Saturday, April 09, 2005

Welcome to my views regarding the Catholic Church

I saw an entry in another blog forum on this, & I feel the need to express some clarification.

I think that for a religion, there needs to be a differentiation made between the theological beliefs being static & the dogmatic methods used to adhere to that theology being something the evolves. The problem in Catholicism being the last words where Jesus anoits Peter as the first Pope - "What you do here on earth, I shall hold true in heaven." Dude. That has caused So. Much. Trouble. Before the first 50 years of Catholicism had passed it was already a huge issue. Just look at the writings between St. Peter & St. Paul.

As a Jew who had been raised in & amongst Gentiles, Paul wanted to allow followers of Jesus (because at that point, they were not Catholics or Christians, they were considered a sect of Judaism) to be able to follow Jesus' teaching without converting to Judaism. Peter didn't agree. Plus, under a set of rules established during the times of slavery in Egypt, even those that converted wouldn't be considered "true" Jews because in technicality, Judaic heritage is passed from the mother. At a time when Jewish women were regularly raped by their captors, it was the only way to put some form of a claim on the offspring. So those who converted to be in line with following the teachings of Jesus wouldn't be "born" Jews, so to speak - but their children would be. (Note before I hear from my Jewish friends - I realize that nowadays, the line between converted & born into is an almost non-existent thing in most modern Judaic denominations. Back then, not so much.)

So the battle began between Peter, who was working to convert those in & around Judea (a mostly Jewish contingent) and Paul, whose work occured in Rome & Greece. Paul knew that in order for early Christianity to survive, it had to have members beyond the Jewish community because such diversity would eventually give it the safety of members who were in positions of power to protect those who would normally be persecuted for their deaths. In the end, while it took a couple centuries -- he was right. Thanks to St. Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century C.E. Helen was a Christian who is credited with finding the True Cross & having influenced her son with her beliefs to the point where he allowed those of Christianity to live in peace in the Roman Empire - after all, could you send your mother to the lions? And that's what Paul recognized -- that the longer Christianity was around, the deeper it penetrated beyond Judaic society, the stronger a hold it would gain over society as a whole, thus guaranteeing the teachings of Jesus Christ a longevity not enjoyed by many of the other Messianic claimants. (and there were quite a few in those days - in the context of his time, Jesus was not considered a religious prophet - he was seen as a political upstart. Due to the Roman rule of the Jews, there was no difference between the two classifications)
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The point? The point is that Paul could see beyond the limits of dogmatic doctrine to recognize that if one were to actually read the text of what the Gospels were*, the importance of the message was this :

To the beggar on the corner, which do you think is more important - that you are circumcised, or that there is enough kindness in your heart to drop a coin into his bowl?

It is the actions you take due to the theology of a religion that matter - too many wars have been fought in blind allegiance to the dogma of a religion. In truth, there are no set rules handed down by God Himself save ten. And how many of them have been broken in the name of dogma?

*the four Approved gospels we have today are in fact not written by the Apostles. In most likelihood, it's generally thought that the Gospel of John, undoubtedly the most esoteric of the four, is probably the one closest to the original text and may in fact only be about two generations away from an original dictation by one of Jesus' original followers. Matthew, Mark & Luke were written by Greeks & Romans based on the linguistics used & the attempts to gloss over certain undoubtedly Judaic aspects of the story -- for one thing, the Romans would have had to have been the ones to condemn Jesus to death, because the High Council of a Jewish religious body would never convene during Passover. However, it's widely believed that in order to make early Catholicism more acceptable in the Roman Empire, this portion of the story was changed so that the Romans were blameless.
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The point here being that the Catholic Church's mission is not to ignore poverty because the country follows a different religion. Its purpose is not to make a pregnant teenager feel guilty about the fact that she had sex. It's not there to make two people of the same gender feel that they've done something wrong because they love one another. That may be their present dogmatic aim, but if one reads the writings of Jesus, nowhere does it say, "Blow up the abortion clinic."

The present problem facing the modern Catholic Church is not one of theology. It's one of dogma. When people say that now finally the Catholics can get someone who'll change things to bring the Church more in line with the modern day., they don't mean theologically - the theology of Catholicism is love to others, generosity to those that need help, and an acceptance that there is a power greater than yourself. It is the dogma of Catholicism which needs the re-evaluated. and the reason for that is that dogma is formed by humans, and we are all falliable.
--> The Catholic church once sold indulgences - pay a fee, get an out for your sin or buy your spot in heaven!
--> The Catholic church endorsed the slave trade for centuries.
--> Spanish Inquisition. 'nuff said.

I can name it off for days the mistakes that have been made by Catholic and Protestant and Jew and Muslims over the centuries all in the name of religion, all because of the falliability of humanity. The truth of the matter is, if you read the teachings of all of these religions, they call for people to strive to recognize that they are not perfect, admit that they need improvement, & work towards that.

Well the Church is made up of people. so the Church itself is not perfect.

I'm not the same person I was when I was born. I'm not the same person I was ten years ago, five years ago, or even six months ago. I learn, I change, & in the course of that, who I am becomes different. The Catholic Church, made up of people, needs to undergo the same change, the same evolution.
As a large body of beauracracy, the Catholic Church has become out of touch with the day to day needs of the people whose very existence is supposed to drive its purpose - that is what needs to change. Just as the worker on the factory floor would laugh & tell you that the CEO has no idea how things really work, the parish priest who has four parishes to go to in one weekend because enrollment at seminaries is so small that they literally do not have enough new priests to replace those that are retiring or who did not retire before they died for the simple reason that they know there's no one to take their place will tell you that Italy has no idea what the day to day purpose of a church has become for the people in it. If nothing else, I have the very simple question for the Vatican of this -- if the Vatican can afford the upkeep of so much and such great wealth, why are so many individual churches in debt? What is wrong with Italy and the American Catholic Church that their stores can support the displays of pagentry that we are seeing in the last few weeks, but there was literally a banner up in front of St. Patrick's in Pelham where I went to school with a themometer as the church kept track of how much they had managed through charity drives & fundraisers to reduce the $20k debt of the parish because they had had to take out loans to keep the school running & the church operating? In addition to that, look at the crisis of simple personnel management - hwo do you run a religion without clergy? Enrollment in seminaries has dropped like a stone. What can the church do to once again make service to their god something that young people would want to undertake? Tell me these aren't issues that the new pope will have to deal with. Tell me these things should remain static.

Dogma. Theocracy. Two different things. Any scientist can tell you that the reality separating theory and enactment is a vast chasm of trial and error where what you start with is very rarely where one ends up. So when Catholics demand change, they demand that the Church whose very purpose is to help them should begin to actually fulfill that purpose.
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Much like the bitter debates between St. Peter & St. Paul, Catholicism is once again at a point where it must learn to evolve in the methods with which it teaches its beliefs, or it will die. I say this as someone born a Catholic. I say this as someone who recieved a Catholic school education on scholarship, as did my two siblings. I say that as someone whose parents' rent was from time to time paid by Catholic Charities. I say that as someone who was an altar server myself for about six years in Junior High & High School. Obvious altar server jokes aside, you'd be surprised to know what goes on in a day to day workings of a church.
On a basic level of the communities they work within, the Catholic Church is not an evil thing. It is a community, it is a family unto itself, and many priests are now working with leaders in the Jewish & Protestant organizations around them to extend that reach so that the work they do can spread to create a community without religious or denominational boundaries - that was the message of Jesus Christ. Acceptance and love for those around you. The Vatican itself needs to return to that if it wants to survive globally for the very simple fact that they are not projecting that message - and you cannot create a community without members. While the grassroots work of individual parishes is having an influence, if the parent organization doesn't make the general public aware that these efforts are even being made in the first place, it makes it that much harder for these priests to make any headway.
The Vatican needs to look to its roots - for example, it needs to remember that women are not evil - not only were women a large part of implementation of Jesus' mission, but early Celtic churches were actually quite often run by female priests, and they became a center where the clergy and their families lived. This practice stopped not because anything went wrong with having female priests, but because the Roman Church found out & had a coronary - the dominance of the Roman Church was exerted in the Gregorian Easter Accord and the practice was stamped out in the mid 14th century. By allowing its priests to marry & considering allowing female clergy to perform mass, it would not only begin to allow itself to appeal to a new generation of females who are taught from birth they are men's equal in every way & thus turn from a religious body which tells them they are not good enough to speak directly to God without a man there to make sure they're doing it right. In addition, they would solve the very basic operational issue of that - they don't have enough priests!

John Paul did many, many things of a great nature. His efforts on world peace are undeniable. However, in terms of papacies, his was one which concentrated on broad ideals rather than changes which would impact the worldwide Church on the immediate level which it is so badly in need of. Children turn away from Catholicism now because as a whole, it has become a hard thing, an unchanging citadel so convinced of its own self-righteousness and perfection whose very unwillingness to recognize the falliabilty that Jesus Christ constantly spoke of is precisely what will eventually kill it. It is that dogmatic attitude which Catholics hope to see change, not the theological philosophy which is supposed to drive the work of the Catholic Church. It is the actions of the Catholic Church which need to be re-evaluated. Theology is the basis of a religion. Dogma is how you act on those beliefs.

Also, on an ironic note - Mary & Joseph weren't married when Jesus was born. As part of the engagement rituals in early Judaism, it was common for engaged couples to live together for a certain period as a way to test compatibility. Mary was engaged when she became pregnant with Jesus. What scanty records there are indicate that Mary & Joseph were married in Egypt after the Nativity.

Point? Technically, the Son of God was born illegitmately & out of wedlock.

Wanna learn more? I highly recommend that y'all hit these bad boys up :
The Gifts of the Jews : How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History)
--> a brilliant history of the origins of Judaism in the context of the political & religious culture it evolved in due to the fact that Judaism was the first religion to recognize the right of the individual to control their own destiny.

How the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History)
--> incredibly interesting examination of the Celtic Catholic Church & it's impact on education in the Middle Ages.

Desire of the Everlasting Hills : The World Before and After Jesus (Hinges of History)
--> an evaluation of Jesus' impact not only as a religious leader, but how his work was viewed in the context of when it happened amidst several other Messanic claimants under Roman rule.

Anam Cara : A Book of Celtic Wisdom
--> In Anam Cara (Gaelic for "soul friend"), O'Donohue takes readers into a world where God's passionate side is celebrated and the Fates are not feared.*


Harlot by the Side of the Road
--> Sex. Violence. Scandal. These are words we rarely associate with the sacred text of the Bible. Yet in this brilliant book, Jonathan Kirsch recounts shocking tales that have been suppressed by religious authorities throughout history. Kirsch places each story within the political and social context of its time, delves into the latest biblical scholarship to explain why each one was originally censored, and shows how these ancient narratives hold valuable lessons for all of us.*

Ah, Amazon had a better sum up than I did. Sue me

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