Defending Catholic Theocracy

The debate over the Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan heats up. Over at Religion Dispatches, Kambiz GhaneaBassiri compares the current flap to 19th century paranoia about Catholicism. One Catholic, not to be outdone, decided to win back the coveted “most distrusted” award by arguing that only virtuous Catholics should be allowed to vote:

I’m sure that right now, Americans are looking at the Catholic churches being shut down because all the money is going into pedophilia lawsuits and thinking, “This is the organization I want running my country. What was the last big confessional Catholic country? Franco’s Spain? Yeah, gimme more of that.”

I know that the upper ranks of the Catholic hierarchy have had problems with Democracy for a couple of centuries now. We could talk about Pope Leo XIII and the error of “Americanism”, and we could talk about the tensions between John Coutney Murray and Alfredo Ottaviani.

We could also talk about Pope Pius IX and his Syllabus of Errors, which was a heavy broadside against the separation of Church and State, freedom of religion and democracy. But let’s be fair: Pope Pius IX was – and I say this with all due respect – batshit crazy. This was the man who had Edgardo Mortara kidnapped. He was not on speaking terms with sanity.

But I’ve always thought that these arguments were largely confined to the hierarchy and the academics. My impression had always been that the rank-and-file Catholic priests and the laity just ignored it. After Vatican II, I figured no one outside the ivory towers in Rome would be talking about it.

I know we’ve got a lot of lapsed Catholics in the audience. Is this sort of argument common?

[Edit: The original video was taken down recently. I suspect it was the post from PZ that did it. Thanks to for the mirror.]

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  • Susan

    Are you afraid to antagonize the Catholics, all the links and video are gone. We know a bunch of popes were crazy, immoral, etc. As a lapsed Catholic, money for individual churches has always been an issue, especially as attendance drops. So I doubt as whole the Catholic church is running out of money

    As far as Democracy goes, in all the years I did attend regularly (as long as I lived at home, my mom made me go weekly), never once did I hear a word for or against diplomacy. I don’t remember it ever being mentioned. Politics of any sort weren’t part of it at all. To be honest, priests get about 15 minutes(max) for the homily which usually is about the day’s readings- so they don’t do a lot of ranting about stuff like that.

    I can’t speak for every personal priest’s views but those are personal views.

  • JK

    Video has been removed by the user… Do I have to be happy or sad about that? :)

    • vorjack

      Blast. He must have taken it down last night. Lemme see what I can find.

      Edit: Yep, gone. PZ linked to it, that must have been too much for Michael Voris. Found a new mirror.

      • Yoav

        You should also check his followup video (PZ has it posted), where he whines about the mean atheists twisting his words to make it sound like he support a dictatorship when he clearly said he support a dictatorship, but the good kind.

        • Michael

          Apparently I am in love with evil and trapped by it.

          Even worse, I am living an emotionless life with a shipwrecked soul or something. Damn, and I thought diabetes was my biggest problem.

  • Miss Poppy Dixon

    Interesting, the places where he choked on his words. He doesn’t believe what he’s saying. It’s the fallen man in him trying to get out.

  • nazani14

    - or perhaps like the 19th century flap about Masons?

  • Tabbie

    Ack! Evil Catholicism rears its ugly head!

  • Susan

    Video seems to be back up- I won’t even comment on his ludicrous views(at first I thought this was a farce) but 1) this country is not a democracy, it’s a republic- a point usually forgotten 2) benevolent dictator? I don’t think any dictator doesn’t start out thinking they are not benevolent- they all say they are doing the best for their people, yes feudal societies and paying homage to a king is wonderful thing, 3) “faithful Catholics” ? who is a faithful Catholic anyway- why not just ethical intelligent people or just intelligent people. forget about letting the stupid ones who actually believe his BS vote.

    • wintermute

      Any nation that is not a dictatorship is a republic; therefore, America is a republic.

      Those republics where the people can vote for their leaders are democracies. Therefore, America is a democracy.

      • Elemenope

        Indeed. The US is a (Federated) Democratic Republic, and referring to it by either adjective is not inaccurate; it just doesn’t tell the whole story. I blame overzealous high school civics teachers for all the “it’s a republic, not a democracy” comments.

      • Yoav

        Any nation that is not a dictatorship is a republic
        That’s not really the case. For example the UK is a democracy but is not a republic while north korea is a republic but not a democracy.

        • Elemenope

          The UK is generally classified by political scientists as a Democratic Republic, though historically it was called a Crowned Republic (in view of the few powers reserved to the crown, though most political powers in practice do devolve entirely to the people).

          And just because North Korea has the words in its name does not mean those words correspond with any reality. Despite the name, North Korea is *neither* a democracy or a republic.

          • wazza

            actually, the UK is a constitutional monarchy with the civil government following a democratic republic form. It looks like a republic, it smells like a republic, but it’s not a republic. You can tell by the queen stuck on top.

            • Tabbie

              You can tell by the queen stuck on top.

              …with a sour cherry and a corn cob stuck up her a…

            • JohnMWhite

              It rarely feels like a republic when the 2/3rds of the populace tend to vote for anyone but the governing party…

  • DDM

    I’m going to take a gander and say that THE VORTEX isn’t a no-spin zone.

  • Siberia

    After I found sites actually trying to defend the Inquistion as a Good Thing(tm) and not totally that bad, guys, can’t you see it? I believe anything from Catholics.

    • Peter Cross

      Not to mention their apologetics about how Galileo had it coming to him.

  • Friedrich

    Oh, GLORIOUS Christopher Hitchens, How right you were when you said: ”RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING!” What a huge loss to the World, if cancer takes you away………

  • Duncan

    What does S.T.B. stand for? My guess would be Some Type of Bullshit.

    • Elemenope

      It’s a Bachelor Degree in Jesus.


    • Len

      I think it’s more specific: Some Theo(il)logical Bullshit.

    • Michael

      It’s a “Bachelor of Sacred Theology” (in Latin Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus) which is a graduate degree (despite its name) offered at pontifical universities. Acceptance into a BST program generally requires at least two years of college (or more frequently a completed bachelor degree) and usually includes about three years of study. It’s a rough equivalent to a Masters of Divinity, but with an academic rather than pastoral focus.

      In Catholicism specifically, it is the first of a series of three degrees granted by the Holy See, the other two being the Licentiate of Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) and the Doctor of Sacred Theology (S.T.D., Sacrae Theologiae Doctor, so named because Jeezis was once believed to be a venereal disease (best acquired in childhood)).

      Basically, to get an STD you just need to know a lot about Catholicism. You don’t have to contribute to theology in any meaningful way, you just have to take and pass a bunch of classes. So yeah, “Some Type of Bullshit” sounds pretty accurate.

      • Len

        THere are other ways to get an STD.

        • Yoav

          And at least some of them are more fun the theology class.

          • wintermute

            But they also involve Catholic priests.

            • Michael

              Yes, that was my implication.

  • Dan

    Hmmm, let’s see, I’ll smoke all this pot, tell them that only virtuous Catholics, not those Confession on Saturday, Mass on Sunday, and whorehouse on Monday kind of Catholics, er, wait a minute, those are the Virtuous, Catholics. Okay, let’s start over. Only Virtuous Catholics, following the advice of their virtuous Priests, not those pedophilia ridden, allegedly celibate, protected by their Bishop, arrgh, dammit, I guess I’ll have to start over again.

    Only Virtuous Catholics, led by their Virtuous Priests, who listen to God and vote like they are told by their Virtuous Leaders, like Pinochet, Franco, and Hitler, will be allowed to vote. Everyone else can go to Hell. Now shut up and grovel like a good serf!!!

    • wearyleary

      I agree with your assessment Dan, you know how those Catholics just love them whores. Asshole.

  • objectifier

    I love all the comments about homosexuals marrying men – I guess as long as you only molest altar boys its ok. Marrying a grown man is clearly wrong while sex with twelve year old boys is the only true way to heaven. Would they be repealing the pedophilia laws along with gay marriage and abortions?

    And I like to think of all the benevolent Catholics over the years who led us in the crusades, the inquisition and who still today tell people in AIDS ridden Africa that using a condom is a sin. Yeah, these are the ones who clearly need to be running everything.

    My parents raised my brother and I as Southern Baptists then sent us to an all boy Catholic military school, then they wonder why we both ended up as atheists.

  • Friedrich

    Not that anyone asked for my opinion…. but I’d like to give it anyway. Isn’t Catholicism a Sexually Transmitted Disease????

    • wearyleary

      got no words for this one

  • JohnMWhite

    As a recovering Catholic, I’ve not come across this argument espoused in such bare faced terms before, but it’s not entirely unfamiliar. Usually when growing up I’d hear or read of arguments about how the country (in my case the UK) should return to following god’s path by banning abortion, preventing anything nice ever happening to a gay person and… well, actually those were the only two issues any politically active Catholic seemed to care about. Except maybe freeing Northern Ireland. They didn’t say this should happen by only letting Catholics vote, but the implication was always bubbling under the surface that no one else’s vote should count. If you didn’t vote the Catholic way, you were obviously led stray by Satan, Communism or that worst of all evils, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (well it was the 90s). They never seemed to quite get the idea that we live on a diverse island full of lots of different people and one group’s beliefs shouldn’t be the yardstick for every one of them. Democratic thinking and the authoritarian nature of the church don’t really seem compatible – to them, there is the Right Way and no amount of voting will make any other way acceptable.

    • Jabster

      “should return to following god’s path by banning abortion, preventing anything nice ever happening to a gay person and… well, actually those were the only two issues any politically active Catholic seemed to care about.”

      Which is one of the bits I find interesting about the video … how does a message of low taxation and benefit “scroungers” get mixed up in what seems like the majority of US religious right wing minds as a religious message. I can believe that they hold both views but whereas I can see where the anti-evolution, anti-abortion, anti-gay (is there anything they are pro?) etc. come from I don’t understand how the message of the Christian god can be translated into low taxes, indeed I thought the message would be the opposite.

  • Matthew

    Ya it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Again look at the language.. “REAL”… What an idiot. The sad thing is fringe elements like this make the news and we get lumped in with lunatics like this in popular opinion. No wonder people make fun of Christianity.

    That being said, to portray this as mainstream Catholic thinking is disingenuous and weakens your claims of being objective.