This Week’s Scandals

Friday’s news included claims that a UN environmental protection boss and an Indian bishop have been acting badly.

Maybe someone has decided that environmental protection is a fraud after they read those articles. Or at least stopped supporting outfits that promote responsible resource management. Or stopped being a Catholic because they feel bad about the news.

I don’t think either decision would make sense. I’d better explain that.

About environmental protection and resource management, I live on Earth. It’s our home.

Taking care of this world makes sense. It’s part of our job. (Genesis 1:2731, 2:78, 2:15; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 307, 339340, 24152418)

Rape is a bad idea. A very bad idea. (Catechism, 2356)

Hypocrisy is also a bad idea. (Catechism, 2468)

But hypocrisy happens. Sometimes folks with authority act badly.

And sometimes folks make accusations that aren’t true. That’s a bad idea too, partly because it gets in the way of justice. (Catechism, 2476)

I also think that I’ve got far too little information to have an informed opinion about either of Friday’s scandals:

That won’t stop me from talking about how I see problems like these, and why I won’t stop being a Catholic. The latter won’t take long.

I’m a Catholic because I’m a Christian.

I’m a Christian because I think Jesus of Nazareth really is I AM:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.'”
(John 8:58)

That claim, by itself, isn’t particularly impressive. Anyone can say ‘I am God.’ A few do, occasionally. (January 21, 2018)

Being tortured and executed isn’t all that unusual either, sadly. What makes Jesus stand out from the crowd is that a few days after he’d been killed, our Lord stopped being dead. (October 29, 2017; April 30, 2017)

Two millennia later, we’re still celebrating. (December 25, 2017)

I was a Christian long before becoming a Catholic. I thought following Jesus made sense. I still do. I became a Catholic, grudgingly, when I realized who currently has the authority our Lord gave Peter. (July 30, 2017)

I think Peter was and still is right:

“Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
“We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.'”
(John 6:6769)

American Traditions and Attitudes

I like being an American, for the most part. My guess is that quite a few other folks feel the same way. Some were born elsewhere, moving here in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their families.

That’s given descendants of other immigrants conniptions. I’d be concerned if folks stopped trying to come here, and that’s another topic. (June 17, 2018; January 22, 2017)

My country’s attitude toward Catholics could have been much worse. But it could have been better.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we inherited England’s tradition of feeling threatened by Catholic ideas.

Times change, fears and biases don’t. Not that I’ve noticed, not the basics.

Blaming our anxieties on Papists, immigrants, commies, Muslims, or other folks on society’s fringe is easy.

Thinking, and seeing ‘them’ as fellow-humans? That’s hard.

But I think it’s a good idea. (June 13, 2018; June 25, 2017)

Realizing that irrational fears aren’t reasonable concerns, accepting the idea that everybody isn’t — and shouldn’t — be just like me, treating others the way I’d like them to treat me? Humanity got off to a bad start. I talked about that on Wednesday. (September 19. 2018)

Accusations

Maybe the Indian bishop in Friday’s news is guilty. It’s possible. Like I said before, I don’t know enough about the accusations to have an informed opinion.

Assuming that a bishop is innocent because he’s a bishop is about as reasonable as assuming he’s guilty for the same reason.

It’s possible, I have no idea how likely, that the accusation is as well-founded as those in Maria Monk’s best-seller. (May 14, 2017)

The last time I checked, Catholics are a minority in India: about 1.55% of the population. That, and our clergy’s flashy uniforms, might make us an attractive target.

Folks in India have at least their share of very real problems. I figure they’re likely to have their crackpots and conspiracy theorists too.

Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of priests behaving badly in America’s news.

Some accusations have been true. One incident would have been one too many.

But like I said before, I won’t stop being a Catholic because someone in our camp violates our principles and betrays our trust. I don’t follow a priest, a bishop, or a pope.

I follow our Lord, because it’s a good idea. And the only viable option, in the long run. It’s like Peter said in John 6:6869: “…’Master, to whom shall we go?…'”

Assumptions

Once in a while I see someone expressing frustration that the Pope doesn’t ‘do something’ about a pet peeve. Or outrage that the Pope did do something.

An unspoken assumption seems to be that the Catholic Church can somehow force folks to be nice, or generous, or have the ‘right’ views, or resolve whatever crisis du jour is in play.

I remember an America where folks often acted as if the Vatican was a vast conspiracy, run by dark powers and hordes of toiling minions. I haven’t run into that sort of thing for decades. It’s another reason I don’t miss the ‘good old days.’

There’s a very slight bit of truth in that image. Very roughly a billion folks say they’re Catholic. That’s a big fraction of this world’s population. Vatican City, in Rome, has some remarkable architecture. Quite a few folks live there: around a thousand. That’s not a typo.

The Holy See is headquartered in Vatican City. It’s the Roman Catholic Church’s administrative service, sort of. Some folks who live in Vatican City work for the Holy See. Some don’t.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is part of the Holy See. It’s the section responsible for ensuring that we know what we believe, that what we’re told is accurate, and that clergy behave themselves. It’s more complicated than that, of course.1

They’re not always successful. Gibberish seems to travel faster, and get more attention, than what we’ve been saying for the last few millennia. But I’ve found that truth wins. Eventually.

Ideally, maybe, we wouldn’t need a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This isn’t an ideal world. We don’t always behave ourselves, which is why we’ve got that section.

Maybe, with enough staff and resources, the Congregation et cetera could have studied every accusation made in every diocese around the world, swiftly and surely determined which were valid, and dealt with each incident.

That didn’t happen. The entire Congregation has no more than a few hundred folks running it, and they’re not dedicated exclusively to criminal investigations. That’s not even, I gather, their primary function.

I don’t think it helps that some countries, like mine, have a history of folks making wildly-inaccurate claims against Catholics and the Catholic Church.

Wolves, Washington, and Stories

Kids who hear about the boy who cried ‘wolf!’ are, I’ve read, more likely to lie than those who get the George Washington cherry tree treatment.

I think it’s a good thing for George that his father wasn’t in the cherry tree at the time.

And that stories don’t have to be historically accurate to be true in another sense. (December 13, 2016)

And that’s yet another topic. Topics:


1 Briefly, very briefly:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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4 Responses to This Week’s Scandals

  1. I suddenly remembered how the Catholic Church over here in the Philippines has been considered by a bunch of Filipinos as a colonial piece of crap that stunts national growth. And to be honest, it gets tougher to think about when it’s involved in national politics, which is controversial more often than not. I don’t really feel like leaving the Church, still, and I don’t think I will ever leave after all the blessings I’ve experienced as a Catholic, but having to think about things like the Church-supported EDSA Revolution possibly being a corrupt scheme of the rich and powerful and the hero’s burial of a late dictator being presided by a Catholic priest as well just makes me wanna ask and know more about how religion and politics should properly cross together, especially in an age where the concept of church-state separation is considered a better idea. I think you already have some posts about things like that, though, no?

    • Yes, although I don’t remembering focusing exclusively on Catholic clergy and laity’s sometimes-regrettable and ill-considered involvement in politics and social movements. Or exclusively on much of anything else. ‘Linear’ and ‘rigidly structured’ isn’t how I’d describe my writing. 😉

      I’ve talked about politics fairly often – clicking ‘politics’ in the tag cloud ( http://brendans-island.com/catholic-citizen/tag/politics/ ) brings that up. (I’m not “political” in the sense of having unswerving allegiance to any party or candidate, but I can’t ignore political matters and contribute “…to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom…,” as the Catechism (1915, 2239) puts it.)

      I’ve focused more on European and Euro-Mediterranean cultures and history: mainly because this is ‘A Catholic Citizen in America.’ My homeland is the United States, and our cultural roots are distinctly Western. We *are* learning, though, and paying more attention to all of humanity’s rich heritage. Which I see as a good thing. And fascinating.

      Finally, about church-state separation – – – I’m profoundly glad that my homeland doesn’t have a state-sponsored religion.

      And I think folks of any faith can reasonably – and arguably should – pay attention to social and political realities. When something’s amiss, I think talking about what’s happening makes sense. So does discussing possible solutions – – with anyone who seems willing to help. The flip side of that is to do pretty much the same thing when public life is doing well – – – – so that we can keep it that way.

      Enough! Thanks for bearing with me, and adding your thoughts/views.

      • Thank you very much for your thoughts again as well, good sir! Thinking about it again, civic life certainly is important in Catholic life, considering well-known figures like Saint John Bosco. And the fun things I’ve realized so far about the Philippines and the Catholic faith is that, among other things, it reminds me of when and where Jesus’ lived when He was here on earth: in a colonized land with questionable religious officials along with problematic government officials. That, and having Filipino Saints – and they’re martyred missionaries, even! – who came from the Spanish colonial era of the Philippines makes our faith even more fascinating! 😀

        And thinking about it some more again, there is a sense of unfairness in working up a state-sponsored religion, considering how varied people are with beliefs and all that…but that doesn’t really make forcing countries who do have such into religion-state separation any better. More dialogue, less violence, indeed, then, no?

        I should ask fellow Filipinos about more Filipino things more, too, so I would also like to apologize for imposing on you about that as well! m(_ _)m

Thanks for taking time to comment!