Wednesday, 29 April 2009

on Religious Intolerance

There is no longer any doubt that there is a growing crisis within the Catholic Church today. A crisis that could set back the Church more than four hundred years. Many Catholics unwillingly find themselves on opposite ends of the religious spectrum. As the Vatican desperately clings to many outdated teachings and the need for more control; more people are leaving and seeking meaning in other Christ like life giving communities. The obsessive pursuit for control could eventually spell the demise of the entire Church. While many ordinary Catholics continue to question the mystery of God the Church insists that it already has the privileged but arrogant position of possessing all the necessary truths. All that is expected from the rest is an unquestioning obedience to all Church teachings. Failure to comply is once again seen as heresy. This unhealthy position has put many searching Catholics in direct opposition with the ruling hierarchy of the Church as well as members of their own community. The Church steadfastly ignores the fact that many Catholics have a much broader understanding of what it means to be ‘church’ in a multi-religious community. For the first time in history more lay people are studying theology than members of the clergy.

Ignoring the call for the reforms instituted by Vatican II the hierarchy persists in implementing more and more rigid forms of orthodoxy. It is understandable then that a vast number of Catholics, throughout the world, are experiencing profound feelings of alienation from the faith and Church they once embraced. For its part the Catholic hierarchy makes no apologies for its unbending position and unwillingness to enter into dialogue with its followers especially anyone who does not agree with its teachings. In fact Pope Benedict XVI has stated on several occasions that the future of the Church will depend on a much smaller community of believers. Just think of what kind of Catholic that will be? It seems that today the Catholic Church will no longer tolerate anyone who dares question authority. It has even inaugurated various forms of punishment, ranging from withholding communion, to silencing and finally excommunication. Right wing elements, drunkenly empowered with the support of the Vatican, have launched specific campaigns to shame and condemn entire factions within their own Catholic community! This has caused some courageous individuals such Jesuit Fr. Kavanaugh to conclude: 'We Catholics are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate.'

Many parishioners today fearful about growing problems such as the economy, global warming, swine-flu, or war in the middle east find that their greater spiritual needs go completely unanswered. Working on a diet of fear; hardly a week goes by when the Church does not issue a stern warning about what a Catholic is to believe or not to believe and practise. Most official Church edicts are expressed in difficult or archaic legalistic terms which tend to create more division than understanding. The terms are reminiscent of the G.W. Bush era when the latter stated ‘if you are not with us, you are against us’! In the absence of true dialogue there can only by division.

Catholic news services provide an alarming increase in the spreading division among Catholics believers. An on-line edition of an US based Catholic weekly today carried the following headline “Kansas City Bishop to pro-lifers: ‘We are at War!” In his rant to a group of high school students, the Bishop was not condemning non-believers but all Catholics who may not agree with his opinion!!! His religious intolerance combined with a constant use of the term ‘warriors’ for God, to fight those who stand in his way, spoke in a manner reminiscent of a return to the dark ages, the crusades, Spanish Inquisition and burning of people at the stake. Canadian readers should note that the issue of abortion has several important political ramifications unique to the recent Democratic election USA.

As the battle for orthodoxy heats up the Church will continue to polarize its remaining followers instead of building bridges to those it has so shamelessly abandoned. Is there not enough religious intolerance in the world today?

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