I know that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have both riffed on these topics already, but I can’t resist adding my $0.02 worth. In an ironic coincidence of events that have to make one believe in divine intervention, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a monumental settlement of sexual abuse claims less than a week after the Roman Catholic Church reaffirmed its stance as the “one true church”.
The details, for those of you unfamiliar with these stories: On July 10, the Vatican’s office on orthodoxy known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed for two decades before becoming Pope Benedict XVI) issued a document reaffirming its belief that it is the only true church. This was a restatement of the Church’s 2000 document, Dominus Iesus. The Catholic Church proclaims itself to be the only “mediator” of salvation, and notes that other groups (e.g., all Protestant churches) are not real churches at all, but merely Christian “communities”, primarily because they do not have the apostolic succession claimed by the Catholic Church. Oh, and those Orthodox folks? They’re OK, mostly. At least they’re still “churches”, even though they "lack something in their condition as particular churches" because they are not in union with the Pope. The Protestants, however, are right out.
Meanwhile, down in the Bat Cave, the Los Angeles archdiocese recently announced a settlement of over 500 sexual abuse lawsuits, with a total payment of $660 million. The parties arrived at the settlement just prior to the beginning of the first trial, at which plaintiffs’ attorneys had planned to call Cardinal Roger Mahony to the stand to answer questions about his knowledge of the ongoing abuses and his role in the cover-up thereof. It certainly appears that there was a great deal of motivation to keep Cardinal Mahony off the stand.
So imagine yourself as a Catholic in the LA area. You’ve seen your church’s priests accused of heinous sexual abuse of minors in their pastoral care, and now the money you’ve put in the collection plate all these years is being paid out to settle a series of lawsuits so that the Cardinal doesn’t have to speak about these cases in the public scrutiny of being under oath in an open courtroom. Meanwhile, the Pope has recently reminded you that you’re part of the One True Church, and that you shouldn’t go check out any of those Protestant denominations because, after all, they don’t have the full means of grace and salvation available to them. Sounds to me like some Catholic Church folks somewhere are afraid of losing their grasp on the hearts and minds of their followers.
Is this the only instance of blatant religious hypocrisy of late? Of course not; it’s just the nice juicy one of the moment. And I would be doing you, dear reader, a disservice if I didn’t continue to remind you of the hypocrisy that is rampant in most all institutional religions. Maybe my blogging friends will explore more deeply the psychological and philosophical implications of all of these matters (yes, SI and KA, if you’re reading this, that’s an invitation). For my part, I’ll just challenge you to go out and prove that the best antidote to bad religion is not no religion, but is in fact good religion. Go therefore and do some good in the world today.