Christianity and a piece of rubber.
November 26, 2003 5:52 PM   Subscribe

The value of disobedience. [note: nytimes] "Ignoring the reactionary policies of the Vatican, some local priests and nuns quietly do what they can to save parishioners from AIDS." So: when and why do people choose to quietly disobey, rather than leave and promote change from outside their social institutions...or vice versa? Should dissenters just leave, or stay and fight? Anecdotes from Republicans and NRA members are especially welcome ;-)
posted by stonerose (15 comments total)

fyi, those of you who are going to post New York Times articles in the future, PLEASE go to Google News and search for the article title in there, and use the URL from Google News. Urls from Google News do not require registration.

Don't Tell the Pope
posted by gen at 5:57 PM on November 26, 2003

Some old man who spent his life not making babies (AFAIK) has no business whatsoever telling other people not to make babies.
posted by trondant at 6:19 PM on November 26, 2003

I am reminded of the old 'New Yorker' cartoon of two troubled-looking Vatican Monsignors watching a devil, papers in hand, enter through large cathedral-like doors. One Monsignor says to the other, "Personally, I think this ecumenism thing has gone too far."

Put in a nutshell, that is how many, many Catholics around the world, and the current Pope, think of 'Vatican II' and the liberal attitude of the North American church. Far from being "reactionary", they see those recent changes as foolish and against their core beliefs. They do not see the North American church as "progressive", but "astray", losing its moral compass and more concerned with being trendy then following unbending eternal laws.

The Catholics are not alone in this, as the Anglicans and several other "mainstream" religions are rebelling against minorities in their churches who promulgate "radical" theological notions which the majority find objectionable and strongly feel are religious abominations.

On the Catholic take on HIV/AIDS, while scientific liberalism would suggest condoms, the Churches priority is still *souls*, not bodies. This is why they first preach abstinence, then married monogamy--even to the point of making divorce difficult. Remember that "adultery" is on their "Top 10 List" of sins.

They could say that an adulterer, through his sin, not only risks his own life, but the life of his wife and even their unborn children. "Is that sin of adultery worth so much to you, that you are willing to possibly die and kill?"

They would share deeper feelings for the innocent family stricken by HIV/AIDS by the husband, as they would for any murder victim. But to advocate condoms, becoming accessories to sin, would be to them as similar to suggesting that a murderer use a shorter knife, so that maybe one of his victims will survive.

(disclaimer: I am not Catholic, or even Xtian. And I religiously use condoms whenever the opportunity presents itself.)
posted by kablam at 6:51 PM on November 26, 2003 [1 favorite]

What a friggin genius. Thanks Mr NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF. I wonder if he realized that by revaling what is happening in that hospital, he's just asking for a reaction from Vatican which now must act to protect the dogma, by for instance replacing the dissenting catholics with reactionary ones. It looks like it was a nice hush-hush thing that was working, but revealing it on NYTimes does that exactly help the sexual education of the locals ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:56 PM on November 26, 2003

elpapacito, I wonder if this is an isolated thing that the Vatican can squash, or a full-scale, grass-roots rebellion that will render the Vatican functionally irrelevant, as it is in N. America? Do you have any sense of how the situation differs between Kristof's anecdote, Latin America writ large, African churches, etc.?
posted by stonerose at 7:10 PM on November 26, 2003

Father, this wafer is really chewy.
posted by trondant at 7:17 PM on November 26, 2003

stonerose: well by living in Italy I'm more exposed to informations coming from Vatican (more papers mention it, more people talk about it then anywhere else I guess). Of course I can't tell you exactly what Vatican is going to do about that -tomorrow-, but from my experience I know that in the long term Vatican is not going to let any deviation from the dogma (by priests or nuns) be unsanctioned. The measure may be as well excommunication, but it's used only in the worst cases.
posted by elpapacito at 7:46 PM on November 26, 2003

I have to agree with elpapacito here. Now that the Vatican's nose has been rubbed in it, they'll have to take some action, or be seen as impotent to protect their doctrine. Unfortunately, with this Pope, there is no middle ground that would allow for this sort of compassionate ministry.
posted by dejah420 at 8:08 PM on November 26, 2003

... the Anglicans and several other "mainstream" religions are rebelling against minorities in their churches who promulgate "radical" theological notions which the majority find objectionable and strongly feel are religious abominations

Depends what you mean by radical. For the Anglicans, currently many are worried not by more liberal innovation, but by more hard-line - the overthrow of laid-back tolerant mainstream Christianity by a scary intolerant evangelism.
posted by raygirvan at 8:27 PM on November 26, 2003

raygirvan: Ah, that's why I said "Anglican", not "Episcopalian." The Episcopal church (US) is way more liberal then the rest of the international Anglican dioceses, except perhaps in Canada and Britain.
And even in the Episcopal church the fight between what could be called "liberals" and "conservatives" goes way back.
For many years, the "conservatives" would just leave when a particular church became "too liberal", even dropping out of church services entirely. Only recently have conservatives started to band together and challenge the "liberal" orthodoxy.
And what is coming up is where the fight gets interesting. Because, unlike the Catholics, there is a dispute over who owns church property--not necessarily the Bishop. Some Bishops have even tried to seize the ownership of churches in their diocese.

So it boils down to what religion really honestly and truly cares about: money.
posted by kablam at 8:43 PM on November 26, 2003

This smacks of naivete.
If the priests don't want to be part of keeping the poor and unfortunate down, why the hell did they join one of the largest organized religions of the world in the first place?
posted by spazzm at 4:01 AM on November 27, 2003

kablam: I think that within Church of England, it's not so much "liberal" vs "conservative", but a three-way split, all mutually opposed. "Conservative": very mainstream, typically older people (Songs of Praise audience). "Liberal": similar, but promoting greater inclusiveness: e.g. gay marriages. And "Evangelical": born again, speaking in tongues, etc.
posted by raygirvan at 4:14 AM on November 27, 2003

In my opinion, dissenters should either hit the road, or voice their concerns and leave it at that. These misguided priests and nuns who back-stab the Church and offer false hope to the despondent and naive make me sick. They might as well be handing out revolvers with one bullet and encouraging people to play russian roulette, when instead they should be encouraging people to avoid guns with bullets in them.
posted by timbley at 6:28 AM on November 27, 2003

One of my uncles is a Franciscan Brother. Once when we were discussing Liberation Theology he said something that is quite pertinent to the discussion at hand, "The bulk of the good done by catholic clergy and laity is done in spite of, not because of, the Vatican."
posted by echolalia67 at 10:46 AM on November 27, 2003 [1 favorite]

raygirvan: I remember the gag from an old "Yes, Minister", about the PM having to choose between an avowed athiest and a Moslem to be a new CofE Bishop. Diversity rules and all that.
posted by kablam at 10:57 AM on November 27, 2003

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