Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Looking into the Future and the Roman Catholic Church. Part I.

Yeah, yeah, it's a somewhat dramatic title, but you're here, right?  I hope not to disappoint, but I don't intent to bash anybody either.

I read a fascinating article today, a transcript of an interview with a man named Matthew Fox, who is an ex-priest and ex-theologian who was hounded out of the church by Ratzinger.  He is a well educated man, very articulate and he has some very interesting things to say about the church.

I write this because everybody is focused on the RCC, both because of the pope's upcoming resignation and the puzzling but fascinating articles popping up recently about a rumored arrest warrant for the man if he ever leaves the Vatican grounds.

My point of view here is definitely one of an atheist, but many of you already know me as having two minds about religion, the future, and religious organizations.  Yes, I am militantly opposed to religion in and of itself, and am of the opinion that it is too much like a loaded gun in the hands of children for people to be trusted with it unsupervised!  But on the other hand, religion has a multi-thousand year history in human culture, possibly going back tens of thousands of years.  Not a tradition to be dismissed lightly.  People will believe a lot of crazy, misguided stuff, and if that stuff gets institutionalized, its around to stay for a while!  Just look at Scientology if you don't get my drift.

So, please stay with me, I am trying to work something out here.

Fox says basically, that the RCC is being hijacked by a group of hard conservatives who have taken the church in a radical new direction not envisioned by the Vatican II Council.  What difference does that make?  Vatican II was decades ago, right?  Can't things change a lot in that time?  Yes, they can, but his point is made by this remark:
When there were three Popes in the 14th century all claiming their infallible rights, if you will, they called a Council. The Council deposed all three and chose a new one. And so, Councils trump Popes, Popes don't trump Councils, but what has happened the last forty [40] years is that these two Popes, Ratzinger and John Paul II, working together, have trumped the Council. Therefore, they're in Schism; and people who are still attempting to live out the teachings of Justice and also horizontal Catholicism, they're not in Schism, they're trying to live the reality.
He backs up his point about JP II and Ratzinger with a fair amount of evidence, much of it dealing with Opus Dei.   But that is something a lot of people already know about, much thanks to Brown's books and the movies.

Moving on, Fox makes a remarkable statement here:

Well, that's why I have very, very little optimism about the next Pope, because they've sacked the Cardinals, the people who vote for Popes.  All the men they've appointed the last forty [40] years think like themselves, which means they'll do nothing new there.  So that's why I think the Holy Spirit has asked us to step beyond the structure that we know as the Catholic Church.  I think that it's run it's course.  
And I'm not alone in this at all.  A very great Saint, a Father Bede Griffiths was a monk in Southern India for fifty years, a Benedictine monk, and he said to me shortly before he died a few years ago, "Don't worry about the Vatican, don't look over your shoulder, don't even think about them."  He said, "Continue to 'plant shoots' for the new Christianity, because one day it's all going to come tumbling down, just like the Berlin Wall."  And I think we're living through that day. 
He says repeatedly that he believes the Holy Ghost is "deconstructing" the Church.

Well, I don't, as you might imagine, put any faith in a supernatural being using any kind of earthly influence in that way, but I certainly see what he means by somebody deconstructing the church!  It seems to be pretty much going along with the game plan the Republicans are using, which is to keep spouting all of the traditional and extreme conservative values, slanted as extremist as possible, which is having the effect of not just pushing people away from the church, but is making them literally run the other way!  It is less deconstructing itself than it is merely tearing itself apart.

An example he gives:
I tell you, I did a retreat a few years ago in upstate New York, and Friday night about a hundred and fifty there said what traditions they were from.  A hundred were Catholic, "How many are practicing?"  About 60 percent.  Then I said "How many of your children are practicing?"  Every hand went down.  Zero percent of the children of these Catholics were practicing, and that was three or four years ago.  I find this everywhere, that again, the revelation of pedophilia and the way it's been handled, plus the other teachings against birth control, against gays, the preoccupation with sex as the apparent primary teaching of Christianity.  All this is turning off many, many people, as it should.
 I think that's enough to show that even the most religious of folks can see and know what's happening.

Now, he goes on to make the case that he thinks the RCC, or at least Christianity, as a religion is going to change, and radically at that.
I mean, the real issues are not about Popes, the real issues are about the survival of the planet for God's sake!  You know, these are the Spiritual issues of our time, and of course, melting our war machine into real work for real people.  There's so much unemployment in the world, when there's so much work that needs doing and so forth, it makes no sense.  Humans have to wake up.  That's what has to happen, and a healthy church would be leading the way in that, it wouldn't be narcissistically preoccupied with it's own make believe heroes, idols. 
 Emphasis mine.

He talks of a new spirituality.
One thing is, it would be ecumenical, what I call "Deep ecumenism (oecumenism?)" With that I mean, let's make out the essence, the distillation of the teachings of Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and Isaiah and Lao Tzu and Black Elk and other great spiritual teachers of the world.  I think that clearly no one religion has all the answers, we're all struggling today as a species, and so we can draw common wisdom.
 At the end, he talks briefly about atheism, and I think he sees it in a altered light that is too twisted by his religious training to truly understand how much atheism has taken hold around the world, so that it is the fastest growing demographic in the world today.  But that isn't really germane to my post.

I see that we are living today in a period of extreme instability in traditional religious circles.  The extremism in the Republican Party is one symptom, as are the scandals wracking the RCC.  The terrorism roiling in the Islamic world, I am beginning to think, is another.  In the world of traditional religion, nobody is safe, no theology is not being questioned.

The internet is one reason, and I believe, Facebook is another.  Yes, Facebook, that corporation you love to hate and are all worked up over their mixed up, hard-to-understand privacy rules, is, I think a prime reason that religion today is so endangered as a traditional belief system.  Throw in Twitter, where news and short spurts of info can make their way across the world in seconds, and you've got a literal revolution in information.

Revolution.  Information.  See what I did there?  It is well established that more educated populations, in general, are less superstitious.  Less religious, on average.  One can see that clearly in Europe, which has arguably the best education system in the world and is the least religious area anywhere on the planet.  In the US, the States with less successful educational systems have not only the highest incidence of religiosity, but also have the highest rates of negative social success indicators (rape, murder, divorce, etc.) compared to States with lower rates of religiosity.

As the world get smarter, and information get a wider field of dissemination, fewer people are staying religious in a traditional sense.  Fox has this to say also:
That's what it comes down to, and we're at one of these times of history when we have to simplify, we have to come back to the real meaning, not just of the Christ event, but of the Buddha event.  The Buddhists have to clean their act up.  The Muslims have to clean their act up.  The Jews have to clean their act up.  The time for the shaking down our religions to get to the distillation of it, and then linking up with the distillation of each, and create a new thing, with the help of science.
 Yeah, the science thing.  One of the reasons religion is going the way of the dodo bird is science.  Once you see the beauty of the universe as a thing of natural laws and logical cause and effect, the natural beauty of how it all fits together kind of blows the book of Genesis out of the water, along with most other creation stories that depend on gods.

Many of my past posts have dealt with the harm of religion or how I see it collapsing around us.  Not many have dealt with how it might change in the future.

See Part II for my thoughts on that.

In the meantime, I would urge you to go to the linked article, the whole interview is interesting and worth the read.

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