Why Is Anyone Still Catholic?
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For any Catholics who might be reading this, I have a question for you:
Why are you still Catholic?
Presumably, I don't have to tell you about the rash of child-rape scandals in the Catholic Church. I don't have to tell you about the cover-ups, the shielding of child rapists in the priesthood from law enforcement, the deliberate shuttling of child-raping priests from town to town to protect them from exposure -- thus enabling them to continue raping children. I don't have to tell you about the Church using remote, impoverished villages as a dumping ground for priests who raped children. I don't have to tell you that this wasn't a few isolated incidents: it was a widespread, institutional practice, authorized by high-level Church officials. Including Cardinal Ratzinger -- now Pope Benedict XVI -- who, among other actions taken to protect child-raping priests, delayed the dismissal of a child rapist in the priesthood... for the "good of the universal Church."
And presumably, I don't have to tell you about the Church's response as this scandal has been exposed. I don't have to tell you that, overwhelmingly, they have stonewalled, rationalized, deflected blame. I don't have to tell you about the Church's, "Come on, the kids weren't that young, most of them were over 11" defense, or their, "Hey, everyone else is doing it" defense. I don't have to tell you how they've equated the accusations against the Church with anti-Semitism. I don't have to tell you how they've blamed the child-rape scandal on gays, the media, the Devil , even the rape survivors themselves. (No, really. From the Bishop of Tenerife: "There are 13-year-old adolescents who are underage and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what's more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you.") I don't have to tell you that the Church is opposing a measure extending the statute of limitations on child rape. I don't have to tell you about the Pope's dismissal of the child-rapist-protection accusations as, quote, "petty gossip."
And I'm just focusing on the child rape scandal. I'm not even talking today about the other recent scandals in the Church: the gay prostitution ring, the Church banning the use of condoms in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS, the rape of nuns by priests and the ignoring/ concealment thereof.
If these scandals had taken place in any organization other than a religious one -- would you still be part of it?
Maybe you stay because of your sincere religious faith. Maybe you sincerely believe that the Catholic Church is the only way to spiritual salvation, and that if you abandon it, you'll abandon your hope of paradise in the Afterlife.
If that's true, then my first question to you would be: Do you really believe that? If you disagree with the Church (as many Catholics do) on a huge number of substantial issues -- birth control, gay rights, women's rights, condom use for people with AIDS, etc., not to mention the institutional protection and cover-up of priests who rape children -- then what does it mean to say that you believe in the Church?
But let's say you're a more traditional Catholic. Let's say you do agree with the Church on most of these positions. All of them, even, except the one about protecting child rapists and thus perpetuating child rape. Or let's say you are a more moderate Catholic... but that your disagreement with the Church on major theological issues still doesn't interfere with your basic belief that the rites of the Church are necessary for your spiritual redemption.