Somewhere in the world at this very moment:
- A young devoted Catholic priest is struggling with something most reasonable people know is biologically and mentally unreasonable to ask of any human being: controlling the natural needs and desires of the human libido.
- A knowledgeable, Roman Catholic woman who prays and studies scripture daily, loves the Church, loves people and wishes to bring Christ’s love and teachings to others, quietly -with some guilt, regrets that she cannot lead a congregation in the Seven Catholic Sacraments.
- A devoted Catholic is obeying his/her Church’s prohibition against using condoms and will have unprotected sex with an unfaithful spouse who has been exposed to HIV.
- A child is alone, weeping and wondering whether or not he should tell someone how the Priest fondled his private parts after Sunday mass in the church rectory.
- A devoted celibate nun is yearning just to touch, to hug and express her love for one of the Sisters with whom she has grown close.
- An American Bishop is making some incendiary, condescending comments about LGBT people that will offend many people and push more Catholics away from their Church.
- A conference of Catholic clerics is meeting to discuss how they can politically and economically do battle against organizations and politicians who support the reproductive rights of women.
- A Knights of Columbus Lodge is conducting a successful fundraiser in their community. The money from that fundraiser will be earmarked for the state-wide campaign against marriage equality. In the meantime, thousands of struggling Catholic parishioners can’t get the assistance they need because of the limited budgets of Catholic Charities.
This list is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg of self-inflicted wounds and challenges confronting the worlds largest denomination of Christianity. Why? Because the Roman Catholic Church insists on adhering to the same applications and interpretations of religious doctrine as they were understood by less sophisticated people with very different values and priorities, who lived in a very different world some 1800 years ago.
But, in his State of the World address earlier this week to the 180 ambassadors assigned to the Vatican from countries the world over, Pope Benedict XVI determined that the most important issue he wanted to warn the world about was, “same-sex marriage,” which he told the assembled gathering,“is undermining the future of humanity itself.”
In an article entitled, Why Rick Santorum Can’t Just Say: God Doesn’t Want You To Be Gay, (Religious Dispatches,) author, educator and LGBT rights activist
Jay Michaelson, makes an insightful point that not only applies to Santorum, but to the Pope as well. Some orthodox adherents to religion must avoid engaging in intellectually honest discussions about God and how humanity understands God’s will. Why? Because the emotional and spiritual equilibrium of most religious fundamentalists is based on the flawed reasoning that religious dogma can never change when predicated on more enlightened, better informed, interpretations.
As such, they must avoid engaging in debates that directly address the beliefs on which fundamentalist lifestyles and their core convictions rest. Too much is at stake to dare discuss theology. Orthodox adherents to religion will by default, always be more inclined to protect the beliefs and traditions that have shaped their lives than honestly consider the larger theological issues on which their beliefs stand.
Orthodox obedience to traditional dogma forces the very people who claim to be the most devout, to champion bogus arguments that insulate their core beliefs from examination. So instead of expressing a pivotal idea like, homosexuality is a sin against the will of God, they will argue that: Gay marriage will undermine the family and ultimately humanity; straight soldiers shouldn’t have to be asked to share a bunk or a shower with a gay person.
Members of all religious communities inevitably, at one time or another, determine the relevancy of established beliefs or practices to their own lives. It should be obvious though, that those who would insist that God’s will was determined and set in stone long ago, are only interested in protecting the “rules” they’ve adopted for themselves and the institutions that validate their lifestyle. Ironically, the evolving needs of humanity have little or no importance in any orthodox religious theology.
In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, the institution and its devoted conservative followers will continue to promote obsolete ideas that more reasonable, intellectually honest people will have no choice but to dispute in order to protect and advance more germane understandings of God and social justice.
It would certainly seem as if the largest, richest most powerful Church in the world is stuck on a slippery-slope that perpetuates ideas and values that actually contradict the the very loving, tolerant ideas and values that the Church’s founder and most hollowed teacher sought to promote.