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Future Patron Saint of Abu Ghraib
October 17, 2007 6:21 AM   Subscribe

On October 28, the Pope will beatify (certify as Blessed) several martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, among them Gabino Olaso Zabala. Only thing is, Zabala is known to have participated in the torture of a fellow priest. Disturbingly, some Catholics are rallying behind a man who never publicly regretted his abusive past.
posted by micketymoc (62 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The pope has all the self-authority he needs to declare Zabala "blessed". What he is missing is the skill to bamboozle me into believing that his blessing makes torture somehow excusable, because an asshole is being blessed. No Sir, apology of a torturer doesn't make torture good so I expect and demand a strong condemnation of Zabala's evil actions by the pope.

But I am not holding my breath.
posted by elpapacito at 6:32 AM on October 17, 2007


"Olaso’s Ratzinger's conduct must be understood in the context of his times."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:32 AM on October 17, 2007


Ratzinger was a Nazi. I don't think there's really much more to say about the Catholic Church at this point.
posted by footnote at 6:36 AM on October 17, 2007


Blazecock Pileon writes "Ratzinger's conduct must be understood in the context of his times."

Meaning that torture is ok _now_ but not _yesterday_ ? A duck was a duck will be a duck.
posted by elpapacito at 6:37 AM on October 17, 2007


footnote, he was a conscript, before he was 18. That's just not a fair criticism of the man.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:51 AM on October 17, 2007


Sorry, bad attempt at satire.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:52 AM on October 17, 2007


Salvation is on the march.
posted by felix betachat at 6:53 AM on October 17, 2007


And Geova is at the door...run !
posted by elpapacito at 6:56 AM on October 17, 2007


Whenever I see the terms "beatify" or "beatification" I always think it means transforming the object into dance or hip-hop music.

Yes, I am dumb.
posted by brain_drain at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


Only thing is, Zabala is known to have participated in the torture of a fellow priest.

And who hasn't?
posted by three blind mice at 7:03 AM on October 17, 2007


Weren't pretty much all clergy murdered for their role in the oppressive social hierarchy, not because they were priests per se? The revolutionary masses' conduct must be understood in the context of its times, since the 1930s were a violent era in the Iberian peninsula.
posted by Abiezer at 7:04 AM on October 17, 2007


Since being outraged by this is contingent on believing that beatification actually matters, I'm gonna have to pass on this one.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:07 AM on October 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Declaring someone a saint, in Catholic theology, has never meant that he or she lived a perfect life, a point that applies with special force to martyrs. Even great sinners, the church believes, are redeemed by shedding their blood for the faith.

In principle, therefore, the discovery that a martyr has skeletons in the closet does nothing to weaken the value of his or her sacrifice. Yet in practice it can raise hard questions -- if not about the sanctity of their death, then the wisdom of publicly applauding their lives. Such may be the case with one of the 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War set for beatification in Rome on Oct. 28: Augustinian Fr. Gabino Olaso Zabala, who was among 98 Augustinian priests and seminarians executed by Republican forces from 1936 to 1939.

In a nutshell, the charge is that during a much earlier period in his life, when he was a young missionary in the Philippines, Olaso was guilty of torture.


the penis of your phony outrage is made exceedingly limp by the reading of your own linkage.
posted by quonsar at 7:28 AM on October 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


Just a reminder: in the Spanish civil war, the Catholic Church sided openly with the fascists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:45 AM on October 17, 2007


While all the ire leveled at the Catholic Church is justified in my opinion, getting outraged over someone with a checkered past being put on the fast track to sainthood is not only silly, it overlooks the one essential thread of the Christian faith: redemption. The fact that someone commited sin - even horrific and inhuman sins - is not a barrier of entry into Heaven, assuming genuine repentance. Also, the church has always erred on the side of martyrdom.


This idea that saints must live their entire lives in a state of Holy Grace is absurd. I mean, one of the greatest Christian (Catholic) Theologians, St. Augustine, led a very unethical life before his conversion.

[NOT PAPIST]
posted by absalom at 8:02 AM on October 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well footnote back in ww2 era Germany you were either A. a nazi or B. rounded up and thrown in a concentration camp. The pope's past is well documented so I really don't have to support myself to you. Was he in the hitler young? Ya, did he get out of it, become a priest, and dedicate his life to God and the church? Ya. As for this guy becoming a blessed person in the eyes of the catholic church, many saints were horrible people in their earlier years... St Paul was a roman soldier and did terrible things, Mary Magdelin was a prostitute, Thomas Aquinas slept around. They led sinful lives but turned it all around and became good people. God (regardless of your religion/beliefs) is all about forgiveness. He will give people to their deaths to ask for forgiveness. Everyone can learn something from them.

I would have to read more about Gabino to see where I stand on the issue but usually if the pope and the church agree that he is good enough to become blessed that is usually enough for me. However in all fairness to see the other side I will look into this further in my free time.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:06 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I showed this post to my Spanish girlfriend to get her reaction. She said, "he's always making new saints, that's his job". Although I see in Wikipedia that beatification is not quite sainthood, nor is it infallible. So, feel free to disagree with the Pope on this one.
posted by creasy boy at 8:11 AM on October 17, 2007


elpacito is apparently of the opinion that some sins are unforgivable. He's entitled to that opinion, but it is not one shared by the Catholic Church.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:15 AM on October 17, 2007


Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

The Beatific Beatdown!
Gabino "Footloose" Zabala vs.
Incredible Shrinking Catholic Credibility!

Don't leave Mom at home, it's fun for the whole family!
Sunday! Sunday!
$5 off with coupon
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:21 AM on October 17, 2007


This is why Pope JP II's decision to remove the role of the Promotor Fidei (Devil's advocate) from the canonization process was dumb. Before 1983, canonization was an adversarial process, with basically one lawyer ("God's advocate") providing evidence for the subject's holiness, and one ("the Devil's advocate") providing evidence against. JP II removed the advocatus diaboli (and also removed the requirement that two separate miracles are needed for the intermediary step of beatification). I'd guess he either did this because he felt there were many saints that weren't being discovered by the Church, or, more cynically, because he thought that creating lots of local heroes would be good for recruitment (or some combinatino of the two). These procedural changes were the reason for the flood of saints during his papacy, not his personal opinion about the holiness of thousands of candidates. Even if you think this is all meaningless baloney, it was a bad move to the extent that it may make some of the world's 1 billion Catholics more likely to consider torture a complicated issue that must be considered on a case-by-case basis, due to canonizations like this.
posted by gsteff at 8:22 AM on October 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Well footnote back in ww2 era Germany you were either A. a nazi or B. rounded up and thrown in a concentration camp.

Any other historical 'footnotes' lurking around your derrière you wish to bring out into the daylight?

In other news, fascist pope beatifies fascist priest, details at 11.
posted by signal at 8:22 AM on October 17, 2007


Ratzinger was a Nazi. I don't think there's really much more to say about the Catholic Church at this point.

I think the only meaningful holdover from the Pope's Nazi days is that he remains a really snappy dresser. Other than that I don't put too much weight on the stupid shit people do when they're 14.
posted by brain cloud at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


This idea that saints must live their entire lives in a state of Holy Grace is absurd. I mean, one of the greatest Christian (Catholic) Theologians, St. Augustine, led a very unethical life before his conversion.

I'm not even goin to go into the stories or show the pictures from Mother Teresa's days as Sister Teresa!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2007


But wait, if this guy was killed by Republican forces, was he siding with the fascists? If he died for the fascist cause, that'd be a much bigger blot on his martyrdom, to my mind.
posted by creasy boy at 8:28 AM on October 17, 2007


I didn't see anything at the links about the particulars of the killings of the beatified priests. As I say, the tales you hear on the left are of priests lynched because they were identifying rebels in their parish to the secret police and the like.
I don't doubt there were atrocities, but I do wonder how many were murdered explicitly because they were Catholics, as opposed to being seen as agents of the state/bourgeoisie/whatever. At the risk of being flippant, could you beatify a good Catholic who got shot dead in a botched mugging as having died for their faith?
You do suspect the Vatican will have looked into that though. I presume it's a more rigorous process than just flicking through the death notices in the Church Times.
posted by Abiezer at 8:29 AM on October 17, 2007


nitpick: Oh, and there is no biblical source that says the prostitute that cleaned Jesus' feet was ALSO Mary Magdaline. That connection was created by a pope in, I think, the 4th or 5th century, to justify the second tier status of women in the Church.
posted by absalom at 8:30 AM on October 17, 2007


Pope Guilty writes 'Just a reminder: in the Spanish civil war, the Catholic Church sided openly with the fascists.'

Eponysterical, obviously.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:33 AM on October 17, 2007


The Beatific Beatdown!
Gabino "Footloose" Zabala vs.
Incredible Shrinking Catholic Credibility!


they're bouncing off the ropes - zabala is trying to put ISCC's head into the turnbuckle - oh no! - ISCC's turned it around! - and now it's time for his favorite move

THE ALTAR BOY BUTTLOCK!!

zabala's a goner
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 AM on October 17, 2007


Wait. Beatification is good and extraordinary rendition is bad? I had them reversed. In fairness, it takes a while to figure that out.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:43 AM on October 17, 2007


But wait, if this guy was killed by Republican forces, was he siding with the fascists? If he died for the fascist cause, that'd be a much bigger blot on his martyrdom, to my mind.

Except he wasn't fighting for the fascist cause nor was he killed by Republican forces. Soviet backed Communist forces (later lumped in with Republicanism) killed him and his whole order after years in prison for refusing to denounce their faith because the Church had sided with the Monarchists and subsequently the Fascists and because the Church was an anti-revolutionary organization.

There's a lot more to the Spanish civil war than Franco vs. Democracy.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:58 AM on October 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Somebody's got to get the priest's entrails out so we can strangle the last king with them.

This is why Pope JP II's decision to remove the role of the Promotor Fidei (Devil's advocate) from the canonization process was dumb.

In JP's defense, the movie really sucked.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:02 AM on October 17, 2007


Aha! So as usual the Republicans are to blame.

There was a priest at my high school who molested a wheelchair-bound student. He was very sorry about it afterwards. Now he's an arch-angel! Good on him.

Now as far as the Nazi pope: There are lots of people who were just trying not to get killed, and so became nominal Nazis. I'm not denouncing those people as evil, but I just wonder if there were not a few candidates for the papacy who had no history of Nazism, because then it would have been mere metaphorical hyperbole to call the pope a Nazi. I could also understand it a little more if he had experienced a miraculous, Saul/Paul - like conversion on the road to Damascus. But no, he just stopped being a Nazi once the Nazis lost.

Fuck the pope.
posted by Mister_A at 9:10 AM on October 17, 2007


Fuck the pope anyway. But honestly, Mr A, the pope's already enough of an asshole just for being the pope in the first place. But to be fair, he was born in 1927; so when he entered school at 6, let's say, he was from that point on subject to Nazi propaganda. So yeah, he joined the Hitler Youth when he was old enough. I really think that's an irrelevant point.
posted by creasy boy at 9:31 AM on October 17, 2007


footnote, he was a conscript, before he was 18. That's just not a fair criticism of the man.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:51 AM on October 17 [+] [!]


Totally agree. It's a criticism of a Church that would chose to make a former Nazi its leader.
posted by footnote at 9:32 AM on October 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


This idea that saints must live their entire lives in a state of Holy Grace is absurd. I mean, one of the greatest Christian (Catholic) Theologians, St. Augustine, led a very unethical life before his conversion.

[NOT PAPIST]
posted by absalom at 11:02 AM on October 17 [2 favorites +] [!]


Redemption is all well and good, but the problem is that there's no evidence at all that this guy atoned for his sins, like Augustine.

This is just another incident in long and ongoing history of the Vatican's association with fascism and repression in Spain and Latin America. See also, Opus Dei; beatification of Jose Maria Escriva; attacks on liberation theology...
posted by footnote at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2007


In related news, Spain seems to be just now starting to investigate what happened in the civil war with their "Law of Historical Memory". But I can't read Spanish so I can't find much information about this.

Also I'm told there was a revolutionary song about beating up the nuns and priests:

"si los curas y monjas supieran, la paliza que les va a dar, volverían a casa gritando: libertad, libertad, libertad"

...something like: if the nuns and priests knew how badly they're gonna get beaten, they'd walk home singing "liberty, liberty, liberty".
posted by creasy boy at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2007


DevilsAdvocate writes "that some sins are unforgivable. He's entitled to that opinion, but it is not one shared by the Catholic Church."

catholic church often doesn't agree with me, I can certainly live with that. Also, the sinner could be forgiveable, but that doesn't make the sin forgettable. So let's reiterate once and again that the guy tortured another human being, let the record be sang as much as the praises.

Alvy Ampersand writes "Since being outraged by this is contingent on believing that beatification actually matters, I'm gonna have to pass on this one."

And I would completely agree with alvy, as giving importante to beatification is actually making beatification important, but


gsteff writes "ven if you think this is all meaningless baloney, it was a bad move to the extent that it may make some of the world's 1 billion Catholics more likely to consider torture a complicated issue that must be considered on a case-by-case basis, due to canonizations like this."

Exactly. It's the moral relativism the actual pope so clearly condems in words, but not in actions, that is troubling. Some people may start believing that the end sometime justifies the means, but it just doesn't.
posted by elpapacito at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2007


I agree with you in a way, creasy boy, about the Nazi thing - but I think that to be pope, you should maybe demonstrate some kind of extraordinary moral character. His appears to be very ordinary. As an ad man, I would have an easier time if the pope had been an awful persecutor who had a change of heart and which change of heart involved some kind of sacrifice; converts make the best zealots and all that. This guy is just a banal sort who went along with, and continues to go along with, the prevailing evils of his day.

His evil is the ponderous and impersonal evil of bureaucracy, not the vicious personal evil that can make a nice story when it turns around.
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 AM on October 17, 2007


God (regardless of your religion/beliefs) is all about forgiveness.

I'm Jewish and our God holds a grudge.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:22 AM on October 17, 2007


i wish he'd smite some fuckers in this thread.
posted by quonsar at 10:39 AM on October 17, 2007


to be pope, you should maybe demonstrate some kind of extraordinary moral character

I suppose if I accepted their whole edifice of premises then I would also expect the pope to be some kind of spectacular man. But I suppose only a bureaucrat makes it to the pinnacle of bureaucracy.

Yes, I agree with you: if this guy, now, can be infallible in judgment, I would expect him not to have been so grossly fallible as a teenager. But how are we supposed to work with the premise of his infallibility? It's a terrible premise.

I heard a story about the old pope that might well be untrue, but it's an instructive story: he of course thought that women should never become priests, and he was considering whether he should say this infallibly. I guess to make something infallible the pope has to wear a hat and go through a ceremony of some sort. And his advisors convinced him not to say it infallibly.

Now, how do you go through this decision-making process? I have opinions and obviously I think that my opinions are true. But how would I decide which of my opinions I should make infallible? The ones I think are especially true? Or the ones that I think will be held to be true for a long time? Because if I think an opinion is true, it shouldn't matter, as far as its truth is concerned, if people will hold it to be true in the future -- it's still true, if true at all. So maybe I would only make those opinions infallible that I think are especially true? What does this mean? Does it mean I should I should be especially certain that something is true before I make it infallible? But of course, after I make it infallible, degrees of certainty no longer matter...so fuck it, shouldn't I make everything I think infallible? Or does this mean I should make nothing infallible, since there are always degrees of certainty?

Thinking with the premises of the church involves you in a warped sort of logic, perhaps comparable to non-Euclidean geometry...sort of like how they talked themselves into a corner where they suddenly had to explain how three things can be distinct and yet indistinct at the same time. I don't buy into it enough to be really concerned about its consequences. Ratzinger is an asshole for being the pope in the first place, his Nazi teenage years are rather forgettable in comparison.
posted by creasy boy at 10:52 AM on October 17, 2007


The Pope does not care what you think. He is Popin' it old school.
posted by LarryC at 11:03 AM on October 17, 2007


i wish he'd smite some fuckers in this thread.

Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:20 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


creasy boy: the cliff's notes version on papal infallibility for your perusal.

To summarize, the pope cannot say "Red Sox are the greatest baseball team of all time, and I'm saying that with my magic papal infallibility, so it's true and God is totally gonna back me up on that, so suck it haters!" (Plus, he'd be wrong!)

The pope can say "The Virgin Mary was so perfect she went straight up to heaven."

You don't have to agree, especially if you aren't Catholic. Infallibility only counts on matters of doctrine and faith and if neither of those two affect you, why worry about the rest?
posted by contessa at 11:20 AM on October 17, 2007


Thanks for the link. Of course I should know more about the subject before I voice my opinion on it. However, I'm not worrying about it; I'm voicing my criticism of a man who has a great lot of power over the world I live in, and the fact that his infallibility is restricted to doctrine and faith doesn't change the weirdness about making things infallilible by ceremony and the decision-making process behind this.
posted by creasy boy at 11:34 AM on October 17, 2007


Btw, that wikipedia link says that infallibility was "defined dogmatically" in 1870; and when you click on "defined dogmatically" it says that a dogmatic definition is infallible.

Not sure what I think about this.
posted by creasy boy at 11:36 AM on October 17, 2007


I think its more important to remember that Ratzinger, when he was a Cardinal, used threat of excommunication to help cover up for pedophile priests than it is to remember that he was a member of the Hitler Youth when he was a kid.

One can argue that he was young, and that it isn't fair to expect 14 year olds to take principled stands when doing so could very well result in death. I'll even agree with that to an extent.

But it was 2001, when he was 74 years old, that he wrote a letter affirming that the Crimine Solicitationies, which mandated absolute secrecy for any suspicion of sexual offence (including rape and pedophilia) among priests was still in effect, and that the penalty for violating the secrecy was excommunication. 74 years old. That isn't a mistake of youth, or inexperience, that's a deliberate choice to protect evil.

So now he's beatifying a torturer and we're acting surprised? What else would you expect from Ratzinger? He's an evil man heading an evil institution that does evil things. Of course he'd want to honor other evil people.

The sooner the majority of Catholics, who I assume to be decent people, wake up to the reality of the Church the better. The Church needs a serious reformation. I'd argue that step one is for all decent minded Catholics to immediately stop tithing until the Church reverses its pro-evil stance.
posted by sotonohito at 12:58 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Other than that I don't put too much weight on the stupid shit people do when they're 14.

Other than the ways in which the stupid shit that people do when they're 14 informs the stupid shit they still do when they're 80.
posted by blucevalo at 1:00 PM on October 17, 2007


@creasy boy, try googling "la ley de la memoria historica", and translate the pages especially this one loads of info. It is really tearing some Spanish villages apart.
posted by Wilder at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2007


(1) Thankfully, this minor issue of torture hasn't gotten in the way of a proper appreciation of the Pope's tacit declaration, unimpeded by any explanation to the contrary, that the fascists were right.

(2) My own perspective is that the pope has just as much authority as any other normal bishop, no more and no less.
posted by koeselitz at 1:14 PM on October 17, 2007


The pope can only speak infallibly from a special chair. Choice of headgear is incromulent to the matter.
posted by Mister_A at 1:57 PM on October 17, 2007


It's just a crazy theory, but I have a strong feeling that a lot of people here and elsewhere who feel it's necessary to trot out Pope/Nazi are people who are happy to have an easy excuse to hate the man and everything he stands for. Hey, you can't get much worse than Nazi, amirite?! And once a Nazi always a Nazi!! And then everything you touch becomes Nazi! Except, you know, not.

Now, I'm not crazy about Ratzinger as Pope. I was truly hoping for someone a way less hardline, a lot more humanitarian, and (hoping against hope here) several degrees more liberal than what we've currently got. Honestly the nicest thing I can say about him is that he's really really old, and hopefully won't have the job for long. Ratzinger as Pope is kind of like Cheney being president, he doesn't care what the big problems in the church are, he's had his agenda for the last 30 to 40 odd years, and being top guy means that's how it's going to go while he's in charge. Sad but true.
posted by brain cloud at 1:59 PM on October 17, 2007


brain cloud I was hoping that maybe the Church wouldn't chose a protector of pedophile rapists as its head. Can't help but notice that you don't address that issue.

Also, face facts: the College of Cardinals chose him because he represents what they stand for. You will not get a Pope like you described, and will never be able to get a Pope like you described, because he will be selecting the new Cardinals and, surprise, they'll elect someone like him yet again.

The Church is a corrupt force of evil, a blight on the planet. Perhaps it can be turned into something other than the vile evil it is today, but that can only happen if Catholics get off their asses and *do* something instead of simply hoping that maybe next time the College of Cardinals won't elect another Ratzinger.
posted by sotonohito at 2:27 PM on October 17, 2007


sotonohito, the main reason why I didn't address the pedophile issue is that this thread is the first time I had ever heard how deeply involved Ratzinger was in covering-up that tragic, disgusting mess. Of course it is indefensible, and I sure hope you weren't expecting me or anybody else to make excuses for that. It is without a doubt a horrible injustice that went on for way way too long, and is a source of a lot of shame and anger for most Catholics whether they were directly touched by it or not.

As for the College of Cardinals, you make a salient point which I think is being glossed over in the rest of your message. The Cardinals choose the Pope. The Pope chooses more Cardinals. Repeat indefinitely. For better or for worse this is how the Bishop of Rome is selected. You'll not hear from me that it's the perfect system, and it definitely does and has lead to insular, institutional thinking with not a lot of room for mavericks. So, what is it, exactly, that you expect a billion rank and file Catholics to do? This isn't like a democracy, where one can write to their Congressman. Are you suggesting another Reformation? I'll take care to note that the previous one didn't dismantle the institution.

The Church is a corrupt force of evil, a blight on the planet.

I strongly and passionately disagree with this statement, and I hope you know how paranoid and hysterical it comes across. However, I do thank you for outing yourself as having an axe to grind, so I can weigh it against any further assertions that you make on this topic. I have no idea what the origins are of this opinion of yours (one, I realize, is shared by many people). You've voiced it in other threads besides this one. In fact, I notice that you rarely pass up the opportunity to do so, and are sometimes careless with your facts when it suits your arguments. Or you say statements such as the one above, which you present as a complete and obvious truth, and expect them to stand unchecked.
posted by brain cloud at 2:58 PM on October 17, 2007


brain cloud Individual Catholics are just like everyone else, they've got good people, bad people and a huge majority of just-trying-to-get-along people.

But the Church, as an institution, is actively making life worse for billions including, or perhaps especially, own members.

As evidenced by the response of the Church to the rapists priests, thaRE SAVINGSt is a coverup enabled with spiritual blackmail (ie: threats of excommunication), an assault on the victims and protection for the perpetrators, the Church places its own prestige and position above the wellbeing of its most vulnerable members. How can this be classed as anything *OTHER* than evil on an institutional level, especially since the Church installed one of the key players in the coverup as Pope?

As evidenced by the stance of the Church on contraception it is evident that the Church seeks a) to outbreed the competition, and b) to economically cripple its own members. All the while building multimillion, and occasionally multibillion, dollar edifices and routing huge sums to the Vatican. This also appears to be evil on an institutional level, and is part of the "blight on the planet" bit.

As evidenced by its refusal to censure, or take any action, against Church officials spreading lies about AIDS. Lies which have been proven to help spread AIDS, cause misery, and result in the torture and execution of the very people trying to stop the spread of AIDS. Especially in light of the strict heiarchy within the Church and the demonstrated ability of the Church to control the clergy in the case of the rapist priests, it is evident that the Church, as an institution, has given its tacit approval to those lies, and by extension the evil that those lies encourage. This strikes me as ample reason to call the Church a blight on the planet.

I made one suggestion above: that good minded Catholics should immediately stop tithing and let the Church know that they have stopped and why they've stopped. As a non-Catholic [1] I don't much care if the ultimate result is the end of the Roman Catholic Church, or an ecliastical revolt that forces the necessary changes on the institution. Self evidently another Reformation, of the "disaffected members leaving and forming their own Church" variety won't solve the problem with the RCC.

I do indeed have an axe to grind, and I think that's hardly a bad thing.

Explain, since you disagree with my conclusions, a) what good things you think the Church, as an institution not as individual Catholics of good will, has done, and b) why you think these good things somehow make up for the absolute evil the Church, as an institution not merely as individual Catholics of bad will, has comitted?

[1] And indeed a non-religionist.
posted by sotonohito at 4:32 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your use of "Pope" and "Church" interchangeably is some nice rhetorical slight of hand.
posted by absalom at 5:08 PM on October 17, 2007


absalom Would you care to elaborate on your comment? I ask because I'm honestly not seeing any slight of hand involved.

In my most recent post I made exactly one reference to Ratzinger, the rest was on the subject of the hiearchy as a whole, and indeed so too was the issue of the pedophile priests, I mentioned Ratzinger specifically there because he's the biggest name in the case (or at least he is now due to his elevation to Pope), but he was hardly alone in defending the rapists rather than their victims.
posted by sotonohito at 5:45 PM on October 17, 2007


The church is the entire community of believers.
The pope is the leader of the community of believers.
posted by absalom at 7:20 PM on October 17, 2007


The church is the entire community of believers.

Rhetorically, sure. But the way it's being used here is as the institution of the church: the pope and his subordinates.
Pretending that it's being used to mean "the entire community of believers" is disingenuous.
posted by signal at 7:34 PM on October 17, 2007


I find it interesting, sotonohito, that you and I can have so many of the same criticisms of the Catholic church and yet reach such completely different conclusions. Actually, I'm suprised your list is so short. I probably could have made a list five times as long. Either you were showing restraint, or you're basing your conclusions only on things that have made the news in the last 10 or so years.

For the sake of making clear everything below, I'm not going to take the fuzzy line of "the church = the people in it." Well, let me back up. In theory and in spirit, that's true, but the Catholic church is a top-down organization all the way. So when I say the church, I mean the people making decisions in it and for it, not the people who go along or ignore the hierarchy as they see fit.

First, what's taken me so long to follow up is that I was reading the document you cited above, the Crimine Solicitationies. And I think the important thing to interject about this document is that it is purely an ecclesiastical / institutional document, the SOP of what to do in cases of improper solicitation involving a priest. I was specifically looking in it for any mention of the criminal repercussions (in the statutory sense) of this type of abuse, which is generically referred to, outside of the document, as sex abuse, but is only defined within it as various improper acts that are implied or demanded in the confessional setting. In the sacramental & doctrinal sense, confession is always "secret," and special attention is paid to abuse of the trust between penitent / confessor because there is supposed to be a sacred agreement of trust between the two. It's especially grievous for a priest to use that setting to manipulate the other person into doing acts that are comprimising in any sense. This is essentially what the document is acknowledging: this transgression is especially bad, and here's what to do about it on an ecclesiastic level.

Anyway -- it deals strictly with the internal judicial system of the church, no mention made of turning the offender over to the proper authorities or whatever if they are found guilty of what they are being accused. Not making excuses, but there may be a few reasons for this. Those that come immediately to mind are: this document covers all priests, everywhere. Laws everywhere are different, and while a priest may have broken a sacred trust or law of the church, they may not have necessarily violated a law of the land, so why bring that into it? Also, it's an internal document. Could be, the writers are interested only in how this would shake down on a parish or dioscese level. Either one would be extraordinarily short-sighted, and on a very basic level a "sin of omission." But in reading it, and having a basic understanding of the confessional, the secrecy aspect is not nearly as conspiratorial as you and others are making it out to be. It never says that, upon threat of excommunication, an accuser could not go outside the church tribunal or whatever and make a criminal complaint against the priest. It clearly states that the secrecy is restricted to everybody involved with carrying out the tribunal, and to read it any other way is incorrect. Now -- taking that dimension of the document at a later date when bad shit is hitting the fan, applying it incorrectly and using ecclesiastic power to shut people up and hide abusers, yes, that's just fucking wrong. Once again, you'll get no disagreement from me there; but the original document is not what I'd call evil. Bureacratic, definitely, but hardly the smoking gun of the whole sex abuse horribleness.

I have no idea what lies the Church or people who represent it are telling about AIDS. Care to share a few? I do know, and have strenuous disagreement with, the Church's position against the use of condoms/barrier methods that would help prevent the spread of the disease especially in third world countries where the rate of infection is obscenely high. In fact I find it depressingly ironic that an institution which claims to promote a culture of life could be so uncaring in this regard. For the same reason, I find fault with the church's stance against stem cell research, though that in itself has less impact because numerous western nations are persuing it anyway, whatever the Pope thinks about it.

On to the next topic, which segues nicely with the previous - contraception. I looked far and wide for any indication that Catholics, moreso than any other group, are breeding into oblivion, and I honestly could not find a darn thing. I googled and googled. If anything "the competition" is beating the Catholics at their own game. Catholics, as a proportion of the world population, have been holding pretty steady for decades. Surely if followers as a whole were taking note of their duty to prosper and multiply, that balance would have shifted noticeably in these modern times, but it hasn't. Signs that Catholics in general are going broke with the burden of too many mouths to feed are also in very very short supply. To me, the problem with the prohibition against contraception isn't a population problem (because it clearly is not that), but the side affect it has in removing it as a viable way to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Nevermind the explicit directive that all sex be procreative.

I think you also grossly overestimate how much of the collection plate is turned straight over -- or even eventually over -- to the Vatican. Every parish is self-supporting. The parishoners contribute to buy the buildings, pay the light bill, put the priests up in some sort of living accomodation, support a school if there is one associated with it, and charities that the parishoners support. Really, not a lot of dollars head toward Rome. There might be a special collection a couple of times a year for the Bishop, which is on top of the normal collection. Is it too obvious to point out that, as a two-thousand year old institution, the Church has some dough? Really, really think about that. That's two millenia worth of real estate, fancy gold things, who knows what kinds of investments. Don't kid yourself thinking otherwise. If the church has a lot of wealth, it is because (A) it is really damn old and for quite a bit of that time was a major force in the world, and (B) 20% of the people on the planet belong, in some way or another, to it. For this reason alone, the whole suggestion for Catholics to stop tithing (though, honestly, no Catholic calls it that, but we know what you mean), is rather silly. All it would really do is shut down parishes where, on the local level more often than not, the Church is able to do very good works for people who need it. It would not harm the hierarchy one iota.

Lastly, you ask me to name what good the church, as an institution, has done, and how on the balance this is supposed to outweigh what you term the "absolute evil" of the entire institution. Honestly, if you're predisposed to stack the deck like that, I doubt if it is even necessary that I try to take you up on the challenge, because no matter what I come up with will simply not be sufficient, from your point of view, to tip the scale. The fact is, you could probably take any institution half as old, a quarter as complicated and a tenth as influential, and find about equal number of pluses and minuses. No different with the Catholic church. Without a doubt there has been some bad (all the above 20th-century ills are but a short list, but hey, it's never a thread about the Catholic church until somebody mentions the Inquisition). There has also been a tremendous amount of good, not just for the benefit of the institution but for society as a whole: the emphasis on education and scholarship - the foundation upon which western learning is built - which goes wayyy back, the idea of a culture of life which generally speaking is a good thing I think, the doctrinal emphasis on the importance of good works in addition to mere faith which is the major separating point of Catholic vs. Protestant dogma, and lastly being an institution which due to age and experience can hopefully look back upon the less glorious chapters of its past and not make the same mistakes over again.

I don't know, sonohito. If you're still reading this I applaud you just for hanging in there. But I'm not going to kid myself that it made one smidgen of difference, and so on this topic at least you and I will probably have to disagree forever.
posted by brain cloud at 10:02 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Brain cloud wins metafilter! Yeah! (IANAC although I grew up in the Church)
(And sonohito, catholics do not tithe to the Church where I came from, and in no Catholic country I lived in, although in Germany one could choose to send a % of your income to a church if you declared yourself reigious on your tax forms)
posted by Wilder at 2:45 AM on October 18, 2007


absalom I used "Church" in the sense of "the ecleistical hiearchy", not in the sense of "all the Catholics on the planet", as you know full well, and as was emphisized by my repeated use of "the Church as an institution", and my comment explicitly drawing a distinction between the Catholic laity and the Church. Stop being a disingenuous twit and either shut up or address my actual points.

brain cloud Re: AIDS and lies. The most recent is Archbishop Chimoio, of Africa of course, spreading the lie that condoms are the cause of AIDS, there was a post on it here on the blue a while back.

And yes, I was exhibiting restraint in my list, limiting myself mostly to the most recent and egregious examples of evil from the Church.

As for money and the Vatican, you are apparently not as educated on Church history as you might otherwise be. In the early 20th century the Vatican was largely bankrupt, and the diocese in Chicago took out a mortgage on its property in order to bail out Rome. Today the Vatican is doing fairly well, economically speaking, or at least it says it is. Since the Church keeps its finances a secret neither you, nor I, can actually say how much money it has, or how much money is going to the Vatican.

We do know, as a result of a few offhand comments from Agnes Bojaxhiu, that one of the most famous (or infamous if you will) Catholic "charities", the Missionaries of Charity, sent large amounts of money that was donated to that specific group with the intent of being spent on the poor back to the Vatican. Where, presumably, it was used to buy solid gold toilets or something else that had diddily to do with what the doners intended their money to go to.

I find it telling that you have to reach back centuries to find anything to praise the Church for. I won't argue that the Church, back in the 14th century, contrubuted to the development of science (though that was hardly consistent, remember Galileo?)

Re: Contraception. I'm perfectly aware that many Catholics ignore the Vatican on this subject, one of my friends is a Catholic gynocologist who not only prescribes contraception, but also performs hysterectomies. Mexico, a largely Catholic state, has a better program of sex education than the US does.

This doesn't change the fact that where the Church can use its influence to outlaw or otherwise limit the use of contraception it does so (see the Philippines for an example), nor the fact that in the areas where it can't achieve that victory it does its utmost to tell children that contraception is evil, which does have an effect. Contraceptive use during first sexual contact is lower among Catholics than among non-Catholics, one reason is that there is a feeling that since premarital sex is a sin, and contraception is a sin, if they used a condom they'd be sinning twice....

You are correct, in a sense, that regardless of what "good works" you could come up with I'd tend to dismiss them. From my POV it doesn't matter if the Church also caused world peace and fed every hungry person on the planet, that won't make up for being an institution dedicated to protecting people who rape children, or being involved in deliberately increasing the spread of AIDS.

Its a bit like saying, "well, yeah, Bob is a hitman and murders people for pay, but he contributes money to the local rape crisis center, so he isn't really evil, is he?" There are some things that are simply so bad that they can't be made up for. I put protecting people who rape children into that category. The question is, why don't you?

Still, I'm inclined to suspect that you didn't list anything more recent than the 14th century because you're quite well aware that the modern Church doesn't really do very much but leech money from the poor, build gold plated Cathedrals while its parishoners starve, rape little children, and kill people with AIDS. Yeah, it runs a few schools, which aren't free, big whoop.

Forgive me for using the word "thithe" which apparently has some weird special meaning to Catholics. Sub "give money to the Church" for every instance of "thithe" if it'll make you feel better.

And as for your comment, I'm perfectly aware that the first casualty of Catholics refusing to give money to the Church would be their local diocese. But, as you pointed out earlier, what other method do they have at their disposal which can be used to force change? Money is the only thing individual Catholics of good will can use to end the evil of the Church.
posted by sotonohito at 3:23 AM on October 18, 2007


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