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Isn't the Schism Overdue?
September 16, 2009 6:24 AM   Subscribe

How do you reward a Catholic sister for nearly 40 years of service to the cause of peace and justice? If you’re the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, you tell her to shut up.

Sr. Louise Akers said she held a “very cordial” private meeting with Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk on Aug. 10 in which he asked her to retract her support for women’s ordination. “It’s not that I won’t do it — I can’t do it,” Akers said. “It would be a lie.”

Sister Louise has the support of over 63% of U.S. Catholics who support women's ordination.


Catholic bloggers are “…. wondering and thinking in my own conscience that there has to be a better way. In the long run I believe an action like this does far more harm than it does good.”


Or not: “It's also distressing that so many women who came of age while feminism was expanding, can't understand that equality does not necessarily mean that everyone should be exactly the same. God created us differently and his plans for us are different.”


And commenters: "Sister Louise should rejoice. In another age, they would have burned her at the stake."


Carol Egner, a Cincinnati gynecologist and volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes parish,
wrote a letter to the editor in support of Sr. Louise. When her pastor read the letter, he asked her to write another that either renounced her position or made clear that she “yields to the wisdom of the church.” When she refused, she was told she could no longer teach her Old Testament class for sixth-graders at her parish.


"The letter wasn't as much about women being priests as Sister Louise being silenced," says Egner, a lifelong Catholic. "Would I like to see women have an equal role in the church? I would. But now I think the issue is about being able to discuss it."
posted by tizzie (186 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
*waits for Mel Gibson to weigh-in*
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The stifling of ideas and dialogue make me very very sad for the church in which I was raised. Ordain women, or don't, I understand that the bureaucracy of the church turns slowly, but this is a really stupid way to handle things. Come to think of it, the church has a history of handling things in ways that just make everything worse. For centuries. So sad and frustrating.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:28 AM on September 16, 2009


So tizzie, what's your opinion of this situation?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Problem solved!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:31 AM on September 16, 2009 [14 favorites]


Not sure if that's a sincere question, Brandon Blatcher, but I'll answer it anyway. I was also raised as a Catholic, during the Vatican 2 era. I had cousins who were involved in very left-leaning, activist movements - Catholic Workers and Maryknolls. I kept hoping that the US Church would acknowledge the direction it was clearly headed in, and open up to women priests, etc. Instead, now, I go to mass once a year with my mother and I hear the juvenile "Baby Jesus" stories, and it makes me sad. What a waste. And as a woman, to hear a Church leader say "Renounce your ideas or go," well, that's why I'm gone.
posted by tizzie at 6:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [16 favorites]


Catholics act Catholic.
posted by ericost at 6:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


According to the links, she says that she was asked to recant when she said she supported ordaining women, and she felt that she couldn't recant because she would be lying if she retracted her statement.

Frankly, I think you need more women like her in the church, not less.

But then, I think priests should be able to marry, too.
posted by misha at 6:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Being raised Catholic, and having the joy of dealing with a few of the uncomfortable Catholic scenarios such as priests ushered in and out of the parish under unusual circumstances, strange financial dealings, etc, I've been thinking that these guys really have it all figured out.

The chain of command that they have set up is the ultimate blame shifting mechanism. Look at this scenario, for instance. The outgoing bishop is does his best to muzzle a nun, and he can always shift the blame up to the archbishop, who can shift the blame up to the cardinal who can shift the blame up to the Pope. They are all just following orders, right?

Of course the Pope can't shift the blame up any further, but that's fine because we replace him every dozen or so years. All those priests kiddy-diddling? That was on JP2's watch. Can't hold us responsible for that.

As such, every dozen or so years, the Catholic church gets to write off the failures, abuses and mistakes of the past, the priests, bishops and lower clergy get shuffled around and all those problems go away. Any new ones that arise will just be wiped away when Benny16 kicks off.

Now, how does this relate to the situation the post discusses? Simple. No one in the church ever seems to think that they will be held responsible for their actions, because they never will. The system is built to allow them to oppress, abuse and then shuffle away in the night with the full power and authority of the Pope and his cronies to cover up those tracks. A new priest/bishop/archbishop comes in and everyone thinks that it will be better this time. It never will, but hope springs eternal.

So, rail all you want about condoms in Africa, repression of women in the clergy, abuse of children, financial misdeeds and the like. The blame gets shifted around, the anger eventually fades, then a new guy comes in and all is well again. Well, until the next time.

Sorry if this is ranty, but these jackasses still have their claws in my Mom. Thankfully, Dad, my Sister and I are all free of it. I hope she'll come around.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2009 [20 favorites]


If your religion were a government, what kind of government would it be? Turns out most of them are...
posted by eccnineten at 6:45 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one in the church ever seems to think that they will be held responsible for their actions, because they never will.

Boy, that sure reminds me of something, but I just can't put my finger on what...
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


My mother was raised Catholic. Now she's an Episcopal priest and, if I may say so, a damn good one (despite her embarrassing sermons about the time I asked Santa for a toothbrush).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Not so sure why this is so different, of great interest, startling. In fact true believers in all the major religions have always denigrated women and viewed them as second class--orthodox Jews, many or most Protestant branches, Muslims etc.
posted by Postroad at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


females can't be clerics she she should probably switch classes to a mage or druid or somethin
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:47 AM on September 16, 2009 [94 favorites]


Isn't belief in and conformation to the church hierarchy sort of a central tenet of Catholicism? I mean, if you don't obey the Pope, what's the point in being a Catholic?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:48 AM on September 16, 2009 [17 favorites]


Look, women can get ordained, and priests can get married, as soon as everyone else stops using contraception.
posted by Elmore at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2009


The Catholic Church is such a twisted and often sad thing, and the way they treat nuns is shocking. My great-aunt is a Maryknoll nun, and is one of the most impressive women I've ever met-- she's lived in sub-Saharan Africa for about 50 years running various refugee camps, is a fervent supporter of condom usage, and celebrated rowdily when Obama won the election. She drinks and doesn't wear a habit. She tried to retire a few years ago, couldn't stand how boring New York was, and hopped on a plane back to Tanzania. She's saved more lives than I can imagine, and she'll be doing this until she dies. I'm not a Christian, but I'm constantly impressed by my aunt's devotion to the best, most pure principles of the religion-- helping the poor, avoiding vanity, refusing to judge others, acting out of love and not hate or fear.


And the Church hierarchy has the gall to try to censure these women.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:51 AM on September 16, 2009 [32 favorites]


despite her embarrassing sermons about the time I asked Santa for a toothbrush

You can't just toss that off as an aside. Details please.
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:54 AM on September 16, 2009


I kept looking for the quote where someone actually says the words "shut up" to her... I couldn't find it. Without that, as said upstream, this isn't really news or surprising, just the way it's always been and the way it is (and, probably, the way it will continue to be in the future).
posted by HuronBob at 6:55 AM on September 16, 2009


Isn't belief in and conformation to the church hierarchy sort of a central tenet of Catholicism? I mean, if you don't obey the Pope, what's the point in being a Catholic?

You know, MrMoonPie, that's a good point, and I think it's worth addressing. Many Catholics I know do not support several of the church's tenets, but were raised in the faith (as the religion requires their parents to do), and so are sort of "fathered in".

Now, I married a Catholic, and we had to have a special dispensation because I honestly felt I could not join his church, as I had serious differences with some of its tenets.

But, you know, so did he. We agreed, but whereas I thought joining the Church made me a hypocrite, he was never given that choice of joining or not joining. His parents had raised him as a Catholic, and he just went along, going to church and all the rest, but privately disagreeing on issues like birth control, a woman's right to choose, etc.

And I don't think he's different from a lot of Catholics, at least here in the US.

I do have to say, though, that I found, when I traveled internationally, that in other countries (especially, naturally, Italy), Americans are seen as very rebellious, and not "true Catholics" because of our perceived liberalism. We don't go around excommunicating people for openly disagreeing with the Church here (though apparently we do silence them whenever possible).
posted by misha at 6:57 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thank you, oinopaponton. I was trying to remember where I'd seen that article, and I drew a blank. The speculation that this crackdown comes in advance of the "Aposotolic Visitation" is definitely a relevant aspect of the story.
posted by tizzie at 6:58 AM on September 16, 2009


The "shut up" quote comes from the lede in the Dayton newspaper story that I linked, Huron Bob.
posted by tizzie at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2009


When I say we, I mean those Americans who are Catholic--again, I am not Catholic myself.
posted by misha at 6:59 AM on September 16, 2009


In fact true believers in all the major religions have always denigrated women and viewed them as second class

I disagree. Jesus went out of his way to minister to women, and Muhammad advocated for equal rights.

I guess it depends on how you define "true believer."
posted by giraffe at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Supporting the ordination of women was how my relationship with the Catholic Church ended also. It's sad that the church in America is so closely tied to Rome but also sad that bishops rarely acquiesce to canon law.
posted by parmanparman at 7:05 AM on September 16, 2009


There have been changes in the Church during my lifetime - Vatican 2, as I mentioned upthread, and small things like softening the meatless Friday rule, and allowing girls to serve at Mass (is this universal?) But those are such small concessions to the inevitable.

The "no contraception" thing, especially "no condoms in the face of AIDS in the developing world" is just, well, incomprehensible. But the ban on women priests? Why wouldn't this rule change in the face of an undeniable shortage of (male) priests that forces parishes to close? This seems to deny simple self-preservation, no?
posted by tizzie at 7:07 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


nooneyouknow, when I was little I wasn't allowed to watch TV so I never saw any ads so I didn't know what to ask for for Christmas so I asked for a toothbrush. I ended up getting a Barbie but I didn't know what it was for so I ended up chewing on her.

My mother has a veritable treasure trove of embarrassing stories about both my brother and me, but she manages to make them into good connections with, you know, God.

I just got a MeFi mail from my husband saying "So I'm thinking to myself, self...how many former Catholic, current Episcopal priests are there out there telling toothbrush stories? But, then, yeah, it turns out it was you."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:08 AM on September 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


But the ban on women priests? Why wouldn't this rule change in the face of an undeniable shortage of (male) priests that forces parishes to close? This seems to deny simple self-preservation, no?

I don't think that's how the church bases decisions like this. It's not just a pragmatic issue. It's about what God prefers.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:13 AM on September 16, 2009


-orthodox Jews

Orthodox Jews represent seven percent of the Jews in America. Of the two largest denominationsp of Jews in the U.S., the Reform movement, has been ordaining women as rabbis since 1935, and in the U.S. since 1972, while the Conservative movement has been ordaining women as rabbis since 1985.

Just because a small percentage of Jews will not ordain women as rabbis does not mean that Judaism is a good parallel for Catholicism; Judaism has multiple movements that are all considered branches of Judaism, Catholicism does not, and for an overwhelming majority of American Jews, women have been part of the clergy for the better part of 25 years.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:13 AM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


American Catholics are a breed apart from other Catholics. Rome is reigning in authority (not too surprising with Ratzinger in place) and tightening control of "the message".

Most American Catholics cannot imagine practicing what the rest of the world calls Catholicism. Further, the American Catholics who strictly follow the faith are pretty far right (on the political spectrum) and resemble many other christian fundamentalists.

The bigger question is "Can you consider yourself Catholic and not believe in what the Catholic Church states are key elements of faith?" I personally found my own answer to be no. I don't believe that women are subordinate. I don't believe that gay people should not be allowed to adopt children. I don't think that they have done nearly enough to protect the children under their protection. I am no longer a part of the Catholic Church. I understand it full well.

So, I am not surprised that the Church wants to muzzle what is contrary to their teachings.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:17 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


On a related note, my mother has said she thinks that the Catholic church will allow priests to marry before they ordain women, which I think is a really interesting idea; that the "no women as priests" is so deeply ingrained that the church would prefer to change a fundamental part of the priesthood rather than ordain other people. I don't know if she's right about this, but it does sound plausible; allowing women to be priests lets in another group and makes the priesthood less exclusive while permitting priests to marry provides a benefit/additional privilege for an already privileged group.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:18 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why wouldn't this rule change in the face of an undeniable shortage of (male) priests that forces parishes to close? This seems to deny simple self-preservation, no?

Well, unless the calculation is that ordaining women would drive people away from the church, and that the benefit (more priests) isn't worth the cost (fewer parishioners). Like thirteenkiller said, though, I'm not sure that's how the Catholic leadership makes decisions.
posted by box at 7:26 AM on September 16, 2009


"The "shut up" quote comes from the lede in the Dayton newspaper story that I linked

oh, I saw it in the article... I was looking to see which ordained official of the church actually used those words....

If someone had FPP'ed "Church does not provide women with equal rights." I would have thought, yep, know that, and moved on to the next FPP...

but, heck, some priest actually publicly said "shut up" to a nun... now THERE's an article I'm going to read...
posted by HuronBob at 7:28 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think there is some fundamental misunderstanding of catholicism at play here. By preventing her from teaching then they are allowing her to suffer, which as we are all aware, is its own reward and very much good for the soul.
posted by biffa at 7:28 AM on September 16, 2009



She's saved more lives than I can imagine, and she'll be doing this until she dies. I'm not a Christian, but I'm constantly impressed by my aunt's devotion to the best, most pure principles of the religion-- helping the poor, avoiding vanity, refusing to judge others, acting out of love and not hate or fear.

Really, that is very nice of your aunt. But just how much money has she made for the church?
posted by notreally at 7:29 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What God prefers? Once again, I have a tough time believing that there's a God who sits up above the clouds deciding that since this person has both X and Y chromosomes, he can perform the Sacraments, and since this person has two X chromosomes, she can't.
posted by tizzie at 7:32 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Pterodactyl, your mother is almost definitely right on this one. In current practice, there's a little, if only a little, wiggle room in the rules about clerical celibacy. Specifically, previously married Protestant clergy who convert can serve as priests, as can Eastern Rite Catholic non-monastic clergy. The Latin Rite church now also allows married men to be ordained as deacons. There's no such wiggle room on women.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:34 AM on September 16, 2009


Mrs. Pterodactyl: "My mother was raised Catholic. Now she's an Episcopal priest and, if I may say so, a damn good one (despite her embarrassing sermons about the time I asked Santa for a toothbrush)."

The Episcopalian church should really send a thank you note to the Catholic Church for all of the people that they've forced to switch to Episcopalian, mostly because of the divorce issue.
posted by octothorpe at 7:34 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tizzie, that's why you and I aren't good Catholics. We don't believe the same thing the Catholic Church does.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:34 AM on September 16, 2009


I think tizzie's point is really good; phrased like that, the decision not to allow women to be priests just sounds so juvenile and petty.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2009


Huh? A God that sits up above the clouds is completely plausible, but you just can't believe that He could be a sexist?
posted by box at 7:37 AM on September 16, 2009 [16 favorites]


Isn't belief in and conformation to the church hierarchy sort of a central tenet of Catholicism? I mean, if you don't obey the Pope, what's the point in being a Catholic?

MrMoonPie, I'm afraid you're precisely correct. The Church envisions itself as a teaching magisterium. The entire self-conception of Catholicism is "God's Appointed Voice on Earth." The Church, in its authority, by definition cannot be wrong; it defines what is right and wrong, and therefore is above correction. This article and the comments fail to understand the position of the Church. Catholicism has always had a tenuous relationship with the US simply because Catholicism isn't a democracy--authority flows from Christ to Peter to Peter's appointed stand-in to the church at large to minister to the world. A nun, then, is given authority to tow the party line before the world...NOT to seek change internally.

If you don't like it, become a Protestant. That's what we're here for.
posted by jefficator at 7:38 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Octothorpe: definitely true! We also had a large number of gay and lesbian members of our congregation (in fact my brother's godmother is a lesbian who went to Catholic school with my mother).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:38 AM on September 16, 2009


My coworker, a Ukranian Catholic, tells me that of the 23 rites within the Catholic church, only the Latin forbids their priests from marrying.

All of my mother's sisters became nuns, including some into Sr Akers's order. Thank god my mother, the youngest, didn't.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:40 AM on September 16, 2009


have a tough time believing that there's a God who sits up above the clouds deciding that since this person has both X and Y chromosomes, he can perform the Sacraments, and since this person has two X chromosomes, she can't.

Women can be Eucharistic Ministers! Woo! One sacrament!

(Your point remains totally valid.)
posted by giraffe at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2009


I think we're in agreement and should amend the Bible immediately.

What's that? There isn't a mechanism to amend the Bible? Thomas Jefferson was a heretic and the Bible is in fact merely dead wood, often open to interpretation but immutable in those laws and tenets it specifies clearly?

Hmm. Maybe using this book as the foundation for a modern belief system isn't such a good idea...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:43 AM on September 16, 2009


The real problem with Catholicism is that they've made a bunch of decisions and compromises so that they flawlessly mesh with a feudalistic society. Then feudal society had the bad graces to up and die, leaving them standing there with a handful of outmoded policies and dogma.

I mean remember when people used to refer to the Church as The Undying Hand?

Me neither.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:46 AM on September 16, 2009


"A God that sits up above the clouds is completely plausible .... " That's my sense of humor - or despair, depending on circumstances. At my uncle's (Catholic) funeral, the priest spoke in his sermon about my uncle walking through heaven with Jesus, picking out the house he was going to live in. I kept looking at the adults who were listening to this, completely engaged, and thinking, "Where am I?"
posted by tizzie at 7:46 AM on September 16, 2009


This unequal treatment of women is a blessing in disguise - it will only hasten the demise of an already calcified set of rules. Rules that are obeyed because they have always been obeyed, not because they make sense or have anything at all to do with God. Good riddance.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 7:46 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


box: Huh? A God that sits up above the clouds is completely plausible, but you just can't believe that He could be a sexist?

I see your point, but that's not the God in whom I believe. To be honest, I don't necessarily agree that a God who sits up above the clouds is "completely plausible", but that's the nature of faith for me; if I understood it all/it could all be proved, it wouldn't be faith, it would be knowledge. For me, that's the difference between science and religion. Science doesn't take belief, it takes understanding. That doesn't mean I put my critical facilities on hold when thinking about religion, it just means that it is a different realm for me. That's what faith is, it's belief without knowledge, so the fact that God doesn't necessarily make sense doesn't destroy my faith in a way that it would if I were thinking about something sciencey.

As for your other point, it is completely possible that God is a sexist, but not the God in whom I believe. I know that my beliefs about God reflect much more about me than they do about any God who might actually exist, but I feel like a sexist God isn't really worth my faith so I don't believe in him (or her, as the case may be).

Please forgive me if bits of this don't make sense; faith is such a vast and complicated area that I am likely to contradict myself. While it all has an internal logic to me, I respect that this may not be immediately apparent.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Aunt Dorothy finished the Yellow Brick Road.
posted by Mblue at 7:49 AM on September 16, 2009


I mean remember when people used to refer to the Church as The Undying Hand?

Me neither.


No, but Rick Santorum (prospective 2012 GOP presidential material, by the way) sure does, or likes to believe he does. And he'd like to hasten the return of those days.
posted by blucevalo at 7:49 AM on September 16, 2009


The anti-woman bias of pretty much all modern religion is a feature, not a bug, to those who are in the leadership of those religions. You could make a very good case that the Catholic church and the majority of the protestant churches were structured in part specifically as instruments to control women's sexuality, despite all the nice talk about stuff Jesus was big on, like helping the poor. Certainly many more resources are devoted to policing what women (and to a lesser extent men) do with their bodies than to actually helping the needy or improving the world in any significant way.

Throw 'em all in the lake of fire, let women who want to practice and worship start their own churches on equitable principles. They are a lost cause and they will fight equality down to the last, bitter, ranting, flagellating dude in a funny hat.
posted by emjaybee at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2009


giraffe: " Jesus went out of his way to minister to women"

I thought we were discussing the Catholic Church.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:52 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course the Pope can't shift the blame up any further

Er, actually he can, and does. The Pope is Pontifex Maximus, that is "supreme bridgemaker" between Earth and the Almighty, through Divine Revelation. That Infallibility Dogma? It's because, when he's speaking ex cathedra, it's not the Pope speaking, but God speaking through him.

This is of course why the Catholic Church has such huge inertia. While the reservation of ordination to men has not been affirmed by a single Pope speaking "ex cathedra", it has been long-standing Catholic doctrine, and reversing it would be a tad awkward. In fact, when it was explicitly asked whether John Paul II was invoking papal infallibility when he reaffirmed it in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (then headed by a certain Mgr. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) answered, in agreement with the Pope, that papal infallibility was not being invoked, but that this matter was covered by the infallibility of the "ordinary magisterium" anyway, as a long-standing doctrine of the Church. Oops.

So: "Don't blame us, blame the Holy Spirit".
posted by Skeptic at 7:53 AM on September 16, 2009


If you join a club and don't like the rules, you're free to try to change the rules of the club. The club, in turn is free to tell you "no," or to get lost. I'd have a bit more sympathy for her, except that others have already run into this problem, and came to the logical conclusion that they should start their own clubs that were more women-inclusive.
posted by explosion at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Episcopalian church should really send a thank you note to the Catholic Church for all of the people that they've forced to switch to Episcopalian, mostly because of the divorce issue.

Well, after all, the "divorce issue" (a particular divorce issue, anyway) is how Episcopalianism got started in the first place...
posted by Skeptic at 7:57 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Full disclosure: I'm a lapsed Catholic. Lapsed not least because of this particular kind of nonsense.
posted by Skeptic at 7:59 AM on September 16, 2009


I mean, if you don't obey the Pope, what's the point in being a Catholic?

Heh. I was raised Catholic, everyone in my extended family is Catholic, and I went to church every Sunday with few exceptions for about 18 years.

I would like to introduce you to the term cafeteria catholic.

Every catholic I have ever known, save for grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles (almost all from Ireland on my mother's side), is/was a cafeteria catholic.

I think it's part of the reason I didn't really go through that "preachy atheist" phase after I stopped going to church; the whole time I had been going I had my own views about many issues which didn't jibe with that of the priests or the pope, and it was OK because 90% of the people around me in mass were doing the same thing.

I knew even more people who were holiday Catholics aka C & E Catholics aka Cultural Catholics. They were "Catholic" but only went to church on Christmas and Easter, and it was more of a family tradition thing than anything else (my family eventually started doing this about a year or two after I stopped going to church).

So yes, while the Pope may say/believe a great many things, many practicing Catholics might not necessarily agree. For example, Catholics are supposed to believe in transubstantiation. This means that when the priest blesses the bread and wine, it literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. Not symbolically. Literally. This is the 21st god damn century, I don't know a single Catholic who believes that.

The only time when this laid back "believe what you want and basically try and be a nice person like Jesus" attitude was thrown out the window was at CCD. I was actually sent out of the classroom the night we learned about transubstantiation because I kept questioning the teacher about it and saying how it wasn't possible and was obviously only a symbol.

That was the first of many red flags I encountered as a child from the dogmatic, black and white "this is what is right and this is what is wrong" teachings of CCD classes--which didn't like me questioning the church, the bible, or having differing opinions--that I think really ticked me off and caused me to become fed up with the religion as a whole, leave the church, and become an atheist, but that's a whole other story.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


Certainly many more resources are devoted to policing what women (and to a lesser extent men) do with their bodies than to actually helping the needy or improving the world in any significant way.

I don't think this is certain at all. Do you have a spreadsheet?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:00 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It’s impossible to know how many women and young people have left the Catholic Church...because of its repressive stance."

[raises hand to be counted]
posted by availablelight at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2009


"Such a Victorian attitude, too, for a man with advanced ideas. He for God only, she for God in him, and so on."

"Well, I'm glad you feel like that about it."
posted by Mblue at 8:04 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


All you Catholics upset with these repressive Church teachings are welcome to come join the Episcopal Church.
posted by caddis at 8:10 AM on September 16, 2009


CitrusFreak, that's another example of the "magic thinking" that drives thoughtful adults away from the church. I was a cafeteria catholic too until it got to the point where there were too many contradictions. The scale tipped and I fell off. Am I glad that happened? No. I'd rather be part of a dynamic, intelligent, nonsexist, loving community of faith.
posted by tizzie at 8:14 AM on September 16, 2009


I can sort of understand women not being priests, but I don't really understand why nuns and priests can't just be the same thing.

Just give the nuns the same powers as a priest, and the problem is solved. It's the Cult of Mary, right? Why not go all out with that? Just get Benny to wave his arms around for a while, do the allakazaam, and poof, nun power.

Also, nuns and priests should get married to each other and have lots of babies, because not having babies is so totally a sin!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:15 AM on September 16, 2009


I have a weird soft spot for Catholicism, probably because, for a short time, I was raised in it, and I secretly maintain a hope that one day it can act as an unexpected global force for good; because so much is invested in the words of the single person who is the Pope, I keep wishing that some crazy progressive guy manages to take the roll, and uses it as an opportunity to encourage the billion or so people that listen to the Church to reverse their views on contraception and gays and female clergy, because God told him it was time to make the world a better place.

It'll never happen, but it makes for a nice dream.

Even if it did, it won't make me believe in what they believe, but it would make me respect them quite a bit more than I do now.
posted by quin at 8:18 AM on September 16, 2009


"Rick Santorum (prospective 2012 GOP presidential material, by the way)"

wut
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:27 AM on September 16, 2009


"In an interview with Dayton Daily News reporter Tom Beyerlein, Pilarczyk and Dennis Schnurr, the archbishop in waiting, said that the ban on married male priests is a matter of church law, which conceivably could change, but that it’s a teaching of the Catholic church that women can’t be ordained as priests."

Soooo, since I'm totally not Catholic maybe someone could explain this one. What's the difference between "church law" and a "teaching of the Catholic church"? (I am not looking for punchlines, but like actual differences.)
posted by 23skidoo at 8:29 AM on September 16, 2009


"Sister Louise, I'm really happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!"
posted by xorry at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think people are forgetting that ordination of woman Priests in the CC is considered heretical. Not saying I agree, but why wouldn't the Church say, "Uh, yea, that's not correct?" They care about what they consider to be Holy- not what the general masses think.

This means that when the priest blesses the bread and wine, it literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. Not symbolically. Literally. This is the 21st god damn century, I don't know a single Catholic who believes that.

I don't know which Catholics you know, but almost all the ones I know take it literally, and it is a dogma of the Church. It's something that very much separates Catholics from Protestants.
posted by jmd82 at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2009


thirteenkiller: "I don't think that's how the church bases decisions like this. It's not just a pragmatic issue. It's about what God prefers."

My understanding is that it is absolutely a pragmatic issue. As I understand it, when priests at the level of Bishop, Cardinal and Pope speak to one another about "what god prefers" it is typically as a veiled threat or a plausible denial. It's more like speaking in code than anything else.

These bishops, for example, are men who have secured for themselves positions of remarkable power in their local area, routinely having meetings with mayors, police chiefs and judges in order to secure funds, influence and support for what they want to accomplish. they're not advising these guys on spiritual matters. They're just saying "It is my firmest belief, Judge Corruptfucker, that God would appreciate your understanding in the matter of the accused priest." which means, "If you go easy on this guy who's been diddling kids, I'll be sure to talk you up and make sure my priests say nice things about you in their sermons for a while since the election is coming up. otherwise we'll promote your opponent."

and when it comes to silencing nuns? that's self serving sexism from men who simply don't respect women and don't want them involved at the higher levels.

of course, that's just my view of it.
posted by shmegegge at 8:34 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I remember correctly, priests were allowed to be married in the early Catholic Church.
posted by kmz at 8:36 AM on September 16, 2009


If I remember correctly, priests were allowed to be married in the early Catholic Church.

True. (How old are you that you can remember that!?) The no-marry thing was basically so that church property wouldn't be inherited by any wife and kids.

Now, personally, if I was pope, I'd've just written, "Church property can't be inherited by any wife and kids" on a piece of paper, put my papal seal on there, and then fucked whoever the hell I wanted, 'cause I'm the fricken Pope, goddammit.

But, hey, that's just me.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not sure if that's a sincere question, Brandon Blatcher, but I'll answer it anyway. I was also raised as a Catholic, during the Vatican 2 era. I had cousins who were involved in very left-leaning, activist movements - Catholic Workers and Maryknolls. I kept hoping that the US Church would acknowledge the direction it was clearly headed in, and open up to women priests, etc.

I think it's fair to say that one should not expect left-wing activist movements within Catholicism to start incorporating a lot of left-wing activist ideas from the secular world and think that this will change the Catholic church. Were they in it because this was part of a Catholic movement to change the world, or did they think it was a movement that was going to change Catholicism?

On a related note, my mother has said she thinks that the Catholic church will allow priests to marry before they ordain women,

Yep. Allowing married men to become priests is almost a no-brainer: the fact that they can't is just a peculiarity of the Latin Rite. In this case, the Pope can really just allow married men to become ordained with a wave of his hand, because there's very little theological impediment to doing otherwise.
posted by deanc at 8:47 AM on September 16, 2009


While I was "raised" a Catholic. My last act with the church was to kiss the Bishop's ring upon being Confirmed.

I say nobody should take advice from adults who don't fuck.
posted by pianomover at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2009


(How old are you that you can remember that!?)

I'm not sure... what's the conversion for dogma years to regular years?
posted by kmz at 8:55 AM on September 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


thirteenkiller: "It's not just a pragmatic issue. It's about what God prefers."

thirteenkiller: "We don't believe the same thing the Catholic Church does."

Neither does the Catholic Church, if you compare their professed dogma in one century to that in another.

Practice has changed significantly in Catholicism over time, and Catholicism is not defined by the Bible like Protestantism, but rather inspired by it and open to reformulation as times change*. Large parts of Catholic belief and practice have no clear referent in scripture, or arguably directly contradict it.

Catholicism has a long and successful history of adapting what God prefers to pragmatic circumstance.

* making it ironic that some of the Bibliolatrist Protestants (as a Catholic might call them) allow female clergy, while the more dialectic and explicitly flexible Catholics do not
posted by idiopath at 8:56 AM on September 16, 2009


It's about what God prefers.

Yes. It's surprising how little God's views come into these discussions. I wonder what he does think? I suspect he's largely indifferent to equality and possibly somewhat misogynistic, but on the other hand supremely contemptuous of human rules and pretensions. It seems possible to me that the whole dispute appeals to that rather nasty, cold-blooded sense of humour displayed in some of his works and interventions. For me one of the residual temptations to believe in the old man is the confident expectation that he would have something very surprising and not at all pleasant ready for the church hierarchy in the next world.
posted by Phanx at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2009


So maybe non-ordination is a covert blessing, I meant to add.
posted by Phanx at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2009


Soooo, since I'm totally not Catholic maybe someone could explain this one. What's the difference between "church law" and a "teaching of the Catholic church"?

Church law is like civil law: what are the speed limits on the roads and what kind of safety features have to be on your car. "Teaching of the Catholic church" is like the belief that "all men are created equal" and that we have the right to "life, liberty, and property/pursuit of happiness"-- foundational beliefs that originated the institution.

Neither does the Catholic Church, if you compare their professed dogma in one century to that in another.

I think you're mixing up dogma with various practices or "disciplines," as the Catholic church would call them.

it's clear that the Catholic church considers things like the nature of communion, the divinity of Christ, the primary of the Pope, and the gender of the priesthood to be a "foundational" issue, while things like fasting practice, whether priests are married, and the methods of selecting bishops is more of a matter of practices that adapt to circumstances or simply even disciplines/practices that are retained for "traditional" reasons.

Blah, what do I know? I'm not Catholic. I shouldn't be mouthing off on what they believe, anyway.
posted by deanc at 9:01 AM on September 16, 2009


Catholics act Catholic.

Yes, but the definition of Catholic has changed a bit over the years, and carries within it the possibility of further change. Surely it's not completely ludicrous to hope that one day the tautology could be "Catholics act catholic."
posted by roystgnr at 9:06 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Catholic position of the whole "why can't women be priests" policy boils down to: Jesus had these 12 apostles, and they were all men. And Jesus handed over the keys of the church to Simon Peter and so there is this "direct line" of men, from Jesus to the Pope.

Of course, some argue that Mary Magdalene was an apostle and that some of the guys, who were really sexist, just didn't like her. Some argue that the church has covered this up because the church leaders were sexist. Some argue, a la Da Vinci Code, that Mary and Jesus were married, and some of the apostles were just jealous.

But that's all beside the point.

For Catholicism, the procession is Jesus> Simon Peter (the first Bishop) > Pope> cardinals> bishops> priests. All men. QED.
posted by misha at 9:10 AM on September 16, 2009


If Catholics change tenets "to keep up with the times"--just what will differentiate them from Episcopalians? It is difficult to be a Catholic--it is challenging....That's the point of being Catholic! (I am not Catholic, it seems clear that it is a demanding religion) Why rail against the Catholic church for the difficult-to-keep rules they have had forever? Women should simply be Episcopalian and allow the Catholics their (two thousand year old) rules.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:13 AM on September 16, 2009


For Catholicism, the procession is Jesus> Simon Peter (the first Bishop) > Pope> cardinals> bishops> priests. All men. QED.

Seriously? That's the logic? It hasn't happened, therefore it mustn't happen? By that logic, since there's never been a Pope from the Western hemisphere, none are permitted.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:15 AM on September 16, 2009


What's the difference between "church law" and a "teaching of the Catholic church"?

The Catholic church has three categories of church teachings, and an article within a category can fall into one of seven levels of certainty. These range from De fide to Opinio tolerata. Wikipedia has a good overview.

Church law or Canon law is a related but somewhat different concept, as the Code of Canon Law is mostly concerned with administrative matters rather than church doctrine per se, although much of the law is effectively prescribed by church doctrine.
posted by jedicus at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why rail against the Catholic church for the difficult-to-keep rules they have had forever? Women should simply be Episcopalian and allow the Catholics their (two thousand year old) rules.

This is kind of like asking "why don't American liberals just move to Canada?" There are more similarities between the Anglicans and Catholics than between most pairs of religions, but it's not like Episcopalians are Catholics with this one tweak to their governing structure.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:17 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


This looks like a pretty thorough reference for Canon Law.

And this ... is mind boggling. "Male headship in the family is an axiom of both Scripture and Tradition, and if the Church is the Household of God, and Christ is Head of the Church, then His headship in the Church can be represented only by men."
posted by tizzie at 9:21 AM on September 16, 2009


roystgnr: Yes, but the definition of Catholic has changed a bit over the years, and carries within it the possibility of further change. Surely it's not completely ludicrous to hope that one day the tautology could be "Catholics act catholic."

A fine point, and I agree. My "Catholics act Catholic" point was that this post does not have a link to something especially interesting or noteworthy; it's more an invitation for people to share their thoughts on rather established Catholic doctrine. It's discussionFilter.
posted by ericost at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2009


Look, there's a reason that God's Rottweiler chose the name "Benedict" upon becoming Pope. Saint Benedict established a rule for monastic life that eventually lead to those monasteries that dotted Europe while Pax Romana crumbled. Say what you will about Christendom, but as anyone who has read A Canticle for Lebowitz can tell you, those monasteries are credited with preserving quite a bit of the knowledge of Antiquity for future generations to parse. (And to steal the thunder of whoever wants to jump in and be "that guy"--yes, so did Islam. Alright? Alright.)

Benedict's papacy represents a form of concession to modernity--precisely the concession a lot of you are calling for. But not in the form you want. The Catholic church will never ordain women. It will never bless homosexuality. That just ain't what they do. They concede the world is changing, and they believe the world will blow itself to Hell because of it. And they'll be right there waiting to restore order. That's their second most important meta-narrative. And Benedict just kicked it into high gear.

Catholicism is prepared to hunker down and outlast civilization itself--even if there's only one priest left on the face of the earth--because their entire belief structure is that God has put them on earth to teach and guide mankind. The core tenant--the purpose of the whole damn superstructure, from St. Peter's basilica and all its men in modified togas down to the nun on your street--is that God speaks to mankind through the institution that is The Roman Catholic Church. They'll be pissing people off long after you're gone, rest assured. Theirs is not a platform to oppose; its a ship you can sail with or jump off and drown.
posted by jefficator at 9:39 AM on September 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


Postroad: Not so sure why this is so different, of great interest, startling. In fact true believers in all the major religions have always denigrated women and viewed them as second class--orthodox Jews, many or most Protestant branches, Muslims etc.

Well, what's happened here isn't startling to say the least–but it is historically uninformed. Despite stubborn, emptyheaded scholars' insistence to the contrary, women were quite often leaders in the early church, occupying the stations of Bishop and Presbyter. This has been demonstrated quite satisfactorily by the scholarship, all of which is brought together very nicely by Karen J. Torjesen in her excellent tome When Women Were Priests, which I recommend.

misha: For Catholicism, the procession is Jesus> Simon Peter (the first Bishop) > Pope> cardinals> bishops> priests. All men. QED.

There's an inscription in a basilica in Rome to a Bishop Theodora - a woman bishop. It's clearly been defaced, but it's there; and it's only one of the pieces of clear evidence that there have been women who were bishops. The Catholic Church is being ahistorical.

The sexist notion that women shouldn't hold positions of leadership in the church is a Constantian innovation.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


There's no such wiggle room on women.

You're not doing it right.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 9:45 AM on September 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wow, the list of reasons I am an atheist has been growing and growing recently.
posted by zzazazz at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2009


The real problem with Catholicism is that they've made a bunch of decisions and compromises so that they flawlessly mesh with a feudalistic society. Then feudal society had the bad graces to up and die, leaving them standing there with a handful of outmoded policies and dogma.

This is an important point: The Catholic Church didn't make the decisions being criticized in this thread because the princes of the Church woke up one day and decided, hey, wouldn't it be great to screw over women and make sure that priests self-select for the sexually frustrated and worse? They made the decisions that priests must remain unmarried to combat corruption. Were this a thousand years ago all of you would be arguing for the exact opposite position.

Of course this isn't a thousand years ago. Neither you, your parents, or even your great-great-great-great (add a dozen or so more greats) were around then. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, was around then. Not many institutions can say that. None can claim to be older than the Catholic Church. The difference between you and the Catholic Church is that it plans to be around in another thousand years. That means that it changes really, really slowly. It only stopped using Latin fifty years ago. Rome fell over 1500 years ago!

I'm not defending the fact that women can't be ordained in the Catholic Church. But if the leaders of the Church truly and sincerely believe that God doesn't want that to happen, well, they'd be betraying everything the Church stands for if they did t anyway. I happen to think they're wrong: I don't think God cares one way or the other whether women are ordained, mostly because I don't think God cares about anything one way or the other any more than The Great Pumpkin cares. I'm guessing a lot of the people in this thread are similar: It's really easy to tell the Church to ordain women when you don't actually believe in the Church or, possibly, even in God. It's not so easy to do it if you believe that God doesn't want it to happen.

Asking the Catholic Church to stop being the Catholic Church seems a little strange. Instead, let me point out that the Anglicans already do a lot of this stuff and, in fact, are generally recognized to have maintained apostolic succession. So there's always the Anglicans.
posted by Justinian at 10:06 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


There's an inscription in a basilica in Rome to a Bishop Theodora - a woman bishop. It's clearly been defaced, but it's there; and it's only one of the pieces of clear evidence that there have been women who were bishops. The Catholic Church is being ahistorical.

The sexist notion that women shouldn't hold positions of leadership in the church is a Constantian innovation.


Not to derail too much, but this is a highly controversial bit of evidence, and the idea that women can't hold leadership positions is attested from much earlier than Constantine. It may well be that Theodora was a bishop, it may also be that she was called "episcopa" because her son was a bishop, or her husband. There's not really conclusive evidence one way or the other.

Now, as for whether or not limiting leadership positions to women is a "Constantian innovation," I think there is pretty conclusive evidence. The bits of 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy some quoted above, indicate pretty clearly what the attitude of the early Church was toward female leadership. There's also some quotes from some of the church father about this, looking around quickly I find Tertullian(who predates Constantine's conversion by about a 100 years):

"It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, but neither [is it permitted her] . . . to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say sacerdotal office."

Like most people here, I think women's ordination is a good idea, but the male only priesthood has been a feature of Christianity a lot longer than Constantine.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:07 AM on September 16, 2009


Great post, tizzie. Thanks for including what percentage of practicing Catholics are actually in support of women in the clergy. This could have been yet another "look at these backwards idiots" religion FPP, but instead, you did it right. Congrats.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:08 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Theirs is not a platform to oppose; its a ship you can sail with or jump off and drown.

Fuck that noise. I oppose their platform, their beliefs and their existence.

Their crushing of liberation theology and support of genocidal regimes, repression of women and gays, the inquisition, their intellectual stranglehold over science throught the 18th century, their too-numerous-to tell collusions or direct participation in corruption and murder - not to mention the fact that their entire edifice is built on a fairytale lie of the big father in the sky who punishes the bad children - and I'm the one who should drown?

To quote Diderot: "Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest".
posted by lalochezia at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


The ship is on dry land, folks.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2009


The positions of the Vatican on women's ordination, abortion, and gay rights are a given. Insult to injury--and the point of their censure of Sister Louise--is that they utterly refuse to discuss these issues, or to allow discussion of them by anyone under their purview. The word "dialogue" is not in their vocabulary, because it frightens them. Anything that frightens them, well, they just squash that mercilessly and refuse to think about it, like the rest of Wingnuttia.

As far as being grateful not to be burned at the stake goes, let me just say that the downward comparison only gets you so much mileage. :P

As regards myself: since the schism did not come to me, I went to the schism. Now I wield the Holy Nunchucks of Love and Mercy in another denomination.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 10:24 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


those monasteries are credited with preserving quite a bit of the knowledge of Antiquity for future generations to parse

I have a different take on the Christian monks, the conversion of Europe, and monastic life.

Its true that few ancient texts were lost after the reign of Charlemagne - since "mass" literacy improved quite a bit, but for the most part these monks destroyed/altered books by "pagans", destroyed statues, and supressed things like Celtic knotwork.

Some of the texts destroyed by these monks were plundered texts from the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria and included the best philosophy, geography, and math books ever created, and the last people to read them were monks who thought this knowledge was evil. Much of what we know today about Greek philosophy for example, was preserved by Arabic texts and was unknown in Europe throughout the medieval period. Lacking pagan knowledge was one of the factors that kept Europe poor and ignorant during those times.

Those monks also supplied a spirititual justification for an entire society based on piety, militiarism and brutality, which ensured a state of almost constant warfare for the next 500 years or so.

The climate of anti-intellectualism, piety and violence these monks helped impose can easily be compared to the Taliban of today... Christian fathers like St. Augustine emerged from outside Europe, only because they had been classically trained and came from places where people like monks couldn't entirely snuff out learning.

Factor in Christian factionalism as a dividing force in Europe, and its only because of an accident of history that the entire operation wasn't crushed by Ghengis Khan.

It is clearly my view that Christian monastaries quite actively harmed European and western culture. Shall we move on to a discussion of the impact of Christian monks on Mayan culture?
posted by Deep Dish at 10:25 AM on September 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


We Catholics are an odd bunch because of our traditions. Having male only priests might seem sexist and insulting now but it is our tradition and something that we have never bent on before. We have other traditions that might seem silly or outdated as well. We are not going to change those either. We are one of the older religions nearing 2000 years old and updates are slow. The traditions of the church are either something you believe in and accept or you don't and leave. There really is not a debate like Jefficator said "Theirs is not a platform to oppose; its a ship you can sail with or jump off and drown."
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2009


It is clearly my view that Christian monastaries quite actively harmed European and western culture

Secular culture outside of the Roman empire was not exactly a hotbed of intellectualism to begin with. What were the grand contributions to European and western culture made by the Franks and Goths, who were the dominant military powers in western europe from 600 AD to the middle ages? It's not as though Charlamagne and the Visigoths would have brought about the Renaissance 500 years earlier were it not for the Christians. Without the Roman Catholic church, they'd simply be ripe for conversion by a superior, more organized civilization, like Islam or the Byzantine Empire. As it was, the more organized civilization they got absorbed by was the Catholic church. jefficator seems to understand the dynamic pretty well: the Catholic church is willing to simply "wait out" modern civilization.
posted by deanc at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2009


"Theirs is not a platform to oppose; its a ship you can sail with or jump off and drown."

Or you jump off and swim and reach another shore, and thrive, like me and many of my relatives and friends.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


> The traditions of the church are either something you believe in and accept or you don't and leave.

Are we talking about a religion or a golf course?
posted by you just lost the game at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2009


jefficator: "The Catholic church will never ordain women. It will never bless homosexuality."

I could not disagree more. The Church speaks often in absolutes, but history shows it doesn't act in them. From canonizing some saints to revoking said canonization later, it's been shown that they change their minds on long held practices and beliefs. Pope John Paul II risked papal infallibility by apologizing for 2000 years of misdeeds and mistakes by the Church.

what a lot of people aren't considering here is this: The Church makes all decisions top down. Priests don't petition the papal see to make a change and then he just goes "oh, ok." There are old, ambitious men in that structure who have literally spent their entire lives fighting, clawing and scrambling through a cutthroat power game to reach their positions. and at the whippersnapper age of 50 if they're lucky the real cutthroat part of their careers begins, and they'll be damned if any of them are ever going to just start passing along suggestions from every parish priest who thinks one of the church's oldest traditions needs to go. but maybe it's not because they believe in the tradition. maybe it's because the cardinials tell the bishops what to do, and the bishops the priests and the priests the nuns, and woe be to any man or woman who tries to fuck with that order. that's the whole point. that's why they're where they are. these aren't the days of st francis any more. these aren't the most pious priests who reach those levels of authority. it's the most ambitious, the most politically savvy, the best power grabbers. and they didn't get there to have someone else tell them what to do, they got there to narrow down the number of people in the world who can do so.

the catholic church will absolutely one day ordain women. it will absolutely one day accept homosexuality. it may not be for a long time, because the change certainly does happen slowly. but it will happen. but the important thing is that it will happen from the top down, and until the guys at the top see an angle in making the change happen for themselves, anyone else who speaks up will be told to shut up because that's how it works. we say it first, you say it when we tell you to and not a second before.

maybe. i could be wrong.
posted by shmegegge at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


We are one of the older religions nearing 2000 years old and updates are slow. The traditions of the church are either something you believe in and accept or you don't and leave.

Updates are painfully slow, yes, but the changes that have occurred come from the ground up. It's not efficient, it's not even progressive, but it does happen. Probably because a great many - possibly even most - Catholics comprimize their own personal opinions and go to mass anyway. New and daring ideas - such as the earth revolving around the sun - make their way up from parishioners to Rome, albeit with near-geological slowness. So I don't think it's entirely accurate to say it's an "agree 100% or GTFO" proposition, if for no other reason than the church is comprised of people who don't do this anyway.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:43 AM on September 16, 2009


> So I don't think it's entirely accurate to say it's an "agree 100% or GTFO" proposition, if for no other reason than the church is comprised of people who don't do this anyway.

I'm half-Italian, so I know a lot of Catholics (I am not one of them). Like, hundreds. With perhaps one exception (hint: the very oldest one), none of them a) follow the Church's lifestyle restrictions (no birth control or sex before marriage? LOL), or b) give a rat's ass what the Pope has to say about anything if it directly impacts their lives. If this makes them Cafeteria Catholics, you might say they only grab a handful of mints from a dish by the cash register.

Many of them do, however, go to mass (semi-) regularly in the interests of keeping up appearances, so maybe they sit down for a bowl of soup or something before they leave.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 10:57 AM on September 16, 2009


In my lifetime the Roman Catholic church has changed loads of supposedly unchanging principles, and in the past couple of hundred years they've brought in a load of others (the assumption of the Virgin for example). It's ingenuous to say 'We won't change because changing is not our way'.

As for 'what god wants' I have noticed that when people hear god's will it generally accords with their own wishes, for good or ill. I genuinely don't know whether this is a conscious or subconscious alignment.
posted by communicator at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2009


(I can't believe I wrote ingenuous instead of disingenuous)
posted by communicator at 11:11 AM on September 16, 2009


The Episcopal Church is getting more conservative these days, too. Although you're supposed to be allowed some pretty huge freedom of interpretation, and the church itself is not supposed to have distinctive doctrines, in the last couple of years it's been aggressively reining in more progressive practices.

I am not Episcopal, but as I understand it, the recent insistence even here in Berkeley on the inclusion of the Apostles' Creed and the exclusion of anyone not baptized are examples of this. There is even growing disapproval of inclusive language, which to me is shocking.

On a national level, Thew Forrester's election as bishop was denied because of his strong connection to Zen Buddhism.

Gay rights in the church have been making the news, but in all other areas it seems to be going backwards. (On an anecdotal level, having a bigger gay presence has not in ANY way translated to a more liberal/progressive culture in any of the churches I've attended. Quite the reverse, in fact.)

These changes are very disheartening to those people who became priests in the last couple of decades precisely because of the church's progressive, open, and social justice activist attitudes.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:11 AM on September 16, 2009


small_ruminant: "the recent insistence even here in Berkeley on the inclusion of the Apostles' Creed"

soon to be followed by the inclusion of the Rockies Balboa.
posted by shmegegge at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]



"Theirs is not a platform to oppose; its a ship you can sail with or jump off and drown."

Or you jump off and swim and reach another shore, and thrive, like me and many of my relatives and friends.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 10:37 AM on September 16 [+] [!]


That can happen too. I know plenty of people who are not Catholic and are good people. Honestly I do not know what will happen to them in the after live. However I cannot see an All-loving God sending them to hell for leading perfectly acceptable non-Catholic lives. But to each their own. They are non-Catholic and I am.

> The traditions of the church are either something you believe in and accept or you don't and leave.

Are we talking about a religion or a golf course?
posted by you just lost the game at 10:37 AM on September 16 [+] [!]


Both. Us Catholics are very good golfers. But we reveal our best kept secrets to life time members only.

Honestly the Catholic church is like any church/religion. We have traditions and ways of doing things that not everyone is going to agree with. If you do not agree with it, say your criticism and be on your way. It will more than likely change nothing. I am happy with my religion and I will honor our traditions and I will chose what I feel is silly and outdated for myself. For those that do not like my religion I offer this; If you do not like what is being preached do not listen. If enough people agree with your stance then the church will have to adapt or one day priests around the world will be saying mass to themselves. Until then I will keep my faith, promise not to be a whining, preachy catholic, and respect other peoples' views of the world. All I ask in return is the same respect.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2009


This is kind of like asking "why don't American liberals just move to Canada?"

I don't think it's really like that at all. Ordination of women isn't something Catholics get to vote about every four years.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:19 AM on September 16, 2009


I find the average person's ignorance of such organizations as the Catholic Church to be fascinating.

In American politics and thought, the institution grows from the bottom up. Whatever the populace wants eventually becomes the norm. This occurs because people vote with their feet (moving to locations with laws they prefer), they vote with their wallets (buying goods and services from providers that satisfy their perception of value), or they vote with their votes (electing politicians who, over the long haul, create policies that reflect public opinion. Over the long haul. Sometimes the very, very long haul).

The Catholic church works from the top down. Dramatically. The Pope takes a position. Everyone must follow it. If you don't follow it publically enough, you risk being thrown out. But if you DO follow it and follow it and do so in a dramatic fashion, you may just become a saint. Becoming a saint is a testament to the sanctity not only of the person but also of the doctrine he or she defended. And so as devotion to a saint grows, so does implicit devotion to the doctrine. The hierarchy of the church then replenishes itself by revoking the authority of those who disagree with the doctrine, while promoting those who agree to higher and higher levels of authority. After a few generations, any dissent among the leadership has been eradicated simply by waiting them out. The authority structure has been replenished by those who most ardently support it. It possesses no structure for dissent. It is not designed to. It does not seek to mitigate dissent. If you dissent, that's your problem and your eternity in hell. The Church is not here to negotiate with you anymore than a fireman who breaks into your burning bedroom is there to reason with you. Its "Come with me or else."

You don't have to agree with that position, but the least you can do is attempt to understand it.
posted by jefficator at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2009


And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm an Episcopalian.
posted by jefficator at 11:41 AM on September 16, 2009


Yet another reason why Catholics oft impress me, but the Catholic Church rarely does.
posted by WCityMike at 11:43 AM on September 16, 2009


supressed things like Celtic knotwork

WHAT? This is baffling understanding of history. This and this and this all feature Celtic knotwork. They are all Christian religious texts, all produced by monasteries. While the themes you see in knotwork are pre-Christian, the kinds of knots that typically thought of "Celtic knotwork" are a post-Christian invention. Maybe there's something I don't know, but I think you might have been sold a bill of goods by some Celtic neo-pagans on this one.

Christian fathers like St. Augustine emerged from outside Europe, only because they had been classically trained and came from places where people like monks couldn't entirely snuff out learning.

Okay, first of all Augustine only emerged from "outside" Europe in a narrow sense of modern geography; he was part of a Mediterranean culture, centered on Rome, that was not particular different in North Africa versus, say, southern France. The culture of Augustine was the culture of Christian Europe in the 4th and 5th century. Secondly, the monastic movement in the West was in its absolute infancy when Augustine was writing. Martin of Tours and Augustine were contemporaries, and Benedict wasn't born until years after Augustine died. There were hardly any monks to snuff out learn at the time of Augustine.

While it's true that Europe lacked much knowledge of Greek philosophy and science in the Middle Ages, this wasn't because they hated pagans or because of a climate of anti-intellectualism, it was because they didn't know how to READ Greek. When Western Europe regained access to Greek writings through Arabic translations, they embraced them wholeheartedly, especially Aristotle. Sure, they blended it with Christian theology, but this is a long way from destroying it because it was pagan. This happens in the late Middle Ages, when there are just as many people in monasteries as there ever had been.

No one can argue that Christianization of Europe didn't wreck a lot of pagan culture, but Aristotle isn't part of that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:49 AM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


I find the average person's ignorance of such organizations as the Catholic Church to be fascinating.

First off, all authority enforces from the top down; the Catholic Church is not unique in this regard. Second, I think you might have misunderstood what I was saying. I'm not saying the Church is some democracy where parishioners vote on what the dogma is. But it is a fact that the changing world enters the Church from the outside and is first embraced by parishioners, then parish priests, before anyone else. These changing attitudes make their way up with excruciating slowness, but they do move upwards.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2009


I should add that what filters into the Church from the outside and makes its way to Rome is a tiny, tiny portion of what's going on outside of it. Didn't mean to imply that the Church dogma always jives with the modern times.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on September 16, 2009


the recent insistence even here in Berkeley on the inclusion of the Apostles' Creed

Seriously? The inclusion of the most basic statement of Christian doctrine is "conservative"? If you want to be a Unitarian that's fine, but lets not act like insisting that members of the Episcopal Church express some substantive belief in Christianity is some sort of shift to fundamentalism.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


jefficator: "The Catholic church works from the top down."

It may be nominally a Pope who ended the practice of indulgences, it may nominally be a Pope who acknowledged that the world was round.

Nominally it was the US government that decreed that black people were equal under the eyes of the law. Nominally it was the US government that decreed that abortion was a protected right for women.
posted by idiopath at 11:54 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


These changing attitudes make their way up with excruciating slowness, but they do move upwards.

The post-structuralist in me insists on conceding your point. You are correct, of course.

But I hope you can see my point: this structure--chief among any structure devised by man--was designed precisely for the purpose of eradicating the effect you describe. That's what a Magisterium does.
posted by jefficator at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2009


You could make a very good case that ... churches were structured in part specifically as instruments to control women's sexuality.

If by "control women's sexuality" you mean "become gatekeepers to pussy", then I agree. The former sounds like women were seen as humans to be controlled, which seems to vastly overstate the historical view of women in religion. The latter sees women as an otherwise useless vessel for mens' seed, the way good Catholics apparently SHOULD believe.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:56 AM on September 16, 2009


While it's true that Europe lacked much knowledge of Greek philosophy and science in the Middle Ages, this wasn't because they hated pagans or because of a climate of anti-intellectualism, it was because they didn't know how to READ Greek.

You bring up a good point. Numerous scholars including Steve Ozment have argued that the sack of Constantinople by the Ottomans was the impetus for a mass-migration of Greek scholars to Western Europe. Precisely this conflagration of scholarship led to a reevaluation of Latin translations and created the "To The Source!" movement that invariably and irrevocably led to the Reformation merely a generation later.
posted by jefficator at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The latter sees women as an otherwise useless vessel for mens' seed, the way good Catholics apparently SHOULD believe.

Okay, I'm a rabid atheist and think Christianity has fucked with people's heads in a lot of bad ways since it was invented, but if you were a woman-- especially a poor woman-- in Europe during late antiquity, converting to Christianity was pretty much as good as you were going to get. Women were considered parishioners in their own rights and could enter monastic life-- basically, they were seen to have souls equally valuable to God as those of men. This was a change from Roman values.

Life still generally sucked for all but the richest women, but Christianity was seriously a step up. Obviously it could use some updating now that we've changed our definitions of human dignity, but there's a real social reason the Roman establishment was freaked out by Christians.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:09 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is certain at all. Do you have a spreadsheet?

Sorry, left out a "seems to be". My bad, that was angry hyperbole. I do not actually know how much of the Church's money goes to helping the poor vs. funding abstinence/anti-contraception initiatives. I would be pleased to be wrong, but not surprised if I were right.

But considering how many members are chased away or alienated by the denigration of women in the Church, there's definitely a hidden cost there in terms of lost tithes and falling recruitment of nuns.
posted by emjaybee at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2009


Deep Dish: Some of the texts destroyed by these monks were plundered texts from the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria and included the best philosophy, geography, and math books ever created, and the last people to read them were monks who thought this knowledge was evil. Much of what we know today about Greek philosophy for example, was preserved by Arabic texts and was unknown in Europe throughout the medieval period. Lacking pagan knowledge was one of the factors that kept Europe poor and ignorant during those times... Those monks also supplied a spirititual justification for an entire society based on piety, militiarism and brutality, which ensured a state of almost constant warfare for the next 500 years or so... The climate of anti-intellectualism, piety and violence these monks helped impose can easily be compared to the Taliban of today... Christian fathers like St. Augustine emerged from outside Europe, only because they had been classically trained and came from places where people like monks couldn't entirely snuff out learning... Factor in Christian factionalism as a dividing force in Europe, and its only because of an accident of history that the entire operation wasn't crushed by Ghengis Khan... It is clearly my view that Christian monastaries quite actively harmed European and western culture. Shall we move on to a discussion of the impact of Christian monks on Mayan culture.

I'm sorry, but this is a flatly insane reading of medieval history - and I say this as a person who cares deeply about that period. Some points you're neglecting:

(a) The library of Alexandria was originally destroyed by pagans. And it was destroyed over and over again, by all nationalities; this was an equal-opportunity book-burning. The Pagans, the Christians, the Muslims - everybody got in on it except the Jews.

(b) Paganism was vastly more repressive and restrictive than Christianity. It was rigidly patriarchal, it forbade the sale of land, and it viewed things like mathematics and astronomy with distrust. People like Aristotle and Socrates were by far not the norm for the pagan world; keep in mind that Socrates was murdered for his open-mindedness, and Aristotle was forced to flee Athens (which, by the way, was probably the most liberal community the pagan world had ever known) in order to avoid being killed for his beliefs because, as he said bitterly himself, he wanted to prevent Athens from making the same mistake twice. Nietzsche pointed out that anyone who harbored any illusions about the pagan world being a dreamland of sweetness and philosophical light should read through Thucydides, where it is made clear that the pagans were as bloody, cruel and tyrannical as any people the world has known. It might occur to people that there's actually a reason why Christianity appealed to the people of the time: because paganism was more repressive and restrictive.

(c) Your thesis is simply unsupported by any historical text I've ever known or seen. The medieval was a period of great oppression and at the same time of great upheaval and awakening; suddenly Jews and Christians and Muslims and Pagans were communicating more than ever before. It is true that there were people in all of these camps who hated the notion of allowing the influence of other faiths to creep in, but it's just as true that there were people in all of these camps who welcomed it. Aristotle was rediscovered and reconsidered by Alfarabi, by Ibn Rushd, and by Al-Ghazzali, and thereafter by Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon and by St Thomas Aquinas, amongst others; every one of these people faced some static for having the courage to take up a pagan author and read, but every one of them also happened to completely reform his respective faith and rediscover its heart in the process.

Specifically, I'd like it if you could name just one text that was lost at the hands of monks - just one. So far as I know none exists. There are examples of apparently intentional corruption of texts (Josephus' annals, which inexplicably claim that the Christ was the messiah only in the Christian and not in the Islamic copies, is one that springs to mind) but even these are minor, and I know of no example of wholesale burning of books or elimination of texts. And I'd like to know of it if you can tell me about it.

In fact, one of the most liberal and enlightened courts the world has known was that of Almohad Amir Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; and while it flowered for only a short time, it was proof (which lives on in the writings of Ibn Rushd) that communities of faith can be communities of equality and justice. Keep in mind: these were very, very diverse times, and making flat generalizations about a thousand years of diverse times is usually unwise.
posted by koeselitz at 12:26 PM on September 16, 2009 [19 favorites]


Seriously? The inclusion of the most basic statement of Christian doctrine is "conservative"?

Sorry- I think it must have been the Nicene Creed. Also, apparently they're putting a bunch of that "we're not worthy to eat the scraps" wording back in, too.

This is all hearsay. I was so completely appalled by last Easter's retrograde, exclusionist midnight mass at the San Francisco cathedral last Easter that I haven't stepped back inside of a church.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2009


small_ruminant: The Episcopal Church is getting more conservative these days, too. Although you're supposed to be allowed some pretty huge freedom of interpretation, and the church itself is not supposed to have distinctive doctrines, in the last couple of years it's been aggressively reining in more progressive practices.

I'm not an Episcopal either, but I attend an Episcopal church these days. And I have to say that claiming that the Episcopal Church is getting more conservative seems a little odd, considering that the Episcopal Church is nearly alone amongst Christian congregations in claiming that there is nothing wrong with ordaining homosexuals. Seriously, did you know that the Episcopal Church has been ordaining homosexuals for twenty years now? And this isn't a trend that's slowing down; just two months ago, the church body as a whole voted to lift the moratorium on ordaining homosexuals that it had imposed in an effort to placate angry conservatives within its ranks. I have friends who have jumped ship to the "Anglican Church, American Mission" and the "Episcopal Church, African Mission" because these moves unsettled their conservative minds; and yet still the Episcopal church forges onward.

Far from getting more conservative - I think that, if you were to try to choose a sect of Christianity today which is on the forefront of the liberal movement, it would have to be the Episcopal church! In fact, here in Denver, at the congregation I happily attend (at St. John's Cathedral) I've gotten used to references in the Sunday sermons to Colorado Springs (a hotbed of conservatism), to "selfish right-wing entitlement," and to the silly notion that Republicans seem to have that they have a monopoly on spirituality. It is most definitely not a 'conservative' congregation, believe me.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2009


small_ruminant: This is all hearsay. I was so completely appalled by last Easter's retrograde, exclusionist midnight mass at the San Francisco cathedral last Easter that I haven't stepped back inside of a church.

I really have no idea whatsoever what you're talking about. What was 'exclusionist'? How in god's name could one call oneself a Christian and yet claim that the Nicene Creed is 'too conservative'? It doesn't exactly call for an end to the rights of women! Here's the whole thing, at least as I have it:
I believe in one God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages;
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of the Father.
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there shall be no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets.
In one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins;
I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the age to come. Amen.


What's offensive there? What's exclusionist?

Seriously, I'd like to know. I really don't understand what you mean.
posted by koeselitz at 12:55 PM on September 16, 2009


Really, I want to make this clear, too, small_ruminant: I'm not demanding that you show me what creed you found offensive, or that you quote to me chapter and verse. I guess I'm really more interested in knowing why you were offended or felt excluded; I'd rather not be part of a church that did that.
posted by koeselitz at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2009


What's offensive there? What's exclusionist?

Having a statement of belief that defines a group is inherently exclusionary to anyone who does not subscribe to that statement of belief and is therefore not a member of that group.

In the old days we called that "choice." Hell...heresy mean "to choose."

Nowadays I'm supposed to feel sorry for someone because he disagrees with me but I've got more toys than he does. Dr. Spock philosophy. Drivel.
posted by jefficator at 1:09 PM on September 16, 2009


wait, what? I have no idea what that thing you just said is supposed to mean vis a vis what koeselitz was asking. also it sounds like crazy talk.
posted by shmegegge at 1:10 PM on September 16, 2009


I have to say that claiming that the Episcopal Church is getting more conservative seems a little odd,

Well, back in the 1990s, you had Bp. Spong opining that God might not exist and Christ might not be divine, whereas today you have people "jumping ship" for much more conservative Episcopal dioceses. There's actual tension now, whereas before it looked like the US Episcopal church was going to openly embrace a "post-Christian" mindset.
posted by deanc at 1:13 PM on September 16, 2009


Mblue, I just found your reference - thank you.

Such a Victorian attitude, too, for a man with advanced ideas. He for God only, she for God in him, and so on.
A direct quote from Milton's Paradise Lost (Book 4, Line 299) used to describe Adam and Eve. An interesting subtext to note is that this line suggests, among other evidence, a hierarchy: God, man, woman. Adam learned of the prohibition of taking anything from the Tree of Life from God, while Eve learns of it from Adam. Hence, woman should be subordinate to man just as man is to God, and that the way to God is through man. By quoting the phrase, Sayers could be suggesting that, despite his "advanced ideas," Phillip Boyes was a Christian chauvinist at heart, as befitting the son of a parson.
posted by tizzie at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2009


Yet another reason why Catholics oft impress me, but the Catholic Church rarely does.

I, on the other hand, find the Church extraordinary impressive. In both good and bad ways. I've stood in St. Peter's Basilica and seen some of the great Cathedrals of Europe. I've listened to much of the greatest music ever composed and seen the greatest art ever worked, both positively drenched with Catholicism. I've studied the history of the single most enduring institution in human history.

Of course it is impressive. That doesn't mean it is all, or even mostly, good. It's eminently human for good and ill. The guys who built the Cathedrals, painted the chapels, composed the music, sculpted the statues, illustrated the bibles, and so on might have thought they were honoring the glory of god but we know that, in truth, they were simply celebrating the glory of man.

And, hey, if you're going to worship a nebulous concept of dubious provenance, at least this way you do it with some panache.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, did you know that the Episcopal Church has been ordaining homosexuals for twenty years now?

To be fair, I think most churches (including the Catholic church) have been ordaining homosexuals for a much, much longer time. They just don't say it.
posted by Skeptic at 1:54 PM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Acceptance of homosexuality is something most Episcopalians around here thought was a long done deal. It's been decades. The fact that it's still being hashed out is frustrating. Acceptance of homosexuality is being touted as THE defining issue of progressive thought. while the rest of it is going backwards makes is very frustrating, and in the long run I think may poison the cause (this is just my opinion) because it might be seen as regressive.

The Nicene Creed is MEANT to be exclusive. That's its whole point. But more specificaly, inclusive languageis usually means having to do with gender specific pronouns and God. The church I went to in the 1980s and '90s used He, She and no pronoun at all (Yahweh, Maker of the Universe, whatever) for God. Instead of the masculine Holy Ghost, we used Sophia or Holy Wisdom, which was usually female. There are good theological reasons for these changes- they weren't just crazy feminism or whatever their opponents would like to claim.

The Easter service included hymns that I don't think had seen daylight in the Bay Area since 1960. There was NO inclusionary language. There was a lot of old-fashioned hierarchical language, which I thought had been killed and buried in the 1970s, and there was a lot of the old language of unworthiness, which I had NEVER heard in any service that wasn't Catholic. It was was as unfriendly to women as I have ever heard outside of John Scofield's theology.

And why John Scofield wants to claim Episcopalian priesthood is something I've never understood. When I knew him was going to Byzantine Catholic services. Clearly Episcopal theology isn't where is heart lies.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on September 16, 2009


Paganism was vastly more repressive and restrictive than Christianity. It was rigidly patriarchal, it forbade the sale of land, and it viewed things like mathematics and astronomy with distrust.

I wasn't aware that the thousands of cultures that existed outside the Christian world could be safely generalized in that way.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:21 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


(b) Paganism was vastly more repressive and restrictive than Christianity. It was rigidly patriarchal, it forbade the sale of land, and it viewed things like mathematics and astronomy with distrust. [...] It might occur to people that there's actually a reason why Christianity appealed to the people of the time: because paganism was more repressive and restrictive.

Keep in mind: these were very, very diverse times, and making flat generalizations about a thousand years of diverse times is usually unwise.


So: these were very, very diverse times, and making flat generalizations about a thousand years of diverse times is usually unwise... but at the same time, you're flatly generalizing that "paganism" was "rigidly patriarchal, it forbade the sale of land, and it viewed things like mathematics and astronomy with distrust", and was "vastly more repressive and restrictive than Christianity"?

I agree that the original comment overstated its case, but so does yours. "Paganism" is a vast category containing myriad ways of life, many of which we know either not at all or very slightly, through the lens of Christian chroniclers. The idea that they were all "vastly more repressive and restrictive than Christianity" may be convenient for you to believe, but it may or may not be factually true... especially since "repressive and restrictive", in this case, seems to be somewhat self-referentially defined as "represses and restricts certain things which Christianity allows, while somehow the things which Christianity does repress and restrict don't count".

The Old Norse, had they lasted, could probably have written a great treatise on how Christianity was "rigidly monotheistic, forbade suicide, and viewed things like the runes and star-names with distrust". The same goes for every other society which Christianity suppressed. Different societies have different values, and thus different definitions of what's "repressive" and "restrictive" and what's merely business as usual...

The idea that Christianity's spread was somehow inevitable and/or intrinsically positive "because paganism was more repressive and restrictive" involves a remarkable combination of 20/20 hindsight and tunnel vision, to say the least.
posted by vorfeed at 2:22 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Religious issues like this just make me tired. I was raised Baptist but I remember not buying into it when I was a child. We used to spend summers in Texas with my grandmother, who was for lack of a better word, very 'country'. She had a big cauldron-like black kettle that was used over a fire in the back yard that she made lye soap in. When I was eight, I put my "Sunday shoes" in the fire in the hopes that if I didn't have shoes, I wouldn't have to go to church. My grandmother found them smoldering in the fire. I got a spanking and had to go to church wearing just my socks.

I do believe in God but for the life of me, most of the rules of churches simply aren't logical and the Bible contains material that defies the laws of physics and is clearly (in my view) myth, fable, parable, etc.

I used to be appalled when reading about African countries and their belief in witches and think, 'how can these people be so stupid,' but that's not any different than believing in a virgin birth, Noah's ark and Jonah's whale.

I think people are leaving the Catholic church because it is stuck. The nun in this story is 66, which is actually pretty young for a white nun. The only people becoming nuns today are poor women from third world countries. And that's becoming true of priests too. When was the last time someone saw a youngish nun who was born in the US?

I wish I had that cauldron now for my Wicca ceremonies.
posted by shoesietart at 2:23 PM on September 16, 2009


When was the last time someone saw a youngish nun who was born in the US?

Two months ago.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2009


I used to be appalled when reading about African countries and their belief in witches and think, 'how can these people be so stupid,' but that's not any different than believing in a virgin birth, Noah's ark and Jonah's whale.

Or, uh, god, actually.
posted by Justinian at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2009


Which also happens to be the last time I saw a nun at all.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:26 PM on September 16, 2009


you're flatly generalizing that "paganism"

In context, he was referring to Greco-Roman paganism, which was a widespread belief at the time and the environment in which Christianity found fertile ground to grow in.
posted by deanc at 2:31 PM on September 16, 2009


In context, he was referring to Greco-Roman paganism, which was a widespread belief at the time and the environment in which Christianity found fertile ground to grow in.

The problem is that "Greco-Roman paganism" was quite obviously not the sole context the original poster was referring to; not when he referenced things like "supressed things like Celtic knotwork" (sic).

And, again, "paganism was more repressive and restrictive" is not necessarily true of Greco-Roman paganism, either. It certainly seems so, if you accept modern Christian values as the measuring stick... but I've a feeling we'd be having this same conversation from the other direction, had the Romans prevailed. I can think of many things which Roman culture celebrated yet Christianity restricts and represses.
posted by vorfeed at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2009


deanc: But there wasn't a Greco-Roman paganism either. The Romans appropriated what they found useful and pretty much despised the rest. The Greek gods had their own temples in cosmopolitan Rome alongside the Roman gods, and while some of the Gods may have had common roots in the past, the wrathful, feared, and jealous Ares was not the same as the orderly Mars. (And this isn't getting into Roman religion as it existed in Egypt, Libya, or Central Asia.)

But then again, "Judeo-Christian" is similarly bullshit as the two belief systems have some pretty fundamental and irreconcilable differences of opinion regarding the nature of God.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:49 PM on September 16, 2009


It certainly seems so, if you accept modern Christian values as the measuring stick

This is kind of where things get dicey. The thing is that medieval Christian values/laws had a strong influence of Charlemagne's Frankish laws, which weren't as kind to women (women not being allowed landownership was something I vaguely remember), which make looking at ancient pagan/Roman society look better than medieval Christian/Frankish society in certain ways. In the context of early Christian rumblings within Roman society, Christianity did give women a pretty good deal, which is what koeselitz was getting at.
posted by deanc at 2:58 PM on September 16, 2009


vorfeed: Well, the Romans did prevail for some time after integrating Christianity, and Christianity as practiced in the United States owes far more to the Roman Empire than to the varieties that stayed local to Palestine and Egypt.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:59 PM on September 16, 2009


But this is a bit of a derail. So I'll rest my case on this.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:07 PM on September 16, 2009


the Episcopal Church is nearly alone amongst Christian congregations in claiming that there is nothing wrong with ordaining homosexuals

Wow. Um, nope.

First of all, Episcopalians aren't congregationalists, so the "congregation" doesn't get to "claim" squat. But that's just semantics.

Thing is, the Episcopal Church isn't "nearly alone" in its ordinations of gays, and such acceptance is far from universal amongst the Anglican churches.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:09 PM on September 16, 2009


The presider of the horrid Easter mass was none other than the Right Reverend Marc Andrus, bischop of the diocese. Yes, he's gay. Yes, he's been touted as a champion against the conservative movement. Personally, I beg to differ.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:30 PM on September 16, 2009


Actually, I just assumed he's gay, as LGBT causes are what he's known for. I don't know for sure.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:38 PM on September 16, 2009


small_ruminant: I wonder if a more traditional liturgy was done because it was Easter at a cathedral and an awful lot of people who don't go to church at any other time of the year (except Christmas) were there and everyone knows they just wanted to hear the same words and see the same show as in the Easter of their childhood. If you had gone for the Second Sunday of Easter (known throughout Christendom as "low Sunday") it might have been a whole different story. You are basing an awful lot of rants and condemnation off of a single service.

(note: I'm a crazy progressive Presbyterian and have no particular dog in this particular fight)
posted by hydropsyche at 3:58 PM on September 16, 2009


I do not think my reading of Medieval history is insane, and I care about the topic as much as anyone and when speaking of paganism I do so in broad strokes - I'm primarily talking about Greco/Roman paganism but don't do so execlusively - dividing the pagan world along cultural lines has some serious problems; sailors from Egypt had spread cults of egyptian gods as far afield as present-day London, and there was a Viking settlement in Newfoundland. Archeological records back both those claims. Westerners think of their ancestors as people who stayed close to the land, but that was a characteristic of feudal society.

I can't name a European text destroyed by monks during the medieval period, though the appearance of frauds like Josephus are mentioned in this thread. For me to supply an off the cuff reference to this practice I have to go outside Europe but please look up the name Diego de Landa Calderón. I'm not backing off the claim that monks did the same in Europe (there is no reason to believe that men with similar training wouldn't carry out the same practice) - I've read that more of Cicero's works survived than say Stabo's because the monks had labelled Cicero a "good pagan", even though they lived around the same time.

Which leads me to downplay the suggestion that the pagan world had a less developed civil society than the Romanized/Christian world and that is why Christianity was easy to spread. Christianity was not easy to spread - The Roman/Christian world did not find a lot of willing converts when it started to expand - Saxony resisted Charlemagne (and the conversions he imposed) in one of the most violent military campaigns in history, and places like Lithuania were only converted at the point of sword by the Teutonic Knights (Christian Warrior Monks). As for the Catholic Church's skill at organizing, and assisting with protection of Europe, keep in mind that various Christian factions refused to unify in order to counteract threats from the Mongols and crusader armies made few lasting military gains and quite often sacked/attacked Christian cities (look up the fourth crusade) or Jewish communities. The City of Rome was under the occupation of invaders within a few years of its conversion to Christianity, something it hadn't endured for hundreds of years prior - if one wants to look at medieval Europe vs Pagan Europe in terms of military organization, one should note that the biggest army crossing the English channel prior to 20th Century was led by Julius Caesar. Gender equality in pagan societies varied considerably though - in Northern Europe where wool spinning was a vital skill, women tended to enjoy a more important productive roll in society than they did in places like Republican Rome where middle and upper-class women were essentially property. The biggest Christian advance in the area of human rights during the medieval period was that the Christian era began the decline of the practice of slavery (in spite of a few notable upticks in the popularity of the practice when the trade routes with Africa and the Americas opened up), but you could also argue that it wrecked the economy.

So while people like the Visigoths may have been the dominant military power in the period immediately following the fall of the empire and produced little valuable scholarship, concepts like elective monarchies where far more advanced in Germanic societies than they were in Rome or any of the first places to convert. I would suggest a direct lineage between the Germanic monarchies of the ancient world, and the constiutional monarchies of modern northern Europe and Canada today. We're getting into highly speculative territory here, but Roman/pagan knowledge of aqueducts and sanitation, would have certainly eased sufferring in the medieval period and may have mitigated the effects of the Black Death so yes, with some pagan knowledge an earlier renaissance would have been highly possible.
posted by Deep Dish at 4:09 PM on September 16, 2009


hydropsyche, I expected a more standard, boring service because it was Easter. I (used to) go to every midnight mass and for the reasons you state they're really uncontroversial. This one was controversial. (And there were about 4 women in attendance, not counting choir members, which says something. Apparently I didn't get the memo.)
posted by small_ruminant at 4:15 PM on September 16, 2009


small_ruminant: The Easter service included hymns that I don't think had seen daylight in the Bay Area since 1960. There was NO inclusionary language. There was a lot of old-fashioned hierarchical language, which I thought had been killed and buried in the 1970s, and there was a lot of the old language of unworthiness, which I had NEVER heard in any service that wasn't Catholic.

Ah. That's absolutely a great point; I should have understood, sorry. It's important, I think, to be careful to use inclusive pronouns. I don't think it's necessarily the most important issue, but I can understand being offended at seeing non-inclusive language apparently purposely put back into the liturgy.

But one runs up against a difficult division when trying to cope with what you call 'the old language of unworthiness.' I have a lot more thinking about that to do before I can say anything about whether it's progressive or not; maybe it's something I should already know instinctively, but it's not.

vorfeed: So: these were very, very diverse times, and making flat generalizations about a thousand years of diverse times is usually unwise... but at the same time, you're flatly generalizing that "paganism" was "rigidly patriarchal, it forbade the sale of land, and it viewed things like mathematics and astronomy with distrust", and was "vastly more repressive and restrictive than Christianity"?

There weren't any pagans alive during the medieval period, at least not on the definition I was working under.
posted by koeselitz at 4:23 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had my own views about many issues which didn't jibe with that of the priests or the pope, and it was OK because 90% of the people around me in mass were doing the same thing.

So 90% of the people contributing to the funds that prop up the Catholic church don't support it? So that's who we can blame! Don't give your money to an organization that causes the kind of damage you can't get behind. Sheesh.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:40 PM on September 16, 2009


There weren't any pagans alive during the medieval period, at least not on the definition I was working under.

I wasn't talking about "the medieval period".
posted by vorfeed at 4:46 PM on September 16, 2009


The only people becoming nuns today are poor women from third world countries.

Mostly but not completely true.
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2009


When asked about His opinion of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk:

Christ: "What an asshole."
posted by armage at 5:25 PM on September 16, 2009


It is difficult to be a Catholic--it is challenging....That's the point of being Catholic!

Oh please, being Catholic these days just means doing what your parents did. It's submission. How many people convert to it unless forced to by marriage, at least in modern society, non-third world? The Catholic Church suffers much from its inertia. It has a long an toxic history of being more about control of people than love of God.
posted by caddis at 6:00 PM on September 16, 2009


As for the Catholic Church's skill at organizing, and assisting with protection of Europe, keep in mind that various Christian factions refused to unify in order to counteract threats from the Mongols and crusader armies made few lasting military gains and quite often sacked/attacked Christian cities (look up the fourth crusade) or Jewish communities.
I think a distinction needs to be made between western Christendom, which was basically the Catholic church trying to convert and manage a hodge-podge of warring germanic kingdoms and eastern Christendom, which was fairly unified until you get to around the 11th century or so. You can't blame the pope for not being able to unify the various Christian kingdoms because the eastern and western ones were working at cross-purposes. Particularly since the western ones were Franco-German that were still coming out of the "barbarian invader" period.

As I said, I think the legal system that formed the basis of the Frankish/Germanic monarchies was less advanced than the Roman form of government. It's just that such a structure was probably more efficient for the era of civil breakdown, but still more of a bummer for women's rights than the post-Christian Roman Empire, which itself was offered women more than the pagan Roman Empire.
How many people convert to [Catholicism] unless forced to by marriage, at least in modern society, non-third world?
Well, you know, there are lots of Episcopalians who decide to become very devout believers, go the high-church route, and then decide that becoming Roman Catholic is a better spiritual path.
hydropsyche, I expected a more standard, boring service because it was Easter.
Hm. Most people are going to expect an all-out service-of-services liturgy for Easter.
posted by deanc at 6:44 PM on September 16, 2009


I know plenty of people who are not Catholic and are good people. Honestly I do not know what will happen to them in the after live.

Well, Robert Heinlein imagined the afterlife to be whatever you expected it to be in one of his books, and to his protagonist Hell was rather like Texas, but not in the way you're probably thinking; he imagined that it was like life on a sprawling ranch, in fact pretty pleasant and much better than Heaven.

But I defer to the wisdom of Frank Zappa:

"There is no Hell. There is only France."
posted by krinklyfig at 7:14 PM on September 16, 2009


That can happen too. I know plenty of people who are not Catholic and are good people. Honestly I do not know what will happen to them in the after live. However I cannot see an All-loving God sending them to hell for leading perfectly acceptable non-Catholic lives.

This is actually what I call Justinian's Modification to Pascal's Wager.

1) Either gods exist or they do not. If they do not exist then effort towards salvation is irrelevant.

2)If gods exist there is either one god or many. If many exist and have contradictory belief systems, then nothing you can do will satisfy all those systems so effort towards salvation is irrelevant.

3)If there is one god he is either benevolent or he is not. If god is not benevolent then all the belief and prayer and obsequious cringing in the world is no guarantee of anything, so effort towards salvation is irrelevant.

4) If god is benevolent then he would not condemn a good person because that person failed to pick the "correct" one among all the many religions with equal evidence for their truth (ie none). So effort towards (religious) salvation is irrelevant.

QED effort towards religious salvation is irrelevant. All you can do is be a decent person and get on with your life.
posted by Justinian at 8:15 PM on September 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Justinian: ... effort towards religious salvation is irrelevant. All you can do is be a decent person and get on with your life.

What if seeking salvation and being a decent person turn out to be the same thing?
posted by koeselitz at 8:55 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


This actually turned out to be a really good thread.

But the initial response by the Catholic leaders is absolutely unsurprising, so beyond saying that I enjoyed the discussion of medieval religious history, I don't have much to add.
posted by voltairemodern at 11:05 PM on September 16, 2009


Justinian: ...the single most enduring institution in human history.

Um... not really.
posted by vanar sena at 11:10 PM on September 16, 2009


The Vedas aren't an institution with a constantly manned headquarters. Besides, the Eastern Orthodox Church is older (and priests can marry!) and less changed.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:12 PM on September 16, 2009


The Vedas aren't an institution with a constantly manned headquarters.

Right, but the Dharmic religions born from them are certainly "institutions," in any sense of the term except the most architectural.

Anyhow, I don't intend to derail this thread any further, I'm enjoying the discussion.
posted by vanar sena at 11:23 PM on September 16, 2009


It may be nominally a Pope who ended the practice of indulgences

If you think that they Catholic Church has ceased to believe in indulgences, you'd be wrong.

As for the substance, the Archbishop did exactly the right thing. Frankly, she's lucky she's not been excommunicated as has happened to other supporters of the ordination of women in the U.S.

Some more blog coverage from Rich Leonardi, a local Cincinnati Catholic blogger. And
posted by Jahaza at 11:32 PM on September 16, 2009


She seems like a decent woman. This is the way things change.
posted by mopheeoos at 2:11 AM on September 17, 2009


Justinian: ... effort towards religious salvation is irrelevant. All you can do is be a decent person and get on with your life.

koeselitz: What if seeking salvation and being a decent person turn out to be the same thing?


Then effort towards religious salvation is irrelevant as you only have to strive to be a decent person, and salvation will take care of itself. If god wants you to be anything other than a decent person, then see 'god is not benevolent'.

Justinian - very elegantly put.
posted by communicator at 2:19 AM on September 17, 2009


Jahaza, could that blog writer have been any more sanctimonious? Quote:
"It makes one wonder what sort of religious education those sixth-graders were receiving in the first place. "

Umm, Old Testament?
posted by tizzie at 3:37 AM on September 17, 2009


Justinian: ... effort towards religious salvation is irrelevant.

Earned salvation is only one take on how Christianity works.

Reformed churches teach that effort towards salvation is irrelevant, because we all suck and nobody can ever deserve it. So it sort of works out to be the same thing. We live the best lives we can in gratitude to God, because God loves us even though we suck, not because we think we're going to get anything out of it. If we do get salvation, it is not to our credit but to God's.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:00 AM on September 17, 2009


Earned salvation is only one take on how Christianity works.

I addressed this. Even assuming true the Christian belief that god exists and there is only one god, he's either benevolent or he's not. If he's not, all your belief is no guarantee of anything. If he is benevolent, he wouldn't condemn someone who was a good person simply because they didn't believe in him. So Justinian's modification to Pascal's wager says the best option is just to get on with your life and forget about the whole "god" thing.

It's not all that complicated.
posted by Justinian at 12:13 PM on September 17, 2009


Right, but the Dharmic religions born from them are certainly "institutions," in any sense of the term except the most architectural.

What? No, no they aren't. A belief system isn't an institution. By this logic the oldest institution in history is probably atheism since there was undoubtedly some proto-human who didn't believe in a deity. An institution in this context requires organization and such.
posted by Justinian at 12:16 PM on September 17, 2009


What if seeking salvation and being a decent person turn out to be the same thing?

Then, as I said, belief in or effort towards salvation is irrelevant and simply living your life as a decent person is all you need to worry about. Which strikes me as a pretty good belief system:

"There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
posted by Justinian at 12:19 PM on September 17, 2009


If god is not benevolent then all the belief and prayer and obsequious cringing in the world is no guarantee of anything, so effort towards salvation is irrelevant.

I think this is what might confuse some people - it took me a while to realize what you were getting at. If there is only one god, and he has his strict set of rules that you need to follow to achieve salvation... how do you know what rules those are? There are lots of choices out there.

I've always wanted to write a series of short horror stories based on the end times. In one, it goes exactly like in Revelations and you had to have been following all the rules perfectly to be saved - including the ones that are mostly impossible to follow in modern society. So everyone burns.
posted by cimbrog at 1:23 PM on September 17, 2009


communicator: Then effort towards religious salvation is irrelevant as you only have to strive to be a decent person, and salvation will take care of itself.

Okay, I'll try this again:

To put it that way is to assume that "being a decent person" is a very simple, easy-to-define matter, a matter so obvious that any idiot can figure it out. That may be well and good if you're Immanuel Kant, and if you believe that conscience is an inborne thing which makes 'doing the right thing' obvious to every person at every moment, but I'm not Kant, and most people aren't.

What makes you think that 'only striving to be a decent person' is such a simple proposition? What is it to be 'decent'? What apparently obvious standard does that follow? And while we're at it, why do you seem to be so sure you know what 'seeking salvation' is, and how is it obvious that whatever 'seeking salvation' is doesn't involve the innate striving toward the good that is 'being a decent person'?

I ask these questions because I have a strong suspicion that 'being a decent person' and 'seeking salvation' are concepts which we all assume are self-evident, but which are actually very different from the appearance we've given them.
posted by koeselitz at 12:54 AM on September 18, 2009


Justinian: If he is benevolent, he wouldn't condemn someone who was a good person simply because they didn't believe in him.

Again I say it: what if there's no way to be a good person without believing in him? I know that you might feel that this sounds needlessly narrow, but I think you're needlessly narrowing your definition of 'belief' and of 'goodness.'

When the Christ said "no one comes to the father but by Me," he wasn't saying that you had to join his club to get to be a heaven-angel in the clouds after death; none of the church fathers or the great theologians teaches this, and it's obvious from the context besides. The interpretation of the church fathers is something like: no one can meet with the eternal without recognizing and realizing that that eternal bends itself in each and every moment and becomes a limited, finite thing so that limited, finite beings can cross that bridge into the infinite. Again, this is not my foofy interpretation, but one attested by the doctors of the church: Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, Aquinas. Now, I have a very hard time seeing how you can 'be a good person' - or indeed even have a conception that being good means anything - without at least tentatively crossing that bridge into the absolute and resolving to reach for something higher than oneself.

As little as you may want to admit it, when you genuinely and honestly 'try to be a good person,' you have accepted the truth of the incarnation of the divine. Scandalous, I know. That's the point, actually.
posted by koeselitz at 1:08 AM on September 18, 2009


Justinian: A belief system isn't an institution.... An institution in this context requires organization and such.

The more I hear the phrases "religious institution" and "organized religion," the more I feel as though such phrases are increasingly specious. Maybe you can explain to me the difference between 'a belief system' and 'an institution.' Or at the least: how are 'a bunch of people who believe the same thing' and 'an institution' different?
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 AM on September 18, 2009


hydropsyche: Reformed churches teach that effort towards salvation is irrelevant, because we all suck and nobody can ever deserve it.

...and the original, true church teaches that 'effort towards salvation' and 'accepting God's gift of salvation' are precisely the same thing. I can't help but feel that Catholicism and Protestantism are both separate poles of an unnecessary detour from the original faith.
posted by koeselitz at 1:28 AM on September 18, 2009


Justinian An institution in this context requires organization and such.

What I am doing, I admit, is splitting hairs. I find that people exchange the words "institution" and "organization" freely in common use, but I don't believe there is an consensus [pdf, not safe for non-pedants] that the words are indeed interchangeable.

(I am almost hoping that my pedantry has earned me some sort of corrective beatdown from languagehat)

The point about atheism is well taken, however I am not talking about pure religious (non-)belief here; maintenance of lineage in the Guru-Shishya relationship is an integral part of all Dharmic faiths.

Unfortunately, folks from this part of the world have had a historical problem of not writing things down, relying almost exclusively on oral transmission. This is why 1) there is little written record of lineage (or even scriptures) unlike the painstaking record-keeping of the Catholic Church and 2) what little written pre-history there is of South Asia often comes from the Chinese and the English.

I really didn't mean to derail, honest.
posted by vanar sena at 2:30 AM on September 18, 2009


Yeah, I was agreeing with you for the most part, Justinian, just saying that some people join religious groups for reasons other than salvation, whatever that word might mean, and some religious groups are not set up explicitly to be in the salvation business.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:33 AM on September 18, 2009


In other words, I see little difference between "be kind because it makes God happy" and "be kind because its the right thing to do".
posted by hydropsyche at 8:34 AM on September 18, 2009


hydropsyche: "some religious groups are not set up explicitly to be in the salvation business"

I would go a step further and say that considering religion the salvation business is myopically christianocentric (not really a word).
posted by idiopath at 8:41 AM on September 18, 2009


Now, I have a very hard time seeing how you can 'be a good person' - or indeed even have a conception that being good means anything - without at least tentatively crossing that bridge into the absolute and resolving to reach for something higher than oneself.

Simple: you recognize that "good" is indeed meaningless outside of human social contexts. Then, as a social animal, you make strides to meet whichever social standard your people hold.

Alternatively, you recognize that "good" is indeed meaningless, and so you resolve to forge your own personal morality -- living a "good" life by your own standards, which may or may not meet anyone else's.

Many (if not most) non-religious people live according to some mixture of the two, no "crossing that bridge into the absolute" required. One's concept of "good" does not necessarily have to be absolute and/or universal.

As little as you may want to admit it, when you genuinely and honestly 'try to be a good person,' you have accepted the truth of the incarnation of the divine. Scandalous, I know. That's the point, actually.

And as little as you may want to admit it, when you have "accepted the truth of the incarnation of the divine", you're really just living according to human social constructs, one of which is religion.

Scandalous, I know. That's the point, actually.
posted by vorfeed at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


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