're causing women to be very nearly enslaved because of anti-abortion laws in at least one country. And then we get into the relatively minor crimes, like covering for pedophiles.

Even using your fallacious thinking, if you measure by the results of what they preach, the conclusion would have to be that longevity means evil. The Catholic Church is probably not the greatest evil ever (the Holocaust, Stalin's purges, and the Great Leap Forward were probably all worse), but it sure looks to be in the top 5. And Stalin, Hitler, and Mao are all dead, but the Church just keeps on spreading teachings that are killing people.
posted by Malor at 2:56 PM on September 22, 2007


how many sub-saharan Africans have died from AIDS because instead of Church policy?

I dunno, 5? How many people in sub-Saharan Africa are Catholic and hear from the Pope either directly or via a local priest? And how many of those people have access to condoms? I honestly have no idea, but to lay the blame for African AIDS at the door of the Vatican seems pretty creative.

My father happens to be one of these guys

Mine too, but I just don't see Catholicism being the root of his doubts about global warming. My objection to your comment has nothing to do with street cred, it has everything to do with the arguing from specific to generic. Are there loads of Catholic conservatives awaiting the Pope's opinion before taking a side on global warming? I'd hope Catholic schools raised more incredulous students.

most of the stuff this Pope has been preaching is cannily, impressively anti-modern

I don't doubt it. Even as a CoE Catholic, he seems like a grave disappointment for a Pope. But do you think he reflects the attitudes of Catholic leadership as a whole? You're certainly closer to the Vatican than most of us. The Vatican employs plenty of priests as scientists; I'd hoped they do that to improve their knowledge. But I tend to hope for the best here and expect the worst.
posted by yerfatma at 3:02 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Catholic Church is probably not the greatest evil ever

Boy, a bunch of priests and nuns working and living with the poor across the world just breathed a sigh of relief. Who-hoo! We're #2!

I love the idea of the Church as one monolithic thing. And the idea the ignorance of The Inquisition (run by people in the 1600s, perhaps not the most informed folks in human history) is relevant to modern life.
posted by yerfatma at 3:04 PM on September 22, 2007


Malor: Are you being intentionally dense? Good as in competent, good at sticking around. Not good as in opposite of evil.

I'll never understand people who bitch about what the Church does in Africa. It's like the people who complain about Mother Theresa. So they don't do exactly what YOU would do in the situation, they are still there in the poorest parts of the world trying to help people in their own way while you sit on your ass and bitch about it.

You think Africa needs condoms? Stop crying about it and go to Africa and pass out some condoms.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:27 PM on September 22, 2007


Matteo, I meant that what the Pope says is not as insignificant as pracowity thinks. I made no statement of morality or otherwise. JP2 says x and 20 years down the line Bush says exactly x. Whether Bush believes it, I don't really know and I don't care. But it was an example of significance.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:40 PM on September 22, 2007


how many sub-saharan Africans have died from AIDS because instead of Church policy?

I doubt any sub-saharan Africans have died from AIDS because of church policy, unless you think sub-saharan Africans are incapable of choosing to wear a condom if they wish. I believe the church's stance is, as I said, stupid, but comparing it to willful murder is both racist and absurd. Swaziland and Botswana are both only about five percent catholic and have, respectively, the first and second-highest rates AIDS in the world (as of 2006*). Obviously there's a lot more to it than the not-the-greatest-evil-ever disseminating its sinister agenda.

Derail aside, great that the church is taking this stand.
posted by generalist at 3:45 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking this thread is about Charlotte Church. But she's keeping her mouth shut in global warming. If you want monolithic evil, I think you need look no further than the wobbly, drunken warbler, Church.
posted by howfar at 5:20 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


You guys are giving the Catholic church way too much credit for having any effective control over what people chose to do in Africa. Of course their stance on birth control is ridiculous, but I highly, highly doubt that it has nigh on any impact on the number of people who chose to use condoms.

Kudos to you, Pope Benny.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:49 PM on September 22, 2007


Did you read my link, yerfatma? My father is not just a Catholic, my father is a Catholic priest. I grew up in regular contact with the parishioners of dozens of parishes throughout the Midwest. I attended five different Catholic schools and several Catholic youth groups. I was a cantor and a lector--never a server, however, because my father didn't approve of female servers. The movements of the Vatican were real news in my house; the publication of encyclicals and speeches was real news. I know these people. I am not generalizing my experience of Midwestern Catholics to all Catholics, I am wondering how this pronouncement will specifically affect those Midwestern Catholics I grew up with, whose faith is so deeply intertwined with their conservatism. I fail to see where in my comment I was arguing from specific to generic; it was clear from the outset that I was speaking anecdotally of people I actually know.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 7:00 PM on September 22, 2007


my father is a Catholic priest

Fantastic, but false. Was, not is. I've got one mom as an ex-nun, two aunts and two uncles as ex-priests and two great-grand uncles as dead priests. What do I win? A full case of Irishness, I suppose.
posted by yerfatma at 7:22 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Weird, sorry to speak so quickly. It's sad the Church is so sure that a woman could never be a priest but not so clear on what guys can get away with.
posted by yerfatma at 7:24 PM on September 22, 2007


Wrong. My father is a Roman Catholic priest. Read the link; it gives a good explanation of the loophole. There are about seventy or eighty of these guys currently working in the United States--with the full blessing and dispensation of the Vatican. They are not ex-priests, they are an exception. I've often thought of doing a post about it here, because the phenomenon is so little-known, but I've never gotten around to actually doing it.

On preview: yeah, it is pretty weird. What's more, my father is pretty adamantly orthodox about the doctrine of the priesthood; he doesn't think, for instance, that all priests should be able to marry, and he certainly doesn't think that women should entertain any aspirations toward the office.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 7:30 PM on September 22, 2007


My apologies for hijacking this thread, you guys. yerfatma, it's strange--I've met a small number of people whose mothers were ex-nuns, and a smaller number whose fathers were ex-priests, and most of these people growing up had a far, far more liberal experience of Catholicism than I did, just by virtue of the fact that their parents were ex-. So it's inevitable that we would approach these issues from different angles, according to our own experiences.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 7:42 PM on September 22, 2007


No harm, no foul, though we've wandered far afield of carbon credits.
posted by yerfatma at 7:57 PM on September 22, 2007


yerfatma: I dunno, 5? How many people in sub-Saharan Africa are Catholic and hear from the Pope either directly or via a local priest? And how many of those people have access to condoms? I honestly have no idea, but to lay the blame for African AIDS at the door of the Vatican seems pretty creative.

generalist: I doubt any sub-saharan Africans have died from AIDS because of church policy, unless you think sub-saharan Africans are incapable of choosing to wear a condom if they wish.


Really? You think so? 143 million of Africa's 355 million Christians, and 900 million people are Roman Catholic. I think "about 5" might be lowballing it... ignorant at best.

The HIV rate and the Christian rate in Africa correlate rather neatly, which is a very depressing fact. You'll notice that the HIV rate is also high where local religions dominate, as well; Swaziland and Botswana fall into this category (but their religions are disparate). Understandably, one does not remain a bastion of ancient religion without rejecting the West, and this rejection tends to include the condom. Religion dominates Africa, and it dominates African life; and its teachings directly affect lives. It's painfully obvious that religions that oppose condoms have certainly contributed to, if not caused, the HIV crisis.
posted by mek at 2:51 AM on September 23, 2007


The Catholic Church preaches monogamy. If these people are really listening to the Church they won't be out spreading HIV.

And if they aren't listening to the Church on that why would they be listening about condoms?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:46 AM on September 23, 2007


Have you ever even met a Catholic?
posted by mek at 5:09 AM on September 23, 2007


Have you ever used a rhetorical question to backup your nonsensical logic?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:13 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's completely illogical to pick and choose beliefs. Nobody ever does that! I can't imagine a world where people would manipulate Church doctrine selfishly. And that'd definitely never happen in developing nations that are largely uneducated and paternalistic.

Besides, the Church doesn't just preach against the use of condoms, they actually assert condoms are ineffective at preventing AIDS. How is that not completely damning?
posted by mek at 5:24 AM on September 23, 2007


"Yeah, it's completely illogical to pick and choose beliefs. Nobody ever does that! "

People have free will to choose to not do what the Church tells them.

It doesn't matter what the Church says about condoms, people who follow the churches commands will not need them because they won't be sleeping around. If people aren't doing what the church says, you can't blame the Church for their actions.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:54 AM on September 23, 2007


Ah yes, I suppose you're right; those individuals who don't engage in premarital sex, marry once, and never commit adultery will have no need of condoms. Of course, you're neglecting the fact that those people won't need condoms because they do not exist.
posted by mek at 6:09 AM on September 23, 2007


You really think human beings are so totally devoid of self control? You're just being silly.

A lot of the success stories in reducing AIDS in Africa focus on the ABC method. Abstinence, Being Faithful/Being Tested, and of course condoms.

The Catholics are screwing up by skipping the condoms, people like you are screwing up by just assumuing people are incapable of controlling themselves and throwing condoms at the problem.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:38 AM on September 23, 2007


Since no-one's looking I guess we can ride this (de)-rail...

mek, in my first comment I was responding to two assertions made by various posters:

That catholic dogma, as espoused in Africa, proscribing condom use, is comparable to willful murder of Africans
and
That catholic dogma, as espoused in Africa, proscribing birth control, is (by virtue of all the resultant food-and-water-seeking babies), is comparable to murdering the WORLD!!!

The two assertions are contradictory--if one is true, you don't have to worry about the other--and racist. If only the simple Africans were to be instructed by the right organization, they'd be healthy and happy enough to stay where they are and not devour our precious precious resources.

The map you link (from a missionary organization no less!) doesn't "correlate rather neatly", just colorfully. And as you admit, Swaziland and Botswana are not very christian; to then blame religion in general as a contributor to, if not "cause of" the HIV crisis is not "painfully obvious." The article you link to about Trujillo's statement is, sadly, true, but doesn't even come close to the whole story.

I'm not catholic. I don't have a bone to pick in this fight aside from being irritated that an FPP about something the catholic church is doing right inevitably devolved into posts about how evil and murderous the church is and, implicitly, how sub-Saharan Africans lack agency.
posted by generalist at 12:56 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


To deny the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa is to deny the possibility of an intelligent conversation on the subject. I agree completely that Africans are indepedent and capable of making their own decisions, but to deny the influence of policy and doctrine is to be completely ignorant, especially in a continent where 20% of the population identifies as Catholic. The church is extremely culpable, especially because it is not representative of the peoples it indoctrinates.

If the individual is responsible and independent, then the subject of this FPP is a meaningless token gesture by the church, by your own logic. Your arguments that condom use (to prevent HIV) and birth control (to prevent overpopulation) are contradictory (presumably because HIV kills people while birth control enables lives) are completely absurd, hateful and betray a complete lack of knowledge on the nature of AIDS' pathology.
posted by mek at 11:03 PM on September 23, 2007


"To deny the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Africa is to deny the possibility of an intelligent conversation on the subject"

I accept your apology.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:28 AM on September 24, 2007


they've survived everything, unlike every other institution that's as old as the Church

? matteo. There are plenty of institutions as old as the church. The church survive by adapting their political position in accordance with the current climate, not particularly moral or pious. This may be a 'good' strategy, but it is not an approach that gives them any moral authority. Also, they have alot of money, which has certainly helped them continue their business. Where this money came from is another example of their racket.

I hope that this pronunciation by the pope helps in some way to encourage people to live in environmental harmony with their life-support system. Had they come out with this in the 60s, 70s or 80s I would have considered that they were trying to help. Coming out with this now is just band-wagon jumping.
posted by asok at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2007


The irony in all this arguing is that the fundamental belief that all creation is good is what drives both Catholic environmentalism and Catholic aversion to birth control. To the Church these ideas are in sync. It's all pro-creation.
posted by zennie at 11:16 AM on September 24, 2007


I get all hot and steamy in churches. Perhaps they'd like to use me as a fuel source........no!?

Damnit Father, get back in that confessional. Your shift isn't done yet.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:34 AM on September 24, 2007


The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with the HIV virus deliberately.
posted by mek at 8:59 AM on September 26, 2007


I always refer to Bill Hicks (I paraphrase). If you're pro-life, you're pro ALL fucking life. Does anybody really believe that God gets quite irate?

(Arriving (I was going to say coming, but...) at this discussion late on a recommendation, but I would add my views to those who say that this green assertion made by the Church has to be yet another PR puff.)
posted by Myeral at 7:19 AM on September 27, 2007



I just wrote a post on that very topic a little while ago. Here is what I have to say to the Pope:

Having been raised Catholic, I am no stranger to the notion of penance. I had to laugh when I read the New York Times this morning. On the front page, is an article with the headline ‘Vatican Tree Penance: Forgive Us Our CO2′. In short, the Vatican has agreed to buy carbon credits to offset all of their emissions. While I applaud this commendable effort on the part of the holy institution, I can’t help but question the whole psychology at play.

Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca Alamed, an official at the Council for Culture at the Vatican, told the Catholic News Service that buying credits was like doing penance. “One can emit less CO2 by not using heating and not driving a car, or one can do penance by intervening to offset emissions, in this case by planting trees, ” he said.

Sounds familiar to all the Catholics out there? You may sin, as long as you confess and do penance. Penance, in the context of the climate crisis problem, seems more like a cope-out to me. A way of buying one’s way out of an unavoidable predicament. Sure, I could decide tomorrow that I will not try to change my lifestyle, and buy carbon credits to offset all those dirty emissions of mine. I could, I ‘ve got the money, but in my mind, that is the wrong path to take.

posted by lamarguerite at 9:12 AM on October 1, 2007


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