After Benedict: Religions have to Democratize if they are to Survive

The US television news coverage of Benedict XVI’s last day in office was extremely annoying because it mostly wasn’t good journalism. CNN kept talking about “pageantry.” We “witnessed history,” we were told. I don’t know what that means. We witness history every day. History is the record of the past.

Almost no sharp questions were asked. Why was Benedict resigning? Was it something in Vatileaks that could yet come out? CNN’s correspondent mentioned only vague ‘crises’ afflicting the church.

I have a feeling that Benedict’s resignation is a turning point for the church, and not in a good way. It is the culmination of long decades of post-Vatican II backtracking and attempts to keep the church authoritarian and on the side of the political right wing. As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict himself had crushed the Liberation Theology movement and kept the church aligned with right wing elites in Latin America, with the predictable outcome that the poor fled to Protestant evangelicalism in their millions.

That authoritarian instinct is the hallmark of the scandals about priests’ child abuse. Roman Catholic priests probably commit child abuse no more frequently than secular school teachers. The scandal is that church authorities, including Ratzinger himself, covered up the abuses where they came to know of them, and protected the offending priests. They thus sided with pedophiles in the church hierarchy against their own lay parishioners and their children, which made them look monstrous to millions of even devoted Catholics, who have therefore abandoned the church.

It should be remembered what is being lost with the virtual collapse of the church, at least in Europe and the Americas. The Roman Catholic Church has often taken principled stances on world affairs. Pope John Paul II opposed Bush’s Iraq War. The Church is among the few Western institutions that gives a fig for the plight of the oppressed and stateless Palestinians. It opposes capital punishment, a brutalizing practice. It has often stood with immigrants and the disadvantaged. Its social institutions such as schools and universities have been key to urban neighborhoods. Church congregations have been community spaces for spiritual connectedness that psychiatrists have found contributes to well-being. The church is peopled by sinful human beings and has often acted in deeply flawed ways, as well, of course. But the point is that the modern church has been a mixed picture, doing much good along with its lapses. That good is in danger of being lost.

German Catholics, some 30 percent of the country, have abandoned the church in droves in the past few years, over the cover-ups of priestly child abuse. Some have become Protestants, others have given up on religion. (West Germany used to be unusually religious among European countries, with 80% saying they believed i God; that percentage has plummeted). In the Netherlands, thousands of Catholics have ‘de-baptized’ themselves, in the wake of Benedict’s offer to ally with other religions in trying to stop state recognition of gay marriage. The news that the church in the Netherlands in the 1950s had castrated 10 little boys as ‘treatment’ for being gay didn’t help.

Many youth of the Baby Boomer generation had left the church already in the 1960s and 1970s in places such as Quebec. The issue for them was the Church’s idiosyncratic stance against condoms, and its opposition to elements of women’s liberation. But now even stalwart communities such as Ireland and Bavaria are deserting the church in droves. (One Irish acquaintance of mine even mused that if the Irish gave up religion across the board, the Protestant-Catholic dispute in the north might rather subside).

All the problems of the church that have led to this crisis are rooted in authoritarian models of governance. If the priests are treated as special, then of course they will be protected even when they commit crimes. If the opinions of the laity don’t count, it won’t matter that anti-gay prejudice in the hierarchy disgusts them. Lord Acton’s dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is nowhere truer than in religious organizations. The laity tend to be too trusting of them and fail to subject them to sufficient accountability.

These flaws of the Catholic Church today are not unique to it, though the rapidity with which believers are fleeing may be slightly greater in its ranks. All religious institutions are being challenged by post-modernity, by the end of privacy and by social media and the release of secrets. Clergy malfeasance is increasingly difficult to hide.

Only by moving to a more democratic model of church (and mosque and temple) governance can the good in the religions be preserved. The path that Benedict was on all his life, the path of reaction and authoritarianism and the protecting of criminals in priestly ranks– that path leads to a bleaker, irreligious world in which the celebration of the spirit is abandoned.

Matthew Fox at Democracy Now! puts it in a way that I would not, but his points are worth considering:

Posted in Uncategorized | 49 Responses | Print |

49 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    There might of course be a simple explanation for the resignation.

    What would an honest man do if he was diagnosed with the beginnings of Alzheimers?

    • President Reagan didn’t resign, and it was obvious that he had Alzheimers during his second term, if not his first. Of course, many will say that Reagan was not an honest man.

      • Terrifyingly, Reagan may have been a better president when he was senile than when he wasn’t. Would the Reagan of 1980 have made peace with Gorbachev?

        The trick is to get these conservatives past their Clint Eastwood phase into their doddering kindly grandfather phase.

  2. The celebration of the spirit is abandoned? Ok, that was better than other common American views of atheists I’ve met on the Internet, where we are presumed to be amoral and thus at the level of rapists and other criminals. But still, not quite right either, depending on your definition of “spirit”.

    As a Swede living in a mostly irreligious country with low crime rates and very progressive values, I guess I simply don’t get it. To me, it seems obvious that the weakening of religiosity and religious institutions is a net improvement. It is also an ongoing process that is likely to accelerate over time, regardless of the efforts of the institutions. Science and modern urbanity is putting a constant pressure on religions, and as religions are social movements, momentum weakens them further.

    • Sweden is extremely religious.

      link to

      “Religion is an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.”

      What we call “organized religions,” like the Lutheran Church of Sweden, appear to be on their way out.

      I used to call the domminant religion in Sweden today “secular humanism,” but that label is offensive to its adherents, and they won’t suggest a better one. They protest to be irreligious, even as they loudly proclaim the belief systems and world views that define their “grouping.”

      you place yourself among like-minded thinkers who share your beliefs, values and views. That is your spiritual community.

      You may believe in the “marriage equality” idea. Many adherents to your religion do.
      That would not be a scientifically testable position; people who embrace this concept do so on religious grounds.
      OK. That’s your right.
      But allow me to push back when you lecture me that your religious beliefs are superior to mine.

      • Brian. Saying that lack of religious belief is the same thing as religious belief is a tired old false equivalency that doesn’t play in Peoria any more. Find something else.

        • not at all what I said, Tin Woman.
          But if all you can refute is an argument I never made, bon chance.

      • Brian, your wikipedia entry continues: “A global 2012 poll reports that 59% of the world’s population is religious, 23% are not religious, and 13% are atheists.”

        So it seems your interpretation is too broad, and Sweden really is very non-religious.
        link to
        Sweden is at the top and the US is further down, just above Kyrgyzstan.

        Yes, marriage is a social and legal construct, and as such not scientifically testable. I tend to prefer for such constructs to be inclusive and not unnecessarily restrictive. I’m sorry you don’t agree.

        Of course you’re allowed to push back. I do have reasons for postulating that religiosity is a net minus, but I guess it would be an unnecessary flame bait to list them here. But in the abstract, I think moral philosophy is evolving with society and our improved intellects and broader knowledge bases, and that whatever we can come up with today will guide us better than our interpretation of old scriptures.

  3. Lord Acton’s dictum was specifically about religious authority. As a leading British Catholic layman in the 19th century, he was appalled by the introduction of the doctrine of papal infallibility, and this was the context for his famous (and all too prescient) remark.

    • It may be instructive to note how many times that doctrine has been invoked, and how.

      Once; and to assert that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was concieved without original sin.
      Not even asserting that she was concieved without sex.

      This is not what Lord Acton feared. This is, in the grand scheme, not an example of absolute corruption.

  4. Excellent points, Dr. Cole. When I watched a snippet of CNN’s coverage yesterday morning, I wanted to throw my coffee mug at the screen as Christiane Amenpour fawned all over a parade of clerics praising Benedict for his so-called “teachings,” but who never mentioned the disgusting scandals. One guest even rattled off Benedict’s “four great speeches” including the one in Germany where he managed to insult all of the world’s Moslems and Jews in under an hour, and throw the spirit of brotherly love back 1,000 years.

    Protestants are no better. Evangelicals in America are, for the most part, no more than zealous political bigots who wrap themselves in what they pretend is Jesus’ cloak.

    Likewise, far too many of my brethren, Jews in the US and elsewhere, see nothing wrong with inflicting a version of ethnic cleansing on Palestinians, forgetting how and why Israel came into existence.

    Those Moslem clerics who have perverted the teachings of Mohammed to attempt to radicalize the religion they inherited are as guilty of bad faith as any priest in the Inquisition.

    The world is better off for seeing the back of him. May Benedict soon be joined in exile by people such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, those who run the religious right in the United States, the radical Moslem clerics, and the prime minister of Israel. There may have been a time when religion served sort of a useful purpose, but that time has long since ended.

    • Click onto my post above, in which I attach a Dailypost link. There you’ll see Christane giving a former Catholic the opportunity to make a dramatic statement about the percentage of priest who are, in his opinion, homosexual. I’ve always found Amanpour to be balanced, which is why she is no longer anchor of ABC’s Sunday morning political show.

  5. I’m not sure that the collapse of Catholicism will help much in Northern Ireland. That was always primarily an ethnic conflict between privileged Anglo/Scots immigrants and disadvantaged natives. Religion was more of a marker than a motive, I would think. They wouldn’t have much trouble telling each other apart even without it.

  6. It’s hubris to say “Religions have to Democratize”. The RCC has almost 2 billion adherents, so it’s certainly surviving. Perhaps Catholics LIKE the authoritarian style. Being Jewish, it’s not my place to say.

    Jewish “denominations” and congregations are far more varied in style, with a lot of control devolved to the congregational level, at least outside of Israel. Still, they struggle.

    Don’t know what the situation is in Islam.

  7. Thank you so much for pointing out, too, that religion fulfils important needs of societies. “Church congregations have been community spaces for spiritual connectedness that psychiatrists have found contributes to well-being.”
    Well, I am no psychiatrist, but I am a doctor and a citizen with a conscience. Our doctor´s offices are overcrowded with people who just desperately need some caring neutral official to talk to – a position that just a couple of generations ago was filled by priests. If you are against pollution, you join Greenpeace, if you are against marital abuse, you volunteer at a shelter; if you are against nothing (except maybe fast food and television withdrawal), noone will address you personally and tell you that it´s your bloody grownup duty to participate in society before it´s your turn to become old, sick and heavily dependent on others. The big tragedy in losing the church is not the cultural loss, it´s the void I just described

  8. Religion in general and the RNC specifically can’t disappear fast enough for me. I am a woman and the history of what the Catholic church has wrought upon women is almost unbearable to contemplate.

    There is a village in Bavaria, which, after one of the fits of witch burnings which were so common, had a single female survivor. That’s ONE. One girl/woman left in the entire community.

    There’s a village along the Mosel river which has a rock on which are inscribed the names of the women who were burned on an outcropping overlooking the river. There are hundreds of names.

    That is a church led femicide.

    And yet you say the church serves some good purpose because once in a while some pope mumbles something that puts him on the right side of a political issue, by accident rather than design? Well that’s kind and generous of you but I’m afraid I don’t agree.

    I want to see the whole operation consigned to the dustbin. The suffering they have brought upon humanity is incalculable. And spiritual, they are NOT.

    • There are as many flaws in the Catholic hierarchy as there are in any other religion. However, the fact that some people choose to do things in the name of “Catholicism” or “Judaism” or “Islam” cannot be transcribed to the entire group

    • Tin Woman,
      I am the Catholic Church.
      I am partly responsible. Blame me.

      There is NOTHING that I can do to make up for what my Church has done to these women in the distant past. I am sorry.
      I WILL be held accountable.

      As for women still alive today who have been harmed by the Church, and children and former children who have been grievously harmed, I share in the responsibility for that, too. The whole Church does.
      I am sorry for that, too. So are many of my fellow Church members. I wish I could say that all Catholics are sorry, but that isn’t true.

      There IS something that the Church can do to try to make a gesture of contrition, and to try to help in your healing, but we need to hear from you directly, and I understand if such a wounded soul avoids ANY contact with an institution that has inflicted such pain.

      I understand why outsiders tend to focus on the Pope as symbol,
      but the Pope is largely irrelevant to the work of the Church. Golly, even the Bishops are largely irrelevant.
      The real action of serving happens in, through and by local parishes.

      If someone wants the Catholic Church to somehow make amends for the harm inflicted on them, one place to start is with the ordained priest, ordained religious, or staff/ volunteers at the nearest parish.
      Unfortunately, some parishes seem to be immune to being infected with the Holy Spirit, so I ask you to try a second or even a third one, if the first one you approach seems rigid and unresponsive. Where I live, about half of parishes seem more responsive to the Dawa of Jesus than the other half. It seems to correlate with the age of the parishoners, inversely.

  9. Some things just can’t be fixed.

    The latest images of the RedHats putting their aged, patriachal heads together to whisper and connive, as has been the behavior since Paul started all this, ought to illustrate the imperviousness of that hierarchy, that hugely wealthy oligarchy, to any kind of “reform.”

    It didn’t work when the issues were the huge gulf between the nominal holiness and spiritual wealth of the Church, living off the hopes and fears and prayers and labor of millions, and the reality of the hypocrisy, the venality, sale of benefices and indulgences and the gilding of anything that didn’t move.

    It’s human nature, whenever there’s power and money in play and a structure that lets greedy, selfish, arrogant Machiavellis play on Big motivators like tribe, nation, the love and fear of the divine. The Old Popes and the whole Vatican Rag Bag were about pleasure and power, and all the recent scandals, while delicious in their own way and in their own right, are nothing new.

    All that faith, all that belief, all that yearning for a sense of meaning, a manifestation of the Divine, with that undercurrent of tribalism and the same motivators that bring Condo Commandos to power to “enforce the deed restrictions and rules” with the understanding that the Enforcers are unconstrained, and if caught with a hand where it shouldn’t be, are forgiven and graced for the shallowest expression of repentance. Where they can’t just suppress or ignore the finger-pointers outright.

    It’s too big. It’s too immanent. And “reform” just leads to infinite schism, and Jimmy “T-Back” Swaggart crying, and Jim “Million Dollar Dog House” Bakker crying, and Tedd “I Did Not Have Sex With That Boy Toy” Haggard crying, and the faithful still flooding them with “pledges” in the hope of earthly prosperity or miracle cures…

  10. The Church is meant to be seen as a symbol, “the Church” can never be a tangible thing. The Pope has realized that his human physical weaknesses will and are preventing him from continuing on the symbolic acts of the Catholic Church. I agree we are in a time of change, where societal impacts have never been felt as strong as they are felt now, but I cannot say because I did not live in the past. I have never agreed with the Church’s indulgence giving, or political nature, but as a practicing Catholic and a non-ignoramus, I am able to realize that human actions will always pervade into any religious institution. As much as I want to say that the Church cannot lean left or right, it is impossible with humans. Nevertheless, the Pope has inspired many people, I am not one to fawn over a Pope when I see one either, yet unlike the fickle Catholics that only attend mass on Christmas Eve or Easter and leave the Church on account of scandals, I know humans err. Would you leave the US or Israel or any other place because of the atrocities committed by the institutions put in place there?

    • Yes, I would. Yes, without hesitation. And I have.

      I think you’d be much happier if you would try it yourself.

    • I would not leave. I would conspire to overthrow the leadership, or the parts of which I blamed for the crimes.

    • Mary, I am the Catholic Church.

      Though not ordained, I am a Catholic Priest.
      The Church helps me to hear and respond to Jesus’ call to be his hands and his feet.

      Maybe God made a mistake when he left this work to sinners like me. Or maybe it’s a stroke of genius ?


      The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is almost completely worthless in helping me to do Jesus’ work. Believe me, I’ve sought their help.
      The Vatican is completely irrelevant to my Dawa.
      These two heirarchies exist only to work with Bishops and Dioceses.
      My local Bishop is only a little more relevant to the calling I have from God.
      The guys in red hats are more administrators and curators than religious figures. Il Papa is the exception.

      In the Catholic Church, common priests like me get our inspiration and conviction from laity and religious within our local parish. We meet Jesus in everyone around us.

      Bon courage, Mary K.

      • Though not ordained, I am a Catholic Priest.

        If you are not ordained then you are not a Catholic priest and to say that you are is the act of a charlatan.


  11. Fat chance of that every happening.

    Organized religions are set up that way with self-perpetuating bureaucracies whose less-than-heavenly goal is to well, self-perpetuate.

  12. Humans are fallible and an individual’s time on earth is brief but the central truths of the Church are held to be eternal. Too many people are looking at the messengers and not the message when they criticize organized religion (ANY religion), which has always been a problem with the religious impulse.

    The Catholic Church is right to maintain and defend its core doctrines in a world that is devoted to fashion trends, shallowness, and lack of reflection. This is not to say that doctrine does not and should not evolve — it is meant to say that the Church should not be expected to sway with the prevailing winds and concern itself with popularity polls. That’s not its job.

    There is a benefit to organization and “bureaucracy” that explains why some religions prosper and endure and other movements are mere personality cults that wither when their prime movers leave the scene. Institutionalization allows the message to be preserved and disseminated through the generations. The wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented over and over again. This is a strength of all the organized religions, although there is always a downside, the effect of human failure and folly. That’s life.

    I defend the Church but I do not defend the indefensible actions of individuals. All too frequently, the Church and its stewards have forgotten the immortal wisdom of Stan Lee’s Spider-man — with great power also comes great responsibility. It’s corny but it’s true.

    • The church has misused their power consistently and it has largely been taken away from them. The process needs to be completed.

  13. Ratzinger did not cover-up abuse cases – you have no evidence to support that slur; rather he did the opposite. And he is a radical, not a hardline “Conservative”; learn some theology/read his books please.

  14. “Roman Catholic priests probably commit child abuse no more frequently than secular school teachers.”

    This statement is a little idiosyncratic, isn’t it? Many people seem to think that forced celibacy has played a role in sublimating repressed sexual desire towards those nearest and most vulnerable, creating a larger pedophile population within the Catholic clergy than in the general public. I have not followed any of the scholarly literature on this question, though.

  15. A comment on this passage:

    “Roman Catholic priests probably commit child abuse no more frequently than secular school teachers”.

    While it is difficult to gather data on this point, I think one thing that might help people with religion power cover up crimes would be the possibility that threats delivered to children could include a metaphyscial dimension (e.g., “if you tell anybody what happened, I will make sure your mom and dad go to Hell!”). Most secular teachers cannon make such threats in any meaningful way.

  16. “Roman Catholic priests probably commit child abuse no more frequently than secular school teachers.”
    I’m not in possesion of any statistics, but Catholic priests come a self-selected set of young men who are willing to take vows of celibacy. I would not expect the same propensities towards abuse (maybe more maybe less) than for the general public. Many may have signed up because they hoped to insulate themselves from disturbing tendencies.

  17. “German Catholics, some 30 percent of the country, have abandoned the church in droves in the past few years, over the cover-ups of priestly child abuse.”

    I don’t understand this and I think these people are bad Christians. Child abuse by priests doesn’t make Catholicism any more or less the true Church. In a secular sense it matters a lot, but in a religious sense, it doesn’t.

    • If genocide, misogyny, and covering up for pedophilia don’t make the RCC “any less the true church”, then please tell us what it’s going to take for you. Because at this point, they’ve pretty much done almost everything imaginable.

      I’m not religious, but if I were forced to pick a religion the RCC would have to be very much at the bottom of the list of possibilities.

    • The question is, then, if you think Muslims abandoning a Muslim branch due to some scandal in its clergy would be “bad Muslims”.

      It seems religious people often see other religions fairly clearly, as arbitrary social movements, but can’t reason when it comes to their own. I guess at most one religious branch is correct, and why would yours be that one?

  18. The growing authoritarianism of religion is happening in the damnedest places.

    For instance, Pentecostalism has a pretty wild history of independent congregations, but now it is falling under the sway of the theocratic New Apostolic Reformation, a movement that has been branded a heresy by Pentecostal clergymen twice before and yet keeps coming back stronger. Besides creating Manchurian candidates like its anointed hero (literally) Sarah Palin to sneak into secular power, these schemesters also send agents into other denominations’ churches, a practice called “steeplejacking”. The “apostle” part is important. He acts as a secret cult leader, attracting clergymen who then act as infiltrators to alter the doctrines of their churches to conform to the movement. They also kick back money to the apostle. Congregations are thus losing their historic power to elect and eject their pastors to these maniacs, who prophesize that they will lead God’s army to earthly victory in the End Times by conquering the world(postmillenialism) and eliminating all other forms of religion.

  19. With that header, I braced for an anti-Catholic screed.
    This was balanced and sympathetic. Thnx.

    2 errors jump out:
    First, the Catholic-Protestant divide in Ireland really isn’t. It’s a matter of colonists (and their legacy) vs. indigenous peoples, or at least one side sees it that way. Confession/ sect is incidental.

    Second, the idea that “anti-gay prejudice” emanates from the prelacy; in fact it comes from an ecclesia versed in church doctrine. I know it won’t sink in, but the belief in “marriage equality” is just as much a religious belief as is Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Except that one of those positions grew out of thousands of years of human experience, and the other repudiates human experience for the a priori.
    For centuries, the Church has been a safe home to many homosexual clerics. Straight folks in the pews were OK with that, so long as they believed clerics were observing a vow of celibacy.

    • Sorry, but “human experience” of exactly what? Reminds me of a good Swedish show, translated here:
      link to

      And “a priori”? So people voting for same-sex marriages has no experience of gay friends’ woes and the repression and prejudice directed towards them? We have not seen and recognized their true love for their partners? And we haven’t seen the very real positive contribution they make in work, in culture and in friendship? Does these experiences not count?

      What is it that we haven’t seen, that will come back and bite us, when our friends’ love for each other are included in our social fabric and in our ceremonies?

  20. The most disturbing thing to me about the Pope retirement coverage is that it ought to revolve around JC and His teachings, especially about forgiveness.
    That seems to have been overlooked.

  21. I think that you are mixing two things :
    1) the conservatism of the Roman Catholic Church
    2) the growing secularism of western societies.

    The two aren’t necessarily linked. On the contrary. Here in Switzerland, the evangelical churches are loosing parishers faster than the Catholic Church. This is striking to the point that cities which where traditionally evangelical, like Geneva where Calvin was born and which is at the root of Calvinism counted only 17.4% of Protestants against 39.5% Roman Catholics (that was in 2000, religion is no more asked in the 2010 census). 22.6 % declared to have no religion and 12.1% didn’t want to answer to the question. Look at this graph here : link to

    Migration plays a role in this change (immigrants were often coming from South Europeans catholic countries like Spain and Italy, or from other Swiss poorer catholic states), but also the fact that secularism gained ground faster among Evangelicals than among Catholics.

    I chose Geneva, because it used to be a stronghold of Protestantism, but this is true of most other Protestant cities here.

    The true question is whether people believe in the existence of a god or not. Every catholic knows that even priesters are human and that humans are sinners. If they believe in god, they can forgive, they will just pray for the Church and for the sinners.

    More than the recent pedophile scandals, the general conservatism of the Catholic Church is what drives people out : the church is no more in touch with their social reality or their scientific knowledge. People were already leaving churches way before the pedophile scandals and those scandals have stirred more passions and indignation in North America than in Europe.

    What I regreat personnally is that socialism wasn’t able to replace the religious moral by a secularist one, built upon solidarity and peaceful values (aka what you name the good of the Roman Catholic Church).

    • Here is another link to a statistic table presenting the religious evolution between 1910 to 2010 in Switzerland and showing that secularism is progressing faster among Protestants than among Catholics :

      link to

      1910 : Protestants = 56.2%, Catholics 42.5%
      2000 : Protestants = 33.0%, Catholics 41.8%
      2010 : Protestants = 28.0%, Catholics 38.6%

      It is significant that in the home country of both Calvin and Zwingli Catholics are now more numerous than Protestants. And immigration is far from explaining it alone. So absolutism isn’t the only reason driving westerners away from religion. Or how would you explain that secularism is growing faster among Protestants who are both more progressive and more democratic than Catholics ?
      May be that religion has lost its pertinence in our modern societies and that Protestants who are more accustomed to think by themselves are leaving the church faster ?

      • Here is another link to the percentage of believers in god by Europeans countries. I’m not sure why you thought that Germans were better believers than other Europeans countries. My gut feeling was that they weren’t very different from the others. The Polish have a strong reputation as Catholics fervents and South Medeterraneans countries (like Ialy or Spain) as having more religious fervor than Protestant Northeners. The French as atheists.. This map confirms this : link to

        • In the 1970s by opinion poll, 50% of Swedes were non-believers, 40% of French, 20% of West Germans.

          Now the percentage of non-believers in the former West Germany is 50%. In East Germany, it is 77%.

      • Let me offer an untested theory about why Evangelical Protestants fall away faster.
        *** Protestant denominations tend to demand that adherents believe in God.
        *** The Catholic Church tends to tolerate agnostics.

        You do not need to be a “true believer” in order to be a true Catholic. It is enough to want to believe, to practice the rites and rituals, and to try to live the words of Jesus in your life.

        For a Protestant, as I have been led to believe, it is essential to have Faith at least the size of a mustard seed in order to “qualify” for salvation. A Protestant “earns” salvation by going through a specific 4-step process, and then is “saved” once and forever.
        For me, that is an impossibly high obstacle, to “know” that I am “saved.”

        Catholics, God realizes (and laments,) are weaker than that, and not deserving of salvation. It’s only through a gift of grace that Catholics can be “saved.”
        Most of us have doubts about the existence of God and the historical reality of Jesus. If you were God, how would that make YOU feel ?
        And yet, still there’s a chance that God’s overwhelming love for me will save me, when my own efforts cannot.


        Wanna know what really sucks about being Catholic ?
        Here I am, toiling in the vineyard, professing my religiosity, and forsaking carnal pleasures and whatever,
        and all this time my religion teaches that
        TIN WOMAN,
        posting above, is loved and cherished by God as much as me,
        and just as likely to be “saved” and brought to the bosom of God. And she gets to rebel and criticize and blaspheme, and still God loves her as much as He loves Mother Teresa.

        Maybe in the next life,
        she will ask God for permission to soak the corner of her shawl in cool water, and then bring it down to momentarily quench my lips as I burn in a lake of fire.

  22. Please,let me put it metaphorically: The Pope/Catholic Church is paying for its cardinal sin: a pack with the devil which is the medicalization of sexual misconduct.

  23. This is a good analysis. Big media, mostly
    the TV networks, are overawed by the pomp
    and give only shallow coverage. The
    cardinals, 115 patriarchal males, will
    chose the next pope and continue the
    charade, supporting conservative doctrines,
    (condemning congtraceptives, gay marriage,
    the all male priesthood, etc) and thinking
    Catholics will continue heading for the
    exits. But of those 1.3 billion Catholics,
    unfortunately, the majority will do what
    they are told. Aulthoritarian personalities
    support authoritarian leaders. Don’t hold
    your breath if you think change isin the
    air. And thank God for Vatileaks and the
    gay prostitutes in Rome who blew the
    whistle, among other things.

  24. Juan, I thought your analysis was pretty good and I appreciate it. I was born a Catholic and feel somewhat connected to it, though as someone who has studied world religions/faiths at some pt. in my life I found its’ doctrines to be shallow and limiting. Liberation theology was a step in the right direction but was nipped in the bud by the ‘political police’. Is there a chance that a new pope might again lead to a more democratic and open church ? I believe there is, though one must remember that the same CIA that can assassinate a president can also assassinate a pope.

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