Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope: Confessions of a recovering Catholic

I don’t understand the wall-to-wall media coverage of the Pope’s death. I didn’t realize he was that popular.

I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through to Grade 13. All I learned about the Pope was that he was the top guy and he had the final say on everything. His name came up a lot in sex ed class. The nuns who taught the class told us we couldn't have sex until we were married “because the Pope said so.”

The Pope was always saying stuff that didn’t make sense to me. In Grade 2, I was told I couldn’t be an alter server because I was a girl. Why? Because the Pope said so. I was only eight years old at the time but it struck me as being profoundly unfair.

I don't have a problem with people who use religion to bring comfort or joy or meaning to their lives. I can respect that. What I do have a problem with is when religion becomes political. And the Pope was highly political.

It may seem hard to fault a man who preached love and compassion. But his love and compassion had boundaries that excluded women and gay men and lesbians.

To me, the Pope’s view on women and gay marriage and birth control is morally reprehensible. The AIDS tragedy in Africa is quite possibly the biggest health crisis the world has ever seen. Millions of people have died. Millions were children. And AIDS continues to march forward. It is staggering.

The Pope’s response? Don’t give people condoms because condoms will encourage people to have premarital sex. He even called contraception an “intrinsic evil.” What’s more evil? Condoms? Or allowing people to die of AIDS? It’s so backwards that I can’t even wrap my head around it.

The Pope, and millions of Catholics around the world, believed he was doing the right thing. But I can’t help but feel his deep beliefs did more harm than good.


Sarah Owen* said...

I honestly could not agree more with this blog. You have just written my exact sentiments.... well, except I'm not Catholic. Anyhow, I wrote a blog about the pope and how bookmakers in Europe are taking bets on who the next pope will be. I have linked to your blog since it echoes how I feel about the pope in general. Hope that's ok.

Cheers and Peace to the Pope

Sarah said...

Thanks. Feel free to link anytime :)

If I were Pope I'd change a few things:
1. Allow birth control.
2. Allow gay marriage.
3. Let women become priests.
4. Make celibacy optional.
5. Let priests get married.


Callie said...

Good list! I would add recognition of marriages from outside the church and children born out of wedlock. My parents were married by a JP, my sister was 3 at the time. My mother decided to stop pursuing her faith when her church told her they wouldn't recognize her marriage, or baptize her bastard child. Stupid.

Sarah said...

Beyond stupid, actually. I'd make all of those changes (including yours) and then quit the job.

Even with all of those things in place, you're still left with the Catholic religion, also known as "brainwashing." No thanks.


Bill Doskoch said...

Needless to say, you're hardly alone in your opinions -- and I meant beyond Sarah Owen and Callie, without meaning disrespect for their views.

While his defenders can point to his fixed moral compass, JP II's views have caused the RCC to atrophy in the West.

I'd love to know, however, why the RCC is seeing growth in the 3rd world, particularly Africa, where the AIDS toll is grave.

The RCC is something of an anchronism, one of the last pre-medieval institutions.

Margaret Wente -- in another trademark case of kicking someone after they're already down -- ripped JPII's papacy in Tuesday's Globe.

While you didn't get into it in your post, she attacked enforced celibacy and the resulting priest shortage -- except for gay men (I don't say that judgmentally).

She also noted the extremely low birthrates in western countries that were Catholic bastions and that most self-identified Catholics don't follow the church's teachings.

Her closing lines: "John Paul the Great? I don't think so. To many people, the Catholic Church in the West seems like it's on life support. People talk about it as if it were still alive, and sometimes it even looks alive. But it's really just a show -- a riveting spectacle."

Sarah said...

I read her column yesterday too and I think it was probably the first time I've found myself nodding in agreement with Margaret Wente.

I could have been a lot more harsh about JPII and the Catholic Church in general but I thought I should hold back until he was in the ground at least :)

And lest it sound like I'm just ripping Catholics in general...I don't like ANY religious extremists be they Islamic, Jewish, or whatever.

I chose to excommunicate myself from the Catholic Church because I was fed up of the hypocricy. You can't teach that Jesus reaches out to the oppressed and then not do the same thing yourself (ie. gay rights, women's rights, children abused by priests, etc.).

Margaret Wente says it best.