Impeaching the Pope?

Mike Clawson here…

My wife has a new post up at the God’s Politics Blog (Jim Wallis’ organization) on a recent Washington Post editorial by Robert McElvaine suggesting that there ought to be a way for Catholics to impeach the Pope. She uses it as a springboard to talk about whether and how more progressive Christians should stand up to the extremist voices in our own religion that are giving all of us a bad name. She gives a shout out to y’all here at Friendly Atheist, noting that the bad behavior of fundamentalists and other loud and extreme Christian voices tend to drown out those of us who are trying to do some good through our religion, to the point where some of you guys have a hard time believing non-fundamentalist Christians are even out there. Anyhow, her main point is in agreement with what I’ve often heard many of you say here: that liberal and progressive Christians really need to start stepping up and stop letting the extremists hijack our religion.

Of course, given that the God’s Politics blog tends to act as a lightning rod for all the fundies who hate the idea of “progressive evangelicalism” in the first place, there’s been a lot of outrage directed at my wife’s post in the comments. I thought some of you here might be interested in checking it out and even possibly weighing in with an atheist perspective on the whole issue. I think it might help some of them to see how much even outsiders to Christianity also want to see liberal Christians standing up to the Right wing of our faith and not letting them get away with so much shit.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    “I think it might help some of them to see how much even outsiders to Christianity also want to see liberal Christians standing up to the Right wing of our faith. . .”

    Help some of them how? This is an intra-Christian fight. It seems to me a non-Christian coming in and siding with your wife wouldn’t actually be particularly helpful for her or her arguments.

  • http://www.lsfdev.com Jim

    Impeach?

    How about arrest and try him for genocide at the Hague?

  • dolio

    How could you make the pope impeachable without making the office even more of a joke than it already is (if you really think about it)?

    I mean, he’s allegedly the primary representative of a deity, but he’s already elected in some way by a group of high-ups. That’s already a bit silly, but I suppose if you’re into the mindset enough, you could convince yourself that the particular group that elects the guy is pretty closely connected to the deity itself.

    But if he can additionally get kicked out if he starts saying things people don’t like? How can you add stuff like that and still seriously claim that the office is in some way directed by god himself? How do you then claim it’s anything more than, “we currently think this guy is a good representative of our club,” or what have you?

    Not that I think moderation is a bad thing, or that the demoting of pope to merely “a guy we think has good ideas, but we can kick him out if he starts getting crazy” would be a bad thing. But I can’t see people who take the office seriously being very accepting of it.

  • Epistaxis

    there ought to be a way for Catholics to impeach the Pope

    First there would have to be a way for Catholics to change the rules.

    It’s not a democracy. The author was supposed to know and accept that when he “joined.” If he doesn’t like it, no one’s forcing him to stay Catholic.

  • manyhats

    Mike, I’d like to help, especially since I completely sympathize with the perspective your wife shared in her post. I agree that it’s a real problem for religious moderates to differentiate themselves from their more extreme, and louder, cousins. Also, the trend of religions to become more extreme (i.e. less tolerant, and more active in politics) is a real problem for us all.

    However after reading some of the posts in response to her article I don’t really think the readers over there would appreciate an atheist perspective. For example, people who think that evangelicals represent the humanist agenda within Christianity, or who think that “humanist” stopped being a bad word amongst Christians because of its conflation with atheism sometime in the 1990′s, have such a different appreciation of reality from myself that I doubt we’re actually speaking the same language.
    Besides, I think the whole debate is ridiculous. Muslims who want to implement sharia law in their countries are faithfully following their dogma. Christians who oppose abortions yet are in favor of the death penalty are faithfully following their own dogma as they have interpreted it. All this nonsense, and much much more, is actually in your holy religious books. From my perspective the logical extension of your wife’s argument is: there is an inverse relationship between faithfully following a dogma, any dogma, and being a reasonable person who can live and play well with others. Since I would like to be considered a reasonable person by those I interact with I eschew dogma completely.

    Look, I’m all for the respectful interaction with people of differing worldview that Hemant fosters on this site. It’s one of the reasons I read it. But I think you need to appreciate that for many atheists, such as myself, you are all religious extremists. You can call yourself a moderate all you want, but if you adopt positions espoused by a religious group which are contrary to the available empirical evidence, or you base your decision-making process on complete fabrications, I consider you a danger to the human race and the planet. In some ways the “extremists” among your ranks are less of a danger than you are because they sound less reasonable and can’t draw as large a following. The supposed moderates, like Rick Warren, draw huge followings and preach intolerance to them. I echo your wife’s lament but I draw the line in a different place.

    To my mind, either you base your worldview on fact, or fiction. You either perform the mental gymnastics of praising a god whenever anything good happens (and saying he works in mysterious ways when something bad happens), or you simply apply yourself to observing everything you possibly can in an attempt to learn how to affect the outcome the next time. You can choose to apply the cop out “god did it” to the Unknown, or you can get off your ass and try to make it Known.

    There is nothing, in my opinion, morally superior to the moderate religionist position which in essence says, “yeah, but I don’t believe all that stupid stuff in the [insert holy book here]. I only believe the parts that are convenient, socially acceptable, and line up with the morals I already have anyway.”

    I doubt you’ll get many takers from atheists to get involved in this debate except, perhaps, from a purely sociopolitical perspective, and from what I read the posters on that site aren’t up to a quality debate of that kind. As for this atheist, apart from the sociopolitical ramifications of religious radicalization, my only opinion on the topic is that you’re all just plain nuts. Oh, and Mike, any good you can do through your religion 1)you could do without religion, and 2)is offset by having to teach people to believe fictions in order to comfort them or get them to behave.

  • another Mike

    Why don’t they give him up for Lent?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Why don’t they give him up for Lent?

    Nice :)

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Help some of them how? This is an intra-Christian fight. It seems to me a non-Christian coming in and siding with your wife wouldn’t actually be particularly helpful for her or her arguments.

    I don’t know if it’d help my wife per se, but I think it would embolden the progressive Christians there to speak up more if they knew that non-Christians really are watching and judging us for not being quicker to speak out against the fundamentalists. Believe it or not, some of us really do care what you think.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    The pope may be more conservative than the Catholic mean, but I don’t think for a second that he is an “extremist”. He is simply part of a more conservative faction.

    For instance, you may have heard that Catholics believe evolution to be completely compatible with religion. This compatibilism is supported by the popes, including the current one. And yet, the percentage of Catholics who accept evolutionary theory is as bad, or worse than the general population. At least on this issue, the pope is not an extremist, but rather, a moderate who will speak favorably on evolution, but leave just enough ambiguity in his statements so as to also accommodate the other half of Catholics.

    The way I see it, all the pope’s actions are directed towards building up his cred amongst conservatives who have been annoyed by the onslaught of modernism since Vatican II. He does not act the way he does because he is an extremist, but because there is a sizable population who agrees with his actions (a population which may not include yourself, but nonetheless exists). It’s all about unity, in particular, unity with disaffected conservative Catholics.

    Frankly, I’m glad I’m no longer part of this unity. Now I can keep my apathetic distance. After all, I’m not Catholic anymore, what do I care about the Catholic image? I don’t care if the image of religion is good or bad, I just want it to be accurate so that we can better figure out what needs fixing.

  • Tony

    Mike:
    I tried posting. I appreciated the article, and your interest in our opinion. Your commenting system, not so much. :) I’ll look again later, and see if it shows up.
    Thanks for coming around, and I’ll check out your site a bit more. I’m an ally of anyone who is interested in a world of equal rights for all, and has the courage to call B.S. on those who spout it.
    Good luck to Julie and yourself.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    The problem moderate christians will always have when coming out against fundies, is that theologically the fundamentalists are on much stronger ground.
    Liberal christians may be much nicer, more rational and more aware people than their fundamentalist brethern but they actively ignore far more of the bible, their holy book than the fundies do.
    Fundies can legitimately say that liberal religious people are ignoring the teachings of their religion in favour of a very a-historical hug-everyone-love-and-bunnies faith. Much nicer, but not at all what their god supposedly teaches in their holy book.

    As for impeaching the pope, i have a better idea. Given that the pope is supposed to be gods main man on earth, why not decide it via open contest between all interested catholics. The contest would be to produce the most awesome miracle. Since miracles come at gods command, clearly the one that chucks out the best miracle wins. If none of the entries can produce a miracle, then everyone admits the whole religion was all a bit silly in the first place and becomes a humanist.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    She gives a shout out to y’all here at Friendly Atheist, noting that the bad behavior of fundamentalists and other loud and extreme Christian voices tend to drown out those of us who are trying to do some good through our religion, to the point where some of you guys have a hard time believing non-fundamentalist Christians are even out there.

    Bless her cotton socks. I can’t see her gaining much favour from acknowledging atheists though. My suggestion is that non-fundamentalist Christians, as if there is such a thing ;), need to shout louder and drown out their idiotic brethren with reason and compassion.

  • http://frodology.blogspot.com/ FrodoSaves

    I read one comment that said something to the effect of “humanism is akin to atheism!” in terms that left you in no doubt as to how he felt about that. I don’t feel like an atheist lending his opinion would do anything but stoke the fires.

    Sorry, and good luck!

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    I tried to leave a comment supporting Julie by saying that mainstream, quiet Christians need to speak up or they will surrender the debate to the loudest voice but it disappeared. I don’t know if there is some kind of moderator approval or if it was lost in cyberspace but the commenting system is dire.

  • http://supercheetah.livejournal.com Rene Horn

    Some advice Mike.

    Someone in the progressive Xtian community needs to make a huge splash like Dawkins has that you guys are out there.

    Do you guys know anyone that’s willing and able to put up with a lot of crap from the general public?

    Do they look good on TV?

    Are they reasonably eloquent?

    Are they good at rallying other progressive Xtians?

    Find someone who can do those things, and I will look forward to their interview on CNN, or someplace like that.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Thanks to those of you who tried to comment. Yes, the commenting system at God’s Politics sucks. I tried several times to comment and lost them every time. But I appreciate the effort.

    Liberal christians may be much nicer, more rational and more aware people than their fundamentalist brethern but they actively ignore far more of the bible, their holy book than the fundies do.

    Just to clarify one thing, in the context of Sojourners and the God’s Politics blog, “liberal” generally refers to politically liberal, not necessarily theological liberals. Jim Wallis is a progressive evangelical, i.e. a Bible believing theological conservative, who takes his liberal political views from the Bible, not in spite of it.

    Someone in the progressive Xtian community needs to make a huge splash like Dawkins has that you guys are out there.

    Do you guys know anyone that’s willing and able to put up with a lot of crap from the general public?

    Do they look good on TV?

    Are they reasonably eloquent?

    Are they good at rallying other progressive Xtians?

    Find someone who can do those things, and I will look forward to their interview on CNN, or someplace like that.

    Rene, that someone is Jim Wallis, and it’s his organization’s blog that my wife’s post is at. He already fits all of your descriptors and you can catch him on CNN and elsewhere on a regular basis. As Hemant noted here a few days ago, he also happens to be Obama’s closest religious advisor.

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com ollie

    Oh come on. The proper answer is to leave the church and the clowns that are in charge of it.

  • Siamang

    Sorry, Mike, I didn’t post there.

    I read the comments, and I feel like I’m from an alien planet next to most of those folks.

    I don’t like the behavior I see there. It looks like a chimp troop where they discovered that an interloper isn’t a member of their troop. They start picking at every part of her (her emergent beliefs, her view on spanking, even her youth!) as reasons why she’s not part of the group.

    She asks an important question: how do we guide the voices which speak for us publicly, when the question of ‘who gets to hold the megaphone’ isn’t decided democratically?

    That’s not a question that’s exclusive to religion. It deserves deep discussion. It doesn’t seem that it’ll get that at God’s Politics. Ummmm…. has she tried Street Prophets?

    I find the commenters’ “well, you just aren’t doing religion the right way” attitude very off-putting. There’s a lot of very high-horses among the crew there.

  • http://www.pillowworks.com/blogpw2/ Lambert

    I tend to go along with Dawkins on this one. Fundies are a major source of trouble to the world, but the mild-mannered ‘moderates’ in religion are just the silent majority that provide the bedrock for those fundies. In short: Religion has a justified bad reputation already, on whatever level it is practiced. So no, I won’t be stepping up to support ‘progressive’ Xtians.

  • Larry Huffman

    So…the leader of their religion expounds on this policy of condoms and reproduction that they completely support based on their doctrine. While it may not, as an individual issue, be supported by scripture…the church has been able to, for years, back this part of their doctrine.

    So…for those “liberals” wanting to impeach the pope. You just look stupid. Why not just admit the doctrine you are following is false instead? But no…you are wanting to impeach the pope and find someone who will…what…change your doctrine? Would that not take God? How does impeaching a man who is serving god as the leader of his church change a doctrine from god. And what about all that crap about the pope not being able to make mistakes?

    This move does not make them look enlightened and liberal…it really shines a light on the man made and evolutionary aspects of religion.

  • cello

    I spent some time at God’s Politics while I was trying to stay attached to Christianity. I have to laugh that the discourse here is so much more polite than over there, and they are a liberal evangelical site. The posters there are tearing Julie down all the while telling her she has no right to criticize a fellow Christian. LOL. The irony!

    Anyway, not that Julie needs more criticism right now but as someone who has read her previous writings and thinks she adds value to Christian discourse, I think her ideas are fine, but her presentation (tone) could use some work.

  • Gribble_the_munchkin

    It kinda reminds me of some of the more reasonable republicans at the tail end of the bush years.

    “Yeah, i’m a republican, but i’m pro-choice. And i don’t support the war in Iraq, although of course i support the troops. And I think its a scandal how much those corporate execs get paid when so many poor people can barely make ends meet. And i’m against torture, what with it being a war crime and all.”

    To which i always thought “Why not become a democrat?”

    I used to live with a great guy, a not-really-practising catholic. He was liberal, pro-choice, sex before marriage, didn’t believe in the popes infallibility, etc. In effect, he wasn’t a catholic. But it was obviously part of his self identity that he was.

    I sometimes wonder what holds people to catholicism, self identity, fear, community?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I have to laugh that the discourse here is so much more polite than over there, and they are a liberal evangelical site.

    Keep in mind that the commentors at God’s Politics are usually far more Right-wing than the contributors. Given Wallis’ increasing level of national prominence as a leader of progressive evangelicalism, his site tends to become a lightning rod for all the conservative haters out there.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Sorry, Mike, I didn’t post there.

    I read the comments, and I feel like I’m from an alien planet next to most of those folks.

    Oh, me too. Like I said, most of the commentors there tend to be the conservative trolls, not Sojo supporters.

  • Tom N

    I think the “liberal catholics” you are referring to here are the ones from whom need catholicism needs to be hijacked. I have know so many of these people in my live (many from my years at Catholic/Episcopal schools) and these “liberals” simply need to make the jump to a more liberal form of religion. Maybe Unitarianism or maybe atheism.

    I think most vividly of the interview Richard Dawkins has with the Anglican bishop in his The God Delusion documentary. Dawkins only criticism of him is that, being as liberal as he is, why is he not atheist.

    I’m not saying liberal catholics need to renounce their faith entirely but few of them actually believe much of it. They are just not confronted with the reality that they actually do not believe in things such as the resurrection or other supernatural religious phenomena.

    For these people, they are probably catholic b/c they were born into it and have never really examined their faith on a well-what-are-my-options level. Clearly from most of these people’s behavior (premarital sex, contraception, not going to church on sunday) they are NOT catholic. Catholics listen, if you are not following Vatican 2, then you are not catholic, end of story. You may believe in some sort of higher power or even that christ IS God but you are not catholic.

    For these people it’s about (a lax interpretation of) tradition and group identity. *phew* I guess I’m one of those “new atheists” that Baggini dislikes so much. :)

  • Twin-Skies

    Tom

    First off, atheism isn’t a religion.

    Secondly, I honestly think you have a very shallow understanding of what makes a Catholic a “Catholic”

    Not going to church? Contraception? I’ve met a healthy number of people in my local community who are very supportive of proper sex education, and don’t see the point of going to church every Sunday.

    Not that they’re hypocritical heathens – they’re very active in the local charities and outreach programs for impoverished communities, and simply don’t have the time to go to mass, and certainly don’t see the practicality of an abstinence-only sex education program.

    By your definition, these people are not Catholic?

    On that note, a known child molester in my area was recently released from jail. He has yet to show any repentance for his actions, but was reputedly a regular churchgoer in prison. Does that makes him a “true” Catholic by your definition?

    How dare you.

  • Josha

    As I became a teenager I began to question a lot of the Catholic doctrine that I learned at church and school. One of my biggest struggles as a Catholic was continuing to call myself Catholic despite the fact that I was pro-choice, pro-premarital sex and contraception, pro-female priests, supported gay marriage and was a feminist. I constantly asked myself if I could still be considered a Catholic and yet hold these views, which are antithetical to the faith’s doctrine. I still believed in God, a divine Jesus, etc. Once I saw how ridiculous those beliefs were then I dropped Catholicism for good.

    So now I still wonder how it is possible to call yourself an adherent of Catholicism but hold moderate/liberal views. By continuing to call youself Catholic, you are silently showing support for the conservative Catholic doctrine. But I think a lot stay because of the community, the beauty of the rituals, the social aspects or they do not see the need to vocally criticize the church.

    Because Catholicism isn’t a democracy and is controlled by men, a lot of Catholics are left without a voice in the church (particularly women). So, changing your religion is not going to happen. So why not join another church? Why not leave and criticize the church? Why not leave religion all together?

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    Someone in the progressive Xtian community needs to make a huge splash like Dawkins has that you guys are out there.

    Isn’t there a fella in Germany, Christians need to get him, what’s his name… Martin something.. Martin.. Lester, Lang, Loius… it begins with and L, I’m sure of it.

  • Christophe Thill

    The Pope is, in a way, elected, by by no democratic means. If he could be dismissed, it would only be by those who elected him, ie the cardinals.
    For me, the right thing to do would be for the media to stop reporting his every statement. He’s just the leader of a specific opinion group. He has no special right to global broadcast. And anyway he’s got his own media for this. It’s called the priests.

  • marfita

    I’m still trying to figure out how the comments degenerated into comments about “spanking.” I guess there wasn’t enough in the original article to provoke controversy.

  • Tom N

    Twin Skies,

    You are completely missing my point. I agree with you whole-heartedly, Vatican 2 does not. The rules are set out by the pope and those around him, not the people who I would agree are much more in tune with the right thing to do.

    The rules I am citing are not my rules for what makes a Catholic a Catholic but the Church’s. My point is that, by a strict definition, many if not most catholics are not practicing their faith. I think these people should realize this and find another more tolerant group to belong to.

    However, I also understand that b/c of tradition and familiarity, this will never happen.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X