Friday, March 26, 2004

It Ain't My Church Anymore...
Something is seriously wrong with today's Catholic Church. I mean wrong in ways that go beyond your parish-priest-turned-repeat-sexual-offender-type wrong. The Church of Rome seems to have lost both it's sense of direction and it's attachment to reality simultaneously.

What's bugging me is a statement made by the Vatican the other day vis-a-vis a condemnation of Israel for the killing of Hamas "spiritual leader" Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Yassin is one of the founding members of Hamas, and as such, has the blood of thousands on his hands, both his Israeli victims and his Palestinian "martyrs". But despite the fact that Yassin was a thug dressed in cleric's robes, the Church seems to believe that he was an innocent victim of a state-sponsored assasination attempt.

There is a serious disconnect here. To begin with, the Catholic Church has no business condemning the killers of Muslims when the Church had once been a driving force in their extermination, or have we forgotten the Crusades? Have we forgotten already the rampages of Catholic Croats in Yugoslavia, whose terror fell on Serb Orthodox Christian and Balkan Muslim alike?

And what kind of institution is the Church when it can hold a killer like Yassin up as some kind of victim and the Israeli's as a criminal cabal?
I guess all those IRA Catholics leaving bombs in garbage bins in London are just hunky-dory then?

There are some serious problems in this church, and the rot has been obvious for years, both spiritually and morally.

I have a theory as to why this is, and I don't know how much water it holds, but here we go:

The Church, as an institution, has not survived the moral and philosophical revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries all that well. Church attendance is down. The number of people taking up the mantle of the priesthood is way down. The Church very often refuses to adapt to changing societal conditions, some for reasons of dogma (perfectly understandable) and others for reasons of institutional inertia. The Church has fought the good fight against, say, abortion and abstinence until marriage, but has lost ground when it comes to cleaning the skeletons out of it's own closet. The Church has done what it has felt is right with it's stands against homosexuality as a sin, but cannot ever seem to reconcile these positions with Jesus' command to "love the sinner and hate the sin".

The Church, as an institution, is in serious trouble. It is this sort of trouble that causes it to do things like hold up a Yassin as an unjustly executed innocent, while conveniently forgetting just who the man was and what he did. I realize that forgiveness is the cornerstone of Christian values, but sometimes even God drew a line in the sand.

For all intents and purposes, John Paul II no longer runs his church. It's obvious that he is a very sick man, and I have doubts as to whether he might even be coherent most of the time. I would assume that the day-to-day running of things around the Vatican is in the hands of a cabal of Cardinals (mostly European) whose primary concern is now keeping a popular Pope propped up as a figurehead while attempting to reorder the Church in "their" own fashion. JP II was, for example, a staunch enemy of communism, and he was both vocal about it and instrumental in the fall of the Soviet Union. One cannot tell me that a healthy JP II, in full control of both his faculties and the Vatican would have stood for the kind of murder that Hamas engages in.

Secondly, this church will cease to exist in the 21st century unless it adopts some radical positions. JP II, for all his other qualities, is a staunch doctrinaire. That means a church that is intolerant of a whole host of social conditions that we live with today. It also has to recruit an ever-dwindling supply of priests and nuns to carry out it's mission for the scoiety that exists. That means priests with "personal" problems can cut corners and get breaks because their service to the institution (rather than to their flock) is too valuable to lose. That means that the Church can no longer engage in discussions of "good versus evil" when these concepts touch upon politics, for example. In these deconstructionalist days, calling a spade a spade turns people off. The Church of the future will have to be in the curious position of defending the indefensible and refusing to pass value judgements to avoid offending the flock. That will mean the church will become less and less of what it is, and more and more of what it pretends to hate: we're about to see a Catholic Church become more like the Church of England or the Episcopal Church.

I can understand some of the changes that seem to be coming our way because the alternative is the neighborhood church closing because there are no worshipers and no priests to tend to them. However, I draw the line at the gratutious swipe at a legitimate act of self-defense by a sovereign state and the pretense of giving its "victim" some sense of righteousness in the process.

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