News: Boston Catholics advertise to stop falling confessions

The decline of the mainstream Christian churches is self-evidence in most parts of Western society. The world-wide increase of Christians comes from nations of Africa, Asia, and former Soviet republics. The latest casuality, much to my surprise as an Australian, is the confessional numbers in US Catholic churches. While older parishioners persist, young people are staying away, preferring to see “their faith as a spiritual and less an institutional concern”. An online Boston Globe article shows Boston Catholic churches desperately ‘spruiking’ the benefits of confession via radio and web-site campaigns. The best they seem to hope for is “planting the seed”.
Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church has more systemic image problems with the young, issues inconsistent with today’s community attitudes – explicitly anti-homosexual attitudes by Catholic leadership; rejection of women for religious leadership roles; continued rejection of condom use; celibacy of the priesthood; prolonged hiding of child-abuse by church officials; stigmatising many sexual behaviours as ‘sinful’; concept of being born with an original ‘sin’; the improbability of doctrines like ‘Transubstantiation’; and inability to explain problems of evil (all-powerful, loving God with needless suffering). Is any sort of advertising campaign, no matter how slick, going to overcome these impediments? This is especially so when combined with largely antiquated and irrelevant ceremonial practices often held in ostentatiously ornate buildings? These attitudes and practices, even if unfairly stereotyped at times, are condemned by so many in society as well as by the younger people.
Alex McCullie

News: Catholics are hurting

My dad enjoyed boxing. He used to described in colourful ways previous boxing champions and their personal stories outside of the ring. I took an interest as it meant common ground for both of us. One surprise for me was his saying that an opponent smiling was one in a lot of pain, presumably to hide his anguish.

I read an opinion piece in The Age, Melbourne Australia, by Greg Craven and understand what Dad meant. It’s a boostful, sarcastic attack on “the new hobby atheist is as brash, noisy and confident as a cheap electric kettle” by the vice cancellor of a local Catholic university. Craven equates this group of atheists to a new plague of blowflies or something fictitious from biblical Egypt.

The Roman Catholic Church is apparently a particularly popular target. Is it the endless cover-ups of priestly child abuse around the world? No. Is the use of misleading scare campaigns against the use of condoms to fight HIV infections in Africa? Is the historical distorting of the evolution science message in Catholic schools and communities? Is the selective application of healthcare driven by theology ahead of humanity? Is it the discrimination of women and homosexuals from positions of power within the church? It is none of these: apparently its because the church is big and, unlike their protestant bretheren, they actually believe in something. Craven sees the media as full of Christian attacks as today’s modern blood-sport.

I shall give Greg Craven the closing words:

At the bottom, of course, lies hate. I am not quite clear why our modern crop of atheists hates Christians, as opposed to ignoring or even politely dismissing them, but they very clearly do. There is nothing clever, witty or funny about hate.

Alex McCullie

News: Religion above human rights

tom scott
Tom Scott says it all.

It’s a theme here – stop giving religions immunity from criticism about their human rights attitudes. Religions, faiths and churches should be subject to the same standards as applied to all in our societies. Adverse homophobic attitudes should be unacceptable from all secular and religious organisations. Some (not enough) have highlighted the Vatican’s appalling offer to disaffected Anglicans – homophobes, misogynists and bigots – to join an organisation happy with those attitudes – the Roman Catholic Church. And the same churches are so sensitive to criticism!

Randy Cohen in the NYT comments

Richard Dawkins has a few low-key words, including:

What major institution most deserves the title of greatest force for evil in the world? In a field of stiff competition, the Roman Catholic Church is surely up there among the leaders. The Anglican church has at least a few shreds of decency, traces of kindness and humanity with which Jesus himself might have connected, however tenuously: a generosity of spirit, of respect for women, and of Christ-like compassion for the less fortunate. The Anglican church does not cleave to the dotty idea that a priest, by blessing bread and wine, can transform it literally into a cannibal feast; nor to the nastier idea that possession of testicles is an essential qualification to perform the rite. It does not send its missionaries out to tell deliberate lies to AIDS-weakened Africans, about the alleged ineffectiveness of condoms in protecting against HIV. Whether one agrees with him or not, there is a saintly quality in the Archbishop of Canterbury, a benignity of countenance, a well-meaning sincerity. How does Pope Ratzinger measure up? The comparison is almost embarrassing.

Alex McCullie

News: Catholic leadership wants a more supportive secularism

Catholic Culture website quotes Msgr. Anthony R. Frontiero, a priest of the Diocese of Manchester (New Hampshire) as criticising a secular approach to tolerance:

[N]eutrality toward world views cannot be truly tolerant and respectful. Likewise, an absence of convictions does not define tolerance; and in the absence of some compelling notion of the truth that requires us to be tolerant of those who have a different understanding of the truth of things, there is only skepticism and relativism.

and later:

An authentic notion of tolerance in pluralistic societies demands that in their dealings with unbelievers and those of different faiths, believers should grasp that they must reasonably expect that the dissent they encounter will go on existing. At the same time, however, secular political cultures must encourage unbelievers to grasp the same point in their dealings with believers. When secularized citizens act in their role as citizens, they must [not] deny in principle that religious images of the world have the potential to express truth. Nor must they refuse their believing fellow citizens the right to make contributions in a religions language to public debates.

Again, the Catholic hierarchy view astounds me. I would have thought neutrality towards religious world views would more naturally lead to tolerance than say an ardent Christian, Islamic or Jewish view. Many religious people love conflating secularism and atheism to be anti-religious. They seem to work on the most intolerant mentality of ‘for us’ or ‘against us’. So who is really intolerant?

The real agenda comes in the second quotation. The Catholic leadership wants to imposed their faith-based morality (derived from revelations and ancient scriptures) onto the modern secular world. I have no problems people having religious attitudes. However, and this is a big ‘however’, discussion in the public space needs to be based in modern-day secular terms. Restricting condom use in HIV ravaged Africa, for example, should not be argued on the basis of God’s will or preventing soul-creation.

Alex McCullie

News: Catholic Church – Doctrine First

Too much good social work and not enough hard-core religious doctrine may be the sins of US Catholic nuns. According to Associated Press, the Vatican has authorised a postolic visitation (sounds ominous) to investigate any straying from the orthodoxy. Simply to tell the nuns to spend more time with scripture and less with the needly sounds good for humanity! Read the full article here.

Alex McCullie

News:Catholic Dilemma – Doctrine Trounces Care

The Roman Catholic Church (US) rejects health care plan to poor and moderate income US families. Why? The proposed joint partnership would also subsidise abortions, against church doctrine though supported by many practicing Catholics.  Here is one of many examples of enforcing church doctrine means that the reality of current lives takes a back-seat to the mythology of the next. Read full story from Wall Street Journal.

Alex McCullie

News: Another Roman Catholic Search Engine

Protecting a fragile faith… is another and older search engine that’s safe for Catholics. Unlike CatholicGoogle (now named Cathoogle – a problem with Google?) mentioned previously, The Catholic Search engine restricts you to acceptable sites only – a sort of non-catholic Roman Catholic search – sorry.

This time my site didn’t come up with The catholic Search engine!

See Faithworld for a blog discussion.

Alex McCullie

News: Pope – Homosexuality Threat to Humanity

Again the Pope has shown the “official” Roman Catholic church’s position on homosexuality – it’s a sin and poses similar risks to humankind as climate change. In an end-of-year address to Vatican officials, Pope Benedict XVI equated homosexuality and climate change. This is probably much to the concern of liberal-minded Catholic believers. There are many news reports on the original speech and responses by groups and individuals - some links below.

News articles about the Pope’s speech and responses
National Post
Christian Today
Conservative Anglican defends Pope
Guardian Online
Religious conservatives defend Popes attacks

Alex McCullie

News: Catholic Going Blind with a Newer Spin

Here’s a dated news report that is still funny.

It used to be a simple “stop it or you’ll go blind” injunction. The Roman Catholic Church repackaged this to have a new “inconvenient truth” environmental outcome to strengthen its sinful message (article at the Onion in 2005).

Alex McCullie

News: Testing the Vatican – Gays and Divorcees are not good

According to a recent Pink news article the Vatican has rejected two candidates for French ambassador – one gay and one divorced.

Alex McCullie