Pope Francis is only Sugar Coating

I’ve always been irritated at how Catholics swoon over Pope Francis because “He loves the poor!” or “He’s so cool!” or “This pope is different”!

But 50 years from now, nothing of consequence will be any different in the Catholic Church: role of women, attitudes about sex, forced celibacy, public appeals to supernatural beings, lots of other peoples’ money, and undue political influence.

In 50 years, the only difference will be that the world will have once had that “cool pope” who smiled.

In a recent homily, Francis said, “In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops”.

His words, rife with supernatural BS, don’t help the rest of us as we wrestle with the terrible Catholic sex abuse scourge.

I knew that Francis’ smile and vague allusions to more acceptance were only sugar coating on the blight that is the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

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“But all other organizations have problems too”

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Despite the child sex abuse scandals, many people continue to attend Catholic services, participate in Catholic actives, and financially support the Catholic Church.

Many Catholics rationalize this by appealing to similar scandals in other organizations.

But the Catholic Church makes unique claims for itself, either officially or by implied tradition. It also asserts its influence into our lives in ways other organizations don’t. Therefore, we should judge the Catholic Church more harshly than we judge other organizations.

Consider the Church’s claims and influences:

  • The Catholic Church is Jesus Christ’s visible representative on earth.
  • Humanity, tainted by “Original Sin”, requires salvation. Salvation comes by Grace. Grace is dispensed through the 7 Sacraments. The Catholic Church administers those sacraments. The Church can dispense the sacraments to or withhold the sacraments from an individual according to the individual’s worthiness.
  • The Catholic Church is built on the “Rock of Faith” expressed by the apostle Peter, the first pope, who has special authority. Papal succession passes this authority to every pope. The pope, when speaking in his papal capacity, and in full junction with the bishops on a matter of faith or morals, is infallible.
  • Whatever the Church loosens on earth is loosened in Heaven. Whatever the Church binds on earth is bound in Heaven.
  • The Vatican, the Catholic Church’s headquarters, is an official city-state with diplomatic ties to much of the world. No other university, club, youth organization, or sports league has worldwide diplomatic ties.
  • When a couple of mixed-faith (one is Catholic, the other is not) seeks marriage in the Catholic Church, the Church imposes a mandate that any future children be raised Catholic.
  • At Mass, during the priest’s words of the consecration, the bread and wine transubstantiate into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. People guilty of mortal sin (such as murder or even *gasp* masturbation – seriously) are forbidden to receive Jesus Christ’s body and blood until they’ve confessed their sin. But a priest guilty of sexually abusing a child still has the power to consecrate the bread and wine in the first place.
  • The “Seal of Confession” prohibits priests from divulging what they have heard during confession. If someone tells a priest they are currently abusing someone, the priest does *not* need to report it. “Mandatory Reporting” does not apply to confession.
  • A person guilty of even a heinous act (such as sexually abusing a child), can obtain forgiveness by confessing their sins to a priest during confession. Outstanding penance can be satisfied by doing what the priest says to do, even if that penance is as inconsequential as reciting the “Lord’s Prayer” along with 3 “Hail Marys”.
  • An individual’s ultimate accountability is not to those entrusted to them, but to a deity who will serve as their judge, and who will mete out punishment or grant reward according to the deity’s divine will. If earthly justice isn’t enforced, divine justice *will* be enforced.
  • The US Conference of Catholic Bishops injects its policies into the US healthcare system.
  • The Catholic Church defines sin, and can *change* what is and isn’t sin. For example, “abstain from meat every Friday” became “now you can eat meat on Fridays, except for Fridays during Lent”. Also, “Before receiving communion, one must fast from midnight until receiving communion” became “before receiving communion, one must fast the one hour immediately preceding communion”.

Try applying these claims and powers elsewhere to see how exceptional they really are…

  • Mixed marriage: The man, a University of Michigan graduate, marries a woman, an Ohio State graduate. The University of Michigan will revoke the man’s degree unless the couple agrees to send their children to the University of Michigan.
  • The “Seal of Confession”: A school counselor, having discovered that a student is molesting a child, is not a mandatory reporter, as long as the student admitted to the abuse during an official school counseling session.
  • Penance: In a court of law, a judge forgives a child rapist, because the rapist confessed his wrongdoing. The judge orders the rapist to “recite 2 Our Fathers and 6 Hail Marys”, then excuses the rapist.

No other organization claims such power and authority over its members and even to society at large. It’s intellectually dishonest to recognize that power and authority on the one hand, while on the other hand claim it’s just an organization having problems just as others do.

If people choose to support or participate in the Catholic Church despite its child sex abuse scandals, they should have better reasons than simply saying: “But all other organizations have problems too”.

Mr. Potato Head God

“Stop behaving badly! You’re causing people to leave the church… and it makes us all look bad”! That’s what people say when they are convinced their deity is good, nice, cuddly, and warm, even as others put forth THEIR deity which seems mean, jealous, vengeful, and bigoted.

But really, EVERYONE is right. Read the Bible! Mean god is there, nice god is there, indifferent god is there. People arguing about the “true nature of god” are really just projecting *themselves* into a topic and declaring that others, doing the exact same thing, aren’t True Christians (TM).

I call this “Mr Potato Head God”. The Bible is the box of eyes, lips, brows, hats, purses, necklaces, lighting bolts, and whatever else you want to play with. People pick and choose the accessories they want, ignore the parts they don’t feel like using today, and create their god accordingly.

Don’t like Angry Mr. Potato Head God? It’s easy to fix! Just rotate his angry lips so that now he looks nice! It’s easy – and fun!

This isn’t really about the “true nature of a deity”. It is, and always has been, about us as humans, playing Mr Potato Head.

Hell and Relationships

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That quote from Robert Ingersoll reminds me that Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if even one person is burning forever & ever & ever & ever & ever… etc, in Hell.

I’ve always wanted to address this. Let’s say you are in Heaven, but a loved one is in Hell. Knowing your loved one is in Hell would nullify Heaven’s bliss, right?

This begs the question: if Heaven is real and Hell is real, and you go to Heaven, but a loved one goes to Hell, what happens to your relationship with the person in Hell? Here are the options I see.

Option A: You are always aware that your loved one is burning in Hell.

Option B: Your loved one is cloned. You are tricked into thinking the clone is really your loved one and that your loved one is really in Heaven with you.

Option C: You are given a kind of “Heavenly amnesia”. The part of your brain that knows of your loved one is “wiped”, so that you forget your loved one.

Option D: Your develop a kind of “Godly wisdom” The wisdom allows you to be fully aware of your loved one in Hell and to be OK with it.

Hmmmmmmmmm.

 

Make it Personal

Although I’ve changed peoples’ names, this is a true story.

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In fall 1997, my whole workplace was excited for our co-worker Ken. Ken’s wife Mai was pregnant with their first baby.

Mai gave birth at the hospital shortly before another worker’s memorial service. At the conclusion of the memorial service, my wife and I sat in the church by ourselves for a while.

At that point, a coworker sat down behind us and leaned forward. “I know this is a very bad time to say this, but Ken’s wife died at the hospital after giving birth”.

We were stunned.

Mai died of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure condition women can develop late in pregnancy. Mai’s husband Ken would need to raise their newborn son by himself.

Mai was Vietnamese and Buddhist. According to the Buddhist tradition, Mai needed to be buried within a certain number of days. On an autumn Saturday, we gathered again, this time to remember, then bury Mai.

Mai’s memorial was conducted at a funeral home. My wife and I sat in the middle of the seats. Ken was seated at the front. For most of the time, Ken’s head looked downward. Ken held a picture of Mai, and he stared at her for most of the memorial.

Mai’s many sisters also sat at the front. I remember their silhouettes as they all sat next to each other, devastated because their sister had died. I don’t remember much about the service itself. But I do remember when Ken stood at the podium to speak. He spoke directly to his wife.

“Mai”, he began. As soon as he said her name, Mai’s sisters all started crying. They were all so close to each other and to Mai. I felt helpless hearing them cry.

Ken said kind words to Mai. He thanked her for their son. Ken also remembered aloud how she made him a better man. He specifically shared how Mai encouraged him to work with wood, something he did not think he could do. Ken learned woodworking because of Mai.

After the service, we gathered in the cemetery. More words were spoken, and prayers were said. Then, her casket was lowered into the ground, and everyone dropped handfuls of dirt onto it.


If you DON’T believe Mai’s Buddhist beliefs sent her to a place called Hell, you don’t have to keep reading this. But you are welcome to continue reading if you wish. If you DO believe Mai’s Buddhist beliefs sent her to a place called Hell, the rest of this post is for you, so keep reading. Now, let’s pick up where we left off.

…her casket was lowered into the ground, and everyone dropped handfuls of dirt onto it.

Then, Mai entered Hell, the place prepared for Satan, his demons, and anyone else who rejects Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. As a Buddhist, Mai never accepted Jesus into her heart, so she will spend eternity in Hell.

 

As shocking and cruel as Mai’s damnation would be, you believe Mai is in Hell or will go to Hell soon. You believe this because the Bible says so:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16

“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Matthew 13:49-50

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. Romans 10:9

But let’s imagine  YOU control Mai’s fate. Imagine Mai, at YOUR “pearly gates” of heaven, or in front of YOUR throne, or standing before YOU after you’ve come to Earth to judge the living and the dead.

Now imagine you have a control panel having two controls:

  • a lever to pull, which opens a trap door to send Mai into Hell
  • a button to push, which opens Heaven’s gates to let Mai in

Would you pull the lever, sending Mai into Hell, or would you push the button, to let Mai into Heaven?  You might try to get out of this situation using these excuses…

“Mai sends herself to Hell”.  The Bible doesn’t say that.  Matthew 13:50 says Mai will be “thrown” into Hell.  That means her entry into hell is an act of agency other than her own.

“God is just. He must send Mai to Hell because of His holiness”.  We’re not talking about God’s rationale.  We’re talking about YOURS.

“It’s not fair to make me decide Mai’s fate.  Who am I to question God?  His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts”.  But that’s the point of this exercise.  You need to use YOUR thoughts and YOUR ways to judge Mai.

“We can’t let unsaved sinners into Heaven because then it wouldn’t be Heaven anymore”.  Why?  Remember, we’re talking about YOU and YOUR standards.  You associate with sinners all the time, so why not associate with them in your Heaven?  You can do this as easily as you invite sinners over for a barbecue, or watch a sporting event with sinners, or talk pleasantly with a sinner as you both wait in line at the grocery store.

“We can’t let Mai into Heaven because she is not a Christian”.  Why not?  Mai is a beautiful person inside and out.  Ken thought so, so much so that he married her.  Mai’s family, especially her sisters, love her.  Mai encouraged Ken, Ken became a better man because of her.  Mai literally gave her life to give birth to a boy – his name is Lex.  In fact, about a year ago I saw Ken and Lex in the store.  Lex is now a young man, and I shook his hand!  Does all of Mai’s goodness count for nothing because she has different thoughts between her ears than a Christian?

“Mai’s good works don’t matter.  Isiah 64:6 says that our goodness is as filthy rags.  Romans 13:10-12 says no one is good”.  So what?  YOU are the one at the controls.  You are not bound by those scriptures, so you can simply ignore them because you know Mai is a beautiful, good person.

“But there are a lot of ‘nice’ people in Hell”.   That doesn’t matter.  You aren’t judging all of them.  You are judging Mai.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged”.

Ignore that for now.  Go ahead and judge Mai!

GO AHEAD!  JUDGE HER!

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Step away from the control panel, because you don’t have to judge Mai.

For many devout believers, it’s easy to believe in Hell simply because “it’s in the Bible”.

It’s easy to think that mean, bad, cruel, and sadistic people go to Hell.  But what about Mai?

It’s easy to think people go to Hell because “God is just”.  But when you know who Mai is, the phrase “God is just” isn’t as convincing.

It’s especially easy to believe in Hell when we don’t think of an actual, particular person going there.  But it’s a bit harder to accept “the truth of Hell” when we think of Mai burning there.

You believe in Hell and that non-Christians go to Hell.  You believe these things for doctrinal reasons, biblical reasons, other peoples’ visions, or any other rationale.  I’m not going to try to reason you out of your belief in Hell.

But I do encourage you to ponder Mai, burning in Hell, because she died as a non-Christian of preeclampsia while giving birth to a baby boy.


Woman’s face: By mahalie stackpole from seattle, USA (pregnant profile III) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Crucifixion Fun, Resurrection Boring

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Did anybody else crucify each other as kids? We did!

We took turns playing Jesus. We used rusted chicken wire to make a crown of thorns. We put fake vampire blood on Jesus’ forehead, then set the chickenwire crown of thorns on his head. Then we tied Jesus up to a pipe sticking out of the ground, and then “whipped him” with a bathrobe rope.

Our “cross” consisted of two flimsy pieces of wood nailed together at the center! The arms shifted up-and-down because it wasn’t done right. Then Jesus would carry his cross. We’d enact some of the Catholic traditions (Simon of Cyrene helps carry the cross, Veronica wipes his face, Jesus falls three times, etc.).

The crucifixion site was in our front yard where cars driving by could see everything! We somehow planted the cross into the lawn. Then Jesus would stand against it and curl his fingers around some nails which were pounded into the cross beams. As boys we were into the blood, thorns, nails, whipping, etc, so I’m pretty sure we pierced his side! What in the heck did drivers think as they drove by, seeing children crucify each other?!? 😆

Jesus said the things on the cross he was supposed to say, “forgive them for they know not what they do”, entrusted Mary’s care to the apostle John, etc. etc. and then finally died.

Our backyard had some concrete steps leading down to a basement door. That was our tomb! We had trouble carrying Jesus there, so most of the time, he kind of half-walked on his own! We put him there and then walked away so that he could lie there for “three days”.

Then, whoever was Jesus would walk up the steps and present himself in the backyard. The hilarious part is that by then, everybody else was bored and no longer playing because all the violent parts were done!

The Mother Ship

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The movie Independence Day featured an alien Mother Ship which gave power to all of the other smaller alien craft. Putting a virus into the Mother Ship’s system caused it to go haywire, resulting in the other crafts to lose their powers too.

I see the same thing going on with many people as they deal with (often former) belief systems. Our belief systems often feature one critical part, or “Mother Ship”. The part can be something powerful or weak.

For many, the Mother Ship is the Bible itself. For others, it’s certain parts of the Bible (creationism, moral failures, Gospel inconsistencies, etc). For others, it’s a person such as a founder or charismatic leader. It could be a particular doctrine or a cognitive dissonance of some kind.

Taking out that Mother Ship brings down the whole belief system.

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Raised Catholic, my Mother Ship was the Virgin Mary. We prayed to her more than anyone else. She was considered to have great power and even influence over her son Jesus. She also personified the purity we were all supposed to strive for. In fact, Mary’s purported “Immaculate Conception” (her conception without Original Sin) and “Assumption” (assumed body & soul into Heaven) are infallible Catholic teachings. Furthermore, Mary is considered “Queen of Heaven & Earth and Mother of the Church”.

Think chess: even though the king is the objective, the queen is the most powerful piece. Likewise, even though God is the objective, Mary had more power & influence.

The Rosary (the string of beads having an attached crucifix) was prominent to my upbringing. We’d kneel in the living room and pray towards the Mary statue on our fireplace mantle. We were told of Marian visions. The visions showed souls in Hell. This terrified me and held great power over me. So to me, the Rosary was (and still is) a physical reminder of those visions.

When I left the Catholic church, I did not stop going to church completely. It took a while to shed belief and fully embrace reality. But it was that initial “emancipation from the Virgin Mary” which uploaded the virus into my belief system. That virus ultimately brought down the Mother Ship.


Spaceship image: By Cronus Caelestis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Statue image: By José nilton Dias Granito (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Communion vs Cookies

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson wrote a letter to St. Louis Archdiocese Catholics.  The Archbishop wrote: “Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values”.

Hey everybody!  A Roman Catholic authority figure has concerns about “troubling patterns of behavior”!

It’s interesting how swiftly and publicly an Archbishop responds to “troubling patterns of behavior” – as long as that pattern involves the Eastern Missouri GIRL SCOUTS!
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The Archdiocese web site (http://archstl.org/scouting) addresses the concerns.

Under the heading “Can I still buy Girl Scout Cookies?“, the site says:

“Each person must act in accord with their conscience. It is also our duty to form our consciences and learn the issues. Here are a few things to consider when making your decision:  There is a licensing fee attached to each box of Girl Scout cookies produced, paid to GSUSA. Licensing fees paid to GSUSA on all trademarked Girl Scout items (cookies, Girl Scout curriculum books and badges, ice creams, coffee creamers, etc.) amounts to millions of dollars every year…”

Who in their right mind would even think to ask “Can I still buy Girl Scout Cookies”?  If you need to ask an organization if buying Girl Scout cookies is OK, you’re probably giving that organization too much power over your life.

If you want to buy Girl Scout cookies, then buy some.  If not, don’t buy any.  As for me, I WILL buy some, and I will mail those cookies to the Archbishop’s Archdiocese address:

20 Archbishop May Dr, St. Louis, MO 63119


UPDATE

In March, I actually DID buy Girl Scout Cookies, and I sent them to the archbishop.  Here are the cookies I bought, the shipping store I went to, and the envelope containing the cookies.

girl scout cookies


Image
By Emma Pease (my work based on Wikipedia county maps) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Absent Father

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Imagine a 5 year old girl, never having met her father. She asks her mother, “Mommy, do I have a dad?” The mother replies, “Yes, you do. Here is his address. Write to him whenever you want”.So she writes a letter to her father, asking him to visit. She sends it, but gets no response.

So she sends another letter, and another, and another, but never receives a response.

Over time, the girl wonders if her penmanship is wrong. So she tries to improve her penmanship. Still, no response.

She tries enclosing drawings in her letters, but still, no response.

She decides her letters are ignored because she isn’t writing in cursive. So she works hard to learn cursive. She practices endlessly and is very hard on herself when she makes cursive mistakes. But even writing in cursive, she never receives a response from her father.

She even starts to use more beautiful, expensive stationary & envelopes, thinking those will motivate her father to respond. Still, no response.

After 15 years of this, the child (now a 20 year old woman) concludes, “Either my father is a complete jerk for not answering me, or he doesn’t exist anymore. Regardless, it’s unhealthy for me to spend so much time and energy trying to convince my father to contact me. Therefore, I’m going to stop writing to him. I need to get on with my life”.

70 years later, at the age of 90, the woman dies.

She awakens in the afterlife. There, in front of her, is her father.

He asks her, “Why did you stop contacting me? Why did you conclude that I was either ‘a jerk’ or ‘did not exist’? GO TO HELL!”

I’ll just let that sit for a while.