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The Case for Catholic Apostasy April 17, 2008

Posted by Jeff in Catholicism, Gender, LGBTQ, Politics, Religion, Stem Cell Research.
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I faced the fact that I will never be president long ago. Aside from my long hair and my fondness for earth-tone turtlenecks, I don’t think I could hold a birthday bash for His Popeness. (I think that’s #439 on my list of reasons I’m not president material.) I simply cannot deal with people who have devoted their lives to propagating not only the most ridiculous claims about reality*, but a distorted ethical system that labels homosexuality “objectively disordered,” forbids women from taking positions of responsibility and leadership, forces pregnancy upon women, kills thousands by denying them the basic ability to prevent AIDS, and will not allow lifesaving research because it destroys a ball of less than a hundred cells.

The fact is that if the Pope were a leader of a secular group that advocated the same positions it would correctly by derided as the second most misogynist, homophobic, anti-science, anti-human life organizations in the first world (the first, is, of course, the Republican Party). There would not even be talk of a visit to the White House, and there is no way that a former Hitler Youth would be greeted with the sort of gushing press coverage Cardinal Ratzinger has enjoyed.

So I’m going to do something incredibly unpopular. Blame liberal (and moderate) lay Catholics. Why in [insert deity of choice]’s name do these people support an organization that so blatantly rejects their values? I’ve seen people argue that their faith lies in the Church, not in the hierarchy. I have news for them. The hierarchy is the church. It is perfectly possible to believe in Christ’s resurrection, and whatever else you need to believe in, without a priest telling you to. Trust me, I did it for the first 16 years of my life when I was an unaffiliated Christian. The Church has long allowed lay people to perform the duties of the priesthood in times of emergency, and if ever there was an emergency for thinking Catholics, it is a hierarchy that ignores them, that patronizes them, and that prefers to kill people rather than compromise on their position that no latex is to touch the penis.

No, the real reason that liberal and moderate Catholics will not abandon the hierarchy is that they are afraid. They are not just afraid of going to Hell because they didn’t get Supreme Unction, they’re afraid that society will condemn them for their apostasy, and that is a very real fear. Some of my ex-Catholic friends have told me of how their family still pressures them to go to Mass, despite the fact that they are avowed atheists, and despite the fact that the Church believes them to be “objectively disordered.” Some have even been ostracized by their communities. (Thankfully I have yet to meet a recovering Catholic whose families have abandoned them.)

But why would you want to be a member of such a community? A community that labels you second class, or a community that would condemn you to eternal suffering for thinking that maybe, just maybe, people didn’t know everything there was to know about embryology two millennia ago, that attitudes towards women should change, and that calling 15% of the population “objectively disordered” is accusing God of sloppy workmanship at best, and sadism at worst.

There are much friendlier communities out there, and we have cookies and better sex!

*Seriously, even the Romans thought that transubstantiation was fucked up, and churches should never have any doctrines that you can write dirty limericks about.

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Comments»

1. huntingdonpost - April 17, 2008

I am to blame. As a gay person who goes to Catholic mass, I choose to express my faith in Christ, not the papacy or the hierarchy, and I fight for change within. I attend mass with my partner. Only once has a person refused to give us the sign of peace even though it is clear to everyone we are gay couple. The priests know. I have complained about homophobic literature being placed in the reading room, and it has been removed, for example. I don’t know if this does any good, but I feel like were othe gay people and I not there, then GLBTI people could simply be forgotten.

This pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote the Church’s official statement on homosexuality in 1976. It sounds today like a homophobic document, but I tell you that as a young Catholic then who was well aware of my sexuality, that statement made me believe I could be both Catholic and gay, that I was not a pervert. Groups like Dignity made me aware there were others like me. John Boswell, my teacher at Yale and a man of faith, also helped lead me to a place where I recognized I belonged. Boswell wrote Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, a truly transformative book on the history of gay people in the church from the beginning.

I don’t disagree that the church as an institution has stood for terrible things. You are right to condemn it for its positions on birth control that have helped lead to a crisis of AIDs. I too condemn it, from within.

Sorry to be long-winded. This is just my perspective.

2. Jackie - April 23, 2008

Thank you!
I dated a Catholic for a while (I grew up Catholic but dispise the institution) and broke up with him when I realized I had no respect for him. Calling yourself a Catholic, but picking and choosing what to believe in is not Catholic; it’s hypocracy and ignorance. When will people realize that?

3. huntingdonpost - April 23, 2008

At some point, we all have to decide who defines us. I was born gay and I was born a Catholic, and at some point denying the first became impossible, so I denied the second, and then, after living in all that denial, I decided that I am in charge of my life.


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