I think Bad Catholic gets a lot wrong about the Pope.

Marc has a post on Bad Catholic that is getting shared around about the Pope stepping down.  I don’t like it.  Here’s why.

On the day of his anointing he wore a sweater underneath his finery, for it was cold. “Pray for me,” he said to me, “that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

He wore a sweater because it was cold?  With a rebellious nature like that he must be god’s vicar on earth.

And the wolves in the metaphor are most likely to be the police while hunting down the people the Pope was shielding from arrest for the crime of raping children.  Those are the kind of wolves you should cooperate with.  They’re the type that run past the virtuous to hunt the wicked, which is probably why Ratzinger feared them.

But what a wolf-wrestler our sweatered German turned out to be. He taught me that the Dictator is best assassinated by silence. Silence and encyclicals.

As far as the dictator comment goes, this is probably a reference to a pre-conclave Mass from 2005 when Ratzi was griping about the new apologetic hotness of the day: relativism.  Ratzi said…

Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.

Which would make perfect sense if humans didn’t share many of the same desires, like the desire to eat, drink, be happy, etc.  The problem for the Catholic church is that some people wish to pursue happiness in ways that are not approved by their church, and so we get this claim of relativism.  However, the things that lead to societal happiness, while not definitive, are certainly not as nebulous as the people crying “relativism” would have us believe.  Giving starving children oranges is better for societal happiness than, say, setting them on fire.  Even though we don’t know what makes societies maximally happy, we can still work on it.  This is much better than “It’s relativism otherwise, so we need to follow these ancient rules even if common fucking sense dictates that they make people less happy.”

As for the encyclicals, Ratzinger wrote three: Deus Caritas Est (Latin for “God is Love”), Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), and Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth”).

If god is love, he has an awfully non-committal way of showing it.  He has conceived a system in which most people wind up in hell (if Catholicism is the one true religion, as Ratzinger affirmed).  He also conceived of AIDS (in children), hunger (when he didn’t need to make us with the need to eat), cancer, and a list of other afflictions so vast that the fullest application of one’s imagination would manage only a fraction of it.

And saved by hope?  No, nobody is saved by hope.  You might hope that you’ll stop being hungry, but if you stop there then you’re going to starve to death.  Salvation has only ever come with effort and introspection from humans.  God not feeding your family?  Guess you’d better discover new farming or hunting techniques and put in some work.  People dying of illness?  Better devise a medicine, because god ain’t doing shit.  Literally every human innovation is a testament to god’s unwillingness to help, and to the inability of hope to fill a stomach.  Hope is only useful insofar as it motivates people to think and work.  If hope for you means you think we’ve already got the answer to problems, then your hope is subverting those things.  For instance, you may hope you will live longer – even forever.  But if that’s ever going to happen, it’s going to happen like every other innovation – because we made it happen.  The solution is not simply to die believing it’s taken care of.

And as for love in truth, read this.  You can repeat that the Catholic Church is sitting on Truth with a capital T until you’re blue in the face, but until you back it up with evidence then you have nothing.  What’s more, when god’s supposed commands conflict with human decency and you betray humanity to obey god’s orders, there is no love there.  In fact, countless acts of malice have been performed throughout history by well-intentioned people who mistakenly thought god had delivered his will unto them.  There is clearly corruption in irrationality and false beliefs, which is the very stock of the Catholic Church starting with the idea that someone rose from the dead.

I’m sure he missed his books, his window, and the sparrows fidgeting outside, but he was courageous.

I’m sure the gilded halls, every imaginable luxury, and copies of those books at his mere command were some consolation.  How courageous he was to move into the Vatican.  Can I prove my bravery by winning the lottery?

He was the second hundred and fifty sixth, the sixteenth and the first. He told my generation to “leave the dead-end streets of consumerism” and we haven’t listened yet.

I remember that!  Back when the Pope condemned the Christmas shopping culture.

Pope Benedict XVI condemned the increasing commercialisation of Christmas as he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass, urging the faithful to look beyond the holiday’s “superficial glitter” to discover its true meaning.

You heard that right:

Benedict XVI in a gold throne, holding a gold staff, and wearing vestments adorned with gold.

Yes, the guy in a gold throne, holding a gold staff, in a gilded palace, and wearing vestments adorned with gold abhors superficial glitter (and also avarice).

So the guy who protected child rapists takes the time to make a moral stand on superficial glitter.  Good job.

I saw his cap fly off in the wind as he preached in a Spanish storm. His heart is as pure as his prose. He is a man of peace that cleaves like a sword.

His heart is pure?  His heart is pure???  In what universe does that even begin to make sense?  Ratzinger shielded the rapists of children from discovery and, later, arrest and prosecution, because he apparently valued the Church’s PR over justice for their victims.  He could save the lives of countless starving children by selling his fucking gold throne and maybe sitting on a bronze one instead, but he doesn’t.  I guess the guy needs some degree of comfort for being away from the sparrows outside his old place.

This is the guy who, when speaking about the spread of AIDS in Africa, said in 2009:

I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.

Condoms increase the spread of AIDS?  It’s hard to imagine getting something so diametrically wrong.  It’s like saying unprotected sex is a great way to not have children.  That assertion undoubtedly increased the level of misery in Africa, as people who inexplicably value the Pope’s opinion obeyed.

Ratzinger’s allegiance was always to the dogma of his church.  Where compassion would pull him ferociously in the opposite direction, the only purity in his heart was to his ideology.

He ruled with authority, motu proprio, applying salves to the schisms in the Skin, going about the business of waking a yawning Church with reminders of Her glory: See how the sparrows are clothed in surplices, stoles, cassocks, and frocks, the trees with their crosiers and capes. Do not ask what we will wear, the Bride of Christ is provided for. Just read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

Yeah, he ruled with authority – even when humility was called for.  And waking the yawning church?  Last I heard, the Catholic Church was hemorrhaging followers.  Sure, immigrant converts are helping to keep adult numbers steady (which the Church needs, since lifelong Catholics around the world are deconverting).  But like every religion that draws its moral standards from deep in the past, rather than compassion informed by the fullness of modern knowledge, the Catholic Church is losing the battle for the next generation.

And don’t worry about what they wear when talking about the virtue of living in poverty, even if their vestments cost more than many people make in a month.  Noted.

He played the piano because God is Beauty, and “it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy.”

News flash: atheists play the piano too.  Hell, we even sing sometimes.

We do it because it’s fun, and because beauty is appealing to us.  We find happiness and joy in the same place we find ugliness and misery: in the world around us, without a single drop of god in any of it.  That’s why we have to work to find the bits we like, and we call those “beauty”.

Enemies crowned him…

No, we didn’t it.  People like me who see the litany of instances when the Pope stood between humankind and decency would like to see him incarcerated.

…jewels of a love that makes declarative sentences, while he made American saints and prayed for the salvation of sinners. How unwitting the darkness that made his light shine brighter.

It’s like poetry.  It’s not like poetry that actually means anything.

And he prayed for the salvation of sinners?  What sinners were those?  The people who are kind and honest, but who just can’t swallow the story of someone rising from the dead or that a god who “is love” would also genocide all of humanity by drowning?  Are those sinners the people who want to love and care about someone of the same gender for the rest of their lives, but can’t because brushing lips with them offends the Church’s dogma?  Or is it the people who, while not fucking boys, do wind up having consensual sex with adults and want to use a condom to keep STDs under control and to not have children they can’t afford?

Here’s the straight up facts: these things are all insignificant.  In fact, on the whole, they bring more happiness to the world, and anybody who calls that a sin is asserting that human happiness is not a concern to them.  And what’s more, if you think any of these things is a “sin” that amounts to more than a neutron in the universe compared to protecting a child rapist, you are a sick, twisted shell of a human.  His heart’s pure alright – it’s uniformly cold, and his mind is oblivious to what true immorality is.

He leaves as he came, with a humilty that shocks the world.

The guy considers his proclamations infallible.  That’s the opposite of humility.

What a pile of empty, undeserved compliments for a man for whom the tallest pillars in the pantheon of hell were conceived and built.  Go back, re-read Bad Catholic’s post, and just remember as you read that he is saying all this about a person who used his authority to shield predators of children.  That is the person onto whom Marc is heaping his approval.  Then come back here and tell me how religion makes people more moral.

Then read the comments on the post and tell me it’s not a problem.

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.


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