Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Meddlesome priests.

I was reading Pierce today on the latest revelation in the ongoing saga that is the Roman Catholic Man-Boy Love Association and had a brief vision of the sainted Thomas a' Becket.

Because like that irritatingly martyred man the Church cannot seem to see the beam in it's eye for the mote in other people's. Worried about its ability to speak commandingly on what it considers sins it overlooks the inevitable predation of the strong on the weak that will occur when you give the strong the sanction of holy authority and fail to place limits on their acts.

It's not an "if".

It's a when.

For the simple reason is that most men are not saints. And even most saints are not "saints" but, rather, men like Thomas Becket who prize their own authority, their own power and the power and privilege of their organization above the welfare of others.

The good people among them will, at least, do no harm - although, like Becket, may well do harm to others or to the commons in their zeal to do what they see as good to what they see as "theirs".

But the bad people among them will be monsters.

And the worst part about a religion is that it settles an armor of God (or gods) on the monsters, so that their monstrosity is concealed or, worse, is exalted into heroism. Thus can an Arnauld Amalric say “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" (Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His) deeming himself a pious man doing the good work his Lord has commended him to.

This is not a failing of the Catholic Church. It is not a failing of religion in general. It is a human failing. is a failing of religion - and the Catholic Church in this case - to fail to recognize that humans will use the tenets of their church to excuse, or hide, or enable their own failings if they are not strictly overseen. The power of holiness, the assumed mantle of godliness, will give those among them without scruple a weapon of terrible strength.

So the first duty of any cleric, from the humblest acolyte to the mightiest heirophant, must be to remain unsleepingly vigilant to the danger of that weapon. To be merciless in uncovering the abuse of trust and faith. To be self-sacrificing in publicly punishing the guilty and redeeming the victims. To place the faithful above the object of their faith.

But as any of the faithful would tell you; the path of duty is narrow and steep; the path of conformity, sloth, and luxurious power that leads to Hell broad, easy, and gentle.

So the fact that the fathers of the modern Church are no different in their loyalty to their own than Becket was nine centuries ago should come as no surprise to any of us.


Syrbal/Labrys said...

I always get this dismal and depressing sense of wonder about religions. Because even when I was making my best attempt to be immersed in one, I was the odd woman out....seems I had the idea that religious life/spirituality was about the idea of perfecting the SELF in relation to one's deity or deities and very much NOT about telling others what to do.

I have often been informed my idea is back-asswards.
I like my attitude problem.

FDChief said...

The problem I have with the hectoring part of religion is when it is not being applied to the "religious" (an old-timey Catholic term for clerics). I "get" that part of any religion is nannying the flock to be good sheep - I have problems with being a sheep, which is why I've always had problems with religions in general - but ISTM that if you're gonna do that you've got to make sure the shepherds ain't taking any of them out behind the sheepfold.

It's a very old problem; Caesar's wife and all that. And most organizations have tremendous trouble with it; it's not like the RC Church is the only one or even the worst one.

But...if you're in the business of "holiness" then you'd damn well better be sure that you're as "holy" as you can be, from the lowest to the highest. You'd damn well better be sure that you're policing yourselves harder than you police any of your laypeople. That means nabbing the wrongdoers and punishing them extravagantly and publicly.

The problem with that is that most organizations foolishly think that you can get away with hiding those "bad shepherds", and the result is this. It's not a bug; it's a feature. Almost every large organization that depends on hierarchical power falls into it. The impulse is immediately to defend the organization, hide the wrongdoing, hide the wrongdoer.

Sadly, because of that I think there is almost inevitably a vast difference between "religion" and "faith". Faith is, as you say, about using the examples and the tenets of someone or something to help you be a better, kinder, more humane self. But "religion", as with many other human groups, often becomes an exercise in "fitting in with the group" or, worse, acquiring power WITHIN the group...

The thing is, I've met many truly humane people whose decency and essential goodness has a strong foundation in their faith. But what is rather revealing is that the few "powerful" religious people I've met often lack that humble goodness and decency, and I suspect that that has a lot to do with the sort of person who seeks and achieves power within a religion...

Leon said...

I was actually able to translate that bit of Latin (with the help of a dictionary for a few nouns), yay Latin 101!

The church (any religion) is like every other human constructed hierarchy and subject to all of our failings and vanities. Since god no longer sends down angels (except to crazy people, funny that) to smack down hypocrites using his name. Funny how they're spending all their time denouncing homosexuality when it's not even in the 10 commandments. You'd think the church should be busy denouncing liars and adulterers among the powerful.

I prefer the pagan system. I have my Latin final next week. I plan on pouring a libation, lighting some incense, and sacrificing a goat to Zeus/Iuppiter for success.

FDChief said...

Leon: The part of polytheistic religions I've always found rather amiable is that they usually tend to be fairly accommodating to OTHER religions as well. The famous persecution of Christians by the Romans was political rather than religious; the Christians 1) refused to sacrifice to the Emperor - the 1st Century equivalent of not swearing allegiance - and 2) they were intolerant of other religions, a huge no-no in a multisectarian empire that depended on keeping religion out of politics to keep the provinces quiet (troublesome and nationalistic religions like Druidism the exception, too, mind you...).

As for the behavior of the powerful prelates of the Roman Church, well, I've always liked Chesterton's description: "It's not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. Instead it has been found difficult and never tried."

Leon said...

A lot of the persecutions were never official (aside from Nero's and tetrarchy). Much of the time it was mob violence.

The citizens wondered why all this bad stuff was happening (civil wars, plagues, etc...)to the empire despite all their prayers and sacrifices - why? They reasoned that it must because of the Christians refusal to participate in the public cult.