Hypocrisy in the Catholic Church

The New Yorker‘s George Saunders once walked into church and found his priest doing… naughty things.

Even more shocking: This is not an altar-boy story:

Normally on Wednesdays I found Father X working at something in the sacristy. This Wednesday, I came up the aisle quietly, so quietly that I discovered Father X and a nun I’ll call Sister Y in the middle of — well, I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. It appeared to be some particularly athletic form of kissing, involving tongues and a lot of snakelike extraneous limb and torso motion, as if this new kind of kissing were filling them with painful electricity.

I stood watching. (In memory, I am frozen in midstep, one sneakered foot in the air, my mouth a little O, like the mouth on a choirboy in a glass Christmas town.)

Then I backed silently out.

Wow wow wow.

There was no way I had just seen that.

What a world, that contained even this.

By now I knew enough about the time in which I was living to know that one of our fundamental narratives was that a critical moment of disillusion could be followed by a bitter but justified downward slide into decadence. Having seen what I had seen, in other words, entitled me to cry Hypocrites! and leave religion behind forever.

This vignette proved, in effect, that the whole religion deal was a sham.

Didn’t it?

It did not. Saunders’ faith remained.

Father X and Sister Y eventually left the Church for unrelated reasons (and not at the same time).

It’s a short read written by someone who is still faithful, despite his finding plenty of reason to doubt.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian[/tags]

  • David D.G.

    The hypocrisy of specific individuals proves only their own profession of morality to be a sham, not that of the institution of which they were a part, and Saunders is to be commended for recognizing that.

    However, the hollowness (and, often, hypocrisy) of religion itself is well attested to by other things.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://www.godtalkradio.com Jason

    It’s a short read written by someone who is still faithful, despite his finding plenty of reason to doubt.

    I’m a bit confused by that statement? Why would the depravity of man give this person any reason to doubt the Holiness of God? Unless of course you were referring to the writer’s faith in the Catholic Church?

    Jason

  • Stephan

    Anyone who says they are not a hypocrite is a liar. Nobody can do a 100% job of living up to their stated morals, no matter how good they are. And if you don’t live up to the morals you espouse, you are a hypocrite.

    Hypocrisy does not, as David states, prove anyones profession of morality to be a sham. It only proves that they are weak. Simply because I don’t always live up to a standard does not mean I do not believe it. Humans are much more complicated than that.

  • BZ

    I don’t think failing to live up to your own moral standards is what makes you a hypocrite, it is when you are much harder on other people than yourself for these failings. The priests in this article who were sorely lacking in the forgiveness their religion preaches while being weak themselves are much more deserving of the title of hypocrite than a regular Joe Shmoe.

  • EKM

    David D.G. said,

    The hypocrisy of specific individuals proves only their own profession of morality to be a sham, not that of the institution of which they were a part

    I call BS. Religion claims it has the truth. If they know there is a God, why would they ever sin?

  • Wes

    It’s a short read written by someone who is still faithful, despite his finding plenty of reason to doubt.

    I strongly disagree that seeing your priest getting some is “plenty of reason to doubt”. It’s easy to see that the actions of one individual don’t necessarily reflect on the whole. This could serve as a minor moment of doubt, or as a spring board to more serious doubts, but by itself it’s not much.

    I can think of numerous actually serious reasons to doubt religion, but from the article there’s no indication that George Saunders considered these. In fact, as the article portrays it, it seems like his faith was only very temporarily shaken, and he didn’t pursue his doubt further, and his skepticism went no further than realizing priests and nuns weren’t infallible. In his article he expresses more skepticism over which nun it was than over whether Jesus exists.

    If this episode is the closest he’s come to doubting his beliefs, then I see no reason to praise him. It certainly doesn’t seem like he reached the “plenty of reason to doubt” stage.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    I call BS. Religion claims it has the truth. If they know there is a God, why would they ever sin?

    Because knowing certain facts are not the only determining factor of actions.

  • EKM

    Daniel Hoffman said,

    Because knowing certain facts are not the only determining factor of actions.

    Certain as in “not specified”, certain as in “true”, or certain as in “having confidence in one’s opinion”?

  • Slut

    This type of thing would have had little or no effect on my own belief. It’s really irrelevant that individuals in any given church are likely to engage in human activities.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    To me this is simply evidence that the Catholic Church needs to change its own rules and allow priests and nuns to marry (and yes, fornicate) just like everybody else. For God’s sake, they are human. Let them be human. I bet that if there was actually a historic Jesus, that he too “got a little” action along the way. Most charismatic people do…. from all ages.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    Certain as in “not specified”, certain as in “true”, or certain as in “having confidence in one’s opinion”?

    Certain as in “particular”.

    To me this is simply evidence that the Catholic Church needs to change its own rules and allow priests and nuns to marry

    I’d like to point out, for the record, that in the New Testament church, there is no office of priest or nun. Both are man made, and their celibacy is a man made rule. And the only church offices prescribed in the Bible for the New Testament church, elder and deacon, have specific spousal requirements (1 Timothy 3). There is a difference between rules that institutions make, and what the word of God actually prescribes.

  • http://blackskeptic.wordprss.com blackskeptic

    Do you really think that seeing two clergy people kissing is “plenty of reason to doubt.” I think Christians follow god, not man (or so I’ve heard over and over …) So I doubt that this incident would make them want to quit religion/god. But of course they often put certain clergy people on a pedestal, while claiming that they follow god not man.

  • stogoe

    I certainly see an organization where the leaders can’t or won’t follow their own prescribed moral strictures as one that deserves more skepticism and scrutiny than they are currently getting.

    If the highest mortal authorities can’t even hold themselves to their higher standard, of what worth is this standard at all?

  • Brian E

    I remember being in summer bible camp in about 8th grade, and me and another kid were screwing around all week (oogling the ladies, spying on their dorms and locker rooms, up late making a ruckus). Finally one day an angry minister pulled us aside and yelled at us ‘Where is Christ in your lives?!’

    I look back now and giggle, thinking this priest and nun, as well as lots of other priests, could be asked this same thing. I’ve always been told that one Jesus is in your heart and your life, your life will be transformed. Not that it means you will no longer feel the urge to sin, but certainly you’d expect Jesus to nudge you in the right direction. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the least (no surprise there). Any priest, who supposedly is very sure of their faith, that would risk molesting children knowing the consequences would have to be insane. And I don’t think all these priests are insane, so how do they justify the risk knowing the consequences, short of they no longer buy into their belief?


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