Wednesday, December 30, 2009

155 reasons why the church must change or it will surely die

My 155 reasons why the church must change or it will surely die
Belfast Telegraph
Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Well, it gives me no great pleasure to announce that I was right, after all. And the Catholic Church in its current form is well-nigh doomed.

And before anyone rushes to tell me to give over and wise up, I have every right to submit my opinion because I've done my time as a practising Catholic: more than 20 years of it. And I know what I'm talking about.

Here are some of the things I believed in when I was young and foolish.

The Catholic faith is the only valid faith in the world. It is a sin not to attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation. It is a sin to eat meat on Fridays. It is an unforgivable sin to have an abortion: punishable by excommunication from the church.

It is, however, a forgivable sin to plant a terrorist bomb in a town centre if you attend confession afterwards.

Birth control is allowed for Protestants, but not Catholics.

All men are designed to want sex all the time.

It is a woman's duty to withhold sex before marriage. Women who do not withhold sex before marriage are shameful and subversive and a threat to social cohesion.

Women must not, under any circumstances, withhold sex after marriage.

Married women must bear all the babies that God sends to them and obey their husbands in every way.

Opinionated women were an embarrassment to their husbands and indeed to their entire family circle. Being a gay man carried such a terrible stigma it was rarely mentioned, let alone countenanced.

As for lesbians: well, obviously there were no such things as lesbians. Except maybe in godless England.

Luckily for me, I was born with an extremely rebellious nature. So even as a young person I always took these nuggets of wisdom with a pinch of salt.

What was the point in having a big family, I asked myself, if they all had to scatter to England or America in search of work?

Why did God bother to make women at all if they were so completely useless, except as skivvies?

Why did God make Protestants if they were all going to hell in the end? (This was in the days before we even thought about the fate of Muslims, Hindus, Jews or Buddhists.)

Why were convicted IRA men entitled to a Christian burial on consecrated ground, but any girl or woman who terminated a crisis pregnancy was not?

Why didn't God just make the whole world Irish? And full of Irish Catholic men? Just remove all females and all non-Catholics and be done with it?

And shouldn't sex have something to do with love, instead of all this withholding and pursuing and being pursued?

I asked so many questions in RE, it was embarrassing. And that was before I heard about the industrial Magdalene Laundries, the plight of the 'Maggies' who worked there, the clerical abuse and the decades-long cover-up.

It's all so utterly, utterly shameful. I can see no way for the Catholic Church to survive in its current form.

Would any parent happily wave their child off on a camping trip with a priest now?

How can any free-thinking woman continue to make donations to an institution that bars women from office?

How can anyone with a scrap of sensitivity continue to support an organisation that made a fortune out of slave-labour and forced adoptions?

I have thought about this subject many times over the years and (in spite of the many good priests and nuns) I simply cannot forgive the physical and psychological damage done to Catholics around the world by the Roman Catholic Church. I don't care how many bishops retire early on a good pension; it will never make up for the misery of unhappily married couples, the environmental madness of uncontrolled fertility, or the suffering of the abused.

It will never make up for the shame and embarrassment every Catholic feels when yet another wave of scandal comes to light.

Sometimes I wonder if it's all been a bad dream and one day I'll wake up. But no, it is true, it is real and these awful things did happen.

At Christmas time I sometimes hanker after Midnight Mass, but the hankering diminishes when I think of the 155 nameless 'Maggies' of Drumcondra in Dublin whose bones were cremated to make way for a property sale.

That's the reality of the Catholic Church. Never mind the Virgin Mary and her precious boy child. When they finally tell us the identities of the 155 'Maggies' who were taken from that unmarked grave in Drumcondra and reduced to ashes, I may reconsider my position.

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