h1

Are Anti-Popes Real?

April 5, 2015

I’ve always been rather dismayed at the idea of the Catholic Pope. I don’t know how Catholics can take it seriously. God speaks directly to the pope, and only to the pope… except when he dies, in which case God suddenly starts speaking to a committee, telling them who the next pope should be. No one can possibly take such a stupid idea seriously. Yet people, even non-Catholics, treat the Pope as if he’s somehow special, regardless of how much of a degenerate weasel he shows himself to be.

Yet not only are there popes, but also antipopes too! Out of chaos, antipopes are born. Here is an example where two antipopes were created at pretty much the same time.

In the 14th Century, the Church was in turmoil and popery was so unpopular in Italy that the seat of the pope had been moved to France. The French and Roman factions of the College of Cardinals (the committee that elects the pope) couldn’t agree on anything. Upon the death of Pope Gregory XI, the committee was too busy squabbling to hear God’s orders clearly. Each faction wound up electing a pope of their own.

So there were two popes, Pope Urban VI (elected by the Roman cardinals), and Pope Clement VII (elected by the French). This state of affairs continued for about 40 years until a French theologian hit upon the theory of conciliarism. This holds that yet another committee can be formed which is higher than the popes and the College of Cardinals. So God, it turns out, is also prepared to speak directly to this alternative council, if everyone else has been fooling about too much.

Bertrand Russell takes up the story:

At last in 1409 a council was summoned and met in Pisa. It failed, however, in a ridiculous manner. It declared both popes deposed for heresy and schism, and elected a third, who promptly died; but his cardinals elected as his successor an ex-pirate named Baldassare Cossa, who took the name John XXIII. Thus the net result was that there were three popes instead of two, the conciliar pope being a notorious ruffian.

It is exactly for problems like this that the church invented the concept of the antipope. This is a pope who dresses like a pope, acts like a pope, and is believed by many during his lifetime to be a pope, but who in fact isn’t a pope at all, because someone else is and it’s theologically impossible for two popes to exist at once.

Thus, at some later point, poor Clement VII and John XXIII were declared not really to have been popes after all, but rather, antipopes.

Things really start to get complicated when you get down to the subantipopery level. Here we hit some of the higher functions of advanced theology. A pope is allowed to appoint cardinals, but if it is later discovered that this pope was in fact an antipope, then all the cardinals he appointed suddenly — through a spooky “action-at-a-distance” — simultaneously turn into pseudocardinals. And of course, if such a cardinal has appointed cardinal nephews (a cardinal related to the pope), these instantaneously become quasicardinal nephews.

The last of the antipopes was Antipope Felix V, who fulfilled the role from 1439 to 1449.

Thanks to the advent of quantum physics, however, we now know that two popes can indeed appear to exist simultaneously. This has been spectacularly proven in our own time by the “retired” ex-pope Ratzinger and Pope Ingracious XV or what ever his name is.

Footnote: A commenter, “John”, has clarified/corrected the statement in the first paragraph about God talking to the committee. The correction is most welcome, though I would suggest that the clarifications underscore rather than refute the point I was attempting to make!

Posted by Yakaru

Advertisements

28 comments

  1. Now if only popes and anti-popes could annihilate each other without lots of bloodshed and political fallout.


  2. It would be interesting to try to get such an experiment past the ethics committee!


  3. Just goes to show the whole thing is BS.


  4. As usual non-religious people talk about religion as if they knew what religious people really believe when they actually have no clue. ¿God talking to the pope? Please, read a Little bit about the pope´s real atributes and try to avoid ridiculous misconceptions.


  5. “No one can possibly take such a stupid idea seriously.”
    You’re talking about the subject of God and calling an idea stupid? Lol.


  6. This article shows that your lack of understanding Catholic beliefs and practices knows no bounds. So sad


  7. What a stupid post. Of course large organizations will have infighting, that’s what large organizations do. Of course people will fight over who is the rightful leader of the Catholic Church, just like they fight over the rightful leader of Australia or the rightful leader of Hewlett-Packard.

    And using something that hasn’t happened since 1500 doesn’t strengthen your case. And “Pope Ingracious XV or whatever his name is” is a cheap shot that makes atheists look bad and accomplishes nothing.


  8. “I’ve always been rather dismayed at the idea of the Catholic Pope. I don’t know how Catholics can take it seriously. God speaks directly to the pope, and only to the pope… except when he dies, in which case God suddenly starts speaking to a committee, telling them who the next pope should be. No one can possibly take such a stupid idea seriously.”

    No on does. That is not even close to what we Catholics believe about the Pope and is antithetical to the teachings of the Church. But of course, instead of learning what your opponent actually believes, its always easier to make up whatever crazy thing you would like him to believe and then argue against that.


  9. @John,
    Thanks for commenting and thanks for referring clearly to a part of the post that you object to.
    I was, in essence, challenging Catholics to say clearly whether or not they believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the head of the one true church, who is — thanks to divine revelation — uniquely infallible.

    Are you referring to these things when you say that no catholic believes in the Nicene Creed or papal infallibility?

    @Donde the atheist
    A cheap shot at the Catholic Church is not possible. You know the crimes that this organization has committed and systemically supported, enabled and covered up. It uses absurd divine beliefs to give itself a veneer of piety to conceal its actions. By laughing at such pretentions I am trying to make the hideous face behind the pious mask a little more visible.

    @Steve Heinemann
    Is the Pope infallible or not? I say no, and I say the pretention that he is a deliberate and cynical lie that is so utterly stupid that it deserves scorn, hatred and utter contempt.

    @ultronilimitado
    “As usual non-religious people talk about religion as if they knew what religious people really believe”
    As it happens I actually do have a religion. I just don’t bore people with it and I don’t make statements public that I can’t possibly support. And I don’t expect special treatment or special rules rules because of it.

    “God talking to the pope? Please, read a Little bit about the pope´s real atributes and try to avoid ridiculous misconceptions.”
    Don’t tell me, tell Ex-Pope Ratzinger–
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/21/pope-benedict-god-resign-mystical-experience
    Ex-pope Benedict says God told him to resign during ‘mystical experience’
    “the 86-year-old reportedly said: “God told me to” when asked what had pushed him to retire”
    You seem rather ignorant of the Catholic Church yourself.
    They talk like this all the time. I call it bullshit. You call it non-existent.

    Actually these are pretty much the kinds of responses I was hoping to get. I don’t think Catholics take this stuff seriously. So why do they still support this organization that doubles as a world wide pedophile ring, is systemically corrupt and has committed crimes that most people would not even conceive of?

    …Ah just saw that Vatican State recently raised their age of consent from 12 to 18. Well that’s about time. And what forced these morally degraded old men to get with the times?


  10. @Yakaru, I was saying that your characterization of Catholic belief is not correct. We believe that the pope is protected from error when he teaches, in concert with the Bishops and received Tradition, only on Faith and Morals, and in a very limited scope (so limited it has happened exactly twice) from error. If he teaches something counter to received Tradition, for instance, or counter to what the bishops themselves are widely teaching then he is in error. If he teaches something, say, about a scientific fact of some sort, then he will not be protected from error. Also, the bishops as a group have magisterial (teaching) authority as well, regardless of whether there is currently a pope or not, and are similarly protected from error in some situations. So the “in which case God suddenly starts speaking to a committee” is not a valid characterization. The committee (as it were) has exactly the same authority the day a pope dies as the day it did before he died.

    Further, we don’t believe that God picks a pope in the sense that He first chooses one, and then the bishops have to figure out who He chose, and they’d better not get it wrong. We hope that the bishops use wisdom and discernment in their choice and listen to the still, small voice of God, but God gives this authority to the bishops, so as long as the bishops make a choice using the proper procedure, then we have a pope. So, in yet another way it is incorrect to say “God suddenly starts speaking to a committee”, because choosing a pope is not a matter of the bishops getting it right but of administration. So what happened with the antipopes you mentioned. The point is that neither group of cardinals followed the right procedure, but it wasn’t clear what to do at that point, which is why a council had to be convened to decide how to move forward.

    In a bad analogy (all analogies will fail somewhere, I suppose), its as if a CEO dies and half the board is in Dallas and the other half in NYC, and both halves, on hearing this convene independently and elect new CEOs. Then the new CEOs start handing out executive decisions, but the board halves realize they have both elected CEOs, and they hadn’t really written the business charter with this in mind. On realizing this, something has to be done. Clearly neither anti-CEO can have the authority to do anything, and the board has to reconvene to figure out how to move forward. I think your objection here is, ah, but nobody believes the executive orders are the Word of God. True, but irrelevant. The workers in Dallas and the workers in NYC may have thought that the executive orders they received came from the CEO, but they didn’t, so after discovering the error, they would know they didn’t need to heed those orders. Similarly, here, had either of the antipopes spoken ex cathedra (neither did, by the way), which is when, had they been actual popes, they would have been protected from error. People would have believed it was from God, but would have been wrong. So what? Since whatever ex cathedra teaching a pope hands down must be compatible with received Tradition, it wouldn’t have been that far out of left field anyway, and probably true, just not with the guaranteed protection.

    Now, I can grant you that to some it may seem weird that people believe God might protect anyone from error, under any circumstances ever (for instance, if God doesn’t exist then it certainly isn’t the case, so it must look odd to an atheist), but it is hardly as arbitrary and weird as you make it out to be. Further, it isn’t categorically different than any other main Christian sect that believes God was somehow writing through the hands of, say, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Christianity in all forms is a revealed religion, one that believes that God speaks through his creation, and specifically through individuals in history, so whether one takes the writers of scripture (as the protestants do), or the writers + the bishops (as the orthodox do), or the writers + the bishops + the pope (as the Catholics do), it doesn’t seem like any one of these is weirder than any other. I think some times human beings are too impressed by scale, like because the writers of scripture lived over 1900 years ago, its more plausible that they would be protected from error than someone living now. But that’s obviously arbitrary.

    As to God speaking to Benedict XVI as you reference above, mystical experiences even for popes do not carry magisterial authority either. A Catholic would be free to believe that BXVI simply had a delusion. I don’t think many would, but his telling us about his vision is not ex cathedra.


  11. Thanks for the detailed and carefully presented information, John. And thank you also for maintaining such a civil tone.

    I have added a footnote to the post, with a link to your comment.

    I hope it’s clear that I have no problem with people such as yourself believing such things and find it quite interesting to discuss. (It’s also stated in my comment policy that people should be free to identify with whatever religion they wish, without being ridiculed simply for the identification.) The problem starts for me, however, when such ideas become dangerous or damaging, as they so clearly have done in the case of the Catholic Church. It is for these reasons that I have been provocative towards Catholics in the post.

    As you acknowledge, yes, the idea that God would speak to certain people at certain times but not others does appear to me to be strange. Not just because as an atheist I find it ridiculous, but because it doesn’t comport with the facts. It looks like a group of privileged men cloaking themselves and their disgraceful behaviors with the mantle of divinity.

    I am shocked that more Catholics don’t follow the example of the thousands each month in Germany at the moment who are leaving the Church. The priesthood and the popes have all betrayed your trust, in my opinion.

    Why wasn’t Pope Pius XII (the fellow who signed the Concordat with Hitler and later became pope) declared an antipope? Did the cardinals elect the right pope?

    And how can Catholics identify what went wrong there and prevent it from happening again, if they have already granted special status and special rights to the priesthood — a priesthood that claims not to have known that it’s wrong, for example, to rape children?


  12. “Did the cardinals elect the right pope?”

    Again this, in some sense, misses the point. What do you mean the “right” pope? The cardinals may have made a bad decision in Pius XII’s election, but Catholic theology does not claim that the pope is holy or even ends up in heaven. It is only that God protects him from error in very narrow situations, essentially when clarification is needed on some fine point of doctrine when competing theories arise. It is not an accident, nor is it against Catholic theology, that Dante places popes in several of the circles in hell. Nothing in Catholic doctrine claims the pope is necessarily good or holy or even right about most, if not all, of the things he believes. The man is fallible, the office is not.

    The Church is populated by human beings and those in authority are no less human and no more holy than the laity. It is bound to make poor decisions from time to time, but this hardly proves that God isn’t guiding it. Rather, like a loving father who sometimes allows his children to stumble, so that they learn how to balance better and how to pick themselves up and dust themselves off, God allows the Church to stumble from time to time, just not in the situations (namely, the development of doctrine) where error would be utterly disastrous to the Church as a whole. After all God gives us free will and wants us to learn how to align it with the good. He could have made robotic slaves that only did His will, but in some sense an automaton is less good than a free mind that chooses the good even though it could have done otherwise (that is, of course, another discussion).

    By the way, I’m a convert to Catholicism. I basically spent seven years trying to construct valid and sound arguments against the fundamental philosophical claims and theological claims made by the Church and eventually found all my arguments lacking and the Catholic arguments standing unscathed. One piece of evidence that I still find compelling is that though there have been very bad popes, including popes that had multiple concubines, illegitimate children, etc. not one of them has tried to excuse their own lifestyles by papal decree. Were the Church simply another human institution, I don’t see why this should be. It seems it would be easy for a pope to issue by papal decree something like, its ok to have concubines and then happily go about having his own, but this never happened. This is, of course, not a logical argument for anything, just an interesting historical artifact that I think is more likely if Catholicism is true than it is if Catholicism is false.


  13. There’s a difference between a fact about what Catholics believe, and what is factually true in reality. I certainly appreciate your contributions here regarding the former, but for me the salient point is the latter.

    You are using two different standards for evidence. One for me — where you will check my facts and (fairly) insist that I either back up my claims or admit an error; and a completely different standard where claims like “God grants only limited infallibility popes”, is simply asserted without any justification or evidence.

    It may be a fact that Catholics believe such claims, but it is not a fact that God indeed does this, or that God even exists. All you have done is lower your standards for evidence to an extraordinary degree. Fine, but when one lowers the standards so much, it becomes impossible to distinguish one statement from any other about religion. Some Hindus believe a God lives on the Moon. That is offered with exactly the same justification as your statements about what God does and does not do.

    Of course in private this is no problem, but when such groundless assertions are taught to others as fact, it becomes irresponsible and unethical. And when such things are taught to children to becomes truly dangerous and evil.

    I am surprised that you think that Popes haven’t abused the powers and authority that Catholics have granted them. The whole history of the Church is riven with most obvious examples of self interest. Ratzinger’s decree that child rapists, effectively, be protected from the law is merely one of a long and utterly horrifying list of criminal behaviors that results from the kind of gullibility that you exercise in favor of the church.

    I’m fine with you ascribing all the bad decisions to human failure, but you don’t realize that the reason why the Catholic Church has failed so miserably and willfully to uphold the most minimal of ethical standards is specifically because of the absurdly low (or nonexistent) standards for evidence and reason that you allow them.

    I don’t accept your double standards.


  14. It was not my intention to present a careful defense of papal infallibility, so you should read me as saying “this is what Catholics believe”, not “this is what is true.” (Though I, of course, as a Catholic do believe it is true.) This is not a double standard because I wasn’t trying to claim as true the things I was stating. I was merely trying to frame for you what Catholics believe. Recall that what I took issue with is your first paragraph.

    Your argument is essentially A. Catholics believe nothing the pope does can be wrong. B. Popes have done clearly wrong things; therefore C. Catholics must either give up A. or deny history (B).

    I agree with you that this is a valid argument, since C clearly follows from A and B. One cannot logically believe that the pope can do no wrong unless they ignore history. A and B necessarily contradict each other. So far, so good, the argument is certainly a valid one.

    But it is not sound. The problem, and what I’ve been trying to point out, is that your premise A is false. Catholics do not believe A at all. So what I did was give you an explanation of what Catholics actually believe, which might be characterized as A*. Catholics believe that under very limited circumstances and in very narrow ways the pope is protected from error on a narrow set of topics.

    After fixing your argument, it becomes:

    A* Catholics believe that under very limited circumstances and in very narrow ways the pope is protected from error on a narrow set of topics.
    B. Popes have clearly done wrong things.
    Therefore, C. Catholics must either give up A* or deny history (B).

    But notice now, the “Therefore C” does not at all follow. It in no way negates the Catholic’s belief detailed in A* that the pope is protected from error when he speaks ex cathedra to point out that some popes have been murderers (B). In fact, all catholics accept both the beliefs outline in A* and B.

    So, I was not arguing anywhere above for the truth of Catholic beliefs, I was simply presenting them as they are without having to start each sentence with “Catholics believe the pope is infallible in circumstances X, Y, and Z.” Instead, since I am Catholic, I figured that you would understand when I say that the “The pope is infallible in circumstances X, Y, and Z.” I was not presenting an argument for the claim (as you seem to have assumed I was in your last comment) but as a Catholic presenting an outline of Catholic beliefs (which is obviously, as you say, distinct from a defense of those beliefs, which was not my intention).

    Now, if you want a mounted defense of papal infallibility that is an entirely different matter and one that I have not endeavored to undertake here.

    Also, I do not grant you this sentence “I am surprised that you think that Popes haven’t abused the powers and authority that Catholics have granted them.” I specifically _do_ believe that popes have abused the powers and authority they are given. What they have not done, and this is a matter of historical record and can be easily verified, is abuse _ex cathedra _ speech (which is the only time Catholics believe papal infallibility comes into play I’m now adding “Catholics believe” here to make sure its clear I’m not here saying its true, just that this is when it is believed to occur). In fact there are only two instances of ex cathedra speech in the entire history of the Church, and they have nothing to do with any abuse of power whatsoever. Papal authority has definitely been abused, ex cathedra speech has not.


  15. The point that I wish to emphasize with the post is that your form of belief is inherently dangerous. It may, hypothetically, be true that popes are sometimes granted infallibility by God in some matters but not in others, but no human being, not even the pope himself has any way of verifying at which times these are.

    I am opposed to the special status granted to priests and popes. They use it as a cloak for abuse.

    It may be that no pope has ever used “ex-cathedra speech” as a cloak for self interest, but if true, that wouldn’t change the fact that special status is granted to the person of the pope, and the church hierarchy as a whole thanks to this assertion that he is closer to God.

    Maybe Pope Pius XII was not speaking ex-cathedra when he instructed German Catholics to support the Führer. But he used his authority to do so — authority based on the hierarchy that has been built up over the centuries using this idea that God speaks more to some than others. This assumption of authority and this exploitive power structure surrounding it is a plague on humanity. Catholics have no way of defending themselves against it.

    Franz Jägerstätter had nothing he could tell his confessors when they instructed him he should obey the law and serve in the Nazi military. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Catholic Church finally realized that maybe they had been wrong and he did go to heaven after all. Why did it take so long for them to realize the Church was in the wrong? I say it’s because Catholic theology is fundamentally flawed — God doesn’t talk especially to some humans and not others. There is no evidence for it, and it’s an idea that we don’t need and only causes trouble. Such assertions scramble our natural intelligence and judgment and leave us open for being manipulated by psychopaths like Eugenio Pacelli (aka Pius XII). There is nothing in Catholic theology that helps Catholics distinguish between him and a person of higher ethics. There is nothing in Catholic theology to prevent an enabler of pedophilia like Ratzinger from attaining the highest office.

    Catholics should stop and wonder how on earth all this has happened, and continues to happen in their name. I’m sorry, but such unconscionable moral failures are not the occasion for slipping theological hairs.


  16. Would you say you are stubbornly determined not to actually learn anything about the Catholic faith?


  17. Stubbornly determined not to learn? No. Why do you ask?

    What do you think I should know that might have made me write this article differently? That’s what the comments section is here for, incidentally — not for random, content-free personal insults.

    Over to you….


  18. It was a question, not an insult, but my apologies as no offense was meant.

    As you acknowledge, you have an ax to to grind, and you intended to be “provocative towards Catholics”. So be it, it’s your soapbox, and you succeeded brilliantly.

    I’m just suggesting it might have turned out differently if you had invested time and effort to see things from another perspective, to walk around in someone else’s shoes, and to actually learn something about the lived experience of your Catholic neighbors. Maybe there would have been a little less fulminating, and a little more insight into how anyone “can possibly take such a stupid idea seriously”, or “why do they still support this organization”.


  19. Thanks for replying!

    I do feel like I can understand religious and spiritual beliefs fairly deeply, and in my private life I am quite happy to be around people who think differently to the way I do. (I used to hold a lot of spiritual beliefs, including some of a Christian nature.)

    I wrote the article to ridicule the utterly ridiculous charade that not just Catholics go alone with, but many non-Catholics as well. Does anyone really think that God chooses the Pope, and that it’s really God who thinks that women are inherently incapable of being Pope? Or that God really chose Ratzinger as Pope – the man who wrote the system for protecting pedophiles and ignored countless reports child rape and protected the rapists?

    The idea of an elite, special class of humans who are inherently holier than everyone else is psychologically unhealthy — for everyone, including the priests and popes. A little theater and ritual is okay, but when children get raped and the rapists protected; when babies are stolen from their parents and sold for adoption, when women die because the Pope says they’re not allowed to get an abortion (and lawmakers believe him because he’s Pope) I think it’s time to stop it, and call it what it is.

    I know that many Catholics use contraception, for example. So they don’t think the Pope is speaking for God in that case. Yet they still accept his authority when he makes deadly rules for others. It’s dishonest, hypocritical, cowardly and evil. It’s hypocritical to ignore the Pope on contraception and then remain silent when a woman dies because she is prevented from having a life saving abortion.

    I suspect that many Catholics pick and choose what they want to follow of the Popes orders, but they are too cowardly to admit it in public. So priests get away with crimes worse than murder and use the authority of he church as protection. I want to undermine that authority.


  20. Thanks very much for the courteous reply.

    Firstly, just to clarify: This is all about Rome? That is, you have no quarrel with, say, Eastern Orthodox theology and praxis?

    No, the Church does not claim that God picks the Pope. Somebody might try to make that claim if papal conclaves invariably produced a unanimous result on the first try, but such is not the case. Presumably each papal elector implores divine aid and guidance, and then exercises his best judgement according to his natural abilities.

    I wonder if you would be good enough to suggest an authoritative source for the claim that in Catholic teaching, Holy Orders comprises “an elite, special class of humans who are inherently holier than everyone else”.

    Similarly, I wonder if you could suggest a relevant authoritative source for the implied claim that in Catholic teaching, the Pope has any power or authority to override anyone’s individual conscience.

    I am obliged to point out a serious error in your comments concerning Catholic teaching on abortion in extremely rare and difficult cases where the life of an expectant mother may be in danger. Catholic teaching supports treatment of the mother, even when an unavoidable (but not directly intended) effect is the death of the unborn child. What Catholic teaching cannot support is the direct, intentional, and avoidable killing of an unborn child for the sole purpose of eliminating her or him.

    To sum up then, dear friend, if your stated aim is to undermine the teaching authority entrusted by Christ to the College of Bishops and to the Chair of Peter, I wonder just how you would suppose you could accomplish that by propagating misinformation and poorly informed opinions?


  21. Thanks, “geraldo”, that’s a good comment — I don’t get so many of those here from dissenters!

    The first thing is that I see that many people, not just Catholics, take papal authority seriously, and I want to simply register that I don’t. The only reason why no one confronts the pope about the inherent sexism of a “men only” job is, I think, purely down to unhealthy submissive reflexes. If the CEO of Starbucks said women are only allowed on the ground floor, there would be a world wide boycott. But with the pope no one in the media breathes a word about it, and I suspect haven’t even noticed it. So that’s why I want to point out that this “Pope” business is just a game, and it gets a bit ridiculous sometimes.

    Second, you write: “Presumably each papal elector implores divine aid and guidance…”

    As I’m sure you are aware, this is a process which should be treated with extreme caution. Even if there are gods who communicate with some of us, it is difficult to distinguish between “what god wants” and what I want. When was the last time a pope said “whoops, that wasn’t god, that was my ego”?

    This Anti-Pope business is as close as the church will get to admitting that power politics plays a role. I highlighted it because it is hilariously funny to watch such antics from people who want their next decision to be taken seriously as well. Could it be any clearer that their decisions are not “divinely inspired”?

    But I could have used far more horrifying examples. These people didn’t know that Fascism was unethical. Many priests claimed not to know that child rape is unethical. The Catholic Church helped Nazi war criminals to flee. Etc. I’m sure you know such things, and I am sure you are just as horrified as I am by the abuse of power. I want to undermine that power.

    By “an elite, special class of humans who are inherently holier than everyone else” I am referring, essentially, to what priests themselves claim, even though they would use more humble language. The whole point of being a priest to be that. Celibacy, for example, is not normal or natural behavior. It leads almost inevitably to psychological disturbances. Priests are left to turn to god to help them maintain it (we know how effective that is) and then, as the records show, turn to god to forgive them when they have raped a child. If they would drop this special status, a man of conscience would turn himself in to the police, rather than rely on god or the bishop for absolution.

    I have to go out, but I will come to your other points later….


  22. …In short, I think it would be better for everyone if Catholics, and all religious people, make a few concessions when discussing their beliefs in public. Realize that not everyone believes all this god stuff, and it’s unethical to demand that others obey your precepts (as in anti-abortion laws, public condemnation of contraception, legal acceptance of doctrinal sexism, etc).

    The Catholic Church engages in naked power politics in many countries (Ireland, Poland especially at the moment). But god doesn’t exist — at least the Catholic version of god doesn’t exist – that is clear. It’s fine with me if people want to believe it in private, and fine if they want to say it in public too, but in the latter case, it should be equally acceptable to dissent and have the right not to be forced by the power of the state to obey.


  23. The Second Vatican Council declared: “…[T]he human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs…”

    With that as context, you raise several issues having quite distinct considerations.

    [1] The right to life is a universally recognized human right — indeed the first and essential right. This right is not based on any sectarian doctrine or opinion. Now we may ask, at what stage of an individual’s development does her right to life take effect, and thereby give her a claim on the protection of the state? On that question one may take any rationally defensible position, but you can’t evade the question. (One reasonable position would be to say than the individual always has this right, at every stage of development.)

    [2] The Church has every right to condemn contraception, no less than anyone making the opposite case. The Church does not impose its views on anyone, and in truth has no actual power to do so. (By contrast, the conscience rights of Catholics are regularly violated, for example by mandated insurance coverage.)

    [3] I’m not sure what you mean by “legal acceptance of doctrinal sexism,” but if you mean to imply that the state ought to have the power to interfere with the sacrament of Holy Orders, then such an intervention obviously would violate any rational understanding of religious freedom. That said, the claim that “no one in the media breathes a word about [not ordaining women]” can only mean that you have been deprived access to news outlets for many decades. May I respectfully suggest you catch up on the topic via your preferred search engine.

    So you want to undermine the power and authority of the papacy and the Roman Church. Well, surely you must know that you’re a little late to the party. And not only that, you forgot to bring any original material.


  24. Thanks again, for your thoughtful and articulate comments!

    A fundamental difference in our views, I think, is what we consider “religious freedom”. I would say that for religious people it means they are free to sort out their own ethics according to their own conscience, and live accordingly within the bounds of the law.

    You appear to concur with the Vatican’s authoritarian view, that it’s the Church’s right to stick its nose into this realm and tell people they can’t use condoms, or that they will be ex-communicated if they perform or allow an abortion (though not for rape); that they will lose their job if they get divorced, or not get certain jobs in the first place if they are a woman.

    The Vatican has no god-given higher ability to understand ethics — in fact they routinely demonstrate the opposite. Yet despite their atrocious record in ethical decision-making, people still treat them as if they are special and deserve to be taken seriously on ethical issues.

    Religion is a private matter of personal conscience.

    You write:
    (By contrast, the conscience rights of Catholics are regularly violated, for example by mandated insurance coverage.)

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of freedom. If Catholics don’t want ot use contraception themselves, they are free not to. But if they have chosen a profession which involves providing it, they have no right to redefine their profession and enforce their private ethical views on others. They are free to leave though, and if their conscience was so important to them, it would be a small price. I’ve left jobs that I found conflicted with my ethics. It’s costs a bit, but if it’s important enough, one leaves.

    Yes, the church has every right to condemn contraception and abortion. And every right to exclude and publicly humiliate Catholics whose conscience differs from the doctrinal line of the day. But call it what it is — authoritarian and arbitrary.

    Regarding point 3, when was the last time an interviewer confronted the Pope about his Church’s doctrinal sexism? He would be challenged on it every time he spoke to the media if he was CEO of a secular company. Religious people demand to be, and get judged by double standards — lower standards than the rest of the population. That’s what I mean by special status.


  25. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths….Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act….In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.”

    However, like any faculty, one’s conscience must be intentionally formed and continuously developed. Acknowledging the primacy of individual conscience does not mean that the Church abrogates its duty to teach and advocate for what is just and right.

    Any Catholic who has been involved in abortion may seek Sacramental Reconciliation. The Church offers “specially trained priests, religious, counselors, and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion. In addition to referring for Sacramental Reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals.”

    Pope Francis has been asked about women’s ordination on several occasions, including 28 September 2015, returning from a visit to the USA. But the analogy to a corporate chieftain is false, because Holy Orders is a sacrament, not a job. In any case, even if you don’t accept that theology, it is perfectly reasonable for the secular press and others to respect the right of a voluntary faith community to select its own ministers according to its own lights.

    I’m happy you have found it so easy to preserve your ethical standards. Others aren’t as fortunate and face an unjust hardship. A truly pluralistic and equitable society would not force anyone to choose between her conscience and her livelihood.

    No doubt you have noticed that plenty of Christians agree with your criticisms of Rome, even while holding the same moral views that you object to, or even similar theology regarding female clergy and episcopal authority. So if you’re objecting as a non-believer, why pick on the Catholics?


  26. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths….Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act….In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right….”

    No need to tell me that — try convincing the people who force their catholic views on others, like the obstetricians in Ireland who used to carry out symphysiotomies — deliberately breaking the pelvis of pregnant women — to ensure they didn’t miscarry. Or the Brazilian bishop who ex-communicated the doctor who carried out an abortion on a 9 year old who had been raped and impregnated by her step father. He also ex-communicated the mother and the 9 year old. He didn’t ex-communicate the step father….

    I could go on, but you get the picture. Why don’t these catholics interpret it like you do?

    “Any Catholic who has been involved in abortion may seek Sacramental Reconciliation. The Church offers “specially trained priests, religious, counselors, and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion. In addition to referring for Sacramental Reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals.”

    And an exorcist. I simply don’t think people who take exorcism seriously should be in any position where they can advise or influence anyone else on matters relating to mental health and reality in general.

    “Pope Francis has been asked about women’s ordination on several occasions, including 28 September 2015, returning from a visit to the USA. “

    Thanks. I didn’t know. But I didn’t notice any international boycott or outrage — or even shamefaced embarrassment — from christians or catholics after his bigoted, sexist, and utterly stupid answer. Oppression of women is one of the most important issues on the planet. Poverty can only be solved by allowing women control over their reproductive system and equal status with men. He is opposed to both, purely because of ignorance, power politics and lack of psychological health.

    “But the analogy to a corporate chieftain is false, because Holy Orders is a sacrament, not a job.”

    I agree, in a way. Any corporate boss who tried to sell indulgences or declared a Jubilee Year would be laughed out of his job.

    “A truly pluralistic and equitable society would not force anyone to choose between her conscience and her livelihood.”

    I disagree. If someone is stuck on the idea that no one is allowed to use condoms for no rational reason, then it’s their own fault if they chose employment that involves selling conoms. That is really simple logic. I don’t think people should eat meat. That is a far more sensible proposition, but you would think I was just being silly if I said that I want to keep my job at the abattior but I won’t kill any animals. I guess you were a big fan of Kim Davis.

    “So if you’re objecting as a non-believer, why pick on the Catholics?”

    I pick on lots of people, not just catholics, for the same reason (I assume) that you are picking on me — because these issues are important to me.

    The real subject of the post is authority. You probably know the famous experiment by Stanley Milgram. Well religions and spirituality is one of the many areas of society where this “experiment” is being carried out — namely, how far can we push people to do our bidding until they recognize the screams from behind the curtain as screams of pain. I’m trying to interrupt that “experiment” by unmasking the authority figure. Ridicule does this quite effectively.

    On another level, and I do mean this sincerely, I think that even there is a spiritual reality behind religious rituals, that reality gets clouded and cheapened when people start taking the rituals too seriously, and forget that it’s a shadow of something “higher” or truer, or more important. It was a tradition in Europe for a long time, to have farcical plays about religion, where people play god and angels etc. The point was not to poke fun at god, but to lampoon their own egotism and literal-mindedness.

    The abuse of religious power is ALWAYS accompanied by literalism. To poke fun at one form of it is to poke fun at them all.

    And I will add, that the church in here in Germany uses the tax office to levy a “church tax” of 8%. It’s no longer compoulsory, but as soon as a baby is baptized, they are locked in to automatically start paying that tax when they turn 18. To stop it, they have to officially fill out a form to leave the church — which of course divides families.

    I was born in Australia, and I don’t know if I was baptized, so the Catholic Church checked the Australian baptism records to see of they could get me to pay 8% for the last 15 years retrospectively.

    So………….. when I discover that the organization that tried to steal thousands of Euros from me because of what may have been done to me as a baby without my consent, also believes in anti-popes, then I feel perfectly justified at laughing as close to their face as I can get.


  27. Friend, I hate to break the news that sophomoric histrionics lack quite the persuasive punch you seem to imagine.

    P.S. You really ought to forward a check to the Vatican Bank to catch up on those back taxes you owe, before they burn you at the stake.


  28. IN other words — back to the content-free personal insults you started off with.



First-time comments moderated to prevent spam

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: