There seems to be a selective angry righteousness coming from some at the top of the Catholic Church.
When I say that, I’m talking about the topics that higher-ups and political mouthpieces, like Pope Benedict XVI, Philly’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, Catholic League president Bill Donohue and guys like that, tend to spout when a microphone’s in front of them.
When you hear from these guys, the average listener might think the gravest threats to the church — as well as America and the Earth in general — are gay people and birth control.
According to Donohue, there are vast conspiracies against the religious freedom of Catholics.
In fact, in a February response to a proposed federal mandate that could force religious institutions to cover their employees’ costs for contraception, Donohue claimed that the government had lined up against the Catholic Church.
Except that he’s wrong.
It’s the fault of angry, divisive speeches from people like him that the Catholic Church has been losing worshipers at a staggering rate.
According to a 2008 report from Pew Forum on Religion and Life, so many people have lost faith in Catholicism that, at the time, one of every 10 people in the United States (or about 22.7 million people) claimed to be an ex-Catholic.
A lot of experts blame this loss of churchgoers on the Catholic sex abuse scandals.
And they could be right, but I think Catholic disillusion involves more than just sexual abuse claims against priests — although that could be part of it.
But, what ideals and principles do you think are really at the core of Christianity and Catholicism?
I was taught that Jesus would want us to follow the Golden Rule (you know, “Do unto others…”), practice forgiveness, and generally be cool to other people.
The Catholic higher-ups — especially in America — don’t seem very interested in that anymore.
They seem to spend their time — on TV news or in print media, at least — getting all huffy puffy about gays and condoms.
Outside of America, the pope’s actions have been, well, questionable.
Just recently, Pope Benny hung out with Fidel Castro.
And hey, I’m all for having international dialogues with hostile nations and all that good stuff, but the pope didn’t have much to say about Fidel violently cracking down on Cuban protesters — 43 people, mostly members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, were arrested after the pope’s visit. There was also a wave of arrests of political dissidents before the pope’s arrival.
In early 2010, there was a little dust-up in Uganda wherein anti-gay Ugandan authorities proposed legislation that would have had homosexuals imprisoned and possibly even executed.
For all of his faults, one might believe that even a conservative like Pope Benedict would oppose this because it was basically — and by “basically” I mean “literally” — legalizing genocide against people of a certain sexual orientation.
If they aren’t put to death, those found “guilty” could also receive life in prison.
During a visit to Uganda, the pope said nothing.
It seems like, at home and abroad we have Catholic leaders ignoring larger issues like poverty, violence, corporate plutocracy, healthcare, meaningless wars, and potentially even genocide, in order to focus on putting the brakes on the gay pride parade.
I think maybe all of that may have something to do with the Catholic Church losing members.
Now, with this column, you might think I’m little more than a heathen, but, back in 2001, when I was a junior in North Catholic, I had a theology class taught by Father William Davis.
Father Davis was a cool dude.
Davis taught us about Third World debt, economic injustice and the practical socioeconomic applications of, you know, being nice to people.
The Golden Rule was stressed, as was tolerance of people who were different, and we were reminded that the word “Catholic” means “universal.”
In fact, in none of our theology classes in North were we taught that there were insidious people out to destroy our religious freedom.
They didn’t teach us to be frightened victims or angry, holier-than-thou judges of other people.
It was the right way to discuss religion.
Instead of following that tradition, it’s like some religious leaders have now decided that if they can’t keep their followers’ attention with the message of the Golden Rule, they might as well make followers fear that their flock is a besieged minority or rile them up by condemning others as “evil.”
How long, though, will the remaining Catholics put up with a growing tone of anger and fear?
In more optimistic news about Catholicism, the Catholic Worker Movement, a group that works to serve the poor, is still going strong out there on the streets doing kind-hearted, Jesus-style stuff.
If you’ve had enough of the blowhard religious leaders, maybe take a trip up to their Philly headquarters at the corner of Jasper Street and Lehigh Avenue and tell them you want to help out.
That could be better to your faith than all the hate speech any religious zealot might spew. ••
“Riverward Rants” reflects the opinions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown resident, area native and writer of the Web site PhillyNeighbor.com, where he makes cynical (and uncensored) comments about life in the riverwards. He can be reached at JQuig1984@gmail.com.