Recently a relatively well known, Canadian Catholic TV & Newspaper columnist, with strong fundamentalist views, triumphantly declared that, “once someone denies basic and absolute Catholic teaching they are no longer believing Catholics”. Furthermore, he added “for a Christian who refutes papal authority, the teachings of the magisterium and the integrity of the sacraments there is an obvious alternative. It’s called Protestantism". This exclusivist attitude may perhaps serve Pope Benedict XVI who has expressed a preference for a leaner, smaller, purer church dedicated to the observance of a strict orthodoxy, but it hardly addresses Catholics struggling with Church teachings.
More importantly we must now ask - does the Church belong only to the conservatives? And what of the millions of Catholics, who cannot for one or another reason, follow certain Church teachings. Where would you draw the line? How would anyone know? And, finally who would decide? Is church (community) only for those who claim they never deviate (or question) from church teachings? (Without sin?)
It is estimated that almost 80% of Catholics believe the Church should allow Catholics to use birth control. Contraception is strictly prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church. Such acts are considered intrinsically disordered. Ultra orthodox groups within the Catholic Church believe that sexual activity not aimed at procreation is considered sinful and even evil.
Recent statistics reveal that a majority of Catholics would permit abortion in cases where the pregnancy was initiated through rape or incest. Yet, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that ending the life of a pre-embryo, embryo or fetus cannot be allowed, except in very rare cases where a life-saving operation on the woman results in the unintended death of the embryo or fetus.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that, a homosexual orientation is deliberately chosen. The church regards all homosexual behaviour to be intrinsically sinful, regardless of the degree of love and commitment within the relationship. It is estimated that some 10% of the population is gay. Six in ten Canadians (59%) oppose the Catholic Church and other religious groups issuing directives to politicians on how they should vote on such issues. One in ten Canadians who oppose gay marriage say that politicians should vote as religious leaders direct them.
Three-quarters (74%) of Canadians believe that interfaith dialogue would have a “positive impact” on their community. However, Catholic dogma still teaches ‘no salvation outside the Church’. Additional obstacles to true ecumenism were pronounced in 2000 through a new doctrine Dominus Jesus under Cardinal Ratzinger as he declared “the Catholic Church as the sole true Church of Christ“ and all other Christian churches to be deficient in Truth. At the same time the Roman Catholic Church has steadily refused to accept an official role in the World Council of Churches.
The Roman Catholic Church today comes down heavily on those that do not follow its teachings. The Code of Canon Law (1436.1) states, One who denies a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or who calls it into doubt, or who totally repudiates the Christian faith, and does not retract it after having been warned, is to be punished as a heretic or an apostate with major excommunication. Under these terms opposition and any further discussion is quickly squelched.
Of course like any other Christian, Catholics are also sinners and thereby equally deserving of God’s salvation. The problem is how does one determine which teaching a ‘good’ Catholic fails to follow or accept? Surely the answer to that question can only be God. Once a religious institution decides that it has the exclusive power to determine ‘who is in and who is out’ it becomes a cult. Charles Kimball, author of When Religion Becomes Evil, identifies five warning signs of such corruption in religion.
1. Absolute Truth Claims
2. Blind Obedience
3. Establishing the "Ideal" Time
4. The End Justifies Any Means
5. Declaring Holy War
Recent statistics gathered by Ipso-Reid in 2006 suggest that there are more than just a few Catholics who simply cannot follow or agree on certain Church teachings.
• Eight in ten Canadians (81%) agree that “you don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian.”
• 70% of those who call themselves Christians agree that “my private beliefs about Christianity are more important than what is taught by any church.”
• Every-week church attendance in Canada in 1946 at 67% had dropped to 20% and is continuing to drop.
• Six in ten Canadians (59%) oppose the Catholic Church and other religious groups issuing directives to politicians on how they should vote on such issues.
Church attendance continues on a sharp decline. Only one in five attend a place of worship on a weekly basis. Another 13% attend about once a month, which represents only one-third of the population. Nineteen per cent go a few times a year, and 11% show up once a year or so. No wonder they're selling off churches. While the reasons for the decline vary belief in God (88%) has remained virtually unchanged in a century! These staggering statistics suggest what while people strongly belief in God they are still turning away from the institutional church. One can only conclude that there exists a serious unresolved problem between the two parties.
There is no absence in the Catholic Church today of growing fundamentalism, self-righteousness and exclusivism, along with an anti-Christian and militant attitude on question of human sexuality. The latter particularly as it affects abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Religious tolerance has clearly given way to name calling, angry accusations and even public excommunication. At the same time the Catholic Church remains in serious denial by refusing to address the endemic and systemic problems related to the ongoing sexual abuse crisis. Politically the Church refuses to acknowledge the relevant needs of the people it serves. While the “People of God” have spoken, the patriarchal Church remains silent in response; preferring monologue over true dialogue. In an effort to blame its problems on modernism, relativism and secularism the Church continues to block the progress and enthusiasm that was generated by Vatican II. Obviously there are many more issues that contribute to the current demise of the Catholic Church, but these can only be resolved with kindness, tolerance, and the love that God offers to ALL his people so that they may become ONE. Let’s thus begin with dropping a self-righteous attitude with the knowledge that God meets us where we are not were others would have us be.