Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Do you realize that right now there is no one infallible on Earth? It's all being run by humans." - Stephen Colbert

Sometimes to make my central point of “organic popular will better than unbreakable laws” I look to the UK, which has more in the tradition of absolute democracy. One can certainly look in the other direction, at liberal modern states based almost entirely on archaic formal laws and not on the popular will at all.

Of course, this gives us the topic on everyone’s minds – and everyone’s praises – the Catholic Church. A nation of laws and laws alone if there ever was one, and it’s consistent application of these laws across the board receives great intellectual respect. And it’s, in my opinion, entirely the sort of thing we need to be getting away from.

In all this talk of the Pope’s legacy, with every political commentator mentioning things they disagreed with the Pope about, but saying they felt much affinity because of where they agreed, there’s little mention of the role of women.

The Catholic Church does not allow women to be equal to men. In Catholicism, the role of priests is more important than almost any other religion for its clergy (I think, feel free to correct me. It’s certainly a very large role) – in terms of how the priest relates an individual to God, and how the entire centralized policy-making apparatus has to be priests. To say women cannot be part of that at all, is nearly barbaric in this day and age.

No one seems to get particularly upset over this anymore (okay, the mainstream liberal and conservative blogs aren’t as upset over this as I’d expect them to be), because of an attitude like “hey, that’s some wacky scriptural vestige. Christ didn’t ordain female priests or give us the power to ordain female priests. Sure, it’s probably because women were treated like shit back then and we do know Christ respected women more than anyone else in his culture at the time did, but… we gotta go with this because Christ kinda-sortasaid so. Sorry gals.” And since it’s infallible law (reinforced by John Paul 2, just so no one lets him off the hook), no one would expect the Church to change it, and our commentators focus more on pronouncements on war or the death penalty.

Yeah well. Clearly that’s silly to someone who thinks that the egalitarian “now” is better than the “then”.

A lot of talk is made over how the Church is declining in Europe but is soaring in the global south. Like this reflects on the lack of faith in the spoiled countries and those who are growing up in struggle can really appreciate Christianity. Well maybe it’s that the modern countries are tired of BS repressive un-changeable doctrines dominating their social life, while the controlling powers in Africa and Latin America are happy to welcome an institution that says women can never have as much power as men. And which direction would we rather follow?

I respect the Church, the parochial school I went to was one of the most intellectual and liberal institutions in the Midwest city I grew up in and led me to meet a lot of good people. Its “culture of life” positions are more consistent than anyone else’s and as an intellectual I respect that. And even on birth control and abortion, I feel the Church issues moral pronouncements that are more along the lines of “there is a cost to this sexual culture, and we will internalize that cost” than actually having the power to prohibit it or trying to (JP2 after all, did not run Planned Parenthood – and more than a few missionaries have been willing to turn a blind eye and do what was clearly utilitarian in third world countries when needed). And they certainly recognized that material well-being of the poor is the most important issue on the planet.

But saying that women and men are equal in the eyes of God, and giving them the power that validates that, especially in the countries where that affirmation is needed the most is specifically part of the Church and the Pope’s power, and the lack thereof is something so absurd, so pre-Enlightenment, that I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s adherence to foolish consistencies from archaic times that I feel is the strongest example of why we should disregard super-laws and constitutionalism.

I am of course always curious how my liberal Catholic friends, such as Namespace Collision (with whom I have discussed this somewhat), deal with this. I tend to think that this exclusion is so massive, so capricious in source, that liberals just ignore what seems so out of place.


At 3:16 PM, Anonymous little_e- said...

let's not even get into the rants i used to blow up into during sunday school/bible study during my last, fading days as a catholic before (much to everyone else's relief, i'm sure) i wandered away...

but when you speak of most people, you're probably not including me in that ^_^

I think the problems with catholicism are much deeper than just mysogeny. i think the entire catholic mindset involves extremely unhealthy views about sexuality, which in turn leads to their views on women, abortion, condoms, etc.

and while church leaders have been willing to turn a blind eye to necessity in the third world, a. they should not be turning a blind eye to suffering, they should be working to end that suffering in the most efficient way possible because that's what jesus told them to do, and b. i've heard of many cases in which, while the missionaries on the ground were turning a blind eye, when their superiors further up the chain of command found out what was happening, funding was cut.

Moreover, i don't care whether you're turning a blind eye or not, telling people that condoms are bad in today's world of AIDs and STDs, is, IMHO, an offense against humanity.

The catholic church does some good charity work, and has some great intellectual stuff going on, but this is still the same religion that brought us the witch hunts and the inquisition--and the doctrines haven't really changed all that much since then. I think the church has a really, really long time to go before it can call itself respectable in any sense besides the donating food and such to the poor sense.

not that the protestants are much better, (and all things considered, it seems to me that lay protestants are much worse than lay catholics, who have at least learned to ignore the church most of the time) but they're not as numerous and they never told me I couldn't be a priest as a kid...

I think what motivates catholics when they think about the church to dismiss such concerns is a combination of ignorance and willful mental disconnects. my mum, for example, does not believe me that the catholic church has repressive views towards sex. Of course, she didn't know that the church has declared mary a virgin for her entire life, either, until I told her and she, not believing me because it was just too silly and incredible a statement for anyone to believe, mary was married, after all, went and checked her big book of dogma and found yes, the church does say this, and instantly decided that this must make perfect sense and after all, she'd just given birth to god, that probably scared joseph into never touching her... oh god i am too sleepy to be typing, i seem to have lost my ability to make sentances...

At 8:18 AM, Blogger Rousseau said...

So this is what drives me crazy. I understand that birth control and abortion seem like big deals - they affect many lives, they might be just cast from repressive regimes, etc. But dear lord in heaven, how can they be anything compared to "women are not equal and cannot have a role in the government of the church". That'd be like expecting the US to have liberal BC and sexual rights regimes before women are allowed to vote.

Intelligent people can disagree about a lot of things, including birth control and other sexual measures. But, but,... whether women are equal to men, nominally? Isn't that like a hundred years ago? And why would you expect any culture to have a liberal attitude towards BC and sex before it has any sort of formal equality for women - has this happened in any other culture?

It's like how I feel about DC voting rights. Our country has many problems to work through - but first, can't we agree that everyone gets to elect their leaders and represenatives that help make these decisions? Isn't this obvious?

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous little_e- said...

i'm not arguing that birth control is more important than women's rights. I'm arguing that i think stopping the spread of AIDs is extremely important. Death is, in my book, more pressing than descrimination.

moreover, i'm arguing that they're part and parcel of the same thing. You can't talk about the church's horribly backwards attitudes towards women wihtout looking at the church's horribly backwards attitudes towards sex in general. the two ideas are interrelated.

Obviously from a pragmatic stand point, being able to separate a particular issue (say, the church's mideval hiring practicies) and protest against that one issue is going to work a lot faster than protesting against the entire catholic viewpoint on women and sexuality. on this point you are right, and pushing for equal hiring and women's rights is never a bad thing. ^_^ (too bad there is no ERA... and thus since we all kowtow to the constitution, the principle doens't exist... )

but i think it's also important to keep in mind that these thigns are not actually seprate phenomena.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Rousseau said...

Of course they're part of one larger issue. And as such, it's pretty clear you're going to get one issue done before the other. Women-priests help move forward the church's view on sex as political represenation, and they're also easier to get behind, because they is is blindingly obvious.

But it's more a matter of "why does no one mention this anymore".

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous little_e- said...

Because criticizing cute widdle religions would be an attack by the big bad atheists of hollywood and boston on the poor, struggling, inherently good religious citizens of america!!!11111


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