The catholic church cannot be reformed; it needs to be restructured. Whether you look at it doctrinally, spiritually, socially, morally or politically the Catholic Church has structural defects that are fatal. They are beyond “adjustment.”
- Its doctrines often contradict modern science and history. Many were formulated to support the power and control projections of theRoman Empire. Catholic Dogma demeans and demonizes other religious traditions and any version of Christianity except its own. Any serious reform must include a radical review of all these matters; dogmas that are false and untenable cannot simply be ignored, they must be repudiated and the entire inteconnected doctrinal complex reformulated.
- its spirituality is the expression of the sexual inversions of the jaded elite of late antiquity. Those anti-sex, anti-body prejudices and the psychological-moral damage for which they were responsible must be recognized, rejected and reversed.
- its social stance runs from ultra-conservative to reactionary in practice, and is at odds with what it claims is its “social doctrine.” This is a major discrepancy that reflects an unstated ideological bias that contradicts official pronouncements. It is not sufficient that episcopal policy be made consistent with the stated goals of “Catholic social doctrine,” the reasons for this disconnect must be unearthed, and dealt with.
- Its morality is a set of rationalized abstractions imposed inflexibly on individuals for the purpose of maintaining internal consistency and the illusion of its own infallibility. The recalcitrant prohibition of artificial birth control may be considered a prime example of this phenomenon. Dealing with this will require a correction not only of the way moral principles are derived, but of the Church’s paralyzing and reform-proof self-definition.
- and politically it is authoritarian, autocratic and totalitarian in its self-governance. The hierarchy is impervious to change or reform in this regard. It rejects democracy and stifles maturity and responsibility among its people. The authority structures of the Catholic Church are anti-democratic, anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-gospel, anti-ecumenical. In terms of political alignment, even in countries with a reputation for “liberation theology,” the majority of the hierarchy remain shamelessly in league with the powerful, wealthy and empire-submissive elites dedicated to maintaining control of the ordinary people.
The valid practice of distinguishing these structural pathologies from the life and work that goes on at the level of the “base communities” — parishes, prayer groups, schools, clinics, social justice projects and the spontaneous service to others performed by Catholic people — should not blind us to the undermining influence of a hierarchy dedicated to corporate success, episcopal prestige and the projection of political power. These penetrating defects do enormous damage to base activities. They contaminate the good work of Catholic people as they struggle to enflesh the spirit of Jesus in their lives. The Church’s totalitarian imperial ideology, body-hating spirituality, inhuman individualist morality, anti-populist policies, self-aggrandizing authoritarian leadership wed to power and wealth with an aggressive resistance to efforts to end the systematic exploitation of the majority by the wealthy few, neutralizes and even corrupts Catholic peoples’ efforts to humanize the social environment.
False prophets, however, cry all is well. Using a strange involuted argument, they contend that an anti-gospel superstructure can exist alongside a faithful spirit-guided base because the people, miraculously, insulate themselves from the hierarchy. They say the very fact that the faithful pay no attention to their bishops on any number of issues, means the dysfunctional superstructure of doctrine and authority can do no damage … and therefore does not have to change. They say the majority of the Catholic people, for example, do not believe that the Church is the “only true Church” without which none can be saved; they respect other traditions. Most do not believe in “Original Sin,” the existence of Satan and other untenable doctrines. They disregard the Church’s teaching on the prohibition of divorce, they reject the ban against artificial birth control, and increasingly, the condemnation of abortion or doctor assisted suicide without exception. The recent support of a majority of the Catholic population to permit gay marriage in NY state — despite the strident opposition of their bishops — is the latest example of this disconnect. We can still be “Catholic,” the false prophets declare, with the doctrines, authority structures and power projection that has characterized the Church since the days of Constantine, because these failings do not affect the Catholic people in the practice of a vibrant Christianity. I deny this. I claim there is no way to inoculate the people against the poisonous effects of the bishops’ anti-gospel leadership, and there is no way to calculate the amount of damage done.
But let’s even grant their argument … let’s say the people are able to insulate themselves from their leaders … I would then ask: how exactly do they manage to do this? The revisionist answer is that the people pick and choose what they will believe and what they will obey. They pick and choose, you say? On what basis, what criterion do they employ? Why their natural human instinct, of course.
There you have it! Even the revisionist defense recognizes that the Church is “saved” because its people are human beings. The goodness and holiness resides in humanity, not in the ministrations of a dysfunctional Church. The Catholic people are human beings despite what Roman Christianity would do to them. It is humanity, no matter how battered, trammeled, stifled, suffocated, repressed, exploited, abused, misled and deceived whose indomitable groping for life and goodness squeezes through the cracks of the restraining cages and lives, in spite of and in total disregard for the demands of a parasitical authority and its sychophants. This resident holiness is actually powerful enough to defend itself from the negativity embedded in the ecclesiastical superstructure. Self-serving Church authority promotes doctrines, practices and a politics that would defraud us of our humanity. It’s time we recognized this. It is not Christianity that saves humanity, it is rather humanity that saves Christianity from the destructive effects of its doctrinal and disciplinary distortions.
Outrageous! You say. What could uneducated plebians possibly know that the infallible multi-millennial Catholic Church authorities do not? This is an impudence of staggering proportions. These people do not know their place!
Neither did Jesus, apparently. It was he who first prodded us to trust what we were born with. It was he who told us, brazenly, impudently, to sit in judgment on those who would rule our relationship to our “father.” “By their fruits,” he told us, “YOU will know them.”