Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Questions / Faith / Doubt

Preface:

Most of my personal extended family are members of the Catholic Church.  I am not. I actually know very little about the Church, certainly not enough to complain about it.  Just enough to be skeptical and curious. With over one billion members, the Catholic Church is the largest of the Christian denominations. It is also the wealthiest  church in the world, and the most inscrutable. Is the church right to have enormous amounts of cash, properties and other assets - while so many of it's members are living in poverty or worse? 

The leadership of the Church seems overly impressed with pomp, ceremony and theological power. A relative few leaders take vows of poverty. Most glory in their exalted status. Does that mean an outsider is entitled to be curious and finds significant reasons to find fault with the wealth of the Church?  Am I the only critic of the desperately sick and poor that die on the front steps of huge piles of Catholic gilded concrete and marble edifices? Is it wrong to look upon the ostentatious, over-glossy, pomp and ceremony as a priestly mechanism used to confound and impress the masses?  


The Pope is the general manager and  spiritual shepherd of the church. 

His combined authority and responsibility is staggering. The bureaucracy he manages, the Curia, controls everything including money, foreign policy, ideology, doctrine, real estate, distribution of resources and more. Most Popes, particularly in recent years, have delegated limited powers and responsibilities to others, but the Pope is the absolute power and the ultimate responsibility. The  organization of the Church is very complicated. The overwhelming, sometimes ponderous, and usually confusing structure of the hierarchy, has produced a resistance to change. There are many long standing traditions that have produced favoritism and non-transparency in the operations of the Church. The Curia (organization) itself is a  self-contained system with it's own  power centers.


Popes change from time to time, but appointed Cardinals and other members of the Curia may or may not change when a new Pope is elected. 

A few of them expect to being treated like nobility and receiveing all of the perks and trappings of royalty. Curiously, they have a de facto immunity regarding errors. According to Canon law, they are never punished. And today the ancient Church finds itself dealing with difficult modern problems. The momentum of the past is not applying well to present or future needs. The Church seems lost. 


Perhaps the following statements by Pope Benedict XVI illustrate:

1. "The freedom of the act of faith cannot justify a right to 
dissent. This freedom does  not indicate freedom with regard to the truth, but signifies the free determination of the person in conformity with his moral obligations to accept the truth".

2.  "A person is free to accept the teachings of the Church - 
but not to question or reject them". 
    These statements confuse me.  Do they mean every new historical (Christian) discovery must be subjected  to the censorship of the Catholic "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" before any acceptance, announcement, publication or approval?  

     Would something like the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, 
    have to be studied        
     and edited exclusively by the Catholic Church - and the result accepted, not 
     questioned, and not rejected? 
      Pope Benedict XVI has also been critical of several changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. His attitude is illustrated by this comment about those changes: 
      • ". . . . they are tarnished by doubt and questioning". 
      Again, this is a confusing. Does it illustrate his  assertion of the literal truth of papally defined dogma, as well as his on-going efforts to return to Catholic fundamentalism?  I'm not certain. Are you? .


      Catholics (and non-Catholics) appear to be concerned that Christianity, as taught by Jesus, has been  manipulated as it passed to us through the centuries.  The Christian clergy in particular is being questioned especially the Catholics:
      • Are they really suggesting that women are not as capable as men? 
      • Member seem to be losing connection with their priests. Is it because there are so few men applying for the job? Are Catholics shooting themselves in the foot by not enabling women?
      • Regarding the ban on contraceptives and the related ban on abortions, the Pope,  Cardinals, and other church executives maintain the ancient rules against both. What are they doing to ensure that every child is wanted?  To drastically reduce the number of abortions? 
      • In America, murders by contraception eliminate more viable babies in ONE MONTH than the number of soldiers and civilians killed during the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Lebanon (combined), in ONE YEAR. But the war is 'right' and abortion is 'wrong'? Is there someone out there that thinks this is a good Christian policy? 
      • Real estate. Few people know the level of wealth possessed by the Catholic Church. It's an growing issue.  Suppose that in the poorest community, the wealthiest entity is the local Catholic Church. It was probably built years ago and is now worth millions. Is it right that the Church uses it's money and power to influence partisan politics. 
      All Christian churches (including Catholic Churches) teach an ideology that is difficult to believe.   There are elements that are very    
      hard  to understand.  All Christians insist , for example, that their basic requirement is  a "leap of faith" that asks a person to believer ignore logic and "believe without hard  facts".  

      The Christian religion is not a single church. There are several variations (denominations).  Islam is also not a single, uniform religion. It too has many variations. The differences between Christian are quietly peaceful at this time in history. They have not always been so.  By comparison the common character between Islamic variations is not at all peaceful. It is usually, among the branches, sects and tribes of Islam, aggressively militant. There is much angry contention.  Islam contains very conflicting beliefs, yet in the world today we are asked to remember it is only the Radical Islamic minority that refuses to live in harmony with non-believers.  

      Today, civilized societies are outraged by the violence done in the name of Islam. Radical Fundamentalist Muslims have declared war on all non-believers. They can not be reasoned with. Their vision of Islam is medieval and vicious. Non-believers are understandably confused. Radical Muslims have a world view that makes no sense at all.  At the same time, non-Islamic societies today have lived for decades side by side with peaceful Muslims. They have been  good neighbors. Non-believers are trying to consider only fundamentalist Muslims to be our vicious, bloody and evil enemy.  It's very difficult. 

      Is Islam one religion? 

      Background:  Most of my family and 
      extended family are 
                                                              happily Catholic.
       I am not.   

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