Belgian Bishop resigns

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 26, 2010

A Belgian Bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, has resigned last Friday. He admitted that in the 1970s and 80s he has, for many years, sexually abused a young male family member (a nephew, it seems). According to the newspaper reports, last Monday a family member of the victim wrote an e-mail to all Belgian Bishops informing them about the abuse, which caused Vangheluwe to publicly confess and to resign.

According to Peter Adriaenssens, a professor in pediatric psychiatry, who is heading a Commission that is investigating the accusations of sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, this case has triggered about 40 complaints to the Commission of other cases of sexual abuse in the Church since Friday evening. In the last two years there had been about twenty complaints.

Wondering what more will emerge. In Belgium a very large percentage of the population (officially more than 90%) is Catholic; but as I know from personal experience, this need not mean anything. In many cases it is social conformity, or (in the past, at least) primarily an admission ticket to a good school. Any Belgian who thinks this is a good moment to officially quit the Church, can find instructions on how to do so here.

{ 123 comments }

1

JoB 04.26.10 at 9:40 am

We have decided long ago that are children wouldn’t enter; nor wouldn’t go to catholic schools that are unfortunately still predominant in this otherwise almost fully secular country.

2

ogmb 04.26.10 at 9:57 am

So Walloons can’t quit the RC church?

3

Ingrid Robeyns 04.26.10 at 11:52 am

ogmb, good point. I am sure there is a similar ‘instructions’ page for francophone Belgians (not just walloons, but also francophone inhabitants of Brussels), but don’t know where this can be found; if you or anyone else knows, please post a link!
(and, in fact, I would welcome links to instructions on how to leave the Catholic Church in other countries too)

4

ogmb 04.26.10 at 12:04 pm

Afaik, the RC church doesn’t recognize disaffiliation, so in Germany it is only necessary to notify the state (via notary public or municipal registry), because religious affiliation has tax and educational consequences. Of course it can’t hurt to send a FUIQ letter to the local diocese.

For Germany/Austria/Switzerland, this looks like a good starting point. Not sure if the chart on the homepage is indicative of something…

5

Bill Gardner 04.26.10 at 12:22 pm

How did the church disappear? Two ways. Slowly, and then all at once.

6

JoB 04.26.10 at 12:29 pm

ogmb is right, this is a symbolic gesture but Belgium being a ‘homogeneous RC’ state, there isn’t even a chance of impacting their state funding. Yet.

7

JoB 04.26.10 at 1:03 pm

By the way, Ingrid, the title had better been: “Belgian bishop kicked out after 20 long years of blackmailing his victim’s family (that happened to be his own).” In fact better still: “A Belgian bishop is dragged out kicking and screaming by a new cardinal that wants to run for pope on a cleaner-than-clean image in order to further the goals of anti-gay and anti-abortion fundies.”

Also, Peter Adriaenssens is head of the “RC Commission on abuse” and has run into criticism in his obstinate opinion that celibacy has been, scientifically, shown to be a non-issue in the abuse of children by priests. On receiving new complaints he declined to comment how many were of cases that still fell under court jursdiction because ‘that was not his jurisdiction’.

(and still nobody talks about the roman catholic (and other religious) schools in the 3d World!)

8

Jonquil 04.26.10 at 2:01 pm

Instructions for Ireland (the FAQ says they’re generally applicable):

http://www.countmeout.ie/

9

ogmb 04.26.10 at 2:55 pm

The sad thing (or maybe not, depending on your viewpoint) in Germany is that Protestants are much more likely to disaffiliate, even if the Protestant church in Germany tends to be much more liberal, inclusive and responsive than its RC counterpart (evidenced by the recent resignation of bishop Margot Käßmann over a drunk driving incident, despite general calls for her to remain in office). I know quite a few ex-Protestants who cite the pope as a main reason for their disillusionment with Christianity and their consequent disaffiliation…

10

Anderson 04.26.10 at 2:58 pm

last Monday a family member of the victim wrote an e-mail to all Belgian Bishops informing them about the abuse, which caused Vangheluwe to publicly confess and to resign

So *that’s* what it takes.

It is going to take the RCC a long time to pull itself out of this hole. They haven’t even stopped digging yet.

11

Steve LaBonne 04.26.10 at 3:00 pm

I know quite a few ex-Protestants who cite the pope as a main reason for their disillusionment with Christianity and their consequent disaffiliation…

As a declared enemy of organized religion I find this quite encouraging.

12

ogmb 04.26.10 at 3:18 pm

I don’t find this particularly encouraging because if I find small and radical churches much more threatening than large, non-radical churches.

13

Steve LaBonne 04.26.10 at 3:22 pm

ogmp, that’s true, but getting more people out of churches altogether is still progress. The fewer the people who identify as Christians, the less power Christian churches, including the most obnoxious ones, will have.

14

ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 3:33 pm

ogmp, that’s true, but getting more people out of churches altogether is still progress. The fewer the people who identify as Christians, the less power Christian churches, including the most obnoxious ones, will have.

I emphatically disagree. I’m not a regular church-goer myself, and we go to the Unitarian place when I do, but I’m not about to stomp on people who find in religion a little comfort and maybe some answers to life’s persistent questions.

I simply want politics out of religion. Full stop.

15

MattF 04.26.10 at 3:37 pm

I wonder, though… If it wasn’t for the Church, how would you, otherwise, persuade large numbers of repressed, deluded, power-hungry individuals to stay put in one identifiable institution and out of politics? I realize that “out of politics” isn’t really accurate, but is the alternative better?

16

Steve LaBonne 04.26.10 at 3:41 pm

SoV, I haven’t the slightest desire to stomp on them either, and where exactly did I say otherwise? But I’m also not going to pretend to be upset when they deconvert voluntarily.

17

Anderson 04.26.10 at 3:44 pm

I do note that Steve declared his enmity to *organized* religion, not to religion per se.

18

ajay 04.26.10 at 3:47 pm

If it wasn’t for the Church, how would you, otherwise, persuade large numbers of repressed, deluded, power-hungry individuals to stay put in one identifiable institution and out of politics?

This assumes that senior Church members have no interest in or influence on politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. They might actually have less influence if they were in the secular political world, where they’d a) have to compete for attention and power with a lot of more normal people and b) would be subject to regular elections; rather than ascending, more or less unchallenged by reality, to positions of little accountability and considerable power.

How far would the current Pope have got in conventional German politics?

19

Steve LaBonne 04.26.10 at 3:51 pm

Anderson- thank you for a clarification that I should have made myself. Who among us doesn’t have any irrational beliefs? What people believe in private concerns me pretty much not at all, but when numbers of people holding a particular class of irrational beliefs are organized for the purpose of promoting those beliefs, things rapidly become more problematic. So I will weep no tears if the discrediting of organized Christianity as a whole turns out to be one side effect of the revelations about the true awfulness of the Catholic Church.

20

parse 04.26.10 at 3:59 pm

the Protestant church in Germany tends to be much more liberal, inclusive and responsive than its RC counterpart (evidenced by the recent resignation of bishop Margot Käßmann over a drunk driving incident, despite general calls for her to remain in office

Is the comparative liberalism, inclusivity and responsiveness of the Protestant church demonstrated by the bishop’s resignation, by the general calls for her to remain, or both?

21

JoB 04.26.10 at 4:16 pm

I don’t care whether or not people want to get together in boring stuffy or charismatic places if they choose to be so indoctrinated. That being said – one value of Catholics over Protestants is that – although there is no big difference on the average – things remain closer to the average; it is much more likely for Catholicism to become purely ritual (which it by and large is in Belgium) than for Protestantism. For every luvvy-duvvy Kässman there are ten TV preachers in the US; and for every ten TV preachers as much abuse as for every ten bishops.

22

Steve 04.26.10 at 4:17 pm

Is the comparative liberalism, inclusivity and responsiveness of the Protestant church demonstrated by the bishop’s resignation, by the general calls for her to remain, or both?

Certainly not the calls to stay. As a general rule, people who appeal for the disgraced to remain in place have a genuflection before authority that would hardly be called ‘liberal’, although it does depend on the event.

On the other hand, I don’t think that disqualifies you from considering it something of a shame that it was that particular bishop, rather than another one, that had to resign, given that she seems to have been largely a decent sort.

23

Anderson 04.26.10 at 4:39 pm

“Organized religion” reminds me of this from Gordon Wood (Empire of Liberty):

[Thomas] Jefferson’s hatred for the clergy and organized religion knew no bounds. He believed that members of the “priestcraft” were always in alliance with despots against liberty. “To this effect,” he said — privately, of course, not publicly — “they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man, into mystery and jargon unintelligible to all mankind and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.”

I suppose there’s a compliment to Christianity in there, but it still wouldn’t have gone down well.

(… I hadn’t seen “priestcraft” as a collective noun before; thought it was parallel to “witchcraft.” Shorter OED doesn’t support it; I think Wood may’ve slipped there.)

24

Mrs Tilton 04.26.10 at 4:46 pm

Steve @13,

The fewer the people who identify as Christians, the less power Christian churches, including the most obnoxious ones, will have

In the case of Germany and some other jurisdictions, there’s an additional and highly concrete way in which this is true that does not hold sway in the USA and many other places. Germany levies a church tax on members of state-recognised religious bodies. (It’s not de minimis, either.) It turns these collections over to the religious bodies. Being baptised as an infant is sufficient to create membership in a church (from the state’s perspective, not only the church’s), but disaffiliation requires an administrative act.

Every person who disaffiliates deprives their former church of another piece of tax revenue. The less money they have, the less harm they can do.

(Yes yes, I know, they also use some of the money to administer hospitals and run kindergartens and blah blah blah. But there is no reason for the state to outsource these tasks to religious bodies. And the churches, exempted as they are from basic laws protetcting workers, are free to be horrific employers. The RC church can, and does, fire kindergarten teachers and cancel the credentials of religious instruction teachers in the state schools (essentially rendering them unemployable) who get pregnant while unmarried, come out as gay or remarry following a divorce.)

25

ajay 04.26.10 at 5:44 pm

Churches are, of course, subsidised by the taxpayer in the US as well, but the size of the subsidy depends on the church’s earnings rather than its membership. (Well, it’s a tax break rather than a subsidy, if you want to be precise.)

26

Pub Editor 04.26.10 at 6:01 pm

How far would the current Pope have got in conventional German politics?”

Maybe as far as his great-uncle, Georg Ratzinger, who was a member of the Reichstag and the Bavarian Lantag circa 1875-99. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Ratzinger_%28politician%29

More likely though Joseph Alios Ratzinger would have pursued an academic career and would have engaged in (an maybe won) battles for department chair and dean.

27

Map Maker 04.26.10 at 6:15 pm

“Churches are, of course, subsidised by the taxpayer in the US as well, but the size of the subsidy depends on the church’s earnings rather than its membership. (Well, it’s a tax break rather than a subsidy, if you want to be precise.)”

AJ – can you clarify? Non-profits in the US don’t pay taxes on “earnings”, and non-profits and churches are treated (almost) identically under tax law. Since non-profits (including churches) don’t have shareholders, where is the subsidy?

28

kid bitzer 04.26.10 at 6:36 pm

and look–now you’ve made the belgian government collapse.

you bloggers–this is why we can’t have nice things.

29

Mrs Tilton 04.26.10 at 6:37 pm

Map Maker @27,

here’s the subsidy. The state has expenditures. It funds these out of tax revenues, borrowings and surplus (if any, though there usually isn’t). To keep things simple, let’s say that there are no borrowings and no surplus. In a given year, let expenditures = x, let the tax receipts from non-churches if churches paid income tax = y and let the tax receipts from churches if they paid income tax = z. Because the churches don’t pay income tax, the other taxpayers must pay (y+z) instead of only y. In other words, the churches get to keep an amount equal to z to do with as they see fit, be that to feed the hungry, gild a few idols or pay damages to children raped by their officials, and they keep it because taxpayers are subsidising them to that amount.

Throw borrowings back in and you still have the subsidy because debt service must ultimately be paid for by the persons who actually do pay tax on their income. And if there’s a surplus, it represents tax collected from non-churches in earlier periods.

Ajay is or course right that this a subsidy, if of a rather more indirect sort than the German church tax. I don’t know what the impact is on the individual US taxpayer; probably a lot less than the burden on the individual German church taxpayer. But then in Germany you only pay if you are member of a church (and then only to your own church). In the US, the entire taxpayer base must subsidise not only their own religion (if any) but all the others. If they are non-believers or otherwise unaffiliated, they must still subsidise the lot.

30

MattF 04.26.10 at 6:46 pm

Also, since donations to religious organizations are generally tax-deductible, the percent of any donation that would have gone to the government if it hadn’t been deductible goes to the charity; a pretty direct subsidy, seems to me.

31

Steve LaBonne 04.26.10 at 6:50 pm

But I think the point that was made is that churches are non-profits and wouldn’t be treated much differently even if religious institutions per se weren’t tax exempt. Despite my feelings about churches, this seems to me a valid point.

32

hix 04.26.10 at 7:39 pm

Aside that every opportunity to leave the catholic church is a good one, i fail to see anything in the article that makes this particular timepoint a good one. The German protestants deserve people leaving in masses as well.

33

hix 04.26.10 at 7:45 pm

The overall bundle of institutional advantages for the two major churches in Germany by far exceeds anything the tax status in the US could do. Religious education at public school, staate financed religious schools, expectations in the labour laws, non competitive contracts to do social services, ability to influence tenure decissions for public universities….. The list is endless. Those advantages are not there for all religions, just for our protestant/catholic monopoly.

34

JoB 04.26.10 at 7:52 pm

28- sorry, but I did that, no need to take any credit away from me. & your correlation with nice things doesn’t work; there are not thát many nice things.

35

leederick 04.26.10 at 7:56 pm

“Because the churches don’t pay income tax, the other taxpayers must pay (y+z) instead of only y. In other words, the churches get to keep an amount equal to z to do with as they see fit, be that to feed the hungry, gild a few idols or pay damages to children raped by their officials, and they keep it because taxpayers are subsidising them to that amount.”

When corporations are taxed on income this is net income, i.e. revenue minus expenses. So under an income tax regime had they spent the money on feeding the hungry, gilding idols, etc. this would increase their expense and accordingly reduce their income tax liability. Ignoring borrowings and surplus, the effect is pretty much the same as an income tax exemption – so I don’t see the subsidy. Or at least if there is a subsidy it’s not due to exeption from income tax.

36

ScentOfViolets 04.26.10 at 8:14 pm

SoV, I haven’t the slightest desire to stomp on them either, and where exactly did I say otherwise? But I’m also not going to pretend to be upset when they deconvert voluntarily.

Maybe I phrased that poorly; but you certainly seem to want church membership to decline. Me, I don’t care – I know too many people who are genuinely benefited, and in a good way, with their church affiliations. I won’t begrudge them that, whether it be organized or not. For that matter, I don’t care if people are happy to believe that Elvis is still alive, or that alien abductions are real.

I simply don’t want them to be a political force. That’s where their beliefs cross the line and start interfering with mine.

Not cool.

37

kid bitzer 04.26.10 at 8:55 pm

surely the greatest lost revenue from churches in the u.s. is not income tax, but property tax?

i mean–if st. johns in nyc were paying property taxes on that piece of real estate, it would be a good chunk of money into nyc’s coffers–and that much less burden for other new yorkers.

now duplicate that with every other piece of church property, in every town.

isn’t that a better basis for a claim of subsidies, than the income issue?

38

AntiAlias 04.26.10 at 9:14 pm

I don’t find this particularly encouraging because if I find small and radical churches much more threatening than large, non-radical churches.

Sorry, I fail to see how the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church is not radical. It threatens politicians, insults homosexuals, represses women, protects children molesters and claims public money for it. And I’m talking Spain only.

39

Moby Hick 04.26.10 at 9:35 pm

surely the greatest lost revenue from churches in the u.s. is not income tax, but property tax

I assume that would vary by locality, but be generally true. However, at least around here, all non-profit organization get similar property tax treatment (and similar attempts from the city to get revenue from them as the non-profits include the biggest employers in town).

40

il barbarico re 04.26.10 at 11:01 pm

for italy there is this http://www.uaar.it/laicita/sbattezzo/

41

Patrick 04.27.10 at 1:13 am

Dumb question regarding the non profit issue- if churches didn’t have a special rule declaring that churches are automatically non profits simply because they are churches, would they still qualify as non profit organizations under the rules applicable to non church organizations?

Circuitous question, but I hope it makes sense.

42

Joshua Holmes 04.27.10 at 3:28 am

Dumb question regarding the non profit issue- if churches didn’t have a special rule declaring that churches are automatically non profits simply because they are churches, would they still qualify as non profit organizations under the rules applicable to non church organizations?

Yes. Churches do not distribute their revenue to owners or shareholders; all of their revenue is (supposed to be, and almost always is) spent on furthering the goals of the church. Churches would be 501-c-3 corps even without the automatic entry, along with corps for “…charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition…” 26 USC 501-c-3. (stupid auto copyright symbol)

43

Joshua Holmes 04.27.10 at 3:31 am

i mean—if st. johns in nyc were paying property taxes on that piece of real estate, it would be a good chunk of money into nyc’s coffers—and that much less burden for other new yorkers.

Yeah, right. Like they’d hold spending constant if they got more revenue. hahaha

44

ajay 04.27.10 at 8:25 am

Churches do not distribute their revenue to owners or shareholders; all of their revenue is (supposed to be, and almost always is) spent on furthering the goals of the church.

Google does not distribute its revenue to shareholders either: it has a no-dividend policy.

Churches would be 501-c-3 corps even without the automatic entry, along with corps for “…charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition…” 26 USC 501-c-3. (stupid auto copyright symbol)

IANAL: inasmuch as a Catholic church provides charitable services, it’s a charity, but there’s a lot of overhead there that isn’t “charity” in the strictest sense. Unless you want to write off all the services, robes, incense etc as “fundraising costs”?

45

ajay 04.27.10 at 8:54 am

To expand: yes, most churches do some sort of charitable work, but I don’t think that’s essential to their status as tax-exempt institutions. If a church shut down its shelters and its schools and whatever, and concentrated on services, proselytising and fundraising, it’d keep its status. Wouldn’t it?

Meanwhile, if I set up, say, a theatre group that took donations from its audience and ran a homeless shelter, that’d be a charity. If I decided just to spend all the donations on running the group, paying my generous salary, buying me shiny hats, and putting on more shows, I think that would cost it its charitable status: there’s nothing inherently charitable about putting on a nice show.

46

parse 04.27.10 at 2:37 pm

ajay, it seems that some people want to attend religious services. If a church provides them with a way to do that for free, isn’t that charity? Also, my impression is that an organization providing free artistic performances would qualify for tax exempt status, but my knowledge of 501-c-3 requirements is shaky. Can someone with more expertise weight in.

47

ajay 04.27.10 at 2:49 pm

Not really “for free”, though – the collection plate. Even though it’s not for a fixed fee, and you could attend for free if you wanted, there’s definitely an expected amount – especially in churches that encourage tithing.
If I’m a baker, and I decide to put bagels on sale on an unattended honesty box system, with a sign saying “recommended payment 50p”, it’s perfectly possible for anyone to get a bagel for free. But that doesn’t mean, I think, that I count as a charity whose purpose is the provision of bagels – even if I don’t distribute any profits either. I’m still a businessman and I still should pay my taxes.
The church just provides bells and smells and hymns instead of bagels.

48

Map Maker 04.27.10 at 2:50 pm

Ajay:

My point is churches in the US are NOT treated different than any other non-profits with regards to financials. They have the same IRS tests on reasonable compensation, charitable mission, etc. Unless you are proposing making churches taxable in a way that non-church non-profits are not (like schools, theater groups, hospitals, etc), then churches are not subsidized gov’t in any special way.

49

Map Maker 04.27.10 at 2:56 pm

Mrs Tilton:

Yes I know what tax expenditures are, but the point is churches don’t have profits, like every other non-profit in the country. There is nothing special or unique from a tax standpoint ignoring a few minor issues… So the question is not are churches benefiting from tax expenditures, but that non-profits benefit from tax expenditures, some of which are churches. If you want to exclude churches from non-profit 501c3 status, that is in effect a tax on churches that other similiarly situated non-profits (schools, universities, etc) wouldn’t face.

50

Moby Hick 04.27.10 at 3:09 pm

Ajay,
I’m not a lawyer, but I do pay a great deal of taxes and make donations in various ways. Whether the fee is a fee or a donation has more to do with whether it is deductable to the donor than whether the institution itself is tax exempt. If you tried to sell bagels that way and anybody who tried to deduct those “donations” would be in trouble if the IRS noticed. When you make a donation for something larger, say a $500 a plate charity dinner, you get notice of what portion of that is paying for the event and what portion is a donation that you can deduct. However, various cultural groups do “suggested donations” when the marginal costs of another attendee are mostly fixed. I’m sure we’ve all been to a museum with a ‘suggested donation.’ Elite universities do something less transparent when they waitlist the stupider children of their wealthy alumni.

And, churches sell goods and services that are not tax deductable for the purchaser. You pay tuition for the Catholic school and cannot deduct that. On the other hand, the tuition is set below the cost of providing the education because of the (tax-free) donations of the parish members.

Part of the difficult here, aside from the fact that nobody is discussing Belgium*, is that “non-profit” status is not limited to what most would think of as a charity. The local health-care giant with $8 billion a year in revenue is a ‘non-profit’ for tax purposes.

*A problem without solution, in my experience.

51

Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 4:53 pm

Is Ingrid here offering a disinterested service to the many poor lapsed Belgian Catholics who would love to “leave the Church” but just can’t figure out how to go about it? Or is she trying to give gestural expression, however contrived, to her hatred and contempt for the Catholic Church? And can she have been unaware of the inevitable sequel in comments: the good old-fashioned gleeful secular “liberal” anti-Catholic pile-in? Do Ingrid and her readers imagine that the reason why not a single self-identifying Catholic has responded is that they agree with the sentiments expressed, and so are about to leave the Church themselves? Or are they prey to an even greater delusion, that there is no liberal Catholic intellectual constituency worth bothering about, who might have a lot to contribute to CT if they weren’t made to feel, shall we say, unwelcome? I think it’s a shame if CT goes further down this road. After all, if it were merely a matter of opposing perceived intolerance, why is demented hysterical bigot P Z Myers still on the blogroll?Any Catholic who thinks this is a good moment to officially quit reading CT can start by positioning their mouse pointer over their link in Favourites and dragging it to the trash.

52

Substance McGravitas 04.27.10 at 5:25 pm

Any Catholic who thinks this is a good moment to officially quit reading CT can start by positioning their mouse pointer over their link in Favourites and dragging it to the trash.

It is demented hysterical bigotry to imagine that everyone uses the same web browser.

53

Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 5:30 pm

Good point, Substance. But you get the idea. Mutatis mutandis, and all that.

54

Steve LaBonne 04.27.10 at 5:35 pm

I’d say that Darius is butthurt, except that in this context that might be construed as in questionable taste. ;)

55

Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 6:04 pm

Touché Steve! Good thing you were so careful about not making my point for me. You might have come off looking like an idiot.

56

Anderson 04.27.10 at 6:16 pm

positioning their mouse pointer over their link in Favourites

“Favourites”? Ha ha! Your browser’s features are MISSPELLED!

that there is no liberal Catholic intellectual constituency worth bothering about, who might have a lot to contribute to CT if they weren’t made to feel, shall we say, unwelcome?

Liberal Catholics are delicate flowers indeed, it seems.

57

Steve LaBonne 04.27.10 at 6:29 pm

You might have come off looking like an idiot.

You’re clearly the expert on that. You’re a moral idiot, at that, given that you’re so anxious to remain identified with a ring of pedophiles and the hierarchy (aka criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice) that’s been so busy covering for them. You just go right on lying in that moral cesspool to show those mean old Timberites that they better not dare make fun of you, no sirree.

58

Mrs Tilton 04.27.10 at 6:39 pm

Darius @51,

Any Catholic who thinks this is a good moment to officially quit reading CT can start by positioning their mouse pointer over their link in Favourites and dragging it to the trash

So what are you waiting for? And by deleting CT, you’ll free up space in your bookmarks for EWTN.com and Bill Donohue’s Catholic League. If they aren’t already there.

59

Rich Puchalsky 04.27.10 at 6:49 pm

“Liberal Catholics are delicate flowers indeed, it seems.”

So Anderson is shooting down a concern troll by deriding the idea that adults are delicate flowers who need to be catered to, and who won’t contribute or change their minds if they’re made to feel unwelcome.

Hmm. Where have I heard that before?

60

Salient 04.27.10 at 7:30 pm

Oh no worries, I’m sure Darius was just speculating miscellaneously. All those questions couldn’t possibly have been rhetorical. For example:

Or are they prey to an even greater delusion, that there is no liberal Catholic intellectual constituency worth bothering about, who might have a lot to contribute to CT if they weren’t made to feel, shall we say, unwelcome?

If we interpret that as rhetorical, we have Darius butting in and speaking for all liberal Catholics, and I am confident that couldn’t have been intended.

So let’s go ahead and speculate along with Darius. Why not?*

I imagine that such an individual might provide me with an understanding of, for example, how it is defensible to continue to contribute tithes to this political organization. I’d listen. Or maybe they’d discuss the tension they feel, between their religious beliefs in support of this political organization, and the secular liberal beliefs they hold.

*That was rhetorical.

61

Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 8:05 pm

I’m afraid you’ve lost me, Rich. But I don’t think I count as a “concern troll,” if you mean I’m pretending to have “concerns” from the same side in order to mount a devious attack. I have followed CT closely since its inception as I am a close friend of one of the bloggers. More generally, a Catholic’s concern about anti-Catholic hatred will tend to be unfeigned. It has nothing to do with being a “delicate flower.” Anyone, Catholic or not, who knows any of the details about the recent scandals will know that Steve’s characterisation of the Church entire in his latest comment (“a ring of pedophiles and the hierarchy (aka criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice) that’s been so busy covering for them”) is an outrageous calumny (even if one means by “the Church,” what Catholics most emphatically do not mean, the clergy) but it’s becoming pretty much par for the course around here. I’m a sort of stakeholder in CT, although admittedly a very minor one, and I don’t want to see bloggers like Ingrid push it towards Butterflies & Wheels territory. That’s all.

62

Substance McGravitas 04.27.10 at 8:37 pm

I don’t want to see bloggers like Ingrid push it towards

Ingrid’s post is entirely reasonable.

63

Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 8:42 pm

Salient, unless, you’re butting in and speaking for all the ignorant haters on comment threads to CT posts on Catholicism, the issue isn’t whether you‘d listen, even if you really would.

As for my implication that “there is [a] liberal Catholic intellectual constituency worth bothering about, who might have a lot to contribute to CT if they weren’t made to feel, shall we say, unwelcome,” this certainly was intended, and I don’t see how this involves “speaking for all liberal Catholics” in an objectionable way.

64

lemuel pitkin 04.27.10 at 8:49 pm

if I set up, say, a theatre group that took donations from its audience and ran a homeless shelter, that’d be a charity. If I decided just to spend all the donations on running the group, paying my generous salary, buying me shiny hats, and putting on more shows, I think that would cost it its charitable status

You might think so, but you would be wrong. The country is full of non-profit theaters; if you go to plays at all, you’ve probably been to one. Even my local movie theater is a 501c(3), and all it does is show movies.

There are lots of problems with the Catholic Church, but its tax status isn’t one of them.

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Mrs Tilton 04.27.10 at 8:55 pm

Darius @61,

“a ring of pedophiles and the hierarchy (aka criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice) that’s been so busy covering for them”) is an outrageous calumny (even if one means by “the Church,” what Catholics most emphatically do not mean, the clergy)

You’re correct on one point there, in a minor and technical way. Though it is apparent to all but the most deluded apologist that the RC hierarchy has engaged in a massive, global conspiracy to obstruct justice, we probably shouldn’t speak of a criminal conspiracy, given the overwhelming likelihood that, for political reasons, the men who run the church will never be convicted of conspiracy.

But that the RC clergy includes a large ring of paedophiles and a hierarchy that covers up for it (and which numbers among its members some of the former group as well, as the news story prompting Ingrid’s post made clear) is not “outrageous calumny” but a statement of fact. Your outraged outrage that people point up that fact makes it hard to take you or your indignation seriously.

If you are an RC upset by the contempt and disgust that people have for your religion’s functionaries, then I suggest you leave off the persecuted martyr pose and instead hold your priests and prelates to account. Muck out your own stable before you presume to chide us for holding our noses at the stench. I don’t think you’re seriously interested in doing that; it’s much easier to complain about all the mean unfair catholic-haters. But if you are serious, then hop to it. And when you discover the task impossible, you will face a choice. Come out of her, that you be not partaker of her sins; or have your priorities and allegiances seen very clearly for what they are.

66

JoB 04.27.10 at 8:56 pm

61- Ingrid? B&W? Are you having a laugh? You are having a laugh, aren’t you?

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praisegod barebones 04.27.10 at 9:01 pm

Is Ingrid here offering a disinterested service to the many poor lapsed Belgian Catholics who would love to “leave the Church” but just can’t figure out how to go about it?

I’d imagine that Ingrid can and will speak for herself on this. But it doesn’t strike me as unlikely that if the population of Belgium really is officially 90 per cent Catholic, then that includes a large number who have no6t given their affiliation much thought until now, and might be inclined to at this point.

Incidentally, I reckon that in a country with this kind of demographic, anti-Catholic bias isn’t going to be that high up the list of social problems that need to be dealt with.

Also – just suppose that you’re right, and this post is an expression of hatred and contempt. Given that you feel it’s important to distinguish between the church (ie the community of all believers) and the church hierarchy why take the post to be expressive of hatred and contempt towards the former rather than the latter? Or is hatred and contempt for the church hierarchy just as unacceptable to you? Because although it isn’t what I feel, I’m finding it hard to see it as an unacceptable, or un reasonable response to this news item.

68

Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 9:58 pm

Mrs T: the key word in your account of what Steve said is “includes.” That is not what Steve said, and this kind of elision is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. Steve said that to identify with the Church is to identify with a ring of paedophiles and their enablers. That is a calumny. Or do you think it Jesuitical to insist on distinguishing between “The Church includes a ring of paedophiles and their enablers” and “The Church consists of a ring of paedophiles and their enablers”? The former is, as you say, a statement of fact. The latter is a widespread fantasy born of hatred.

I am certainly not “upset by the contempt and disgust that people have for [my] religion’s functionaries.” On the contrary, I entirely share it, with respect to the relevant functionaries. I am not at all outraged at people pointing out horrible crimes that have been committed and covered up. I am outraged at the horrible crimes themselves, and the attempts to cover them up. I’m holding my nose along with you; I’m not chiding you for that. I didn’t know I had to say this. I mean, it’s not as though people around here need persuading about the horrible crimes! But in proportion as the crimes are horrible, the accusations are serious. And it is obvious that many people, including quite a few commenters on this blog, are making or insinuating such accusations indiscriminately and opportunistically, simply as an expression of an anterior hatred they harbour toward the Church. And such a thing can be pointed out in good faith, even if the person pointing it out hasn’t joined the FBI’s Religious Paedophile Investigation Unit or whatever.

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Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 10:03 pm

praisegod barebones: It’s not anti-Catholic bias in Belgium I’m concerned about. But in any case, I should concede to yourself and Mr McGravitas that I overreacted to Ingrid’s post. Some of the comments are a different matter.

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Lian 04.27.10 at 10:13 pm

Much of this thread is, um… dismissive or organized religion, to put it mildly. I am a liberal Catholic, and not un-intellectual. I’m certainly not a member of the Catholic Church because of the hierarchy, which is not what most Catholics mean when they refer to The Church, as Darius correctly points out. I’m not commenting to defend Darius, who I don’t know at all, but to defend the liberal Catholic perspective.

Frankly, the blanket dismissal of organized religion should be beneath most of the commenters here, much less the contributors. I’m certainly not saying that everyone must or should belong to an organized religion. But the community created by organized religion is valuable to those that are religious, and should be respected.

If you accept belief in God, or at least others’ belief in a God, is it too much to accept that some conceptions of faith require community? The Christian (Catholic) faith to which I belong is not something practiced in isolation. It is something you live. Now, the practice of it is certainly not limited to members of my church, in the sense that respecting the humanity and dignity of every person is something that my faith teaches. The Catholicism that I know has very little to do with the hierarchy of the Church, and everything to do with love of neighbor, carried to a universal level. (I am firmly in favor of separation of church and state, thanks. I doubt I would be much out of line with the general population of commenters on my views on that subject.)

For myself, and other liberal Catholics, the reasons for being a part of the Church in the first place are theological. So are the reasons for staying in the Church. We are, above all, Catholics for what we believe. The scandal–particularly, the hierarchy’s handling of the scandal–disgusts me, as it seems to disgust everyone here. It saddens me, it angers me, it reminds me why I fight for reform from within. The terrible handling (or lack thereof) of sexual abuse cases is not a revelation; it is a terribly sad confirmation of the failings I already knew. But if we expected every institution we associated with to act justly always, we would never associate with any lasting institutions at all, religious or otherwise. And that, I think, would be a greater tragedy.

I was never a Catholic because I believed that the Bishops were the best men of this world. I have long known they are not; I am a Catholic for wholly different reasons. I do not ask anyone to share those reasons. I do ask that you respect their existence.

If you can’t see that the scandal has nothing to do with our staying or going, you really are missing the point of the Catholic Church.

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Substance McGravitas 04.27.10 at 10:27 pm

I am a Catholic for wholly different reasons. I do not ask anyone to share those reasons. I do ask that you respect their existence.

No. There is no reason at all that the Catholic Church’s role cannot be fulfilled by the Not Catholic Church, duly constituted of new guys who don’t protect child molesters.

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Mrs Tilton 04.27.10 at 10:31 pm

Darius @68,

the key word in your account of what Steve said is “includes.” That is not what Steve said… Steve said that to identify with the Church is to identify with a ring of paedophiles and their enablers. That is a calumny. Or do you think it Jesuitical to insist on distinguishing between “The Church includes a ring of paedophiles and their enablers” and “The Church consists of a ring of paedophiles and their enablers”? The former is, as you say, a statement of fact.

Yes, it is a fact. And it’s a bizarre reading of what Steve wrote that would have him claiming the entire RC church, meaning not just those who have power within it but the entire membership, is one big paedophile conspiracy. (And you seem sufficiently intelligent that I do not believe you genuinely think anybody is making that argument.)

It is no calumny to state that to identify with the Church is to identify with a ring of paedophiles and their enablers. That statement is correct, and despite your energetic blows at strawmen, none making it are claiming thereby that every man, woman and child affiliated to the RC church is a paedophile and/or enabler of paedophiles. The vast majority of catholics are “enablers”, if at all, only in the highly attentuated sense that they were too ready, for too long, to give their clergy the benefit of the doubt. I think most of them will have learned their lesson by now.

But no. While I don’t speak for Steve, I think it’s pretty clear that his focus is on the robed men at the heart of your church, those who control it and wield its power; the wolves, not their sheep. Given their monopoly on power within the institution, given their arrogant and impenitent rear-guard fight to preserve their privileges, property and prestige even as their secrets are prised loose and dragged, over their indignant snarls, into the light for all to see, it is proper to place the focus on those men. And doing so is no calumny on the catholic laity, the much larger pool from which the priesthood draws its victims — they are numerically a far larger part of the membership, but have very little to say in the organisation and are not to blame for their leaders’ crimes.

The latter is a widespread fantasy born of hatred.

No, the belief that anybody seriously argues the latter is a fantasy indulged in only by defenders of the indefensible, born of desperation.

73

Steve LaBonne 04.27.10 at 11:06 pm

Mrs Tilton is actually a bit kinder than I would be. There is no longer any excuse, none whatsoever, for well-meaning Catholics to maintain any degree at all of affiliation with and support for the institutional church, that is, with the criminals- let alone to have the gall to actually defend it. If it’s really about the theology, secede and start lay-led groups if you really don’t feel the Anglicans / Episcopalians can accommodate you. But if you stay, after what we now know about the incredible depth and breadth of criminality in the clergy and hierarchy, you share in the guilt. Harsh? Too damn bad. The fate of the huge number of abuse victims was a hell of a lot harsher. My sympathies are entirely with them and not at all with you.

74

Cryptic ned 04.27.10 at 11:10 pm

No. There is no reason at all that the Catholic Church’s role cannot be fulfilled by the Not Catholic Church, duly constituted of new guys who don’t protect child molesters.

Except that that thing will never exist, of course.

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Moby Hick 04.27.10 at 11:20 pm

73: That reads like a parody of what a libertarian says about why government should not exist.

If it’s really about the theology, secede and start lay-led groups

That’s pretty much the definition of Protestantism, which is at least one common antonym for Catholic.

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C Betley 04.27.10 at 11:31 pm

There are a number of choices for liberal Catholics, summed up concisely by others as Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.

But consider what it might sound like to hear from someone outside the US, after Abu Grahib, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the Mexican War, or whatever threshold of US Government perfidy you may think was the last straw:

“There is no longer any excuse, none whatsoever, for well-meaning Americans to maintain any degree at all of affiliation with and support for the United States Government, that is, with the criminals- let alone to have the gall to actually defend it. If it’s really about the democracy, secede and start an independent state if you really don’t feel the Canadians / Europeans can accommodate you. But if you stay, after what we now know about the incredible depth and breadth of criminality in the Congress and Presidency, you share in the guilt. Harsh? Too damn bad. The fate of the huge number of victims was a hell of a lot harsher. My sympathies are entirely with them and not at all with you.”

Steve Labonne, your sympathy is worth nothing, and persons wrestling with how to respond to, yes, yet another historical example of the institutional Catholic Church’s capacity to do evil, do not struggle to please you.

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Darius Jedburgh 04.27.10 at 11:36 pm

But Mrs T, I wasn’t taking Steve to be saying that the Church including the laity is “one big paedophile conspiracy” — I was taking him to be saying that about the hierarchy. And while the rhetoric of your last two paragraph was truly impressive — I found myself carried along in spite of myself –, upon calmer inspection I found it impossible to tell for certain whether you were agreeing with Steve about this. But I’m inclined to think that you were. No surprise that Steve should think this: he thinks I’m “lying in a moral cesspool” in virtue of remaining a Catholic! But do you really want to stand by that Mrs T? Is that what you’re saying? That the Church hierarchy simply consists of a big paedophile conspiracy? I think it’s very important to get clear on who we’re accusing, you see, precisely because of what the accusers repeatedly and correctly insist upon: that these are some of the worst crimes one can commit. You wrote that “it is no calumny to state that to identify with the Church is to identify with a ring of paedophiles and their enablers,” meaning by “the Church,” I take it, the clergy. If I understand that correctly, I don’t really know how to respond: like Steve, you’re making my point for me. For this seems to imply that the Catholic clergy as a whole is, or is mostly, a ring of paedophiles together with their enablers. I submit that anyone who thinks that is simply an unhinged bigot. But I kind of hope this is just another of my “energetic blows at strawmen.”

Mr McG:

There is no reason at all that the Catholic Church’s role cannot be fulfilled by the Not Catholic Church, duly constituted of new guys who don’t protect child molesters.

Leaving aside the implication that all the current guys either are or protected child molesters, on which see above, this is not true, if you mean by “no reason at all,” “no reason deriving from Catholic principle.” The unity of the Church and its continuity with those who supposedly derived their authority from Christ Himself are crucially important to Catholics. You probably think this is nuts, and maybe it is, but it’s Catholic doctrine, and if you’re objecting to what Catholics believe you should pay attention to what Catholics believe.

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Substance McGravitas 04.27.10 at 11:54 pm

The unity of the Church and its continuity with those who supposedly derived their authority from Christ Himself are crucially important to Catholics.

Are they as crucial as abortion and birth control and war and being kind to the poor and opposing capital punishment and marrying people of other faiths and divorce and so forth? Because a lot of Catholics don’t care much about those and could certainly get along with another church telling them stuff they’ll ignore.

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Salient 04.28.10 at 12:22 am

I feel, like, vindicated by Lian.

The Catholicism that I know has very little to do with the hierarchy of the Church, and everything to do with love of neighbor, carried to a universal level.

Ok, that makes perfect sense to me. I can and do respect that, completely and warmly.

I can envision a universe in which I would complain that your tithes are financially supporting the political organization of the Church, but that would be a universe in which I don’t pay my taxes in full to a government which is prosecuting two unjust wars and an occupation. So, when you say

But if we expected every institution we associated with to act justly always, we would never associate with any lasting institutions at all, religious or otherwise. And that, I think, would be a greater tragedy

I’m persuaded. And Steve LaBonne, dude, you pay your taxes too; I more or less agree with Moby Hick — following through with #73 would make splinter-cell secessionists of you and me both, and that’s not a cliff I plan to dive.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 12:30 am

I’m persuaded.

What I would say to this argument about religious institutions is that what crimes and injustices they commit are – it must be faced – crimes and injustices over nothing. Where the government is doing someone terrible we, with luck, stop it, prosecute it, never do it again, what have you, but the institution itself needs to be there in a way that the Catholic Church does not. It can be any other church – the biggest reason there are Catholics is because there are Catholic parents, not because the doctrine is convincing.

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Salient 04.28.10 at 12:40 am

what crimes and injustices they commit are – it must be faced – crimes and injustices over nothing.

I don’t think I understand what you mean by “over nothing.”

but the institution itself needs to be there in a way that the Catholic Church does not.

Hence the ‘agitation from within’ or so it seemed to me at least. I am taking Lian’s word with “it reminds me why I fight for reform from within.”

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Steve LaBonne 04.28.10 at 12:43 am

And Steve LaBonne, dude, you pay your taxes too; I more or less agree with Moby Hick—following through with #73 would make splinter-cell secessionists of you and me both, and that’s not a cliff I plan to dive.

This makes no sense at all, since it conflates a voluntary association like a church with the state (though in extreme cases like country-that-must-not-be-named-on-pain-of-Godwin it can be argued that there is indeed a duty of emigration.) Or in fewer words- what Substance just said. Also I suspect that Moby Hick has limited acquaintance with pre-Tridentine Church history- it has at times been a rather more polycentric and loosely organized entity, with far more bottom-up ferment, than he seems to realize.

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Moby Hick 04.28.10 at 12:47 am

Where the government is doing someone terrible we, with luck, stop it, prosecute it, never do it again, what have you, but the institution itself needs to be there in a way that the Catholic Church does not.

Which is why I think my “libertarian parody” is still applicable because they say pretty much the same thing with “business” where you have “government” and “the federal government’s involvement in X” where you have “Catholic Church.”

From what I’ve seen in the theological drift of a great many non-institutionalized churches, where one side has abiblical inventions like pre-millennial-whatever-the-Left-Behind-people-think and the other side a notable (admittedly, not universal) tendency to discount bits of theology like the Resurrection, I’m not willing to agree that institutions are unnecessary or that Catholicism exists only because of Catholic parents.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 12:49 am

I don’t think I understand what you mean by “over nothing.”

It’s fairy dust. I’m happy to accept that lots of people need some sort of outlet they like to call spiritual, but none of it’s true and helping the harmful outlets into irrelevancy is useful.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 12:53 am

Which is why I think my “libertarian parody” is still applicable

It is for joke purposes, but no, Steve was kind enough to extend the option of exchanging one spiritual outlet for another: the metaphor is not freedom from the burden of government, but freedom to shop elsewhere, which is mildly libertarian but nothing approaching Libertopia.

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Moby Hick 04.28.10 at 12:55 am

Also I suspect that Moby Hick has limited acquaintance with pre-Tridentine Church history- it has at times been a rather more polycentric and loosely organized entity, with far more bottom-up ferment, than he seems to realize.

I have a passing familiarity, but I very much missed the part where the pre-Tridentine Church was polycentric or loosely organized in any but the “Rome is too far away to catch us” sense or the “We have a bigger army than the Pope” sense. Unless you mean the extremely-pre-Tridentine Church, where things were much more loose because everybody was running from Romans or Huns.

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Darius Jedburgh 04.28.10 at 1:45 am

Lian: Thanks for your comment. I particularly appreciated

For myself, and other liberal Catholics, the reasons for being a part of the Church in the first place are theological. So are the reasons for staying in the Church. We are, above all, Catholics for what we believe. The scandal—particularly, the hierarchy’s handling of the scandal—disgusts me, as it seems to disgust everyone here. It saddens me, it angers me, it reminds me why I fight for reform from within. The terrible handling (or lack thereof) of sexual abuse cases is not a revelation; it is a terribly sad confirmation of the failings I already knew.

It’s worth pointing out that the Catholic understanding of human nature offers a more compelling explanation of the scandals, in terms of radical evil, than its popular secular rivals. Many non-Catholics seem to suppose that the faith somehow depends on the clergy being understood as somehow exempt from this understanding — nothing could be further from the truth. The boundaries of the City of God are not a matter of who professes themselves to be Catholic, nor even who is an ordained priest or bishop. Judas was an apostle. You can’t get much more in the loop than that.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 1:47 am

Judas was an apostle. You can’t get much more in the loop than that.

So we’re hoping the Pope hangs himself and tithing away?

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Salient 04.28.10 at 1:55 am

This makes no sense at all, since it conflates a voluntary association like a church with the state (though in extreme cases like country-that-must-not-be-named-on-pain-of-Godwin it can be argued that there is indeed a duty of emigration.)

I anticipated this, but don’t feel like arguing over it. I guess my response would be, if it’s a moral duty to not support or associate with the Catholic church, it seems reasonable to assert there is likewise a moral duty to not support or associate with the United States government.

The fact that one disobedience gets you arrested and the other gets you excommunicated probably doesn’t carry much moral weight, in any ethical system we’d be entertaining.

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Salient 04.28.10 at 1:57 am

It’s worth pointing out that the Catholic understanding of human nature offers a more compelling explanation of the scandals, in terms of radical evil, than its popular secular rivals.

No.

Here’s where you’ve blatantly and unacceptably imposed on us. Asking us to respect your beliefs is quite a far cry from asking us to acknowledge them as compelling, which is half a short step from believing them ourselves. Nice fox-trot, though.

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Darius Jedburgh 04.28.10 at 2:18 am

Calm down Salient. I didn’t ask anyone to acknowledge any Catholic belief as compelling. I merely claimed that a particular Catholic belief, if granted, offers a more compelling explanation of a particular observed fact — the abuse scandals — than its popular secular counterpart. Nothing follows about which belief is more compelling all things considered. It just struck me as ironic that the Catholic belief offered the more compelling explanation of the fact that so many people around here believe to obviously discredit Catholic belief.

Substance: the Pope is admittedly a special case. But Peter himself denied Christ three times, we are told, from fear for his life.

Oh, sorry. You were being facetious.

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Patrick 04.28.10 at 5:21 am

You can’t be bigoted against an idea. It doesn’t matter how loudly you call an idea stupid and immoral, or what language you use, it doesn’t make you a bigot. It doesn’t even make you a bigot against the group of people who hold that idea. Ideas have to live or die on their own.

On the other hand, accusing someone of being bigoted because they think an idea you cherish is stupid or immoral is, itself a form of… something. Its not bigotry, and I’m not completely sure what else it might be, but its not something admirable.

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Ingrid Robeyns 04.28.10 at 11:06 am

Oops, away for a day and this is what I find when I return. It’s of course not the first time that I’ve read strong ad hominem attacks against myself after posting something, and it’s always a question what works best – ignoring or responding. Ignoring is no longer an option since so many of you defended me – thanks for that (I mean it – without the supportive readers I would probably have quitted blogging long ago, given the amount of unreasonable shit one gets over oneself as a blogger). I could now come up with ‘proofs’ for my respect and tollerance towards believers and members of the church – such as the fact that our primary babysitter is a strong believer, a previous one was an active Jehova’s Witness, I’ve co-authored with a practicing Christian, and one can go on and on. But really, why should I justify to an unreasonable, unfair, disrespectful reader, even one who claims to be a stakeholder, what my attitudes and practices towards (organised) religion is? I don’t think I have to, since I really don’t think the words that I wrote can reasonably be interpreted as revealing hatred. I do think, though, that those who are official members (as I still am, but not for much longer), should either use their voice to show their concern, or else exit. Being silent is very likely to be interpreted as not caring how those with power in the Church are dealing with cases of sexual abuse.

I’ve deleted one comment from the moderation queue of someone who was AGGRESSIVELY SHOUTING – if you repost in a calmed-down manner you’ll be welcome to join the coversations. Our rules are on top of the blog.

Folks, please do keep the conversation respectful and reasonable. I know blogging about religious affairs is asking for troubles, and if needed the solution will be to close off the comments section. I have never had to do that, so hope it won’t be needed now.

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Steve LaBonne 04.28.10 at 11:09 am

Moby, ever heard of Saint Francis? There were periods long after the Dark Ages where virtually all the theological and organizational energy was coming from lay people on the bottom, and the authorities had quite a job to manage to co-opt it. Genuinely liberal Catholics should not try to pretend that they can’t do without the corrupt superstructure- that’s not true.

As for Darius, it’s worth pointing out that “the Catholic understanding of human nature offers a more compelling explanation of the scandals, in terms of radical evil, than its popular secular rivals” is a complete crock of shit. No “popular secular” understanding of human nature claims to believe that humans are incapable of vile acts. And the “radical evil” bit is actually a major copout in this context, since it’s clear that the badly warped view of sexuality implied in trying to maintain a celibate clergy (and notice that the fiction that this clergy really is completely sexually inactive is quite a recent one- throughout most of the history of clerical celibacy only the ban against marriage, which was originally the whole point, was strictly enforced, but a blind eye was turned to many informal adult sexual arrangements) was a predictable source of trouble, yet was stoutly defended by the hierarchy even as the latter was constantly having to scramble to cover up the evil consequences.

Throwing up your hands and muttering about radical evil, instead of attacking known sources of actual evils, is a disgusting invitation to moral evasion. If you think that kind of casuistry is supposed to increase our regard for Catholicism, you’re daft.

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Steve LaBonne 04.28.10 at 12:55 pm

I guess my response would be, if it’s a moral duty to not support or associate with the Catholic church, it seems reasonable to assert there is likewise a moral duty to not support or associate with the United States government.

I think I just pointed out what a terrible analogy that is (it’s a hell of a lot easier to drop your affiliation with a voluntary organization than to emigrate), but you “don’t feel like” coming up with an actual argument. Oh well.

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Moby Hick 04.28.10 at 12:55 pm

Moby, ever heard of Saint Francis?

Yes. 750 years after his death and a continent away, I attended a school run by members of his order. Without a superstructure, his influence would have been limited to his region of Italy.

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Darius Jedburgh 04.28.10 at 1:07 pm

Ingrid — as I said, I totally overreacted to your post. I now see that I also misread it. I apologise.

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Steve LaBonne 04.28.10 at 1:08 pm

Without a superstructure, his influence would have been limited to his region of Italy.

That’s quite a major concession on your part, because it acknowledges the possibility of lay-led movements that bypass a corrupt hierarchy while remaining very much Catholic. Who would worry about the potentially limited area of influence except one who really does care more about the institution and its power and wealth than about the theology? And there have been many other such movements in church history- the one founded by Francis simply became famous and powerful precisely because it was successfully co-opted.

Dante’s Peter Damian (Paradiso XXI) had his priorities straight:

Poca vita mortal m’era rimasa,
quando fui chiesto e tratto a quel cappello,
che pur di male in peggio si travasa.

Venne Cefàs e venne il gran vasello
de lo Spirito Santo, magri e scalzi,
prendendo il cibo da qualunque ostello.

Or voglion quinci e quindi chi rincalzi
li moderni pastori e chi li meni,
tanto son gravi, e chi di rietro li alzi.

Cuopron d’i manti loro i palafreni,
sì che due bestie van sott’ una pelle:
oh pazïenza che tanto sostieni!

99

engels 04.28.10 at 1:31 pm

As usual once people start wheeling the old ‘ah but then you’d also have to boycott the US and that’s impossible ha!’ gambit you know the argument is pretty much over.

100

Moby Hick 04.28.10 at 1:34 pm

That’s quite a major concession on your part, because it acknowledges the possibility of lay-led movements that bypass a corrupt hierarchy while remaining very much Catholic.

If you view that as a concession on my part, I have been unclear or you have been reading too much into what I’ve said. Of course you can have lay-led movements and remain Catholic. These exist and continue to exist as Catholic and in differing levels of conflict with different portions of the hierarchy. I don’t think you can have a lay-led movement that argues there should be no hierarchy without becoming Protestant. That’s pretty much the definition of Protestant.

Who would worry about the potentially limited area of influence except one who really does care more about the institution and its power and wealth than about the theology?

Someone who is worried that the state of the Church as a whole. I think that the Church was much better able to advance its theology because of (relative) swiftness by which effective reformers were able to have their ideas travel up into the hierarchy and from there spread. From St. Benedict on, that has happened.

101

Moby Hick 04.28.10 at 1:35 pm

you’d also have to boycott the US

I tried. I got a threatening letter from the IRS and a condolence card from Willie Nelson.

102

Uncle Kvetch 04.28.10 at 2:42 pm

respecting the humanity and dignity of every person is something that my faith teaches

Lian, speaking as both a lapsed Catholic (including Catholic schooling from grades 1 through 12) and a gay man, this is a baldfaced lie. The Catholic Church teaches that my sexual and romantic attraction to members of my own sex is a manifestation of an “objective moral disorder,” and it strives actively and tirelessly around the world to ensure that people like myself are trapped in lives of self-loathing and second-class citizenship. “Humanity and dignity” my ass.

This is why, for me and many others, the recent revelations, while stomach-turning, were in no way “shocking,” have only served to confirm what we already knew.

(With apologies to Ingrid, but I grew up surrounded by this kind of peacock-like moral strutting, and “reasonable and respectful” is an exceedingly difficult standard to maintain at this point.)

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Mrs Tilton 04.28.10 at 4:18 pm

Moby Hick @100,

I don’t think you can have a lay-led movement that argues there should be no hierarchy without becoming Protestant. That’s pretty much the definition of Protestant

Unless by “hierarchy” you mean “pope”, the episcopalian and presbyterian forms of church governance would like a word with you. “Hierarchy” is not coterminous with “Roman hierarchy”.

What you think of as “pretty much the definition of Protestant” applies only to tiny corners of the protestant universe — Quakers, probably, and perhaps some others, though none spring at the moment to mind. (And “definition” only WRT the structure of governance — Quakers presumably think there are more important aspects to the essence of their tradition than not having professional clergy.)

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Moby Hick 04.28.10 at 5:10 pm

Unless by “hierarchy” you mean “pope”, the episcopalian and presbyterian forms of church governance would like a word with you. “Hierarchy” is not coterminous with “Roman hierarchy”.

I realize that this is different in other parts of the word, but I’ll say that I conflated “hierarchy” with “stable hierarchy”. Locally, the Episcopalians and Presbyterians have been fighting and splitting. But, that wasn’t what I was thinking of. I had in mind the more numerous unaffiliated or loosely affiliated pentecostal-ish churches that are springing-up all over. They are very much not a tiny corner of the protestant universe and they seem to be growing while the others shrink.

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Steve LaBonne 04.28.10 at 5:22 pm

Another point to be made is this: ultraconservative bishops, priests and congregants have more than once proven willing to defy the hierarchy over vernacular Masses and other Vatican II reforms, but no clergy with clean hands are willing to lead a similar breakaway over rampant criminality and coverups?? I find that pretty astonishing.

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Salient 04.28.10 at 6:26 pm

I think I just pointed out what a terrible analogy that is (it’s a hell of a lot easier to drop your affiliation with a voluntary organization than to emigrate), but you “don’t feel like” coming up with an actual argument. Oh well.

Fiiiiiine…

Look, this doesn’t make any sense at all to me. If you genuinely believe that dropping your affiliation with a voluntary organization dooms you to eternal damnation, that’s… harder to accept than the consequences of emigration, I would think. I mean, by comparison, emigrating is nothing.

If there’s a moral duty to abandon the Catholic church even though God will condemn you to eternal Hell for it, well, emigration by comparison is nothing. A momentary inconvenience.

Now, I don’t believe that “even though” bit, personally. I find it astonishingly incomprehensible, almost an affront to reason, really (but then my own beliefs are perhaps an affront to devoted Catholics). Anyway, I’m not Catholic, and I’m willing to accept Catholics at their word who assert they believe in a God who would eternally damn them for not seeking Him through the structure handed down directly from Jesus, which is the Catholic church etc, etc. That means any arguments of moral obligations that can be made to them, must be made through that lens — or I must argue that they should abandon the lens, the belief itself.

We can’t say “believe in this, but ignore it for a moment so I can get through to you.” Or rather, we can, but… what’s the point?

I guess you could try to convince them to not believe in a God that would damn them for leaving the Church. But you didn’t try to do that, at least not in the post in question — instead, you asserted they have a moral duty to leave the church regardless, even while believing tenets which assure eternal damnation for leaving the church.

You’re arguing that people should accept an eternity of damnation in Hell, and leave the church. Okay. You’re emphatically not arguing (yet) that those folks should give up their beliefs which state they will be damned eternally, just that they should accept the damnation they believe in.

…Good luck?

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Steve LaBonne 04.28.10 at 6:39 pm

Look Salient, I was raised Catholic, I know lots of Catholics, and none of them (except maybe the kinds of hopeless reactionaries who refuse even to acknowledge the existence of the problem in the first place) believe that they’d be eternally damned if they repudiated the church over this. (They could, after all, become Episcopalian or Orthodox and there is absolutely no widely accepted Catholic teaching that this would damn them to perdition.) They are suffering essentially from a conflict of conscience and tribalism, not from any such stark dilemma as your lurid imagination presents. These are, after all, the very same people who blithely ignore papal pronouncements on things like birth control.

First Rule of Holes, my friend.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 6:49 pm

even though God will condemn you to eternal Hell for it

God will condemn you for lots of stuff, stuff that Catholics also do. I don’t accept that all Catholics really think about and buy their ideology just as I don’t believe that Democrats or Republicans all really embrace the party platform. Another church could serve a lot of Catholics except for those like Darius and Lian. And indeed lots of other churches do serve ex-Catholics.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 6:58 pm

Also: blah blah blah on me.

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Lian 04.28.10 at 9:43 pm

Substance wrote:

Are they as crucial as abortion and birth control and war and being kind to the poor and opposing capital punishment and marrying people of other faiths and divorce and so forth? Because a lot of Catholics don’t care much about those and could certainly get along with another church telling them stuff they’ll ignore.

Far more crucial. The unity and continuity of the Church are more important than any of those, except for being kind to the poor (which is the heart of the gospel, if you read it, and a principle of almost every religion). I do not entirely agree with the Church on abortion or birth control or marrying people of other faiths. (And the Church pretty much allows divorce anyway, just requires somewhat stronger reasons than civil law; we call it annulment.)

To be a Catholic is to remain in the Church. Not just now, but for centuries. The Church may change at a speed that makes the U.S. Senate look brisk, but eventually it does. Leaving would only ensure that the most conservative voices can lay claim to the doctrine, and that is the last thing I want.

That, above all, is why I won’t leave. Because I won’t leave the Church to grow in the direction that the conservatives envision–the narrow, absolutist, legalistic approach that does not fit my understanding of the Church’s mission. Yes (Steve), if there were no such thing as the Catholic Church, I could probably be happy as an Episcopalian or other mainline Protestant, maybe even as a Unitarian. But the Church exists, and the unity and continuity of the Church (and the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is incredibly powerful for those who believe it) are important enough to keep me there. Most liberal Catholics feel this way–I’ve had numerous conversations on the subject.

#102 (Uncle Kvetch): A complete misunderstanding of homosexuality (and everything other than heterosexuality, except the hierarchy hasn’t much caught on to other options yet) is one of the ways in which the Church does not live up to its broader teachings. But the foundational teaching of dignity remains, even if the Church itself fails to practice it (though I have heard homophobia denounced as a sin from the pulpit in multiple venues, so at least we’re making some progress there). I’ll be the first to admit that the Church is wrong in its heteronormativity. I’m about as pro-gay rights as you can get, including as pertains to the Church. But I think I’ve already made it clear that belonging to the Church does not require a belief that it is always correct.

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 10:01 pm

Far more crucial.

For you. My dad was Catholic and found another church. In weak moments I’ll jump up and down and pretend the empty pews are because ATHEISM IS THE ONE TRUE NOT-RELIGION but there are plenty of other spiritual outlets and people find them and use them when they’ve had enough of Catholicism.

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parse 04.28.10 at 11:03 pm

For you. My dad was Catholic and found another church.

Wow, who would have guessed that the unity and continuity of the church is more important for Catholics who stay in it than for Catholics who leave. Why did you bother asking? Lian’s made it clear he’s talking about people who believe that the bread and wine consecrated at Mass change literally into the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ, but this can only be accomplished by individuals who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders. Are you really hoping to get some rational explanation of their behavior?

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Substance McGravitas 04.28.10 at 11:20 pm

Are you really hoping to get some rational explanation of their behavior?

No, I’m interested in getting Lian to notice that Catholicism is optional – obviously so. But the example of Jesus shows we should stick with existing religious institutions, so what are you gonna do?

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Lian 04.29.10 at 12:23 pm

No, I’m interested in getting Lian to notice that Catholicism is optional – obviously so.

Well of course Catholicism is optional. So is any religion. So is abiding by a social contract. So is making friends. So is reading this blog. Pretty much anything any human does is optional, when you come down to it, if you accept that choices have consequences. Just because it’s optional does not mean it isn’t a valid choice. I’m not saying you have any obligation to be Catholic yourself. You don’t, and I wouldn’t try to force it on anyone. But for people who believe in the theology of the Catholic Church, that theology is of prime importance. The Church as an institution is not our reason for remaining Catholic, so much as it is difficult to detach from those reasons.

All I’m saying is that for those who believe in the religious teachings of the Church, those teachings are more important than other things. Which is why you have so many American Catholics on both the left and the right who don’t completely agree with or follow the Church, yet are part of it. That should be about as self-evident as the fact that belonging to the Church is a choice. (Do you think it would mean anything at all if it weren’t a choice?)

And @parse, #112: Transubstantiation does not mean what you imply it does. Neither I nor any Catholic I know believes that we are eating physical flesh and blood. We believe that it changes in an extra-physical way. It’s more about believing that the sacrifice is being made over again each time the Mass is celebrated, rather than that we only commemorate the sacrifice. It’s the difference between saying Jesus died for us once and saying that Jesus continues to die for us, and one of the principle divides between Catholicism and most Protestant churches. (Which probably just means that Catholics are even more nuts than the rest, in your book, but oh well.) Yes, we believe the sacrifice makes it body and blood, in some sense. But we also know that chemically, it’s bread and wine. There’s a lot of nuance there, despite your disinterest in it. Not stuck in the 10th century here…

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Steve LaBonne 04.29.10 at 12:59 pm

Lian, you’re of course free to stay using those excuses, that goes without saying. Just as others are free to judge the condition of your moral compass accordingly. Your intellectual debility was already shown way back above when you manged to type the following with (presumably) a straight face:

But the community created by organized religion is valuable to those that are religious, and should be respected.

Out of consideration for various “Internet laws” I will refrain from listing some kinds of communities, certainly valuable to their members, that are obvious counterexamples. Respect for actions and choices, very much unlike respect for persons, is NEVER automatic and as of right.

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Mrs Tilton 04.29.10 at 2:09 pm

Lian @110,

the Church pretty much allows divorce anyway, just requires somewhat stronger reasons than civil law; we call it annulment

In practical terms, that statement is of course correct (at least if one include under “stronger reasons” the quality of being rich and well-connected and wanting to be shut of a spouse who isn’t). In theological terms, though, BRZZZZT. Since you belong to the RC church and hence presumably accept its teachings, at least those it defines as essential, you might wish to learn what it teaches about marriage, and about what an annulment does. Hint: it doesn’t dissolve a marriage.

To be a Catholic is to remain in the Church. Not just now, but for centuries.

How many centuries do catholics need to remain in the church, though, before the sexton sweeps their bones out of the pew to make room for others?

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Substance McGravitas 04.29.10 at 3:22 pm

Theology in action:

SYDNEY—Some pedophile priests believe molesting children does not breach their vow of celibacy, a retired Australian Catholic bishop said in a magazine interview.

Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, told The Australian Women’s Weekly he had made the observation during years of work with victims of child abuse within the church.

“We’ve met it often enough to see it as a factor. That’s what the vow of celibacy refers to, being married. If it’s not an adult woman, then somehow they’re not breaking their vow,” the 72-year-old said.

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Uncle Kvetch 04.29.10 at 4:16 pm

But for people who believe in the theology of the Catholic Church, that theology is of prime importance.

Except for the parts that you choose not to believe, which are of no importance. Because what really matters is that you choose to believe those parts of the Church’s teachings that you choose to believe.

You’re not doing yourself any favors here, Lian.

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Salient 04.29.10 at 4:38 pm

First Rule of Holes, my friend.

The zeroth rule of holes is don’t start digging, which is why I’d bowed out in advance. You kinda asked for me to dig ;-)

But yes, okay. Thinking back on it, I was more sold on the “let’s change a corrupt system from within” argument than the “I believe God wants me to do this” argument, and that was what I had intended to parallelize. (In which case, rather than nag about tax evasion, I should have emphasized that we both continue to vote and agitate and petition the government, maybe.)

All I’m saying is that for those who believe in the religious teachings of the Church, those teachings are more important than other things.

Lian, noooooooo! (Diving in the path dramatically.) That’s not all you’re saying, or you wouldn’t have persuaded me. You’ve also said:

* Many official political positions of the church are horrible.

* Working from within, you hope to change those official political positions over time.

* If you abandon the Church, it will become a smaller but still very powerful institution composed entirely of people who support those horrible positions.

Those three points still seem very sensible and persuasive to me; please don’t abandon them for the sake of an “all I was saying” summary!

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Steve LaBonne 04.29.10 at 4:59 pm

The zeroth rule of holes is don’t start digging

Which is why you shouldn’t have. Yawn. Bye. I’m going to stop contributing to keeping this thread on life support.

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JoB 04.29.10 at 7:18 pm

Meanwhile in Belgium, our new cardinal who was so emotional when he announced his new zero-tolerance to child-abuse in his church has been shown to allow a child-abusing priest to go on, in the 90s in the diocese of the then-bishop-now-cardinal.

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Ingrid Robeyns 04.29.10 at 7:22 pm

Yes, JoB, I also just watched the Belgian news, and it does look like many more cases and unacceptabel responses from the Church Leadership are going to reach the surface.

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JoB 04.30.10 at 7:46 am

For completeness: it now appears that the original child-abusing bishop who went on the record to say that he only abused the one child (bishops are special, you know, even if they are a child-abuser, they are at the very least special child abusers), has abused at least one other of his broader family’s children.

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