Elizabeth Scalia gets everything wrong on Libresco and Catholicism

Someone named Elizabeth Scalia has come up with an explanation for why the media jumped on the Leah Libresco conversion.

Why so much coverage on Leah? Perhaps the answer is this: Leah’s conversion goes against all of the prevailing narratives that dominate secularist thinking. Religion — or at least religion that goes beyond affirming oneself and actually costs something of one — is the “opiate of the masses” suited only to “bitter clingers” and intellectually-dim peasants (except it isn’t and never was). Leah is a brainy, sophisticated Yalie who is neither bitter, clingy nor dim.

Christ on the fucking cross.

Religion costs something of one’s self?  Seriously?  It’s a sacrifice to leave the comfort of being an atheist to take on the burden of believing in Jesus?  Really?  When you go to a Catholic conference, is there a need in the proceedings booklet for a section like this?

That’s protecting students from being outed as non-believers in order to avoid the consequences that could come at the hands of believers.  And not just any believers, but in many cases believers who are supposed to love and care for them (and presently do love and care for them, so long as they pretend to believe in god).

Perhaps Catholicism does cost something, like a portion of your income going toward an institution that values dogma over reducing the spread of AIDS, it’s own opulence over the poverty of others, and is notorious for using a portion of that wealth protecting the rapists of children.  But if you want to suggest that being Catholic comes with even a noticeable fraction of the cost as unbelief, you’ve got to be kidding.

Catholicism “hates women” (except it doesn’t and never did). Leah is a strongly self-possessed, forward-thinking woman.

How’s it going with letting women get ordained (due to the history of anti-woman prejudice in the church)?  I realize the Catholic church says they love women.  Juxtaposed against their actual behavior, this is evidence for how horribly the church has redefined “love,” not evidence that the church doesn’t shit on them.

Catholicism “hates homosexual persons” (except it doesn’t and never has although a new apostolic letter might help make that clear) and Leah identifies as bi-sexual.

From americancatholic.org:

The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, but teaches that homosexual persons deserve respect, justice and pastoral care.

Just two days ago

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the most senior Catholic in the United Kingdom has declared “war on gay marriage,” pledging to spend another £100,000 in its campaign against equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Scotland.

This is not love, nor is it respect.  It’s stupid and anti-human.

It even expects Leah to change who she is in order to be accepted by the church.  In Leah’s own words (bold mine).

I’m bisexual. Other queer people’s experience of their orientation varies, but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m bisexual because gender feels about as salient to me as hair color when it comes to looking for dates. That means I’m already out of step with the Catholic Church before you even get up to gay marriage or any issue like that, because the Church thinks gender is much more central to someone’s identity than I do.

The excuse will likely be that the church loves the LGBT people, they just hate the homosexuality.  I wonder, what has the Catholic church done to show their love for LGBT people?  We already know they’ve worked to ensure they have fewer rights than the rest of us, but what have they done to show their love?  Invited the same people who enjoy less rights on account of the church’s actions to be like them?  That’s blackmail, not love, and that anybody can confuse the two is very telling of what religion can do to one’s moral sense.

And here’s what’s really sad; again, from Leah’s mouth:

I imagine I’ll do a lot more reading and pick a lot more fights over the next few years. I’m willing to not date women in the meantime…

The message is that one should enjoy their life less to comply with Catholic dogma.  But it’s love, because they’re conveying the message to you and, lucky you, you can be like them.  Gag me.

But don’t worry, Scalia assures us that Catholicism is reasonable.

On a serious note, though: Someone asked me a few days ago whether it bothered me that Leah is determined to ask questions of the church and its teachings, and I said, “no; she’s not the first to ask, and she won’t be the last.” We have a long history of brilliant people — atheists and non — who have trained their big brains on Catholicism, intending to either disprove it or simply to splash about in its currents, only to find themselves drawn further in. Catholic teaching has been thoroughly reasoned and laboriously fleshed-out; there is actual thinking, full of nuance and complexity, at its core — where Faith and Reason share a kinship, within which the natural and supernatural wave back and forth, like wind-stirred wheat in a field; it’s a dance of organic wholeness.

And just like the trickling of Catholics who have found their way over here ever since Leah agreed to discuss her conversion with me, Scalia never tells us what any of this rational justification for someone rising from the dead or a cracker becoming the flesh of a 2,000 year-dead Jew.

According to Scalia, the church loves being questioned!

I take my cue from the Holy Father, who has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to entertain any-and-all topics. Benedict believes — and I have discovered it in my own faith journey — that submitting any question to reason, and tackling it with patient but rigorous intellectual honesty leads one (sometimes with great reluctance and gritted teeth) to the side of Catholic orthodoxy.

It must’ve been Galileo who confined himself to house arrest for the remainder of his life for daring to question the church’s dogma of geocentricity.  The Catholic church was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, right?  From the report of the Inquisition panel charged with reviewing Galileo.  The report was approved unanimously:

“[Heliocentrism is] foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture…”; while the Earth’s movement “receives the same judgement in philosophy and … in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith.”

How well did the church suffer these questions?  How eager were they to entertain criticism from Romolo Murri who was excommunicated for giving speeches against Papal policy?  If the church suffers questions so well, how is the Inquisition explained?  How is any period where Catholicism was enforced under pain of death explained?

The very idea of dogma is aversive to openness to questioning, as is the idea of infallibility or authority by appointment.

What’s more, it’s clear that the church has always valued dogma over the products of human perspicacity.  This is nowhere more obvious than with the church’s slew of justifications for opposing condoms, even going so far as to say condoms help spread AIDS to the contrary of, well, every expert on the subject.

Scalia’s whole post pretty much captures a tactic used throughout the history of the Catholic church: to say it’s reasonable without defending that assertion, to say they love their enemies (even as their behavior says otherwise), and to hope people take their word on it.  It’s disgusting, and Scalia’s post from 2012 shows that very little has changed for Catholics.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Compuholic

    How eager were they to entertain criticism from Romolo Murri who was excommunicated for giving speeches against Papal policy?

    And if somebody says, that was a long time ago, let’s not forget hwo the catholic church is currently pressing for the arrest of Sanal Edamaruku for blashphemy. A nice example how well the vatican can deal with criticism.

    And on a less serious issue: The vatican is currently seeking legal action against a german satire magazine who had a photoshopped image of the pope as a cover.


    While I agree, that the cover is not particularly funny, the response from the vatican certainly is.

    • One Thousand Needles

      Exactly. She must be willfully ignorant to claim that the Catholic church supports being questioned while Sanal Edamaruku is in hiding due to a blasphemy charge.

      The plaintiffs in Sanal’s lawsuit are two Catholic organizations. The church could have those charges dropped in an instant if they actually cared more about integrity than saving face.

      The fact is that the Catholic church cares more about keeping its followers duped than preventing an innocent man from suffering in prison.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    The RCC really is okay with being questioned and held up to reason. It’s just the conclusions that they often have a problem with.

  • karmakin

    I differ from most in that I can actually understand why someone would switch from being non-religious to being religious..if you find a community that works for you and it’s something you can find a personal connection with, that connection, I think, is “God”.

    What bothers me, however about this particular conversion is all the Natural Law-esque language being bandied around in the whole thing. I wouldn’t be shocked to see rants about the evils of homosexuality and abortion within a few months (and it’s more out there but I wouldn’t be shocked either to see discussions on how the poor either deserve what they get or are tools to be used…both are very non-Catholic points of view but popular among Natural Law-heavy Catholics) because of this.

    So my view is that it’s one thing to convert to Catholicism…I can handle that. I can’t handle conversion to the other stuff.

  • anteprepro

    Why so much coverage on Leah? Perhaps the answer is this: Leah’s conversion goes against all of the prevailing narratives that dominate secularist thinking.

    Wow. How about this one: Surprise above all surprises, the media is biased against atheists! Imagine that, in a country full of believers! They relish the fact that a mildly prominent atheist has converted and like to pretend it lends credibility to faith. The media would be completely silent on similarly “prominent” theists de-converting, because they rightfully wouldn’t give a fuck. But an atheist turning into a faith-head piques their interest, regardless of how relevant that atheist actually was, because it fits into the theist narrative of “well, guess we might have a point after all, somewhere, somehow!”.

    Here’s the thing: The only way Leah’s conversion would go against our “prevailing narratives” is if Leah could actually present some objectively good arguments for Christianity and the existence of God. It appears that she can’t. She can tell us why she was convinced, and she did. It boils down to personal preference and “Catholicism sounds smarter than I thought, therefore transubstantiated Jesus crackers”. There are no actual arguments presented to convince the rest of us of it being true, just bluster about it being intelligent and complicated. Which is pretty much par for the course. “Against all of the prevailing narratives” my ass.

  • baal

    “church loves being questioned”

    Hrm, not in my experience (caveat @ small sample size). I was thrown out of CCD for asking questions (I was happy to not attend thereafter.) and at the same Church, my father was all but told to sit down and shut up by a priest for asking a single why question.

    I agree Scalia’s other points are similarly counter-factual.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine

    Catholics like being questioned? Have they ever heard of the Catholic League and Bill Donahue?

  • Sercee

    I do not think it means what she think it means. By “it” I refer to everything she said…

    And as to “the church likes being questioned”? I was kicked out of Sunday School for asking questions. Suited me just fine, I’d already noticed I wasn’t getting answers…

  • anteprepro

    Pondering: Anyone think she is somehow related to Antonin Scalia?

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

      She’s also a lying partisan hack?

      • anteprepro

        Yes. Also: Hardline Catholic. But I am in danger of repeating myself.

  • Randomfactor

    Anyone think she is somehow related to Antonin Scalia?

    Apparently, not.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com tommykey

    Oh yes, Elizabeth Scalia, the pretend nun.

    • Randomfactor

      Guess they need all of those they can get. They’re losing the REAL nuns by the thousands.

      • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

        Nuns? More like NONEs.

  • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

    The genius of the Catholic church is not that is convinces its followers that it embraces secular humanist values while using their money to actively oppose them, but that it convinces them that those values actually come from the church, in contradiction of history and reality.

  • ABS

    St Thomas Aquinas thought it was perfectly moral and justified to execute people for leaving the church. This is the church’s great theologian. St Thomas Moore unrepentantly burned people at the stake for daring to read a bible in english, and was made a Saint less than a century ago. These are some of the paragons of the church. What good is catholicism if it can’t give us a better morality than whatever happens to be the social norm of the time? None at all.

  • kagekiri

    Also more recently on the RCC’s women-hating and homophobia: how about rebuking American nuns for being too charitable and not homophobic/anti-abortion enough? Or for writing a sex-positive book? SURE they’re not “anti-women”.

  • Stevarious

    How well did the church suffer these questions? How eager were they to entertain criticism from Romolo Murri who was excommunicated for giving speeches against Papal policy?

    Don’t forget, even as it’s defenders insist that the Catholic Church is open to inquiry, the church has done nothing to stop the prosecution (by Indian Catholics) of Sanal Edamaruku for debunking their fake miracle. One word from the pope could end it, but the Church is perfectly happy to sit back and let an innocent man go to jail for exposing a Catholic fraud. In 2012!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

    JT, how’s your dialog with Leah going? Any idea when we can look forward to seeing it published?

  • hypatiasdaughter

    Aquinas said that theology should be based on logic. Unfortunately, when you start with a false premise, you logic your way to a false conclusion.
    Catholic theology is both fascinating and nuanced. It has to be nuanced to pick its way around the places it fails to match reality or make sense even under its own paradigm.
    Some RCC logic:
    (#1) Jesus is the son of god born of a mortal, Mary
    (#2) no, Jesus is a “manifestation” of god because (#1) would be polytheism and put other gods on a par with the one true god
    (#3) so the one true god is manifested in “three forms” – father, son and holy ghost; but you can only be saved through one of the “three forms” – the Jesus form – worshiping the God form sends you to hell (making xtianity the only religion that punishes you for worshiping its own creator of the universe).
    (#4) Mary gave birth to Jesus, making her the Mother of God – wtf? a mortal is god’s mother?
    Yep, “Catholic teaching has been thoroughly reasoned and laboriously fleshed-out” – and still doesn’t make any rational sense.

  • Rory

    Did anybody else find this line really creepy: “We have a long history of brilliant people — atheists and non — who have trained their big brains on Catholicism, intending to either disprove it or simply to splash about in its currents, only to find themselves drawn further in.”

    Makes the thing sound like brainwashing, or a mental virus. Makes me want to hold my breath and walk faster past churches even though I was raised Catholic (and obviously it didn’t take).