Reading this article on Papal infallibility — Postponing Self-Destruction of the Catholic Church — I just now learned the real reason why the Catholic Church doesn’t update its outworn policies on things like contraceptives, marriage, or human morality.
Because, really, who hasn’t thought about how much good this huge worldwide organization could do if it reversed its stand on condoms and contraceptives? Rather than waiting for tardy governments to act, it could simply began distributing condoms and teaching how to best prevent the spread of HIV. It could give a kick in the head to overpopulation by telling Third World men and women that it’s okay to use contraceptives, okay NOT to have more and more and more children they can’t feed.
It’s because it can’t. According to this writer, the second it divorces itself from the doctrine of Papal infallibility, the Catholic Church pretty much ceases to exist.
The Vatican’s public attack on contraception has centered on the morality of contraception. Webster’s dictionary defines morality as a doctrine or system of ideas concerned with conduct, or a system of principles or rules of proper conduct. For centuries the Church has relentlessly claimed that she is the only authority with the right to define this system of rules establishing what is right and what is wrong. This claim goes unchallenged. By default, the pope gets to make all of the rules. He decides what is moral and what is immoral. With amazing frequency, American Presidents and statesmen publicly proclaim, in effect, that the pope is moral leader of the world. By doing so, they enhance the pope’s authority and power.
But if the pope must protect the principle of papal infallibility by all means at his disposal, why would he not define the system of rules concerning right and wrong in such a way as to protect his principle of infallibility? In fact, he has. The Papacy has a vested interest in defining the system and a long history of using all means necessary to insure the survival of the institution. In the Catholic system, morality is defined in terms of what will protect the Papacy.
Remember that sweet little old man, Pope John Paul II? Imagine him associated with this statement: “Any professor of theology who ventures to question the Pope’s views has been ruthlessly deprived of his license to teach.” Or this:
Since he is manifestly intelligent, we must conclude that he knows what he is doing… But as he flies about the world, blessing the sick, kissing babies, and addressing the crowds in their own language, it must give him a very odd feeling to think that so many people accept his outrageous views and claims.
In fact, the Church can’t accept ANY criticism. The recent spate of child molesting stories would seem to rate a leaping frenzy of apologetic response. Instead, organization-wide resistance has been the norm, with acceptance of responsibility given grudgingly if at all, and recompense only by court order (or threat of it).
The Catholic Church is a glass sculpture that will shatter at the least attempt to change it. Once the Pope becomes less than the moral leader of the world, he ends up looking like a mere corporate CEO guarding a company that has profited hugely while selling a philosophy of mental domination and obedience — a product that injures the customers who buy it.
You can’t even call it “toxic waste,” because toxic waste is a throwaway side-product of manufacturing some useful material for consumers. In this case, the mind-poison is the main product.
More than anything, the Catholic Church is like an unregulated tobacco company. But where enlightened policies have forced tobacco companies to put warning labels on cigarettes, to list the amounts of tar, etc. on each package, the Catholic Church can put any malignant ingredient in the philosophical swill it peddles to its hapless victims, and not one person of any authority, in or out of the church, will challenge it.
I’ve hated tobacco companies for decades. And yes, hate is the word. That someone could lie about the dangers of tobacco to generations of users, years and years after they themselves knew the truth, to spend billions to confuse the issue and suppress other research, while millions of people confidently smoked, lengthily suffered, and tragically died, is monstrous.
And where you might picture something impersonal, some large bulwark of an institution when you hear the words “company” or “corporation,” I see people. Individuals, with all the responsibility that entails. No matter how far behind some corporate facade they hide, there really are human beings acting deliberately in a context of known consequences. Making decisions that kill people. Even today, in this era of warning labels and known dangers, I think of tobacco company execs as murderers, working willingly for a murderous industry.
Equally culpable in many of its main policies, the Catholic Church is no different. Continuing to cause misery with policies known to harm millions, and doing it not just as some sort of historical inertia, but to protect itself. And to profit. To make money.
I would love to see that nest of snakes cleaned out in my lifetime.