Nothing that the Catholic Church does surprises me anymore. In fact, I’m prepared to say that the Catholic Church is now right up there with the right-wing Christian nutcake churches that blight the American landscape. But I don’t want to go there. I want to stick with the Catholics today. Here’s a message for the Vatican, and I didn’t have to hire anyone to craft it: It isn’t about the message. It’s about the messenger. The church’s flock is dwindling because it lives in the Dark Ages (and wants its followers to live there as well), continues to meddle in the affairs of state, continues to defend its ‘handling’ of the vast sex abuse scandal that has rocked both the United States and Europe, and has a deep and abiding disrespect for women.
If the Catholic Church was striving for credibility, hiring Fox news correspondent Greg Burke (also a member of Opus Dei) isn’t the route to take. Neither Fox — a right-wing media outlet that routinely passes off lies and misinformation as news — nor its staff has any credibility on any level. However, I suspect credibility isn’t what the church is going for. (It also signals that the church isn’t about to make any changes in its antiquated dogmas.) Rather, it’s all about public relations and keeping everyone on the same page all the time.
The article about the hiring of Burke as senior communications adviser cites Islamic reaction to Pope Benedict’s disastrous remarks about some of the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings being “evil and inhuman,” his reinstatement of a Holocaust-denying bishop originally excommunicated in 1988 by John Paul II, and the Pope’s piss poor handling of the 2010 European sex-abuse scandal as some of the public relations nightmares haunting the Vatican. Then there’s the matter of what is now called Vatileaks, the leaking of secret documents that expose the Vatican as a teeming mass of rivalries and corruption presided over by an ineffectual Pope. However, the Catholic Church’s problems run deeper than mere public relations snafus.
The church sex-abuse scandal has rocked the world — not just Europe — and the church’s handling of it has been dismal from day one, and not just under the less-than-watchful eye of Pope Benedict. There have been many enablers along the way at various hierarchical levels. The pedophilia problem was covered up for years. Pervert priests were secreted away to bogus church-run rehabilitation programs, or moved from diocese to diocese to continue their sexual abuse of children with impunity. All that mattered to the church was that it didn’t go public and create a scandal. Although I wasn’t ever abused, I had personal experience with one such priest myself. During the 70s, I was in a relationship with a woman whose uncle was a Roman Catholic priest in the Boston area. When he found out about our relationship, he worked to break it up, saying that his niece needed the “company of men.” As it turns out, so did he (although he mostly liked the company of young boys from a drug rehabilitation program he ran). It was later revealed that he was a prolific pedophile who was moved from church to church, becoming an Associate Pastor under Cardinal Madeiros and a Pastor under Bernard Cardinal Law, before being defrocked in 2005.
This failure to deal with the pedophiles in its midst is par for the course for the Catholic Church. Documents show a history of deception and cover-up. After the scandal broke, the church blocked legal action against its priests. I am mostly familiar with Boston, but the Church’s pattern of abuse and cover-ups is one that is repeated everywhere. The pattern proves that the Church was always more interested in protecting its reputation and the priests, and not their victims. It’s not difficult to understand how the Catholic Church’s followers would become disillusioned and disenfranchised. Let’s be clear here. Many who turned away from the church turned away from the church, not from God. Many people came to understand that they did not need a church to have a personal relationship with God.
The Catholic Church has no right to interfere with the secular affairs of state
The church has continuously worked to influence legislation on a local and national level. The Catholic church became allies with the Mormons in the fight against same-sex marriage in California. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops donated $200,000 to Prop 8. An additional $1.4 was funneled to Prop 8 through the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization. The notion that marriage is nothing but a sacrament is bullshit. It’s a sacrament if you’re a practicing Catholic. However, thousands of legal marriages occur every year outside a religious setting, conducted as civil ceremonies. The issue of marriage is rooted in the U.S. Constitution, not the Bible. One more time, I will say what our founding fathers said: The United States is not now nor has it ever been a Christian nation.
The Catholic church has no business involving itself in secular matters, yet it managed to involve itself in the contraception issue that is part of the health care mandate, in spite of the fact that President Obama made an exception for the church. This is not a church issue. And in spite of what the Catholic church is telling everyone, it is not a question of religious freedom. Nobody is oppressing the Catholic church. Health care has nothing to do with religious dogma. There is only one group of people being oppressed in this war, and that is women. The church has a right to counsel its followers, but it has no business involving itself in the legislative process or dictating to an entire group of American citizens — in this case women — if or how it should receive its health care, or what that health care should look like. Pouring money into the legislative process and lobbying for or against legislation is a violation of the separation between church and state. It is at this point that there should be serious consideration given to revoking the church’s 501(c)(3) status.
The misogyny continues unabated. Claiming that their religious freedoms are coming under attack, the Catholic institutions have now sued the Obama administration over the HHS contraception mandate. As of this writing, there are 12 lawsuits including 46 plaintiffs from dioceses, hospitals and universities. “We have tried negotiation with the administration and legislation with the Congress, and we’ll keep at it, but there’s still no fix,” said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”
On June 21, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched their so-called Fortnight for Freedom to protest the HHS contraception mandate, and are encouraging Catholics to openly defy the mandate. The church is proving itself out of touch with its followers. There are a growing number of Catholics for choice, and the group has made it clear that the Bishops do not speak for them. A February 2012 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a majority of Catholics support the contraception mandate.
Clearly, the Catholic church needs more than just a public relations campaign.