The Catholic Church Could Do So Much Better… But It Won’t

Herb Silverman, founder of the Secular Coalition for America, doesn’t think that the Catholic Church will change much under a new Pope, but he holds out a bit of hope:

Herb Silverman

How much faith do I have that the next pope will be significantly better than the current one? Not much, because Benedict appointed more than 57 percent of the cardinals who will choose his successor. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic, but only because the papal improvement bar is set so low.

If Catholics choose to be counseled about marital or sexual difficulties by celibate priests, that’s their right. But I’m amazed by a church that opposes both abortion and condom use that reduces the number of abortions; that requires celibacy before marriage, yet opposes masturbation, which makes it easier to remain celibate; that requires married women to be fruitful and multiply regardless of circumstances, but prevents church leaders from being fruitful and multiplying; that encourages monogamous marriage to avoid promiscuity, yet opposes monogamous marriage for committed gays.

Right on. If the next Pope really wanted to have a serious impact on the world, he could start by reversing so many of the damaging positions currently held by the Church faithful.

In other words, the Church is screwed.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rain

    This is a church that thinks it’s supposed to ingest their god. Yeah, I don’t see much hope for it at all.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      Yes. And with a chaser of drinking the blood of a two thousand year old Jewish zombie.
      Why would we expect much good from them?

      • Rain

        The last time the Catholic church tried to join the modern world with Vatican II, Mel Gibson’s dad went insane, formed EWTN, and wrote The Da Vinci Code. Or something like that. I forget how the story goes.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    it would be nice to see a modernized church. it won’t happen, but still. i’m a militant atheist and would like an end to all superstition and enshrined mythology. but that’s mostly for political reasons. religion will likely always be a part of human culture and i would applaud a progressive pope who brought the “values of Christ” back to church teachings. the Roman church has evolved before, it can do it again. billions of catholics around the world, except for a snotty handful, would rejoice.

  • Claude

    In other words, the Church is screwed.

    Said with confidence! But I doubt it. The Catholic share of the world’s Christians during the past century has been stable over time at about 50% (Pew). It’s a pretty robust institution.

    • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

      It has only been the last couple of decades that the atrocities tied in with the RCC have come to light and, more importantly, the RCC has been unable to silence. The next century should be a very interesting one for the Catholic church.

      • Claude

        The RCC has been associated with atrocities for centuries. The recent scandals are but the latest revelations of malfeasance. Since the Church has managed to survive complicity in every evil under the sun, I’m skeptical of predictions of its imminent demise.

        But you’re right–it will be interesting to see what happens.

        • http://twitter.com/Cafeeine Cafeeine

          The difference is that for centuries, the atrocities were hidden under the veil of piety. The idea that “you don’t criticize the church” was enough to hush everything up. Most people didn’t know what was going on, and if they did, they thought it was a few bad eggs, not an institutional problem. Now, not only is this stuff getting out, its is aggregated, annotated and catalogued and available on the internet for anyone with a connection to find. The RCC is stilll in obfuscate & deny everything mode, thinking it is still protected by the shroud of piety, and it probably still is, for a large amount of people. We’ll have to wait for a few more decades to see if there is some effect to the numbers of the catholic church.

          • Claude

            Most people didn’t know what was going on, and if they did, they thought it was a few bad eggs, not an institutional problem.

            Martin Luther and the Reformation?

            I’m interested in believers and spend a far amount of time reading what they have to say. My observations, and that’s all they are: Practicing Catholics on the blogosphere tend to skew conservative. I’ve no idea how well they reflect the laity, or at least American Catholics, at large. Despite the internet and social networking, the sentiment that “a few bad eggs, not an institutional problem” is responsible for the sex scandals is common. In recent appearances the Pope has been surrounded by adoring crowds; Benedict is thought to have made the best of a bad situation and is still respected for his orthodoxy and intelligence.

            There are liberal Catholics who are up in arms and support radical measures to clean house, such as dissolving the College of Cardinals and decentralization. My impression is that they are in the minority. Of course, I could be wrong about this.

            All to say that I think it’s wishful thinking to imagine that the RCC is on the verge of collapse. Benedict stacked the College of Cardinals with conservatives, so I’ll guess some media-savvy reactionary will be elected who’ll take measures to restore the Church’s battered reputation. But–all bets are off, since a papal resignation is so rare.

        • Carmelita Spats

          I don’t see a quick “demise”, but I do see a transformation. The RCC is on the decline in the West in terms of its political power and influence…Thankfully, there is a disconnect between Catholics’ “private piety” and the grotesque institutional teachings…Catholicism in Latin America is a highly amusing “negotiated” performance…In my country, Mexico, gay marriage and abortion are now legal & the RCC has not been able to curb the explosion of the Santa Muerte religion…Religious vocations are dying…Evangelical Protestantism continues to make strides in Latin America…The RCC’s future is in the third world but I am willing to bet that the Vatican holds its nose at the type of “Catholicism(s)” that is/are negotiated here…It will take my country another two decades before we explode like Ireland with documented accounts of the sexual torture of children and the institutional cover up. Father Marcial Maciel was just the tip of the iceberg…It wasn’t a “few bad eggs”…It is ongoing ACTIVE malice towards the rule of law. Patrick J. Wall has an excellent blog on this…

          http://patrickjwall.wordpress.com/

          • Claude

            Carmelita, my reply to you vanished. Just want to thank you for an informative post and for the link. Good to know about that blog.

            What you said about Fr. Marcial Maciel being the tip of the iceberg is ominous!

    • Sven2547

      You’re measuring success by its percentage of its share of the world’s Christians? How about the world’s PEOPLE?

      …or do the rest of humanity not count?

      • Claude

        Why would you think I think the rest of humanity doesn’t count?

        Neither is “success” the word I’d use; more like “stability.” Pew estimates there are over 2 billion Christians in the world; that’s a lot of PEOPLE.

      • Claude

        Here is the context you were looking for, from Pew.

        But over the same period, the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly. As a result, Catholics have made up a remarkably stable share of all people on Earth. In 1910, Catholics comprised about half (48%) of all Christians and 17% of the world’s total population, according to historical estimates from the World Christian Database. A century later, the Pew Research study found, Catholics still comprise about half (50%) of Christians worldwide and 16% of the total global population.

  • pagansister

    The RCC can only go one way—up. It has sunk and IMO is still sinking. Literally dirty old men covering up for those that were/are taking advantage of those that are supposed to trust them. Those old men living in very nice circumstances. I hold no hope that the next pope will be any better than Benny—he and John Paul 2 appointed a bunch of them—no progress there.

  • Avi

    Dude, the Church has been around for nearly 2000 years, and for good reason too. You may think the Catholic Church is dying out or something but this is NOT the worst the Church has been through. The Church will always prevail because that is the promise Jesus himself gave us (Matthew 16:18). The Catholic Church has made innumerable contributions to mankind and has shaped the world you live in whether you realize it or not.

    Good day, sir, and God bless.

  • roberthughmclean

    The way the RCC is going they’ll all be in jail by the end of the decade. They could turn the vatican into a blinged prison in the near future with nice statues, fountains and silly hats. Imagine that, another massive drag on the recession struck Italian economy.


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