Which is worse: Scientology or the Catholic Church?

It’s a serious question. I’m considering including a comparison of this sort in chapter 4 of the book, but it’s a hard comparison to make. But here’s an attempt:

Most people who know even a little about the Church of Scientology have little trouble seeing it as a deeply corrupt organization. Aside its the bizarre doctrines (involving an alien overlord named Xenu), which are kept secret from members until they’ve spent a great deal of money on the Church’s “services,” the Church also has a record of trying to silence critics through harassment and lawsuits, and former high-ranking Scientologists have alleged that violence towards Scientology staff by superiors is common within the organization.

And that’s just a sampling. The list of the Church of Scientology’s misdeeds is long, and the sheer length of the list could be used to make a case that it’s the most corrupt religious organization on the planet. But I don’t think anything the Church of Scientology has done quite rises (or sinks, if you prefer) to the level of covering up and enabling child rape on a massive scale.

So, if knowing just a little about what the Church of Scientology has done can convince you it’s a corrupt organization, the same should apply, even more so, to the Catholic Church. If knowing just a little about what the Church of Scientology has done makes you think, “okay, now I know not to have anything to do with that organization,” the same should apply, even more so, to the Catholic Church.

This, I think, is the best way to demolish the excuses that have been made for the behavior of the Catholic Church’s leaders: just ask yourself, would I buy them if we were talking about a massive child rape cover-up committed by a less successful religious organization?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=611844223 Balstrome

    Tradition goes a long way to giving validity to a group, and that is what the Catholic Church has. And generally in the greater Catholic community, it does not come across as diverse to it’s members in ways that Scientology does. It is more inclusive of the whole family. These things improve the worth of the organisation, at least in the eyes of the dis-interested and supporters of the church.

    To break the church, would require massive amounts of education across very large groups of people, while doing similar to Scientology, would be easier, because of the acknowledged status of it being a cult. For example getting Travolta and Tom Cruise to publicly leave and denounce Scientology would have a greater effect than getting the Pope to announce his membership to the Clergy Project.

    At least that is the way I see it.

  • unbound

    I agree with Balstrome’s point. There is a lot to be said about something that has been around for many centuries now and, if not raised your whole life in that environment, certainly being told all your life that it is a good organization (if perhaps just a little off from your own church’s beliefs). This contrasts sharply with an organization that has been around a little over half a century, which means most members have only recently (relatively) moved over to that religion.

    Additionally, the Catholic Church gets to muddy the situation by pointing out all the good things they’ve been doing (again, for a very long time), whereas the Church of Scientology has only recently started being noticed for doing anything of worth outside their membership. So when you have people that have been raised their whole lives in the Catholic Church (or consistently exposed in popular culture about how the Catholic Church is the holder of all things morale), at best there is confusion about whether the Church is good or not. Contrast this with Scientology which has been the butt of jokes since I was old enough to be aware of its existence.

    The Catholic Church also points out that no one is perfect and requires constant confession (and forgiveness) of their sins…so as long as the perceived good is more than the perceived bad, most members will simply accept that a mistake was made and that the culprits will simply confess (and be forgiven of) their sins. Rather ingenuous concept that has probably gotten the Church out of trouble for their entire history.

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    You’d need to define “worse”, but if we’re talking in terms of absolute effects, the very clear answer is that it’s the Catholic church. If you get to tally up everything each church has done since it’s founding, then the Vatican is orders of magnitude worse than Sea Org: They are way bigger and have been around way longer. Even if you are only allowed to count misdeeds in the present and recent past, I’d still go with the Catholic Church in a heartbeat, simply because their vast size allows their nefarious doctrines to have a much wider reach.

    The most egregious modern example, in my opinion, is the RCC’s opposition to condoms for the prevention of STDs, and the countless Africans who have died as a result. It’s not that I don’t think Scientology would never do anything that evil; it’s just that I don’t think enough people would listen to them.

    If you were going to try to craft some kind of “per influence” metric of “worseness”, then it gets trickier. The Catholic Church doesn’t seem to be in the habit of locking people in closets as a matter of institutional policy. The doctrines are just as batshit crazy, but they don’t make you pay to learn them (though I did hear they were thinking of bringing back indulgences…) It sort of seems like Scientology has a higher “badness density index”, if you will… but then again I am not sure if that is just the natural bias against new religions as opposed to venerated old insanity like Catholicism.

    In short: Depending on how you ask the question, the answer is either “Catholicism by a mile”, or “Tough call.”

  • mnb0

    Who was worse, Hitler, Stalin or Attila the Hun?
    Doesn’t make much sense. I think you can maintain your point – the Church getting away with it and Scientology not because of tradition etc. – without asking this question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosmicaug augustpamplona

    This, I think, is the best way to demolish the excuses that have been made for the behavior of the Catholic Church’s leaders: just ask yourself, would I buy them if we were talking about a massive child rape cover-up committed by a less successful religious organization?

    This is a good point. However, I’m having trouble thinking of parallel cases. Thinking about it some more and digging through my memory banks for anything resembling parallel cases, I think that this might be untestable.


    Let’s see, there’s Sai Baba. No major outrage there. There are big differences there, though. The biggest difference is that Sai Baba was simply not very well known outside of India. Another difference is that it is not a religious organization that we are talking about anymore, with Sai Baba. It is, instead, an individual with a cult following.


    Children of God (known as The Family, these days, I think). People were more outraged about that and a lot of focus was given in the media to allegations of child sexual abuse.


    The Rajneeshes in Oregon. Some, so called, tantric practices were a part of that cult. People & the media were definitely pushing the sex cult aspect of the story. We are not talking about the sort of abuse involved with the Roman Catholic Church, though.

    One could make the very valid case that a lot of what Rashneesh himself (a.k.a. Osho) was involved with constituted sexual abuse due to the power differential and due to the claims attached to such sexual unions (that they were holy in some sort of way which was not the case with sex with other members because of the leader’s involvement –how conveeenient!) but, ultimately they were still involving two adults (though I think it is easier to make a case here that Rashneesh was taking advantage of his perks as a cult leader than any other case).

    There is another important difference, though, in that child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church was a failure within the system (despite Louis CK’s bit on the Roman Catholic Church, I don’t think that anyone can seriously make the case that promoting child sexual abuse by priests is part of church doctrine) whereas in the case of the Rasshneeshes the sexual aspects were by design.

    So I’d say the way this group was viewed sort of supports Hallq’s contention but I’d also say that maybe it doesn’t. I’d say that it sort of doesn’t because because I think that the outrage & media attention to this might have been more as a sensationalistic response toward an excessively liberalized attitude toward sexuality.

    So I don’t really know what to say other than drawing conclusions from attitudes toward this cult might be difficult.


    Another problem with testing this thesis is something alluded to by Balstrome and Unbound which is the fact that less successful religious organizations are otherwise known as “cults”. That is, regardless of anything else which may be going on with them, they usually enjoy a bad reputation and much animus toward them exists simply because they have not been around long enough to accrue validity/respectability. As a result, if you do find considerable animus against such an organization with problems similar to the Roman Catholic Church’s problems it might be difficult to separate what part of this animus is because of the sexual abuse issue & what part of the animus is because of being regarded as a cult.

    • http://www.facebook.com/cosmicaug augustpamplona

      As a result, if you do find considerable animus against such an organization with problems similar to the Roman Catholic Church’s problems it might be difficult to separate what part of this animus is because of the sexual abuse issue & what part of the animus is because of being regarded as a cult.

      Now that I think about it, this observation is not much more than a restatement of Chris Hallq’s point in that last paragraph.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468751142 Kevin

    Trick question. The answer is “yes”.

  • ambulocetacean

    The Catholic church is far, far, far worse than Scientology.

    How many millions of people have the Scientologists condemned to death and misery from AIDS and other diseases by prohibiting and lying about condoms?

    How many millions of children have suffered through institutionalised brutality in Scientologist schools in recent centuries?

    How many tens of thousands of children have the Scientologists torn away from unwed mothers and shipped off to the other side of the globe never to be seen again?

    There may be some sort of equivalence in the essential brutality, mendacity, fraudulence and repugnance of the two. But in terms of real death and suffering inflicted there is absolutely no comparison.

    Having said that, I do realise that you’re looking at the qualitative rather than the quantitative.

    But if you handle that poorly and your book is aimed at a general readership you could effectively wind up giving the Catholic church a free pass.

    People like you and FTB readers take an active interest in religion and its atrocities. Most people don’t. Most people, I suspect, see Scientology as something that is kooky and weird but essentially harmless, or at least inconsequential. If you present the Catholic church as being akin to something kooky and weird but essentially harmless, or at least inconsequential…

    But I’m sure that you know how to suck an egg. And I’m sure that you’re prepared for the lawsuits and potential bankruptcy that could result from you laying out the many evils of Scientology. You’re a braver man than me.

  • Trebuchet

    One of them is a vicious cult that’s out to control people’s lives while impoverishing them to enrich its leadership. And so is the other.

    The RCC, however, is certainly the greater threat to people outside of it’s direct control, simply because of its vast size and historical influence.

  • ZacSheriman

    Well, simplyfying LSD is less dangerous than Opium, apart strange android cases like Sherlock Holmes.
    But another question arises: what about “Mary(j)..a? When the Supreme Golem will have love affairs with her and a “colour” child will fall in a white house (or cavern, don’t remember)?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    In their current forms, I would have to say Scientology is worse. They’re both corrupt, which you could document ad nauseum, but at least you can leave the Holy Roman Catholic Church without being hounded and harassed by them afterwards.

  • ken

    Coercion: The use or threat of force to impose one’s will on another.

    I think it would be wise to distinguish between a religion’s actual doctrine and the conduct of its members and/or hierarchy. If someone commits a crime (coercion), they should be punished by the government, if proven guilty.

    Although everything I’ve seen against Scientology is negative, there’s only the word of ex-scientologists regarding the sanctioned and institutional use of coercion. There has been plenty of recorded spying, which, though creepy, doesn’t appear overtly coercive. It’s had the effect of frightening people, but we can’t prove that was the intent.

    The spying and other ways in which Scientology honchos have responded to allegations and inquiry is unconventional by modern, accepted standards. Thus it warrants suspicion about the organization.

    Unlike Scientology, which is about 60 years old, the Catholic Church formed roughly 2000 years ago from the seed of Judaism. Current membership, though largely nominal, is estimated at about 1 billion worldwide. Considering that the Church is so old and large, it’s amazing there haven’t been more scandals and crimes. If you look at the recent Church sexual scandal per capita, the Penn State scandal is bigger.

    That’s not to discount the actual crimes that did occur within the Church. Some of the pedophiles talked freely about their crimes. Their recorded confessions were used against them. However, numerous groups, whose motives can’t be certain, have sued entire dioceses with great success. As is common in American litigation, the Church follows counsels’ advice to settle out of court to mitigate financial ruin. The public infers that every lawsuit settled is an admission of guilt, despite no known evidence.

    Regarding actual doctrine, Scientology does sanction and encourage coercion of anyone who they perceive as a threat against them. The Catholic doctrine, however, condones force only for self-defense. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus condone or encourage the use of coercion. He preached morality and love, but never the use of force to achieve it. He didn’t even encourage the crowds who followed him to overthrow their Roman conquerors.

    What separates us from the animals and what makes us like God is our ability to reason. So, the idea that Africans have AIDS because the Catholic Church tells them not to wear condoms assumes that people follow their religion blindly. Most Catholics use contraception, defying the doctrine. Promiscuity, also taught to be immoral by Catholic doctrine, spreads AIDS. If someone is denying Africans condoms, knowing that they have an AIDS problem or because they have the mistaken idea that it will reduce promiscuity, then they are taking the wrong approach to combating either.

    The fact that Africans are free to be promiscuous/chaste and [not] wear condoms says something about the Church’s role in promoting freedom. Contrast this with Muslim countries, where promiscuity results in the stoning of women and where families hide known sexual abuse of their own children for fear of scandal.

    The fact that Catholic doctrine maintains that contraception is wrong, while other denominations have reversed the same teaching in the last 100 years, says something about its legitimacy. They’ve elaborated on doctrine, but not reversed it. Mormonism taught that blacks can’t go to heaven and that polygamy good, but has reversed those doctrines. A flavor of the month is fine for ice cream, but truth does not change.

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