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Colm on the role of the Catholic Church

24/06/2012

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike like your Christ” – Mohandas K. Gandhi

When I was given the opportunity to debate my editors on the issue of the role of the Roman Catholic Church in contemporary society, two men immediately sprang to mind. The first was Father Charlie Burrows, an Irish priest working on behalf of the people of Indonesia. Father Burrows is the paragon humanitarian, for years he has lived in Indonesia where he studied for a degree, allowing him to establish his own bank which he used to give affordable loans to local Indonesians to set up farms and businesses. His continued and enlightened efforts have led to the foundation of countless schools and the endowment of as many farms. The ramifications of this sustainable charity work has bolstered the economies of entire regions. Father Burrows once said that ‘The Catholic Church has been responsible for a lot of bad, but it can also do great good”.

The second man who came to mind was one, the Archbishop of Canterbury at a time when the Church of England was still a wing of the RC Church. The historical backdrop is the Bubonic Plaque which ravished the population of Europe. The Archbishop observed that those who prayed to God and led good lives seemed to be afflicted by the disease to the same extent as rogues and robbers.

What do both of these men have in common?

Well, they both very nearly hit upon a good point. In this polemic, I intend to outline briefly the countless historical atrocities that the RC Church is responsible for before summarising why the Church is fundamentally a seat of corruption and malice and hence should have no part in either national or global decision making.

The RC Church is the most prominent institution in the history of humanity. For one and a half millennia, it has influenced the greatest empires and nations on earth as well as being one in itself. To this day the organisation boasts a total membership of over one billion, making it the most adhered to religion ever. Throughout its long history, the church has not only condoned, but ordered untold abominations to be committed.

The RC Church was directly responsible for the long European Dark Ages in the first millennium. This era saw the destruction of priceless Hellenistic sculpture and art, the repression of philosophy and science and a deliberate trend of anti-progressivism and anti-intellectualism. At this time, it was Islamic scholars to the East that kept Greek and Babylonian enlightenment alive and nurtured science, art, mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy. Later, the Church would orchestrate numerous crusades, aiming to capture a land they had no entitlement to own. These crusades resulted in the destruction of a large proportion of the relics of earlier civilisations that hadn’t been destroyed in the Dark Ages and spawned much of the rift between East and West that exists to this day. What the Europeans under the Pope didn’t destroy, they stole and kept for themselves. The RC Church was also instrumental in patroning voyages to the New World and using their gospels to justify the genocide of entire civilisations and the annihilation of cultures.

Martin Luther was an anti-semite and a class-chauvinist but his crimes are pale when compared to those of the church he split from. He was appalled by a church racked by obscene corruption on every level: Nepotism, selling of indulgences and the commercialism of other people’s illiteracy. The Pope and his hierarchy unashamedly extorted money out of their subjects to build an ostentatious display of wealth in the from of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, an edifice that provided no relief for the poor, the sick or the suffering.

The RC Church is responsible for justifying the enslavement of the African population in American colonies as well as in a more contemporary setting, the rise of Fascist hegemonies in Inter-war Europe. Mussolini’s regime in particular can be seen as nothing more that the right wing political extension of the Vatican. A minority of priests there, such as Hugh O’Flaherty, were of the Father Burrows variety and served as the Righteous among the Nations, but as an organisation, the Vatican actually preached prejudice against the jews. One RC clergyman, Jozef Tiso administrated Nazi controlled Czechoslovakia and oversaw the detainment, transport, torture, dehumanisation and execution of thousands of jews as well as gays, slavs, gypsies, trade unionists, communists, the disabled and Jehova’s Witnesses.

In Ireland, the RC Church has long been a bastion of social conservatism and an opponent of reform. In recent years, the Ryan Report has shed light on the rape and torture of children by RC priests, often cravenly referred to as ‘child abuse’. This criminal and grossly immoral behavior occurred in countries across the world and the current pope, Joseph Ratzinger was pro-active in covering it up. Priests who did stand up and condemn this inexcusable behavior were promptly silenced.

The RC Church proclaims itself to be infallible and when questioned on their long, dark history, they cite a principle called ‘moral relativism’, or as Stephen Fry ironically put it, “We couldn’t have known any better, because no one else did”. It begs the question of what possible purpose their existence even serves.

When Ratzinger’s predecessor, Karol Wojtyla (aka John Paul II) denounced the use of contraception and deliberately propagated outrageous lies, claiming that condoms actually help spread AIDs, he was condemning millions of Africans to death and sinking their continent into even further economic woe. I have met and befriended African orphans whose parents would still be alive if it wasn’t for the unnecessary lies of the Pope. Furthermore, while children perish from drought, famine, war and pestilence in Africa, the Vaticocracy sit in the world’s largest palace and preach about personifications of those same woes in order to command people by their fears.

Despite the countless abominations that the RC Church has been directly or indirectly responsible for over the course of their long, dark history, citing these examples is not enough to consolidate this argument. While a fleeting glance at history will show the the wrongs committed by the RC Church far outweigh whatever virtues it or its members have exhibited, I must show that the church is one fundamentally built on corruption and a duplicitous thirst for power.

In James Joyce’s semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, there is one scathing episode that exposes the church for what it is. If you have read the novel, I am not thinking about the Catholic brothers who lash and intimidate the young boys in their care or the Catholic preacher who goes on tirades about the torturous flames of hell to inspire fear in his flock nor about the episode that reveals how the church ruined Ireland and her great defender, Charles Stewart Parnell. I am talking about the episode when Dedalus’ teacher tries to persuade him to enter the priesthood. The priest tells him about the power of being a priest of God, how you have a power alien to even the greatest rulers, a power over people, spiritually and politically, raw, untamed power. Denis Diderot saw it much the same way, “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest” he said.

The RC Church exists to exercise power over people and as long as it exists, that will be it’s central, unwritten doctrine. For all of Irish history, the church has held the nation back. It didn’t want a Catholic university because it didn’t want to subsidise its construction. It blocked bills that allowed for women to undergo minor surgeries to make child-birth more bearable, it even supported the protestants in the Battle of the Boyne. The same is true of the church’s involvement in supposedly sovereign states all across the Globe. To this day, the Pope, the same pope who actively covered up the aforementioned child rape and torture for decades, recently said it is a ‘mystery’ how these travesties were allowed go on.

Sexism is enshrined in the church and no pope or cardinal has been active in trying to reverse that reality. Homophobia too, is an integral part of the church’s teachings, alongside general condemnation of the sexual act and a paleolithic view of the rights of animals. A dictator once observed that “The battle for the mind starts in the cradle”, understanding this, the RC Church has consolidated their influence by infiltrating all levels of education.

The RC Church might be the world’s largest charity and may include righteous members such as Father Burrows, but I am confident that people will be charitable regardless of the church, and the charity might be directed in a fairer way without it. The Church may be capable of doing good but any organisation is, they were also incapable, for centuries, to admit that Galileo was right. The Roman Catholic Church, as I hope I have outlined, is one that seeks to oppress the people of the world and subject them to the tyranny of a few.

~Colm

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