Posts Tagged “catholicism”

Yoga Journal Conference 1I’ve commented before on occasional Christianist hissy-fits and condemnations of yoga as a profane “pagan”/Hindu practice. As I’ve said on those occasions, it’s true that what we now call “yoga” did originate as part of Hindu practice and ritual. However, it has changed through the millennia, and as it’s practiced in the occidental world, has long since lost any connection to the Hindu religion. American yogis and yoginis are not worshiping Hindu gods in any of their exercises.

But that hasn’t stopped Christians from getting their panties in knots over it nonetheless. The Kansas City Star, for example, reports that a Catholic college has renamed its yoga classes (WebCite cached article):

Yoga is designed to help bring peace and wellness to body and mind.

But at Benedictine College — a small and strongly Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kan. — yoga classes per se will soon be yo-gone, out of apparent concern that use of the word “yoga” suggests advocacy for Hindu mysticism.

College spokesman Stephen Johnson said that starting this fall, both recreational classes and for-credit exercise classes that once taught yoga will likely still be taught the same way, but instead will be rebranded as “lifestyle fitness.”

“We’re changing the name,” Johnson said.

Note, they haven’t stopped the yoga classes. They’ll still be held. They just won’t go by the name of “yoga” any more. Why the college dislikes the name “yoga” isn’t entirely clear, or why yoga classes haven’t been banned altogether, isn’t clear based on the objections they’ve offered:

Complaints, Johnson said, began to come in from alumni, students, faculty and some administrators who argued that as a Hindu practice, yoga was not in keeping with Catholic-based education.

I note that mysticism and meditation — which yoga is a form of — is most assuredly very Christian. It’s been part of the religion since its inception, especially within its monastic movements. So really, there shouldn’t be much objection to it, even at a conservative Catholic college.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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Bible-706658Way back in the day, when I was a college-going Christian fundamentalist, I frequently heard how the Catholic Church discouraged its adherents from reading the Bible. Since I was studying medieval history, I was well aware that the medieval Church didn’t want the Bible in the hands of non-clergy, and forbid translating it into languages the common folk might understand (i.e. anything other than the Latin of the Vulgate). The Church backed up this prohibition with force, which sometimes proved fatal, as for example to William Tyndale, who’d translated the Bible into the English vernacular.

Having been raised Catholic, though, I knew that the R.C. Church had ended this policy. In fact, the Church has translated the Bible into many languages, including the New American Bible released in 1970, a copy of which we had in our house. And after Vatican II had called for Mass to be said in the vernacular, Bibles were being read openly to parishioners in their own languages, in Catholic churches around the world.

Yet, many of the Protestant fundamentalists I spent time with persisted with the notion that the R.C. Church still didn’t want lay Catholics to read the Bible. Nothing I said about it could dissuade them. They weren’t buying it … at all.

I’ve long since left that particular crowd behind, but I still hear Protestants (especially of the fundie variety) saying pretty much the same thing. It’s a fable that just keeps being passed around among them, even though it’s no longer true. I imagine they’re all going to be disappointed by something Pope Francis just said, as reported by Vatican Radio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”

The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.…

“That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said.

Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”

It’s not true, of course, that the Christian Bible “is always topical.” It’s actually the collective product of its times, with its various constituent books having been written between the middle of the last millennium BCE and the middle of the 2nd century CE. Those documents are all much more relevant and timely to those who wrote, and first read, them than they are to modern people. Even so, I’m amused that Pope Francis just skewered a common anti-Catholic fundamentalist canard that’s been thrown around for ages. Make no mistake … the lie that the R.C. Church doesn’t want lay Catholics reading the Bible, is exactly that: A lie the fundies’ use to disparage Catholicism.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sept. 11, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service / via Religion News ServiceIt seems the Pope is definitely marking out his own territory, even at the risk of confronting the bureaucracy of his own Church. Earlier today, the Religion News Service reports, he used his traditional Christmas address to the Curia’s functionaries to ream them all new ones (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday (Dec. 22), outlining a “catalog of illnesses” that plague the church’s central administration, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and gossipy cliques.

The pope’s traditional Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was more “Bah! Humbug!” than holiday cheer as he ticked off a laundry list of “ailments of the Curia” that he wants to cure.

In a critique that left many of the assembled clerics clearly uncomfortable, the 15 ailments in Francis’ “catalog of illnesses” reflected the take-no-prisoners approach he promised when he was elected nearly two years ago as an outsider with little direct experience in Rome.

“The Curia is called upon to improve itself, always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fully realize its mission,” the pope said.

Among the “illnesses” the Pope diagnosed within his Curia, were: lust for power, hypocrisy, gossiping, and something he called “existential schizophrenia.” The RNS article also explains different ways, over the last year and a half, in which he’s expressed his plans to reform the Vatican’s vast machinery and then began following through on them, including demanding the resignation of Germany’s “bling bishop” and also removing a super-ultra-conservative-fierce-hardline American Cardinal from one of his offices (cached). He’s drifted afield from typical Church positions in the past … to the point where the Vatican’s machinery felt the need to insist the Pope never said something he very likely did say (that, or something close to it), and he married a number of couples whom prior Popes would never have dared even speak to.

Photo credit: Paul Haring/Catholic News Service, via Religion News Service.

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Second Vatican Council by Lothar Wolleh 001Last Thursday was the 50th anniversary of II Vatican, the council that changed how the Catholic Church related both to its own laity and the rest of the world. This Council opened with a lot of pomp and circumstance; its deliberations were thorough, taking a few years to complete; and in the end a lot of things about Catholicism changed utterly. But what, really, has been changed within the Church? The Religion News Service (via HartfordFAVS) reports on the Council’s anniversary and its results (WebCite cached article):

Fifty years ago on Thursday (Oct. 11), hundreds of elaborately robed leaders strode into St. Peter’s Basilica in a massive display of solemn ecclesiastical pomp. It signaled the start of a historic three-year assembly that would change the way members of the world’s largest Christian denomination viewed themselves, their church and the rest of the world.

It was the first day of the Second Vatican Council, more popularly known as Vatican II, which was designed to assess the church’s role in a rapidly changing world. …

As a result of Vatican II, priests started celebrating Mass in the language of the countries in which they lived, and they faced the congregation, not only to be heard and seen but also to signal to worshippers that they were being included because they were a vital component of the service.

The Second Vatican Council made some other visible changes, including how Catholics related to other Christian denominations and with Judaism. It meant that, for example, Catholics now could attend weddings and funerals of friends and family which happened to be held in other churches. And it led to some other changes, such as many orders of nuns allowing their members to go without their traditional habits. Ultimately, II Vatican meant that the R.C. Church became more generally “open” to the rest of the world, even if no doctrinal changes were made.

But really, how far did that effort go? How truly “open” did the Church become, now that 47 years have passed since the Council completed its work? Unfortunately the answer to that question is a resounding “Not nearly enough.” Multiple investigations — in multiple locations — into the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal over the last decade or so revealed the Church’s princes worked diligently to maintain the secrecy of their operations, going so far as to willingly allow children to be preyed upon in order not to let outsiders know what was going on. Dioceses and the Vatican itself have actively resisted every effort to hold them accountable for their behavior. And when they’re faced with incontrovertible evidence of both the abusers’ crimes and their own complicity in them, the Church repeatedly and reflexively blames everyone but itself and its own personnel for the abuse (the abusers themselves were innocent victims of the Forces of Darkness or of the children themselves, you see).

One consequence of II Vatican is that it caused something of a schism within Catholicism. A number of Catholics — including some of the bishops — viewed the Council’s work horrific and detrimental. They consider Pius XII — predecessor of John XXIII who convened II Vatican — to have been the last legitimate Pope. They count every Pope after Pius … and by extension everything the Vatican has done since his time … to be invalid. Granted these sedevacantist groups are in the minority and they don’t all agree with each other aside from their dissatisfaction with the Second Vatican reforms. But they persist nevertheless, in spite of excommunications and other sanctions the Church has brought to bear against them.

What’s ironic, though, is that over his reign, the current Pope has been working to gather these sedevacantist groups back into the Catholic fold. One of the ways he’s done that is to steer Catholicism back toward the way it had operated prior to II Vatican. For instance, he’s made the (Latin) Tridentine Mass a valid option for celebrants once again (cached).* This effort has worked; for instance, as I’ve blogged already, the Society of St Pius X has agreed to rejoin its mother Church. This is in spite of the fact that this order remains backward and decidedly medieval in its dogma, and one of its prelates is an unrepentant Holocaust-denier.

Yes, folks, these are the sorts of people the Vatican is catering to. Somehow I don’t see that as the sort of behavior that John XXIII had been thinking about when he convened II Vatican … but then again, what can I possibly know about such sacred considerations?

In the end, not only has II Vatican failed to make the Church fundamentally different — except in some noticeable yet cosmetic ways — it’s currently trying to roll back even those minuscule reforms and is according itself with people who once had vehemently opposed those changes. If things continue this way, in a couple decades one will see nuns back in their habits and Mass being said in Latin once again with the priests’ backs to the congregation. And II Vatican would effectively never have been held at all.

Photo credit: Lothar Wolleh, via Wikimedia Commons.

* Note within this letter Benedict’s customary plaintive whine about media coverage:

News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion.

Everything bad that’s ever said about the R.C. Church, you see, is all the media’s fault. They make up stuff in order to attack the poor, innocent Church. What a fucking crybaby.

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Pope Benedict XVI, holding a tall, lit, white candle, enters a hushed and darkened St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican Saturday, April 7, 2012, to begin the Vatican's Easter vigil service. Except for the twinkle of camera flashes, the basilica was almost pitch-black as the thousands of faithful in pews awaited Benedict's arrival through the rear entrance Saturday night. Christians on Easter joyously mark their belief that Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion. Praying at the start of the service, Benedict said Easter brings hope to the faithful. On Sunday morning, he will lead Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)I continue to be amazed at the audacity of the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI who rules it. I suppose by now that nothing that comes out of that vipers’ den should surprise me any more, but it does nonetheless. This past Easter, the Pope used his Easter vigil service — unintentionally, I assume — to issue a moral indictment of his own Roman Catholic Church. The AP reports via Yahoo News (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI, carrying a tall, lit candle, ushered in Christianity’s most joyous celebration with an Easter vigil service Saturday night, but voiced fears that mankind is groping in darkness, unable to distinguish good from evil. …

Benedict worried in his homily: “The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil.”

“The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general,” the pope said.

“If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other ‘lights,’ that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk,” Benedict added.

Over the past several years I have blogged about the staggering amorality of the R.C. Church; its unwillingness to permit itself to be held accountable for its actions; its long history of keeping abusive clergy on, despite knowing they have abused children; its frequent attempts to shelter abusive priests from prosecution, and to silence those who would report them; its consistent claims to have done nothing wrong, that it’s more a victim than the abuse victims are; spewing nothing but excuses — some ridiculous or even insulting — over its worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal; and its staunch refusal to do any more about it than issue vapid non-apology apologies (along the lines of, “Bad things happened, we’re sorry they did, now stop complaining about it!”).

As for not knowing the difference between right and wrong, let’s talk about the R.C. hierarchy’s record in the matter of moral discernment. Former archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland admitted he’d been unaware that child abuse was wrong. While he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, retired Cardinal Edward Egan was indifferent to abuse allegations, to the point where he asserted no such cases had been reported in his time there, which is demonstrably untrue, and further claimed he had no legal mandate to report it, when in fact he did.

So we have child abuse worldwide, going on under the noses of the Catholic hierarchy. The Church was negligently indifferent to it, sometimes covered it up, to the point of thwarting attempts to investigate it. We have hierarchs who openly admit they did not give a fuck about children being abused. We have a steady stream of excuses being made — both for the abuse itself, and the concerted efforts to cover it up — along with a persistent, continuous refusal to accept responsibility for any of this behavior. We have, furthermore, the claim that the scandal itself is a complete fiction, cooked up as an attack on a totally-innocent Church.

All of this — and more — clearly demonstrate that the R.C. Church, as an institution, is every bit as morally blind as the Pope claims “the World” is becoming. Benedict sure has a helluva lot of nerve, whining and bellyaching about moral blindness in others, while he himself is as morally blind as anyone ever was.

Yes, folks, this is the very same kind of hypocrisy that Jesus himself clearly and unambiguously forbid his own followers ever to engage in. Maybe someday the Pope will actually try to live up to the standards of the religion he claims to follow and to speak for … but that day, apparently, is not today.

Photo credit: AP Photo / Pier Paolo Chito, via Yahoo News (cached).

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Benedict XVI in FatimaThe latest example of what I like to refer to as “the Christian martyr complex” comes in this pronouncement by Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic News Service reports that the Holy Father has declared Christianity — and even religion itself — to be in danger of extinction (WebCite cached article):

Christianity and even religious belief are in grave danger across the globe, risking oblivion, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“Across vast areas of the earth, faith runs the danger of extinguishing like a flame that runs out of fuel,” he said.

Last I knew, religious faith was still going strong. The vast majority of people in the world are religious, and while religious fervor is fading in a few places such as Europe, in most regions religion is going strong and is nowhere near dying out.

It almost goes without saying that, in those few places where religion is becoming less common, the Roman Catholic Church’s own conduct has very likely contributed to this trend. “Charity begins at home,” or so the saying goes, so maybe the Pope should look in his own mirror and figure out how he might try to reverse this trend that so alarms him? My guess is he’ll refuse to do so and continue to wail about the evils of “secular humanism,” rather than examine and ferret out the evils within his own Church.

The article includes an additional quote, though, which I find remarkable:

“Without faith, the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of ‘social contract’ that’s adhered to out of common interest,” the pope said.

I’m not quite sure what Benedict’s problem is with a “social contract” that people embrace “out of common interest.” Wouldn’t that be the best thing … for people to get along with each other, because it’s in their own best interest to get along? And isn’t this precisely how the Ethic of Reciprocity works — a principle which, ironically, none other than the founder of the Pope’s own religion promoted? If this is something Jesus taught, why would the Pope find it objectionable?

None of this should be news to any Vatican-watcher. As the clerical child-abuse scandal has hammered the Catholic Church around the world, the current Pope and his predecessor both staunchly refused to acknowledge any part in it; they both tried to prevent bishops from allowing abusive clergy to be investigated by local authorities; and Benedict remains committed to a policy of evading responsibility for it, becoming offended when he’s forced to face it. He could, in one moment, restore the credibility of his own Church — and by extension, that of Christianity and of religion generally — by dealing with the scandal in a contrite and moral manner. But he never will. Count on it.

Hat tip: CNN Belief Blog.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England & Wales).

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Bundesarchiv Bild 102-06851, Mailand, Parade italienischer FrontkämpferBill Donohue, the Christofascist who heads the Catholic League, reached a new high in low, during an appearance on Fox News, wherein he made his position on Christmas — and on what everyone should believe, generally — crystal clear. News Hounds reports that what he said, is that non-Christians need to convert to Catholicism and worship Christmas along with him (WebCite cached article). He began with some remarks about reports that Christmas trees make some non-Christians uncomfortable:

Bill’s verbal pugilism escalated with “tell them to get over it.” He then did a litany of those who are “excluded,” including “mothers who feel excluded from father’s day” (WTF!) and said “too bad.”

What the fuck, indeed! I had no idea that any mothers felt “excluded” from Father’s Day. Where did the Billster pull that from?

Bill claimed that his Jewish friends (imaginary?) say this is ridiculous and that “everybody celebrates Christmas.”

Aha. The old “some of my best friends are Jewish” thing. Sorry Bill, but that you happen to know a few Jews who celebrate Christmas, tells us absofuckinglutely nothing about Jews as a group, or even about non-Christians generally. My guess, Bill, is that any Jewish friends you may have, are telling you what you want to hear because they know what a ferocious Christofascist you are. (That’s assuming you really have any Jewish “friends,” Bill … I find that claim to be non-credible.)

He then brayed that if people are made uncomfortable by Christmas displays — are ya ready for it — they should “convert to Catholicism.”

Yes, folks, that’s the Billster’s solution to the problem of religious inclusiveness … everyone should just convert en masse to his own religion, Roman Catholicism, and — voilà! — problem gone.

That, Gentle Reader, is the very definition of a religious militant, and now you see why I’ve been saying that the Billster is a Christofascist.

The really sad part about this is that a lot of religious folks are going to read what the Billster said, and agree with him, that everyone converting to the same religion would solve the problem of religious division. What all of Bill’s believer/defenders fail to understand is the truly hideous nature of this idea. Its horror would become clearer, if put in the mouths of others. They wouldn’t be too keen, for example, on al-Qaeda terrorists saying to them, “If you want us to stop trying to blow you up by the dozen, all you have to do is convert to our Wahhabi Islamism.” Its criminality becomes even more obvious if one puts it in the mouth of a robber: “All you need do is give me all your money, and I won’t be forced to attack you.”

At any rate, I have to wonder, though, how many of the Billster’s allies among the rest of the Religious Right — which is overwhelmingly evangelical Protestant and therefore opposed to Catholicism — are going to take his demand that everyone convert to Catholicism. My guess is that they secretly cringed when they heard that … but in the interest of militant-Christian solidarity against non-Christians, they likely would never openly admit it.

I hope any doubts as to the religiofascist goals of people like Bill Donohue have been dispelled. Now you understand why they make such an issue out of Christmas every year … for them, it’s a wedge issue they can use to push their demand that everyone in the world believe what they do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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